Monday, June 1, 2009
The academic year ended at UF, and now I'm back in California for a brief working vacation before another round at the Gator Nation!
I figured things would be different when I got back: I can't vote here anymore, and when I found myself roped into giving another tour of the San Joaquin marsh on Saturday, I was dismayed to find that the tour started in a different building and followed a different path than before. But some changes were for the better: The docents' restroom in the Audubon House is no longer stuffed to the rafters with taxidermied birds (which required anyone using it to move a stuffed and mounted Great Blue Heron), and the number of summer Bat Walks has been increased from five to seven.
And the fundamentals of California life remain unchanged. I got back just in time for a 4.7 earthquake, the annual collapse of the state government, and a standard-issue off-year election full of ballot measures nobody understands.
Best of all, West Coast birds remain the same. I haven't had much time to bird since coming home—but when I finally got out this weekend, it was like meeting old friends again.
We spent both Saturday and Sunday at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon. It's a tiny little place, but we almost always find birds there we don't normally see in the flatlands of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. And this time was no exception. We saw several Lark Sparrows, a bird I haven't seen in ages:
Black-headed Grosbeaks have been lurking about everywhere as of late, but at Tucker, the generously stocked sunflower feeders brought them closer than I'd ever seen them, which allowed for great photos.
I also heard strangely familiar calls and scolds that reminded me of Florida—in particular, they reminded me of the crowd swarming around my front-yard feeder at sunset. Titmice! But of course, not the eastern Tufted Titmice, but Oak Titmice—which are just as feisty and sound almost the same:
Florida Scrub-Jays are rare and treasured; their western cousins are joyfully abundant at Tucker. Western Scrub-Jays are bold and noisy, but not as much so as their Florida counterparts:
We had such a good time watching the birds at Tucker on Saturday that we went back again on Sunday. And we were treated to good looks at Phainopeplas and a brief glimpse of a juvenile Lazuli Bunting.
More on that later!