Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008: Taking Out the Trash and Starting Anew

Jean-Paul Sarte once wrote that "hell is other people" (actually what he wrote was "L'enfer, c'est les autres," but I don't read French). I also don't usually quote beret-wearing existentialists, but he really hit the nail on the head, even if he did it in the wrong language.

We just returned from a disasterous family trip to California. When I say disasterous I mean like the Hindenburg. The Titanic. Star Wars Episode I. It was that bad. Michelle likened it to Dante's third circle of hell - the one with the eternal rain, stinky mud, mean three-headed dog, and the whole family waiting for you there.

The babies did splendidly, which quite surprised me. I had assumed they would be difficult and make us miserable. But we had adults for that. Imagine a sack full of neurotic badgers with their tails tied together and you have a good picture of what Christmas with the family was like. Live and learn - next time (assuming we are ever foolhardy enough to visit family during the holidays) we'll definitely be staying at a motel.

Everyone survived (barely). We did have a few peaceful moments. Our trip to Monterey and Big Sur was pleasant enough. It was mainly sightseeing, but I managed to see a few birds, the best of which was this pair of Harlequin Ducks on the rocks in Monterey Harbor.The bird in the crummy photo below was also inside Monterey Harbor. Can you identify it by silhouette? Hint: think of a large cantankerous African herbivore with poor vision.Later we made stops along the Pacific Grove Shoreline and 17-Mile Drive to admire the coastal scenery...which gave me a convenient excuse to look for rocky shore specialists such as Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, and Black Oystercatchers.

I did get to enjoy one full day of birding. On the 29th Ann Verdi and I covered Calero and Chesbro Reservoirs for the Calero-Morgan Hill CBC. Water levels were low (Chesbro was a mere puddle). Our best birds were at Calero, where we had three species usually associated with saltwater - Red-throated Loon, Surf Scoter, and Red-breasted Merganser. The first two were stakeouts; the merganser was unexpected and a first both for the reservoir and the count.

Unfortunately the resident Bald Eagle failed to make an appearance. Ann had seen it the day before, but on count day it was a no-show.

These are my best photos from the count:Immature Sharp-shinned HawkWestern Scrub-Jay

We got over 80 species in our section of the count circle. So aside from alienating half of my family and coming perilously close to divorce it wasn't that bad a trip.

I ended 2007 with 313 species, so unless there is a special category for underachieving fathers of twins I don't expect any calls from the folks at Guinness World Records. My first bird of 2008 was a male Rufous Hummingbird seen from our kitchen window. My second bird was a goddamned European Starling, so I'm glad I saw the hummingbird first. I just couldn't stomach the idea of starting the new year with a f**k**g starling.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Kathie said...

Just read your Blog. It made me laugh. We just visited Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge in Arivaca, AZ and in the top of a tall Cottonwood tree where a great-horned owl was roosting we also saw a starling! Just one, out in the midle of nowhere, raising a racket! I understand your reservations. Glad you saw the hummingbird. My first bird of 2008 was probably a house finch, but it could have been any of the other usual suspects in my yard, including a Costa's hummingbird!


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