February 27, 2011

Why I'm here

Awesome photo by fearless and exceedingly fit biker Jeff D — see his photos of Highway 330 flood damage here. To the west are the snowy San Gabriels. Click photos to embiggen.

We had some serious rain this winter. We had the kind of rain you can get down in Mexico on a late summer afternoon where it rains so hard that it's like standing under a waterfall — if you're driving you have to stop, because you can't see. It never rains like that up here. And our rain didn't quit. The foothills of the San Bernardinos got something like two years' worth of rain in ten days, and before it was over the hillsides tore apart in a rush of mud and rock, with slabs of chaparral and sodden earth avalanching down the ravines, so that when you look at the foothills now you see these big arrowhead-shaped patches of bare soil all across the front of the range from Cajon Pass east to Mill Creek. This happened a few days before Christmas.

Bare patches on the foothills above 330 [background]. Absence of suburban sprawl due to location directly atop San Andreas Fault.

The road in the photo at the top of this post is State Highway 330, called City Creek by old-timers. I've been traveling its twists and turns from home in the eastern San Bernardino Valley to Big Bear Lake and back again, season after season, since I was a zygote. I could drive it in my sleep, and probably have. As you can imagine, 330 will be closed for repairs for the better part of 2011. Bleh.

During winter break I'd planned to drive up to Big Bear for some birding around the lake and a quick run by the family cabin, but road conditions ended that. [City Creek is how I roll, people. And yes, there are other roads, but with ski traffic these days...]

So I'm at home in Pleasantville at the moment, here in a very green inland valley, and this is my new Southern California birding and natural history blog. I'm headed out shortly to check for a pair of Hooded Mergansers at a local park, and then over to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area to look for a Black-and-white Warbler. Not much farther than that: I'm a provincial birder, and someone has to be here to let the dogs in and out ;~)

My 2011 list for San Bernardino County, so far:

1. Ross's Goose - Chen rossii
2. Cackling Goose - Branta hutchinsii
3. Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
4. Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
5. Gadwall - Anas strepera
6. American Wigeon - Anas americana
7. Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
8. Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors
9. Cinnamon Teal - Anas cyanoptera
10. Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
11. Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
12. Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris
13. Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
14. Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis
15. California Quail - Callipepla californica
16. Gambel's Quail - Callipepla gambelii
17. Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
18. Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
19. American White Pelican - Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
20. Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
21. Great Egret - Ardea alba
22. Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
23. Green Heron - Butorides virescens
24. Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
25. White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
26. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
27. Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
28. White-tailed Kite - Elanus leucurus
29. Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii
30. Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus
31. Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
32. American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
33. Merlin - Falco columbarius
34. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
35. American Coot - Fulica americana
36. Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus
37. Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
38. Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
39. Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
40. Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus scolopaceus
41. Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
42. California Gull - Larus californicus
43. Rock Pigeon - Columba livia
44. Band-tailed Pigeon - Patagioenas fasciata
45. Eurasian Collared-Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
46. Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura
47. Red-crowned Parrot - Amazona viridigenalis
48. Lilac-crowned Parrot - Amazona finschi
49. Red-lored Parrot - Amazona autumnalis
50. Barn Owl - Tyto alba
51. Western Screech-Owl - Megascops kennicottii
52. Burrowing Owl - Athene cunicularia
53. Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna
54. Costa's Hummingbird - Calypte costae
55. Acorn Woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus
56. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
57. Red-naped Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus nuchalis
58. Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Picoides scalaris
59. Nuttall's Woodpecker - Picoides nuttallii
60. Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
61. Black Phoebe - Sayornis nigricans
62. Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya
63. Vermilion Flycatcher - Pyrocephalus rubinus
64. Cassin's Kingbird - Tyrannus vociferans
65. Loggerhead Shrike - Lanius ludovicianus
66. Western Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma californica
67. American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos
68. Common Raven - Corvus corax
69. Violet-green Swallow - Tachycineta thalassina
70. Mountain Chickadee - Poecile gambeli
71. Bushtit - Psaltriparus minimus
72. Bewick's Wren - Thryomanes bewickii
73. Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula
74. Wrentit - Chamaea fasciata
75. Western Bluebird - Sialia mexicana
76. American Robin - Turdus migratorius
77. Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos
78. California Thrasher - Toxostoma redivivum
79. European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
80. American Pipit - Anthus rubescens
81. Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum
82. Phainopepla - Phainopepla nitens
83. Yellow-rumped Warbler - Dendroica coronata
84. Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
85. Spotted Towhee - Pipilo maculatus
86. California Towhee - Melozone crissalis
87. Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
88. Lark Sparrow - Chondestes grammacus
89. Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
90. White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys
91. Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis
92. Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
93. Western Meadowlark - Sturnella neglecta
94. Brewer's Blackbird - Euphagus cyanocephalus
95. Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus
96. Brown-headed Cowbird - Molothrus ater
97. House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus
98. Lesser Goldfinch - Spinus psaltria
99. Lawrence's Goldfinch - Spinus lawrencei
100. American Goldfinch - Spinus tristis
101. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

Thanks to eBird California [regional portal to the most excellent and now worldwide eBird] for the list, to Robert for the eBird list-per-day resolution, to Nate for his terrific county-lister posts, and to Corey [and Tom Benson] for making me think of doing some kind of Big Year — someday.

Update: San Jacinto Wildlife Area roads closed due to [what else?] rain. The dogs are delighted.

Update #2: Got the mergansers. Beautiful.