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Monday, April 26, 2010


This morning in the manner of the royalty releasing the hounds, I did 'Release the Chickens!' After three days of confinement the girls were frantic to be out and about. While gone I had let their eggs just accumulate in their nest box. So this morning I collected 8 eggs from the past three days. I'll feed these 'old' eggs back to the girls as a smoothie; more details on that another day.

The point here is, of the 8 eggs the girls laid, 7 are the usual ensie eggs the girls normally lay, but one egg was HUMONGOUS. The rumours are true - young hens first lay small eggs, and then gradually when their behinds are ready for it, then come the Grade A, Extra Large eggs. Check this out; doesn't that gigantic egg look painful? My first thought when I saw it was some huge sumo-wrestler of a hen must have snuck in with the girls and laid that ringer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Over Dale... and Home Again

Avenue of the Giants

Shortest visit to Crescent City ever, but better short than not at all.

For my drive home I hit the spots I missed on the way north, driving through Prairie Creek Redwoods where I took a short hike hit the visitor center. Then it was on through the Avenue of the Giants, under the shade of the redwood giants.

Estuary along Highway 101

Elk in the Mist

Tule or Roosevelt Elk?

While there I chatted with a cyclist who had biked his way down from Victoria, British Columbia, on his way south to Baja California. Yikes! Amazing what people do for fun. I know my friend Don would love to do that sort of thing some day, myself, I'd rather be shot and spared the effort. I'd be willing to drive from B.C. to Baja; does that count?

I drove south to Ukiah, then headed East on HWY 20, taking the scenic route through Bear Valley. Last year Bear Valley was spectacular.

Bear Valley Ranch

The first thing I spotted were totally adorable round, yellow flowers that hung like little balls from their stems. They grew along the hillside like diamonds in rubble.

My photo of a Golden Fairy Lantern

Love how round the Golden Fairy Lantern's are

This year it was pretty, but not on par with the vistas of wildflowers like last year. Still I saw enough pretty views to satisfy.

One of Few Wildflower Vistas in Bear Valley for 2010
Don't forget to click on photos for a better look

Yellow stripe of Goldfield flowers in distance
click to see the deep blue Larkspur peppered around the meadow

My visit took place after several of the flower species had called it a day, folding their pleasures and closing shop for the day; Cream Cups, some poppies and others.

Not Too Shabby for a 'bad' year, eh?
I have never seen so many blue Larkspur in my life!

One of the few patches I could find for 2010

Not terrifically showy, but new to me: poofy Cream Sacs

In reflection, it's strange how wildflowers worship just sort of snuck up on me in the past year. When I was a student I had friends who were dotty about wildflower & plants. Non of their zeal registered with me. But perhaps last year being a bumper crop year for wildflowers is what triggered me to suddenly care. I mean, up until last year I took photos of flowers but wouldn't have dreamed of driving anywhere to look at them. Maybe it's just nice having wildflowers to gawk at when my feathered quarry aren't cooperative. What's next? Dragonflies? Uh... NO.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Over Hill....

Started the day sitting idly (as usual) watching the birds feed in Inez's yard. She has a huge flock of Band-tailed Pigeons, she refers to - understandably -as 'Pigs with Wings'. Those pigeons eat your weight in food every day. No lie! No photos!

Mid morning I abandoned Inez to her piano practice to check out the piers and harbors on the Crescent City shores. When I visit the area there are always different seabirds visiting. It's as if they take turns or something. One visit it's Rhinoceros Auklets, the next oodles of Marbled Murrelets off shore with the babies of the year, and the next visit it's Pacific Loons or Harlequin Ducks. This time it was mostly colorful Surf Scoters and a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Loons in breeding plumage. My photos are really sucky lately so only managed one or two even vaguely worth sharing.

Male Surf Scooter

While at the pier, I looked in vain for Surfbirds, my Godmother called. Enjoyed a lovely chat with her while watching a flock of Aleutian (Cackling) Geese wing by on their way to the wildlife refuge. My Godmother Bernice is 85 and so help me, in great shape.

Aleutian Geese - photo by Skip Hansen

At the pier: Selfishly Unwilling to Share Crab Breakfast

Saturday afternoon we drove north to Harbor Oregon. We treated ourselves to some great clam chowder, fish n' chips. There was also an unplanned shoe & book shopping opportunity. I got a new pair of walking shoes and a book of New York Times Crosswords (cannot WAIT to dig into those babies!).

Every Bookstore Needs a Resident Kitty

After leaving the shoe store, while strolling past a statue of a ship's captain, we had a surprise. The statue came to life, nearly scaring the pee out of me. The guy -as well as his little Collared Dove were very good at flash-freezing themselves.

Stoic Old Salts of Harbor Oregon

Had fun doing girlie stuff Inez, shopping and all. In the evening we enjoyed a dinner of Thai Soup (my all time favorite soup),Thai veggie rolls and chicken w/pineapple & brown rice and a movie. The movie, Cookie's Fortune is Inez's favorite and I got thought it was fun and surprising in the way things resolved. It's a Robert Altman flick (M.A.S.H., Goshford Park). It was strange seeing classical actress Liv Ulman playing a southern floozy - talk about not choosing a standard casting choice! Anyway, it was a thoroughly fun day in one of my favorite towns on the planet, not to mention my favorite Crescent City naturalist.

I love this photo of Inez. Reminds me of a commercial in which
2 little girls say of their parents, "They're so cute at that age".

Friday, April 23, 2010

Driving Up-Coast

Took a quicky 3 day mini-break, leaving a HUMONGOUS carbon footprint in my wake - sorry Earth Mother. Drove up to Crescent City to visit my friend Inez. I decided to get there by way of Redding, i.e., north on Highway 5.

Since I was passing by anyway, I stopped off for a short drive at Black Butte Lake, where I worked back in the iron-age (i.e., when I ceased ironing my clothing), circa 1979/80. I was there as a wheezie Park Ranger Assistant - my allergies all but killed me in the pollen saturated Central Valley but it was fun anyway. The first thing I saw there was an Osprey on a man-made nesting platform.

No clue if there were babies/eggs or just a little nursery planning

There were loads of Bullock's Orioles which were terribly skittish so no photos of them this time. There were far more cooperative photographic subjects though.

Discovered an interesting wildflower that you will find kinda funky but I think it's cool and will be more cool if I can research where it got it's funky name from.

Strange little flowers: Windmill Pinks, but also called Common Catchfly

Another flower with a weird name: Roundtooth Snake Lily

Further north on Highway 5 I passed some beautiful pockets of vernal pools stoked with gold wildflowers - very pretty for a normally boring stretch of highway.

Vernal Pools edge alongside HWY 50

There were also plenty of snow capped mountains and such to gawk at on.

Snow Capped Mountain on the drive up Hwy 50

Mountain view in Weaverville

I found myself on Hwy 101 mid afternoon. I swear, I'd forgotten driving north on HWY 50 instead of just cutting over to HWY 101 puts a driver north of both Arcata, Eureka and the fabulous Avenue of the Giants. That meant after hitting Hwy 101 it was just another hour north along the coast to Crescent City.

Was, needless to say, after my long day's drive, I was a bit wrung out by the time I got to Inez. She is looking good and happy in her retirment with Smokey her faithful companion kitty. Inez recently treated herself to something I can relate to: a kitchen makeover. She's tickled with her new fridge, microwave, wallpaper and such. We compared notes, on how remodels don't just feel like you got a new room, they feel like you got a while new house! Now that's some genuine non-caloric kitchen magic for you.

This is the first visit to Crescent City in which I stayed, not at the Crescent City Beach Motel, but instead stayed entirely at Inez's place. I am grateful she extended the invitation because though I love staying at the beach motel, after the drastic pay cuts all State workers got, I likely wouldn't have attempted the visit if I had to stay at the beach motel. Thanks Inez!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Anxiety - Oh Lucky Me

Woke in the witching hours, stunned. Since childhood, whenever I am freaked or worried about something I have had anxiety dreams. As a kid, those dreams were me, trying to find clothing to wear to school. But each outfit I tried on was dirty, torn or too small. Years later, with the joy of having my own set of wheels came a new sort of anxiety dream. I dreamt I had parked somewhere but could not find my car. I'd hike up hill & over dale but no car. The HORROR!

Last night I had an anxiety dream. No surprises there really. At work at an impromptu bitch session we railed on how dismal our employment is these days. There are furloughs that lift thousands of dollars our of our pockets and worse, threat of no furloughs, just a 15% permanent pay cut. These days how could anyone work for State government and not suffer anxiety dreams?

But my dream in the wee hours of this morning was different. In the dream I woke in a bed in a strange & shadowy room. There was a large & dark, cloaked menacing figure at the door - a figure growling mit ein thick Austrian accent. Panicked, I began to fumble, searching for my iPhone. Yes, damn it, I sleep with my iPhone. But I couldn't find it! I tumbled out of bed and tore through dresser drawer after dresser drawer, desk and closet, frantically seeking my dear, my darling iPhone, to no avail. Oh the ungodly AGONY!

So, for what it's worth, I must embrace a new sort of anxiety dream for my anxiety dreams and nightmares: the missing iPhone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Weekend Quest

After numerous post-ponements due to snow, this past weekend, Don and I searched, yet again, for the magical, mystery bird of our dreams - the Pinyon Jay.

Needless to say, the Pinyon Jays of Markleeville once again skunked us, by remaining hidden, leading us to ponder whether the things exist in the first place - we have our doubts.

We did however see some other cooperative, lovely, much sweeter birds than any nasty old Pinyon Jays.

Cooperative, Ever Friendly & Approachable Band-tailed Pigeons
Funny, Sweet and Loud Clark's Nutcracker
After futile searching around the Markleeville area, we headed back for Fair Oaks, as the storm clouds rolled in. On our way, Don gave the birder's secret code for stopping the car: "STOP THE EFFING CAR!"

I pulled over to the road shoulder, seeing only a polkadot on a snowy bank by a small creek.

Note: See dark spot on snowy bank - close-up below

I eventually noticed, the little speck was feasting on a fish - a beautiful Bald Eagle!

Proud, Stoic National Symbol that Allows Sighting by All,
Regardless of Birding Life List Status: The American Bald Eagle

The chocolate brown and white eagle stood on it's sushi dinner, a freshly caught fish, eagerly eviserating its supper. We watched it for quite a while until snagging up it's prey by the talon, the eagle sailed off into the nearby forest. Wow. Am always thrilled to see a Bald Eagle in my home state. Viewing an Eagle on a white snowy slope was a wonderful treat. Who needs to see stinky Pinyon Jays when there are noble eagles to gawk at?
After we got back to my house, we were still in birding mode so at sunset we drove along Meiss Road, not far from my house. On the primative dirt road we spotted loads of bright wildflowers and a PoorWill that flitted up in front of the car. The following pair of photos are not mine - I couldn't photograph the Poorwill or Owl in the dark.

Poorwill [Photo nicked off internet]

Later we saw a cute little Burrowing Owl that flitted about, hunting moths and other night time insects. I wish I had photos of them, but these will have to do.

The only time I have ever seen a Burrowing Owl after dark
[Photo nicked off internet]

At one point Don called out for me to stop the car, and I didn't exactly stop on a dime - he got out and told me I ran over something. I actually thought he was joking. I got out for look-see and there was a eensy. partially flattened, baby gopher. I felt bad running over the poor thing - even though squished, it was still kind of cute.

On Sunday morning the weather had changed from 'iffy' to ' impending rain'. We headed to the Keiffer landfill area where Rough-legged hawks and Tri-colored blackbirds did not show up on demand, apparently being in cahoots with Pinyon Jays. Undaunted, we drove to the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area which was flush with numerous waterfowl and shorebirds.

White-faced Ibis

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

The greatest treat was a massive flight of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in a flock that also contained Red-winged and Tri-color Winged Blackbirds.

So all in all, it was a good weekend's birding, even though we didn't catch even a glimpse of those Pinyon Jays, which we don't really care about seeing anyway. I'm going to my room now, to pout.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mystery Solved

OK, I admit; I spoil my chickens. I have fed them pricy mealworms since they were eensie chicks. They are so freakn' cute when in a feeding frensy. A month ago I went to the fridge to fetch the girls a nice wormy treat. Mealworms are stored in the cold to slow down their growth and keep them 'fresh', because that's what you want - 'fresh vermin. Anyhow, I dug around the fridge - no worms! I checked all the kitchen cabinets - no worms. Tore my car up one side, down the other - no flippin' worms!

Where was that tub-o-worms? Did they crawl away? I tore the house up and did that annoying thing where you re-visit and dig through the same place over and over. I kept getting the same damned results - no flippin' worms! Decided I must have left them on the counter at the Wild Bird store where I bought the nasty little creepies. Oh well; color me bummed.

Flash forward to today. Got home from work, paused at the back door. What did my eyes lit upon on a pile of garage clutter? A plastic wrapped BIG TUB O' WORMS! A month old big ole tub o worms... eeep...

I have dealt with meal worms since I was a po' chile in the Bronx, feeding my pet anole lizards and slider turtles. But enough with the history lessons, I now recall putting the worm tub down - just for a second - when unlocking the door into the house, only in the second, I forgot to pick the tub back up again. DUH! Enough browbeating myself. After finding the tub, my first thought: what the HELL happens to a tub o' worms, left for a month in a garage of wildly fluctuating temperatures? On opening the lid, would super-sized cycloptic black beetles leap up and EAT MY FACE. *shudders*

Went into the back yard and 'released the girls' from their chicken run. Screwing up my courage, I held my breath and opened the tub o' worms to find...

MEAL WORMS, all alive, alive-o

Worms, wriggling and writhing and looking in no way stressed - I'm talking mellow worms! As one might expect, the tub had loads of creepy shed skins. I poured out some of the 'survivors' for the girls - who having each laid an egg today deserved goodies. The hens went bonkers, predatory as feathery tigers, wolfing down the gigantic worms. Last I looked out the window, my poor little hens were lying around on their backs like lions after a kill (OK, maybe they weren't but I know they would have liked to lie on their backs if their tails didn't get in the way).

This unfortunate worm incident is not so unfortunate really. Now I know that 'Jumbo' mealworms are only ensie mealworms that sat around for a month. I decided quite a while back to stop buying worms and to just grow them for myself, and I guess now I have a shite-load of HUMONGOUS worms, now is as good a time as any, wouldn't you say?

Normal sized ensie mealworms

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Management is Thrilled

Oh joy of joys! The evil 'new' blog editor was finally removed and replaced with the dear, sweet, on-the-money so-called 'old' blog editor. No longer do photo captions fly to the bottom of the post, causing Ms. Miller to pull out what is left of her hair. The temporarily deleted posts may now be posted as Miss Miller finds the time. Indeed, even the mysterious North Carolina trip will be back-posted in the on-coming fortnight. Management could just pee from the excitement.

Stay tuned.