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Notes about your surroundings.

Late Fall Rarities--Although the latter half of the fall migration of birds was slow locally, there have still been several rare sightings of birds in the county, according to the Sea & Sage Chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Sixty-nine clapper rails, which are on the state and U.S. endangered species lists, were spotted during a census conducted in the Seal Beach National Refuge on Nov. 2. These secretive and sedentary birds are found only in California, with more than half of the bird’s population habitating the dense cord grass stands of Upper Newport Bay. The nesting population in Seal Beach had declined in recent years because of foxes and other predators, but the early November count shows that recovery efforts--including the use of innovative man-made nesting platforms--seem to be paying off. Other interesting birds spotted that day were four American bittern and a parasitic jaeger.

The first county record of a gray catbird, a member of the thrasher family and very rare in the southwestern states, was made Oct. 19 when one was discovered near the mouth of the Santa Ana River.

On Oct. 18, just a few miles up the Santa Ana River from where the catbird was seen, a yellow-green vireo was spotted. It was only the fifth sighting in the county. The vireo is indigenous to Mexico and other areas south of the United States.

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Several chestnut-collared longspurs were seen around UC Irvine in mid-October, while a McCown’s longspur was spotted in the same area Oct. 25. The next day, two McCown’s were spotted there along with a laplands. A Baird’s sandpiper, very rare for this late in the season, was spotted at San Joaquin Marsh in late October. Other highlights include four snow geese at the Burris Pit in Anaheim, sighted with a hooded merganser on Nov. 3; and a female Eurasian wigeon spotted in the Upper Newport Bay on Oct. 8 (a male was spotted in the same area later that month).

More Museum News--While the Museum of Natural History and Science’s exhibits of dinosaurs and space have been getting all the attention, a Discovery World for children has also opened at the museum’s new space in Aliso Viejo.

The hands-on “world” allows children to explore such exhibits as “Wonder Boxes,” “Skeleton Station,” “Touch Wall” and “Space Trek.”

The museum’s new site is at 150 Columbia in the Koll Corporate Center. It is open during the holiday season from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed Christmas and New Year’s days.

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