Monday, April 28, 2008

More back yard visitors

I was privileged to watch a junco family visit my back yard a couple Fridays ago. It was the cutest thing to watch. I first noticed some movement on the ground near my cannas, which were only about 12 inches tall. I was in the midst of watering them, so it was something dark moving on dark colored ground. I was back in the house, looking out my bedroom window when I first noticed something moving among the cannas. While I watched, or should I say "stared" I finally recognized an adult junco attempting to feed another bird. I then realized that it was a little fledgling junco. I then quickly grabbed my camera and slowly and quietly walked outside. I have found that these little birds are not afraid of humans. I can actually get as close as 2-1/2 to 3 feet away from them before they fly off. And if they do fly off, they come back almost right away. I leaned against the house and got down low to watch what was going on, and focused my camera on the action. I kept clicking away and below are the best results I came up with.
These juncos are the Oregon race of the dark-eyed juncos. They have been hanging around my back yard since the fall, and here it is April and they are still around. I do believe these birds don't migrate and stick around all year long. Although, I don't remember seeing them during the summer. Maybe they take off into the foothills around here where it's a little cooler during the summer. And then return in the fall when the temperatures drop.

Here's baby junco by itself (trying to "hide") while mom and dad wander a few feet away eating more seed off the concrete patio. Baby junco was able to find his/her own seed right there on the ground where it is standing. That black vertical "stick" behind the bird is the pole where the feeder is hung from.
This is the first time I've noticed baby juncos in my yard. I wonder if that's because I'm more observant this year? Or could it be it's the first time adult juncos could be nesting nearby? What have you been observing more closely this year?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A new visitor at my feeder

Yesterday I was trying to get my email inbox cleaned up and posting to my other blog (I'll explain that later). My computer faces the back yard from our master bedroom, so I am able to watch the activity going on. And what to my distraction should appear but this bird who flew in for a brief visit. I have never seen a brown-headed cowbird in my yard, EVER! You can probably imagine my surprise. In my excitement I'm trying to grab my camera and zoom in on him, and this was the only shot I got. Just as I got closer to the window, he took off. I did see him once more, about half an hour later, but I was outside and didn't have my camera close at hand, and he flew off again before I could get another shot. I wonder where the female was. I wonder if this guy had a mate and he was waiting for her to deposit her egg in another's nest. And if so, I wonder what nest she chose.
And here is one of my favorite visitors, a California Towhee. These birds along with the dark-headed juncos and mourning doves do a great job of cleaning up the seeds that the messy house sparrows kick out of my feeders.
And now, the explanation of my other blog. One of the professional organizations I belong to held a 2-hour webcast on March 5th on Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices. A colleague and I attended the continuing education (CE) webcast at another hospital library who hosted it. A week later this organization (the Medical Library Assn) announced an 8-week online class, distance education on discovering many aspects of Web 2.0 resources and tools. These past seven weeks (one more to go!) have been partially an eye opener to those tools I was not familiar with, but overall fun yet time consuming. Part of my problem has been that many of these websites we are to check on are blocked by the corporation of the hospital I work at. So that has meant that all my assignments have had to be done in the evenings at home. Between this and attending the San Jose Sharks hockey games I have had little time to post on this blog. But I have only one more week of online class work; so some of my time will be freed. As for the Sharks, I am hoping they will continue to succeed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have another home game this evening. So "let's go Sharks!!!"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our family's menagerie

This household has more animals (pets) living here than humans. And, like humans, each has its own personality. Here are some recent photos (and a couple of videos) of each of them.
This is Avalanche. He is the oldest, and brother to the next two cats, Misty and Midnight. They were all born in late April 1996. So that makes these kitties all 12 years old later this week. It's hard to believe these cats are siblings, but they were all part of one litter.
When my husband and I moved to Albuquerque for a few years, we took our only pet cat with us. Red and our son were going to stay back here in California, and occupy the house while attending college in the Silicon Valley area. Consequently, Red missed Kitty quite a bit; so she went to the Humane Society and adopted a cat, a black female who had not yet been spayed. And these kitties are the three survivors.
Avalanche was born first; he was pure white when first born, thus the name Avalanche. He is the most tolerant cat and the most loving. When he was younger he used to retrieve small objects when you would toss them. When he was a kitten, Red used to take him everywhere she went. I wonder if that has something to do with part of his loving and tolerant personality.

This is Misty, a beautiful and elegant looking cat. We often call her Princess; and she acts like one, too. She was the third kitten born. She is also very sweet, but prefers to lay in your lap when she feels like it, not when we would like her to. The photo above kind of says, "I know I'm beautiful and you can admire me from afar. I am a purrrfect model kitty. I would like to think it beneath me to play games and act silly. But I'll chase small toys and carry them around when no one else is looking."

And this little girl is Midnight. She was the runt of the litter, the fifth and final kitten born. Mama kitty was too exhausted to clean her up, etc. right after birth, so it was left to Red to stimulate this little one and get her to breathe on her own. Midnight has stayed on the small size compared to the other two, but she is still a "force to be reckoned with." Midnight is our perpetual bird watcher (and chaser) from indoors. She loves leaping (and flying) to the window sills where we have window feeders and scaring the birds away. The most comical incidents are when we have birds who ignore Midnight's "attacks." Some birds, I'm not sure if they are the young offspring and don't know any better, aren't bothered by her. And it is so cute to watch Midnight continually scratch at the window (and get frustrated) that the birds are not showing any fear and flying away. Oh such entertainment!

And this little black kitty is Tornado, a long and sleek looking cat with a long tail and large ears on a rather small head. Red and I acquired Tornado from the Humane Society, late spring/early summer of 1999. We got him as a kitten and he was more or less replacing my beloved Kitty who we had to put down because of kidney failure. She was a sweet and loving cat, too.

Red was to attend college in Kansas (fall 1999), and planned to rent an apartment and take all three cats with her. But the lease only allowed her to take two cats. That meant she had to leave one of the cats behind. That was a difficult decision to make since all three cats were inseparable. But Tornado helped her make the right choice. The only cat who would tolerate this bundle of energy was Avalanche.

When Tornado was younger, he was a holy terror. He is the most stubborn of all the cats and is definitely not a lap kitty. Also when he was younger, he could leap higher than any of the other cats - but of course he is 3 years younger. He's the one who can tear through a room like a tornado or a flash of lightning. He's also the most vocal.

And this is one of my son's two dogs, Redd. Redd was also born in 1996, but in the fall. Tim picked him up from the breeder after the Christmas holiday 1996. Redd is such a well-trained, well-behaved dog. Tim trained him well as a puppy. He's another one who went everywhere with his owner. Redd is a pure-bred Siberian husky (like Kody was). It's amazing to think this dog has traveled all over the country. He was born in the central valley of California, taken to Fairbanks when Tim moved up there to attend college, moved to Oregon for a year, and then for another year to Saranac Lake, New York, and now back to California. Redd, a typical husky, loves to run when he gets loose; but he is loyal and will come back after his "exercise."

And here is Mick, short for McKinley (Mt McKinley/Denali). Mick is the youngest of this household menagerie, born in Alaska in the summer of 2000. Mick is one of those dogs who has endless energy, and I mean endless. She is what people in Alaska call an Alaskan husky - dogs bred for pulling sleds. She is part husky (note the blue eyes) and possibly part border collie or Australian shepherd. She definitely has the personality that could make her a "working" dog, but she is just a pet to us. Mick is very loving and always happy to be around people, much like Redd is. Mick is the one whose tail is always wagging, and when she is excited to see you she jumps like a Mexican jumping bean. I've added a couple of videos of Mick so you can see a bit of her personality when she gets a new toy. Let it be said, though, that new toys don't last very long with Mick. This toy you see here in the photo, and in the two videos, lasted only a few hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Walking home

Most of the time I try to take Fridays off from working at the hospital. But about half of the time I end up going in for half a day. I'm limited to 32 hours a week, actually 64 hours per pay period, and many days I work just 7 or 7-1/2 hours, which gives me about 3-4 hours I can put in on some Fridays. So a couple of weeks ago, I put in my 3-4 hours. It's nice when you can leave in the middle of the day. So on my way home I decided to take a few pictures around the hospital. These (I think) are margheurite daisies, just outside of the Medical Staff offices.
Also in the same area, just around the corner, just as one would walk toward the employee parking lot, you come across several shrubs, mostly the mock orange shrubs. They smell so good.
Here is a close-up of the blossoms. Oh, I wish you could smell them. They have that sweet spicy smell to them.
Then in another spot nearby are some rhododendrons blooming now. They are so beautiful.
And here is a close-up of those beautiful flowers.
And here is another shot of the mixture of the daisies and the rhododendrons.
And as I was walking home I saw these beautiful flowers. I think these are called ice plant - that's not the scientific name, of course, but something we Californians have known as ice plant. These flowers are in my neighbor's front yard. She also works at the hospital as a nurse, and lives at the end of my street.
What do you get to see on your way to work, or on the way home?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Time for some bird pix

Some of these photos go back to late February. That's how far behind I am in posting. The photo below is a female Anna's hummingbird. She came to the window feeder during the day when it was raining. Be sure to click on the photos to get a larger view.
Same window as the one above. This is my bedroom window, and it's where my computer faces out to the back yard. I have the hummingbird feeder and this other feeder attached to the window. This photo was also taken way back in February on the same rainy day. Notice this lesser goldfinch is not quite in breeding plumage yet.
And now, notice this little guy is looking more like he's in his breeding plumage. And this photo was taken only two weeks later (early March), and obviously at a different feeder. This one is located in my front yard, hanging from the crepe myrtle tree.
Here's another shot, same day, and I caught one little female as she was flying in. The male lesser goldfinch on the left is not as brightly colored (plumaged) as the one on the right.
And this beauty is one of our neighborhood mockingbirds. We all came home from church a couple Sundays ago (early April) and heard this beautiful, melodious singing. I found him perched up in my next door neighbor's tree, singing his heart out. I wonder if he has found himself a mate yet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Remembering Kody

On this date (April 10th) last year our family had to say goodbye to Kody. I can't believe it's been a year already, and we still miss him. Kodiak, Kody for short, was a pure-bred Siberian Husky. We adopted him from a rescue group here in San Jose. Kody was 5 years old when we adopted him. But we are grateful for the 5 years he lived with us. My daughter Red posted a remembrance of Kody, too. She has a beautiful slide show of photos of Kody, many of him out in the Sierras, backpacking. Kody loved the outdoors, especially when camping, hiking, or backpacking, and always wanted to be around people. If you love pictures of dogs, especially Siberian huskies, visit Red's blog.
The photo above is Redd on left, Kody on right, taken New Year's Eve, 2004.

This photo of Mick, Kody, and Redd were also taken on New Year's Eve 2004. My son's dogs (Mick and Redd) were here visiting us for the holidays. Tim was living in Portland, Oregon at the time.

This photo of Kody was taken in May 2005. This was in the front yard and he was ready to go for a walk. Kody was great when it came to taking him for a walk. He hardly ever pulled, unlike Mick and Redd. Those two are always ready to run!

Kody on left, Redd on right. Redd (and Mick, not shown) were visiting again in July 2005.

This is the last photo I have of Kody. I took this picture of him after we had gone to the percolation ponds, where I like to go birding. This was the holiday weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 17, 2007. Kody succumbed to hemangiosarcoma, a fast killing cancer, April 10, 2007.

Here is a brief video I had of Kody, Mick, and Redd taken on New Year's Eve morning 2004.

Monday, April 7, 2008

On the way . . .

A couple of Sundays ago, (March 30th) the San Jose Sharks had an afternoon home game. That gave Red (my daughter) and me a photo op before entering the arena. For years, in the spring, we have admired some of the flora we see while walking to the arena. [We choose to park off-site since the cost of parking in the lot is more than $12/game. Being season ticket holders that can cost a big bundle of change (in addition to what we pay for our seats).] Anyway, back to the floral admiration. The residential area is an older part of San Jose, so many of the plants are quite mature. The one plant we admire most is the trumpet vine (Distictis buccinatoria). Apparently, this is a Mexican native and does very well here in the Bay Area.
These trumpet flowers are quite large -- they are about 4 inches long and about 2-1/2 inches wide.
Another mature plant we have admired is the potato vine (Solanum). This one was located a few feet from the trumpet vine. And this plant is (according to Red) a true jasmine. We found this climbing up one of the more mature trees in the neighborhood.
And while standing at an intersection, waiting for the light to change, I saw these gazanias. This is that time of year when so many plants look so beautiful, so full of new growth and energy, and certainly not looking tired from heat exhaustion.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Our San Jose Sharks are playoff bound.
It's about time we get another banner! They are the Pacific Division Champs for 2007-08.
Heading for the Stanley Cup!


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