Monthly Archives: July 2008

No more Plastic Bags

You’ve seen the devastating reports of animals mistaking plastic for nutritious food.  The news from the Pacific Islands about the Albatross is heart-rending.  You know plastic does not break down for a bazillion years and turtles and birds try to eat it.  Please, please, please buy the stupid bag at the grocery or recycle the paper bags or use all the swag you get at conferences.  For heavens sake, if you cannot afford cloth bags, let me know I have dozens in my car at all times.  I have been using string bags since my hippie-dippie days.  They hold more than plastic and you can throw them in the washing machine.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but if you know someone who is still using plastic; try to influence them.


Filed under Local schmocal

Wordless Wednesday


Filed under carnival, Photos, Travel

I Like Gulls

Heerman's Gull

Heermann's Gull

Can we talk about gulls for a moment?  I know some birders eschew them, won’t even look at them, call them names like sea rats, G-U-11s, but, truth be told, …shhhh…I sorta like them.  Maybe it’s because growing up in the flat land, we didn’t have any.  Or they are a visual reminder of the sea.  I like their brashness, their insistence, their laugh, their size.  Yes, they are frustratingly confusing.  Yes, they have a several year maturity rate so there are lots of in-between plumage variations.  Yes, they loaf around garbage dumps and shopping center parking lots, the tops of lamp posts on the Tappan Zee Bridge and oddly enough even at the beach.  I am by no means an expert in picking out the juveniles but the adults are not that difficult.  With closed eyes the call of a Laughing Gull always and forever will remind of the Jersey Shore.
My favorite gull (is it terrible having favorites?) is the Heermann’s Gull from California.   I love the soft ombré of their fashionable plumage, going from white through shades of gray, ending with tidy black stockings.   And the red beak, what a color, as red as the best lipstick.  I think they are absolutely the most beautiful.


Filed under Photos, Travel, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday


Filed under carnival, Photos

Conversation with a college student

I was sitting in the back of the conference room with my laptop plugged into the wall, when a young woman put her camera down next to me and sat down.   We exchanged smiles and idle conversation.  I asked her how she was enjoying BlogHer and she told me about her project.  When she asked me about my blog, I explained that I had 4; 2 for work and 2 personal ones–a life blog and a birdwatching blog.  Skipping over the other blogs (I think the whole pregnancy thing was freaking her out and being over 30, my life must be incredibly boring), she started asking me about birds.  I told her that I had been in San Diego before coming to San Francisco and that I got 3 life birds.  Not being a birder, I did not expect her to understand about life birds; but she had no idea that the birds in east were different from those in the west.  Floundering for an example that she could relate to, I finally hit upon the Cardinal.

‘You mean the red bird on the Christmas cards?”


“That bird exists?”

“Yeeesss.  It is a common backyard bird.”

“I thought it was a made up bird.  Artistic license and everything.”

“No, it really looks like that and so does the Blue Jay.”

” We have Blue Jays and Chickadees.”

“You’re right, but yours are different that ours.  You have Chestnut-backed Chickadees and ours are Black-capped Chickadees.”  Noticing her blank stare, I move on to Blue Jays.  “and your jays are not the same as ours either.  We don’t have Steller Jays or Scrub Jays.”

“You don’t have Steller Jays?  They are everywheeeere.  You mean that Blue Jay on the cards is not made up either?”

“Nope.  It is real too. ”

“I’ve got to tell my brother, he has always wanted to see the red bird.  We told him someone made it up. ”

I assured her that the Cardinal was very real and fairly easy to see.

How do I get involved in these conversations?  That is twice in only a few days that young people have had no idea of the birdy world around them.  I am concerned for the next generation and what this may mean for conservation.


Filed under Travel

Almost Favorite Woodpecker

Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to see the flash of white on wings.  Tracking the bird to a tree, I saw it stash an acorn in a tiny acorn-sized hole.  I walked around the tree looking it up and down.  The whole tree was a pantry full of carefully stored food.  Acorn Woodpeckers do the darnest thing.  I have seen them in both California and Arizona.  They are easy to see not only in trees but also drilling in telephone poles along the highway.  I love that.

My favorite woodpecker actually is the Pileated.  What’s yours?


Filed under Photos, Travel

Hawk on a wire

What the?  I slammed on the brakes and swerved onto the shoulder of the road.  I had seen the oddest hawk on a wire.   It had a huge eye and gray head.  We watched it as it watched us.  We couldn’t figure it out.  Big eye, no huge eye, gray head, look at the crest blowing in the breeze, very mottled back, very long legs and was that 3 bands on the tail?  Being on the west coast and out of my element, I wasn’t sure.  It could be anything.  I flipped open my ancient travel Petersen’s.  It didn’t fit any of the descriptions.  I looked back.

It had turned around.  With the red chest it had to be a Red-shouldered Hawk.  I have never seen one with a gray head before.  The Red-shouldered Hawks at home, do not perch on wires, are more woodsy and I usually see and hear them flying high above the trees.  He certainly had us going for a while.


Filed under Photos, Travel

Birding in Napa Valley

Currently in between business conferences, I am loafing in Napa Valley.   Unable to find a bird guide (Grrrr), I randomly drove around this morning looking for birds.  With the countryside being so dry, I thought it would make the most sense to find water.   Looking at the map, I headed off to Hennessey Lake.  As soon as I got out of the car, I heard the crik-crik Western Grebes.  Scanning the lake from a distance, I saw what looked like white sticks planted out in the water.   It was a flotilla of Grebes.  Cool.  Even though I have seen them many times before, it was still a thrill to see so many.

The walk around the lake produced: Steller and Western Scrub Jay, Acorn Woodpeckers, California Quail, Oregon Junco, Spotted Towhee, some sort of dark sparrow protecting its hard-won worm from a maurading western fence lizard, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, a big flock of Bicolored Blackbirds, Black Phoebe, Great Egret, Canada Goose, Mourning Dove, Oak Titmouse, Coot, Pied-billed Grebe and maybe some others that I forgot.

Of special note, was the very dark, almost chocolaty Winter Wrens I saw feeding young at Muir Woods yesterday.  The woods was also full of Wilson’s Warblers and Brown Creeper.  I mean full, they were everywhere I looked.  Oh yeah, and there were Chestnut-backed Chickadees too.

I hope to bird the marshes on the way back to the city tomorrow.


Filed under Travel

Sea lions in the San Diego bay

In order to get out onto the bay, I plunked down my $32 and took one of those land-to-water crafts. In some cities they are called Ducks but here in San Diego they are called Seals. It is a, well, I guess I would call it a bus that can go in the water. After a 15-minute tour of the city, it put in over on Shelter Island for an hour-long blistering 5 mile-an-hour tour of the bay. The mate pointed out all of the Navy and Coast Guard vessels, sailboats and some of the wildlife.

On the way back it stopped at a bait barge for close-up looks at sea lions and some sea birds. There were loads of loafing sea lions, two of which were enormous males. The birds were Brown Pelicans, Snowy Egrets, Western Gulls, Heermann’s Gulls, and Double Crested Cormorants. Overhead flew Royal, Forester’s and Caspian terns. As we paused by the barge, a boat came along side to empty anchovies and sardines (I think that is what the mate said.) into the barge. There was quite the flurry of excitement when that happened, let me tell you. Yet another thing I had no idea about.


Filed under Photos, Travel

Pied-billed grebe

Licking a banana ice cream cone and strolling the embarcadero, I stopped to watch an immature pied-billed grebe swimming close-by. A young man sitting on the wall watched me snap a picture.

“Why are you taking a picture of a duck?”

It’s not a duck, it’s a grebe.”


“No, greb-b-b-bah.”


No, grebe, with a B.”

“What’s a grebe?”

“Well, it’s a diving bird, sorta like a duck….”

“I thought it wasn’t a duck.”

“It’s not a duck. Look at its feet, they are not webbed.”

“Huh. You’re right. It has kinda fingers on its feet.”

“Good. You’re right. They are lobed.”

“How do you know it’s a baby grebe?”

“It still has a little striping on the head. Young pied-billed grebes have striped heads.”

“Huh. I never saw one before. I thought anything not a gull was a duck.”

“Nope, totally not.”

As I put my camera back in my purse, preparing to walk back the way I had come, he said, “How do you know so much about birds?” I turned, looking at myself in his mirrored sunglasses, “I read a book.” He shook his head, “Wow, yeah, a book.” I left him shaking his head at such a novel concept.


Filed under Photos, Travel