Friday, May 29, 2009

Population explosion

Heidi (aka Red) and I visited our local county park a few weeks ago. We had not been there since November, so we were fairly certain that we would see a variety of birds we may not have seen last fall. We didn't know what to expect, except we thought there should be some birds nesting in Vasona County Park in Los Gatos. We both have Mondays off which helps when one wants to visit a popular spot. After walking about a mile on a trail that follows Vasona Lake, (this is the back way in), we finally approached the main part of the park. On this day there was a group of school kids with parents and teachers having a picnic. And there are always lots of bikers and runners along the trail and within the park. We didn't see any others with binoculars and cameras. Little do they realize how much they miss when they aren't looking around their environment. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to get from point A to point B. Oh well. Anyway, I wanted to present a few parents and their offspring in this post. It was funny to see a couple of Canada geese swimming in the lake and then proceed to go past a lot of people guiding their little blessed events to a grassy area to feed. One thing for sure. They were not afraid of humans!

Here is a gosling all by himself/herself. I'm sure mom and/or dad was nearby. Two surprises with this visit was the number of adult Canada geese waddling around with their offspring. There were so many of them, and each family had a varied number of offspring. The other surprise was the difference in the size of the chicks/goslings. Some looked like they had barely hatched, and others looked like they were 2-3 weeks old. Any idea how old this little one is?
Here is one parent with just three little hatchlings. You can click on any of the photos to see a larger image.
Here are mom and dad with their 5 little goslings swimming toward the edge of the lake to head off to feed in a grassy area.
Here is another family of 5.
And look at this prolific family! Ten little chicks!
Here is another family of ten. Notice these chicks are larger than the previous photo.
You have to enlarge this one! Count the number of chicks - how many do you see? Heidi and I think this may have been a combination of two families, but we're not certain of that. Heidi thinks there was at least one "stray" chick that joined the group, but they all look the same size to me. What do you think?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Revisiting Palo Alto Baylands

Heidi and I went back to Palo Alto Baylands at the beginning of the month because I thought we would see the snowy egrets nesting there. But there were none to be found. Nonetheless, there was plenty to see there that day. We saw several red-winged blackbirds, but I had a difficult time finding one that would sit still long enough for me to get a photo.
Over by the ranger's station there were some beautiful rock rose bushes. These are really a beautiful color and they really stood out around all the other greenery.
While getting shots of the rock roses Heidi saw a California ground squirrel and pointed it out to me. These squirrels are so much more wild and wary of humans than our regular gray squirrels we get in our back yard.
At the duck pond area we saw these different looking mallards. Very interesting colors, would you say? At least we think they are hybrid mallards since they have the curly tail and dark colored heads. But the color of their heads is definitely not the typical green you would see on the males. And look at the color of their bills -- rather strange color again.
And speaking of strange, we saw a pair of Muscovy ducks also at the pond. I mentioned to Heidi that as tame as they seemed to be these ducks were probably left here by someone who had them as pets and decided to "let them go." I don't know that for a fact, but they did act tame around people, like they were expecting a hand-out of bread. Now the signs are posted everywhere that we are not to feed the animals. The signs are in three different languages; but no one pays attention to them. How sad for the animals who hang around the pond. They will never learn to fend for themselves, and that makes them more prone to predators.
If you take a closer look you will notice the duck in the back is all white. It also had beautiful blue eyes. Was it leucistic? I surely wouldn't consider it an albino since it still had red on its face and a reddish beak as well as yellow feet.
Right after the duck pond adventure we saw something large fly overhead. It looked like a hawk and landed in a nearby tree about 75 feet from the pond. While we were trying to get a decent angle to take photos of the hawk we also saw a jackrabbit. Watch out Mr rabbit! That hawk might want to try to take you down for his dinner! You do seem to be a fairly good size; maybe you're too much for the hawk to take on.
After getting home Heidi was able to correctly identify the hawk as an immature red-tailed. Here is a view of his back. Click on the photo to get a larger view. Just look at those beautiful feathers. The funny thing about the hawk that we had noticed was that it looked a bit disheveled.
Here's the front view. Notice the disheveled look on his chest feathers? These are still magnificent looking birds anyway.
As we headed back toward the pond we noticed at least one black-crowned night heron (BCNH) in a tree across the path from the pond. So we headed over to get a few shots. As we looked around Heidi noticed there were nests in the tree and there seemed to be more than one BCNH in the tree. Most of them were well hidden behind branches or tucked down in the nests. But this BCNH was more cooperative.
I got this shot of him just as he had landed in the tree.
In this shot, BCNH looks like a sentry, like a guard on duty.
We also encountered this little gosling around the duck pond. At first we thought he was a little stray. We wondered where Mama or Papa was.
And then we saw this as they walked away. Isn't this cute to see -- parent and offspring taking a stroll around the duck pond to show the little one what a big world it is.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Chinese goose at Palo Alto Baylands
May 4, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #38

I'm submitting a California Quail for this week's Bird Photography Weekly # 38
Check out others' submissions for this week. Click on the link above.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A few May flowers from our yard

The month of May has given us some lush looking blossoms in our front and side yards. Even though our front yard is still lacking ground cover for the second year, the plants are still putting out some really nice colors and plenty of blossoms on each plant. For the past two years my husband has cleaned out the rock/gravel we used to have as ground cover in the front yard. It was so blah looking. And we would prefer something a little more contrasting for all the color we get. We have been wanting to put bark down for ground cover/mulch. Our front yard is landscaped with a drip system. Knowing that water is a precious commodity around here, we have opted for no lawn, unlike most everyone else around here. Instead, we have color, a much more appealing look than just green grass and green shrubs.
These first two photos give you two views of the front yard. The photo above shows the miniature roses on the right edge of the pathway to the patio and front door. I'll post close-ups of these and our other roses in a separate post. The photo below shows how badly we need the bark around the plants. This looks as blah, if not worse, than when we had the rocks covering the ground. The purple plants in the foreground are lavender. The green plant in the center is nandina, aka heavenly bamboo. If you'd like a larger view just click on the photo.
Below are some close-ups of the plants that are producing some beautiful colors. First, here are a few of the lavender plants.
Here is our pink azalea.
This dianthus (pinks) is in a planter that sits by the garage door.
This is a shot of our side yard (east side of the house), with the photo taken from our back yard. Against the fence are our roses, pink in the foreground, a miniature white behind it, and a tall red rose bush in the background. Off to the right are flowers (annuals) that reseeded themselves from last year. The tall yellow plants are what I call marguerite daisies. The leaves have a chrysanthemum look to them, so I'm not really sure if I've named them correctly. Close-up photos of the flowers are below.
This was the first red poppy to bloom a couple weeks ago. These poppies are hidden amongst the marguerite daisies.
And these next three photos are close-ups of what I am presently calling marguerite daisies.

This nemesia is growing in a planter I have placed between our front patio and the west side of our house. This is the prettiest I have ever seen it.
And last but certainly not least is a close-up of our flowering maple, also located on the west side of our house. I have quite a few cannas growing there, too. But they won't bloom for another month or two yet. I'll be sure to post those when they bloom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly # 36

One of my favorite birding spots is about a mile or so from where I live. One can find several different types of birds, especially water-type birds there. Besides a creek and a trail, there is also a set of percolation ponds there. This place is called Oka Ponds and is part of the Los Gatos Creek Trail. Back in January, on a nice day as I was about to leave the area, a belted kingfisher landed in a nearby tree. He sat there perched for the longest time. I really didn't think he/she would sit there long enough for me to get some decent pictures, but the bird did not seem to be in a hurry to leave. This is one of my favorite shots. Be sure to click on the photo so you can view a larger image.
Then in early march I went back to visit the area, and surprisingly I saw another belted kingfisher there. This one I caught in flight. It was so exciting watching this bird hover over one of the perc ponds.

Go visit other great looking bird photos in Bird Photography Weekly. You won't be disappointed.

Wordless Wednesday

Sageleaf Rockrose, Santa Cruz, CA
April 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Come take a hike with me...

along one of the trails in Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. This place is one of 26 preserves owned and maintained by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, an organization that was created in 1972 by a voters' initiative here in the greater San Francisco Bay area. Out of the 26 preserves 24 of them are open to the public, consisting of 57,000+ acres of riparian or marshland, mountains and foothills. Most or all of these preserves usually link to other county or state parks around Santa Clara County. Fremont Older OSP is located in the Cupertino foothills and has 739 acres totaling about 14 miles of trails. I took the most popular trail up to a 900 ft. hilltop called Hunters Point that gives one a beautiful view of the Santa Clara valley. Beginning elevation is around 300 ft. and the trail is only about 1 mile from the parking lot to Hunters Point, but it is a 600 foot climb in elevation, yet the trail is well maintained. A lot of the area was mostly "hayfield," plenty of open space and rolling hills. And at this time of year (late March) the rolling hills were fairly green. But the coolest thing was seeing the fields of wildflowers. Below was a field of lupine that caught my eye. To see a larger image of any of the photos you can double click on them.

Fremont Older, a San Francisco newspaper editor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, built a home on a couple of acres that is located on the Preserve property. There is some really neat history about Fremont and Cora's estate, called Woodhills. You can go here to learn more about this colorful couple.
As I rounded a corner along the trail I came across a portion of fencing, and saw this lizard sunning himself. I was surprised he/she didn't go running off like most little lizards do. But he/she kept his ground and I got a couple of halfway decent shots of him/her.
As I continued uphill I was able to catch a glimpse of what I would get a better view of once I would get to my destination - Hunters Point. This photo was taken about 2/3 of the way up to Hunters Point. I'm looking out through a little bit of haze of downtown San Jose, the green foothills to the east, and a part of the Mt Hamilton range.
At this time of year, everywhere I looked I saw wildflowers in abundance. Here is some kind of clover mixed in with some lupine and another wildflower I haven't yet identified. I just love those pink, blue and purple colors together nestled in the green grass.
Here is another field of wildflowers, mostly clover.
And again, one of the wildflowers I cannot identify. Any guesses anyone?
Once I got to the top of Hunters Point I certainly wasn't disappointed. I was amazed how far east, north, and south I could see. The photo below is much like the previous photo of San Jose, the east foothills, and the Mt Hamilton range. This was looking east.
When I looked north I could see Moffett Field which is now part of NASA-Ames, located in Mountain View. The hangars are an excellent landmark around here. These buildings used to house blimps before and during WWII. In this photo you can also see the bay and the east foothills.
As I looked just another mile or two north of Moffett Field I could pick out another landmark by the bay. Those tents are part of Shoreline Amphitheatre. Behind and to the left of those tents is Shoreline Lake, and that is the San Francisco Bay behind those tents. This is also the southern portion of Palo Alto Baylands, one of my favorite places to bird, especially for marsh and water birds.
Again, looking east, I was able to get a decent photo of Lick Observatory on top of Mount Hamilton -- another landmark here in the bay area. These last several shots were taken with my Canon 70-300mm lens.
As I started my descent I came across more wildflowers. You probably have noticed I don't have any birds in this post. Well, I heard a number of birds that day, but the ones I heard were mostly in thick stands of trees. As for other wildlife I did see many butterflies. But none of them ever sat still long enough for me to get a picture. I'm not positive, but I think they were all Painted Ladies flitting around all the beautiful wildflowers. As I approached a much shadier area I came across this fern located near a tree.
These little orangey flowers, I think, are globe mallow. These are usually found in dry, sunny spots. I find this cute little plant a bit invasive. Areas of my yard where it hasn't been "weeded" lately seems to have quite a bit of these cute little "flowers."
I'm not sure, but I think this plant is called Indian Warrior. Can anyone verify this or give me the correct name for it? It sure is pretty.
This is a wild hyacinth. They were all over the trail. This is my favorite photo of about half a dozen or more shots I took of this plant.
Anyone want to try to identify this one? It sure was pretty.
And this one is my prize. This is a Calfornia blue-eyed grass. Isn't it beautiful? As with so many other wildflowers, this was also abundant, and needless to say quite attractive.
This is a group of the blue-eyed grasses seen on my way back down the trail.
Then as I was about to the end of the trail I saw this plant located about 75 feet from the parking lot. I'm not really positive that I have correctly identified it, but I think it's called Mule Ears. Take note of the leaves on this plant. The flowers themselves kind of look like a sunflower. Notice the flowers that already had bloomed, how brown and dried-out they look. Their heads hang much like a sunflower would.
Well, thanks for going with me on this hike; I hope you enjoyed it almost as much as I did. Be sure to double click on the photos to see a larger image. And check out the links I provided. They are quite informative about the rich history found around this part of the country.


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