San Diego

Maureen Austin and Jennifer Collins lived in Alpine, about thirty miles east of San Diego, and had very kindly come to the airport to wat for us, when we arrived about midnight. They are both key Committee members of CHIRP.

CHIRP was established to instil respect and preservation of garden wildlife. The group organises a garden tour each year – and this year had organised one especially for us. At their meetings they would discuss organic gardening, low water use, local native and desert plants, planting for birds, hummingibrds, and backyard wildlife and such.

Jen’s home was beautiful, overlooking a desert canyon, but with many attractive plantings to encourage wildlife. We were amazed at the activities of the hummingbirds, finches and other visitors to her feeders.

Maureen and Jen had planned quite a programme for us. We had our own private garden tour and not only the homes, but the gardens were wonderful. Each gardener focussed on saving water and utilising the local specially adapted plants to best advantage. They had planted shade trees as an infrastructure to ensure that there was protection from the elements. They all utilised garden sculptures and art to some extent, and outdoor living rooms were common place. Wonderful! Thank you so much CHIRP for sharing your homes and gardens with us.

That night they had arranged a New Zealand reception for us. We got to meet other members of the CHIRP team and congratulate them on their work.

Our last day in California, and Maureen and Jen had planned a wonderful climax to our trip. We were off to the raptor rehabilitation centre, Sky Hunters.

A not for profit group, Sky Hunters is set up to teach the public about raptor conservation, raptor being birds of prey such as eagles, falcons, hawks and owls.

They give presentations and demonstrations, and teach people what to do if a sick or injured raptor is found, and about the birds’ behaviour. Although Nancy Conney, the director, was away, her husband showed us around and let us photograph the birds that were there. It was a wonderful facility and we will always treasure our visit.

Jen, her husband George and Maureen delivered us to the train station, where we just got to the train in time – only a few seconds to spare. Amtrak provides a great service, getting us to Union Station in LA within a few hours. It was a pleasant trip, interesting scenery outside the window.

At Union Station we caught up with Roger Sutton, lepidopterist visiting from England, and all three of us caught the shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport. It was great to meet him at last and to sit and relax awaiting our Air New Zealand flight.

The trip was over. We had a twelve-hour flight back to Auckland, but thank heavens we were travelling with Air New Zealand. Their service, catering and appointments were above anything else we had encountered.

I confessed to the check in desk that I had a bad earache. They adjusted some of the seating so that Mary and I could spread out and get a good night’s sleep.

At 5am we were back in NZ. Pleased to be back home – but delighted with our three week adventure.

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