Tag Archives: Birds

Christmas Day Walk

Yes, I know it’s May.  2016 has been an extremely weird year, and one of these days I’ll blog it.  But I recently got the photos sorted, processed and uploaded from the walk I took around Lake Temescal, in the Oakland hills, on Christmas Day 2015. In a sense, this was the calm before the storm, because 3 days later, I came down with an awful cold (took 3 weeks to get rid of), which was the start of all the things that have gone wrong so far this year.

But back to the lake.  Here it is.  Click on this or any other photo to go to my Smugmug account and see the whole collection.


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Posted in Nature, Personal, Photography Also tagged , |

Lunch in the Yard

On a beautiful day like this – sunny, light breeze, 82° – I often have lunch in the back yard, surrounded by plants and, occasionally, critters.  As I was eating today’s lunch, I heard a noise and turned to see a scrub jay land on the board edging the rose bed.  It’s hard to miss a scrub jay.  They’re almost a foot long head to tail, with a 15″ wingspan, and most of the bird is bright blue.  Since he (assumption, I can’t tell them apart) was only 10 feet or so away, I expected him to take off, but he hopped around the brick patio a bit, poking his beak, and finally extracted a string of dried grass.  Then he took off, heading for the mass of greenery at the back of the yard (an English laurel, 2 camellia bushes, 2 full grown trees, a shore pine and a live oak, and a ceanothus).

Hm.  I wonder.  A few minutes later he swooped by again and perched on top of the garage, again digging with his beak in an indecipherable glob of gup on top of the insulator where the electric wire enters the garage.  Can’t you find something nicer than that, I wondered.  But he picked up something he liked and vanished again.

I think we have a nesting pair of scrub jays.

Posted in Nature, Neighborhood, Personal

Ducks on the Lake

I don’t have pictures, because when I walked over to the library to return some books, I didn’t think to take the camera – or the binoculars, and that was a mistake too.  I walked back along Lake Merritt (the library is right at the end of an arm), and saw several grebes, a few small ducks I’m pretty sure were scaups of some kind, and a handsome pair of canvasbacks (handsome also in the secondary sense of “moderately large” – canvasbacks are big ducks!).

I passed a woman talking on her cellphone who was shouting excitedly into it, “They’re back, they’re back, it’s early for them,” and peering out over the lake.  I interrupted her conversation to ask what she thought she saw and she said there were buffleheads out on the lake, but they were way out, and the best photos I could get with the crummy zoom in my camera were just fuzzy duck-shaped blobs.  I’ll go back with the binoculars and maybe the 300mm lens one of these days.

It’s a genuine pleasure to be able to walk along a lake full of birds any time I like.  When the remodel is over, I must come back down here more often.

Speaking of the remodel, we passed the rough inspection Friday, which means they can start covering up the walls, starting with a plywood shearwall in the kitchen.  We’re moving right along.

Posted in Neighborhood, Personal Also tagged |


Monday the 17th was the first full day of the cruise and the first shore excursion.  We docked around 8 AM, and right after breakfast we went ashore at Kinderdijk, a small village of 19 traditional Dutch windmills, dating from as early as the 14th century.  Kinderdijk is located on a strip of land between the Lek and Noord rivers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Here was my first view of Kinderdijk:


If you'd like to see the whole gallery, it's at this link

I had forgotten why the Dutch built windmills.  They weren't grain mills, or only incidentally grain mills.  They pumped water out of the polders or reclaimed lands, using a system of dikes to control the water.  All these windmills are in working order and a local ordinance requires the families who live in them to maintain and run them.  Much of this part of the Netherlands is below sea level.  If you're interested in more background, just Google "Kinderdijk"; the best background is probably the UNESCO site.

The actual pumping today is done by electric pumps.  I was charmed to find that the electric pumps are actually Archimidean screws:

Water pumps

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Posted in Personal, Photography, Vacations Also tagged |

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.

Posted in Nature, Neighborhood


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.

Posted in Nature, Personal

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.

Posted in Nature, Neighborhood

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.

Posted in Nature

California Quail

The Golden Gate Gardener column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle is all about planting your yard to attract California quail, and to illustrate the joys of quail, they have a lovely photo of a male quail in full display.  Check him out, he’s gorgeous!

Posted in Nature

Turkeys in the Yard

It must be the season for birds.  We live in a small canyon in the Oakland hills, the upper part of which is still pretty wild.  We’ve known for awhile that we had a flock of wild turkeys living up the canyon – early morning walkers would find them foraging around the field behind the tennis club.

Last night after dinner my husband said, “We have turkeys in the back yard.”  And we did – three of them.  They foraged around for quite a while and then walked out and explored the block for awhile before wandering off up the hill.  I got some photos, click here to see a slideshow.

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