In the Company of Birdwatchers
The little bird working the edge of Pond 1 looked like a chicken to me. A small chicken that poked its beak in the water.
“Anything interesting?” another birdwatcher asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve been looking for the Orange Bishop.”
Oh he’s over there,” said the newcomer. He looked for it. “I saw him from a different angle.” He walked back to where he had been standing. His wife pointed to it and we found it by triangulation.
“Anything else?” he asked.
“Well, I think I’ve seen a rail. It’s been running in and out of those reeds.” I nodded down the embankment. This piqued the couple’s interest. “A rail? Do you know what kind?”
“I don’t know my rails very well,” I said. “I’d have to look it up.” It was true. Until I investigated my guidebooks and web apps, I had had no idea that coots were related to rails. Made sense because coots looked an awful lot like these little birds. Several birders joined us. The rails came out of the reeds and waded into the shallow water. A middle-aged East Indian gentleman with the biggest set of binoculars that I had ever seen slipped behind us and asked in a voice just the slightest of tones past a whisper “Anything interesting?”
I told him about the rails. He looked at them through his lenses. “Sora,” he announced. “Look at the yellow bill.” Another rail came out of the reeds. “Down there is a Virginia Rail. Dark beak. That is how you tell them from the soras.” Everyone was excited about the rails, even more excited that they were about the Orange Bishop. I had hit on the Popular Thing of the moment.
“It’s a good day when you see a new bird,” said the expert. Yes, it was.
Hypoatremia — When you sweat the life out of yourself
The heat of the day is oppressive, but you’ve taken care to bring along a full Camelbak plus a couple of extra bottles of water. A nice apple lines your pack. You’ve been sweating profusely. This does not faze you because you follow the rule of drinking water before you need it. So you know that you are well-hydrated and you still have plenty to drink.
Then it hits you: a headache combined with nausea. Oh, this is easy, you say to yourself. “I’ll just drink more water.” You slake your thirst but the headache and nausea do not go away as they usually do. Hmm. Maybe you need something to eat? You pull out your apple and reduce it to its core. The syndrome is getting worse. You throw up your emergency meal and the water you drank. What is going on?
The Native Seed Farm
I’ve been working on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Native Seed Farm where they grow plants for rehabilitating the lands burned by the 2008 Santiago Fire. Our recent tasks have involved harvesting seeds from various species endemic to the local coastal sage scrub biome.
The same fire opened the land for use. The farm exists on a plot that once grew avocados. Encroaching flames torched the grove before they turned to the east and threatened my home.
Volunteers and paid staff perform most of the chores. Idle farm workers with wages paid by the Irvine Ranch join for a few months every spring. This keeps them on hand while cash crops grow and there is little to do elsewhere.
Review: Audubon’s Birds (Android App)
Audubon Birds by Green Mountain Digital. This review describes the Android version.
I was in the market for a inexpensive Android bird watching application. The highly touted Sibley guide cost $20. Other programs seemed cheap and shallow by comparison. I finally chose a name I knew from my paperware guides — Audubon — which cost about $4.
This guide offers an in depth view of North American birds as far south as Mexico. The data base is a space hog: you can either access it via the web (which can take time when InterNet traffic is heavy) or you can download it to your cell phone/tablet. The developers suggest putting the app and its database onto your SD card but with my Google Nexus 10 there is plenty of room.