Monday, March 30, 2015

The Three Rs

Roadrunners, Rattlers and Roads. OK, I put that last one in there because I ran out of relevant R's pretty quickly. I was on my way back home from Castroville, and my route took me onto the infamous Pacheco Pass. I stopped at Dinosaur Point Pacheco State Park. Goal: add a roadrunner to my annual bird list. Sure enough, once there, I found a roadrunner inside of five minutes. The little speed-devil shot by on the gravel road, disappearing into the shrubbery. My Yellowstone U-turn didn't help as the bird was long gone by the time I was done. Tickled with my mid-state Roadrunner, I was off downhill towards the San Luis Reservoir. The Reservoir is so low on water it looks like a drained bathtub with a massive rim ring.

I drove slowly, enjoying the yellow Sticky Monkey-flowers along the roadside. I spotted what I assumed was a Gopher Snake. I think every 4 out of 5 snakes I see are Gopher Snakes, but this one seemed to have a v. pale tail. Yikes! I rushed over to the snake for a nice photo and video opt.


As the quickie video above shows, the Western Diamondback was a handsome creature, and was bent out of shape what with me interrupting its nap on the nice warm conglomerate. The photo looks like we were nose to nose, but I was using the telephoto setting on my little Panasonic camera.

When our little photo session ended, and I left, the snake hightailed itself to places otherwise occupied by roadrunners. I continued on down toward the reservoir, but it was road blocked - for what, I do not know. There was a trailer and a ranger/guard viewing me suspiciously. I drove up to him and told him I'd only come down for a quick look around and what with the roadrunner and rattler, I was pretty damned pleased; he cracked a smile.

I then headed back uphill where, just before I drove off, I spotted a nice pair of California Quail that were also amiable to a photo session.

I swear, at first, I thought he was grinning
But he wasn't happy - he read me the riot act

The Mrs., sleepy, grumpy and
hadn't gotten around to grooming that topknot
The whole mini-flock
There must have been other birds in the park, but the Roadrunner and Quail were the only ones I could find, but that's all you get if you don't do more than a quick drive through. Still, I was satisfied and got back on the Pacheco Pass, headed for home.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Berkeley Hen Party

Top to bottom, left to right
Nancy, Rhonda, Ingrid, Barbara, Robbie
and some chick in a red shirt
It's been three years since our last Hen Party. So Roberta, aka Robbie dusted off the welcome mat and in we all blasted in like an April storm; chat, chat, yak, yak, and not to be overlooked, eat, eat, EAT.

Robbie making her now famous, 'Khao soi'
a Thai Curried Chicken Soup
Hen Ingrid, back from Peru
She brought Peruvian Prezzies for everyone
Barbara & Nancy model attractive alpaca scarves; their pick of Ingrid's presents...
Hey! Is that a non-hen back there in the kitchen?
Hen Robbie brandishing the sacred pecking hens -
only to be enjoyed by she-who-hosts the latest Hen Party
Modeling one of the Peruvian gifts, an Alpaca wool glove
Hen Rhonda pouring out the oh-so-delish, after dinner aperitif

Um... Ice Wine, which along with other wines and some delightful cheeses were brought by farm adviser, Hen Rhonda. Ice wine, made from frozen grapes, is quite sweet.










There's that not-a-hen again. Bill, Hen Robbie's hubby
Very nice man, quite tolerant of chattering, nattering hens in his domicile

Also not-a-hen, girlie kitty 'Baby Cakes' wonders
why so little of the feast food featured in her dishes
All in all it was a great Hen Party weekend. It's nice getting together with old friends ever once in a bit, to share a little of our lives. It has been 3 years since our last get together so we hope to make up for that with another H.P. by year's end. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Passel of Pretties

Savannah Sparrow
Ah Spring! Well, ah, well, in just a few days anyway. I took a spin over to my favorite spots to bird and gawk at wildflowers in the vicinity of the Jackson Highway. It is a little short of two weeks since my last foray to the area and what a difference.  The last time I posted I carried on about the Blue Dicks, aka Cluster Lilies.
Painted Lady Butterfly escaping with some Cluster Lily (Blue Dick) pollen
A week or two after the Blue Dicks pop up and test the territory, next to show their faces to the sun are the Ithuriel's Spears aka Wally-Baskets.

Ithuriel's Spears aka Wally-Baskets
Ithuriel's Spears is a fine & honorable name, but I get a giggle out of it's other name, Wally-baskets. In British slang, a 'Wally' is an idiot. So these flowers are Idiot or Jerk Baskets. HAHAHAHAA! OK. Perhaps you had to be there, but it's plenty funny to me.

I found some Spoke Pods, which aren't exactly wildflowers, but they come up in the spring and sometimes they are pinkish. This batch I found are more whitish & rather like tiny flat flying saucers. 

Spoke Pods
Many hills are tinted with wildflowers now
This pasture is pale yellow from 'Butter and Eggs'
Butter and Eggs a bit closer
Tidy Tips are one of my favorites
Lupines
There were plenty of birds around. I was pleased to find a puddle with no less than four species putting it to use: a pair of Mallards, a couple of Killdeers and one Greater Yellowlegs. The yellowlegs, like the killdeer, is a shorebird that is often far off from the usual shorebird habitat.

Left to right...A pair of Mallards, a Killdeer (back to camera), 
then a nice grayish Greater Yellowlegs and a 2nd Killdeer
But the birdies of the day I saw when I noticed an owl sized clump of dirt under a berm. I looked carefully at the lump and sure enough was not one, but two Burrowing Owls, enjoying their 'porch' just outside their burrow. One was shy and ducked back into the burrow when I pointed my binoculars at them. The other just kept his or her beady amber eyes on me... you never know what those sneaky humans are up to.
That Burrowing Owl kept its disapproving yellow eyes on me

Of course I didn't stay more than a couple of minutes. I sure hope they have a nestful of eggs down in that tunnel.

Not quite as rare, but surely just as fun were a couple of Wild Turkey Toms, that were not the least bit tame. As soon as they spotted me, they took off running.




Dang... did you see how BIG that human was? We could'da been a snack.
Common Goldeneyes who were also un-thrilled with my presence
My first Wood Ducks for the year. Hurrah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Guess What's Up?

Blue Dicks are up. I'm just sayin'...
Yeah, every spring I make the same limp joke about Blue Dicks, an early season wildflower, being 'up'. I know, I'm juvenile. But you know, the other name for these flowers is 'Purplehead', so be grateful I'm letting sleeping dogs lay. Yeah, yeah, right, they're also called 'Cluster Lilies' and 'Brodiaea', but where's the fun in that?

There are other wildflowers popping up but they aren't as much fun as the.. .uh... Brodiaea (BLUE DICKS!).

Fiddleheads are lumped in tangly clumps
And not to kevetch, but vetches are only sort of fetching

The odd California Poppy is up too, but they're not as fun to crow about.
Bored, I thought to take a little swing through the local boondocks to see how spring is shaping up bird-wise. I know it's pretty much spring out there, not because of the sunrise which has already started off my biannual insomnia - which happily only lasts a few days at worse -  but because the squirrels are chasing each other and as I said before, the Blue Dicks are up!

And the colorful, pink and iridescent green Lewis Woodpeckers are out
posing like they own the joint. Can you see the one there on the log?
I didn't see any unusual birds, but the spring birds are returning. There are Western Bluebirds, a few Horned Larks and Robins and Varied Thrush are nosily taking possession of woods and urban trees.

A Horned Lark that made a spectacle of itself
White-breasted Nuthatch, lookin' all innocent there

Of course some birds stayed put all winter to begin with.
The Killdeers never go too far either - I think.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Piggies in the Middle

Field o' Shooting Stars
I drove along Highway 5 on my way to Watsonville and thought, 'might as well cut across Del Pueblo Canyon Road over to San Jose, instead of driving south to the Pacheco Pass'. I was hankering for some birds, but I didn't see more than a dozen I could have stayed home to see. There were no baby Great Horned owlets or any hawks in the nesting nooks in the sandstone cliffs. No Phainopeplas frolicking in the mistletoe along the road. There were loads of lovely wildflower though, which give me heart that this is going to be a bumper crop year for Wildflowers - whoo hoooo! It is raining and hailing - off and on as I type this. There were puddles, rivulets and ponds galore. I looked and I'm certain the vernal pools of northern California are going to put on a glorious show for 2015. The last big year for wildflowers was the year that perked my interest in them, in 2009.

Close-up of what I would call Comets or Darts
but are correctly called 'Shooting Stars'
 The only annoyance on Del Puerto is few pull-outs and everything is fenced private property. There are so few people that when I stopped to take photos out the window a driver stopped to ask if I had car trouble. Nope! My only trouble was the usual - my poor crap focusing with a 400mm lens.

Buttery 'Johnny Jump-ups'
I always think the drive from Patterson to San Jose is a scant 2 hours tops, and it always stuns me the actual time is more like 3, if not 3 and a half hours. The second half of the drive is along a road composed entirely of hairpin turns. after passing the planetarium on the summit, I saw only a small herd of does and a large flock of wild turkeys (again, no where to pull off so I could photograph them). Then, when I hit the valley floor, passing two county parks, I hit the breaks and did a 'Yellowstone U-turn' (i.e., abrupt turn for wildlife viewing) to feast my eyes on the only wild, feral pigs I have ever seen.

California Wild Pigs

The motley swine were nosing around the meadow that looked like someone had worked it over with a heavy chain. The hogs were smaller than I would have anticipated, but maybe they are only youngsters from last year? Colors varied from hog to hog. Every once in a bit a little piggie would jump up, scampering, to be joined by other piggies, seemingly just for the fun of it.

There is 'frolicking' going on here.
The Piggies came in Disney-esque assorted colors
A 'grizzly' colored piggy
I missed a photo of one of them kneeling on one knee for easier access to whatever it was eating. I might have thought driving through the Del Pueblo 'Pass' had been a waste of time, but for the wildflowers and better - the wild pigs - the drive was well worth twisting through those brain spinning hairpin curves.

Here is a minute or so of piggy action I took before the herd disappeared back into the hills. And me left humming, "♪Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, piggy in the middle...♪♪'. I dare you to guess that reference without cheating and looking it up.