Friday, January 25, 2008

UCLA - BIRDING HOT SPOT!


White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
I've spied this little feller twice now, both times in the big pine trees on the East side of Royce Hall (one of the two "Trees of 1931" on either side of the stone bench monument). It was walking up and down the trunk and branches of the trees, poking its beak between the bark to find bugs.


White-breasted Nuthatch - Having Lunch!
This is a good representation of its feeding behavior.


Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
These birds have been all over campus for a couple of months now. They usually feed in the upper stories of the eucalyptus trees, which seem to be their favorite, but I have also seen them in the Canary Islands Pines. This morning one landed on a bench near where I was stnading and I got a nice close look at it--the photo is exactly the coloration it had, including the yellow stripe on top of its head.


Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulas calendula)
This week was the first time I'd ever seen this bird. I spotted one when I first got to work, flitting around in a small sycamore tree in the law school courtyard. The light was so low from the overcast sky that I had trouble figuring out what it was. It was so small that I took it for a Bushtit at first, then realized that Bushtits always go in a gang, so the Kinglet was the next obvious bird. I knew they could be found on camps based upon recorded sightings by others. I saw one later on at lunch time, in the shrubs on the East side of Royce Hall (the same area where I saw the Nuthatch). I had my binoculars and got a good look at its bright red head patch. It was also singing, which was quite beautiful.


Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)
These little birds are quite common at all times of the year, preferring the Canary Islands Pines. Yesterday I saw three of them working a tree and the walls of Royce Hall for bugs. I've always been very fond of Chickadees--they seem to be happy, lively little birds.


Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco (Junco hyemalis)
This photo is of a female; the male's head is black and the plummage darker. These birds are on campus year-round. Last summer I saw a female feeding a juvenile right out in the open. Their trilling little song is always a pleasant surprise when I hear it coming from nearby shrubs, such as this morning in the law school courtyard.


Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Waxwings seem to be around all year. I actually saw a small flock of them yesterday up in the big sycamore tree on the North side of the law building. Their high-pitched call is unmistakeable.


Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
Ah, the Bewick's! Next to the Chickadee, another favorite bird. Both birds are quite saucy and have a lot of attitude. I've seen them in nearly every area of campus that has a hedge of shrubs. Their song is very lovely. But they will scold you severely if you get too close to their territory!

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
Although not as brilliantly colored this time of year as the one above, I've seen six of these several days in a row, feeding on the seed pods of a small sycamore tree in the law school courtyard. They are fairly unafraid and I was able to get about eight feet away from where two were feeding by hanging down on some thin branches. Their call is so sad and plaintive that it nearly breaks my heart to hear it.
I’ve been enjoying some banner bird watching here at UCLA all week, in spite of all the rain. They’ve been out feeding like crazy in between down pours to build their energy reserves back up. The variety of birds has been delightful and I even had a first sighting of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

After finally not caring what passersby thought, I started carrying my small binoculars on my walks around campus because I realized that my self-consciousness was depriving me of the pleasure of seeing these birds better, and better able to get positive identifications.

As the seasons unfold, I will no doubt see more and more variety. I always keep my eyes and ears open whenever I happen to be outside—a good practice for all bird watchers!

All the birds on today’s list belong to the order Passeriformes:

“A passerine is a bird of the gigantic order Passeriformes. More than half of all species of birds are passerines. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most spectacularly diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders: with around 5,400 species, it is roughly twice as diverse as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passeriformes]

(All photos are in the public domain and downloaded from Wikipedia)

[This post was composed to the music of: Govinda “Echoes of Eden” and Afro Celt “Sound Magic, Vol. 1”]

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A WHITE CHRISTMAS!


Snowing in Bothell, WA on Christmas Day!

The new year has arrived and I’ve barely had time to regroup from my thirteen days off during the Christmas break. I spent nine days of it in Washington with my Mom and Dad over the holidays. It was cold, dark, and rainy—quite a refreshing change from California. And I got what I wanted for Christmas—it snowed! Although it was pretty paltry compared with what they were getting back east and in other areas of Washington, to a Southern Californian it was grand.

The deck gets a dusting...

I just loved watching the big white flakes drifting down. Everyone was opening presents and I was running around outside taking photos--I was enjoying the one present I was hoping for!


The garden--getting covered with a white quilt, and ready to sleep until spring.

Plants coated with white ice crystals.

The creek that runs through the mobile home park where my parents live. I have seen salmon it a few times.

The lower portion of the creek in the 'green belt,' a lovely place to take a walk--when it's warmer!

Willows in the swamp across the street. They seemed to change color depending on the time of day and quality of light. I was entranced by their constantly shifting patinas of muted greens, reds, yellows, and bronzes.

And on a sunny day they look completely different.

Bare maple branches with red seed pods.

The one sunny morning during my nine day visit. The way the light spilled in through the branches made everything magical.

Alder trees near the creek with a cedar in the background, maple in the foreground.

Bird watching up there was very limited due to the season and weather; my folks have some feeders under a big Douglas Fir tree near the creek, which are visible from my mom’s bedroom side windows. It was there that I kept my bird guide and binoculars during the duration of my visit.

Regular visitors were Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches. Three days in a row a band of Bushtits flew in from the swamp across the street and swarmed over the suet feeder—as many as ten at a time. It looked like the suet feeder was a big magnet and the birds were pieces of metal being attracted to it! A strange sight indeed, especially since I did not know that these small insect-eating birds would even eat suet. But I also saw the Juncos on it, as well as a lone Townsend’s Warbler on two occasions, so perhaps they recognize the high-energy value food and eat it when they can. A Hairy Woodpecker also visited the suet one afternoon.

A head cold prevented me from doing much exploring outside since the daytime temperatures hovered around 38-40 degrees every day. I had been hoping to go on some walks and to also visit a nearby lake, but this turned out to be impossible.

***

I got back in L. A. on Saturday, Dec. 29. I had a great time up north, but I was ready to come home. On Sunday, Dec. 30 I went for a walk around my neighborhood and saw a quite a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, a White-crowned Sparrow, and four Robins feeding on some berries in a tree that I have yet to identify. One of the male Robins had beautifully bright plumage.

***

I returned to work on January 2 and although at first it seemed like there weren’t many birds around, I soon found out otherwise. Several strolls around my usual haunts around campus turned up some surprising sightings:

Jan. 2: Mountain Chickadee, Bewick’s Wren, Townsend’s Warblers eating something in the bunches of mistletoe hanging from a sycamore, two Ravens (which I think are the breeding pair), and a White-breasted Nuthatch. Later in the afternoon while running an errand across campus, I saw the two Ravens chasing off a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Jan. 3: A flock of 50+ Cedar Waxwings, a small flock of Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Jan. 4: Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding in the treetops, a Black Phoebe, and a lone Yellow-rumped Warbler showed up on the Law School courtyard that was missing its left foot.

***

This weekend I started re-reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Not the most lighthearted book but Carson’s prose is wonderful and the information is as relevant today as ever. Over the break I read Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stuchbury and if Carson’s book was a cautionary tale, Stuchbury’s was the tale born out. The chapter on pesticides alone was enough to prove that. We may have stopped using many of the deadliest pesticides here in America, but the chemical companies continue to send their deadly wares to Third World countries and South America, whose produce we in turn import into our country! If ever there was a supreme farce, this is it. And it would be funny if not so incredibly tragic. And it also made me seriously consider going organic for the first time ever. I used to poo-poo that idea; now I’m a believer.

I also decided that this would be the year that I learned more about birds. I’ve merely been a casual watcher and must admit I knew precious little about their biology and lives. I picked up a textbook in one of the campus libraries, Ornithology by Frank B. Gill. The introduction was fascinating and I can’t wait to read more. I generally have several books going at once, and I also started reading Birds Asleep by Alexander F. Skutch. I’d always wondered about this topic and found an entire book on it!


Angus decided he wanted to know more about birds, too!

***

Tomorrow is the first day of classes at the Law School, so I will probably have my hands full keeping up with my faculty. I don’t mind the work though, since being there is not really like working to me. And I plan to keep tabs on the two ravens to see if I can find where they plan to nest. Who knows what other surprises I may encounter!

Hope your week is swell!

Peace,

--Linda

[Post written while listening to Mark Snow's soundtrack for the TV show "Millennium."]