Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tidbits: David Levine--RIP

Sad to hear today that David Levine recently died. I used to love his caricatures for The New York Review of Books. They were always one of the highlights of reading the reviews. Coincidentally, I decided to renew my subscription after a hiatus of several years. It used to cost an arm and a leg when I lived in Japan, but it turns out to be ridiculously cheap here--about the price of a decent bottle of wine for two years--and the writing is so good. Having just decided to cancel all English-language TV in the house, I'm hoping I'll have the time to read it all each month.

Rain: Nearly Half an Inch overnight (January 12, 2010 )

We got another 0.45 inches of rain overnight. More rain is expected today and tonight. Currently our 2009-2010 season total is at 8.95 inches. That's about 4 inches below average for January 12. Go rain!

[Update: On the night of the 12th, we got another 0.25 inches, bringing the total to 9.2 inches for the season. Better than nothing, but not the inch and a half of rain that had been forecast.]

Books I'm Reading: A Perfect Red

I Just finished reading Amy Butler Greenfield's A Perfect Red (Harper Perennial, 2006), which is a history of cochineal, the insect-derived dye that is still considered the best natural red dye--for everything from textiles to food (although the book doesn't mention it, I believe cochineal is the only insect matter approved by the FDA as a food additive). It's always a pleasure to read popular history that's well written. Engaging and taut throughout. A brief history of the world from the perspective of a single commodity. Recommended.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Birds I'm Watching: Nagasawa Park, Santa Rosa

Having heard of it only yesterday for the first time, I took a quick drive today to Nagasawa Park, in Fountain Grove, Santa Rosa (a new Santa Rosa city park--formerly known to locals as Fountain Grove Park, entrance off Fountain Grove Parkway). There is quite a diversity of habitat. There is a substantial lake with a central island. Some of the edges are deep with reeds. Around the lake are some dense patches of oaks and there is a lot of open area with grasses, coyote bush, and other brush--good sparrow habitat. One edge of the lake has a stand of small deciduous trees with reeds below that turned out to have a particularly large number of birds. There is ample parking.

The downside is that you can walk only about a third of the way along the lake shore in one direction and even less in the other. If you take the trail that heads out to the left from the parking lot, you eventually come to a fence that has been neatly cut and tied back, so it's easy enough to get through, but to complete a circuit of the lake, you have to follow golf cart paths through the golf course on the far side of the lake, and I had to exit by scaling the fence at the far side, but there there is an obliging tree that someone has propped a big limb against to form a sort of ladder. I hadn't intended to trespass. It's a shame that you can't walk all the way around without doing so, but I ran into some Santa Rosa city workers who said they were negotiating to eventually make a complete walk possible without going onto private property. Anyway, this seems to be a well-kept secret (or maybe it's just me). It's like a scaled down Spring Lake. Well worth a visit.

On my walk (about 45 minutes), I saw 29 species: California towhee, spotted towhee, golden-crowned sparrow, song sparrow, lincoln's sparrow (top photo), Western bluebird (bottom photo), scrub jay, turkey vulture, American goldfinch, house finch, Oregon junco, robins, great egret, snowy egret, black phoebe, ruby-crowned kinglet, downy woodpecker, nuttal's woodpecker, acorn wodpecker, yellow-rumped warbler, oak titmouse, double-crested cormorant, pied-billed grebe (10), common goldeneye (8), hooded merganser (4), coots, (6), American wigeon, common moorhen, and mallards.

For more information about Nagasawa Park and bird watching in Sonoma County, see my Website Sonoma County Bird Watching Spots.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birds I'm Watching: Sacramento Area

Just to report a chilly but rewarding trip to the Sacramento area with some local birders yesterday. Saw an amazing 72 species during the day and saw six species for the first time in my life--not to mention two others that I had seen before but never well enough that I felt I should consider them real sightings. The route was up I-80 to Highway 160 through Isleton, Walnut Grove, and Thornton, and then to the Cosumnes River Preserve. On the way back, we passed a spot known recently for mountain plovers and a burrowing owl. We found the burrowing owl, but not the plovers.

First-time sightings for me were: Ross's goose, Lincoln's sparrow, loggerhead shrike, borrowing owl, lark sparrow, and horned lark. I added the sandhill crane and ferruginous hawk, to my list as well, because I got to see these birds well for the first time.

Other birds observed were: Downy woodpecker, Nuttal's woodpecker, belted kingfisher, Say's phoebe, black phoebe, mallard, black-necked stilt, yellow-rumped warbler, ruddy duck, ring-necked duck, violet-green swallow, bufflehead, marsh wren, snow goose, yellow-billed magpie, turkey vulture, ruby-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned kinglet, kestrel, red-tailed hawk, canvasback, Brewer's blackbird, red-winged blackbird, house finch, California towhee, northern shoveler, killdeer, coots, tree swallow, least sandpiper, Wilson's snipe, dunlin, northern harrier, European starling, robins, Anna's hummingbird, bushtits, cinnamon teal, green-winged teal, golden-crowned sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, American pipit, spotted towhee, tundra swan (thousands), Canada goose, cackling goose (the leucoparia and Aleutian races), northern pintail, wood duck, greater white-fronted goose, American wigeon, gadwall, common goldeneye, great blue heron, long-billed dowitcher, and greater yellowlegs. Other group members saw about six species I missed, including a golden eagle.

The whether was dark and dreary--heavy overcast. As a result, I didn't get any good pictures. Posted here is the shot I was able to get of one of the lark sparrows. This photo does not do justice to so pretty a bird.
Related Posts with Thumbnails