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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wildflower Drive

Wild Lupine on a roadside
Took a drive in the sticks today to look for interesting bird, but mostly found wildflowers. I have hoped this would be a year for wildflowers that would match the blooms of 2009. Oh well, what we got this year is better than last, and far better than the year before that, so I'm chuffed.

What I enjoy the most is when a field or hillside looks painted with color, like Mum Nature got out her paints and went nuts. There are touches of that around, such as here at Mather Field.

Um.. think these are Vernal Pool Meadowgold
White Meadowfoam at Mather Field
Another spot with a fair amount of wildflowers is over on Michigan Bar Road. Again, this year can't hold a candle to 2009, but there are still a lot of flower out there.
Only found these growing in one low puddled spot
They are another type of Meadowfoam 
The usual bounty of Tidy Tips are about
I spent a lot of time on Michigan Bar Road, staring at Fiddleneck, hoping to see some 'first of season' Lawrence's Goldfinch, but no dice.

Fiddleneck, check. Lawrence's Goldfinch... nope!
There are still a fair amount of Cluster Lilies and Popcorn flower about
Of course, there are loads of California Poppy, just about any place you look
Recently I was driving in downtown Napa and saw California Poppy growing from cracks in the sidewalk, so when I say the poppies are everywhere, I mean everywhere!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Quick Visit to Annie's Annuals

Yay, a visit to Annie's Annuals!
My friend Barbara and I were visiting her Aunt, & my friend, Judy in Napa. On leaving, it was decided that a visit to Annie's Annuals was in order. Annie's is a massive nursery that always has facinating plants for sale. Myself, I decided not to buy any plants, because if there were an ASPCP (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants), I would be first up on their most wanted list. As much as my mother had a green thumb, my thumb seems to specialize in plant neglect.
Only a portion of the massive Annie's grounds
I like the 'trick' plants at Annie's. You know, the plants that are just cute for their size, shape or habits. Here's a plant called 'Minnie Mouse'. I think it was my favorite flower, for today, anyway.

Minnie Mouse flowers!
Bluest of Blue Honeywort
I never even gotten Hollyhocks to sprout!
I tromped up one side of the nursery and down the other, in and out of the greenhouses. I was getting in my walking for the day, and stretching my legs before the long drive, through Bay area highway traffic which can turn a freeway into a parking lot. Ugh! One needs to sniff the roses before attempting such a drive.
Red seemed to be my favored color for the day

Poppies, red enough to please a wicked witch 
No color at all, really, but pretty none-the-less
Love these 'ashes of roses' tinted Poppies
There are some cool gardening ideas at Annie's too.

Voila! From hunk of junk to clever 'Object de Arte'

A cow - uh... so you can replenish your soil after milking it for all it's worth
Angel Froggie to guard against mosquitos in your garden pond
I walked a fair amount and soon Barbara had chosen some new sprouts for her own spectactular container garden and it was time to head on south.  
Annie's Annuals Exit

A Visit to Meridian Ranch

The Shop at Meridian Ranch with its blossoming, sweet Wisteria
It's Spring when hearts turn to thoughts of lamb snuggling. Robin, who owns and runs Meridian Ranch, was sweet enough to let Barbara, Judy and meself, invite ourselves over for a visit.

The welcoming committee; dear veteran Rusty, lady Maggie and high energy girly-pup Ginny.

We arrived a few minutes before Robin returned from errands.
We were off to the barn to see what new lambs hit the ground this past day or two.

On the way we pasted a field where lambs born earlier in the month were with their mothers.

Jacob ewes and their lambs, born maybe in late Feb/early March 
Meanwhile, in the barn, Ewes were penned with their less-than-a-day old lambs. Some ewes had single lambs.

Four-horned Ewe with her beautiful offspring
Some ewes were a little show offish with twins.
Two horned Ewe with twins
There are a number of triplets too, but didn't get any photos of them today. Singles, twins and triplets, if there was bragging to be done, there were some proud Daddy Rams just out back.
Check out the massive horns on these sires!
And one need not actual give birth to or sire a lamb to show some well deserved pride in it.
Robin, who has some pride in those adorable lambs too
Robin at the barn log

Robin is a wonder. Keeps her books, breeds the sheep (without removing her pants!), delivers lambs when necessary and nurses any ailing animals. She has to make important decisions regarding her Jacobs flock on the fly, and of course, keeps records of all of the above. Pm am average morning, Robin still gets more done than the U.S. Army manages in an average week. Way-to-go Robin!

We got to watch Robin weigh in a new lamb that was born during the night. She has a little routine for each of the newborns, making sure each lamb is up, healthy and nursing freely. She even has to treat their little umbilical cords to prevent the lambs from getting infected. Here is the adorable little ewe and lamb we got to see go through the afore mentioned routine. If you look at the tiny black lamb below, you can see she still has her umbilical cord. Her Mom is a lilac spotted ewe with four horns - so very cool.
Love the tossled white hair on this lamb's head, like a Disney character.
Enough edu-fying, time for some lamb snugglin'!

Judy enjoying a new lamby
Barbara getting in some cuddles
When we were done lamb nuzzling, we all walked back to Robin's shop. We all chatted, then Robin reminded us in early April, there will be a 'Meet the Sheep Day'. I think I'd like to attend it this year, but we'll see.
Shop Chat
That's it for our little visit to the ranch. Here is a brief video featuring Judy and Ginny-the-wonder pup. This vid, for once, darned near tells a story - of sorts - which is rare for any video produced by Chez Claire Productions. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Emperor Weekend

My birding buddy Don is a fan of The Book of Mormon - that is, the musical, not the religious experience. So back last fall tickets were obtained to see it here in Sacramento. A whole birder's weekend was planned around the Saturday night performance, beginning with Don driving over to bird. As happy circumstance reign in a drought stricken California, before Don arrived the skies had opened up and it poured rain, so I contacted him,

"It's really raining hard here... you sure you want to bird?", I asked, expecting commiseration.

Nope, with zero hesitation, Don replied, "I have a raincoat."

Well, that was that! There would be birding.

Friday morning we started the day at the nearest park to my home, Sailor Bar. The park is within view of Folsom's Nimbus dam and fish hatchery.

Don checking out the ducks offshore
I often check out the ducks at the Sailor Bar boat launch, normally finding the 'usual suspects'. Today they were: Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Mergansers, a few Common Goldeneyes (ducks) and American Coots galore. I am always too lazy to drag out the 'big guns', that is my spotting scope, which for the record has disappeared into the Burmuda triangle that is my home (if you see my spotting scope floating about, please notify me). Don had his scope out, almost immediately being rewarded for the effort. He found a whopping fifteen Barrow's Goldeneyes - FIFTEEN!

Let me explain. Normally from the launch you can see one, maybe two Barrows. Barrow's are the more exotic and arctic cousins of the numerous Common Goldeneyes. Today there were 15 Barrow's, more than I've ever seen in one spot in my life. Wow... here are Don's digiscoped photos, taken he took with his Swarovski scope and Galaxy android phone.

Barrow's Goldeneye with its crescent shaped facial teardrop
Two drakes and a hen Barrow's Goldeneye
I'll bet that was some sort of a record. When we finally departed Sailor Bar we headed off to spend the remainder of Friday birding around the county, Starting at the Fazio Wildlife the Consumnes River Preserves.

Two Cackling Geese in background, White-fronts in foreground at Consumnes
We stopped by Sacramento's William Land Park to see our  we saw our first-of-the-year Wood Ducks.
Wood duck Drakes
pretty fawn-colored Hen Wood Duck
That was a nice way to spend Friday. Saturday morning we sat mulling over what to do... what to do... after all, we had about 3/4's of the day to continue birding before getting ready and go downtown for the Book of Mormon. Hum... how to use one's time... Don's phone rang. Hurrah! A friend of his phoned, informing him that a California Fish and Wildlife duck & goose survey down in the delta discovered an Emperor Goose amid the flocks of Canadas. They nixed any info of the exotic Emperor being released to the general public until after their survey. Happily, this morning the ban was over, so come on down! No arguments from us. The Emperor Goose is a species rare out of the arctic, would be a lifer for Don.

We were off to a high up Delta berm overlooking a pasture near Isleton.
On arrival there were a few birders, to be followed by many more 
The Emperor goose is visible in photo above, if you know exactly where to look

The Emperor Goose strolled about, feeding with some White-fronted, Canada and Cackling Geese.  Yes, a horrible shot, taken by my horrid iPhone, through Don's spotting scope. Again, better than the ole poke in the eye.

Here's a better photo of a different Emperor Goose, lifted from on line. Handsome creature, isn't it?

There was loads of congratulatory back slapping and preening going on, I can tell you. The bird was a lifer for most so as long as the beauty stays put, it will have loads of happy birders driving in from all over to have a peek.

One lifer chalked up for Don, we had time to kill, which we spent at lunch. We visited The Queen of Sheba, an Ethiopian restaurant I wanted Don to try. A lovely lunch of Lamb Tibbs on Injeri  ensued... followed by a trip out to Meiss Road and Michigan Bar Road, which are in 'my' backyard (sort of).

a Blue Dick that is... uh... looking pretty

OK, now guess what... it's nearly Spring, and wait for it... wait for it... YES, the BLUE DICKS are up!

I know. I promised I'd stop saying that every Spring, so I guess I lied to you all. I'm very-nearly-almost-sorry.

Fiddleheads (yellow) & Lupine (blue) 
There were a fair number of birds out and about, considering how rainy the weather has been. A Ferruginous Hawk was seen soaring over the low hills on Michigan Bar, followed shortly by a beautiful little Merlin.
Ferruginous Hawk, who seems to have lost a secondary feather or two.
The gorgeous little Merlin - a mini-falcon, just a tad larger than an American Kestrel
Now, how many of my blog posts labeled for birding are also labeled for theater? Uh... just this one. You see, this decidedly birdy weekend ended Saturday night, driving through a deluge of rain to Sacramento's California Community Theater. It was to be Don's 3rd viewing of  The Book of Mormon and my first. The musical was entertainingly outrageous, as in, don't take your straight-laced kin to it, they will *@#$ a (#$+#.  Really, it is as blatantly scandalous as one would expect from the producers of South Park. Yeah, if you want scandalous goings on, this musical delivers. Here's a teensy bit of it I found on line.

At the end of the musical, one of the cast asked for donations to a theater charity that benefits Aides patients. Those who donate get prezzies at different donation levels, such as a Book of Mormon shopping bag for donating $20. It caught my ear that for a similar donation one could get a photo opt with a couple of cast members. I decided Don HAD to have said photo! I grabbed him and dragged him downstairs and he was the first of the evening to get his photo taken. He was so excited he squeezed in as many questions of the stars as he could. Don told the guy he'd seen him in a performance of the musical in Taos, New Mexico. Cool! And so it was a perfect photo op ending to a perfectly birdy weekend.
Don looking a bit awestruck with cast members