Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Flies By

Summer is disappearing at an alarming rate. It seems only yesterday I was leaving for the Young Birder's Conference in San Diego, yet that was well over a month ago. The past four weeks have been a dizzying blur of leading bird walks, hauling trash, and teaching bird lessons for birding day camps at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine. August, the last month of summer remaining, promises to be quiet and filled with plenty of summer school. My hectic life of the last month or so has not allowed many blog posts, so here the pictorial highlights of the last week of camp.

Instead of sleeping in and driving to San Joaquin on Monday, I woke long before dawn and rolled out of the driveway on my bike at five-thirty. I planned to do a big day bike, though carefully engineered to not interfere with my work at camp. I arrived at Upper Newport Bay by quarter to seven and birded there for about an hour and a half before heading to San Joaquin to work at the camp. This Green Heron was patiently fishing from a rock near the Jamboree Road bridge.

The ride around Back Bay Drive always produces lots of birds. Shorebirds swarmed over every mudflat; careful scoping revealed more uncommon species such as Red Knot, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Semipalmated Plover among the abundant Willets, Marbled Godwits, Western Sandpipers, and others. A bedraggled Surf Scoter was a good bonus. Clapper Rails are always difficult to come by, so I crossed my fingers and kept my ears open. I was pleasantly surprised to spot two of these elusive birds walking around on an open mudflat! Another surprise was a single Loggerhead Shrike on Shellmaker Island.

I had to be at San Joaquin by quarter to nine, so I abandoned Upper Newport Bay far sooner than I would have liked. The first day of the last week of camp was much like all the other days - bird walk in the morning, lessons later in the morning and afternoon. I left the marsh in the mid-afternoon heat (not before enjoying some nice cake and watermelon, though!) and after a very long and hot ride I arrived home. My house is situated near the edge of the foothills, and therefore has different bird species. A quick walk around my neighborhood before dinner produced new species such as Say's Phoebe, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. I birded Irvine Regional Park in the evening, finding species like Acorn Woodpecker, California Thrasher, and this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

I birded Irvine Regional Park until sunset. I would have stuck around later to look for owls, but I was tired from riding about forty miles and had to prepare a bird lesson for the next day of camp. In just an hour or so I found about a dozen new species at Irvine Regional Park, enough to bring my total for the day to one hundred and four. Not bad for July, especially by bike!

The rest of my week was considerably tamer. I birded Huntington State Beach briefly on Wednesday afternoon, having arrived early for a beach party. So little was around that I resorted to photographing the Heermann's Gulls out of boredom.

The last day of camp, traditionally the most hectic because it runs all day and includes a sleepover, was briefly interrupted when Trudy Hurd popped over with a Common Yellowthroat that had managed to get inside one of the other buildings and collided with a window.

The evening walk on Friday was productive. Lots of birds gather in the ponds to roost, included these two Whimbrels.

We finished our evening walk at dusk, quietly enjoyed the sunset in front of one of the ponds while watching and listening to the birds. All the camps were finally over, I finally realized as I drove home from the sleepover on Saturday morning. Now that I have more time, I look forward to writing some more serious blog posts.

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