Friday, July 3, 2009
YBC: Day Three
The leaders had wisely planned a slower-paced outing between the two biggest trips, to Santa Cruz Island and the Salton Sea. On Wednesday we spent much of the day at the San Diego Zoo, wandering through the aviaries and talking with some zoo employees about working with animals.
We had the option of sleeping in fairly late on Wednesday (until almost eight!) Many of the campers took advantage of the late start and caught up on sleep, but several of us got up bright and early and wandered around the campus in search of birds. We didn't find anything too different from other forays around campus, but we enjoyed looks at Red-shouldered Hawks (below), California Gnatcatchers, and Hooded Orioles.
The ten minute drive to the zoo felt like blink compared to the three hour drive of the previous day. We arrived at the zoo just as it opened. For the first couple hours, we met with a couple zookeepers who showed us a few birds (Laughing Kookaburra, Great Horned Owl, African Pygmy-Falcon, and Galahs) and talked about working with captive birds. It was very interesting, and it was fun to see all the interesting birds up close! Here's the African Pygmy-Falcon.
We spent the next several hours wandering the zoo at will. Aviaries were, of course, the main points of interest, put we saw other animals as well. I haven't been to a zoo for many years (last time I can remember visiting one was when I was eight - the Detroit Zoo.) I'm not a big fan of zoos, but I enjoyed seeing all the exotic birds, from California Condors:
to Green-and-gold Tanagers.
One of the more exciting aviaries was the hummingbird aviary, where dozens of brilliantly colored hummingbirds and tanagers flitted through the plants. Here's a Sparkling Violetear, a large hummingbird that completely dwarfed all the smaller hummingbirds that I was more familiar with.
Less brightly-colored, even drab, but placed in the hummingbird aviary, were several Sunbitterns. I can't wait to see these in the wild!
The most impressive birds of the day were the Harpy Eagles. Two of them, caged but still magnificent, ignored us from their high perches in their enclosure. Another species I wouldn't mind seeing in the wild...
My favorite exhibit was the arctic duck pool. Even though I'd seen many of the species it contained - Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin Duck, and Bufflehead, to name a few - it was fun to study the exquisite ducks from a few feet away.
We also saw some wild (i.e., non-captive) birds in the zoo. The zoo's lush plantings are a big draw for migrant and wintering birds, but not so much for the local breeders. This spunky female Anna's Hummingbird was feeding on flowers in the shadow of the condor exhibit.
House Sparrows are obnoxious and I generally ignore them, but I couldn't resist shooting some up-close and personal photos of some hopping around the sidewalk while waiting for the rest of the group who were buying snacks for outrageous prices at one of the restaurants in the zoo.
It was Wednesday night that we began to defy the scheduled 9:30 bedtime. Several of the participants wanted to see Western Screech-Owl, some more desperately than others, so I suggested that we go owling down in the wash adjacent to campus, where there are some nice oaks and sycamores that looked good for owls. After bushwhacking down a steep slope covered in dense brush, cactus, and thistle plants, we finally made it down into the wash. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any screech-owls, but we did hear Common Poorwills and Barn Owls. As we wandered down a trail through the middle of the wash, we discovered a nice paved trail that led right down the hillside. Had we walked just a bit farther along the top of the hill, we could have avoided descending the treacherous hill. Oh well, it was an adventure.