Late post (Sunday 8 March 2009):
Hello from San Diego, where today is the last day of the San Diego Audubon Bird Festival. Things have been busy here, and I haven’t had a chance to post until now. The Festival is at the Marina Conference Center right on Mission Bay — here’s a shot of the Three Star Owl booth. It’s nice to be in a room with windows and a view. So many facilities are completely interior and have things like accordion walls with scotch tape holding up a leftover honeycomb wedding bell that was too high for the cleanup crew to reach. This room is wood-panelled and bright, and looks out onto a marina. Nice!
E was able to come along and help, which is a treat because then each of us had an opportunity to go on a field trip. He’s doing a San Diego River outing as I write this, and yesterday I joined a pelagic trip out to the Islas Coronadas, a small grouping of islands in Mexican water within sight of San Diego. The room is still swaying a bit this morning, although by Pacific standards the seas weren’t rough. My little camera doesn’t do distant birds well, so I don’t have a picture of what was for me the highlight of the trip, several pairs of small alcids (a type of sea bird) called Xantus’s murrelets, which, although we had great looks, would never be more than little black and white blobs bobbing on the waves in my photos. There were many excellent sea birds to be seen, but also mammals, including close looks at Gray Whales migrating north, and four species of dolphins: Risso’s, Common, Pacific white-sided and Bottlenosed, who larked under the bows, close enough so that we could hear them exhale when they surfaced. Above is a photo of something my camera can handle — a California sea lion beach-master with his harem.
In case you’re a non-birder, and don’t know what birders do at bird festivals, the main events are organized field trips to local hot-spots, led by experts, to look at birds. The exhibit room has exhibitors like state Fish & Game people or the American Birding Association giving out info, and vendors with bird and nature related supplies, photos, and art for sale (like Three Star Owl). Optics manufacturers have reps there, so that attendees can check out scopes and binox. Occasionally impromptu viewings break out, such as when a Merlin was spotted atop a mast in the Marina, and the line of demo scopes was commandeered for viewing. Pretty heady times!
Stay tuned: on the way home E and I stopped at the Mud Volcano site on the Salton Sea for a spot of sampling and marvelling at gloopy mud-blorping “gryphons”.