Sunday, May 8, 2011


Evening Grosbeak
Blue Ridge Campground, San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County
Elevation 7896 feet (2406 meters)

Gee, I thought Friday April 29th was a good day.  I finally got Evening Grosbeak on my L.A. County list, by re-finding the flock discovered by Cathy McFadden & Paul Clark.
The view from Mountain High's ski lifts
Elevation approximately 8,000 feet .
The town of Wrightwood is directly below.
View is looking north, towards the high desert's Antelope Valley. The pale patch of land between the closest chair and the pole is the enormous Rogers Dry Lake Bed where the Space Shuttle would land if the weather was bad in Florida.
Yes, that is snow on the ground in April, in L.A. County.
While I was looking north, the pine trees behind me held around 30 Evening Grosbeaks.

Well, Sunday night was even better. I had just gotten home from a full day at the Salton Sea, birding with my new friend, Csaba Varga, where we had seen a whole bunch of expected species that breed in the Desert Southwest.

Wister Unit, Salton Sea

My wife and kids were asleep, so I hopped back into the car, and drove down the street to In n’ Out for a cheeseburger. While in line at the drive-through, I turned on the car radio, and they played audio of Barack Obama announcing the killing of Osama in Laden.

Now I was flat-out giddy.

Wow. Holy shit. After ten years, they finally got the fucker.


So far, so good, then The Prez said that the Navy SEALs did it.

Salton Sea, Imperial County, California
The Salton Sea is a 40 mile long salt lake in the California Desert.
It is one of the last West Coast wetlands available for birds.  It is saltier than the Pacific Ocean.
Run-off of chemicals and heavy metals from surrounding farmlands is killing the Salton Sea.

My face turned red. Embarrassment. Anger. Disbelief. The SEALs???

Why wasn’t it Delta?

I can’t imagine the mixed feelings the Boys at Bragg must have felt. Wow. Holy shit. They really should have given that one to Delta.

Food for thought: the job of the Navy SEALs is to pull surprise raids on ships at sea: Board a ship, shoot the guards, rescue the prisoners, and then sink the vessel. You know—navy stuff. Unbelievably, for years now they’ve grown beards, slapped on desert camo, and have been running around Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the driest, sandiest places I can think of. Aargh. That’s the Army’s job! Or, should I say, “Yaargh,” me hearties?

Then the light bulb went on over my head. I decided that Obama let the Navy send their team in, to buy them off for ending Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. After all, the Navy is the most conservative branch of the military, if you don’t count Al Haig (a retired U.S. Army General: as much of a right-wing nut-job as he was, and as liberal as I am, I still say he got a raw deal for the “I am in charge” incident when Reagan got shot).

Oh, well.

Cattle Egret at Ramer Lake
photo by Csaba Varga
Ramer is one of several freshwater lakes whose content eventually empties into the Salton Sea.  The yellow wash on the Catle Egret's head and breast is high breeding plumage. In the winter it will be all white.

Then, 48 hours later somebody muttered, “JSOC” and “SEAL Team 6” under the same breath. Then they said that The Prez is flying to Campbell, to meet “…members of the SEAL team”. Oh…now I feel much better. Here’s the deal: Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is a big Army base. It’s the home of the 101st Airborne, and I was supposed to go there from Bragg. Fort Campbell is also home to a Special Forces attachment, and you know that Delta spends time there. The reporter also mentioned 160th SOAR, and that put a big dopey grin on my face.

Man, those Delta Dudes are a bunch of sneaky bastards. They’re hanging back, letting the SEALs bask in the limelight.

Csaba is photographing a Burrowing Owl on Sinclair Road
(that little round bird sitting on the top of the ditch)
Burrowing Owls live in holes in the ground.

Oh, and they’re not your momma’s Navy SEALs—they’re SEAL Team 6, the Navy’s version of Delta.

Burrowing Owl
(This is the same bird that Csaba photographed.)
The owl is looking at your left shoulder.

Truth be told, SEAL Team 6 and Delta have been unified under one unified command structure for a long time, now—Joint Special Operations Command—so the old Army vs. Navy rivalry descends into kabuki theater in this type of situation. They’re all counter-terrorism commandos who train together. Anybody who disagrees with me is itchin’ for a fight.

White-winged Dove
Cattle Call Park, Brawley, Imperial County, California
White-winged Doves return from Mexico each spring to breed in the Desert Southwest.  In September, most fly back into Mexico, but every October a few show up in backyards of coastal towns like San Diego, Newport Beach, or San Pedro.

Lesser Nighthawk
Wister Unit, Salton Sea

So this is the part where you demand to know why an essay about Delta Force and J-SOC is full of bird photos.  Simple.  I don't have any pictures of Delta operators.  Even if I did, I couldn't publish them.

Besides, I have never known anybody in Delta.  I have never hung out with Green Berets.  I have never been inside a PAVE-LOW.


I tell you truly.

Trust me.

Wink, wink.  Nudge, nudge.

Hodge-podge.  Hogy vagy?
I'm just a fat, balding middle-aged guy in the suburbs who is full of hot air.

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