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Go West, Then Farther West [Migration]

August 20, 2010

Recently I attended the Association of Field Ornithologist’s conference in Utah (12-14 August) followed by an immediate business trip to the southern California coast (I feel guilty calling it business, I didn’t even wear a tie!).  More detailed posts in the works, but here’s an overview.


  • I spent time with other researchers and students talking about their projects (note to self: highlighting them here under the title of “OPP: Other People’s Projects” may have to become a feature).  Always fun to learn what the latest and greatest bird research is telling us.
  • I presented some preliminary results from a pilot study we conducted last fall, which involved tracking thrush migration in California.
  • One of the best things about bird conferences: most of the attendees are birders willing to skip a session and go birding.  The Great Salt Lake is an amazing place:  six-figure phalarope counts from Antelope Island, anyone?


  • I deployed equipment to continue tracking thrush migration this fall, traveling from west of Santa Barbara to the border with Mexico. That includes a stop some 40-plus miles west of LA on Santa Barbara Island.
  • Naturally, I birded everywhere I went, finding species from California Gnatcatcher to South Polar Skua.  And I finally caught up with a nemesis bird!
  • It’s impossible for me to travel without photographing everywhere I went, including Channel Islands National Park and Arroyo Hondo Preserve in Santa Barbara county, and the Mission Trails Regional Park, Tijuana Slough NWR, and Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in San Diego county.
  • I even had a minor celebrity sighting on the flight back east, a guy who I’ve seen but can’t name.  I think he played a guest role on one of the Law & Order episodes, remember that guy?  I think he was either a victim, a perp, or a shrink.
  • I’m a little embarrassed about this, and I apologize for tooting my own apparent celebrity, but I believe I was the target of an sighting. I haven’t yet seen it in the celebrity blogosphere (did you know there are more than just bird blogs out there?), but I suspect Rob Schneider is now reporting he was on a flight with a real, live ornithologist!  How lucky is he?  Seriously, one of the high-school kids on my flight to L.A., after stowing his skateboard in an overhead bin and squashing my camera bag, told me he’s been in some movies and was on SNL “back when it was funny.”

I have to say, now that it’s all said and done, it was a whirlwind.  An exhausting and exhilarating mix of new people and old friends, new places and previously-visited sites, and birds, including a lifer or three.  I’ll be reliving it all as I process the images, please stay tuned for my Excellent Adventure.

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