Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From the Crater to the tented camp near Lake Ndutu Dec. 26, 2006

Dec 26 of last year was a travel day as we left the crater , stopped at Olduvai (from a misspelled Maasai name Oldupai) Gorge, then onto the short grass plains of the Serengeti. I only have time to post a few pictures from this leg of the trip, since I am off to San Felipe, Baja Mexico in a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Last Christmas in Tanzania

Last Christmas was rainy and cool in the Nogorongoro Crater. We were lucky not to get stuck in the mud while down there, and while it was a bit cold for us, the hippos did not seem to mind the rain.

This Kori Bustard is the largest bird which can fly.
This is what most of the big cats we saw did during the day. A few days later, however we saw these two brothers who were a bit more active

These African crowned cranes are the national symbol of Uganda, and were displaying to each other in the grasslands in the bottom of the crater.

Monday, December 24, 2007

One year ago today

Last December I was at the beginning of a huge adventure. I was in Tanzania along with my friends Jim and Carrie. A year ago today I was at a lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The road into the crater drops 2,000 feet from the rim to the floor. The floor of the crater is 9 miles across. Approximately 30,000 animals inhabit this area. If you saw the movie Out of Africa, the scene where Robert Redford's character takes Meryl Streep's character flying includes flying over the crater. You can read more about the crater here. Maasai people still herd cattle in the crater alongside elephants, rhinos, zebra, ostrich, lions, and cheetahs.There had been unseasonable long rains in December, and the roads were very muddy, and slick. Lions do not favor wet grass, and on the way down into the crater this young male was laying right next to the road in an attempt to avoid the wet grass.

This male baboon was sitting alongside the road as we drove along the rim of the crater.
We saw our first cheetahs in the crater. This one woke up, stretched, and walked away as we watched from the landcruiser. 
Zebras were plentiful in the crater, and due to the protection from poaching in the elephants here were the largest we saw. 

From my balcony at the lodge I could look into the crater and see elephants with my binoculars.
So on Christmas Eve, Carrie Jim and I spent our late afternoon gazing into the crater from our room. That evening we had a delicious dinner in the dining room. On Christmas night girls from the nearby Maasai village sang at the lodge, and men from the village danced in an evening performance. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Joshua Tree National Park

It is downright cold in Joshua Tree National Park in December. That makes it a good time to go because the park and campgrounds are not crowded at all. Plus if you are like me, cold weather is perfect hiking weather. My camping buddies and I spent four days in the park at Jumbo Rocks Campground, and while we enjoyed the sunny days, we would have appreciated warmer nights. The coldest low was 22.
Joshua Tree is an especially interesting park because it encompasses two types of desert. The Joshua Trees are a dominant form of vegetation in the Mojave Desert section of the park, but are replaced by creosote shrubs, ocotillo, and cholla cactus as one desends into the Colorado Desert area of the park. The Colorado Desert is a part of the Sonoran Desert and is dryer, hotter, and lower in elevation than the Mojave.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why the Glass Wall at Bolsa Chica Bothers Me So Much

Here are just a few reasons this wall does not belong at Bolsa ChicaPeregrine falcons were removed from the endangered species list in 1999. Their populations are stable to declining around the nation. They are commonly seen in the eucalyptus trees on the mesa.
Kestrels are our smallest falcon and can be commonly seen hunting near the wall.
This Belding's savannah sparrow is an endangered species, and a resident at Bolsa Chica.
Great blue herons nest in the eucalyptus trees on the mesa. Since they will eat anything small enough to swallow, they hunt on the mesa as well as in the wetlands.
White tailed kites roam over the mesa and wetlands in search of food. I saw one perched on the wall eating a mouse the other evening. How long will it be before in pursuit of prey it doesn't see the wall?Black skimmers fly low over the water to hunt and migrate to Bolsa Chica to breed in the summer. This is an elegant tern. Thousands of them nest at Bolsa Chica in the summer. They arrive in April or so and leave in the fall.

Decals Going Up on Wall of Death

This afternoon when Carrie and I were out at the wall we saw a worker applying two decals per pane. The instructions on the packaging for this product suggests one decal for every 3 square feet. Two per pane isn't sufficient. However, by putting them on the wall, Hearthside can claim it is doing something even if it is ineffective.

The only long term solution to this problem is to take the glass wall down.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Stories on the Glass Wall of Death

The Huntington Beach Independent has a wonderful editorial calling on Hearthside to take down the wall. You can read it here , and columnist Chris Epting again addresses this issue here

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Docent training and the wall of death

The new class of docents for the Miracles of the Marsh program sponsored by the Bolsa Chica Land Trust was out at Bolsa Chica today. As part of the tour they walked along the trail by the wall of death. As Marinka Horack and two of the docents were walking along the wall they witnessed a flycatcher hit the wall. Fortunately it was only stunned at not killed. This happened around noon close to the model homes.

I met with Erin Dean today from the USFWS to give her two dead birds collected at the wall. If you see a dead bird along the trail by the glass wall at the Brighwater development, you may collect it if you follow the procedures below.

If you have a camera with you, please take a picture of the bird in place to show where it hit the wall, and include a description of the area if possible. For example how far down the trail or how far from the model homes etc.

If you have a GPS unit, GPS coordinates would be very helpful.

After collecting the bird please call the USFWS enforcement office at 310-328-1516 to report you have the bird. The office will then call me with your contact information. I have a salvage permit and am the drop point in Huntington Beach for the dead birds. I will contact you to pick up the bird you collected.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Coyote treat this morning

The Bolsa Chica mesa is home to several coyotes, and one graced us with his or her presence this morning.

Coyotes play an important role in the Bolsa Chica ecosystem as they control predators such as the non native red fox and feral cats which are more likely to feed on ground nesting birds such as the endangered California least terns, and western snowy plovers.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Early morning at the wall

One would think with all the condensation on the glass this morning, birds would be able to see it. However, as you can see from this picture at least one did have a collision with the wall. The pictures below show that it was near one of the model homes.