Monday, September 21, 2015

Yosemite etimesoY

 Reflecting near Tioga Pass, Yosemite NP, this past weekend.

It's a pretty nice place.

Here's to finding a beautiful, natural place near you,
and getting into it.

And, although the NPS is running a
Find Your Park campaign to encourage & celebrate such things,
and I am a huge fan of the NPS,
it doesn't have to be a national park.

Whether you're at some famously stunning natural landscape,
or peering at the bugs that flew to your porch light,
nature can always enrich your life.

Ours is a complex and wonderful planet.
And it's all right out there...



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The world is on fire... or at least California is.

This freaky sunset brought to you by the Butte Fire (taken last Friday)

This was my drive into Sonora, Calif., last Thursday afternoon...
 The Butte Fire started the previous afternoon, about 43 miles from Sonora,
and since spread quickly and moved a lot closer.

Drive to Sonora Friday afternoon... a wee bit smokier.
Note how dark it is, at 5:30 p.m. Spooky stuff.

I've never been anywhere with such thick smoke.
Tiny bits of white ash fell like a very light snow. Odd.

I have relatives who've been evacuated from their home for days, now,
due to this fire. Happily the fire missed their house,
now they're waiting for the power to come back on,
so they can move back (no power=no water if you're on a well).

Last Sunday afternoon DH and I tore ourselves away from scanning fire info
(re: the Butte Fire, the Valley Fire, and the Rough fire)
and head to the golf course.

DH golfs, I bird/peruse nature.

Acorn woodpeckers living up to their name.
"This one goes here..."

I love how this branch is so densely drilled
that in parts it's see-through. 

I love the white eyeliner on this California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi).

Non-native mullein affected by fasciation
(note normal mullein bloom on lower left).
I love fasciation and the super interesting shapes it brings about.

Another herbivore (desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii), diggin' the golf course habitat.
Their habit of freezing when startled is great for photography. =)

Canada geese, another herbivore species that favors this place.
Considering I didn't have the auto-focus telephoto lens,
I'm very happy with how sharp this shot is. Luck!

So, with a couple soothing, non-fire-focused hours under our belt,
we see this...

Oh, dear. Another fire?!?
It was the Sundance Fire, near Oakhurst.

Happily, we also saw this large air tanker a little while later,
 and the smoke cleared pretty soon thereafter.

And last night it actually rained a little bit (minor miracle),
which is very exciting.

I hope it helps quiet some of these fires.
It's also about 20 degrees cooler than it was last week.
Also good.

Anyhow, I don't have a profound way to end this post.
It's been very sobering seeing what's been happening
in Middletown (via the Valley Fire) and elsewhere.

If there's a vote re: whether or not summer should end now & fall should start?
I'd vote YES, please.
Let's do that.

Stay cool, everyone.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

County fair chickens, cowboys & ribbons--quite the summer blowout

I just learned a blogging friend entered her photos into the county fair
after being inspired by my post about doing just that.

Competing chicken beauties we ogled...

This made me happy.

Then she tells me her husband saw her example
and he screwed up the courage to enter his baked goods
into the local county fair (there's a men-only category).

Very cool 'do!

This made me even more happy.

So, I've decided I should risk accusations of bragging and write about this year's results
'cause maybe another person would be similarly inspired. =)

I don't pretend to understand 4-H economics. Wow!! =)

Plus, I just learned fair organizers say that
the more people enter stuff, the better the fair.

This duck looks like a deep thinker to me...

So, you are helping your community by doing this, not merely seeking approval. =)

Loved the feather shake-out on this gorgeous rooster.
Didn't get his head in this shot, but it's the only fluff-up he did.

Last year I entered my photos into the county fair for the 1st time.
And I won some ribbons, which was a surprise.
No 1st place, but I was delighted to win anything.

And I learned a lot, and had a great time. =)

How many dollars-worth of cowboy hats are in this photo?

This year I entered again, and DH entered a few, as well.

This weekend, as soon as we stepped into the photo-zone,
I saw one of my photos from afar & saw the blue of a 1st place ribbon.

SWEET! Already beat last year.

So, DH & I cruise around, ogling folks' fabulous work...

(The center bottom one is a super cool abstract. Looks like waves but is rock! =) )

...and seeing how we did.

So, here's Sammy's results:

1st & 3rd place in "flowers", 2nd & 3rd in "insects and reptiles"

1st place in "any other" category

1st place in "seascapes/marine"
and a nothing (upper left) and 1st in & best in show in "plant life/natural environment (no flowers)"

So, at first I saw the giant rainbow ribbon & freaked.
They give out one per each division (beginner, intermediate & professional).

I was SUPER amazed.
I'd only seen photos of people & agricultural plants get best in show,
so I figured I'd never get it.

Then, DH noticed a small chart on the wall,
which lists the special awards.
It listed best in show for the 3 divisions,
then best in show overall,

You can't tell fm. the above (& I didn't notice in person)
there's TWO giant rainbow ribbons there.

I'd call this some pretty serious positive reinforcement for
doing new things despite the discomfort & initial floundering,
working on your skills,
joining the fray,
and thinking happy thoughts.

Check your ego at the door

In case you think my head will be getting huge from ego,
I overheard a woman talking to her husband,
looking at & discussing my ribbon-festooned photo.

"It's a picture of bark.
On a tree."

Like that's the dullest thing in the world. =)
Made me laugh out loud.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, baby!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Late summer: Yosemite, clouds, cowboys & cutting out California wine...


Tiny, gorgeous fork-tailed (I think) bush katydid nymph on California poppy, chez-nous.
This young creature is backing verrrry slowwwly away from yours truly. =) 

Got a twitter-heads up that "mares tails" were in the Mariposa county sky,
so I looked out the window:
They're lonnnnng, thin clouds
(streaky left-to-right thing, not the vertical contrail).

And this one had a rainbow in it. BONUS.

The garden is underwhelming this year (I'm being very stingy with water),
but these pea flowers really do have the golden sparkles you can see, here.
It's one of the few things our local Anna's hummingbird gets excited about in my garden.

I need more flowers, next year.
I'll have to make additional drought tolerant, flowering plants happen.
Maybe next year the (very drought-tolerant) pomegranates I planted will bloom?
And the baby California roses? Maybe? Crossing fingers. =)

And Away

Hiking to Lukens Lake in Yosemite, recently, 
we happened upon a family of
one of my favorite & most rarely-seen birds: mountain quail.
Can you see them atop the log?

Adults have exclamation points atop their heads (v. Calif. quail have commas).

And cropped again. Such a stunning bird, jeepers.

Crap photos, but I was thrilled.
A stunning bird with a haunting call that can
send a chill up your spine when you're hiking in the forest.

The ever-picturesque Lukens Lake. A super easy hike, even at ~ 8,000 feet in elevation.
Note smoke on horizon, from the Rough Fire.

At the lake, I ogled this beautiful snag.
I have a thing for dead trees...
 I love how 'neath the bark is what looks like
a mysterious language scrawled into the tree.

What does it say?!?
 I wanna know.

Sat at the edge of Lukens lake with dozens of blue damselflies.

Sharpest shot I got (via my non-telephoto lens):
Such gorgeous animals, jeepers.

See the little damselfly, center right, resting on a leaf?

Most of the corn lily was past blooming,
but this one, in the shade by the lake, was still going.
There were numerous happy bees merrily visiting these flowers.

Recently, in Tuolumne county, I was later to a work site than I'd planned, due to a traffic jam.
They had a bunch of cows & their young on the road. Poor creatures sounded stressed.

It took several men & horses, a dog & lots of yelling & arm-waving to get the job done.
Finally, cattle off the road, I drove past slowly, stealing a shot of this horse & its super fit bod.
Check out that crazy butt. This was back in August,
so you probably want to be lean in that heat
(daily over 100F in central CA).

Horses are SO beautiful (IMHO), I find it confusing.
Why do they affect us this way (from an evolutionary perspective)?
Did we co-evolve with them, so a desire to have horses could be selected for?
Or have we just selectively bred them to increase what we consider attractive traits?

Last, but not least, a tiny conservation vignette,
and why I may never accompany DH to this golf course again.

This sign calls the vineyards an "ecologically sensitive area."
Biobabbler's head exploded when she read this.
The quotation marks definitely indicate sarcasm, to me, in this case.
The baby vines are in the white tubes, in front of the mature vines (green in the background).

I never golf ('cause Imma conservation biologist), but I accompany DH and look at birds.

However, I used to love this course 'cause it had
large stretches of native California habitat in it
(vs. an entirely transformed, non-native landscape).

This is very unusual for golf courses in California.

But, this summer all those native spaces were razed and converted to vineyards.

Vineyards are crawling across California,
taking out so much of California's remaining, unique native habitats,
it is a serious source of habitat destruction.
For something we do not need to survive.

And who knows how much water they are using?

Yours truly doing fieldwork in California habitat.
Thinking deep thoughts.  =)

Therefore, I've decided will not drink California wine, pretty much as of now.

I'm sure this decision won't be felt by the wine industry,
but I cannot reward this behavior (by giving them my money)
and feel OK about how I'm living my life.

So, thank you, darling peeps, for letting me express this.
I feel better, now.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getty goodies (eye candy), and county fair foto updates...

Getty Goodies

We hit the big town, L.A., on 4th of July weekend.
Took in a Dodgers game (great stadium, jeepers).
And, as per usual, jammed to the Getty (which is FREE*).

 The Getty provides SUCH great views, all over the place.
If you're a minimalist who adores the sky,
it's pretty heavenly.

My shabby view whilst munching on chips. Such a sad life...

Found a young fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) warming on the travertine stone, therein.

Ambitious vines. =)
Anyone know what that species is? I don't...

Bougainvillea is one of my favorite plants.
And I love these little iron trees it's growing upon.

County Fair Photo Exhibit Update

The view from the Ferris wheel.

SUPER quick update.

I was nervous 'cause it's a MUCH bigger county.
So "Bear" and I dove into the photo exhibit,
found nine of mine, and I got eight ribbons. EIGHT!
(ok, so most were actually stickers, not ribbons, but whatever.)

SUPER cool. I was stunned.

Of course I'd thought I'd turned in 10 photos, but wasn't positive.

So, even though it's a much bigger county (population-wise),
my theory re: how I won so many
is that they may get fewer photos entered
than our county 'cause we've got LOTS of retired folks w/time
versus the younger, working folks in that county?
Who knows.

ANYhow, I was thrilled to my toes.

Two hours later, Bear & I returned to the exhibit
'cause it was BOILING hot outside and we had time to kill before the rodeo.

So, strolling around the whole building,
I hear my husband laughing, and he says, "I found the 10th photo!"

And he's pointing to this:

Holy crap.

That's my photo (taken at the Getty, kisses to them!)
that I'd entered into the architecture category.
And we couldn't find my 10th photo earlier
'cause it was in a totally different place for all the FATTY ribbon winners.


So, yes, that was bitchin. =)

I highly recommend joining the county fair photo fray
if you are photographically inclined.

It's FUN.

And winning or not, it gets your buns to the fair.
Which is always great.

As is the always-amazing Ferris wheel.

What a heavenly invention.

Next Fair Photo Exhibit: this weekend!

The day I turned in my photos for this next fair photo exhibit,
there were a LOT of BEAUTIFUL, interesting photos there already.

I was very impressed.
It's a multi-county fair.

Chatting with the woman working there,
one man turned in 100 photos. ONE HUNDRED.

Took me three days to do 10.

So, even if I win nothing,
I'll have a pile of photographic eye-candy to pig out on. =)

And, of course, we'll always have the Ferris wheel...


*parking is not free, but if you take public transportation there (city bus?),
I believe it won't cost you anything beyond your bus ticket. And it's AMAZING.