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Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloweenie Creepy

Oooo... very nearly creepy thing happened tonight.

I'm always sticking little things all around my garden. I've got a little butterfly-winged pixie, that my friend Mommy Nancy gave me. I went out to look around the garden tonight and WOAH! The little guy was sitting on top of a weird, pumpkin colored stack of pancakes!

Pumpkin Colored Mushes from HELL - BWAH HA HA HA HA!

I did not arrange him like this! Those mushrooms popped up overnight and pushed him up off his perch on the base of the rose. That fungus is just a tad too Halloweenie creepy to me.

[11/8: Un-wanted, un-asked, frankly unnecessary, update

Pixie: "Halp.... it's EATING me... without SYRUP! No syrup??? My life is upside-down!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Visitor from Yakima

Old Fair Oaks Village Square

Just as birds of a feather, stick together, so do long-time friends. I lost track of my buddy after we graduated from High School in San Diego. I wondered where she was for years, then through the miracle of that annoying website ‘Classmates’, Diane found me back in 2000, just before the turn of the century.

I visited her in her home in Yakima Washington not long after that. I was tickled to learn that after college she traveled to Norway, becoming an Au Pair for a family she still maintains close contact with. What really impressed me - I suffer from bilingual skills-envy - is that Diane learned to speak Norwegian fluently. I imagine shrieking at kids in another language must be the height of 'immersion' langauge training. A second language - that's a holy grail for me. The children she nurtured have kids of their own, and Diane visits the whole family every couple of years or so.

Diane,aka 'Didi'

But before taking off, I got to have Diane for one day and I made the most of it. I think we squeezed in as much non-stop chatting into the occasion as we could manage. I happily showed her around my little world, from breakfast at Ettorie’s, to my local Farmer’s Market where we purchased fresh flowers – a must for this time of year – bee pollen and lavender salve. Then Diane agreed to allow me to show off the chickens from Old Fair Oaks Village.

Any chick can have a bad hair day

BAWWWWK! Let me in, I need some hair gel!

Then after a drive on Winding Way and a tour of Sailor Bar, we headed back to my place where we spent most of the day lounging and chatting. Next thing you know it was nearly nightfall, so in the best Fair Oaks tradition, it was off to the park for some dusk deer hunting. Before we even got into the park we saw a half dozen turkeys and two does with half grown fawns - one doe appeared to have triplets.

We weren't the only turkeys headed for the park

usual spooky night buck shot

The last stop of the day was to Casablanca Restaurant for a Moroccan Dinner. Friday and Saturday nights are Belly Dancing nights!

Boy, the joint was jumping!

As always, it was lovely seeing Maurite. He treated us like the visiting princesses we were. We were treated to a dish of fragrant and delish, couscous that went nicely with Diane's lamb with honey and almonds and my chicken with prunes and herbs - double yum! Of course our feast included Pastille, minted teas and baklava so we were fully stuffed by the time we were done.

Before we left, Diane treated the pair of us to Moroccan cook books. Unlike me, Diane is an accomplished cook, specializing in all things delish, particularly Norwegian dishes such as lamb and cabbage stew. Recently she's begun to successfully experiment with Moroccan foods. As for me, I'm going to have to read my cook book to learn North African kitchen arts. Our final surprise was Maurite gifted us each with a bottle of orange water – a necessity for all aspiring Moroccan princesses cooks. Diane has already experimented with Rose water for teas and other Moroccan specialties.

Diane said she felt as if we'd gone out to a friend's house for dinner and come to think on it, I guess we did.

Check out the Casablanca owner, Maurite (on right in pale green caftan), dancing in his cool shades

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Columbus Day Weekend

A week or two ago, Don asked if I was up for some birding over the Columbus Day Weekend - not even a need to ask. He arrived Friday night & we wasted no time, heading out to Meiss Road, out in the sticks, looking for Common and Lesser Nighthawks. No such luck, they've apparently headed south for the winter already. We did find one Burrowing Owl - v. cute - and after dark we spotted a fence jumping doe and a fox, that was likely a Kit Fox. Ooooo!

Saturday morning we headed off to 'the Pit' in Rancho Cordova. The pit is a bit of the American River Parkway found behind the house of Jerri, that is, Dr. Langham. Jerri, aka 'lucky duck', is newly retired from a career teaching at Sac State. Jerri's my hero! He lead the 'fateful trip to Churchill, Manitoba Canada in 2004 - one of my top ever, 'All Birds, All the Time' vacation adventures. I say the trip was fateful because I busted my knee on that sojourn. Jerri, and his assistant Sean really saved my toast on that trip.

Jerri sprinkling seed in 'The Pit';
a view of the American River Parkway

Quail enjoying the breakfast bar

Autumn is here, we all gripped binoculars with icy fingers. Looking down into the pit I glimpsed a black & white crown with a splash of bright yellow - a White-throated Sparrow. The bird did not show up again- v. annoying, but I know saw it, even though I was the only one that did.

Nothing too exciting, but the company made the time worth while. We sat in lounge chairs birding the riparian vista all comfy like. A couple of weeks ago when I birded at the pit I found myself staring at a cinnamon bellied warbler with 2 white wing bars, trying to force my brain into an identification, but nothing came. Jerri shouted, 'It's a Bay-breasted Warbler!'


Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warblers are an eastern species and I've seen them in Minnesota and Canada, so it rather felt like now they're following me around.

A Wilson's Warbler, a quizzical little bugger

Here are a couple of other shots that I took in the woods along the American River Parkway, behind Jerri's house.

Hermit Warbler, ironically with loads of other birdie company

Black-throated Gray Cutie. I mean, Black-throated Gray Warbler

Hyper little Warbler - the Black-throated Gray

The only glitch in the weekend was I had a hair appointment in Suisun City. While I got my hair froo-froo'd, Don attempted to bird Grizzly Island Wildlife Area, but discovered it was closed for the hunting season. Oops. So much for my planning skills. Don managed to entertain himself for the duration.

A week ago I drove 3 hours round trip and did NOT see a particular cool birdie. So this weekend, birding buddy on hand, we headed back to San Luis Reservoir where we saw this rather bland-at-first-sight bird, which lead to high-fives all around and a lifer for both of us.

Fresh out of the Siberian Arctic - Mr. Yellow-billed Loon!
Photo by Mike Rogers

Hurrah! We viewed the Loon from the observation deck at the back of the Romero Visitor's Center. I gave Don my small camera and he hiked wa-a-ay downhill for a closer look at the bird, which, as Don hiked toward it, rudely swum away. Happily, his hike was judiciously reward by his spotting yet another lifer bird for himself - a Vaux's Swift. Hurrah!

Loon Look

Our next stop was the 16 mile drive in Del Pueblo Canyon in Stanislaus County - nada! Oh well. The following morning our final hurrah was at Sailor Bar, "MY" bit of the American River Parkway. There we found Don's first Phaenopepla [fay-no-pep-la] (click here to see one) for our annual lists. Just for the record, the bird's name is, in San Diego at least, pronounced 'Para-pah-nail-ee-yah' (this is one of those things you may not wish to ask about, (right Joann? *tee hee*) Last but not least, here is one of several random shots of Acorn Woodpeckers.

Totally a fun weekend all round - I hope for another one just like it real soon.

Clown faced, Acorn Woodpecker hoarding its acorns for the winter