Kelly and I scouted out the Alum Rock Park location for next week's class trip and identified two possible itineraries depending on weather and people's interests. The shorter of the routes remains lower in the valley, close to the sheltered creek trail and offers us Western Wood Pewee, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, House Wren, Brown Creeper, Warbling Vireo, Hutton's Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak and Spotted Towhee. Raptors included Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. The longer of the two possible routes climbs higher on the hill and brings us into an open area with much grassland and dry chaparrel affording us the added possibility of and Western Kingbird, Western Meadowlark and Lazuli Bunting. Interesting birds that we believe could be seen in either area include Belted Kingfisher, White-throated Swift and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. I look forward to taking the group to this beautiful park and adding to our growing "Spring Term List".


The California Gnatcatcher is a bird few of us have ever seen. It is isolated in a small coastal area in Southern California. A few years ago, my friend Jesse and I made a pilgrimage down south to find it in the San Diego area. We were successful, but the bird is reclusive and quite rare so it wasn't easy. The nearby developments appeared to be moving closer to the birds favored coastal scrub habitat which is already pretty small. The following story was sent out on the CalBird list service a while back and while it is a bit depressing, it's important to know how vulnerable our avifauna really is and how the fate of many species is often decided with economics in mind before the health of the environment. Let's hope that our politicians will consider other ways of feeding the economy that won't jeopardize irreplaceable natural areas. Such areas are designated "critical" or "protected" for good reasons and the moment we start making exceptions is the same moment we move a species closer to extinction.

On February 25, Federal Court judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles vacated critical habitat designation of 500,000 acres of coastal sage scrub for the threatened California Gnatcatcher agreeing with developers, builders and the Dept of the Interior that the economic impact (loss of property values, taxes and utility incomes) of protecting the bird on such valuable (oceanview) property should be re-evaluated. It is the second time that Federal courts have struck down habitat designation in the West this year.

The full story ran in this week's LA WEEKLY which will be available online through Wednesday, April 17. http://www.laweekly.com/ink/02/21/a.shtml.


Kelly and I had a wonderful time in Kauai this past week! We visited a variety of coastal rain forest areas as well as higher elevation native forest habitats and encountered some of the most beautiful terrain imaginable. While birding was not the main goal of the trip, we did manage to see some great species. As you might expect, the native birds are difficult to find as they have been squeezed out of much of their original habitat by invasive introduced species. The bold-faced species are lifers for us, but more significantly, the bold-faced/asterisc species identify the endemics. A few birds escaped us, but overall it was a successful trip with great food and snorkeling too. I also took this rare opportunity, with all its scenic beauty and romance to propose to Kelly on a stunning coastal overlook. She said yes (about 100 times!) and we will be married next July at my family's church in Palo Alto followed by a reception at Gamble Gardens. Yeah!

Black-footed Albatross
Laysan Albatross
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Townsend's (Newall's) Shearwater*
White-tailed Tropicbird
Red-tailed Tropicbird
Red-footed Booby
Great Frigatebird
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Nene* (Hawaiian Goose)
Koloa Maoli* (Hawaiian Duck)
Red Junglefowl
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Peafowl
Common Moorhen (Hawaiian subspecies)
Hawaiian Coot*
Pacific Golden Plover (Hawaiian subspecies)
Black-necked Stilt (Hawaiian subspecies)
Wandering Tattler
Ruddy Turnstone
Rock Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Short-eared Owl (Hawaiian subspecies)
Red-vented Bulbul (Honalulu Airport)
Kauai 'Elepaio*
White-rumped Shama
Melodious Laughing-thrush
Common Myna
Japanese White-eye
Northern Cardinal
Red-crested Cardinal
Saffron Finch (on Kauai!)
Western Meadowlark
House Finch
Kauai 'Amakihi*
House Sparrow
Chestnut Mannikin
Java Sparrow