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Sunday, September 26, 2010

All the Way Home

Double drat the end of another mini-break. Oh well! For our last hurrah, we ran one last run after Pinyon Jays - a bust. Then before we left, we visited the Mono Lake Visitor Center, which is under reconstruction.

Click here, and look carefully to see the photographer, i.e., 'moi'

The center had a very pretty mobile of Wilson's Phalaropes that I was taken with.

Phalarope Mobile

There was also a nice exhibit on the peculiarities of the saline Mono Lake, and a display giving an idea on how the Paiutes of Mono Lake once lived before settlers moved in and blew the party.

Summer homes for the Paiutes were temporary shelters

Mono Lake Paiute Indian Basketry

The area I've seen around Mono Lake is beautiful, with loads of wildlife in the nearby Aspen groves, pine forests, and the beauty of majestic looking extinct volcanos. I think it must have been a paradise for the Paiutes.

We didn't begin to scale the Tioga Pass until nearly 11 AM. I always get a thrill from entering Yosemite National Park, in particular it's high alpine meadows that Tioga Pass meanders through.

Entering Yosemite via Tioga Pass

Granite slopes line the eastern most stretches along Tioga Pass

Don enjoying a sky show of Red-tail vs. Golden Eagle

We didn't have too much time to spare, needing to make it back to Sacramento, but we did stop in a couple of spots. Don went searching while I lazily sat back and enjoyed the scenery. The best bird we saw in the area were Williamson's Sapsuckers.

Toulomne Meadow

How is this for idyllic?

Half Dome looms in the distance

Angelwing Zephyr poising on my sideview mirror
may have been a bit larger than it appeared

Astonishingly enough, after exiting Yosemite at one of the northern-most gateways, and then driving for hours along Highway 49, passing the old gold country towns of Angel's Camp and San Andreas, we didn't have enough birding under our belts. So after making nearly all the way back to my home, we stopped at twilight to bird along Meiss Road - the country lanes where I love to go hunting for wildflowers in the spring. We looked for Common Nighthawks but instead found several Great Horned Owls. We watched one such owl catch a nice fat meadow vole for its dinner. I enjoyed watching at least a dozen voles racing around under a shrub. It was too dark to photograph the little clowns, but some time this fall I hope to return there with my night vision camcorder; another mini-break for another time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Jay Hunt Continues - Mono Lake

Shores of alkaline Mono Lake


When my birding buddy Don heard from a friend, that Pinyon Jays were found at a little spot near Mono Lake, he called me. No questions asked, I packed up my duffel bag and grabbed the spotting scope. If someone managed to find Pinyon Jays, we for damned sure were going to find the feathered f*ckers too! So, on Friday morning at the first sparrow's fart, Don left the Bay area for my place, and soon enough we were headed for my first trip to Mono Lake.

We drove past Markleeville where already, twice this past year, we unsuccessfully sought Pinyon Jays. By midafternoon we were setting up a Spartan camp amid the Aspen and Ponderosa Pines at Lundy Lake, a quiet little Forest Service campground near Mono Lake.

Don set up the tents, I, always ready to pitch in, pretended to help


This was the second time this summer I camped. I learned that I am willing to camp out IF my two needs are met – NO, not that kind of need you sick puppy – I refer to having a cot, so getting up at 3AM is an elegant, rather than ugly event. My second concession is an outhouse no more than 50 yards of my tent. That's reasonable. No on enjoys fumbling in the manzanita scrub trying for a pee while mosquitoes dine on the shiny orb that is one’s ‘bum’.

i mean having a cot, so I don’t have to sleep on the ground. Getting up off the ground is do-able, but is rather a pain-in-the-arse . If you think it’s easy? Well then strap a 50lb sack of flour to your chest and a second one to your arse, then try rising from a prone position at 3 AM when hunting down a private spot for a pee, in while in close proximity to my female bits, one can hear the wee sniggerings of wild raccoons and field mice.

County Park's boardwalk to the Waterfront


Where was I? Right. So, soon we were birding at county park at Mono lake. I was a bit whiney – as per usual, still, I took the infinitesimally short hike down a wooden boardwalk to the lake front. I shot photos most steps of the way there. There were loads of little & big things to ponder on....

A HUMONGOUS mushroom - a little thing really...


A color coded fuzzy wuzzy caterpillar - even smaller


The caterpillar crawled on a willow tree. Later I looked it up: the fuzzy bugger will eventually morph into a Spotted Tussock Moth.

I found a currant bush, chock full of berries. I decided to not eat any – it’s been too long since I took horticulture 101 and didn't want to spend the afternoon in some Mono County ICU.

A shrub all full with beautiful red currents


There! Not much, but still worth a slovenly hike down to the lake front where I saw… Tufa (Too-Fa) and water birds I didn’t bother to photograph: California gulls, American Avocets, Least Sandpipers, Eared Grebes and such.

A HUMONGOUS bit for thought - a mushroom shaped Tufa Tower


Calcium Carbonate structures, strewn about the lake front


Needless to say, while I lolly gaged about, Don was hiking up hill over dale in search of birds. But I can say my laziness paid off and a species I've only seen once before flew in to see me: a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

A Red-breasted Sapsucker - a rather lack-luster shot


Later on we visited a beautiful spot where ancient volcanoes erupted eons ago, leaving the strange site of pine trees growing up like a Piney Phoenix out of ashes.


Strange sight - pine trees set in ash

Ancient Volcano surrounded by ashy pine woodland


The volcanic ash area is where Don's friend spotted a pine tree full of screaming Pinyon Jays. No doubt the birds had screamed "CATCH US IF YOU CAN!"

On Saturday morning we again visited Mono Lake, at a different access point and I was tickled to find several Green-tailed Towhees. One towhee posed for me quite prettily and I took loads of pictures of the rusty topped, white-throated cutie.

Green-tailed Towhee


We took the time to visit a little coffee shop in the tiny town of Lee Vining. There I called my sister, then 20 minutes later as we drove south, I realized I didn't have my one year old iPhone with me. I wanted to shoot myself, and alas, the missing iPhone is a sad story, for another time.

Scenery south toward Big Pine


Now here's the thing; as we drove along the freeway approaching Big Pine, we spotted a flock of perhaps 50 birds, winging it past Pinyon Pines and grassland. Yes. We too think the feathered ones were Pinyon Jays. Sadly, as the species were potential lifers for both Don and myself, we could only see them and weep - for a better viewing. We weren't counting fly bys. Later on as we drove upward through hills covered with Pinyon Pine and on upward to the alpine and Bristlecone forest, I spotted a second flock of Pinyon Jays, flapping away from us as quickly as their little wings could paddle through mountain air. Bugger.

Still, happily, Don got a lifer bird - the Juniper Titmouse - so the long drive wasn't a waste.

Visitor Center at Bristle Cone Forest Summit


Bristle Cone Tree


View at Bristlecone Pine Summit


Late on both Friday and Saturday, we searched along the Mono lake shores for another bird - not a lifer, but a favorite - the Poorwill. We found one - the only one I've seen this year. Poorwills are adorable, cryptically feathered birds, fond of sitting on roads, where their eyes shine bright in car headlights. If you spook the little buggers, they fly straight up, like feathery ghosts. That's what the one we saw did. Must visit the area again next year - maybe I can find my first Rosey Finch - another 'ever elusive' little bugger.

Poorwill - photo by Steve Messick

We drove the same road the previous night and found no Poorwill, but we managed to scare the crap out of a Sage Thrasher on the road, that apparently wasn't quite ready for bed yet.

A dayroaming Sage Thrasher


Ah well! Two days, loads of fly-by Pinyon Jays, but none for close scrutany. Perhaps Pinyon Jays are like fairies and can only be approached by the pure of heart or those with dumb luck to spare. Hum... well, my heart is not exactly pure, but it is uncomplicated...

Monday, September 20, 2010

MOTH INVASION!

Moths - in the kitchen, in the living room. Fluttering alongside my bed, and dashing themselves into any standing water in the kitchen, whether the standing water is water, soup or ale. Somewhere in the house I knew there must be a festering cesspool of oats, flour or such, chock full of damned pantry moths. Moths laying eggs, hatching from effing cocoons and doing the dirty in a barley bin, which can only lead to more effing moths.

A few weeks ago I had a short fly infestation of the Amityville Horror sort, but they were only around a few days - whatever died in the attic must have been teeny tiny. But these effing moths - everywhere... abso-effing-lutely everywhere.

I'm no knucklehead, I know where there are moths, there is something the damned things are feeding on. I couldn't bring myself to dig into the pantry. I mean, my pantry is new; everything in it is double wrapped or mason jared. How could there be effing moths in any of my pantry goods? I just couldn't look. COWARD!

When I came home from work tonight I was not greeted by my cat, or loved ones, I was greeted by a flight of moths. Ugh! They seemed to be predominant in a corner by the bookcase of all places... then I saw it. Two large, sealed paper bags of bird seed. The bird seed mix has sat there, waiting for me to put it outside for ages now. The last time I looked at the bags they were pristine, brown papered, satiny. But tonight the bags were gruesome - drilled with hundreds of tiny holes, coated with dozens and dozens of eensie cottony masses - SOURCE OF INFESTATION FOUND!

So now the maggoty bird seed bags are in the trash bin in my garage - so are about a thousand b'jillion moth eggs I'd guess. Will probably take a few months for me to ferret out and kill moths remaining in the house.

Note to Self: In future, put all birdseed into sealed containers. Better yet, freeze the seed, to kill anything in them, and then put in sealed containers.

Oh well. Could have been worse. This could have been a tale about bed bugs. UGH!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Special Announcment...


Ok, this is just too much! I've been slowly, I mean achingly slowly, posting my first week of August, at the expense of not posting more current events. So! I have made an executive decision of the sort only the QUEEN of KERFLUFFLE can make:

I am hereby posting current stuff and long-past stuff at the same time. So, if you want to see the latest, no worries it will be here. If you want to see past happenings, you'll just have to hit 'older' at the bottom of the page and use this blog's 'Wayback Machine' engines.

SHE HAS SPOKEN!

Friday, September 17, 2010

EGG-CITING EVENING!

HURRAH! Had lovely evening with the two Terry's who came to my house for a night of Pizza and a movie. The movie was Temple Grandin, an HBO movie I got on Netflix and invited the Terry's to view with me.

You see, ages ago Terry1 loaned me one of Temple Grandin's books, which I devoured and enjoyed immensely. The book is on animal behavoior & Temple's unique insight into it by means of her Autism. Through Temple's book, I learned people - like my little Nephew Marion - live in a world of sensory overload, which might just give them a unique perspective on life. Interesting stuff I tell you! Anyway, the movie just came out on DVD and I couldn't wait to share it with the Terrys. The movie was amazing. In the book Temple made her work with cattle and such seem like it was a cake-walk, but the movie showed she really had to 'pay her dues' being a woman scientist in a male-chavenist-cowboy-pricks world. You have got to see the movie, it's not only entertaining, but it's awe inspiring and full of insight into original genius & Autism.

Now, as the Terry's visit occured in the evening so of course, dinner was in order. I served up the 'Lazy Hostess's' standard: do your own mini-pizza. All I had to do was provide mini-pizza crusts & sause, along with a variety of toppings, including cheeses, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms & such. Worked out great, each of us making and devouring our own mini-pizza. There was casava melon for dessert but we were actually all too full so for once, we skipped dessert - I can assure you that was a first for 'moi'.

Din-din is served!

But there is more news! I celebrated a birthday last week, and the Terrys brought me a terrific & unique present I just adore! A bitchn' cool hat! Here I am, in a rare blog appearance, showing off my new topper, including its bank of five lazer lights.

Oh-so-happy-me

Terry2 makes slight adjustment to lazer bank

Here are the Terry's styling their EggHunter hats below. Thank you Terrys!

Say CHEESE-Y pizza!

Terry2 found some neat chef sort of hats, and then branded them - through use of self designed, iron-on labeling with the never-before-seen-on-a-clever-hat title: EGGHUNTERS. Is that bitchn' cool or WHAT? And she put a little deck of 5 lazer lights on each hat brim so the hats double as headlights!

I was bowled over! Terry2 is a designer after my own heart. She not only made the designer hats, but she even did something I LOVE to do when making presents - she made a descriptive packaging sheet. Too cool! Here's a sample of the sheet...
  • Should an emergency situtation occur, simply click to blink your rescuers to your exact location. Have fun. Be safe. And wear your EggHunter tactical gear proudly!
And how could I not? The lights can burn steady or blink for emergencies. Too flippin' cool and the best B-day present I've had in ages, and I was spoiled this year on the birthday front - getting loads of cards from loving friends/relatives I hardly even deserve. No really! I am unworthy!


The evening began with a celebration of our nifty new hats and then we trooped into the back yard to visit the hens (the girls). The hat boldly lit our way and I can see I am going to get a lot of useful service from my new hat, lighting my way as I put the girls to bed, and hunt out their eggs on dark winter nights.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fun Birthday Week

Hurrah! Ms Barbara was kind enough to brave the freeways to come stay with me for a whole week, which included my birthday weekend. The goal was keeping me company and that Barbara did in spades. What did we do? Uh... well, we only ventured out once, to shop for groceries and a visit with the Old Fair Oaks chickens one time. The remainder of the visit we just sat around chatting, watching TV and or/... chatting. Hey, that's what we do best!

Mind, Barbara brought loads of Barbara homework with her. She cleaned out & backed up a couple of her laptops she brought with her. She also did some Bio-feedback work on me, which I appreciate. My former Bio-feedback lady left Grass Valley & now resides, in the wilds of Montana/Wyoming out of reach of 'moi' (boo-hoo!).

Most amazing is we only ate out once the entire visit, that being a trip to Fresh Choice on Barbara's first night here. After that we actually cooked (can you believe it? COOKED!) or perhaps what we did more of was bake; pumpkin muffins (attempted twice, both times left out one or two ingredients, you know, like the sugar...) and these lovely quiches, or 'egg pie' as known at Barbara's male dominated abode back in Castroville.

Summer Squash/Baby Bella Mushroom Quiche

Cheddar/Ham Quiches in Baby Ramikins

It was loads of fun having company for such a time. Barbara, knowing how neuvo-impoverished I am, actually chipped in on groceries and such so there was no hardship at all on my wallet. In short, we ate like the Royalty; we, the Princesses of Leisure!