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Before or After?

18 Jul

Before . . .

Poppy, Silverton, CO

After . . .

Poppy! (Silverton, CO)

Your votes?

When we travel

22 Jun

Apache PlumeApache Plume, a desert wildflower in the rose family

I am kinder and gentler
when we travel.
My world narrows down to a smaller place
which confuses as we are driving into new vistas
each day.

I am kinder and gentler
when we travel.
200 square feet that flies down the road
is a world I can manage

I am kinder and gentler
when we travel.
Clear in vision.
Focused ahead.

I am kinder and gentler when we travel.

© 2011, Liza Lee Miller.  All Rights Reserved.

Best Rest Stop Bathroom Evah

19 Aug

The rest stop at Dismal Nitch Oregon (that is seriously what it’s called, peeps!) is the nicest rest stop I’ve ever stopped at.  I’m not sure who stocks the flowers here but I do thank them!

Nice rest stop bathroom

Going to seed . . .

30 Aug

Goldfinch hovering

This right here is why it’s sometimes okay to let weeds take over.  Sure they are prickly and non-native and all that jazz but oh the goldfinches love them!

For more beautiful birds to enjoy, go to Bird Photography Weekly.

PS.  Just found out that my step-mother, Babette Donaldson, is a published author. Go see! It’s pretty cool!

Crabby, crabby, crabby

29 Mar

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Saturday night, we went to a Crab Feed at the Junior League of Monterey County. My good friend, Denine is a member and they go every year.  We had a great time.  The crab was plentiful and delish!  There was a raffle, 50/50 raffle, and silent auction.  Oh, they had a dessert silent auction, too.  That was fun.

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We  bid on this beautiful photograph by Steve Tronick.  And . . . we won it!  It’s so lovely!  And, gosh, looking at his website, there are several other wildflower prints that I’d LOVE to get and group with this one.

The best part about it is that the Junior League of Monterey County was raising money for a cause that I can really believe in. They are supporting an organization that helps to mentor kids who are exiting the foster care system. This organization provides training in life skills for 16-18 year olds.  The emphasis is on school to work transitions.  Each teen is provided with a mentor.  There was a speaker last night — a young woman who is a graduate of the foster care system and a graduate of our local University.  She was a delightful speaker and encouraged the attendees to both spend well and to speak to her if they were willing to consider being foster parents.

If you are going to go to a social event and spend too much money on food and art . . . be sure your money will be well spent.  It’s a good feeling!

Wordless Wednesday: California Poppies

17 Mar

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Trip Report: Elkhorn Slough

16 Mar

Saturday, I had the joy of going out to Elkhorn Slough (pronounced “slew”) — my favorite place to bird — and doing an all day training out there.  I can now take my classes out there for field trips!  Hurrah!

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Elkhorn Slough Reserve used to be a dairy and before that it was a gun club.  This shot was taken from inside the old milking barn.  There are two Barn Owl nest boxes inside.  There are signs of nesting in one of the boxes.  In all my visits, I’ve never had the joy of seeing an owl, sigh.  There are also Great Horned Owls that nest in one of the Eucalyptus Groves. Owl pellets abound inside the barn.

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This pictures was taken at the end of the day.  We hiked over much of this land.  It’s so rich with life.

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Saw a Song Sparrow.  I also saw a Common Yellowthroat .  .  . life bird for me.

Leopard Shark

Not only bird life abounds at the Slough.  This Leopard Shark was a thrill for all of us.  You can see broken bottles in the water . . . this was a dumping ground when the Reserve was a Dairy.

Egrets & Cormorants II

While we had lunch on Hummingbird Island, I saw this odd flock come in and land on the water in front of us.  They don’t normally allow food on the trails but made an exception for us.

Suncups

Pretty Suncups (Camissonia ovata) on Hummingbird Island

The day was exhausting but wonderful.  I saw a lot, learning a lot, hiked a lot.  I saw a lot of birds:

Canada Goose – Branta canadensis     2
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos     8
Bufflehead – Bucephala albeola     10
Common Merganser – Mergus merganser     1
Western Grebe – Aechmophorus occidentalis     1
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus     10
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias     1
Great Egret – Ardea alba     8
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula     4
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura     4
White-tailed Kite – Elanus leucurus     1
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus     1
California Gull – Larus californicus     X
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri     10
Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna     3
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon     1
Black Phoebe – Sayornis nigricans     4
Western Scrub-Jay (Coastal) – Aphelocoma californica californica     2
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos     4
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas     2   **LIFER**
Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia     4

More pictures and stories will follow.

The Secret of the Super Secret Meadow

15 Jul

I know it’s supposed to be Ruby Tuesday but Ruby is giving up the floor so that I can keep my promise to share the secret of the Super Secret Meadow . . . you’ll see a tiny bit of Ruby at the end, no fears!

Come back with me to the Super Secret Meadow.  If you remember, we saw lots of wildflowers here but there were two wildflowers that I saved to share with you in a special way.  First of all, many of us read Julie Zickefoose’s blog and there is something Julie is well known for . . . no not her wealth of knowledge on birds and birding, no, not her phenomenal ability to paint birds, no, not the incomparable Chet Baker, no, not her naughty parrot, no, not her nearly unbelievable bird rehabilitation stories, no, not her fantastic kids or lovely garden or . . . yes, that’s right, orchids!  Julie has the most amazing orchids and has encouraged many of us to try growing orchids for ourselves.

Well, the real secret of the Super Secret Meadow is that there are two different kinds of wild orchids growing in this super secret place.  The Super Secret Meadow is somewhere near June Lake, California.  June Lake sits at around 7500 feet above sea level on the easter side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  This is high desert but clearly not all of it is desert.  There is a fresh water spring up here as well as a mineral water seep.  These conditions encouraged the super secret meadow to form and form it did.  And, these conditions allow orchids to thrive too.

Super-Secret Meadow

Look closely at this picture and you’ll see white or pale green spires sticking up all over the place.  That is our first and most abundant orchid in the Super Secret Meadow. It is the White Rein Orchid which is also known as a Sierra Bog Orchid.   It’s scientific name is Platanthera dilatata or Habenaria dilatata (evidently it’s undergoing a taxon change — well, we birders understand that one, don’t we?  Ask me how my Blue Grouse became a Dusky Grouse that was really a Sooty Grouse).

White Rein Orchid

White Rein Orchid

White Rein Orchid

Isn’t it lovely?

The other orchid found in and near the Super Secret Meadow is the Stream Orchid.  We actually saw these along the trail to the Super Secret Meadow.  The Stream Orchid’s scientific name is Epipactis gigantea.

Stream Orchid

Stream Orchid

Look at those gorgeous colors.

I absolutely fell in love with these beautiful orchids.  They are so, so beautiful.  I was so happy to see them wild and thriving.  I desperately wanted to take them all home with me — and they both do grow in Santa Cruz county — but that would have been so wrong.  And if I collected them and they didn’t survive.  Well, I don’t think I could live with that.  Better to collect photographs and know they are there, thriving, wild, and in a Super Secret Meadow.


Ruby in Super Secret Meadow

Ruby hopes you liked the Super Secret Meadow as much as she did!

Visit the Super Secret Meadow!

13 Jul

Igor, my wonderful stepfather, took me to the Super Secret Meadow.  I can’t tell you exactly where it is because then I’d have to kill you — it’s Super Secret!  I will tell you that it is where I saw the Red-breasted Sapsucker and heard the Sooty Grouse. The intrepid hikers for this adventure were me (behind the camera, as always), Gage (super hiker but tends to whine when near his mother), and the aforementioned, Igor (that’s really his name and no, his hump doesn’t move–although he will answer to Eye-gor!).

Gage Igor

The trail to the Super Secret Meadow (SSM) is steep, very steep.  For me, a short, difficult hike with a reward at the end, is way, way better than a long, easy hike from point A to point B.  No thank you.  Work, destination with reward, and home.  Thank you much!  And the SSM is definitely a reward!

Super-Secret Meadow

Isn’t it lovely?  We passed lots of loveliness on the way up, too.  At the SSM, we also saw signs of mammalian life.  Bear poop, coyote poop, and a big ol’ deer wallow with deer hair in it.  Gage, who came on the hike too, encouraged Igor to examine the coyote poop and see what he’d been eating.  Of course he did.  They found some sort of bone — Igor thought it might be a scapula off some creature.  I post these pictures because I know how Susan loves all things poop-related.  (My husband really can’t believe that I took a picture of bear poop!  You’d think he understood me better than that!)

Deer fur at wallow Coyote Poop
Deer hair in wallow; Coyote poop
Coyote poop being examined Bear Poop!
Coyote poop being examined; Bear poop

Okay, enough with the fauna.  On with the flora . . .

Iris

Wild Iris.  Don’t know exactly which one.

Columbine

Crimson columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Blue Eye

California Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense)

Sneeze Weed

Bigelow’s Sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii)

Shooting Star

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi)

Tiger Lily

Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum)


some sort of daisy

Aster of some sort.  Love it’s intrepid “I’ll grow out of a sheer face of granite if I want to” nature.

Stonecrop

Sierra Stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum)

Dog's Bane

Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

So, did you enjoy your visit to the Super Secret Meadow?  I know I did.  It was worth the steep hike.  It was worth the bloodthirsty mosquitos (who, no exaggeration, were an inch long and left welts all over my body!).  It was worth the fall I took when I was literally 5 steps from the flats again (just bruises and scrapes, no worries!).  It was worth my son whining at me that the flowers were boring!  🙂

But, the best part is that I still have a secret.  I’m not sharing the best part of the Super Secret Meadow with you.

Yet.

It’s a surprise that will have to wait a bit.  Stay tuned.  It’s worth it.  Promise!

Wildflowers!

11 Jul

A side benefit of birding is that sometimes there aren’t birds around . . . or not around yet . . . or that you can’t see right that minute.  Oh, you get the point.  Sometimes when you’re birding, there’s no birds.  Usually, however, there are other things to look at like butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and wildflowers.  I like to look at wildflowers when I can because those other things tend to move to fast for me to capture with my camera and if I don’t capture it with my camera . . . I didn’t really see it.  You see?

The eastern Sierra Nevada mountains is high desert and as such, it’s seasons are off from where I live in the coastal mountains.  So, it’s the tail end of spring up there and deep summer here.  So, we saw lots and lots of wildflowers.  Sometimes I stopped and took pictures and sometimes I couldn’t.  We went on a nature walk at Mono Lake’s South Tufa area.  My parents have both recently become volunteers at the Mono Lake Visitors Center and my stepfather, Igor, is going to start giving tours at the South Tufa area.  So, we were there to see how it’s done and to enjoy the Tufas and the birds.  Dave, the tourguide, is also an expert birder.  He can do amazing bird calls.  He’s the reason that I have a Brewer’s Sparrow on my life list now.  Thank you, Dave!

Mono Lake is one of the most amazing places on earth.  Why?  Well, my husband and I were married there 20 years ago and that is why it’s amazing.  No?  Well, how about it’s an inland sea, 6 times saltier than the oceans.  How about the fact that in the 30’s far-sighted officials in LA bought the water rights to the streams that feed Mono Lake and nearly killed it?  How about the grassroots movement that saved Mono Lake?  How about the amazing numbers of California Gulls, Phalaropes, and Eared Grebes that visit Mono Lake every year and depend on the amazing richness of food (brine shrimp and black flies) that it provides?  How about it’s stunning beauty? [Click]

I’m guessing that you get the idea . . . Mono Lake is amazing and wonderful and thankfully it’s being preserved.  Yay!

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Desert Suncup (Camissonia boothii var. desertorum) at South Tufa, Mono Lake

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Phacelia fremontii (Fremont phacelia) at South Tufa, Mono Lake

Wild Rose

Wild Rose (Rosa californica) – took this one while we were looking at the Bald Eagle nest — and being eaten alive by the biggest, most vicious, painful mosquitos I’ve ever encountered!

Hillside

Hillside above Grant Lake

How could we drive by here?  Greg was wonderful and let me get out and take tons of macro shots of the flowers.

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Mustang Mint (Monardella lanceolata)

Lupine

Lupine (don’t know which one)

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White-stemmed Blazing Star (Mentzelia albicaulis)

Bright yellow

Sulfur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum)

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Unknown itsy-bitsy blue

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Unknown itsy-bitsy white flower

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Prickly poppy (Argemone munita) – brimming with life!

SNEAK PREVIEW:  Coming soon! . . . a visit to the Super Secret Meadow!  Don’t tell ANYONE!