Tuesday, January 5, 2010
That's Just Wrong!
One cool thing (of many) about working at a university is that we shut down for 10 days every winter. You can't call it what it is--the Christmas break--you have to call it the winter break. I'll take it. At the same time, you can get into Bonelli Regional Park for free, which is handy, since there are usually both Bald and Golden Eagles around, along with some unusual bird worth chasing. The Painted Redstart didn't come back this year, but the El Monte Wood Stork moved from Whittier Narrows to Bonelli, much to my pleasure.
~While meandering in Bonelli, we ran into this poor dog who is half Bassett Hound, half German Shepherd. THAT'S JUST WRONG.
~~Meanwhile, Ed emails me about the White Wagtail at a sewage plant in Santa Maria. Says he's never seen one. I saw the Orange County bird, and the one that Richard Barth found in the L.A. River, so this would be my third California bird since 1992. I've seen zillions of them in Hungary, where if you really need to see a White Wagtail, I suggest you go to the nearest gas station. Make sure you don't step on a wagtail while you're filling your gas tank. THAT'S JUST WRONG.
~~~Nice surprise of the trip was the bonus bird that had eluded me all year: a big-ass Golden Eagle that made the Red-tail Hawks look like circus midgets. At the last park that we stopped at in Santa Maria, we had an adult male Yellow-shafted Flicker that looked perfect, except for one weird optical effect that we couldn't decide was an effect of the sun being so low on the horizon, or diagnostic of being a hybrid: depending on which angle you saw its moustache from, it was either all red, or red with a black border. THAT'S JUST WRONG.
~~~~The best surprise, of course, was what we found while carrying out the Palos Verdes Peninsula Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Our team of 4 guys covering San Pedro--where I grew up--arrived at Cabrillo Beach, and split up into 2 groups. From the far end of the beach, D.E. calls me up, and says, "I have a weird female scoter that I can't identify." I tell him, "Take a picture of it." He says, "I already did." I say, "Well, show it to me when we meet in the middle." When we get together, the kid shows me the photo on the color LCD screen on the back of his 35mm SLR. My knees go weak, and I struggled to keep from passing out: he's showing me a photo of a King Eider. They leave the high Arctic, show up in Southern California about once every 25 years. This bird is probably the only one that I will ever see in my life. I ran all the way to the pier. No need to run; the bird swam back and forth, underneath the pier, offering killer views. Better yet, the bird has been in San Pedro, ever since.
~~~~~A delicious side-effect of this has been that copies of the email that I wrote on my Blackberry while standing on the pier, and staring at the King Eider, keep getting posted to the San Diego birding email list, much to the ire of The Village Idiot. But then again, The Village Idiot--a former Jar Head with a room-temperature IQ that even the Corps finds embarassing, doesn't realize that I am in fact subscribed to the San Diego list. I even post my findings on a regular basis. Semper Fi, schwarzwasser. Or, should I say, "arschmittloch?" THAT'S JUST WRONG.
~~~~~~I used to think that all Marines were bloodthirsty idiots, until I read about the Marine Corp's experience in counterinsurgency, and their previous use of combined tactics in the Phillipines and Central America. On a personal level, I spend my weekends with an ex-Marine who got his Humvee blown out from underneath him in Gulf I, and is now an x-ray tech. Great guy. Smart, compassionate, deep thinker. So it appears that The Village Idiot is the exception, rather than the rule, when it comes to examples of Marine Corps intelligence levels. THAT'S JUST WRONG.