Friday, July 6, 2007

Birding??? Challenge

A couple weeks ago Larry challenged those of us who would be interested in birding a spot we've never birded. Believe me, it was a bigger challenge than I thought it would be. I was disappointed because I did not get one single picture of a bird. I had decided to visit West Valley Community College located in Saratoga, California -- about 4-5 miles from where I live. It is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, consisting of 143 acres, and has been in existence since 1964 -- about the time when the Silicon Valley experienced one of its growth spurts. The campus is a wooded area with the various buildings spread out, yet a short walk from one building to another. Walking around and through the campus makes you feel like you are far into the country. I chose to go last Sunday (Jul 1) around 5 p.m. and the campus was pretty close to being isolated. It was very quiet and I felt very peaceful walking around for about an hour. At times I thought I'd be able to find some birds and possibly get a picture if I sat down on one of the many benches there -- a real park atmosphere. Anyway, the best I did was spot a few California Towhees, but no photos -- they were too far away and flew off when I tried to get closer. The campus is definitely not devoid of birds; I saw many birds in flight. And I even heard more birds than I saw. But I'm not good at identifying birds by ear -- something I still have to learn. The birds that I saw and can report on were crows, towhees, swallows and titmice. But the trip wasn't a total loss. I still enjoyed my little adventure and have decided to share with you what I did find while walking around the campus of West Valley Community College.

This is part of a sugar pine tree that died while growing in the Sierras. Quite impressive standing next to it. The size of this prickly pear cactus tells me it's got some age on it. Anyone want to guess how old it is? My guess is that it is at least as old as the school has been there (1964).
These little ones are California ground squirrels. I think they were just born earlier in the spring. They didn't wander off very far from their "nest" so I think they were waiting for mama to return. They look smaller than what I found out about the size of these little critters.

This is a "natural" arbor of a coastal live oak. I did not get a photo of the Calif. Holly - it wasn't much to look at.
These are cannas - unlike the kind I have in my garden. These are planted near one of the buildings.

This is a grape vine growing over the pergola located at the Child Developmental Center on the West Valley campus. The second pic shows a close-up of the grapes, about the size of a marble.
This was another prickly pear cactus I came across - closer to the parking lot. And you can see that it's about ready to bloom.
The light blue flowers in the foreground are Lily-of-the-Nile (forgot its other name). And I don't remember the name of the purple flowered bush behind them. But it sure was attractive. This was growing in front of one of the fine arts buildings.
And this was the view of the Mt. Hamilton range from the parking lot. This picture also shows how wooded the campus is.


KGMom said...

Well, I would have the same problem--even birds I see I can't always identify. But if I have only songs to go by, well, mostly I am stumped.

Annie in Austin said...

Hello MaryC,

Thank you for coming and commenting on my blog - Austin and your part of California do seem to have some plants in common - and we both enjoy our cannas!

You've done a lot better than I have at catching the hummingbirds - my attempts have failed totally. We have the black-chinned kind here in Central Texas, and my fellow Austin Garden Blogger Dawn is faster on the shutter button. She caught hummingbirds in action.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Ruth said...

I like looking for birds, but if that is all you look for, you can miss a lot of other beauty. Thanks for the tour!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
So you still got to see some birds, even if they didn't want to be photographed. (The towhee would be special for me.)

But your other sightings are noteworthy also--especially for those of us who haven't ever been to that area. Thanks for sharing.

Mary said...

Mary, that's a great, scenic place! Even if the birds didn't cooperate, I enjoyed the cactus (none here!) and the California Canna. Good job!

Dorothy said...

Oh this made me miss California Mary. I always admire those birders who can not only identify the uncommon birds, but also their songs and their nests. I doubt I'll ever get that good at birding.
Wonderful post!!! Thanks for the California memories.

Larry said...

The whole point was just to explore and find what you may.-You did that, and I found this post interesting.-There are a lot of times that I can't get a single decent bird photo.-Don't feel bad about that.-Not being able to bird by ear can be another challenge for you to work on.-Thanks for playing along!

Anonymous said...

I think it is great that you are going out and searching for new places to find birds. You never know what you'll find. I also love how the mobility of birds can change the scenery from day-to-day. We find prickly pear cactus here (in Illinois), but it is sooo tiny compared to that photo.

Heidi said...

agapanthus... that's the name of lily of the nile - heh heh - i remember agapanthus, and you remember lily of the nile which I can never remember

the purple flowered bush - on first guess I'd say sweet potato vine/bush, but i'm pretty sure that's wrong.

Q said...

Dear Mary,
What a fun outing!
Thank you I enjoyed every minute.
I know how frustrating it can be not to get photos but you saw all sorts of cool "nature"!

Nancy said...

I don't know nothin' about birds, but I know a plant or two:

Lily of the Nile = agapanthus (as Red said) and the other one looks like a Bougainvillea to me.


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