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Baltimore by the Sea

Monday, February 28, 2011

Down in Monterey

As Winnie the Pooh once said, 'it's more friendly with two'. So when I found out I was in for a week's training/conference in Monterey, I asked my long time best buddy Joann up to spend the week with me in Monterey.

So bright and early this Monday morn, I picked Joann up at the Sacramento airport. We headed south for Monterey. Along the way, we made a stop or two. At Santa Nella we stocked up on licorice, a necessity for the traveling woman, second only to chocolate. Later as we drove over the Panoche Pass I was agog at how the usually only damp San Luiz Rey Reservoir was full of water. It didn't show the usual dry 'bathtub ring' it's had after what seems to me decades of dry weather. Water in the reservoir reaches right up to the green grass covering the low hills.

High Waters at the Reservoir!

Our next stop was for more hard core licorice at 'Casa De Las Fruitas' a locally famous freeway stop. It is family friendly and features cute little stores at which you can find shops specializing in fresh fruit, candies and other sweets and even chachkies for the garden. There is a double-decker merry-go-round and a tiny steam engine that ferries kids and their parents around.

Casa De Fruitas' double decker Merry-go-Round

An hour or so later, we rounded a bend on Highway 1, and there we found ourselves looking at the Pacific Ocean and the entirety of the Monterey Coastline.

First look at Monterey Bay from Hwy 1

When we arrived in the heart of Monterey, we buzzed around and found the Hyatt, our home for the week. I immediately took off for my conference, for which I was too late to join in at the fancy opening reception & luncheon. But when at last I was done with the day's work related activities, I grabbed Joann. We were off for a late lunch/early dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. Got nice window seat and our v. friendly waiter offered to take our portrait for the memories.

Getting ready to dig into our halibut fish n' chips

I love meals at restaurants on the Wharf. You can look down on the water and see what the sea breeze has blown close to shore. Sometimes there are Sea Otters, always there are cormorants but today there was a nice loon doing some sight seeing of its own.

Nice little Common Loon floating by

After our early dinner, we drove down Cannery Row, at the end of which is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Being after 5 PM, we discovered the aquarium was closed for the day, so we'll have to visit the fishies later this week.

Straight shot down Cannery Row

We had a fantastic day for sight seeing. The ocean changes it's looks from one hour to the next but we managed to hit a day when the ocean was sky blue and the ocean water seemed relatively quiet.

Rugged Rocks and Tide Pools line the Bay

Torch plant formed a nice frame for Joann's shot here

The coast is littered with white, grey and black living sausages, commonly known as Harbor Seals. We cracked up because the pair below would lie quietly, then suddenly come alive, fins flapping wildly as they attempted to 'bitch slap' each other. Only thing was, they were too lazy to lean forward to make flipper to face contact, so their flippers waved frantically, uneffectively in the air; a totally seal riot, I can tell you.

Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap!

Joann was our trip photographer because I didn't bring my camera. She did a bang up job too, I can tell you. She was particularly taken with the ocean spray over coastal rocks.

Every ten feet a new view

Before I knew it, following the winding coast road, I found myself shooting at some 40 mph past a kiosk. A guard came running out, arms waving and I decided I ought to stop... you think? Seems we were about to enter what is known as the '17 Mile Drive'. It is a private stretch of road that traverses the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and to my horror, costs $9.50 to enjoy! I was going to turn back but Joann coughed up the cash, figuring hell, we came this far, may as well go for the whole enchilada.

The ocean looked not one jot prettier than the free stretch we'd just driven, but I must admit, the landscaping was pretty spectacular and it did come with a map and write up of the roadside attractions. There are homes through Pebble Beach are of Sunset Magazine quality. Joann and I couldn't stop laughing as we leaned our ears out the car window to better hear the property values falling as the riff-raff - that would be us, drove by.

Oh dear... who let those sorts in?!

Among the lush landscaping were loads of Mule Deer... mules in hoity toity land? Anyway, I was tickled with them and I nabbed Joann's Nikon camera for a shot or two of my own - all critters of course.

Mule Deer Thoroughbreds

As we drove past one patch of golf course, I got excited and shouted, "Coyotes!" I snatched Joann's camera again and we both leaned, with excitement, towards the critters - and realized, I was photographing painted, "see-ment" coy-otes.

Were they live, or were they Memorex?

Those replica canids got a big laugh. Pretty hammy for 'see-ment' critters.

Twilight closes in on the bay

Windblown coastal trees

The strange Monterey Cypress look spooky
enough for flying monkeys to perch on

The sunset ignited all the rocks and trees along the shoreline

Pretty soon it was sunset and we headed back to town for some more yakkin' and a bit of lite reading.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That Which is Lost, is Found Again!

Nothing like a cause for minor celebration. Once upon a time, long ago (2005), far away (Marsh adjacent to San Francisco International Airport), Don took me to a little marsh where we went through the usual routine:

Don: Let's walk the trail and see what's here.

Claire: WAH! I don't want to walk!

Don marched off. Whining, I followed. As we walked I began to have fun and wonder why we hadn't gone walking sooner. Like I said, the usual routine.

The marsh was at low tide and lo! A California Clapper Rail waltzed out of the reeds. It was quite far away, but I took photos which, were ghastly as usual, but were better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I lost the photos. I thought I lost them when my computer was stolen ages ago. Today, while piddling around with my computer, I discovered I have not lost all of my Clapper Rail photos! Mind, I think the original set of photos numbered around 2 or 3 b'jillion, but at least I have retained these two photos below. Rejoices! The Clap is back! That didn't come out right, did it?

Tada! California Clapper Rail

Photos found - me so happy!

As I recall the rails were NOISY the day we were there

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Little Saturday Morning Birding

There is nothing I love more than sleeping in on Saturday mornings, sometimes as late as 6:30, 7 AM. I know, I know, but my normal wake up time is 5:30 AM so 7:00 is sleeping in. Still, this morning I was up at the crack of the first sparrow's fart, and off to bird at Jerri Langham's backyard 'pit'. I've birded there before, and today there was a special guest I was anxious to meet and photograph - a lovely immature Harris Sparrow.

Teen-aged Harris Sparrow at Breakfast in the 'Pit'

For a western birder, this species, I've only ever seen in the eastern half of the country, is AWESOME!

Ok, Ok, these days every other thing is 'awesome', but honestly - this is one outstanding sparrow. It was probably a few hundred feet down from where Jerri, and several other happy birders, including myself, sat comfortably in swivel lawn chairs. Even my 400 mm camera had trouble getting any sharp photos, but hell, the photos I got of the bird are better than a sharp poke in the eye.

Love it's fawn coloring

There was another sparrow that popped up, much closer, at maybe 15 feet away from where I sat, a Lincoln Sparrow. I've never had any photo opts with that species so I'm thrilled to present - my first ever Lincoln Sparrow photos!

Lincoln Sparrow - not as plain as it looks

Lincoln gives its Bird-of-Paradise impression

There were loads of birds for us to sit and watch. Just overhead several White-tailed kites swooped, dove, dusted off their 'go a court'n feathers and put on a show.

White-tailed Kite presented overhead entertainment

A nice pair of Tree Swallows that will likely be setting up house in one of the nesting boxes along side the 'pit'.

Future Parents of a nestful of Tree Swallow chicks

After an hour or two, Dr. Lang grabbed his spotting scope and we took a short hike along the river for a quick look at his nesting boxes, where annually dozens of pairs of titmice, Tree Swallows, White-breasted Nuthatches, Common Mergansers, Wood Ducks and other hopeful pairs, bring up their broods. This Nuttall's Woodpecker was cruising through the riparian habitat and stopped for a quick Claire photo of dubious quality.

Nuttall's Woodpecker - it's there! Look.

One of the usual birds on the water way was this Spotted Sandpiper in winter plumage, ergo, unspotted just now. I noticed it because it bobs it's tail up and down like it's conducting the philharmonic.

Ensie little Spotted Sandpiper

After the walk about, we returned to our easy chairs over the pit, which is a low cliff which Jerri spreads with a bird feast of seeds. The buffet attracts California Quail, White and Golden Crowned Sparrows, California & Spotted Towhees, Morning Doves and the odd Cottontail rabbit. There are blueberry brambles too, in which I had a nice viewing (but a crap photograph) of a Bewick's Wren. Great way to spend a morning. Will have to get out there again sometime soon.

Friday, February 04, 2011


Today is the first day of The Year of the Rabbit, part of the Chinese zodiak. Here’s what that means to get born in a rabbit year, as I did. You are supposed to be: Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, lucky, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.

Stubborn, right, but how did elegant get in there? Must be in reference to real rabbits. Taking all of the above with a grain of salt, this ought to be a great year for everyone, particularly rabbits. It must, in any case, be better than this past year – or come to that, better than this past week was for me.

I have committed one stupid act after another. I don’t know if I’ve just passed over the edge of early senililty or if I’m so bummed by various aspects of my life that I can’t get a grip. After all, my last post was about the miraculous return of a missing chunk of cash.

This week’s adventure are amazing. I violet crystal thingamabob, a sort of good luck charm. I often carry it in a pocket. When I hung my slacks up one night, I could hear the crystal fall to the closet floor. Searched – you guessed it – no damned crystal. So, for a week I kept searching the closet floor, over and over again. Finally I emptied the closet floor – which was in dire need of dusting anyway – and sure enough – no crystal.

For those who read my last blog post – no, the crystal is NOT in my mouth.

Mind mind boggling puzzles do not stop with the crystal. Two nights ago, I was getting ready for the next morning, a work day. I brewed a pot of coffee and looked around for my thermos so I could have it ready to fill next day. I could see the thermos stopper and lid in the sink, but no thermos. I checked around the kitchen – no thermos. I expanded my search to the living room and even my bedroom – where I assure you my thermos seldom goes – no damned thermos. So I went to bed that night, puzzled over what happened to it. Next morning I repeated my search – no thermos.

That night I got home from work, and went into the kitchen. There, on the ledge behind the sink, not whistling an innocent tune, yet miraculously reeking of sass, was the thermos. I gasped. Hadn’t I looked there like 50 times over the past 24 hours? Apparently not.

Seems I may have lost what remains of my mind.

So today I was at work, and a tad annoyed. I love wearing shoes with sheepskin lining – although the experts warn against such – bite me experts! Anyway, my unstocking feet felt funny – uncomfortable, as if I were walking barefoot on pebbles. Finally I broke down and removed my right shoe and cleaned it of its odd scattering of flotsam and jetsam. Then I moved on to my left shoe – damned uncomfortable I tell you. I shook it, and out fell a certain violet crystal that
evaded me at the bottom of my closet. Bugger!

Geez Louise... The oncoming year of the bun-bun had better hold better things for me than just finding things I keep losing that are hidden in plain sight!