Archive | September, 2010

A beautiful day on the bay . . .

29 Sep

Wildlife in the bay


Our spectacular bay . . .

28 Sep

School of sardines (probably)

Last week, I got to take my class out on the Monterey Bay.  Thanks to the amazing O’Neill Sea Odyssey!  I’d been reading about some spectacular sightings on recent pelagic trips.  I figured that being out with 30+ 4th graders and their parents would minimize my luck in seeing rare pelagic birds.  I was right.  Nary a Tufted Puffin in sight.

However, right off the Santa Cruz Wharf and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, there was a school of fish –probably some sardines — drew in many species . . . gulls, cormorants, pelicans, sea lions, and a harbor seal or two.  Wow, it was so cool.

Still would have liked seeing a Tufted Puffin, too!  But, it was probably worth missing them to see the faces of the kids when they got to be on a boat . . . some of them for the first time!

By the way . . . O’Neill Sea Odyssey puts this amazing experience together . . . science, navigation, ecology for local kids for FREE!  You can support this amazing program by checking out the events here!

Mice and Men

23 Sep

Greg is off camping tonight.  I cleaned up the motorhome last night and found mouse droppings (actually, they were pretty old and Ruby wasn’t interested in them so I don’t really think that Greg is camping with a mouse but one never really knows, does one?)

In the best laid plans department (the above taking care of the mice and men department), he is not camping where we had reservations for the weekend.  He’ll be camping a few hours south of that spot.  The campground where we had reservations was inexplicably closed.  Our friends arrived and were turned away.  Wacky.

We’ll be joining Greg (and any mice he may be camping with) tomorrow evening.  I am teaching all day and my day includes a field trip.  My class is going out on a boat in the Monterey Bay . . . so much fun!  We will be seeing all sorts of cool critters — birds, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, and more.  Can not wait!  Then I drive home, hand the kidlets to their parents, and pick up my own kids, the dog, and my 17-year-old nephew and we drive, drive, drive.

This squirrel was REALLY angry with me!

I know it’s not a mouse but it’s a rodent and it’s all I could find.  This is a squirrel that was really angry with me in Montana.

Scenic Byways

21 Sep

Miller, NE

Miller, Nebraska was a nice little town.  We drove through it as we wound our way up the state towards South Dakota.  I’m missing being on our trip.  Even with the disadvantages of driving a vintage motorhome, I miss my biggest worry being whether or not we have enough chocolate for s’mores!

Missing daily weather

16 Sep

Lightning near Billings, MT

On our trip, we saw lots of thunder and lightning storms.  Storms are exciting.  Will they come close?  Will they pass by?

I know the weather will start-up here soon enough and then I’ll be complaining about the rain but just now I’m missing the crash and boom of a good thunder-storm.

Mammal Lifer – Big Horn Sheep

14 Sep

Big Horn Sheep #2

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see a Big Horn Sheep in the wild.  When I was a 7th or 8th grader, we lived in the high Sierras.  In nearby Lee Vining Canyon (the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park), Big Horn Sheep were released into the wild to try to re-establish them as wild animals.  Every time we drove through there, I’d pin my nose to the windows, hoping against hope that I’d see one on one of the steep canyon walls.

I never did.

Really, at this point, I’d given up.  I figured they were rare enough and reclusive enough that I wasn’t destined to see one.  Oh well.  Life goes on.

When we were in the Badlands, this summer, I got the thrill of a lifetime.  I was driving as we returned to our campsite after a long day of driving in this amazingly beautiful park.  We came around a corner and I saw out of the corner of my eye, a Big Horn Sheep on a steep canyon wall.

I don’t know how I managed to avoid driving off the road in my excitement.

I stopped, made a u-turn, and we drove back to a vantage point.  We all ended up seeing it although for a few moments, I’m sure my family thought I was nuts.  It was hard to see.

We continued our drive back to the campsite.  I couldn’t stop talking about how excited I was to have seen a Big Horn Sheep.

Imagine my surprise as we came around a corner and I saw another one.  It was lying down, admiring the view in front of it.  (And it was quite a view . . .)

Two in one day.  Way to end a lifelong hunt!

Singing for Summer . . .

10 Sep

Red-winged Blackbird, male

We saw so many Red-winged Blackbirds on our trip.  This one was in Valentine, Nebraska.  He was singing his heart out!

How many of me are there?

7 Sep
Logo There are
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Honestly, I’m surprised it’s that many.

If I go with my maiden name, the results are much lower . . .
Logo There are
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

What about you?  How many of you are there?

Birding Myths: No Hummingbird Feeders after Labor Day

6 Sep

It’s Labor Day, folks.  The traditional end to summer.  The day we all pack up our white shoes and prepare for the dark days of winter.

Not all rules about Labor Day should be followed though.  While everyone knows that white shoes after Labor Day might call the fashion world to implode and bring back a return of the worst fashion heresies of all time.  Hoop skirts?  Go-go boots?  Need I go on? Sure, that’s one we can all agree on.  I’m putting my white shoes into storage and hitting the rest of my “get ready for winter” list.

One item that must be taken OFF the list is packing up the hummingbird feeders.  In most parts of the US, hummingbirds are beginning their migration south.  Many people believe that they must pack up their feeders or the hummingbirds will stay too long and won’t survive their migration.

Nope.  Myth.  Not true.

Hummingbirds head south when their little hummingbird instincts tell them to do so.  They will go whether there is food available or not.  They are tough little birds.  They can survive some below freezing nights.  But, they will go when they are ready to go. More important is that they are able to eat enough food to build up their reserves so that they can survive the migration flight.  Having a ready food source is essential. The best rule of thumb is to keep your feeder up for about 2 weeks after you see your last hummingbird.  That way, the latecomers can stop in for a drink on their way . . .

Furthermore, on the West Coast, where I live, we have hummingbirds year round.  Our local Anna’s Hummingbirds stay year round.  They will benefit from a ready source of food all year.  In California, keep your feeders up year round, please!  In fact, in the depths of winter, I’ll often bring the feeder in at night and put it out first thing in the morning . . . that way the hummingbird juice is warmer than the air temperature giving the hummers a warm start to their mornings.


Make sure your friends who feed the birds know to leave their feeders up.  The hummers will thank you!

Happy International Vulture Day!

4 Sep

Turkey Vulture at the beach

Happy International Vulture Day (IVAD) 2010.

The most common bird I see when driving around California is the Turkey Vulture.  They sore around in their tippy way over cities and mountains and farmland alike.

In July, we were coming home from our 5 week camping trip and spent our last night along the California coast at a fabulous campground.  We’d explored the cliffs the day before and seen so many birds — osprey, gulls, sparrows, and even turkey vultures.  When I got up in the morning, it was foggy and cold.  This charmer greeted me as I walked out to the cliff edge to look at the water.

Vultures like to warm up their wings before they do much flying which may explain why he (she?) just sat there while I stood so nearby.  I’m zoomed in a bit but still we were surprisingly near to each other.

I’d love to share that we had a communal moment there on the cliffs in the foggy morning but really, I think the vulture was pretending I wasn’t there and hoping I’d go away and leave it alone.

Which, of course, I did.