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Huge and modern Prague Train Station For the second time this trip, we caught a train. This time we headed for Zagreb in Croatia.  W...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The True Tales of the WHOMPING Door and the Littlest Ghost

Happy Halloween. Today, for your haunting pleasure, I offer two real scenarios in the name of spooks, and things that do go bump in the night - sometimes in broad day-light. I'll start with the incident that, if you like, might be shrugged off, if you dare.

It was about a year ago. I would come home, leaving the garage and entering the living room through the garage door. I'd, naturally close the door behind me. After fifteen minutes - WHOOMP! The door would sound as if someone on the other side of the door had laid into it with their shoulder. Loud. Really loud! There was no one on the other side.

It had begun - every I entered the house from the garage - a ten or fifteen minute delay, then - WHOMP! Every time it happened, I was totally unnerved.

EVIL WHOMPING DOOR...

Though the sound was loud enough to hear at the rear of my house, I found myself wondering it my imagination wasn't making the noise louder than it really was. So, when the door 'performed' during a visit of my friend Barbara one weekend, I felt some relief. I wasn't just imagining it all.

Still, I wanted a simple explanation about the door, that had excluded a ghost theory. There had to be some other sort of explanation for the door slamming that I could dredge up. I thought a bit, then told Barbara that every time I closed that door, it sat unbalanced in the door frame. Then, after about ten to fifteen minutes or so for the door to settle, making that godawaful noise, like Mr. T violently attempting to break into the room. I don't know if Barbara bought into my logical explanation, but I tried my best to believe my own explanation for my temperamental door.

Any Claire denial there? Uh... well, I admit, there were a couple of times my mind, if not my brain, was certain something was smashing itself against the door.

Eventually, after much thought, and several weeks of nervousness and fear of doors, I decided if, perhaps, the door's noise was the result of a ghost, poltergeist or some such, it certainly was not welcome in my house. I wasn't going to be freaked out by some stupid door in my own home.

The WHOOMPS ceased.

One day there was WHOOMP. The next day the door I closed the door and afterwards there was naught but, you'll pardon the expression - dead silence.

When I look back on that event, I wonder, if the noise was caused by the door settling in the door frame, why did it stop so suddenly? For that matter why did it start so suddenly? I did no repairs or anything else to the door, but the noise is gone and good riddance.

But you know - in my garage, there hangs a large black and white portrait of my grouchy, paternal Grandfather. When the door was at it's noisy business, I had sometimes wondered if my Grandfather hadn't been pissed off at me - hanging him in the garage, and not the living room. Or, I sometimes thought, more likely he was miffed as I had stopped my on-line research into his life and ancestors. Had Gramps dropped hints wanting his fair share of attention?

Now here is another ghost story, the Halloween finale; another true story.

A few months ago, something threw me for an uneasy loop. At the home of a friend of mine, a horrible thing happened that resulted in the death of a five year old child. The child died, while snuggled down on my friend's living room couch. Totally avoidable death, totally devastating and I will leave that details of the incident at that.

Following the death of the little girl, who was had been known loving as 'the baby', things began to happen around my friend's home. She told me in email that from time to time, the cabinets in the kitchen, left closed, would be found later, open. There were noises for which no one could find a source. The television became particularly lively - changing channels and clicking on and off by itself. When the 'poltergeist' was very active, my friend and her significant other, would say the baby, was looking for attention.

Now when a friend tells me that sort of thing, scientific skeptic in my brain says 'don't believe it'. Contrarily, the area of my brain that totally trusts my friend says, 'I know she isn't lying.'

Jump forward several months. My friend and I visited with another friend, whom for sake of this story I will call Irene.

It was Spring and the three of us lolled around Irene's sitting room, enjoying a nice meal and a lovely chat.

CLICK!

I looked over at the television.

CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!

The television was switching on and off, on and off, on its own accord - no one was touching any remotes. Shoot - Irene's TV was practically antique, there was no remote. We all stared at the television, then looked uneasily at each other.

I looked wide eyed at my friend, and uneasily, we both smiled. Apparently 'the baby' had come with her to visit Irene's. Bored with the adult conversation, the baby apparently wanted some attention.

We told the tale of the child to Irene, who having ghost incidents of her own happen in her house (of the sort that would make Stephan King wet himself) did not doubt who was playing with the TV knobs. Irene did not doubt the tale of the littlest ghost in the least - & for once, neither could I.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mountain Lion in my Bedroom

This is a true story. Not even the names have been changed to protect the indolent.

I woke in my bed, early one morning, on a work day. Over my bedroom closet, I was stunned to see a magnificent, large and tawny mountain lion. There is only a wall above my closet, but the lion appeared to be lying down on a shelf. The lioness, which somehow I knew was female, stared intently at me, and snarling, as if imparting a message to me. That is, I could see she was growling, but could not hear her voice.

I knew this was just another case of my having opened my eyes and woken up before my brain had finished showing me a dream. No big whoop – happens to me all the time, just never saw anything as impressive on waking as that beautiful beast - she was brilliant and as solid looking as anything else in my bedroom. I figured when I had time that night I would look it up in my animal totem book what message mountain lions give to their minions. I got up and prepared myself to leave for work. It was raining.

At my office, the morning began normally enough. But later in the morning nonplussed coworkers began coming over to tell me that a former student assistant had out of the blue, showed up. His name was Robert. That morning he had ridden his bike, and arrived soaking wet. A year or so earlier, he used to work on our data base, and though generally a pleasant guy, in the manner of a true geek, he often showed no more tact or communication skills than a petualant 4 year old. My luck on this day, he had come into the office just to see me.

He grilled me about a project I’d been given the a year earlier. The project had been a challenge, for me, get a database to work in a way for which it hadn't been designed. Unfortunately, though I am rather a natural on computers, I’ve never had any formal training in computer languages. So after much trying, and asking my supervisors for help that I never received, I gave up. The project was not completed, and was ditched. I told Robert so.

As the old database was discussed, Robert's voice raised, and before long, he was yelling at me. He now worked for a computer company and had been given an assignment, similar to the one I had ditched, and which he too, could not complete. He had hoped I had completed the task so he could use my work as a basis for his. He ranted on, telling me how I ruined his project. I was stunned. I stood there, staring at him dumbfounded, until a supervisor ordered him to leave. As the day progressed I felt worse and worse about the unfair chewing out I had received, and even residual guilt about the long ago abandoned project.

Skip to that night - I lay in my bed reading before lights out. I remembered that I wanted to look up the significance of my mountain lion ‘sighting’. I read in my Animal Totem book:

*Mountain Lion can be a very difficult power totem for you to have, because it places you in a position to be a target for the problems of others. You could be blamed for things going wrong, or for always taking charge when others cannot. You may become the perfect justification for the insecurities of others.

The totem book described precisely what had happened to me at the office. I grabbed my journal, and there was the unshakable truth, by my own hand; a drawing of the mountain lion I had quickly sketched that morning, because I hadn't had time to write out the dream before going to work. The lioness, in the early hours of the day, had assured me that no guilt lay with my own actions.

I swear on my beloved mother’s soul, that’s exactly what happened.

Was it a paranormal experience? As far as I’m concerned, it absolutely was. And yet, I recall that at the time I after I read the journal, my first thought was "That lion can't have had anything to do with warning me! " And I thought in an ultimate grasp at denial, "I didn't see the lion this morning...?" You know how sometimes the events of the morning feel like they happened a week earlier? That is how the timing of seeing the lioness felt to me.

So quickly, I checked my journal, and there in my own hand, was the quick sketch of the mountain lion I drew shortly after viewing her. You know, if the date on my journal had been one day earlier, I’d have dismissed the whole thing as a quirk, as a coincidence. I would have denied there was any link between the lion I saw, and Robert who showed up at the office to blame me for his problems. If there had been more than 24 hours between the lion/the guy, I'd have croaked rather than admit to myself I'd experience anything out of the ordinary. I live in denial of most things paranormal.

If you’re wondering what a totem is, it’s an animal species from which you can learn lessons from, or at least that’s my interpretation of a totem. I did not formerly count the mountain lion as one of my totems, but she seems to think she is and she came to tell me so. To this day a plate hangs over the bedroom closet. It was gifted to me by my friend friend Joann, to whom I told the story. The plate commemorates the lioness, who perched above my bed to warn me, and comfort me, on that day, November 30, 1993.

The Mountain Lion plate plate that hangs over my closet


*from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spirits vs Dust On the Lens - a Spritely Look at Orbs

This edition of 'Spooky Shite week' teeters on shaky ground. When first written, I was firmer in my beliefs, but now I am not. We all come to our own judgments.

So! What am I rambling about? Orbs – orbs are Orbs are just round sphere-ish lights that show up on digital stills and videos. The reason the lights show up in photos/videos is in modern digital cameras the flash is only a few inches above the camera's lens, and therefore, the light illuminates whatever minute particles are afloat in the atmosphere - dust, rain drops, small insects and junk. I learned most of my grammar from Wally and the Beave.

A year ago I visited Colorado. People there explained to me, orbs are live beings; natural spirits with an affinity for cheerful people. Recently I read on-line articles stating further or in addition, that orbs are spirits/ghosts.

Others believe orbs are sentient beings, living creatures science has not as yet acknowledged. If that's not striking enough, some think these minute creatures exist in multiple dimensions, as in String Theory. Is your brain full yet?

So what do I think about orbs? I’ll start with a photo I took a couple of weeks ago during a rain shower.

Those round white blobs/orbs are clearly my camera’s flash reflected off of rain drops
The orbs in that photo must be light bouncing off rain drops and whiskers on kittens, though I think they do look rather... organic. I'll mention here there are those who claim faces can be seen within orbs - even buildings - all from the future, the past or even those other ten dimensions. Here's a close up of orb from one of my photos.

Can you see the bust of a figure in the lower orb?


So you see the bust of a figure in that organic blip of protoplasm? You're not buying into that, are you? OK. I admit. I don't believe it either.

Bear with me a little more. You may recall, in early September, friends and I stayed at Asilomar; a cute place known as ‘Guest’s Inn’, in which John Steinbeck's sister used to live. I told my friend Diane, I hoped, just this once in my skeptical life, I could see a ghost there in that old house - preferably, the ghost of Steinbeck's sister. During the visit, the Ghosts seemed to be a no-show.

Here are 2 photos I took there. I didn’t notice anything weird about the photos until after the trip when I took the time to really examine the photos.

First up, a HUMONGOUS fat white orb
showed up with Robbie, on the left


It is impressively as orbs go, isn't it? Now, what is it? Uh... ?


Close-up of Robbie's Orb - see a face?

Now, up until I saw my rain drop orbs, I thought the orb on Robbie must be a spirit. Now, alas, now it only looks like light bouncing off a dust mote floating close to the camera, which is why it appears so large. I'm a spoil sport, aren't I?

Now look at this next photo: five orbs; three floating in the top of the photo, right of the lamp. There is a forth orb on the bottom of the photo, barely visible on the far left coffee table leg. I choose to assume those upper orbs are dust.


See the white orb, under the table,
streaking away from Ingrid's knees?

You might have noticed the fifth orb - under the coffee table - see that cotton ball-ish thing that seems to be caught by the camera, streaking toward the left?


Close-up of cotton ball orb with a short, comet-like tail

That little Q-tip is dead weird! Matches what I've read about orbs exhibiting a trail, or a ribbon-like appearance". Here is a quote from an on-line orb site by an author describing the difference between 'true' spirit orbs and dust bunnies in the headlights:
As mentioned above there is no official way to determine authenticity of an orb within a photo but here are a few key elements to keep in mind.

1. A bright orb is more likely to be real than a faded one.
2. Multiple orbs in a single photo are most likely dust motes.
3. Orbs that are bright and show a vibrating effect within the photo are likely to be real.
4. A slight trail is also something to look for in determining true orbs.

AHA! So, out of all the orbs I posted here, the one moving under the coffee table fits the markers of true orbs - spirits or sentient beings of nature forever to be ignored by mainstream science. I love the corny sound of TV shows on the paranormal, that end with this type of quote:
Is the mysterious & eerie cottonball, the forlorn ghost of John Steinbeck's sister? Or... might it be the manifestation of an old friend, come to join in on the festivities? Could the mysterious moving white orb be the spirit of our beloved Hen, Fran, who traveled from beyond the grave to enjoy one more night out with the girls?
Not buying it? Well then bugger all! Ok, I still have the remainder of the week to screw with you. This post is only a moderately spook-worthy. But give me just a little more of your precious time, that I can enlighten you with tales of the paranormal ... BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Ghosts in the Doorway

In an episode of Ghostly Encounters a man told a spooky tale. One night when he was a boy, he laid in bed, waking to see a skeleton rise up out of a dresser drawer. Then across his room he saw a horrible specter cross his bedroom floor. He was terrified when it happened to him as a boy and unnerved in adulthood as he relayed the story on TV.

Aw, big freakn' deal! I grew up in the Bronx. When I was very young my brother Juan and I shared a bedroom. We saw weird stuff floating around the bedroom in the wee hours, all the time. Know what? After all these years I still see things floating around my bedroom. And I guess you think, that sort of thing is supposed to be scary, right?

Uh... no. Really, as a kid what I saw was not ghosts or goblins, but floating around bunny rabbits, puppy dogs, toys, and only rarely did I ever spy scary things lurking in the shadow of a closed bedroom door - you know, sheet ghosts or the odd spider. But unlike myself, my bro Juan - a big fan of scary movies then as now - saw ghosts, monsters and other spooky beings in our bedroom frequently. The things Juan and I saw were sometimes wavy, shadowy, and at other times they were as solid as the furniture of our unlit room. We never saw the same things, and never saw them at the same time.

An explanation? I can't speak for Juan, who thanks to the Age of Aquairus and weed, he can't remember what happened back then. But for myself, even back then I didn't think I was seeing ghosts. I hadn't a clue what we were seeing but it was obvious to me that we saw the objects only for what amounted to seconds after opening our eyes, even if we were fully awake as we opened them. Shucks, if I opened my eyes and saw something potentially bladder emptying, I would just shut my eyes tight and dunk under the sheets for a bit.

Today, as an adult, to this day, I still wake to see things, now and again. Sometimes those things still have bladder emptying potential, but not very often.

Ages ago I recall reading in a Scientific American magazine, people can wake up before their REM (dream state) sleep finishes. In those few seconds, their brain continues to project dream images even if the person is fully awake and has opened their eyes. That, as far as I'm concerned explains what happened to my brother and to myself all those years ago in the Bronx.

Recently I read a slightly different interpretation of waking and seeing weird stuff, because there is a psychoactive drug the brain normally produces during dream sleep. In some people - like myself - that chemical is over produced and is slow to 'drain' from the mind upon awaking. On waking, an effected person literally continues to dream, or rather, continue seeing dream images on waking for a few seconds, until the psychoactive chemical dissipates.

Cool, eh? Perhaps, but such visions also have the potential to scare the pee out of you if you don't know what is going on. I recently accessed a sleep forum. Pretty much all the people on a sleep forum wake terrified of their visions. Most seem to think they are either psychotic, or worse, that they are being haunted. I was amazed that none of them thought of themselves as weirdly privileged for having their rare dream state experiences, but shucks, but that's just me.

The very last two times I had such waking visions were highly memorable for me. One of the two experiences I'm speaking of was just beautiful! I was wide awake in my dark bedroom, in my current house. I lay on my side, watching a glowing, grapefruit sized, 3-dimensional dodecahedron spin slowly, gracefully on its axis.

It looked much like this, and I could see through it

It was beautiful as it glowed, spun and sure as hell wasn't a ghost or paranormal. It was the tail end of a dream I'd was having as I woke. It just continued to be seen as a solid object, by me, for at least half a minute after I was fully awake and alert -in my experience - a very long for this sort of thing.

I have to wonder... did that man on Ghostly Encounters who saw the skeleton and spectre as a child, experienced the same sort of thing that I always have, only his visions were more of the scary sort, than the fluffy? Maybe he just hasn't done any research, on line or otherwise, to find explanations for his bizarre visions?

And what about the true identity of the bunnie and unicorns I have seen? Are they more boogie than bunny? Am I am in serious denial? BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Voices in the Wee Hours

A West Virginian woman posted something eerie on a paranormal website.

"One night after my husband and I went to bed I awoke in the middle of the night hearing what I thought was a female voice calling my name. I sat up in bed and looked at my clock it was 3am. I sat there for a minute and listened thinking maybe I was dreaming."

Strange, eh? Well just this morning on NPR's Morning Edition there is a story that warns of many kinds of ghosts from India, including this one that calls out your name...

"...But you have to watch out for the very dangerous nishi, who call people by name in the dead of night and lead them away, never to be seen again."

Ghosts - ghosts that call your name, take you out, then do unspeakable things to you AND get honorable mention on National Public Radio?

Oh big deal! Loads of times I have heard my name shouted aloud; disembodied voices calling to me in dark before dawn.

An example; I moved to Sacramento in 1990. Got myself an apartment in a fancy up-scale complex and if I were into labeling weirdness as paranormal, I would not be amiss to label that apartment as being mildly haunted. While living there, numerous times I would wake from a sound sleep, because I would wake, hearing a breathy voice whispering into my ear.

"Claire!"

Waking, there was no one there but me and my dog. And no, Chiquilla, my dog, never spoke.

At other times I woke, hearing my name called aloud from the living room. ‘CLAIRE!’

Did that cause me to worry about newly immigrant ghosts? Nawww... never once did I believe or think I was being called by a ghost, spirit or daemon, from here in Sacramento or anywhere else for that matter. I do admit, that whimsically, I refereed to the voices as my 'Angels'. Calling the voices such was just how I made reference to the calling in my personal journals; for literary purposes, there were playful angels messing with me.

In reality, I always presumed, and still do, that what I heard was not angels, but my own brain messing with me, a facet of my long history of abnormal dream sleep; a miss-firing of my brain's neurological circuits, my brain chemistry gone awry.

In my current home, 'angels' called my name only once or twice. Still, on a dozen or so occasions, I have been woken by the ringing/buzzing of an alarm clock, that I do not own, and is not in my house, much less my bedroom. I am saying that I am woken by a phantom alarm clock. Yes! Me! Allow me to explain.

My current alarm clock is my old Razor cell phone, which wakes me up to the ring tone of a pod of singing Orca Whales. Trust me - singing whales sound nothing at all like alarms, or buzzes. So I am not hearing the Orcas and thinking they are rings/alarms. And anyway, the alarms/buzzes wake me long before my old cell phone has a chance to sound out.

What happens is if I go to bed fretting about over-sleeping (an event I can say has happened maybe twice in my entire life), while I sleep, my subconscious runs through it's file cabinets of sounds-of-the-past, pulls up the exact sound of alarm clocks I have known and loved in the past, and then plays those sounds to wake me. The sounds that wake me on those 'oh so special' mornings, sound exactly like an electronic alarm clock going off in my room. I wake and wildly search for what is shrieking on my night stand - an annoying way to wake up, I can assure you.

So, currently, at least, there are no ghosts in my house; no spirits, daemons or angels. Only by reading information on-line did I realize, some people believe hearing their name called out when no one is there, means a ghost calling them. Ok, I know you can understand their logic - disembodied voice = ghost. But, the way I see it, either those frightened people are sadly mistaken. or perhaps... could it be... is it I who am in denial? BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

The Week of Haunts.... BWAH HA HA HA HA!

Guilty secret: I enjoy watching Ghostly Encounters, a Canadian TV program that has real people speak about their experiences with ghosts, poltergeists and various other things that go bump in the night. The show features annoyingly spooky music has reenactments of its guest's ghostly confessions. I'm convinced some of the show's guests speak the truth, at least as they see experienced it, other guests on the show may be sadly deluded individuals, and a hopefully minute portion are lying like rugs to achieve their 15 minutes of fame.

Recently while watching Ghostly Encounters, it dawned on me that some of the types of experiences people discussed on the show have happened to me. Yes. No lie.

That I have had 'paranormal' experiences is what makes me think some of the show's guests are a bit deluded. Meaning, that while I've similar experiences to some of the people on Ghostly Encounters, I don't believe my many of experiences were paranormal. And what better week to drag those experiences out of the muck and mire of mind than Halloween week?

Therefore, this week I will present one spooky concept per day and take a bit of time to give my explanation why the concept(s) is, in my Claire-ish reasoning, is not paranormal. Or is it? [Fill in echoing blast of evil laugh here]

Ah! But I never said I don't believe paranormal things never happen - or that they have never happened to me. On Halloween Eve, I will give an example of something that happened to me that was so overly ‘coincidental’ that there is no way, in my mind, was it a coincidence. In my mind, it was truly paranormal.

And on Halloween I will reveal my one, unexplainable paranormal experience with a poltergeist.

BWAHAAHAHAHAHA! [Cue Spooky & Unsettling Music Here]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekend Pelagics - Day Two

After the canceled pelagic out of Half Moon Bay with Debbie Shearwater, I drove down to Monterey for a nice sunny trip, again with Shearwater & company.  Sunday's Pelagic - now that was more like it! Started off foggy, but just about the time the deep sea birds showed, so did the sun. Here is what made the whole day a treat plus brownie points - my day's lifers.I did get several shots of this handsome chocolate kiss of a pelagic bird, a lifer for me - a Flesh-footed Shearwater.


My Lifer Flesh-footed Shearwater

One was an infinitesimally tiny bird - an Ancient Murrelet ('ancient' because whispy white feathers on their heads make them look like little old men). I didn't take a photo of the stubborn Murrelet which did not want to stop & sit for its portrait. However I am posting someone else's breath taking photo.


Fleeting Flock of Ancient Murrelets - Photo © Robin Newlin

Now I'm certain, how every pretty the birds are to me, most everyone else will find the following dolphin's far more interesting so I'll start off with them. In the early afternoon, after we pretty much saw all the birds were were going to see, just when I was thinking there were, for once no whales or dolphins anywhere near Monterey, along came the back-up entertainment; a pod of 50 - 60 Risso's Dolphins with a few Northern Right Whale Dolphins and Pacific White-sided Dolphin tossed in for variety.

The Rissos were in high spirits, as seen in the shot below, I got photos of several slapping their ample bottoms on the ocean surface. Do they do that for fun, the noise or are they loosening oh-so-annoyingly-stuck squid farts?


Love this shot for all the action,
to look for Risso faces and bum, click HERE

Rissos haven't the usual dolphin beak, and to me they all seem to be smiling like jack-o-lanterns (this is a good week for doing so). They are born grey, but as they get older they get scratches on their hides and the color wears off in the salt water. OK, that's a lie, but their color does fade as the animals age - generally the whiter the Risso, the older the dolphin.


That Happy Smiling Face!

as the Rissos raced along, I shot my photos rapid fire. When I took the photos all you could see were milling dorsal fins and the odd splashing or blowing. Only looking at the photos at home did I really get a good look at the mini theater a Risso pod is. In my photos I found at least a dozen Risso faces, loads of tails and even a few shots of breaching, which is when a cetacean slaps its entire body on the water surface.


Nice look at a Risso breaching for the hell of it

Below are some nice surprises - cow and calf shots.


Nice proud, grinning white-faced cow and her little calf to her left


A split second later, same cow and calf continue their racing
check out the size difference in their dorsal fins

Here are a couple of group shots taken seconds apart - look on the left, you can see a Mama Risso, her baby's head is up out of the water - in the second shot there is an even better glimpse of baby's face. Remember, none of the animals in the photos are holding still; they're all booking along 10 - 15 miles per hour.


Mama and baby calf both have their head up (left)


Now Mom is down, and the baby gets split second
looks as they rip along through the water

In my photos, I managed to find only one shot of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, but as the shot is crap, I'm not showing it here. I do however have a quickie video of Northern Right Whale Dolphins that rode the bow for maybe 5 minutes or so. It's rough shot, and I flip the camera after a few seconds, but you can see the mini-whales doing their thing as they surface on the run, to blow out the old air and pull in some fresh.

This Video is LOUD!

video
Ok! That's it for the cetacean circus! Show's over, go away. Now I'm going to post some birdie shots, because - well, because I do love those ocean going birds. I mean, different pelagic species may weigh as little as a short stack of dimes, or as much as a pound and yet they manage to stay alive and hale in all that freezing cold water and NO ONE puts out their food for them - they have to work for it! Isn't that totally amazing? Honestly - it's just astounding.


Not a lifer, but every bit a pretty - Pink-footed Shearwater


Pair of Pink-foot scooting by


Pomarine Jaeger - a bully bird

The only fish I saw all day were Sunfish - Mola Mola. They can get humongous, weighing more than a ton, but this photo shows a baby Mola Mola. It's lying to the right of the gull, like a pancake, with its fin up in the air. They like the gulls to pick vermin from their scales - and the gulls do it too! Click on the Mola Mola for a better look.


A Mola-Mola at its oceanside spa.
raises a fin, requesting some refreshment

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Pelagics - Day One

See the wet, cold people.
See the wet, cold people on the nasty, bumpy ocean.
Poor sad wet people. Let's give it up and go home.

It was pitch dark when we left the Half Moon Bay harbor, with visions of exotic petrels, dancing in our heads. But after 2 hours, and 6 miles the trip leaders decided the weather was crap, and was only going to get much crappier. So we headed back to port. The most exotic bird we got was a Brant Goose that likes to hang around the harbor.

I spent the remainder of the day, loitering my way down to Monterey. Oh well. We tried!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ugly Birds to You, Manna for Me

Yesterday afternoon, following training, I left the Hyatt Regency, hale and hearty, but arrived at my office with a snoot full of grass & tree pollen. I KNEW I should have been lazy and taken the light rail! So I'm sneezing like a Disney dwarf, but that isn't going to stop me from birding this weekend.

You see, back in September, my birding buddy Don, asked if I wanted to go on a couple of pelagic trips in October. I made the STUPID decision to be Quaker-modest and skip the trips to save money and all-that-grown-up-crap. Besides - I've sailed out of Northern California numerous times and what's really left to see for me, besides some puffins and the odd Black-footed Albatross?

So, without me, on October 11th, Don headed out on a SBBO Pelgaic Trip. They got a Short-tailed Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Laysan Albatross and others. For you non birders, read, President Obama, Queen Latifa and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands showed up at the party, to nibble the cheetos and hand out gold-plated Euros.

My cheeks are still pea green with... you know. The Short-tailed Albatross is a bird I've prayed to find for decades now. I could have been a contender!


Don is a gentleman. After his jump up & down lifer, he asked if I wanted to go along on his next scheduled pelagic, Oct 18th. Well, thinking there was NO way to top Don's Oct 11th trip, I, the nin-com-poop, declined his invitation.

So, imagine my... chagrine (?), hysteria? when Don's next trip pulled up a bird so rare only once before in recorded history had it shown up in North America - a White-chinned Petrel. Further luck is there happened to be on board ship a guy who was familiar with the petrel down in Chile(!) from where the birds are normally found. So in other words, besides the luck of having a man on board who is on speaking terms with that species, the bird-in-question sat its bum down on the ocean waves and posed for photos. The photos were so the bird could make sure he made the ABA list - see the photo below? Go ahead - try and tell me that sucker isn't smiling?


I wanted to cry... I have not had much luck this year with my birding - having missed an Asian Red-necked Stint that was kind enough to show up locally, any of many Least Bitterns (which have been on my hit list for many, many decades) and other fleeting shadows on my life list besides.

How can I explain how awful this feels? It's like you want to meet [fill in your favorite celebrity here] and you are invited to a party at some friends house, but you turn down the invite because you want to stay home and trim your toe nails. Then, the day after the party you find out [fill in favorite celebrity here] was at the party, slapping shoulders and promising everyone a spot on America's Got Talent. OK... so the friend invites you to another party the following weekend, you stay home to pluck your eyebrows. After all, who is going to beat [fill in favorite celebrity here] showing up at a party, and guess what! Effing [fill in here, a celebrity you wouldn't even DREAM of ever meeting] shows up and swears he/she will keep in touch with everyone who attended said party. OK. Now imagine that I feel even worse than that.

So when Don asked if I was interested in a pelagic this Saturday, Oct 24th. I had the brains - for once - to say 'HELL yeah'. Can the luck continue for Don? Can it begin for 'moi'? Is that Chilian beaut hanging around waiting for us? Can that Short-tailed Alb. put in another special guest appearance? And if not, will at the very least, little Orphan Annie... I mean, an Ancient Murrelette show up and fly onto my life list?

I don't know the answer to the above question, but to hedge my bets as well as the Saturday trip out of Half Moon Bay, I am also taking a trip the following day, out of Monterey.

Wish me luck; my guess is, I'm going to need it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Out of the Trees Back to Chickens

Last night around 9 PM, one of my neighbors knocked on the door on a count of their house kitty escaped and climbed into my yard. Ordinarily I think they just push open the garage side gate and fetch puss, but the limbs are still blocking the gate after the big storm.

After I let my neighbor through the house to the back yard, then back out the front door, with Ms. Puss in arms. Afterwards I felt mighty poorly. Land sakes! The house was dark, the TV was on, and the chickens were roosting on the rim of their chickararium. Those birds gave my neighbor a sort of 'what the hell YOU doing in OUR house?' sort of look. The living room smelt a bit chickeny too. Thank goodness the room was v. un-tidy, dark to boot and most everythin' was covered with a layer of dust & chicken feathers.

So, in short, I feel like Granny being caught with her Ozark britches down. You know how it is when the neighbors drop by and you don't have any possum stew or crawdad dip to offer 'em. Makes a sweet young thang like me feel all insufficient, ya'll heah?

So, today, I decided today might be pretty near good 'nuff for moving the critters outside into the yard by the cement pond. I assembled the critter pen some weeks ago, but have stalled on putting the chicks out. They're only about 1/3 grown, but they are fully feathered now so they should have no problem when the sun goes down.

The new, city slicker fancy Henitentiary will arrive in 2 weeks. By then the chickens will be fully outside birds. I'm already feeling mighty proud of that new pen that's a coming. It's big 'nuff for 6 large chickens and should dress up the whole neighborhood all nice like. Yes, when the big chicken pen gets here my neighbors are all going to be jess pea green with envy.

Well, that's it for now. Y'all come back now, heah?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Liquidambar & Oak Pay a Neighborly Visit

Some kind of half worn out Japanese storm hit California today and it's been raining Norwegian Forest Cats and Irish Wolfhounds - both rather largish breeds. Every time I've had to be out in it today I got soaked, because I couldn't find my rain parka or even an umbrella. I mean, I can't find them anywhere. Might be in for a wet day tomorrow too.

Driving home tonight, I idly wondered if my trees were behaving themselves, what with all the winds and rain. Yes, they did! Unfortunately my neighbor's Liquidambar and Oak, did not. As I approached my house I could see what looked like 1/3 of the Liquidamber piled onto the lawn alongside my property. So, I pulled out my digital and snapped a few rounds for prosperity. Then as I turned for my garage, I realized the trees came thaaaaat close to landing on and ruining my gate & garage overhang. Yikes!

That's my garage & house there - eeep!

That entire bunch of greenery is the fallen tree limbs. The oak overhangs my garage and recently when I had my trees trimmed, the tree surgeon removed the bits of the oak overhanging my driveway overhang and roof. So if he hadn't done that who knows what would have come down in addition to the current mess.

My garage door is open (excuse the clutter)

The fallen limbs are blocking my grey gate. Oh well. The good news is, my neighbor's trees, his mess, his clean up. I'm lucky I dodged the green bullet this time!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

October, Time for Tea!

The sun doesn't burn when stood under & the air is clean and crisp. Therefore decided to treat myself to some company today. So my friends the two Terrys came over, in their best bib & tucker for a lovely Sunday Tea Party - first I've ever been to, much less hosted.

Worked out very well, even considering that my planning wasn't at its best. and worse, I could NOT find my teapot or my Victorian Bonnet! Bugger... still we had fun. Terry & Terry came in their formal Brit tea party outfits, wearing their tea-hats, per as required. Don't they look spiffy?
The Terrys wear Fun Hats and get reacquainted themselves with their petite Ami

We had savory tea sandwiches. Would have liked to serve watercress sandwiches but for the life of me, none of the local markets seem to have any, and believe me, I looked. So, we had savory tea petite sandwiches of chicken with basiled butter & slivered almonds and wee sandwiches of peppered salmon with cream cheese. That was followed by a lovely bread pudding. Am proud to say the pudding, rich with cream and butter, was made largely with the crusts cut from the tea sandwiches, so how's that for economy? What a fun chat and lovely tea party.

I was amazed - the chickens behaved themselves with company in the house - I mean really behaved well! I had the lid off their chickararium and they either peeked out the top or politely perched on the pen edge, watched 'the grownups' have their tea. I had expected the chicks would jump to the floor and run rampant, but they did not. Who knew I was raising polite poultry?

Following our tea, it was play time with deh Chee-kins! The Terrys are chicken lovers too. Remember, they got their little Rhode Island Reds, Bodie and Pele a couple of weeks before I got my brood. They wanted to see how my girls are making out with their diaper training. So would I!

Ami and Adele uh... well, they didn't quite take to their diapers today - just sort of fussed and rolled about on the floor, looking forlorn. The diapers seemed to fit perfectly but the girls were having none of it. However, once again, Colette showed us all how it's done. She took to her little di-dee, strutting around the room like the little trooper she is. Dang, I'm so proud of her! Oh, and little Babette is still a bit lacking in the bum size to try her diaper yet.

At some point I must tape Colette strutting around, paying no mind to her diaper. She even made 'Mummy' proud, by making a boom-boom in her di-dee. I swear, when I saw that poop in the diaper I gushed with joy - how embarrassing! Have to laugh, I mean, I really felt PROUD! Never felt proud of anyone or anything's poo before. Had to reward Colette with lots of lovely fat meal worms.

Terry 2 had a great idea that I have decided I MUST adopt - she decided the diapers are really le tres chic chicken thongs!

Colette strutting her stuff in her Brazilian Periwinkle Thong

Terry pulling Ami out of the Hat!

What a fun afternoon! All ended far too soon, and the Terrys headed back to their place, with little Ami in tow. I orginally wanted to order 3 chicks, but had ordered an extra which I thought they might enjoy, adding a little French flair to their American flock of Rhode Island Reds. So now we each have 3 chickens each in our little flocks.

I swear, I love my silly chickens, with or without thongs/diapers, but not nearly as much as I love my friends.

This is a Spider. This is a Spider on Drugs.

This is a very silly wildlife expose that is now at least two years old. No clue where it came from. Decided it's a must post as is short and funny.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Yes. I've Lost My Mind - Chicken Diapers

Yeah! It's October, and summer is on the wane. Last night I was actually chilly, though I'm not pulling out the down comforter just yet.

The chicks are HUGE! They are grow so rapidly that I never know what I will find when I come home evenings. Pinfeathers in the morning can be huge fat feathers by evening. The 'girls' perk up and chatter their heads off when I get in. They think I'm the awesome bearer of the universally stupendous treat - meal worms! Ugh... I agree. Meal worms are totally for the birds.

I try to keep the chickarium, which is now a two bedroom chick flat, interesting. There's a parakeet thingmabob the girls like to peck at. Meal worms are good for a good half hour of entertainment. I usually join right in, tapping the cage litter by the creepy crawlies to alert the girls to a worm that's trying for a fast get-away.

Here's the girls a few days ago, playing a chick version of King-of-the-hill.

video

I enjoy having the girls run around the living room, but their poo is a bit much. I decided am done with cleaning up the mess. So, I sent away for chicken diapers - yes, you read that right. First up, you have to be prepared for the worst if you look up 'chick diapers' on line - don't ask. But I belong to a chicken forum and found a lady who makes diapers for her beloved chickens. I ordered some and was certain the girls would take to them easily. After all, diapers mean they can run around freely for their brain development and my entertaining - or maybe the reverse?

The girls were NOT having it. Colette and Adele were my test-chicks. Popped into her nappy, Adele just rolled onto her side, Shreiking indignantly. Le petite Colette walked & hopped - backwards. *sigh* The experiment was a failure for the day.

video

After some deep thought, I did a little sewing surgery to give the diapers a better fit. Success! It was Colette who mastered the fine art of diaper wearing. I kept calling her over to me with a reward of juicy live worms. Any indignity, even a diaper is OK if it yields a wormy reward.

Yes, I know Colette seems a bit down in the photo below, but never fear, that is just the way a chicken face looks. Note that the business end of the diaper is a pouch to catch... you know. My brave little pullet ran around the living room with no trouble, only stopping to preen every now and again.

First Graduate of the Chez Claire
'Chicken Diaper Doctorate Program'

That's Ami on the left, protesting her
pink diaper with a sit-down strike

I'm determined to get all of the chicks romping around in diapers sooner or later. Doesn't Collette look all attractive in her baby blue "Depends"? Notice her lovely feathered leggings and that attractive, recently grown in tail. The chicks went from wee things to thriple their hatch weight in just 33 days.