Field Journal Fridays

We are fortunate to be spending several months once again in Southern California.  We are feeling extra appreciative to be spending this winter outside of our hometown in Kentucky since it's been a really cold, grey, snowy, icy winter there this year!

Every morning I start the day with a 2-mile walk with our dog, Pablo.  I love seeing the bay each morning, noticing the changes in the tides with the phases of the moon, and watching all the wildlife that are gathered here for the winter, and I'm interested in learning more about all of these.

 Very high tide during a morning walk near the January 31 New Moon

Very low tide in the afternoon near the January 31 New Moon

Alas, Field Journal Fridays will be my attempt at weekly, focused observation and learning about the natural features of this area. We also have recently purchased a couple of Stand Up Paddleboards, so we're able to access the Back Bay estuary and Newport Bay Conservancy. There are some guided wildlife hikes through the conservancy as well that I will be participating in; and, if we are in the area long enough, there is a Naturalist Certification course I would love to do here in the fall.

Below are some pictures of the brown pelican. We paddled near it on our SUPs one afternoon. According to the Newport Bay Conservancy, these had once lost much of their population due to eggshell thinning from the effects of DDT, but their numbers are now recovering. I was lucky enough to see one flying over the water of the bay recently while out walking.

I do not have binoculars at the moment and am not getting close enough to make positive identifications always right away or to get very clear photos with my smartphone camera (why didn't I bring my SLR from home?!).  As I do identify species, I will link the first mention of that particular species in each post to its National Audobon Society Online Guide listing.  This site includes excellent pictures, species information, and audio.

With that said, here is what I observed today.

February 7, 2014
10:00 a.m.

Location:  Newport Dunes Back Bay beach area near shore, west of Moe B. Sports dock
Environment:  Wet from steady rainfall of previous evening and night
Weather:  Mostly cloudy, 59 degrees F, windless to light breeze
Morning Tides:  H 4.7 ft  at 3:23 a.m.; L 0.8 ft at 11:09 a.m.
Moon:  First Quarter

Part of area observed

Initially there were 2 small, brown sandpipers (?) feeding along the edge of the water with 1 gull perched between them in the soppy green land left by the receding tide. A second gull approached the area but was chased off by the first. The first gull remained in its spot, looking around but not feeding.  There was one large flock of gulls, approximately 30 to 40, on the shore down the beach from my site.


There were a large number of American Coots, in my immediate view, approximately 40, with similar-sized groupings spread out around the bay. Some in my immediate view were in the water, others were feeding along the shore, and others were feeding farther up on land in the wet areas left behind by the receding tides. The groupings seemed to be fairly fluid, with 1 or more walking away then swimming out to the middle of the bay or eventually over to another group.

At one point one of the farther away groupings of American Coots flew rapidly to the water. Many (with the exception of about 8) that were near me also moved to the water for a brief time, returning to the shore as the other group did.
American Coots

Approximately 15 rock pigeons landed near my picnic table, searching for food in the surrounding sand. They flew away abruptly when another nearby flock took flight quickly.

 Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeons

A single pure-white egret (snowy?  great?) with a dark bill approached, wading into the water farther out than the sandpipers(?). It had the dark bill of a snowy egret but not the splashing behaviors, and it was feeding alone. The gull attempted to chase the egret away, flying and squawking at it, but the egret spread its feathers, squawked, flapped its wings out, and stood its ground until the gull backed off. The egret returned to feeding as the gull floated on the water nearby for a few minutes, then returned to the area of shore it had been previously guarding for less than a minute, then flew away.



From April(?) 2013

This is an old post I never uploaded and just found in my drafts.

We are driving across the southwestern U.S. on our way to California where Matt will be working for a few weeks.  On our way back, he will work a week in Phoenix, a week in Dallas, and end in Daytona for a meeting.

First stop:  St Louis for a day at City Museum.

Cosplay: ongoing project

In November, we attended Stan Lee's Comikaze in Los Angeles.  Elliot and Seth spent the weeks leading up to that making their first cosplay costumes, roleplaying characters from the web comic Homestuck.  None of us sew well, but we managed to work together to make a long, blue hood using instructions that El found online. El, Seth, and a friend worked together painting shirts and pants, dyeing other shirts, shopping for accessories, and sculpting and painting clay troll horns.

Elliot in hand painted costume shirt sewing a long blue hood

 Seth dying a shirt and tights while reading a little Double Bubble in a Macbeth for Kids book

Seth, El, and their friend, Wade fake sleeping, taking a break from costume accessory shopping

El and Seth in finished costumes

Homestuck gathering at Comikaze

After spending the holidays at home in Kentucky, we were ready to get on the road to make another cross-country trip from Kentucky to Southern California.  We were on a fairly tight travel schedule this time, staying in KY long enough for Riley to go to a concert and getting to CA in time for Anime Los Angeles for Elliot and Seth to cosplay.

Homestuck (webcomic) Cosplay at Anime Los Angeles 2014
 Elliot (far right)

Seth, always getting the hugs

a gathering of homestucks

El and Seth really enjoy making costumes, roleplaying and meeting other cosplayers.  Since the ALA conference, they have gone to a couple of casual meetups in Little Tokyo and experienced a bit of Japanese art, food, and culture at the market, bookstore, and shops in the area.  I bought a book to learn some basic katakana writing, and we have bought a variety of snacks and candies to try. 

 Cosplay Meetup in Little Tokyo

 Shops in Little Tokyo

The Ellison S. Onizuka Space Shuttle Challenger monument is in the area near the cosplay meetups as well.  Last weekend there was a wreath of flowers and some candles as it was near the anniversary of the Challenger explosion.


An Unschooler's Spelling List

My children learn to spell by reading, writing, and asking questions as they go.  Riley and I helped Seth (9) download lots of music today.  If I made a spelling list out of the words he asked about (either asked how to spell or asked us to confirm that he had spelled correctly) while searching for songs today, it would look like this:

rock n roll

Side note:  My spellcheck was ok with "rock n roll" and "Jagger" but not "Skrillex"

Learning at our house: Feb/March

We took a month-long trip to Georgia and Florida during late February/early March, and I still want to post some about that.  But first, here are some pictures and activities from our house during February and March.

We got the chess set out and played games over several days--when the cat would let us.

Riley and I are now both doing international postcard swaps through postcrossing.  

 Seth learning to de-stem kale, part of preparations for our St. Patrick's Day dinner

 Riley got his first record player from a friend.
He has been reading about record players and other types of music players 
and learning how vinyl records are made.

The most tiring workout we've had in a while:  Just Dance for X-Box Kinnect
(even though we pretty regularly hike, bike, jog, skateboard, trampoline jump, and/or practice yoga)
(not all of those things for any one of us, but some combination of them for each of us)

Maya and Seth read a couple of manga from the Deathnote series
Riley started the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels
Maya read some of the Legend of Zelda graphic novels
Seth read some from a Mortal Kombat guidebook on the Kindle
We finished reading aloud the third Series of Unfortunate Events book:  The Wide Window

Park Day

The day we returned home from Argos, Indiana, some of our friends who now live in (another part of) Indiana were visiting for Spring Break, and we met up with them and some local homeschooling friends for an afternoon park day.

Devou Park view of Cincinnati, Ohio; the Ohio River; and Covington, KY

Argos, Indiana

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to Argos, Indiana.  Matt worked and we stayed at the campground. We didn't have a car through the day, and it was still really cold.  We mostly stayed inside and read, did Minecraft, and took care of our pets.  There was a pond at the campground with some ducks and geese, and a loop around the property for some good long, walks.

Matt reading John Dies at the End out load to all of us