Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Purple Haze Has Cleared, and I Look to the East(ern) Kingbird

So I'm walking the dog Tuesday night, and checking my emails on the (new) Blackberry, and I can't friggin' believe it: that crazy guy Norm found another Purple Gallinule, and this time it's an adult. 

Talk about bad timing!  I had family obligations, and I had promised to take a birder visiting from Indiana out birding some time within the next week, in order for her to get West Coast birds that would all be life-birds for her.  She said, "Any bird whose name starts with California would be a new bird for me." 

I got home with the dog, and discovered that the boy has been puking his guts out.  This continued every 20 minutes for the rest of the night.  We watched the season premiere of NCIS on the TIVO, pausing it every time Tomi's abdomen started doing involuntary flip-flops.  We kept him sitting up (don't want him to aspirate any fluids), and shoving his face into a red plastic bucket from Hungary, that was part of his beach toys.  Some time around 01:45 I couldn't stay awake any longer, and threw myself onto the bed, clothes and all.  The wife brought him into bed with us, and we slept.  In the morning, she told me thathe kept hurling until 03:00.  Ouch.

The wife stayed home with him (obviously, he didn't go to school), and before picking Maggie up, I drove my birding friend to the cemetery, where she got a ton of life birds while I drove around Claremont.  After picking her up at pre-school, Maggie and I went to In & Out, and got burgers & fries for everybody (except Tomi).  Left Maggie at home, and took off with my friend for Mount Baldy.

On the road up there, right before the first tunnel, a large raptor sat on a telephone pole.  Hm...too big for a Red-tailed Hawk.  Its head is relatively small--compared to its body--so it could be a Turkey Vul--holy shit, it's a Golden Eagle.  Must have been a female, because she was gigantic.  Her talons were bigger than my hands. 

A Townsend's Solitaire watched us and the Golden Eagle, amused by it all.  Neither it, nor the eagle cooperated for pictures.  Oh well.  The pictures are inside my head.

We continued up the steep mountain road, taking the curves aggressively, then screeching to a halt at all of the known American Dipper locations.  Dippers are these weird birds that look like (and are) song birds, but they only live in rushing, violent mountain streams, where they dive into the roiling water, and swim to the bottom of the stream for caddisfly larvae.  Each one of them will have a home territory that is 2 yards wide (the width of the stream) and 2 miles long; and they only occur in the American Mountain West.  (There are 4 other species of dippers on other continents: all shaped the same exact shape, only with differently colored plumage patterns). 

     You'll never see a Dipper sitting in a tree, or on the ground.  They are that specialized.  Struck out at Bear Drive, the bridge next to Baldy Lodge, etc.  Had to hike way up the rocky, dirt trail in Ice House Canyon, and finally found a Dipper, who was wiggling his butt, doing the dipper dance.  He then jumped into the water, and swam like a duck. 

Awsome.  Next stop, Claremont Wilderness Park, where 3 Swainson's Hawks were the best we came up with.  Well, okay.  For her, Lesser Goldfinch was a prize catch. 

She says she's tired.  Isn't worried about seeing the Purple Gallinule with me; she's seen plenty in Texas.  I dropped her off, stopped at home for the Bassett Hound, and raced off to Whittier, where I found a crowd of birders, their scopes pointed at the same spot.  The dog plopped down in the dust, just happy to be with me.  Finally, an hour later, the Purple Gallinule came out of the reeds, and first walked--then swam--out in the open.  Wow, that purple color was something to behold. 

Norm Vargas, I worship the ground you walk on.

Interestingly, none of the field guides show this plumage of the bird.  It looks like an adult, but the frontal shield on the head doesn't have any of the pretty colors, yet (see the photo of a bird Back East in my previous post).

Ah...the weekend!  Well, I gotta work in the ER at night, but it's fall migration, and all work and no play makes...

Walked up to the kids and said, "How would you like to go to the beach???"

They grinned and shouted, "YEAH!!!"

Off we went to Malibu Lagoon, where only the 2nd Eastern Kingbird that I have ever seen waited patiently for us to arrive.  Wow.  The other one was around 15 years ago.

     Well, thanks to the hard work of Dick Barth, I also got a Black & White Warbler a couple of days ago, so now there are only 2 more birds that I really, really, really want for 2010:  American Redstart, and Sabine's Gull.  If I get those two, I'll call it quits, until January 1st, 2011.

     After watching the Eastern Kingbird perch and flycatch for a while, it was the kids' turn.  Like all children, they love chasing the surf as it rolls in and out, and shrieked with delight at every wave that tried to catch them.  I just enjoyed watching them have fun.

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