Category Archives: Nature

Oakland Shoreline Afternoon

The other weekend, a friend of mine had a birthday party at Martin Luther King Shoreline Park.  It was a nice party, but it wasn't my party, so I didn't take any photos of it.  I did take photos of the estuary and some of the birds there, including a pelican whom I caught just taking off:

Pelican taking off

The pelican continued on and I got a nice closeup of him, with the Oakland hills in the background:

An urban pelican

Most of my photos, though, were of these little guys.  There was a whole flock of them.

Long-billed dowitchers

After doing some research online, I think they're long-billed dowitchers, but I have to consult an expert before I can be sure.  As you can see, there was quite a flock.  I didn't realize how many until they decided to take off:

Shorebirds taking off

Feel free to enjoy the rest of the photos in the gallery.

Also posted in Neighborhood Tagged |


I saw something amazing this morning on the way back from the gym.  The trip back is normally a straight freeway ride, but the Highway Patrol was running a “break,” so I got off the freeway at an exit that would let me get home on the streets.  This particular exit has a very long ramp, and as I came down it, I saw a large bird in the right shoulder, which I identified as a turkey.  As I pulled abreast of the bird, I realized it was a female turkey, and all those little things running around her feet were baby turkeys!  You can’t get out the smartphone and aim the camera while driving the car at 25 mph or so (at least, I’m not about to try it!), so I have no photos.  But there must have been two dozen turkey chicks (maybe more) running around on that shoulder!  I hope they all got into the brush all right.

I think the technical term for baby turkeys is “poults,” but I like “turkeylets” better.

Also posted in Personal Tagged |

Yosemite in March

I finally got (1) all the stuff cleaned up that suddenly appeared and had to be done, and (2) all the photos sorted, processed, labeled and uploaded; and I’m now finally ready to tell you about our weekend in Yosemite, over the weekend of March 30-31.

Driving over via highway 99 was just so-so.  The sky had a light overcast; muggy and overcast but not really threatening.  We couldn’t get a room in the valley for Thursday night so we stayed at Tenaya Lodge on Highway 41, just short of the Wawona Road.  It’s a very nice facility and would be even nicer if its architect had thought to install soundproofing.  We stayed on the first floor and the people above us sounded like a troop of Irish river dancers.  Breakfast was very nice but dinner was loaded with salt, enough that we complained about it.

The next day we drove into Yosemite Valley and back out again.  We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls and took a few photos:

Bridal Veil Falls

Then we drove back out of the valley on Highway 140, along the Merced River, looking for wildflowers.  My, did we find them.  The poppies were out in force.  Must have been all that rain earlier in the month.

Poppies along the highway

We turned off the highway at Briceburg and took Bull Creek Road (intermittently paved) along the Merced; this is the old railroad grade, there are 3 campgrounds along the river that Jim likes to camp at.  We had lunch by the river at McCabe Flat:

McCabe Flat

Then we drove on to Railroad Flat, where a hobbyist has built a new railroad trestle over a tributary of the Merced.  Without it, hikers would have to scramble down the bank and ford the stream.

Railroad trestle

Friday was a gorgeous day, sunny and mild, exploding with wildflowers all over.

Redbut tree and poppies

We stayed the next two nights in a “hard sided” cabin in Curry Village.  I’ll show you the cabin a little later.  These things are an institution.  They were perfectly reasonable traveler accommodations in, say, 1935, and they haven’t really been updated much since then. The wash stand is in the room, not the bathroom, and the double beds were a little short for Jim’s taste.

We’ve always stayed either at the Lodge or the Ahwahnee; the people who stay in Curry Village are an entirely different group.  More families; more students (some staying in the tent cabins); more international travelers.  Fortunately, around 2 AM, I finally figured out how to turn on the ancient wall heater in the cabin and after that we were reasonably comfortable.  Even after a warm and pleasant day, man, does it get cold at night in Curry Village!

Saturday was the reason we went – the Yosemite Conservancy‘s spring program.  The day began crisp and sunny.  At this point Jim and I separated and didn’t meet until 4:30 PM, and what a change.  My first event was a “photographer’s walk” out into Cook’s meadow, where we mostly took photos of Yosemite Falls, which was blowing like a horse’s tail in a very strong, blustery, cold wind.

Yosemite Falls

By the time we finished, the whole west end of the valley was covered with clouds and we figured the predicted storm was about there.  My second trip, about an hour and a half later, was a stroll through the meadow, no photos, with a “what would John Muir do?” meditation from an admiring ranger.   By that time it was so warm I removed my fleece layer and tied it around my waist.  As I sat and ate lunch, it got colder and cloudier; fleece back on; and by 2 o’clock, my session on how to use trekking poles for mobility and balance began in a steady pouring rain.  That was the end of that day’s photos.  It poured continually until 4:30, when I dragged myself (after 5.6 miles, or roughly twice my normal max!) up to the Visitors’ Center in an increasing snow storm.

It snowed 3.5 inches that night, based on the accumulation on our car the next morning.  Remember, the day before it probably hit 65°.  Here’s the cabin photo next morning, it is still snowing:

Curry Village cabin

It stopped snowing as we ate breakfast.  The valley was stunning, covered with snow (be careful how you walk under trees, it’s melting fast) and fog.  Here are the heights above Curry Village:

Above Curry Village

We drove out through the melting snow, stopping to take more photos on the way.  If you’d like to browse the whole gallery, or see some of these larger, you’ll find it here:  Yosemite March 2012.  Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Also posted in Photography, Vacations Tagged |

The Neighborhood Skunk

I am not referring to an unpleasant neighbor; I like my neighbors.  The skunk I refer to is furry and black, with a vivid white stripe down his back and along his large fluffy tail.  He’s about the size of a large house cat.

I’m not sure why, but my mental image of skunks is that they’re kind of slow.  This little guy is quite agile.  I saw him Wednesday night, returning from rehearsal around 10:30 – as I came into the last block of Patton Street, he ran across the street in front of me, tail rippling, and dived into the schoolyard. Fortunately, I was never close enough to him to scare him.

Tonight at about 10:40, I realized that I’d never taken in the mail – the mailman was very late, I went out for dinner before he got here, and I must have forgotten to check when I came back in.  I opened our front door – to find a full mailbox – and the skunk was at the end of our front walk, on the sidewalk.  He was no happier to see me than I was to see him, so he turned and ran into my neighbor’s yard.  I hope nothing annoys him while he’s there.  It’s right under our bedroom window.

Also posted in Neighborhood

Birds in the Tree

I didn’t get any photos because I was indoors riding the exercise bike.  I noticed a commotion in the Chinese hackberry tree that inhabits the parking strip – since the exercise bike is on the second floor, I was looking straight across at it.  We had robins.  We had a lot of robins, I could see 4 or 5 at a time and there were more I couldn’t see, disturbing the branches and leaves, flying from branch to branch eating the hackberries, if that’s what those little black things are.  Also one much smaller greyer bird, also apparently after the berries.

It rained off and on today, not very hard, and we had a lot of birds.  I’ve noticed before that a gray, drizzly day (with a light rain, but not usually a heavy one) is often a day when we get a lot of birds in the yard.  If they were on the grass or in the flower bed I’d say they were after worms but there are no worms in the hackberry tree.

Looking for a collective noun for robins (apparently a group of robins is a worm), I found a comment (from the British Trust for Ornithology or BTO) that robins are territorial and don’t flock, but that “severe winter weather pacifies their mood with individuals becoming much more congenial.”  I wouldn’t call today’s weather “severe”, dismal would be more like it, but we certainly had many more robins together than I’m used to seeing.  I like birds, but robins always seem kind of aggressive to me.  They certainly were today.

Also posted in Neighborhood Tagged |

New Header and Other Things

I got tired of WordPress’ ice forest.  I hope you like the new header photo, I took it this summer.  It’s sunset over the Georgia Strait, viewed from our B&B just outside of Lund, B.C.

We had an episode of flying termites, today, I think.  I looked out the back door and the whole yard was full of tiny flying objects which moved too fast for me to get a really good look at them (and definitely too small and fast to photograph).  But I could clearly see, on each of them, a pair of translucent wings of the same length.  I thought they were flying ants, but Google informed me that the equal-length wings means flying termites.  I began to freak out until my husband reminded me that we always have termites – they live in the woodpile.  They’ve never been in the house that we know of (yes, we do inspect from time to time).  So – the termite queens hatched today and flew off.  The whole incident didn’t last 10 minutes, but for that long, they filled the yard, flittering around in the sunlight.

Also posted in Photography, Vacations

It’s Spider Time Again

Autumn is when the spiders come out.  Last October I got some nice photos of dew-spangled webs all over the yard.  This year I walked out the back door and found this handsome fellow (in both senses!) stringing a web between two parts of the Rose de Recht, about 3 feet from the porch.  I couldn’t resist a couple of shots:

Spider, September 2011

Isn’t he elegant?

Spider, September 2011

I don’t know why I like spiders so much, except that they’re so busy, always spinning; and then there are all the bugs they eat.  I took as close a shot as I could; his (probably her, I suspect!) actual size, excluding legs, is about the length of my thumbnail!

Also posted in Photography Tagged |

Odd Week in Las Vegas

My sister has lived in Las Vegas for the last 20 years or so.  (A long way from The Strip, I may add; we neither of us gamble; she’s a desert rat, and so is her husband.)  She currently can’t travel due to health problems; so once or twice a year I fly over to Vegas, or Jim and I drive over, to visit.  I almost always visit in September, for various reasons (more on that later); and I just got back from the latest visit yesterday.

The first odd thing was the weather.  I arrived Monday afternoon in the middle of an absolutely spectacular sky filled with big white cumulus clouds, shading into cumulo-nimbus.  In desert terms, we had a thunderstorm building; I was relieved it held off until after my plane landed.  But – it wasn’t especially hot.  The high was only 92 – to some that may seem a lot but I’ve been there in September when it was 117.  Ninety-two is merely balmy for Vegas.  It didn’t top 100 the entire week – very unusual.

The thunderstorm happened Monday night to Tuesday morning, and I couldn’t figure out for the longest time what was causing those flashes of light in my room at three in the morning.  Headlights on the cross street (where there’s essentially zero traffic)?  Is the battery going in the smoke detector (but why no noise)?  I don’t reason very well when I’m half asleep, but I finally found an east-facing window and looked out into one of the more spectacular lightning storms I’ve ever seen:  big honkin’ bolt lighting, way across the valley, too far for us to hear the thunder.  (This is why my brother-in-law has multiple lightning rods on the house.)  Now I knew what it was, I could ignore it, so I went back to sleep.

In the morning it was – raining?  In Las Vegas?   Yes.  The dogs were appalled.  We let them out into the yard and they practically took the paint off the door coming back in.  The desert tortoises in the back yard refused to come out at all.  This meant some very frisky dogs that day, because nobody wanted to take them out for a walk in the rain and mud – including the dogs.  It rained for several hours but dried up by noon, and in the afternoon the news began showing photos of the flooding in Henderson, which got Even More Rain.  It rained on and off all day and through Tuesday night.  The weather people Tuesday afternoon were marveling that the high temperature was 78, recorded at 1 AM; but looking back at the week’s stats I see it actually got up to 88.  Wednesday the high was 85 – the “low high.”

By Thursday morning things were settling down, no more rain, but the high Thursday was still only 88.  Friday was quiet, a little warmer; my sister went to physical therapy, I studied SQL.  Then around 5:30, I heard her exclaim something, and went out to find her staring into space.  JD just called, she said.  He says he wanted to tell me he’s alive.

OK, I’ll turn over the hole card.  I was visiting my sister (who has to have someone in the house with her) so my brother-in-law could attend the Reno Air Races.  He’s gone every year for as long as I’ve known him; he is himself a pilot, now retired; he flew fighters in Vietnam and airliners for NorthWest.  The Reno Air Races are a big deal for him and his service buddies, and they were all there when the P51D Mustang crashed.  His preference for sitting at the top of the stands probably saved him; he was about 200 feet from the point of impact.  Fortunately none of his immediate group was severely injured, although it took him until 9 o’clock Friday night to find them all, and one or two of them caught some frag.

For those of you who have read some of the wilder speculations about this incident, the pros (my brother-in-law’s buddies) are convinced that the crash was an equipment failure – they think the plane lost an elevator stabilizer, and frankly their description of what happened next suggests that a brilliant pilot died trying to kill as few people as possible.  I doubt seriously that the pilot’s age (74) was a factor – if he had been impaired in any way, from what they said, he’d probably have taken out the whole grandstand.

So the rest of my vacation was spent listening to my sister answer the phone about every 15 minutes, and repeat, “JD is all right…”

The flight home was totally uneventful in clear calm weather, and I’m glad to be back.

Also posted in Family, Personal, Vacations Tagged , |

Early June

What is it about early June recently?  Two years ago we vacationed in Yellowstone, and on June 3 or 4th, it snowed an inch and a half, more or less.  Here we are again on June 4, in northern California, and it is pouring rain and looks like breaking a precipitation record set in 1884.

Climate change?  Naaah.

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Action in the Back Yard

This all happened too fast for me to get any photos, I’m sorry to say, but it was hilarious.  We have thought for some time that we have a nesting pair of scrub jays in our neighbor’s tree right by the fence, because of all the air traffic.  This morning we are sure.  The scrub jays – both of them – were attacking the resident squirrel – and he was running for his life!  Clearly protecting a nest.  I wonder if we’ll get to see the new ones when they hatch.

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