Leisure Activities
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Aug 20-30, 2015 Visited Norway with my wife Mini to celebrate our 25th anniversary and the completion of my dissertation. We started at Bergen, Norway's second-largest city and home of Bergen University. We spent a few days with friend and fellow grouse researcher Leif Kastdalen, and his wife Randi Storaas, at their lovely home on a knoll overlooking picturesque Hardanger Fjord. We then flew to Svalbard (Spitzbergen), an island located at the southern perimeter of the polar icecap. We hoped to see a polar bear, and traveled by boat to see one on a glacier at 78 degrees north latitude, but missed it by a day. We did see many other arctic species however, including skua, reindeer, barnacle geese, Minke whales, eiders, Icelandic gull, puffins, and northern fulmar. We tried out dog sledding, although the sleds were equipped with wheels for the summer season. We finished up with a Norwegian Fjord cruise from Tromso to Bergen. The scenery was stunningly beautiful, and the Fjords truly impressive. Even the smallest fishing villages appeared to be freshly painted and tidy. We saw a number of iconic Fjord bird species, including white-tailed sea eagle, Atlantic oystercatcher, and common merganser.         
Jun 11, 2015 Participated in the 2015 UCLA Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, along with most of the 772 people who received doctoral degrees from UCLA in 2015. My wife Mini and dear friend Mary Bober were there to cheer me on.  The following evening, fourteen colleagues from Santa Monica College, and my major professor and his wife, Hartmut and Geraldine Walter, celebrated the occasion at Mary Bober's home with yellowtail tacos (see below), and a selection of wines and champagnes provided by Deb Schwyter.  photos
Jun 3, 2015 Caught my first California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi dorsalis), which weighed in at 22 lbs. The species is highly prized in Japanese cuisine.  I've tried for the species several times over the past 3-4 summers without success. It's mostly an odds game - if you go out often enough you'll catch one.  I hit it right this time. The bite had been building up for 3-4 days, and the day I went out 22 anglers aboard the Spitfire caught 37 yellowtails, ranging between 20-26 lbs. photos
April, 2015 Went out several times this spring to get high-quality photographs of wild animals in the vicinity of Sacramento and the California Delta. photos
Nov 13, 2014 Went kayak fishing at Prisoner's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, with friend Cory.  Got to and from the island by transporting my kayaks on the back of a tourist ferry. We each caught a nice (15-16") calico bass. Also observed common dolphins, bottle-nosed dolphins, Rossi dolphins, harbor seals, California sea lions, and a red-billed tropicbird. photos
Oct 18, 2014 Attended a Portuguese-style bullfight at Thornton, CA, with friend Howard and new acquaintance Bill.  Portuguese-style bullfights are bloodless, so don't be squeamish about viewing my videos. Bandarilheiros distract the bull when necessary with a colorful cape. Cavaleiros "fight" the bull from horseback. Their javelins do not injure the bull, but rather stick to a pad of velcro strapped the the bull's back.  Forcados - well, you'll just have to see the videos to believe it. I suggest you view the videos as listed, from top to bottom. Bandarilheiro
Forcados #1
Forcados #2
Sep 20, 2014 Attended a judging contest for the 2015-16 Federal duck stamp, held at the National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdsville, WV. The winning painting was of a pair of ruddy ducks. Second place was a red-breasted merganser and third place was a Canada goose. photos
Aug 2, 2014 Went salmon fishing at Shelter Cove (Humboldt Co.) with my friend Paul and his son Jack. The salmon bite was off when we arrived, so we wound up paying salmon prices to fish for rockfish.  We quickly caught our limits of rockfish and lingcod from a 4-person charter boat. I also did some kayak fishing near the launch and caught a ~30 inch sand shark - the first time I've had a shark in my kayak with me. Other kayak fishermen caught 8-10 ft thresher sharks.  Paul's other friends went diving for abalone and treated us to an abalone feed. photos
Jul 26, 2014 Went ocean kayak fishing in the kelp beds at Malibu Pier with my friend Cory.     photos
Jun 24-25, 2014 Guided wildlife photographer/writer Gary Kramer to a site near Tioga Pass to photograph white-tailed ptarmigan. Took about 400 digital images of the birds myself. photos
May 1-6, 2014 Went spring gobbler hunting and bass fishing in central Pennsylvania with an old high school friend Robert Reigard, who I hadn't seen for some 30 years.  I learned a lot about turkey hunting and calling, but didn't manage to bag one, although I did have a bead on a yearling "jake" momentarily. Robert graciously offered me the second bird he bagged, a 23 pound gobbler, so I will be serving wild turkey for Thanksgiving this year. Catch and release bass fishing was pretty hot at Robert's pond too, but our turkey hunting schedule kept us pretty busy, and it was hard to resist just relaxing in his nice cabin. Thanks Robert!   
Dec 11-31, 2013 Toured selected wetlands of Yunnan, China, with an old friend Professor Han Lianxian, who was surveying waterbirds for the provincial government. Some wetlands were scenically beautiful, either naturally in the case of some national parks or cosmetically in the case of certain up-scale urban parks. All were impacted by human use, and some were downright trashed. I was fortunate to get some nice photographs of several species of waterbirds.  photos
Jun 5, 2013 Went fishing on an open party boat, the Coroloma, targeting white sea bass just outside Channel Islands Harbor (Oxnard, CA). Caught the first fish of the day, and one of only 3 sea bass caught that day. The 17-lb fish was my first white sea bass. I've been trying to catch one for two years now.  I'll keep trying for the 50+ lb bass I've watched other people catch. I also caught my personal largest California halibut, at 13 lbs. I was the envy of the boat with these two nice fish, as most people only caught sand dabs. photos
Feb 11-25, 2013 Traveled with my wife Mini to Durankulak, Bulgaria, by way of Vienna, Austria, to assist with capture and radio-marking of red-breasted geese.  See my professional blog for professional aspects of the trip, which occupied nearly all of our time in Bulgaria. While in Bulgaria, we stayed at the Branta Birding Lodge, where we were treated to incredible meals cooked by Tatyana Simeonov, including fresh Zander (similar to American walleye) caught in Durankulak Lake. While transiting through Vienna, Austria, we had a traditional Viennese meal in the 205-year-old Maxing Stiiberl restaurant, once frequented by Johann Strauss, who's residence still stands just 3-4 buildings down the street. Much to my delight, our table was overseen by a mounted Capercaillie. We were the only patrons at the time so the owner, Christina, chatted with us all evening and gave Mini lessons on Viennese cooking. photos
Jan 23-27, 2013 Closed the 2012-13 duck season with a 5-day run of mediocre duck and goose hunting in Merced with friend Dan. Although we didn't bag many birds, we hunted an impressive range of habitats. On one occasion we laid on our backs, covered with tumble weeds, trying for white-fronted geese. We didn't attract any to our decoys, but got two by jump shooting. On another occasion, we joined other hunters in a floating blind on Modesto Reservoir to try for Canada geese. I didn't fire a shot, but I sure enjoyed the hot "beverages" and biscuits and gravy prepared and served right in the blind.     
Nov 24, 2012 Opened the 2012-13 duck season with friend Dan in Merced. We hunted some natural sloughs on private lands near San Louis Wildlife Refuge.  Bagged 5 mallards and a teal at the first site and teal and wood ducks at the second. It was a special treat to hunt such natural habitats, some of the best left in Merced County (see photos). photos
Sep 21-22, 2012 Tried my first overnight marine fishing trip. It was a 26-hour ordeal, plus 3-4 hours of fish cleaning the following day. The boat departed on a 6-hr/60-mile ride to San Nicholas Island at 10:00 p.m. There were bunks, but with the swell and engine noise I didn't really sleep. At 4:00 a.m. we set anchor just off the island and tried to catch squid for live bait. At about 6 a.m. we started actively fishing. I got a slow start, apparently because the hooks I had were not sharp. I changed to hooks provided by the crew, and started catching fish, especially chucklehead rockfish, which are similar to red snapper. Other folks were landing much more desirable species, however. Eventually I landed my first-ever ocean whitefish, California sheephead, and lingcod. The sheephead bite was especially good, with 20 fishermen landing 85 sheephead. Sheephead is known as "poor man's lobster," apparently because it eats lobster and other crustaceans and therefore tastes like lobster. At 2 p.m. the boat started the 6-hr return to the harbor while the crew filleted our catch. The sun set before we returned to the harbor. I ended up with 10 pounds of fillets and another 8-10 pounds of whole sheephead, which I filleted at home. I slept especially well after the 1-hour drive back to LA.      photos
mid-August, 2012  Hey Grandpa ...what's for supper? (Are you old and hick enough to remember Hee-Haw's Grandpa Jones?). As the 2012-13 hunting season approaches, I've been making an effort to use up all our frozen fish and game. Over the past 2-3 weeks, we've had a series of "wild" meals, several for the first time, including "ducks in the orchard" (duck breast with apples), surfperch breaded in Italian-spiced bread crumbs, baked quail stuffed with mushroom dressing, Veracruz-style red snapper, and ground goose burrito. I can recommend them all. Veracruz-style red snapper
Ducks in the Orchard
late-July, 2012 Mid-summer fishing blitz. While traveling through Los Angeles to and from a grouse symposium in Japan, I squeezed in several fishing trips. Prior to the symposium, I joined a "twilight" (6-10 pm) party boat trip out of Marina Del Rey Harbor, and a full-day white sea bass party boat trip out of Channel Islands Harbor. Both trips were pretty disappointing in terms of catch - just a few rock fish. After returning from the symposium I went fishing for stripped bass with Paul Butterfield at Diamond Valley Lake. We didn't even get a bite, in part because we didn't know 200-300 ft of anchor line would be necessary to hover over the "hot spot." The following day I went party boat fishing for rock fish in the Channel Islands area. Caught several nice red snappers and salmon groupers. And the day after that I went kayak fishing with my friend Tom in Santa Monica Bay off Palos Verdes. I caught a perch and a rock fish, and lost something really big - possibly a California sheephead - because the tackle I was using was too light for such a big fish. Tom caught and released a couple of calico bass. rock fish
sea kayaking
June 9th, 2012 Bought a propane-fueled smoker to smoke some of the fish meat I've been acquiring. Made my first batch of smoked barracuda using apple wood and Meyer lemons for flavor. Tastes Great! photo
June 8th & 10th, 2012 Tried my luck fishing for white sea bass. The species moves up and down the coast of southern California in large schools somewhat unpredictably, but some 30-50 pounders had been caught off the Ventura coast in recent days. On Friday the 8th I went out on the Aloha Spirit, which had landed 3 bass the previous day. We departed from Channel Islands Harbor at 04:00 to fish near the Ventura-Los Angeles Co. line. When we arrived at the spot, before sunrise, there were already several other boats there, including kayaks. Word had spread that white sea bass were biting. The area is sandy-bottomed and a major squid breeding area. Apparently the squid fleet here produces most of the bait squid sold throughout the US. Tackle consists of heavy monofilament line (30 #), heavy rod and reel, and a 5-6 oz. weight attached ~4ft below a recently-dead or live squid on a size 4/0 hook. Another popular technique is to "fly-line" a live squid near the surface with a 1/2 oz. weight, but most recent catches had been near the bottom. Near the bottom, you are also likely to catch a large ray. Sea bass will nibble your squid and then start swimming off with it. The idea is to let it run freely for a while so it will swallow the squid. As soon as everyone got their weights to the bottom, the deck crew checked each person's drag to make sure it was set light enough for the bass to run unhindered. You're supposed to expect the bass to run out for 100 ft. or more before you start winding. I hooked the first fish of the morning, and everyone on the boat was anxious to see what I would bring up. It turned out to be a ~30 in barracuda. Not a bad fish, but not the target of the day. Two guys on the boat did bring in sea bass weighing 30-40 pounds. Another guy had brought a big bass close to the boat when a large sea lion grabbed it. A dramatic tug of war ensued, and it looked the fisherman might get his fish on a few occasions, but eventually the line broke. Several guys hooked rays, which put up big fights but had to be released. I considered going out again the next day, but the general opinion of the deck hands was that the "bite" might be over, and a huge flotilla would descend on the spot the next day because it would be a Saturday, so I returned to LA. Saturday afternoon my fishing guru Paul called to inform me that the Aloha Spirit had limited out on sea bass; one for every person on board! Considering this, Paul and I decided to go out on Sunday on the New Hustler. We departed LA at 01:30 in order to catch some sleep on the ship's bunks before its 04:00 departure. Three guys landed seas bass this time, and 3-4 large halibut were landed, but I didn't start catching fish until the captain decided to go for rockfish. I brought home a nice batch of rockfish fillets, but my first white sea bass will have to wait for another day.       photo

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