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Prague - Trial by Walk

St Vitus Cathedral on the Prague Castle grounds Trial by walking - that's how I'll remember today for the rest of my natural lif...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tahoe Time


You know, those birds  don't just watch themselves, so it is time to loosen up the dust on the annual birding lists. So, bright and early, so I threw a picnic bin in the trunk and with birder buddy Don, headed east. Soon we were buzzing along Ice House Road in Placer County. Ice House Road is great for me, the  closest alpine/montane habitat I can access. The birding gods were a bit stingy this trip, but the scenery is always great and sometimes a little Chipping Sparrow serenades you.


Chipping Sparrow, chipping out its little Springtime serenade

Trying not to jinx ourselves, we drove over to Markleeville, where we now annually look for the 'ever elusive' Pinyon Jay. You know Pinyon Jays - the little blue jaybird that has successfully evaded Don and myself for our entire lives. How do those birds even know we're looking for them, huh? Mind boggling, I can tell you.

No Pinyon Jays, but Don spotted some little Pygmy Nuthatches that seemed fond of an old wooden fence post. Turned out the little imps were interested in a knot hole in the post.


The Pygmy Nuthatches were interested in a knot hole in the old fence post"


Indian Creek Reservoir

We checked out a mountain road that led to a pond sized Curtis Lake where a few ducks and coots paddled about. Farther along we found Indian Creek Reservoir. There we found a few White Pelicans and a lot of little Eared Grebe. There were a lot of California Quail skittering about like over sized gray mice.

This little guy sports a nice herringbone grey suit

Something the Reservoir area has loads of are dead trees. Sounds awful at first, but for small birds, dead trees are like beautiful condos, up for grabs. And there were loads of small birds interested in every little nook and cranny on the snags.



A Western Bluebird wondering if it wants to build a home near noisy Chickadees


Yet another neighbor in the same snag - a Violet-green Swallow


Clark's Nutcracker

One of the fun things today was it was my first opportunity to try out a new iPhone app, called eBird. That handy little app allows me to post bird sightings, for my records and for other birders to know what is out there, while I'm still out in the field. Normally I post what what I've seen on eBird at home on my computer. There is nothing like enjoying yourself and making a small contribution to the record keeping that aids modern birding. Sort of like carrying out one's very own mini-Christmas Bird Counts. How about that? Now you can bird, play & contribute to birding knowledge, all in one fell swoop.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Egg Wars

So, Sometimes a lady has to make a point, you know? I was sitting on the little nest I made for myself under the rose bush and Claire had the nerve to put her hand UNDER MY BUM! She took the egg I was sitting on and I screeched!  I bet her neighbors think she was getting ready to roast me or something. Couldn't she wait until I got out of the nest to stretch my legs or something? HARUMPH! decided to teach Claire a lesson.


I got a new secret nest


Claire will NEVER guess where I hid my new nest

Friday, April 13, 2012

HAIL Yes!

Sometimes I really ought not be surprised. Last week Barbara, her Tante Judy and I cancelled a wildflower tour because it was supposed to rain. Almost needless to say, the week turned out to be bright and sunny. This week however, if the adage 'April Showers bring May Flowers' is true, next month there will be a bumper crop of wildflowers - it has rained all week. Oh well! On Wednesday Barbara drove up from Monterey, picked up Judy in the Napa Valley and drove to my house. When they arrived at my front door it was pouring rain.

It not only rained but the annual hail maelstrom hit as pea sized frozen pellets pounded the back yard. Here's a peek at what happened outside the picture window.

Did the hellish hail storm stop us from going on our wildflower tour on Thursday? Hale no, it did not! Mind, as I drove us north, the hour to Oroville I must say I had my druthers - periodically along the hour drive we were hit by rain that pelted hard enough it seemed likely to crack my windshield. But as incredible luck would have it, as we wound round the twisty, narrow road up to the Table Mountain Wildflower Reserve we were unmolested by rain, and greeted by pretty pastoral scenes.

Black-bellied sheep graze on rolling pastureland

Across the valley 'wasserfalls' flowed

Table Mountain is the splatter field from an ancient volcano, where cool black volcanic rocks are spread around meadows, dotted with wildflowers and vernal pools. Not that we got up that high on the mountain very fast - we couldn't stop gawking out the window at patches of Lupines and Blue Dicks.
Wild Blue Lupines

Oh, and the bit about 'Blue Dicks' is not my... questionable sense of humor. The B.D.s are little purplish wild lilies. Aren't they adorable?


Tiny Blue Dicks, in all their glory

After lots of through-the-window wildflower gawking, we got to fields where we could park and go walk-about in the golden flowered fields. When we got out of the car it was cold, and I mean, windy, drippy noses cold! Judy and I decided to walk out in the meadow and have a nice look around.

Goldfields & Stone Crop speckle the roadsides

Judy enjoying the meadow

The meadow on Table Mountain was not the blue field solid with Lupine's we'd hope for, but it was beautiful none-the-less. There were hints of vernal pools and if you looked down, tiny little wildflowers waited for our admiration.

Shy Douglas Violets

Succulent little 'Corn Lily' or 'Stone Crop'
By the time we finished inspecting the meadow and poking the mini-mushrooms out there, the sky had turned blue and it was very nearly warm. So we decided to take a little drive down to the historic Oregon City Covered Bridge which was only up the rode a piece.

Once a Gold Rush mecca, now the town of Oregon City is rather a ghost town. We were pleased when a v. friendly, & not too ghostly man at the little school house there, unlocked the door and let us in for a look around.


Old Oregon City Church & former School House


Inside the School House

After a chummy little tour of the school house, the historian told us how to go up the road so we could visit and pay our respects to the local cemetery.





The cemetery's oldest 'inhabitant' was buried in 1878. Interestingly there were loads of Masonic types buried there and many of the inhabitants were born in Wales and Germany to name a few exotic spots of origin. The cemetery is rather weather worn and the lichens seem to worry away at the headstones. Creepy!



Our Funereal tour over, we decided to picnic - in the car - down by the old Covered Bridge. Then, full up with food and nature, we headed back to home. Wouldn't you know it - when we got home it was, you guessed it, pouring down rain. We all had to marvel that we had the good luck to manage to have a nice dry day for our wildflower adventure!
Wild Rainbow Iris
by the Old Covered Bridge

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Talk about impromptu decisions. Yesterday morning I listened to NPR & heard mention a musical, The Color Purple was playing 3 days, only this week, in nearby Folsom. So, next thing I knew I had a ticket for a performance, same night. EEEKK! So last night I found myself sitting in the beautiful and enormous Three Stages auditorium in a v. good seat, and I marveled I was only 7 and a half miles from home, in Folsom. Who knew there were a theater venue so close to my place?

The Color Purple? It was a delight, and it was not just a retelling of the movie, but it was a new interpretation of the novel. I loved that the decades old novel still had something to surprise me with, not the least of which was the songs/voices of the cast. I think what delighted me the most was how the stage production was able to take liberties in some telling of the story, that embellished it all. For example, as Celie read the letters from her sister in Africa, in this version of the tale Celia was able, in her mind of course, to join her sister there and share her adventures. I ate that stuff UP! And redemption - there was more redemption for some of the wicked, but none at all for another - oh well.

Now... I know the musical is meant to uplift one's spirits, which it did, but it also made me gape in wonder, that the star of the show who played Celie, could open her mouth, out of which came a beautiful, other worldly voice. In NO way is it fair, THAT much beautiful sound can be reserved for one person's human throat. Unfair. That much voice, that much power could have outfitted an entire midwestern glee club. I must say again; TOTALLY unfair. So overall, my thoughts on The Color Purple: It. Was. AWESOME.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Cabin Fever Outing


I had an attack of cabin fever late today, so I took off to the boonies to see what was flying & what was blooming. There wasn't much rain this past winter so there aren't too many wildflowers, but who knows, maybe it's just a little early for much to be out.
There were a few spots with deep blue lupines - that only photograph pale due to lighting late in the day.
Blue Lupines

Farther down Michigan Bar it is beautifully idylic - there's a tiny one lane bridge that seems dicey to drive over but its safe. It was amazing to see so much water beneath the bridge - as long as I've known this spot, there is never more than a few inches of water and loads of gravel bars. Tonight though, it was practially a raging river.

View by the bridge on Michigan Bar Road

But the water wasn't the highlight for me - of course my highlights had wings. There were loads of small sparrows - Golden Crowned Sparrows, Lark Sparrows and more impressive for me, were Lawrence's Goldfinches. I haven't seen a Lawrence's Goldfinches since the 70s! Shoot. Now I know were to find them.
Yes, I'm impressive!

"Thank youverymuch..."

Can't get used to the beauty that is Lark Sparrows

Having my fill of Michigan Bar Road, I headed over to Meiss Road, hoping for an early Nighthawk, or an owl. I found neither species but did find some very pretty fields and some very nosy cows. The cows looked adrift in their meadows full of popcorn flowers.
Pastel skies over B&W cows


Dead center, a thunder cloud tries to form, but is overcome by pink and pretty

The Moon over Meiss

Meiss Road was a challege to drive over and it can't be done without four wheel drive just now - there are puddles and ponds to drive over to make one's way over to Ione Road. I didn't mean to drive back over it, but hell - it was fun, so I headed right back where I came from.
No owls or nighthawks, but the last bird of
the day was a cheery litttle Loggerhead Shrike

[Management is oh so frustrated - the blogger host has changed every detail required to post and while most of the improvements are just that, there is also - alas - just enough bugs to give one a major headache. Please bare with us while irrational spaces and such are dealt with - eventually.]