Thursday, January 31, 2008

Feeding time, and the mountains are beautiful

The San Gabriel Mountains have a beautiful blanket of snow left from the recent storms. The rain here has caused the native plants on the mesa to break dormancy, and many are flowering. Bladderpod, and the coast sunflower are in bloom right now along with the non native mustard.

This male scaup along with several others was diving for mussels near the tide gate this morning. These diving ducks commonly eat fish, but were snacking on one mussel after another. After positioning them just right in their beaks, the birds swallowed the mussels whole.
Surf scoters were also dining on mollusks this morning. The male bird above, and the female below were feeding by the walk bridge on clams. They also just swallowed the clams whole. The must have strong gizzards to be able to grind up this food.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Large and Small at Bolsa Chica

There was a great deal of bird activity this morning in the pocket wetlands and the nearby eucalyptus trees. An osprey was having a breakfast of what looked like some kind of ray. Grebes like this little pied-billed grebe were fishing along with mergansers, terns and egrets including the reddish egret.

Green wing and blue wing teal along with northern shovelers, northern pintails and American wigeons were dabbling in the mud.
Male Anna's hummingbirds were zipping about and courting females. Those that have so far escaped the wall of death, that is. Parts of the wall where there is no chain link with green mesh now have caution tape attached to it as you can see from this picture.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Windy day at Bolsa Chica

There was a strong wind blowing from the east this morning at Bolsa Chica. This allowed this male kestrel to ride the wind while hunting for bugs, lizards or small mice.
This female northern harrier was also up over the mesa and gliding low over rabbit island in search of prey.
The kestrel flew directly above me several times as he hunted on the mesa. 
This young red tailed hawk was also up over the mesa looking for food. The wind made gliding easy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Buttress Roots

While in Belize I saw numerous species of trees with buttress roots. These roots are common in species of trees found in the rain forest, because the trees have fairly shallow roots. The soils in the rain forest are nutrient poor, so having shallow, but widespread roots is a strategy that allows the tree to acquire nutrients from a wide area.
However, shallow roots don't provide much support to the tree, hence the buttresses. Some of these specialized roots can reach 15 feet. These were well over the top of my head.
The buttresses also provide surfaces for other flowering plants, mosses, lichens, and ferns to grow.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Iguana in tree top over the Sette River. 
Keel Billed Toucan
The Sette River
I just returned from a week in Belize which included attending a 5 day class on the Marine Ecology of the Reefs of Belize. We were going to spend three nights on Wee Wee Caye which is 9 miles off the coast, but the sea was so rough it was unsafe for us to travel out to the Caye in the small open boats we had. So we stayed at the Possum Point Biological Station and did one day trip to the caye in a large boat. The class turned out to be more about terrestrial rain forest ecology which was fine with me since we saw so many new birds, and walked through fabulous forests with trees that looked like they could pick up and start walking like those in the Lord of the Rings. We snorkeled in the rain in water warmer than the air. I saw amazing fan corals, brain coral, sea stars, fish, and sea anemones in just 3 to 4 feet of water. I also spend two nights at a lodge in Western Belize just a few miles from Guatemala and visited Mayan ruins.

From the International Airport in Belize City, which is the size of the airport in Long Beach CA, we flew on a 12 seat Cessna toward the Sette River.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

One year ago today, Tanzania

One year ago today I greeted the New Year at a wilderness camp on Maasai land in the Serengeti.
The word Serengeti comes from a Maasai word Siringitu. It means the place where the land moves on forever. 

On New Years Eve, as we turned off the good dirt road onto “the road” to our camp, (which was really nothing more than where others had driven before us), I asked Sebastian, our guide how long it would take to get to the camp. He replied, “Four hours if we have no trouble.”
We were about 1 kilometer down the “road” and we got trouble. Flat Stanley is posing here with Carrie as we see just how far down the rear tires have sunk into the soil. It was quite an adventure as over a 3 hour period Sebastian jacked up the wheel, while we hunted and gathered on the grasslands for rocks to put under the tires for traction. After unloading all the luggage and pushing as Sebastian drove we were finally able to get the landcruiser out of the mud. Our happiness was short lived as about 10 kms further on we got stuck again. Fortunately Sebastian had sent text messages to the camp and Julius and Noel soon arrived. With their help we were unstuck in a matter of 15 mins. or so and on we went. By this time it was getting dark and as we sped along the Serengeti at 40-50 kms/hr Thompson gazelles would race along side the car and cut across in front of us. Sebastian was determined not to get stuck again since working to get the car out of the mud with lions around at night was something none of us wanted to do. This resulted in a great deal of fishtailing through the mud and calls from Sebastian to "HOLD ON", as if we weren't. We all were wondering if he had ever flipped a landcruiser... Finally at 11:30 at night we arrived at camp, and what it camp it was!
This was the most luxurious camping I have ever done. The photo above is of the dining tent and lounge area. The food was fabulous, and at night after dinner and conversation a staff member walked us to our tents since we were out in the wilderness with lions and leopards around. 
As you can see from the inside of my tent, I had a wash basin, there was a chemical toilet in the tent, and a gravity fed shower. Early in the morning one of the camp staff would come in through a side door in the tent and put warm water next to the basin, and leave coffee and scones or other goodies on the veranda outside. I could get used to this kind of "camping".

Since we were on Maasai land and not in the National Park we could get out of the landcruiser and go for walks. We went for walks every morning and afternoon. On our last night there we walked to a kopi (a rock outcropping) to find the staff had set up pillows, blankets and rugs for us along with food and drink so we could enjoy the sunset, and...
the rise of a full moon.

Happy New Year

Among those of us in the Land Trust, there has been a long standing tradition , started by my late husband Dick Le Grue, to meet on the Bolsa Chica Mesa at sunrise. We also recognize the recipients of the Kennedy-Kolpin Conservation Award on this morning, then meet for a pot luck breakfast nearby. This is what we saw this morning as the sun rose over Saddle Back Mountain.