#420 Yellow-headed Blackbird at the UCI Arboretum

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Sometimes you have to work for a bird, and sometimes it shows up in your backyard. In this case, it showed up in the backyard of my office, which happens to be an area of the UCI Arboretum that’s not open to the public. However, you can still stand on Fairchild Road and peer over the fence. That’s what Robert McNab did on May 7 as he recounted on the OrangeCountyBirding mailing list:

I was leaving work today (~ 3:45P) and decided to look at the blackbird flock in the high dry grass near my work that I had been glancing at all day. Turned out to be 36-50 YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS with nearly the same number of Mourning Doves (and Nutmeg Mannikins) feeding in a field adjacent to the UCI – closed marsh area west of Campus drive. The flock was inside the black cyclone fence area at the north end of the FDA building, 19701 Fairchild Drive, Irvine, CA. Fairchild is a connector road between MacArthur and Jamboree Roads at the Irvine/Newport Beach boundary near Upper Newport Bay. Many birds were on the fence itself nearest the marsh and farthest the street and should be visible to non-FDA employees if you look from Fairchild Drive. Parking may be a little tricky, but where there is a will, there is a way!.

I was out of town and didn’t get the message until Thursday evening, May 8, so I didn’t get out to look for them until Friday, May 9. I checked in the morning before I went to work, but no blackbirds were to be found. I checked again in the afternoon after lunch. I walked from the FDA complex down to MacArthur and then down MacArthur pretty much all the way to San Joaquin Creek and back. I was about to give up but then just past the FDA complex in the other direction I spotted these two lovely ladies perched on a chain link fence:

Two female Yellow-headed Blackbirds perched on chain link fence

#417 and 418 at Santiago Oaks

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

It took so long for me to finish writing up my China trip that I’ve fallen behind in reporting other sighting closer to home. After returning from China I missed the Audubon trip to Crystal Cove State Park because I wasn’t sufficiently recovered yet. However the next weekend (Sunday, May 4) I headed off to Linette Lina’s monthly walk at Santiago Oaks. It wasn’t the warbler explosion you could expect on the East Coast this time of year, but it was a very interesting trip nonetheless.

The usual suspects were out: Common Raven, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Western Tanager, etc. However the prize of the day was this Lazuli Bunting, #417. This is a small bird that has the sme basic plumage as a Western Bluebird, but different shape. It was fairly far away. This is the best picture I managed:

Lazuli Bunting perched in tree

Then, shortly after we saw that one, we spotted a Hermit Warbler. I thought I’d seen one of these before, but after getting home and checking my records, I didn’t see it listed so that makes it #418. This was even smaller and less cooperat5ive than the Lazuli Bunting, so no pictures of that one. However it was very distinctive with its round yellow face, black throat, and black eye.

Shopping for a Gaming PC

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

So I’ve decided I’n Bored of Warcraft, and want to play Age of Conan. That means a new PC with some pretty hefty requirements (2GB DDR RAM, 2.4 GHz dual core or better, and an NVidia 7950 or better). Anyone want to suggest something?

I would like to pay under $1000 for the rig (monitor, keyboard, etc. not included). I will not pay over $2000 and I probably won’t pay that much. I prefer XP to Vista. I don’t want to build my own system (though I might resort to that if I have to). If I order off the web, I definitely want one that ships fast. Otherwise I want to buy off the shelf at Fry’ or some other local dealer.

Greater Roadrunner

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus
Desert Hot Springs, California, 2008-05-17

Warcraft Jokes

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

What’s the difference between an Undead Male and 150 pounds of cow plop?
One’s a disgusting, malodorous pile of disease-ridden filth and the other’s just manure.

Why did the Gnome cross the road?
A mage polymorphed him into a chicken.

#414-416 at the Beijing Zoo

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Zoos can be surprisingly good places to see birds. Of course, you aren’t allowed to count the specimens in cages, waterfowl with clipped wings, and other members of the collection. However in a dense city like the Beijing or the Bronx, the zoo can can be a real oasis for passing or even resident wild birds. There tends to be a lot more green space, water, food, and habitat than anywhere else for miles around.

Wednesday, Day 7, the conference was over so Beth and I hopped a cab to the Beijing Zoo. We had been warned that it was not up to Western standards and that was certainly true. In fact, some of the exhibits can be a little depressing. In many ways, this is roughly on a par with the Audubon Park Zoo in the bad old days of the 1970s. Some sections were clearly better than others, and there was a lot of construction going on, so matters are improving. Indeed, it was a construction site that gave me the first life bird of the day, a Crested Myna, #414. As you may recall, I’d had hints of these birds at earlier sites, but wasn’t sure because the field guide said they weren’t as far north as Beijing. The field guide was clearly wrong.

The second bird we found over in Africa, a Spotted Dove. I’d likely see two of these the previous day at the Old Summer Palace, but only on a quick flyby. This time when I saw a dove, I was ready and knew what to look for. The iridescent patch on the neck clearly identified this as a Spotted Dove, #415.