Featured Post

The Train to Zagreb

Huge and modern Prague Train Station For the second time this trip, we caught a train. This time we headed for Zagreb in Croatia.  W...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Once Upon a Morning Dreary...

I handle the money for the 10th floor water club at my office. So when the monthly bill came due I paid it on line, then went into the lockable cabinet to reimburse myself of the money I paid the bill with. No worries! Took out club cash, pulled out $50. I next picked up the envelope to put it, and the remaining cash back into storage - only, no cash was in the envelope. Nonplussed, I picked up the loose paperwork on my desk, but the money was not under any of the piles. Perhaps I dropped the loot? I looked under my desk, but NO MONEY.

What the hell! I turned around, looking by my computer, under the keyboard, back in the cash envelope (looked there several times and somehow the money did not materialize), under the little trash bin, IN the little trash bin. Results the same -NO CASH.

Now I was freaking. How could over $100 just disappear and I hadn't even left my desk! I got up and looked in the lockable cabinet but, as expected, no cash there.

Ok Now I was buggin' (much worse than freaking you know...). Without the benefit of having left my desk I managed to lose a shite load of cash! What is WRONG with me I wondered. Is some angel with a vile sense of humour torturing me? WHERE IS THE FREAKIN' MONEY, ARRRGGGGHHHH!

Then, on impulse, I looked up. This is what I saw...

Click Here

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Mini-break Day Three at Wilder Ranch

Wilder Ranch State Park

Having success seeing vagrant Brown Shrike yesterday, day three we beelined to Santa Cruz. I wanted to see another at large birdie, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. For its own personal reasons, the southwestern semi-tropical bird decided to spend a lovely winter vacation at Wilder Ranch State Park. It seems the choice vacation spots for vagrants this year is on the coast by California's more secluded beaches. Good going birdies!

One of the Ranch's Farmhouses

We got there 10:30-ish and started after our quarry. Unfortunately the bird was conspicuously un-present. Bummed, and hoping the bird would have pity and return at a later time, Don took a walk down to the beach, while I took my time touring the old timey western farm. The first thing I learned is that the California Budget Cuts hit EVERYTHING. The visitor center was closed.

Greeting inside the closed Visitor Center

Happily the rest of the Ranch was open. I started my tour at the Stable.

The Stable

Lovely old fashioned Stalls

One stable was occupied by a nice old ewe that seemed comfortable and pleased to have a visitor.

Martha My Dear

Found myself feeling sorry for the park staff who probably tired of answering endless questions about a sweet old ewe in one of the stalls.

Chill out, She's FINE!

There was a lovely old goat milking platform and I saw just outside there were in fact, some sizeable nannies to milk.

Other Wilder Ranch Residents

Kitty-corner there was a quite long Carriage House. The doors were open so I went in for a look around.

Inside the Carriage House

There were slats serving as windows on the long building - quite scenic. One window gave a nice view of a large bull on a hillside, while another window opened over a running riverlet. Juvenile Golden-crowned Sparrows tumbled in and out of the shrubs above the gently flowing water.

Look through the Carriage House wall

There were loads of old timey farm equipment in the Carriage House and a couple of petite, upholstered buggies with large and dusty painted wheels. I couldn't help but wish I had a shot a driving one of them, behind a pair of smartly harnessed Morgan Horses.

Beautiful old buggy

Ancient outbuilding

Now THAT'S a Chicken Coop!

Old equipment storage shed

As frigid as the weather's been of late, I was amazed to find a raggedy looking Red Admiral Butterfly skittering about - a hearty little soul!

"Ratty the Flutterby

Disapointed, but still hopeful about seeing the Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Don and I went drove into Santa Cruz for a quick lunch, then drove back to the Ranch. The Dusky-capped Warbler was still conspiculously abscent. Bugger. Here's a lovely photo by a birder who did see it and managed a beautifully sharp photo (as opposed to my standard blurry shots).

The Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Brilliant Photo by Ron Wolf

The remainder of the day we checked out various spots along the coast and even checked out a spot in Santa Cruz where another excellent bird, a Rock Sandpiper was also a no-show. Some days I wish I had a different hobby, I can tell you. Anyway, we made it back to Don's after dark where there was just enough time for me enjoy one Hot Buttered Rum before I drove home.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

First Birdy Mini-Break of 2011, Days 1 & 2

Special alert! Way back in mid November, a Beautiful vagrant Siberian birdie, a Brown Shrike was discovered inhabiting scrublands between two ponds at Clam Cove in McKinleyville just off Highway 101. As bird is willing to sit politely while birders come from around the country to view it, I figure, why can't I see it too? What a great occasion for my first mini break of 2011. Must speak to birding buddy Don.

Day One

6:00 AM - Felt wonderful! Decided to do all the day's driving myself. Hit the road for East Palo Alto to pick up Don, who also having planned to see exotic Brown Shrike was equally gung ho for traveling to see the stunning bird.

9:15 AM - Hit Starbucks, then hit the road. Feeling cheery, doing the driving myself was the right decision all right. What a great day! At Clam Cove we would sally forth on pleasant stroll to see beautiful bird, best known for adorable habit of skewering birds or insects smaller than itself on thorns or barbed wire. Shrikes are the Hannibal Lecter of the bird world.

4:30 PM - Arrived at Clam Cove under overcast and brooding skies - about a half mile or so from angry looking Pacific Ocean. Don had instructions for getting to location of our target bird: Park in south part of parking lot and go through fence, go north along trail, turn left, walk to area between two ponds.

Don quickly strode off with long strides & disappearing down the trail to the beach. Comparing Don's energy levels and walking ability to mine is like comparing a trail worthy Arab stallion with a very fat, stiff leggedy moo cow (the cow would be 'moi'). Assumed Don would be down on beach viewing bird while I'm still struggling though the fence wire.

I felt like crap, stumbling listlessly down the path, I swore oaths aimed at bastard birders who NEVER adequately describe walking conditions necessary for viewing of vagrant birds. If bird viewing required crossing tight wire strung over active volcano caldera, instructions would like read, "Short straight, slightly warm walk to view bird".

At bottom of hill discovered HUMONGOUS mound of sand. Traversed sand-of-death, only to discover landmine field of open pits, strewn with sharp rocks. Sweating and swearing, I stopped, exhausted. I looked up at the dim sky, actively being sucked of the light as I watched. I envisioned a dreadful return walk, myself falling into one of the sandy rock pits. Imagined my brains, strewn festively over the rock-bed. Stupid, effing bird! Whose idea was seeing the bloodsucking feathered fiend anyway? My idea. Right. What was I thinking?

I crawled along the trail. Walk. Stop. Pant. Walk. Stop. Pant. Periodically, I listlessly looked toward the north pond as I traversed past. Blackbirds called there and and a couple of well appreciated Ring-necked Ducks swam; appreciated because if they weren't there, I would only have blackbirds and American Coots to distract me. That would be somewhat annoying both species can be seen near my home without driving for 9 hours. Sucking up the last of my energy, I climbed along a sandy cliff, over a bramble of shrubs. The path was path barely wide enough for two parallel human foot prints. To entertain myself I increased the bitterness of my swearing, concluding the mothers of the birders who give crap directions to see vagrants have mothers who cohabitate with randy Capercallies. Anyone who didn't like my conclusions can go suck a Dovekie.

Stumbling over the last bit of brush into the area between the two ponds, I spotted Don, patiently waiting for me to catch up. He couldn't find the Brown Shrike. No Brown Shite Shrike? Had I the energy, I would have thrown a tantrum. I was so tired I wanted to lie on the sand and just die. Stupid shrike. Stupid birders. Stupid me.

Day Two

Previous night I fell asleep in soft, comfy motel bed at 7:30. This morning ran into Don, enjoying a meal at continental breakfast room where I too enjoyed a hearty meal. The sun shown brightly & I decided Don can do the damned driving. I told Don I'd see him later. An hour later I sat impatiently in my room wondering what the eff Don could be doing? No doubt yaking with motel people. Annoyed beyond belief, I called him. Equally annoyed beyond belief in his own right, Don sat in his motel room, wondering where the eff I was.

Oops.

We are both rearing to hit the trail to see Brown Shrike. I decided Don could do all the $#&@ driving. We head for Clam Cove.

7:30 AM - Amazing! Hill barely inclined downward! Sand dune was no where near as deep as had seemed in the dark of the previous afternoon. Arrived at sand cliff to discover the climb bearly more than a slight up and down, and the footing not at all as tricky as previously seemed. It was almost as if I had viewed the previous day's hike through a fog of exhaustion or something. Imagine that!

Brown Shrike was alive, alert and present! Beautiful warm brown bird fluttered about in beach scrub, carrying effing humongous dead black insect the size of New York sewer rat. How cute! There are two other birder's present - one who flew out from Maine to see the bird, and who kindly set my spotting scope so I might view the Brown Shrike. The second birder had professional parabolic microphone for recording Shrike's calls for identification and prosperity.

How wonderful to see such a bitchn' cool bird! Note to self: burn gas receipts and motel bill before I realize what the eff I have done to this month's budget.

Brown Shrike at Clam Cove photo © Mary Freeman

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Last Kitty Tale

R.I.P.

Rum-Kitty
aka
'Run-Kitty'

1994 - 2011

Saturday, January 01, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! My buddy Barbara has come up for a visit and we're enjoying ourselves. Last night we watched movies and when the clock struck 12 AM we were in the back yard, shouting Happy New Year and burning sparklers. This morning we got up early and after a breakfast of herbal tea and fat-free cottage cheese, we went for an early morning hike to Sailor Bar, where we did the first calistentics of the new year.

That was the start of the new year in some alternate dimention. Here is how it all went down on Planet Earth.

Last night we struggled to stay awake until at least 8PM, watching the movie Wall Street (Thank You Kirk!). At 8:15 PM we slugged it into the back yard and we each burned a single sparkler waving them listlessly in the air, humming a merry, slightly off key, celebrational tune. We were in our beds sound asleep by 8:30. Woke this morning and decided screw any ideas of a New Year's diet. I baked fat blueberry scones, we downed most of them in one sitting with steaming cups of strong coffee. Welcome to my world - 2011!

First baking of the New Year