Thursday, July 31, 2008

The smaller birds at the Coast Guard station

To see the Brandt's Cormorants and brown pelicans in Monterey was plenty exciting. I can't believe I was so close to the brown pelicans, close enough to zoom in on my little point and shoot camera and get good shots. My other experience has been seeing pelicans way out in the bay or ocean -- so far that the zoom on my point and shoot still couldn't bring the birds close enough to get a decent shot. Anyway, seeing these two species was so cool it was worth the trip. But I also got shots of other birds, and some I could not get. When we first walked on the pier I saw a black-crowned night heron perched on a piling. And by the time I got my camera out he flew off. That was another incident where the bird was closer than I have ever been to a BCNH. Another bird we saw, but was moving too fast for me to get any decent pictures was a swallow. What kind of swallow? Well, I'm not sure. But by process of elimination we think it was a northern rough-winged swallow. But because I'm not positive I won't count it on my life list. The other birds we saw but didn't bother to get pictures of were Canada geese. The geese were located between the parking lot and one of the historical buildings adjacent to the trail and Fisherman's Wharf.

Be sure to click on the photos to see larger images.

Now here are a couple of shots of a dark colored bird about the size of a mourning dove. Red and I have been trying to figure out if these were ruddy or black turnstones. But my Stokes guide says black turnstones have a white spot between their eyes and bill. The other marking that was noticed was the color of their legs/feet. Ruddies have yellowish feet, and black turnstones have dark colored legs/feet.
So now I can add another lifer - black turnstone. And just look at the photo below. This one took off as I was snapping the picture. Look at that beautiful pattern of black/brown and white. Now the crazy thing about this shot is that this bird's feet look more on the yellow side than dark brown/black. So now you can see how we have been confused as to which turnstone. But for now I'll still say they were all black turnstones.

Now here is another bird who was hanging around in the same location as the turnstones. And at first I didn't even realize it was a different species. But this one's head looked different. Its back looked so similar to a turnstone, but this bird had very yellow feet.
And this shot shows how speckled its head and breast are. So here is another lifer - a surfbird. I think both turnstones and surfbirds are really very pretty, especially when they are in flight.
While watching the pelicans in flight over the bay we also saw a few kayakers enjoying their time kayaking around the bay. And while we were watching the pelicans and kayakers we saw periodically something jumping out of the water. Eventually we realized it was a couple of dolphins putting on a show for the kayakers. Can you imagine the experience? Oh, if only I could have been out there on the bay in a kayak.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Pacific Harbor Seals -- aren't they cute?
Photo above: are they shedding? (Don't forget to click on the pictures so you can see a larger image.)
"I'm so bored and lonely."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brandt's Cormorants

As mentioned in my previous post Red and I drove to Monterey yesterday to spend a few hours near Fisherman's Wharf to look for Brandt's Cormorants. The photo below is the jetty where the Coast Guard station is located. It was less than 1/2 mile from the parking lot. And this is what greeted us when we arrived. Brandt's Cormorants as far as the eye could see - so to speak. As you can see this jetty is full of these birds and their offspring. If you click on the photo you will also see sea lions along the edge. Most of the sea lions were heard but not seen. It sounded like they were all under the wooden pier off to the right and behind us. This photo also shows how the marine layer was keeping the sun from coming through.
This little chick is waiting for food from mama.
And here is mama to the rescue.
This photo is a close-up of a couple of nests with the little ones still in the nest. These babes must be younger; they seem to have more white spots and haven't left the nest yet.
Mama loving her offspring.
Here's another shot of some of mama's love. Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger view. One of these photos, and I think it's this one below, you can see the blue throat on the adult. The blue on the adults' throats is fading now since breeding season is over.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spending a little time in Monterey

I took the day off from work today. And Red and I made plans to drive to Monterey, about 70 miles from where we live, and about a 1-hour 20 minute drive. We focused on the Fisherman's Wharf area because that was the area where Red had seen Brandt's Cormorants nesting when she took a mini-vacation in early May to see poppies and other wildflowers farther south. I was so impressed with her photos from that trip, and I had never seen a Brandt's Cormorant before. So naturally I wanted to see one and add it to my life list. Now I can. But the pictures I have here are of the brown pelicans we saw today, too. Brandt's Cormorants will be in a subsequent post. Below is a photo of some of the brown pelicans we saw on the path from the parking lot to the Coast Guard station where the nesting cormorants would be found. As you can see from the photo there are boats docked around here, which is part of the Monterey Marina, too.
One of the reasons for taking a day off from work this week is because my husband and son went backpacking in the Sierras for a week. They left last Wednesday and will return tomorrow night. That gave Red and me an opportunity to do something together without the guys. And since we enjoy each other's company and taking photos of flora and fauna we took advantage of her day off. Red always has Mondays off since she works half days on Saturdays.
Monterey and Monterey Bay has so much to offer the tourist. There is much one can do there both indoors and out. But it's the outdoors that attracts so many people to the area. There were quite a few folks all around today. It's amazing how we got photos without people in them. I think a lot of it had to do with this path/trail we were on. It was nice and wide and easy walking. It's also available for bicyclists.
The only downside to our trip today was that the fog or what we call marine layer failed to lift while we were there. But we were still able to get lots of good photos. Be sure to click on the photos to see larger versions.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Au Revoir, my sweet little friend

Yesterday was what I would call Black Saturday. Our family, my husband, son Tim, daughter Red, and I had to say our goodbyes to Avalanche. With Avalanche's illness of kidney failure this poor little guy dealt with so many more complications, all working against him. He was such a trooper and fought hard to get better. But the odds were against him, and we are now suffering the loss and missing the sweetest, most even tempered cat in our world. The other cats in our household are also feeling the loss. And they, too, are grieving in their own way. Avalanche was one of three siblings living here. Misty and Midnight are his sisters, and Tornado was his buddy. Red watched Avalanche and his sisters being born, and this was probably the hardest thing she had to do in her life by letting him go. Please visit Red's blog to read her memoir on Avalanche.

Avalanche was only 12 years old. I know, many of you are probably thinking that he lived a good life. And yes, he did. But he is gone much too soon. I have mentioned in a previous post that when Red left home to attend KU she had to leave one of her three cats behind because she was only permitted to have two cats living with her in her apartment. A few months previous to her leaving home we had experienced saying goodbye to our first cat, Kitty.

Knowing I was temporarily "losing" my daughter who is also my friend, and losing her cats, I was facing an empty house. So shortly before she left town, we went to the Humane Society and "found" and adopted Tornado. Avalanche and Tornado totally bonded and became what we have called "best buds."
Please go read Red's post about our sweet little fur ball. I will deeply miss my furry little alarm clock. Avalanche was better than any mechanical alarm clock. When he was younger Avalanche would retrieve items. You could toss a cat toy and Avalanche would bring it back so you could toss it again and he could chase after it and bring it back again. Avalanche would also drag long pieces of chain around and lay it at our feet. That was usually his way of communicating to us that he wanted our attention.
Avalanche was the only cat who would lick my face. He was so loving, so communicative, so social, and so loyal. This cat has been one of a kind and will not easily be forgotten.
I have a couple of videos of Avalanche, too. But I think I will save those for another post.
Au Revoir my sweet little friend, my little "love bunny."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Backyard nemesis and a week of frustration

I have been wondering what to write about for several days, but I seem to have writer's block, or maybe I'm just too lazy to post anything. This past week Red and I have been dealing with Avalanche's illness. The weather has been a factor and he seems to be failing rapidly. Avalanche is 12 years old and has been an indoor cat for the past 10 years. He is the only one of four cats who is FIV positive which doesn't help his situation at all.
This week we have dealt with hot temps and smazy skies. A few days after I had posted about clear skies the smoke returned. At least I haven't had to smell it except for a few moments a few days ago. And luckily I work in an air conditioned building. But I do have to deal with the elements when walking to work and back home again.
As for other frustrations we are all lacking sleep because one of the dogs goes berzerk whenever she hears firecrackers/fireworks. And it always seems to happen after we've gone to bed. I usually put the dogs in the kennel for the night just before retiring, and within a few minutes Mick is clawing at the chain link fencing of their kennel and is showing signs of being completely stressed out. It really bugs me that we have such inconsiderate neighbors (somewhere around here) that continually set off these noise makers that are illegal here in California. Fourth of July isn't good enough; they have to do it almost every night all summer long, and many times on other holiday weekends, too. I just wish the police could find these jerks and seize their noisy toys.
Not only that, but Avalanche has awaken me a couple nights in a row around 3:30 in the morning. He's usually hungry since he hasn't been eating on a regular schedule. Red and I took Avalanche to the vet earlier in the week to find out why he wasn't eating (again). And we kind of knew it had something to do with his mouth. We then found out that due to his kidney disease/failure that he has developed ulcers, at least in his mouth. Apparently, with kidney disease there are a lot of toxins in one's system that are creating havoc and causing an upset stomach and lack of appetite, etc. We are giving him an antibiotic (amoxycillin) to help with the mouth ulcer infection. We've also had to start giving him soft liquidy food. He as well as the other cats have always eaten dry food, so this is a fairly new experience for us. Also, because of nausea and lack of appetite we've had to try giving Avalanche a quarter of a Pepcid tablet and a quarter of an appetite enhancer (cyproheptadine) at least once a day. And now for the past two days and nights we are dealing with Avalanche's mouth bleeding. So we are not only trying to keep him cleaned up, but we end up with his blood all over our clothing. And now I'm fearing anemia. We've also been told that this disease also causes a big loss of calcium which means we are also trying to get calcium carbonate down this little guy. I have been trying to liquefy Tums and giving it to him with some nonfat milk. It's funny how he shows an interest in eating but then he walks away from it. So something tells me that the smell of food attracts him, but then possibly feels nauseous after he gets close to it.

Anyway, on a more up note or even an amusing experience: we've been enjoying this resident mockingbird singing his heart out. But every time I try to get a picture of him he flies away only to come back when I get back in the house. I swear he is teasing me! Today I tried again to get his picture because I knew he was really close by. I located him in the tree that is in my neighbor's yard, just on the other side of our backyard fence. I no sooner located him and got my camera focused and he flew off into the redwood tree that is in the same neighbor's yard. So I decided to take a video so I could share his song with all of you. I took the video of the tree where I first saw him. By the way, if anyone can identify this beautiful tree with yellow flowering bunches, please let me know.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I can see clearly ...

In my previous post I showed photos of how smoky our valley has been during the course of the recent fires here in central and northern California. A few days ago the coastal/bay breezes returned and cleared out the smoke here in Silicon Valley. Those of us with respiratory problems and allergies can breathe a whole lot easier now. Here are some photos I took today. The sites/locations are about the same as the photos I took last week. Below is a portion of the Hamilton range (the range that separates us from the Central Valley). I left work early today since most folks who would use the library seemed to take the day off, getting a head start on the holiday weekend. I took this photo from the hospital employee parking lot.
Here is another shot of the Hamilton range, again from the employee parking lot. I do believe that is Mt. Hamilton, approximately 14 miles to the east and rising up to 4000 feet.
This photo (click to enlarge it) is looking west from the hospital. These mountains are part of the Santa Cruz hills where a couple of county parks are located.
This photo (below) is Blossom Hill in the foreground where the homes are located, approximately 800 feet in elevation and just about a mile to the south of where I live. The last ridge of mountains where you can see some towers is Mt. Umunhum and to the right of it is Mt. Thayer, each about 3200 feet in elevation. The ridge between Blossom Hill and Mt. Umunhum are the Los Gatos hills. These hills are about 1500-1800 feet in elevation.
Don't you just love seeing a palm tree in the midst of this picture? That tree is actually on the "valley floor" probably a few blocks away. In the foreground you can see the top part of the school where I snapped this photo. The elementary school is just a block away and has open space where I can get a decent photo without the power lines. If you look to the left of the palm tree you can see a big power "tower" and just behind it is Blossom Hill. The big hill or mountain would again be the Los Gatos hills (around 1500-1800 feet).


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