Today I led a small group of winners from the recent SCVAS Bird-a-thon. Leonie Batkin, Leah Shimabuku, Kathernine Greene, Jody McGeen, Kelly Dodder, Anne Creevy, Debbie Thompson (fellow SCVAS Board member) and I toured Joseph D. Grant County Park in 100º heat again, searching mainly for the juvenile birds Cricket and I encountered last week. Almost every bird we saw appeared to be affected by the heat--sticking to the shade, panting and generally not moving around too much. I handed out ice-filled waterbottle, to make sure we all stayed hydrated during our visit. We walked first from the picnic area up toward the campground, finding California Quail, Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco immatures. As well, some adult birds caught our interest such as Wild Turkeys, White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Wood Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Western Kingbird. A nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks cried loudly from the treetops, but we never saw the young we presumed were nearby, perhaps still in the nest. The chaparral produced a singing California Thrasher as well as a California Towhee with young but no hoped for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. We continued to the barn where we saw the male Barn Owl as it exited the structure. Unlike last week, we did not find the huge rattlesnake in the process of eating a young rabbit, but we kept looking at our feet to make sure we were safe... Crossing the small bridge we heard the most unexpected bird of the day, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. They never appeared, but their voices were clear enough. We kept walking, even as the heat became almost unbearable, because I was determined to find a Grasshopper Sparrow. It never showed, but we did locate Yellow-billed Magpie and Red-shouldered Hawk. As we neared the farmhouse the activity picked up slightly with House Wren popping out with a bit of encouragement from the iPod. The farmhouse itself still seemed to be the stronghold of colorful birds with Bullock's Orioles, Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Lesser Golfinches in evidence. We broke for an gourmet lunch prepared by Debbie. Gaspacho, spinach and mango salad with honeyed pecans, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, roasted red-pepper, eggplant and turkey sandwhiches, chilled brownies with peanutbutter! It was delicious and much cooler in the shade of the trees. Leonie had a surprise for all the ladies, handmade beaded bracelets from Kenya to remind us all of our day together. I didn't think I was going to get one until later, when there was one black one left for me. We all put them on immediately. After lunch, we stopped at the lake briefly to locate a few additional species. Barn and Cliff Swallows were foraging over the water, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Ruddy Duck and an immature Golden Eagle. It was a great bird to end the walk on, and it was getting very hot...
On the way home, Cricket and I stopped at State and Spreckles in Alviso, thinking maybe the closeness to water might make things cool. Yeah, right... It was still blazingly hot. There were many recently arrived Shorebirds in attendance, mostly Western Sandpipers, with Least present in smaller numbers. We spotted one Semipalmated Sandpiper, one Lesser Yellowlegs, one Wilson's Phalarope, one Semipalmated Plover, two Snowy Plovers and two small groups of Dowitchers, but no Little Stint.
Forgive me again, for taking this opportunity to post a few non-bird-related thoughts, the news just gets to be too much sometimes and I can't contain myself.
I am a devoted environmentalist.
I make much less than $100K per year.
I have had diabetes since I was six.
I believe women have the right to choose to have an abortion.
I have no doubts that Darwin's theory of evolution is indeed FACT.
I believe the war on terrorism is the result of one man's paranoid obsession.
I think that obsession has poisoned our nation's senses.
I think if gay people want to get married, that's just fine.
I think faith-based initiatives are a clear violation of the Constitutionally madated separation of church and state.
I feel my privacy has been violated by my own government in the form of warrantless wiretaps.
I know for a fact that people overseas mistrust the United States because of our arrogant foreign policies.
I believe an elected official should listen to the majority's requests for policy changes.
I believe we have been lied to repeatedly about the real reasons for our invasion of Iraq.
I do not have any oil company investments and in fact, do not wish to.
I believe that electric and hybrid vehicles should be promoted over gas guzzling SUVs.
I believe that Global Warming is actually already taking place and will result in catastrophic changes to our world.
I do not believe environmental standards should be debated with oil company executives or shareholders.
I believe when the public demands answers and explanations, they should receive them from elected officials.
How do you suppose I feel about George W. Bush?
Kelly and I just returned from a three week birding trip in Australia two days ago! A full report will be posted soon with many images and a full trip list....
In preparation for next weekend's Audubon trip to Grant Park, we scouted out the spot in 100º temperatures, finding less variety than in spring, but many juvenile birds to keep things interesting. We spotted young Western Kingbirds being fed by adults, juvenile Dark-eyed Juncos with spots on their breast, young Western Scrub Jays, immature California Towhees and Oak Titmouse. It should be plenty of fun next week because so many of these birds are hard to identify since they look different from the adults. The barn, about halfway on our walk was exciting. Not only did a male Barn Owl flush from the structure, but right beside a "Warning! Rattlesnakes" sign we saw a huge rattler halfway in the process of swallowing a small rabbit. Cool! We watched our step, and wondered if maybe we should have worn hiking boots instead of our rubber and leather sandals. We also visited the lake, which produced 6 Wood Ducks, all female/immatures