Archive | October, 2008

Another Amazing Day of Bird Watching

19 Oct

I had another fabulous day of birdwatching today.  I joined my sister, Jody, and met up with my friend, Denine and her friend, Mac at the Pacific International Quilt Show in Santa Clara, CA.  We did some serious birdwatching.  We saw a lot of expected birds and some rather amazing rarities!  Here are the highlights.  Note:  All the pictures can be clicked to embiggen.

Delicious by Rachel Wetzler

Delicious by Rachel Wetzler

There is a lovely Ruby-throated Hummingbird and an American Goldfinch in this lovely garden quilt.

North to Alaska by Anne Joule, New Zealand

North to Alaska by Anne Joule (New Zealand)

Storks flying north?  Isn’t it the wrong time of year for that?

Moon Garden by Judy Coates Perez

Moon Garden by Judy Coates Perez

I couldn’t identify this lovely red bird but it sure is eye-catching.  This was a whole-cloth quilt that the artist painted and then quilted.  It was stunning.

Rhapsody at First Light by Bonnie Keller

Rhapsody at First Light by Bonnie Keller

Rhapsody at First Light by Bonnie Keller

Two sweet little wrens hiding around the corners of this quilt.

Vertigo by Kathy York

Vertigo by Kathy York

Aren’t these the most adorable — and brightly colored — chickadees you’ve ever seen!  This was easily my favorite quilt in the show.  The artist said that the yellow bird on the ground had a fear of heights and wouldn’t use the ladder. So funny.

Carmel Beach - 1920's by Mary Ellen Parsons

Carmel Beach – 1920’s by Mary Ellen Parsons

More spectacular storks.

Western Sea Gull by Jean Dunn

Western Sea Gull by Jean Dunn

Totally expected to see a Sea Gull today but still this one is striking, don’t you think?

Winter Plumage by Denise Oyama Miller

Winter Plumage by Denise Oyama Miller

I just love shorebirds!

Kacho Fuugetu - The Love of Nature by Eiko Kurokawa (Japan)

Kacho Fuugetu – The Love of Nature by Eiko Kurokawa (Japan)

There are some exotic birds in Japan, aren’t there?

Peace in Our Hands by Jae McDonald

Peace in Our Hands by Jae McDonald

What a lovely dove.  You know what they say about a bird in the hand!

Loon by Lauren L. Ball

Loon by Lauren L. Ball

I’ve never seen a Loon before but I got two in one day!

The Loonie by Laura Jennings

The Loonie by Laura Jennings

Kereru in Puriri Tree by Judith Pinney (New Zealand)

Kereru in Puriri Tree by Judith Pinney (New Zealand)

I am alerting the local bird groups about this sighting though.  Who could have anticipated seeing a Kereru here in Northern California?  I feel so blessed!

The Karearea - New Zealand Falcon by Judith Briant (New Zealand)

The Karearea – New Zealand Falcon by Judith Briant

I don’t know why there is such an influx of birds from New Zealand. Perhaps this is just an extremely dedicated raptor hunting down some prey.

English Country Garden by Pam Mees

English Country Garden by Pam Mees

I can’t even begin to name all the English birds seen in this garden.  More unexpected birds.

Hey Kahuna!  No Trespassing! by Terry Waldron

Hey Kahuna! No Trespassing! by Terry Waldron

More amazing shorebirds.

Penguins by Heather Bloom

Penguins by Heather Bloom

While you might not expect to see penguins in California.  The artist is from my own hometown.  Very cool.

Ladies' Man by Tanya Brown

Ladies’ Man by Tanya Brown

Is any day of birdwatching complete without a pink flamingo?


Corvid Bird Quiz

18 Oct

So, which is it . . . Raven or Crow?

Crow or Raven Quiz

Skywatch – Cayucos Pier

16 Oct

Pelicans at Cayucos Pier

Skywatch – go visit for more amazing skies.

Compare and Contrast Ravens and Crows

16 Oct

I teach my 4th graders to compare and contrast in our study of California History.  I thought I’d practice what I preach.  🙂

American Crow . . .

American Crow

Common Raven . . .

Raven . . . toe tapping


Crows and Ravens are both large, black, shiny birds.  They are both exceptionally smart.  They are omnivores and tool users. Both types of birds have complex and long-lasting familial relationships.   Both types of birds are considered songbirds!  Both have been honored (although often reviled) in literature and popular culture.


Ravens are bigger than Crows.  They have bigger bodies, bigger beaks, and bigger feet.  The beaks of Ravens are stronger, more prominent, and have a slight hook to them while the Crows’ beaks are sharper and pointier. Crows are widespread and common but Ravens tend to be more reclusive.  Ravens are acrobats in the sky — they somersault, roll, and dive in amazing acrobatic displays.  Ravens have a pointed tail; Crows have a rounded or squared off tail.  Crows are known to join together into huge roosts seasonally.  Ravens have been known to form large temporary groups too but it is much less common.   American Crows are only found in the US while Common Ravens are found around the world.

Identifying your large black Corvid.

If they happen to be together, it’s pretty easy.  The bigger one with the bigger beak . . . that’s your basic Raven.  However, you aren’t likely to see them together.  I’m lucky in that they have chosen to live together at my school (hey, grade schoolers are a great source of food!).  Usually, you’ll see one or the other.  If you are on the East coast, you’re likely seeing a Crow.  On the West coast, it depends on where you are.  If you are in an urban environment, you’re likely to be seeing a crow.  If you are in the mountains, you are likely seeing a Raven.  Certainly, if you are in the Arctic . . . it’s a Raven!

Wordless Wednesday – Seen at dawn

15 Oct


Ruby Tuesday – Bird Watcher Extraordinaire

13 Oct

Ms Ruby and I went for a long walk on Saturday evening at sunset in Morro Bay.  Morro Bay is a wonderful place for walking.  It’s lovely and full of spectacular scenery.  Ruby is a delightful walking companion.  Ruby loves to walk.  She’s pretty good about bird watching, too.  My only complaint is that she is tends to pull at just the wrong moment and ruin my photographs.

Of course, if I’d teach her to sit and stay when I tell her to I could probably stop complaining about that little issue.

Ruby having fun walking in Morro Bay

The marina at Morro Bay State Park is so lovely at sunset.  I love the way the light brings it all alive.

Sunset in Morro Bay

This seagull is so wonderful.  He just posed for me and let me find just the right shot.  Such a good bird!

Seagull (Morro Bay)

But the best part was being there as the Egrets and Herons roosted.  These Snowy Egrets were so thoughtful in sitting where I could easily see them.  There were Great Egrets high up in the tops of Eucalyptus trees that I could see but not get pictures of.  But these guys were so thoughtful!  And noisy . . . for such delicate, lovely birds they make amazingly loud creaking noises.

Noisy Egrets (Morro Bay)

After I saw the Egrets from below, I realized that there was a trail that wound its way up around the trees so that I was eye level with the egrets and herons.  This amazing juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron was so breathtaking to me!

Juvenile Night Heron

Pretty much no matter where I looked, I saw amazing scenes and birds and just felt like I was about the happiest birding dogwalker on the planet!

Pelicans in Sunset

Ruby and I will have to go birdwatching more often.  She’s really quite amazing — just gotta work on her sit-stay so she’ll stop ruining my shots!  🙂

White-crowned Sparrow, Morro Bay

12 Oct

White-Crowned Sparrow

Our campsite was surrounded by trees that were loaded with small, sweet plums.  Birds were brazen in their attempt to get to the fruit.  These guys were singing happily.

Look! An actual BIRD!

10 Oct

I promise to you, all my devoted readers . . . I think there are 3 of you now since I went on my mini-blogcation when school started . . . anyway, I promise you that I still watch birds.  It’s just that I have also been on a photocation as well which means that I haven’t been taking pictures of them and without pictures . . . do I know if I really saw them?

Intense Raven

What a zen puzzler.  If Liza sees a bird in the forest but has no camera, was she or it really there?

Anyway, I am making a conscious effort to work at it.  So, when I was walking to my car with the kids the other night and saw this lovely raven . . . I stopped my forward progress, got my camera out of the car, and took some pictures.  My children stared dumbfounded at a sight they hadn’t seen in months.  They then dropped their backpacks, took each other’s hands, and started dancing in a circle chanting “Mom is back!  Mom is back!”

Okay, I made that part up. They know better than to make that much noise near a bird I’m watching even if it is a raven who is making quite enough noise on her own.

Her own?  Why so sure it’s a her?  Well, I’m not SO sure — after all, all Ravens look alike.  I don’t think I’d know for SURE unless I saw one laying an egg.  However . . . what originally caught my attention was a male strutting his stuff on a nearby roof, puffing up his ruff, prancing back and forth, and kronking boldly.  He was quite a display.  Fall is when Ravens fall in love and reaffirm their lifelong love.  There are lots of courtship displays in the fall at my school — food sharing, nuzzling, kissing (and I’m talking about the birds here!  We don’t let the little kids act that way, thank you!).  So, I knew this gentleman was trying to impress a lady and there she was.

I don’t know though . . . does she look impressed?

We’re going camping . . .

9 Oct

We are off tomorrow for Morro Bay, one of my favorite towns in the world.  Morro Bay is on the coast of Central California.  It’s about 3 hours south of here.  The weather is fantastic with lots of fog which I love.  Cool and lovely.  The bay itself is wonderful with lots of birds, lots and lots of birds.  The town is where I saw turkeys walking the streets last year and had a conversation with them.  We are meeting good friends and family there.  It will be a nice break.

Life is very, very stressful right now.  Lots of good things happening but lots of stress as well — particularly at work.  I’m tired of the stress, thank you.  So, I’m hoping that we all see some turkeys who make us laugh again . . . not the ones who get me down.

third turkey


6 Oct

For me, having children solved all my sleep problems.  I used to be a habitual insomniac.  Several nights a week, I’d be wide awake and frustrated.  3am was my nemisis time.  The number of showers I’ve taken at 3am . . . amazing.

But, the amazing sleep deprivation of having two kids under two years of age.  Well, that cured me.  I can fall asleep before I’m back in bed now.  Greg says my breathing will go to “I’m asleep now” breathing in 3 breaths after my head hits the pillow.  It’s a beautiful thing.  (Although, admittedly it’s not the cure for everyone!  🙂 )

Then, I also had a bout of Sleep Apnea.  Not a fun thing.  Oh, I was sleeping but the whole getting oxygen to the brain part . . . not happening.  So, I wore an attractive sleeping mask for a couple of years while at the same time losing 20 lbs.  (It was 30 but I gained weight over the summer and . . . well, you know.)  Thankfully, that was what was causing the Apnea for me so I’m in good shape now for the brain and oxygen thing — which, it turns out, is pretty important.

Being exhausted during the day, though, didn’t seem all that unusual to me after kids who woke up repeatedly all night and then the Sleep Apnea.  Follow that up with becoming a teacher and doing it while going to school for my credential and its easy to understand why I’ve come to expect to sleepwalk through life.

Sometime last year, Greg read an article somewhere about sleep cycles and how all your zombie days would be over if you’d only follow a 90 minute sleep cycle pattern.  I was skeptical to say the least but after he raved about it.  I gave it a try.  Here’s the deal . . . (not, it doesn’t involve sending me any money or investing in a scheme where you pay me and I pay someone and then we all get tons o’ cash in a few months!) . . .

A typical sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and has 5 stages.  Each of these stages is important.  If you get woken up in the middle of a sleep cycle, your brain is foggy and out-of-sorts and you sleepwalk through the day.  If you sleep until you wake up on your own, your brain is fresher and more alert and you are perky and happy and whistle while you work all day.  Tra la!

So, I wake up at 6am everyday.  The only trick to this is figuring out when to go to bed.  I want to work backwards in increments of 90 minutes.  So, 6am – 90 min = 4:30am; 4:30 am – 90 min = 3am; 3am = 90 min = 1:30 am; 1:30 am – 90 min = Midnight; Midnight – 90 mins = 10:30pm.

My best going to sleep times are 10:30 pm and Midnight.  If you subscribe to this theory, you’d rather stay up until midnight than go to sleep at 11pm.  When that alarm goes off at 6am, you’ll be in the middle of a sleep cycle and you’ll be groggy and miserable.  Much like I am this morning . . . I went to BED at midnight but didn’t fall asleep for about 1/2 hour.  Not wise.  My alarm went off and it was like walking through molasses to reach my alarm and turn it off.

So, if you have trouble with grogginess during the day, take a look at your wake up time and try adjusting your bedtime.  You might find it works nicely.  It’s also another reason to enjoy the weekends . . . you don’t have to do math at bedtime . . . just go to bed and wake up when your body wants to wake up.  That’s what really convinced me.  Left to my own devices, I’d wake up at a multiple of 90 minutes from when I went to sleep.  Pretty cool.  Tonight, 10:30 pm . . . without fail!