My Christmas Movie: “The Big Year”



Bewick’s Wren!

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Seen today at Descanso Gardens:  Hutton’s Vireo by the entrance fountain, a Doe on the path, Dark-Eyed Juncos by an orange leaf and a stone, Mallard Ducks on the lake shore, California Towhees, a Northern Mockingbird, and a hummingbird by the cacti …

in the oak wood, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Spotted Towees, and a Stag whose antlers were illuminated by the morning sunlight as he lay down in the ivy …

in the rose garden, Bewick’s wren and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler!

Bolsa Chica Birding in December!

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New Birding IDs Today:
Green-Winged Teal, American Widgeon, Greater Yellowlegs,
Surf Scoter, Northern Pintail, Eared Grebe,
Western Sandpiper

I saw the Surf Scoter right as I entered Bolsa Chica, to the left of the footbridge, and his beak was so bright and parti-colored! I saw four immature Black-Crowned Night Herons through the chain-link fence, all sleepy. The snowy egrets were out in abundance, standing calmly by the path and down by the water’s edge. There was a huge flock of double-crested cormorants on the water; one California White Pelican landed in the lead position among them! There was an unexpected flock of American Avocets, many Marbled Godwits intermixed with Western Sandpipers, and lots of Bufflehead Ducks, Scaups, and Willets, too. I saw a few Ring-Necked Ducks. I also saw my favorite duck: the Gadwall! For once, Canadian Geese, mallards, and grebes were scarce, but as usual, American Coots were quite plentiful.

Around a leafless tree in the middle of the wetlands were three or four Great Blue Herons, but the Osprey stood out where she stood looking down from the highest vantage point in the branches. There were plenty of Great White Egrets, gulls, sanderlings, and terns around too. I may have seen a Dowitcher (non-breeding); I definitely saw a Long-Billed Curlew. Three white-crowned sparrows sang sweetly to me from the brush, and two rock doves said goodbye to me as I crossed the bridge back to the parking lot. I saw a Black Phoebe and a California Brown Pelican as I drove away.

Beautiful day!


Melian the Maia

Melian the Maia by kimberly80

An image of Melian the Maia with three birds,

from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion,

by kimberly80

She taught the nightingales to sing.

Did a bone vulture kill the Greek playwright Aeschylus?

As myth has it, a bone vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) did kill Aeschylus, the Ancient Greek playwright who wrote the trilogy called the Oresteia, the tragedy of Agamemnon and his family. The vulture did so by dropping a bone on his head, a bone which the bird intended to shatter so that it would be able to eat smaller pieces of it. For bone vultures, also known as lammergeiers, eat bones.

They also “paint” their white feathers red or orange, using reddish soil, but they do so secretly. The behavior appears to be instinctual and is used to assert status among the vultures, who are cousins to the much smaller Egyptian Vulture. To learn more about bone vultures, read on.

  • Thanks to ULV English major, graduating senior, and future librarian, Meredith Jones, for bringing the bone vulture to my attention!

Royal Terns, Western Gulls, and Heermann’s Gulls

Today I went to the beach in Santa Monica. I was delighted to ID several Royal Terns on the edge of a rocky shore, with the help of binoculars, and I heard them making their distinctive calls. There were a number of gulls, too, including first-year Western Gulls and first-year Heermann’s Gulls.

Oak Titmouse

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I saw the oak titmouse on my morning walk! A pair of them were playing at sunrise as the clouds in the sky turned pink, then yellow, then white. They were hopping about in the bushes that grow through the chain-link fences around Amber Ridge. The call of one of them was distinct — confirmed by listening at the Cornell Online Birding Lab — presumably the male. The other, presumably the female, was quiet.

Songs & Calls of the Oak Titmouse

Later, I saw a white crowned sparrow fly down from the branches of an oak tree and a black Phoebe circling low through the air for insects … I could hear the hummingbirds, already awake, and the mockingbirds. I saw a black crow. This is just an ordinary day here!