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 Generaci├│n Y, by the Cuban dissident Yoani S├ínchez. 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.