Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A few more birds

It's almost midnight, and tomorrow I am going back out of Cusco, this time to try and see some mid-elevation jungle. Choquequireao was unbelievable. here are a few birds, as a meek attempt to catch up:

Eared dove, Zenaida auriculata:

Wilson's phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor:

White-winged cinclodes, Cinclodes atacamensis:

Bright-rumped yellow-finch, Sicalis uropygialis:

Puna teal, Anas puna:

Speckled teal, Anas flavirostris oxyptera:

Otherwise, I've been lucky enough to see everything from weird hummngbirds to the Andean condor, passing through the Andean cock-of-the-rock and many more, and birds are only one percent of the cool things of the trip.
Happy New year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hello from Cusco!

Hello! This is where I was today, at some Inca ruins near the town of Pisac, which had impressive terrassed land:

The walk up the muntain from the town's marketplace was great, but the best is the time I spent across from the top, on the side of a steep cliff, harvesting plants with some fun local women. The view was great, and after coming down the mountain we went and had chicha in some awful bar. So far, I hae been enjoying the fields and local people, more than any kind of ruins and birds. Of course, ruins and birds are what I will be taking pictures of:

The Andean gull, larus serranus:

A sailboat on Lake Titicaca:

Peruvian flag outside a school on a touristy reed island:

An aplomado falcon Falco femoralis, on Isla Amantani in lake Titicaca:

On the same reed island as the Andean gull, a Puna ibis Plegadis ridgwayi:


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A quick hello from Puno, Peru.

So far, I've only seen one Peruvian town: Puno, on Lake Titicaca, where I have been for the past five days. It has been amazing, and in fact I am already thinking about going back. Just like anyplace, the region around Puno is one that only reluctantly allows tourists to experience its best aspects. So far, i have only scratched the surface. Here are two photos from a group of really touristy islands that we went to (more about them later).

An adult Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax (tame and injured bird), called huacana by the locals:

And an adult male yellow-winged blackbird Agelasticus thilius, called Ch'enko by the Aymara people:

The internet connection here is really slow, so I'll put up more pictures when I am in Cuzco, starting tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quickly catching up on Mexico

Hello! I promised I'd write more, so here it is. So far the trip has been fantastic, to the point that I wanted to spend more time in every town I visited. Swimming and hiking were great in and around Puerto Vallarta (especially around El Tuito), and I then spent time in Guadalajara where there was an international book fair and lots of fun college students who had come to listen to the speakers (I got to hear Arturo Pérez-Reverte talk about La Reina del Sur, that I had read, and saw Elena Poniatowska, whose book La Piel del Cielo I was reading at the time). Here is Arturo Pérez-Reverte singing an old narco-corrida with the Tigres del Norte:

I then went to Zacatecas, which is always fun and was even better this time since there was a very interesting movie festival (theme: borders and migrations). I saw about five feature-length movies and heard some actors and directors comment on two of them.

Otherwise, get ready for landscapes and birds!

Cacti of all shapes and sizes:

A tiny cactus camouflaged in the rocks:

Fascinating masks in Zacatecas:

La hasteca, near Monterrey, where I have to go back and spend more time:

The Cerro de las Mitras, behind which my friend Ricardo and his family live in Monterrey:

La Huasteca, again:

A gadwall, Anas strepera:

A male Great-tailed grackle Quiscalus mexicanus:

And a female:

And an eastern fox squirrel Scirus niger:

I am now in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just a quick hello

As often happens, I am falling behind on this blog, so here is just a message to say hello, and that all is fine so far. I am spending one day in Austin, Texas, where I have so far ran into nothing but nice people. In fact, I could probably say that of almost the entire trip except for an obnoxious US border agent who questioned my citizenship. Austin is apparently one of those places where pro-American flag waving is seen as compatible with Civil War whitewashing. Their state capitol has this Confederate armed forces memorial, and another one to Texas Rangers who served the Confederate Army.

The birders among you may have spotted a little gray thing in front of the monument. Here it is: a northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos:

Not far from there, I found a male Cooper's hawk Accipiter cooperii, that was having another bird (a pigeon?) for breakfast:


Sunday, November 30, 2008

A few more California birds

Things have been great here in southern California, and I am headed to Puerto Vallarta today. Before I left I wanted to test a new little gimmick I got for reading memory cards, and I thought I would just go ahead and make another post, so I can make up for the months of putting up very little. I am also almost done with classes, which makes it much easier to think and write about birds and such.

This is a Western bluebird, Sialia mexicana, in Pasadena:

A ruddy duck, Oxyura jamaicensis, in Laguna Niguel:

Some sanderlings on the beach (Calidris alba):

And, finally, a red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis, which was being harassed by two common ravens near the house:

Thanksgiving was great; I've been bicycling a little, and I am thoroughly relaxed after being here fr a few days.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

California beach birds

I am in Laguna Niguel, California for Thanksgiving, and it's been nice so far. I got myself a new camera to replace my other one that won't turn on anymore and is no longer under warranty. Of course, the birds are very different down here, and I wanted to play with my new toy so I bicycled down to the beach and took some pictures.

This is a bushtit Psaltriparus minimus:

And a whimbrel Numenius phaeopus:

And this is the western gull, Larus occidentalis:

A really fantastic gull, the Heermann's gull Larus Heermanni:

This one isn't as exotic, but I've never seen one in Sitka so it's fun to see it anyways. The ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis:

A bunch of coots, Fulica americana:

And finally, a willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus:


Saturday, November 22, 2008

November doldrums

It’s just hard to write anything right now. Of course, I have fallen very far behind on this blog stuff, and I am now trying to catch up on all my virtual world activity, from the academic to the inane (I was even talked into joining a social networking website - after years of saying I never would do it). I know, I have fallen woefully far behind on this blog stuff, and I’ll try to be better about while I travel (I am leaving Monday).

I am not the only one who's been having a hard time writing anything lately, though. I noticed that most of the other students in my creative writing class have also started writing dreary stuff. The professor noticed it too, and she pronounced us “stuck in the November doldrums.” At least we got last week’s homework load lightened up a bit on account of that. In retrospect, perhaps Alison Bechdel had more going on than inner conflict when she wrote that: “By the end of November, my earnest daily entries had given way to the implicit lie of the blank page, and weeks at a time are left unrecorded.”

By the way, some people tried to ban her book “Fun Home.” Banned Books Week was over a month ago, but it’s never too late to read one. If you read Spanish, I highly recommend the weblog Generación Y, by the Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez. It is (rather obviously) banned in Cuba.

Here in the US, we have designated holidays for social causes, such as Hispanic Heritage Month (that was also over a month ago, but if you’re trying to catch up I recommend Sandra Cisneros), and right now it’s Native American heritage month – how about Two Old Women, by the Athabascan author Velma Wallis, from here in Alaska? At the very least, it’ll demonstrate that not all women here are neurotic populist politicians. This cultural holiday stuff gets a little ridiculous, but it’s a good excuse to visit some of the library’s dustier shelves.

So, since the last time I wrote in this blog I did a few hikes, some more unsuccessful deer hunting, some kayaking, and I went to Anchorage for a week and a half or so (for fun this time). Anchorage was great, with ice-skating, hiking, and doing some big city things as well. This is from a hike in Whittier, where some nasty winds prevented us from going kayaking:

The ice skating was great, and went on for miles and miles. We did broke through the ice a couple of times, but it wasn’t deep at all where we went in.

I even did a traditional Halloween with Cathy, which included carving and displaying four pumpkins so that neighborhood kids could come by for candy. This is my first pumpkin:

Of course, who am I to try and compete with artists?:

Since then I’ve been getting ahead on homework so that I don’t have to travel with a backpack full of university books (That way I can make room for the bird books). Other than creative writing, university homework has been OK lately, and I did enough homework ahead of time that I am already completely done with two of my four classes: advanced Spanish grammar, and geography of Alaska.

This picture is really blurry, but I don’t have any other of a female Barrow’s goldeneye Bucephala islandica with the nice yellow beak like this:

I also took this picture of our regular crow, the northwestern crow Corvus caurina:

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to watch a big flock of passerines outside my window: there was a Townsend’s warbler, a female slate-colored junco, a few tree creepers, and a couple gallons of chickadees and Oregon junco.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall fun before the snow ruins it all

Hello all. Just because I am not in an exotic place doesn't mean there isn't anything neat to write home about. I finally caught up with homework, and I got to go hiking, kayaking and hunting to places like Bear Lake (3000 ft), Deep Inlet, and a peak on Starrrigavan Ridge that I had wanted to climb (2800ft).

This first-winter golden-crowned sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla is eating grass seeds in my house's lawn. As you can probably tell, my roommate and me aren't exactly the utlimate lawn mower warriors.

In Sitka the fall isn't glorious like it was in Anchorage, but still it can be a nice time of the year in bwtween rain squalls.

I regularly complain about Steller's sea lions Eumetopias jubatus scaring me when I go kayaking, and people don't seem to really believe me. This one didn't touch my kayak, as they have in the past, but it was definitely too close:

I cropped a photo for the first time! on Matt Goff's recommendation I have been using a free program called IrfanView to downsize my pictures, and it works great for cropping too. This fork-tailed storm-petrel Oceanodroma furcata was one of a dozen flitting about my kayak:

This tiny gentian is Gentiana douglasiana:

This is Andrew, the director of Sitka Conservation Society, on a deer-hunting trip around the back of the Starrigavan drainage. We didn't get a deer, but the hike was pretty good.

This beautiful Gentianacea is Swertia perennis: