Sunday, September 30, 2012

White-winged Dove in Claremont!

White-winged Dove,  Zenaida asiatica
Dude, you should be in southern Mexico by now, not suburban L.A.
Wow, all I did was take the Basset Hound out for her morning walk.  Well, okay, it is fall migration, and I did take binoculars with me.  Here's the thing, though: I was already done checking all of the trees in my neighboorhood park for small passerine migrants hiding up, inside the trees, and there wasn't much there. 
Then, when I was walking the dog home I noticed this weird pigeon with a long, hooked bill, and said "What the hell is that?"

When I got the bird through my binos, I just about peed in my pants.
Then, to kick it up a notch, the bird left the park, flew south, and landed on the roof of my house!  Of all the houses in the neighborhood, it landed on mine.  Unbuhleevable.
The nearest White-winged Dove breeding population is at the Salton Sea. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


How do you explain 9/11 to a 6 year-old?

I pulled my back, last night, and after a visit to the chiropractor, this afternoon, headed over to Target to buy a big bottle of Advil gel-caps. My 6 year-old asked if she could go with me.

Sure, Beautiful, hop in.

I pulled into the Target parking lot, and she asked, “Dada, is today an America day, like Fourth of July?”

“Eh…kind of. Did you learn about it in school?”

“No. Ethan (her fellow first-grader) said that it’s the day we started a war, and beat the bad guys.”

“Well, not exactly, Maggie-Pie. Let me explain. A long time ago, 5 years before you were born…”

“…were you a little kid?”

“No, I was a grown up with a job. I worked in downtown L.A.”

“Was that USC?”

“No. I worked at another building for another company.”

“Oh. Was it a hospital?”

“Yeah. So, what happened was—you know how pirates take over a ship?”


“Well, some very bad people took over a couple of airplanes—like pirates—and made them crash into these two building that used to be the tallest buildings in the world, when I was your age. They were called the Twin Towers.”

“Oh my god, that’s really big! Wait. If they crashed the airplanes into the tall building, then they died, too!”


“That’s dumb. Why did they do that?”

“Because they were very bad.”

“Oh. Then what happened?”

“Well, I was still at home at my house, making coffee, when the first plane hit the tall buildings, and I heard about it on the radio, so I turned on the TV, and believe it or not, I saw the second plane crash into the buildings.”

“Oh my god!”

“That was bad, but the worst part was still coming. When the airplanes hit the Twin Towers, at first only the people on the airplanes and the people inside that part of the buildings died. A bunch of firemen, police, and paramedics all ran and drove their fire trucks and police cars over there, and started helping people out of the building. The fire got worse, and the buildings fell to the ground. A lot more people died, including a lot of fire men and police men.”

“Were you there?”

“No, Baby. That was in New York, all the way across America, really far away.”

“Did you go home?”

“From work? No, but everybody else who worked in L.A. did. I…”

And that’s when I started crying. Great. I’m parked in a 10 year-old Toyota Celica in the parking lot at Target, sitting behind the steering wheel, and tears are rolling down my cheeks, uncontrollably. I want to tell Maggie Pie about how we stood there inside the HealthCare Partners building in downtown L.A., and by 11:00 there were no cars anywhere. The Harbor Freeways was empty. The Hollywood Freeway was empty. So was the 10. All of the skyscrapers were empty. The only people who either stayed at work, or reported to work---despite the very real fear that airplanes would crash into the Library Tower—the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, were hospital employees. HealthCare Partners was ‘only’ an outpatient facility, but with a fully staffed 24 hour Urgent Care, and a full radiology department, we stayed.

Just in case.

Our boss gave us the option of going home, and made it clear that no one would judge us if we were afraid, and evacuated.

As far as we knew Los Angeles was next. We were absolutely convinced that we were in mortal danger. When word came that morning that the Air Force now ruled the skies, and that any stray airplanes that refused to do what they were told would be promptly shot down, our shoulders sagged. When word came that there was no longer a single private or commercial airplane aloft over North America, and that fighter pilots had full license to shoot down anything they didn’t like, we sighed with relief.

My friend, and fellow x-ray tech, Kathy Izquierdo and I stood outside on the sidewalk, and watched as angry fighter jets patrolled downtown L.A.. Back and forth. Back and forth. The only two sounds in the world that we could hear were the steady hum of the air conditioner on the roof of our building, and the thunder of twin engines each time an F-15 whooshed overhead.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Things with Wings

Ah, the boredom of the summer doldrums has been broken by the arrival of fall migration.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Sepulveda Basin 8/26/2012
Dragonfly 1
Baker Sewage Treatment Plant, Baker, California
Dragonfly 2
Baker Sewage Treatment Plant, Baker, California
Zebra-tailed Lizard
Callisaurus draconoides
Baker, California
Wait, what's with the pictures of dragonflies and lizards?  Oh, yeah!  Johnny Bovee found a White Ibis at the Baker Sewage Treatment Ponds.  Woo-hoo!  There hasn't been one reported in California since I started birding in 1992.  I haven't seen one since my last trip deep down into Baja California, 700 miles south of the U.S. border.  Yeah, yeah, I know: they're in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, but I'm not.  So why did one show up halfway between my house in Claremont, and Las Vegas???
Needle in a haystack?
No: White Ibis in a flock of White-faced Ibis. 
White Ibis
Baker, California 9/1/2012
This stupid White Ibis did the same thing that the Roseate Spoonbill did in Phoenix, Arizona: it kept hiding among the local birds, in places where you can only see if by staring into the sun, as a safety precaution.  Lost e.g. vagrant birds use this tactic to survive in an unfamiliar environment.