Friday, March 5, 2010

La Hoya? That sign says La JOE-lla!

The title of this blog comes from a funny story an Iraqi physician colleague told when he learned I was going to San Diego for a conference.

This morning, again, the GPS worked beautifully. Thank goodness!

Brandt's Cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) were the first birds I saw at the start of the long coastal park that has runners, walkers, homeless people and people who sit in their cars and stare at the ocean.

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), in their beautiful breeding plumage, were also everywhere. These hadn't taken to the sky yet.

The apparently controversial Harbor Seals had a nice sleeping spot on a large flat-surfaced rock elevated well above the pounding surf.

Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) were also everywhere.

I was so disappointed that this photo did not turn out better. I was able to get quite close. Five Heermann's Gulls (Larus heermanni) stood together and took turns sleeping, preening or just keeping an eye on their surroundings. When I go to Niagara Falls my favorite gull is the Iceland Gull. But, Heermann's Gull may become my new favorite. This is the first time I've seen them in breeding plumage. I think it is a completely beautiful gull.

I did see my first life bird of this trip at La Jolla this morning. Two Black Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala) were in the corner of a cove working the rocks for food. I saw them well from the walkway above, but they were too far away for a photo. Plus, they blended in very well with the color of the rocks. Curiously, the only other shorebird I saw this morning was a Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) working the rocks in the same area as the Black Turnstones.

The La Jolla ocean front. It is beautiful.

The La JOE-lla story goes like this. My colleague, Dr. Haythem Ali, came to the US after the first gulf war. He was a physician in Iraq, but had to repeat his residency to obtain his licensure here. He is an amazing scientist, researcher, physician and colleague. On his first trip to California, also for a conference, he was driving in a rental car and looking for La Hoya. Not being acquainted with Spanish pronunciation, he drove up and down the I-5 until he finally figured it out. He's also a good story teller and we all had a great laugh. The thing is, though I didn't admit it at the time, I also thought that La Jolla was La JOE-lla and La Hoya was La Hoya. And, I have no excuse. Though I don't speak Spanish, I've learned bits and pieces over the years and I am well-acquainted with pronunciation. The truth comes out.

Anyway, I now know how to pronounce La Jolla. It was a great birding spot this morning and the Black Turnstones were the icing on the cake. However, I probably would not have gone there had my friend from England, Cliff, not suggested it.

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