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St Vitus Cathedral on the Prague Castle grounds Trial by walking - that's how I'll remember today for the rest of my natural lif...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Piggies in the Middle

Field o' Shooting Stars
I drove along Highway 5 on my way to Watsonville and thought, 'might as well cut across Del Pueblo Canyon Road over to San Jose, instead of driving south to the Pacheco Pass'. I was hankering for some birds, but I didn't see more than a dozen I could have stayed home to see. There were no baby Great Horned owlets or any hawks in the nesting nooks in the sandstone cliffs. No Phainopeplas frolicking in the mistletoe along the road. There were loads of lovely wildflower though, which give me heart that this is going to be a bumper crop year for Wildflowers - whoo hoooo! It is raining and hailing - off and on as I type this. There were puddles, rivulets and ponds galore. I looked and I'm certain the vernal pools of northern California are going to put on a glorious show for 2015. The last big year for wildflowers was the year that perked my interest in them, in 2009.

Close-up of what I would call Comets or Darts
but are correctly called 'Shooting Stars'
 The only annoyance on Del Puerto is few pull-outs and everything is fenced private property. There are so few people that when I stopped to take photos out the window a driver stopped to ask if I had car trouble. Nope! My only trouble was the usual - my poor crap focusing with a 400mm lens.

Buttery 'Johnny Jump-ups'
I always think the drive from Patterson to San Jose is a scant 2 hours tops, and it always stuns me the actual time is more like 3, if not 3 and a half hours. The second half of the drive is along a road composed entirely of hairpin turns. after passing the planetarium on the summit, I saw only a small herd of does and a large flock of wild turkeys (again, no where to pull off so I could photograph them). Then, when I hit the valley floor, passing two county parks, I hit the breaks and did a 'Yellowstone U-turn' (i.e., abrupt turn for wildlife viewing) to feast my eyes on the only wild, feral pigs I have ever seen.

California Wild Pigs

The motley swine were nosing around the meadow that looked like someone had worked it over with a heavy chain. The hogs were smaller than I would have anticipated, but maybe they are only youngsters from last year? Colors varied from hog to hog. Every once in a bit a little piggie would jump up, scampering, to be joined by other piggies, seemingly just for the fun of it.

There is 'frolicking' going on here.
The Piggies came in Disney-esque assorted colors
A 'grizzly' colored piggy
I missed a photo of one of them kneeling on one knee for easier access to whatever it was eating. I might have thought driving through the Del Pueblo 'Pass' had been a waste of time, but for the wildflowers and better - the wild pigs - the drive was well worth twisting through those brain spinning hairpin curves.

Here is a minute or so of piggy action I took before the herd disappeared back into the hills. And me left humming, "♪Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, piggy in the middle...♪♪'. I dare you to guess that reference without cheating and looking it up.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Scooting for Scoter

♪'One of these things is not like the others...'♪

Hum.. was Daffy a Common Scoter,
or just another 'little black duck'
Yes, yes. When an exotic flies into my home state or near abouts, I must pursue. That said, in late January a birder photographed a 'different' looking Scoter and being sharpish, he realized he had something extraordinary little black duck; the Common Scoter. If it's common, what's the uproar? An American birding adage, is 'common' birds are the least common'. How true for this particular little black sea duck, a Common Scoter. The species was seen in North America just one time before, in Greenland. This particular Scooter is the first ever, spotted in the U.S.. 'Whoo hooo!' shrieks the birder in my soul.

As incredible good luck would have it, Don decided to take off a day early, so we headed north on Thursday. Early Friday morning found us enjoying a delish breakfast of Eggs Benedict with fresh Dungeness Crab at the Chart Room restaurant, by the Crescent City Harbor. Have always loved having breakfast at the Chart Room, binoculars at the ready, enjoying my coffee, while watching Sea Lions & waterfowl at play.

Right after breakfast we moved further along the same jetty, where literally b'jillions of Surf Scoters - an American species of Scoter - flocked. There were the occasional surprise among them, such as the little female Long-tailed duck and a White-winged Scoter.

Left to right, White-winged Scoter (jumbo sized species), Long-tailed Duck & Surf Scoter
It was somewhat daunting to look for one little black duck amid scads of other little black ducks.

GAK! We're looking for what again...?
After an hour of scanning the hundreds of Surf Scoters and company, we headed over to the main harbor up the road, I parked, looked out the window and Voila!

TADA! The much sought, miraculous to behold,
Common Scoter, in all its majesty
Ah, and behold, there was much celebrating among the birders on the pier, as duck swam and dove, granting us all, lovely views. It was quite a wonderfully lucky Friday the 13th, for the following day, opened to a spectacularly heart breaking Valentine's Day for many, for on the day of hearts, the Common Scoter was nowhere to be found. I thank the birding saints for Don having deciding to drive up a day early. Hum... that duck does rather resemble Daffy, does it not?