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Thursday, May 23, 2019

California Trip April 2019

California Poppies at their finest

           We are once again in California visiting our son Chris and his family awaiting the first flight of the new Stratolaunch airplane in which Chris will be the test pilot. In the meantime, we are delighting in the fact that we hit the peak of the desert flower bloom. On our flight into Burbank a few days ago, we could see the thousands of acres of oranges and yellows covering the ground. It looked like a patchwork quilt welcoming us to California. We drove down from Tehachapi to the fields surrounding Lancaster where we knew the flowers were showing well. Here are some photos of the area.

          After touring the Antelope Valley and seeing the poppies we headed back to Tehachapi and I dropped off Sharon and my daughter-in-law Christine. I then went to one of my favorite birding spots around Tehachapi, the Tehachapi Sewer Ponds. Being one of the few water sources in the area it attracts a good number of waterfowl and other species.
Ruddy Duck at the sewer ponds
          Leaving there I headed over to the local airport where a few years ago I took a ride in a glider on my birthday. Today, however, I was treated instead to a nice view of a Lark Sparrow.
Lark Sparrow

          The following day, still waiting for the first flight, which was postponed once again, Sharon and I headed to the Piute Ponds at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert. This has to be the top rated birding site within an hour's drive from Tehachapi. You can stay in your car and drive the many dirt roads which surround the ponds and marshy areas. We were there on a good day and managed a boat load of species. 
Cinnamon Teal

Eared Grebe
American Avocet

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt and American Coot in background
          Finally the flight took place on Saturday, April 13, 2019. We arrived in Mojave Airport around 6AM and were given the royal treatment being relatives of the flight crew.  At 7AM we were on teh tarmac as the plane started up and barreling down the runway. I thought that since it was the biggest  airplane that it would use up most of the runway during takeoff but before it even reached us(halfway down the runway) the plane was off the ground. It was spectacular and brought tears to our eyes. The flight lasted about two hours then they did a flyby about 200 feet above the runwa, again to many cheers, and did one final circle and landed successfully. We were so proud and happy.
Waiting to be transported to runway

Max, Sharon and I. Plane is way in the background

This hanger had to be specially built to fit plane inside

Our escorts giving us the low down

Close up of the three engines on the right wing

Successful takeoff heading to the Tehachapi Mountains

More distant view
View of entire plane

Plane circling around for landing

Chase Plane above aircraft
It's a tradition to squirt down the crew with fire extinguishers after a successful first flight

Chris wearing his wet flight suit

Scaled Composites mechaics and engineers

Chris and Max

Three generations at hanger

Congratulations from Christine and Max

Flight engineer getting the treatment

One big happy family

          Fianlly, getting back to more bird photos.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Ring-billed Gull

California Gull with red gonys spot on bill
Pygmy Nuthatch

Band-tailed Pigeon. A bird of high attitudes
          That's it for now. See you later in Vegas, Utah, Arizona and Colorado

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