Tuesday, February 21, 2012

People meeting and bird watching in California

     The last third of our 2012 California trip was less site seeing and more visiting with friends and relatives. But there were a couple of things that might be of general interest. Particularly read on for the bird photos.

     On the drive back to Irvine where my son lives, from Barstow, we impetuously called my college roommate who lives with her husband in Helendale, out in the Mojave desert. She very graciously invited us to stop at their home. They have a lovely place on a small lake, if that is possible in the desert. The lake is man made and has a cement bottom, but the house and its patio becomes a cement deck right over the water. The lake is stocked with fish and small pontoon boats are allowed. It seems an idyllic place which combines the ever sunny skys of the California desert with at least a small body of water. Living where we live we can appreciate that need for water. Our visit was short but sweet.
     When we are in Irvine and our son is busy with something, we often drive over to the Southcoast Repertory to see a play. There usually seem to be tickets. Indeed, on Friday night when we knew our son and his gal would be busy with an event up in LA, we found tickets to Topdog, Underdog, a play that was quite entertaining.
     Then on Saturday there was a UCI (University of California Irvine) mens' volleyball game with UCSan Diego at 2 pm in the afternoon. For a late lunch, we met up with a college statistics professor, Dr. Bob N, a great friend we met when our son went to school at UCI. He is dealing with an unfortunate situation with his wife that many couples and families face. She has dementia, probably Alzheimer's and requires a lot of Bob's attention. I particularly felt very sad about this, because years ago Betty and I had formed a strong bond even though we really didn't spend much time together. There was one time when we two sat in a car together waiting for the men to accomplish something, I don't recall what, and we just talked. It was like we had been best friends forever. We could almost finish each other's sentences and even each other's thoughts that day. It was an extraordinary experience. My son and his friends who knew Betty better tell me that this probably occurred because of Betty's phenomenal grace and class. She had an ability to understand people so well, to communicate so closely and attentively with them and to make them feel so very comfortable that my experience was not an uncommon one with her. That magical quality is now hidden somewhere in Betty's deteriorating cognition which just breaks my heart.
     It was fun to be back at a UCI volleyball game. Our son played on the team when he was in school at UCI and we have maintained a connection to that sport at UCI ever since. My husband and I followed the team to Columbus, Ohio when they won the National Final Four Volleyball Division I Tournament. And my husband and my son followed them to Penn State another year when they came in second in the Final Four Tournament. Most UCI players come from California, some from Hawaii, but this year there is again (my son in 1990s) another young man from Wisconsin, from the south of Milwaukee who starts for the team. When he went up to serve, I cheered "Go Wisconsin" for him. We went up to him after the game and introduced ourselves. He seems like a pleasant young man and he was very friendly once he saw us with Professor Bob N., the father of mens' volleyball at UCI.
     Back in Irvine we joined our son and his girlfriend for dinner on Saturday evening. Very pleasant time!
     On Sunday, we again met Bob and Betty N for brunch in Irvine. We always have good conversations with Bob when we get together. He is a professor of statistics and has worked very hard to bring statistical analysis and teaching into the medical profession. Therefore he understands medicine as an insider, so we can often have very erudite discussions of my past field and bring in many of the concerns that hinder its advancement at the current time.
     Of course, on Sunday afternoon we watched the football game though our hearts had gone out of it when the Green Bay Packers lost to the New York Giants the previous weekend while we were up in Paso Robles.
     Mixed in with all these social occasions we did do some birdwatching at Bolsa Chica, Upper Newport Bay, and at San Joaquin Impoundment and Audubon House in Irvine. At Bolsa Chica, I was very excited to add the American bittern to my life list. This lovely bird was located very close to the boardwalk bridge at the southern end of Bolsa Chica marsh in Huntington Beach, CA. My husband got some very nice pictures of this bird. The bittern is usually very secretive and well camouflaged so that it is often hard to see. Also at the Upper Newport Bay drive, I saw a white tailed kite, used to be called Black shouldered kite sitting for a long time in a tree. I think I had seen this bird before in Texas, but still it was nice to identify it by myself.
Belding's savannah sparrow, Bolsa Chica
American bittern, Bolsa Chica

Lesser scaup, lBolsa Chica

Eared grebe, winter plumage, Bolsa Chica

Willet, winter plumage, Bolsa Chica

Pintail ducks, and green winged teal, Upper Newport Bay

White tailed kite, Upper Newport Bay

Black necked stilt, San Joaquin impoundment

Great blue heron, San Joaquin impoundment
American avocet, San Joaquin Impoundment

Osprey with fish, San Joaquin Impoundment

    On a rainy day Monday, we flew back to Milwaukee and learned we had missed the only winter we have had this year -- a couple of light snows and some near zero temperatures. It was in the 30s when we returned and there was still a little bit of that snow on the ground. But we were back home safely.



  1. Nice blog, love your photos, especially of wildlife. Thougt we westerners had a corner on the coyotes....wiley critters.

  2. Thanx for commenting: I read somewhere that the coyotes west of the Mississippi are relatively quiet, not too much howling at night, etc. We occasionally hear some yipping and barking at night, but not too often. Maybe it is because the territories are smaller here and they might not need to communicate as much or over as long a distance. Or some people think they are slightly different races or subspecies and the less communication is actually genetic. Who know, but they are quieter.

  3. I meant the coyotes east of the Mississippi are quieter, sorry, those in the west are noisier.