#395 Great-tailed Grackle at Ace Hardware

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

One of the coll things about moving to a new part of the country is that almost anywhere becomes a potential source for life birds, like these Great-tailed Grackles I found yesterday at the strip mall at the intersection of Culver and Michelson in Irvine:

Great-tailed Grackle male

Starting My Orange County List

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Although I’ve already gotten one life bird in Orange County this year, that was an accident. This morning I took my first semi-serious birding expedition, though it was just to the park behind the gated “community” I’ve moved into.

William R. Mason Regional Park isn’t the most natural area, at last not on the Western edge I live on, but it does have some habitat amidst the grass and volleyball courts. The first birds I noted were small, chipping birds high up in the Eucalyptus trees. I strongly suspected these were Yellow-rumped Warblers, but since I’m new to the area I wanted to be sure. It took a while to get a definitive bead on one (warbler neck in February–what a concept), but when I did my suspicions were confirmed. They were indeed Yellow-rumped Warblers, though of the yellow-throated Audubon’s variety rather than the Myrtles we get back East. These were quite common throughout the day. I may have seen over a hundred of them before I was through.

I started fairly early (7:15 A.M.) so the dawn chorus was in full throat. Frustratingly, I recognized almost none of the songs out here, including some quite distinct ones. I’ll have to pick up some Western bird song CDs. The few songs and calls I recognized were Yellow-rumped Warbler, Mallard, American Crow, and Song Sparrow; and that last one doesn’t sound quite the same as the Eastern Song Sparrow. However I did eventually spot one singing so I was able to confirm my ID.

William R. Mason has a couple of small lakes that were hosting the usual collection of waterfowl: Mallards, a couple of Eared Grebes, one Horned Grebe, two American Wigeons, one Canada Goose, one Swan Goose, and maybe 200 American Coots. (I don’t know why the coot flocks get so large here. I’ve seen similar numbers at other California locations like Shoreline Park in Mountain View. Back East you rarely see this many, and you never see them foraging on the grass in large flocks like they do here. In fact, you rarely see them out of the water at all.)

On the far side of the lake, I woke up a couple of Snowy Egrets and one Great Egret that had perched in a tree for the night. Shortly thereafter I spotted three Western Bluebirds! Apparently the park has an active Bluebird nestbox program, and fledged over a hundred chicks last year. I saw about a dozen before I went home.

3 Western Bluebirds in tree

The Golden Compass

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Wow. What a disappointment. I was looking forward to this one for months, but I guess I should have known Hollywood couldn’t do this book justice. I just had no idea how badly they’d fail. I mean, I knew they were going to water down the anti-religious message. (The Golden Compass was flat-out heretical. The Subtle Knife was actively blasphemous, and by the time the third book arrived, the series was bordering on satanism. No way Hollywood was going to follow that plot line.) However, I didn’t know they were going to open with massive spoilers.

I’m Back

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

I finally have the Internet up and running in the new apartment. Cox took a few days longer to get this all setup than they should have. Then it took a few hours to figure out how to trick the cable modem into thinking there’s only one computer talking to it. Kudos to Cisco/Linksys for providing detailed instructions explaining exactly how to do this.

This connection is much faster than my old SpeakEasy DSL line and about half the price, but the company you have to deal with is much more obnoxious. I considered staying with SpeakEasy in the new place, but they were limited to 1 Mb down, 128kbps up in this location. :-( FIOS was also not available here.