Saturday, October 23, 2010

I took the plunge...

For years I have had to wear some type of corrective lenses. Since I've been 12 or 13 years old I've been wearing glasses or contact lenses. Gosh, that's been 50 years! Okay, so now you know how old I am. :o) This past spring (April or May) I had my eyes examined and was given a new prescription. Mind you, I have had progressive lenses for almost twenty years. But this prescription was the first set of glasses I just couldn't get used to. I even went back to the optician and complained and instead he told me the glasses were fine and what I could do for "medium" distances, such as computer work, I could get a pair of "computer" glasses to use when I'm on the computer. Well, the computer glasses worked fine, but it was such a nuisance switching back and forth. Even the close reading part of the progressives did not really feel right. So in my disgust and dissatisfaction I finally got up the courage to check to see if I could still qualify for lasik surgery. I said "still qualify" because I was considered a good candidate for it up to 5 years ago. Well, I took the plunge and had my eyes examined at the Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley on Tuesday and was told I would still be an excellent candidate for Lasik. As a matter of fact I qualified for the latest, most advanced type of surgery called Wavefront Intralase. I had it done yesterday (Friday, Oct 22) afternoon. It didn't take very long at all. I opted for something that is called monovision where you have your dominant eye adjusted for distance and your secondary eye adjusted for close work. I will admit it will take some getting used to, but I am presently writing this only about 24 hours later and I'm extremely pleased with the results. My distance seems quite sharp, but I'm still trying to adjust, or my brain is still trying to adjust to the difference. I went back this morning for a check-up and everything seems to be progressing very nicely. If you are thinking about Lasik surgery, by all means look into it. See if you qualify. Already I don't regret spending the money for it, or should I say making the investment.

Below is a photo of my surgeon, Dr Craig Bindi. He and his staff are excellent. I would recommend them to anyone. By the way, Dr Bindi is now the owner/operator of the Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley. He bought Dr Gary Kawesh's practice, and Dr Kawesh is world renowned, but has since in the last year or two retired from the practice.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Monterey Bay Birding Festival - part 2

My husband and I visited the Ventana Wildlife Society on Friday the 24th. This place is located at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur. The event was an all-day session where we were to see bird banding demonstrations in the morning and searching for California Condors in the afternoon. I was so fascinated with the bird banding that I failed to get photos of the birds that were caught and banded. It's amazing how small the birds look when they are held in one's hand. Some of the species caught and banded were lesser goldfinches, white crowned sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows, Wilson's warblers, and wrentits. We even hiked to the areas where the mist nets were to see how the birds are carefully taken out of the nets and placed in cloth bags, then taken back to the banding area where the birds would be checked over for molt or worn feathers, weighed and banded, then released. Afterwards, lunch was provided. And then it was time to caravan to several locations south of Big Sur to try to locate the condors. Sad to say, we only saw a brief glimpse of one lone female condor who flew to one of her favorite trees to perch, according to the condor expert. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos taken on Friday, but it still was lots of fun.
Saturday's activity was a half-day field trip to Natural Bridges State Beach. Our leader was Jennifer Rycenga, who has been a birder for quite some time and has been a leader in the past for the festival. We had the opportunity of hiking on a trail which took us from a wooded area to the beach. But the best location for taking photos was at the beach.

A whimbrel on the rock.

More whimbrels -- they are so photogenic.
Here's a black phoebe perched on the rock. The background seems so out of place for a black phoebe. Well, at least to me it seems out of place.
These dark colored gulls are Heermann's gulls, with a few more whimbrels thrown in.
And on this rock there were mostly cormorants, one brown pelican, and another gull.
And I couldn't resist to get this photo of a cormorant sunning himself.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Monterey Bay Birding Festival 2010

Last weekend was the 6th annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival. Here are some photos I took while on one of the events, Elkhorn Slough Safari. This was done on a 27-foot pontoon boat, and the Captain was Yohn Gideon, owner and operator. The weather was great and my husband and I wish we could have gone for at least another 2 hours.
Sea lions hanging around the pier.
Cormorants - double-crested, pelagic, and Brandt's, hanging around the pier.
Notice the upper center cormorant with his beautiful blue throat-patch - a Brandt's cormorant.
Heermann's gull perched near the pier. He was hanging around with other gulls and cormorants.
A group of sea otters in the slough.
Close-up of some of the sea otters. The otter in the foreground with the whitish face is apparently the "grandfather" of the group. Actually, we were told that the older the otter gets the "whiter" or grayer their faces get.
Close-up of an otter eating a clam.
Harbor seals. Notice they are smaller than the sea lions, and they lack the "ears" that sea lions have.
Close-up view of a few harbor seals.
Brown pelicans along the edge of the shore.
Close-up view of a few brown pelicans.
A white pelican taking a snooze, and a couple of gulls standing guard.
Landscape of the Elkhorn Slough area. Notice the farming area in the background. This is a well-known agricultural area, especially known for artichokes, lettuce, cabbage, etc.
Brown pelicans watching the humans on the boat.
A brown pelican hanging around all those cormorants.
Captain Yohn took everyone's picture, or at least those folks who were sporting a camera. This Safari is highly recommended, and is available for various events/outings. There's also a special Photo Safari scheduled for Oct 23rd on a Saturday afternoon. I sure wouldn't mind going again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Around the Pond

Duck Ecology was another class my husband and I took during the Festival of the Cranes. This class was held at New Mexico Tech, a very nice campus in the heart of Socorro, about 18 miles north of the Bosque del Apache. Our presenter was John Vradenburg who is a full-time employee at the Bosque, the Land Management Research and Demonstration Senior Biologist. His presentation pointed out how the Bosque's habitat relates to all the duck species that visit the refuge. He showed us the migration patterns of these birds as well as their breeding strategies and how the refuge is an integral part of their lives.
After class was over, we visited the pond just outside of the classroom, where there are always many ducks and geese, including hybrids, hanging around waiting for a "handout." They are so used to humans feeding them. But that is one thing I refuse to do since they are supposed to be "wild." I was surprised to see this beautiful ring-necked duck in the pond. We usually see these birds only at the Bosque.
And then I took several photos of my favorite duck that lives on this pond, the American Wigeon. Their whistles as I call it are so unique. Typically I think of "ducks" in general as "quackers." But this species "whistles!" I'm not positive, but I think in the photo above we are looking at a female. Notice the brighter green of the plumage on the wigeon behind this bird. But then it could also have been the lighting, the way its head was turned (or not) toward the sun.

And then I saw something that broke my heart. Notice this mallard. It does not look good. A closer look reveals that there is a pin, a push-pin, in its chest. Now, how did it get there? It's obvious this duck wasn't going to live much longer. It seemed to be swimming along as if nothing was wrong, yet it was so pale.
Upon further observance, I saw some movement and heard twittering going on in the bushes next to the pond. I had to see what all the noise was about. And I found a few song birds there. Below is a titmouse trying to hide. I can't ID the other bird below it (possibly a red-winged blackbird).
And then I found out who was doing the singing - a few white crowned sparrows. It's amazing how close to the water these birds get.

One bird I usually see, but did not see this time, is the killdeer. They are usually around the pond in large numbers, but I don't remember seeing any that day and hour.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Mexico sunset

There are so many great opportunities to see beautiful sunsets in New Mexico. While visiting the Bosque del Apache during the Festival of the Cranes (Nov 17-22, 2009) there were a couple of beautiful sunsets. Here is one worth sharing. You can click on each of the photos to enlarge them.
Note the sandhill crane flying in this photo. I think this one is my favorite of the three photos here.
And this one I was trying to get what is called a "sun dog" where there is a rainbow of sorts in the clouds.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Snow Geese at the Bosque del Apache

One of the most spectacular birds in flight, especially en masse, would be snow geese. Their contrasting colors of black and white in large numbers can be so exciting to see. And if one has the opportunity to take photos of these birds in flight with a bright blue sky as background is more like icing on the cake. Below I am posting a photo of these birds in flight with mountains in the background at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. Back in November, during the Festival of the Cranes, following a morning class my husband and I took regarding Sandhill cranes, we decided to drive around the refuge and seek out our own sights. You can click on the photos to see a larger image.
In the photo below, these all look like snow geese. The differences between snow geese and Ross' geese are slight, but if you look closely at a large flock of geese you can possibly pick them out. Besides being slightly smaller, Ross' geese have rounder heads and their beaks and necks are shorter than snow geese. Probably one of the most noticeable features are the lack of a grin patch on the Ross' beak. They also have a straighter looking beak at the base whereas the snow geese have a more curved base.
Here is another shot of snow geese, especially the ones in the foreground. I really like this image; it looks to me like a mama, papa and two youngsters.
I think this is a golden eagle perched on a power pole. Someone please correct me if I am mistaken.
Last year my husband and I visited one of the prairie dog colonies that the refuge has maintained. It's only been a few years that the Refuge has reintroduced this species, and we visited the colony once again in November. This particular species is known as the black-tailed prairie dog. I have provided a link in case you would like to know more about these animals. On our way to visit the colony of prairie dogs we encountered another species that I am able to add to my wildlife "life" list. And that is the javelina. I have never seen these pig/boar-like animals before, and it happened so quickly that I didn't have the opportunity to get a snapshot. We were rounding the bend in the road and there were at least 7-8 javelinas at the edge of the road. We startled them and they took off up a steep hill into the more arid area of the refuge.
We saw these cranes eating in the field while driving around the refuge. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will be able to see that some of the cranes have their heads up, literally looking to the sky. They are calling out to other cranes while the others are busy eating. I wonder what they are "saying." :o)
And here is a male-female pair in the foreground eating in the marshy field. Don't you just love those red heads?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sandhill Crane Behavior - part 3

The photo below is another part or area of the Bosque del Apache. This marshy area was flooded before the festival began. Many of the fields throughout the Bosque are flooded to create wetland habitat. The marshes also provide food and protection for many of the resident birds as well as for the migrating birds. The Bosque has a total of 35 managed units, and this is a photo of one of them, one of those units that is open to the public.
As mentioned in my previous post, we were in the "field" (or better said one of the fields) observing the behavior of the Sandhill cranes. While observing them and their behavior traits, we also were given a beautiful display by none other than flocks of Snow and Ross' geese.

You may want to enlarge this photo (below) to get a better view. Among all those beautiful snow/ross' geese there is a Northern Harrier. He/she is located on the far left of the picture. I'm not sure if the harrier was "chasing" the flock or if it was just "sharing" the sky, but I felt it made a very interesting picture.
Shortly afterwards, we saw this harrier in the field not far from where the cranes were feeding. This was the best shot I could get since the bird was quite a distance away from where we were standing. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
The rest of the afternoon we had free to ourselves; we didn't sign up for any tour or hike, so we had the chance to get out to the Bosque again after lunch and look around on our own. More in my next post.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sandhill Crane Behavior - part 2

Following our sunrise visit to the pond, we all climbed back into the vans and headed back to the Bosque for a nice warm breakfast, New Mexican style. While eating we also saw some film on the various behavior and communication styles of Sandhill cranes. Shortly afterwards we headed out to one of the cornfields on the Bosque, and we were to watch the cranes to see how they reacted to possible threats or how they communicated with each other. This was really fun, because we saw how the male and female were always together. While one would eat, the other would stand guard as the photo below indicates.
Notice in this next photo one of the cranes is standing guard while the other three are eating. If you can enlarge this photo (by clicking on it), you will also notice the same behavior in the cranes farther out in the field.
This crane is in a very alert stance, and notice the red coloring on the front part of his head. We were told that this is a featherless part of their heads. And when these birds feel threatened in any way the red coloring deepens and possibly gets larger. This is a part of the cranes' behavior that is still being studied. But the "experts" realize that their heads turn quite red when they feel threatened.
Here's another view as the crane turned toward us.
Here is another photo of a group eating corn in the field. Notice there are four standing alert out of the dozen or so we see here.
I couldn't resist to add a couple more photos here.

While in the field I also took other photos that were not of cranes which I'll share in my next post.


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