White-throated Sparrow 10-9-15

This is a bird that’s been on my radar for a while.  Paul Lehman found them in the ditch between the town and the ag fields to the east in 2012 (or thereabouts).  I’ve looked for this bird in every flock of its cousins, the too-common white-crowned sparrow.  Today in my yard I caught a glimpse of a sparrow that didn’t look quite right, and with some patience, which I abhor, I finally got some looks and crappy pics (in deep shade) of a nice bird.  Yard bird #125.

White-throated Sparrow 10-10-15

White-throated Sparrow 10-10-15

White-throated Sparrow 10-10-15

White-throated Sparrow 10-10-15

White-throated Sparrow 10-9-15

White-throated Sparrow 10-9-15

The sparrow seemed fond of nyger seed and spent considerable time feeding on a pile of seeds I had discarded last month.

Also seen today in my yard was a FOS Fox sparrow.  It likes to scratch through the leaf litter like a towhee or thrasher.

Fox Sparrow FOS 10-9-15

Fox Sparrow FOS 10-9-15

Phainopepla v. Pyracantha 10-10-15

Phainopepla v. Pyracantha 10-10-15

Lincoln's Sparrow 10-10-15

Lincoln’s Sparrow 10-10-15

Lincoln's Sparrow 10-10-15

Lincoln’s Sparrow 10-10-15

A pine Siskin showed up last week and stayed two days.  Today it returned.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin 10-3-15

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Lark Bunting – a big ugly sparrow- 9-20-15

The Lark Buntings are uncommon migrants in Southern California.  I’ve seen them twice at Fort Rosecrans.  This afternoon I found this female-type along Seeley Avenue near Campo Street.  The lot on the south side is a riot of grapes and berries.  The lot on the north side has a dense stand of sunflowers and grasses.  The bunting was grazing on both sides of the street.  Western Tanagers are pretty thick in the grapes and Lazuli Buntings like the sunflower seed heads and the tall grasses.  Lark Buntings and Lazuli Buntings are not closely related.   The Lark Bunting is more sparrow-like, the Lazuli is goldfinch-like.

 

Lark Bunting 9-20-15

Lark Bunting 9-20-15

Lark Bunting 9-20-15

Lark Bunting 9-20-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-20-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-20-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-20-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-20-15

Lakwrence's Goldfilnch 9-20-15

Lawrence’s Goldfinch 9-20-15 at the swamp

Yellow Warbler 9-19-15

Yellow Warbler 9-19-15 at the swamp

First of Season Lincoln's Sparrow 9-19-15

First of Season Lincoln’s Sparrow 9-18-15 at the swamp

 

 

Seeley Avenue Birding 9-13-15

 

Yellow-breasted Chat 9-13-15

Yellow-breasted Chat 9-13-15

Seeley Avenue, particularly the sunflower lot and the lot directly across the street in the block to the east of Campo Street is the best spot for easy birding in Jacumba.  This week I’ve seen numerous Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Hooded Orioles (getting really late), Wilsons Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, Lawrence’s Goldfinches, Swainson’s Thrush, and Warbling Vireos.

Yellow-breasted Chat 9-13-15

Yellow-breasted Chat 9-13-15

The chat is the largest of our warblers.  Its about the size of a northern mockingbird, and like the mocker its often very vocal, hence the name chat.  It looks more like a vireo than a warbler.

Phainopepla, male 9-13-15

Phainopepla, male 9-13-15

The female is gray with the same red eyes.  They favor mistletoe berries.

Lazuli Bunting 9-13-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-13-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-12-15

Lazuli Bunting 9-12-15

Black-headed Grosbeak 9-13-15

Black-headed Grosbeak 9-13-15

Black-headed Grosbeak 9-13-15

Black-headed Grosbeak 9-13-15

Western Tanager 9-13-15

Western Tanager 9-13-15

Yellow Warbler 9-12-15

Yellow Warbler 9-12-15

Orioles exit stage left (9-10-15)

So far the Fall migration has been a bit on the slow side – actually very slow.   Until the last several days there’s been only a few birds with noting,   The painted bunting reported earlier will probably be the best bird of the Fall. The first fall migrants usually start showing up in late July, and by early August there’s usually a few migrant warblers floating around.  Only in the last several days have I noticed a significant increase in Fall migrants.  There were several days in August that I saw nothing but a few doves and lesser goldfinches at the swamp.  Last year and in 2013 around these dates I found decent numbers and sometimes excellent variety.

There is one remaining Bullock’s oriole in town as of 9-9-15. The last male hooded oriole was seen the same date.  Three female type hoodeds were seen this morning along Seeley Avenue in the first block west of Campo Street and one was seen at the swamp.  The bees finally found my jelly feeders about two weeks ago, and the orioles have been scare since.  The one remaining male hooded (as of 9-9-15) shows up in the evening just before sunset and picks through the bees.  I’ll soon retire my jelly feeder until the Spring.

One tricolored blackbird has been visiting by seed feeder as well as a single yellow-headed blackbird.  Costa’s, black-chinned and Anna’s hummers are at the feeders from just before down to last light – pretty much non-stop.  One selasphorus also.

The last Male Hooded Oriole works past the bees to get at the jelly

The last male Hooded Oriole works past the bees to get at the jelly 9-9-10.

Perhaps the last of the female-type hooded orioles 9-10-15.

Perhaps the last of the female-type hooded orioles 9-10-15.

This morning I found 4 lazuli buntings on Seeley Ave, along with 10 western tanagers, 3 black-headed grosbeaks, all female types, and a couple of common warblers.

Western Tanager 9-10-15

Western Tanager 9-10-15

Western tanagers have started showing up in good numbers.  Besides the 10 along  in one spot along Seeley Avenue there were about that number at the swamp, and more birds spread out around town.  The swamp had a decent selection of common migrants including yellow warbler, Lawrence’s goldfinch, Swainson’s thrush, flycatcher sp 2, Wilson’s warbler (10), black-throated gray warbler, common yellowthroat,  warbling vireo 2, hooded oriole, lazuli bunting 3,and orange-crowned warbler 10.

Tiaga Orange-crowned warbler 9-10-15

Tiaga Orange-crowned warbler 9-10-15

Pacific Orange-crowned warbler 9-9-15

Pacific Orange-crowned warbler 9-9-15

Lawrence's Goldfinch 9-10-15

Lawrence’s Goldfinch 9-10-15

Today’s best bird was a male Lawrence’s goldfinch.  These birds are unpredictable.  I heard a small group but could find only one of them.  The light was awful as it was heavily overcast.  This kept the temperature down into the low 80s, at least.

Green Herons 9-9-15

Green Herons 9-9-15

 

Arroyo Toad in Jacumba – Not

New placard at the swamp

New placard at the swamp

Several new placards have appeared in Jacumba.  Sponsored by the Jacumba-Boulevard Revitalization group, they highlight interesting sights etc. in Jacumba.  The placard pictured, placed at the swamp (aka Lake LaZare) has a big problem. It turns out that the Arroyo Toad, a federal endangered species, is not found in or near Jacumba.  If someone actually found one, it would be like having California Condors roosting with our Turkey Vultures.  Western Toad anyone?

In other sightings in Jacumba……

Willow Flycatcher 9-4-15

Willow Flycatcher 9-4-15

I’m a bit shaky on flycatchers, especially when it comes to western wood-pewees and willow flys.  So I might be mistaken here.

 

 

Acorn Woodpecker in Jacumba 9-4-15

Acorn Woodpecker in Jacumba 9-4-15

Unusual sighting of a common woodpecker.  These guys are usually seen only as far east as McCain Valley Road’s intersection with Old Highway 80 – about 6 miles west of Jacumba.  The Bird Atlas reports no records for Jacumba. There are enough oak trees with acorns that the town could support a small number of these noisy, social woodpeckers.

Black-throated Gray Warbler 9-4-15

Black-throated Gray Warbler 9-4-15

Lesser Goldfinch on Mexican Sunflower 9-4-15

Lesser Goldfinch on Mexican Sunflower 9-4-15

Black-chinned Sparrow 9-8-15

Black-chinned Sparrow 9-8-15

Painted Bunting 8-28-15

Painted Bunting and Lazuli Bunting 8-28-15

Painted Bunting and Lazuli Bunting 8-28-15

Painted Bunting 8-28-15

Painted Bunting 8-28-15

Lazuli Bunting 8-28-15

Lazuli Bunting 8-28-15

This female-type painted bunting showed up at the swamp this morning.  Jacumba bird #189. It was traveling with a female-type lazuli bunting and feeding in the willows next to the concrete standpipe.  Guy suggested that the painted bunting is a first-year male.  These birds are common cage birds in Mexico, so most records are not accepted by the bird authorities -the California Bird Record Committee – as valid sightings because they are reasonably thought to be escaped birds. Most of the reports for this birds are from the Tijuana River Valley, just a stones throw from Tijuana and it wild bird markets. So if you find a painted bunting around San Isidro in January, you can have no doubt that its an escaped bird. But if you find this bird in Jacumba in August or September the chances of it being an authentic migrant are very good.  And the fact that it was traveling with a lazuli bunting, as closely related species, plus the fact that there is no substantial Mexican community nearby where this bird could have escaped from all point to this bird being accepted by the bird authorities.

 

The bunting only made one appearance while I was there, and luckily I had my camera and got a bunch of  panicky photos. Gary Nunn stopped by and looked for the bird from about 9:am to 5:00 pm without any luck.  Trent Stanley & I searched on Saturday 8-29-15 in the early to mid morning without any luck either.  Gary found an odd sparrow-like bird that eluded his best efforts and on Saturday we found it and identified it as a juvenile black-chinned sparrow. At first we thought it was an oddball junco.  But the pics in Sibley matched up perfectly for black-chinned.  Another new Jacumba bird, #190.

Black-chinned Sparrow, juvenile 8-29-15

Black-chinned Sparrow, juvenile 8-29-15

Black-chinned Sparrow, juvenile, 8-29-15

Black-chinned Sparrow, juvenile, 8-29-15

Cooper's Hawk, juvenile, 8-29-15

Cooper’s Hawk, juvenile, 8-29-15

The Cooper’s hawk is the terror of the bird world.  When these accipitors show up all the little birds fly off, hide, and are quiet! They are commonly mistaken for peregrine falcon’s, and they share the falcon’s hunting skills.

Now for my biased and prejudiced treatise on the romantic era in orchestral music.  Pay attention!

People throw around the term “classical music” all the time. Its a somewhat ambiguous label for all orchestra music.  Used properly, the musical term “classical music” refers to music as defined by Mozart (1756-1791).  The earlier musical era, the baroque, is defined more-or-less by G.F.Handel (1685-1759) and J.S. Bach (1685-1750.  The romantic era  follows the classical and is usually considered to have begun with Beethoven (1770-1827) who transitioned with his earlier classical works like symphonies 1-4 to the romantic with symphonies 5-9 and other works.  With his last symphony (premiered in 1824) the romantic era was really launched.  However, there were strong  romantic indications in earlier works like the Choral Fantasy (1808 and often considered a warm up exercise for the 9th symphony) and Fidelio. Beethoven never really got both feet firmly outside of the classical era.  “Modern” music is the orchestral  style which follows the romantic, and is still with us.

Felix Mendelssohn’s  incidental music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and his tear-jerker violin concerto are perhaps the iconic examples of pure early romantic music. The style quickly took over, but many composers were not willing to try to write grand symphonic works because the shadow of Beethoven #9 loomed over the entire musical world.  After all, he had said everything that could be said, or so the composers thought.  Brahms 1st symphony took 20 years to compose, and when finished, it was criticized as being a paraphrase of Beethoven #9, and Brahms actually admitted it.  It is still one of the monumental works of the romantic era.  The abrupt change in the middle of the last movement from c-minor to major with the introduction of the elegiac hymn is breathtaking. It is obviously modeled after the “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven #9.  One of features of the romantic era was the use of these elegiac themes.  Other examples are the hymn in Sibelius’s “Finlandia,” which unfortunately has been stolen and used as a protestant hymn.  And the hymn from the very late romantic, “Jupiter” from  Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”, or the long hymn-like finale to Sibelius’s second symphony.

By the time of Tchaikovsky the romantic era was a bit long of tooth, and while his music shows no trending towards the modern era, he is the last of the great purely romantic composers. “Romeo and Juliet,” “Swan Lake”,  the 4th symphony’s call of fate, the joyous march from the 6th symphony and the final elegy, his death scene described in the finale to the same piece, are all towering works.  No matter his suicide was a result of, ah…. well let’s just skip that part.

Sibelius, while not as well thought of today as in the era between the two wars, was a bridge between the late romantic and the modern. The boundaries between these eras are not well defined as heard in Sibelius. His violin concerto is the best example of 20th century concertos, with mixed modern and romantic underpinnings. The first two symphonies are romantic, the 4th is a modern era masterpiece that has had every drop of romanticism squeezed out, and what results is a grim edifice considered by some modern critics as his only worthy piece.  Strange, I don’t like it. And then the 5th returns to a nordic romanticism with the “Thor’s Hammer” theme in the finale.  The modern era “Luonnatar” (1913), the creation tale from the Kalevala for soprano and orchestra is strange and so demanding for the soloist that some consider it cruel, like Finnish winters.   The introductions to the violin concerto and 2nd symphony are magical – mist over a frozen lake that the listener can taste for the former, and flowers that bloom in the Spring in the latter.  The andante from the 1st symphony gets to the essence of the Finns, while the rest of the work fails. The second movement of the violin concerto has the same quality, but the work soars.  I guess I like this composer.

Holst for example, lived and wrote during the modern era, but his music was not fatally corrupted by modern influences.  His two suites for band are the most important part of the core repertoire for band.  Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958) is generally considered a modern composer, but his wonderful 2nd symphony (London) and incidental music to “The Wasps” are hardly the fingernail-on-chalkboard atrocities like much of Ives, Shostakovich, Newman, or the happily forgotten symphonies of Bernstein.

The best of the romantic era, to my taste, besides the pieces described above:

Saint-Saens– Symphony #3 (organ),Franck– Symphony in D-minor, Brahms– Alto Rhapsody, Wagner – the overtures to all of his operas, Rachmaninoff – 2nd symphony, 2nd Piano concerto, Mahler– 2nd symphony, Sibelius – En Saga, The Swan of Tounela (from Four Legends from the Kalevala), Karelia Suite, 5th Symphony, Valse Triste, Dvorak – New World symphony,  Elgar– Pomp and Circumstance March #4 (not the familiar one!), Enigma Variations, Cockaine Overture

Music to avoid:

There is something about Norwegian and Swedish romantic music that is obsequious.  The incidental music to “Peer Gynt” is alright, especially the moving “Death of Ase” and the somewhat trite “Morning Mood” but after that there’s nothing left. Nothing.  I could add a lot more, but since this is just my opinion, I’ll let you, dear reader, make your own selections.

Again, these are just my opinions.

 

Next time: Band Music- Sousa, King, Gilmore, Filmore, Holst et al.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See my previous post for my deconstruction of opera and operetta.

 

Die Fledermaus 8-21-15

Bat, Likely California Myotis. Unusually out in broad daylight 8-21-15

Bat, Likely California Myotis. Unusually out in broad daylight 8-21-15

California Myotis(?) 8-21-15

California Myotis(?) 8-21-15

Seeing a bat this morning in broad daylight reminded me of having to work in the pit on a production of Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II).  It was awful.  This is one operetta that I really don’t like.  The plot is stupid, the show is way too long and most of the music, save the famous waltz, often used in Warner Brothers cartoons, and the overture, which is a nice stand-alone piece, is irritating.  In my 7th grade music class  the teacher (Mr. Jones at Hell Junior High) told us that in the original Viennese productions, the female lead took off her costume ball outfit and pranced around buck naked for the finale! I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but it would sure would add some excitement to an otherwise wasted evening.  I recall that the orchestra parts were just bad photocopies of the original 140-year-old hand written parts.  The trumpet parts were written for trumpet in “F”, as was the custom in those days.  And transposing the parts on modern Bb or C trumpet is no big deal.  But somewhere along the line some half wit had scribbled the transposed notes onto the parts, and then somebody else had made corrections or even the fingering of some notes!, making them the icing on the big horse pie.

My recommendations for operetta; Sullivan- Patience, Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, Mozart- The Magic Flute, if only for the Queen of the Night’s magnificent aria, Lehar-The Land of Smiles and The Merry Widow, Sondheim- A little Night Music, finally Romberg- The Desert Song, a lot like Zorro with Arab rebels, the Riff, scaring everyone.  Some of the dialogue and songs are barf-bag lame.  The French Military March is the best number.

As for grand opera, you need look no farther than Puccini- Madama Butterfly and Turandot.  Mascagni- Cavalleria Rusticana is wonderful too.  Verdi- Aida is a big bore except for the second act finale- the grandest moment in opera. The greatest of all the American Operas, Gershwin-  Porgy and Bess, has a big problem which is going to land it in the cannibals pot.

Operettas to avoid include, besides Die Fledermaus; Strauss II-The Gypsy Baron, and worst of all – Romberg- The Student Prince.  I saw Starlight’s production a while back, and I recall not minding the jets flying over every minute or so. One good song, “Drink,Drink Drink” pretty much saves the show from oblivion.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

Next time I’ll slander orchestral music from the Romantic and Post-romantic eras.

Fancy Pigeon, lost, tame, hungry

Fancy Pigeon – lost, tame, hungry

This tame aviary bird showed up on the 12th.  Note the broad eye ring and color.

Black-chinned Hummer 8-21-15

Black-chinned Hummer 8-21-15

I don’t know if the purple wash on the tail feathers is real or just an artifact of over-exposure. 1/8000th of a second exposure was not fast enough to stop the action entirely.  The entire bird, mostly, is in the same plane as the camera’s sensor.

Great Horned Owl 8-21-15

Great Horned Owl 8-21-15

This is one of the two owlets that were hatched and raised at the swamp this summer.

Danish Flag 7-15-15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

This is one of the most strikingly beautiful birds which occasionally make their way to Southern California.  Paul Lehman found one in Jacumba in June of 2013, and I’ve been looking ever since.  This morning this stunning adult male landed at my feeders.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

I am a bit surprised that this bird knew how to navigate a sock feeder.  Usually, only finches are interested in the nyger seed.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

This is my 124th yard bird, and 188th Jacumba bird.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5-26-15

This bird is in hog-heaven.

Harris’ Hawk 5-17-15

Harris' Hawk 5-17-15

Harris’ Hawk 5-17-15

I found this Harris’ Hawk soaring over the swamp this morning about 9:00 a.m.  It was riding thermals and drifted off to the northeast.  I’ll keep an eye out for it.  I suspect that it got blown this way by the recent storm (1.65-2.25″ rain in Jacumba). This is the first Harris’ since October 2013.

Harris' Hawk 5-17-15

Harris’ Hawk 5-17-15

Costa's Hummer 5-15-17

Costa’s Hummer 5-15-17

 

Green Heron 5-17-15

Green Heron 5-17-15

These pics were taken on a brand new model lens. The hawk pics are not acceptable, the bird was not too high and the pics each are about 1.9 megs. The Costa’s hummer is borderline bad as is the heron.  I could post some really awful oriole & kingbird pics, but, dear reader, you’d need eye-bleach.  I returned the new lens, hoping that the replacement they send me will be at least as sharp as the previous model.  The new len’s advantage is that it weighs about half as much and has VR (vibration reduction).  I won’t hold my breath.