Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gimme Shelter

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As I do my best to hide from a virus I can't see, I take a few phone snaps here and there to remind me it's not all bad. Sheltering in place and working from home can be a drag, but it also means:



Having time to eat an awesome breakfast.



Reading a fat book.



Drinking quarantinis.



Going grocery shopping and wondering if now's the time to find out what a $9 jar of pasta sauce tastes like.



Going for walks in the neighborhood.



Stopping to smell the spring blossoms.



Doing sketchfest with friends online.



Making hummus and avocado toast with Sriracha drops.



Spotting San Francisco wallflowers at your local park.



Sitting with a friendly neighborhood cat.



Arranging your pantry.



Taking more neighborhood walks.



Going into the office one day and being the only person on the whole floor.



Checking out the mad lunch-hour rush (it's Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in this shot).



Visiting Pier 39 (taking the long way home from the office).



Walking in the street to keep your distance from your neighbors.



Making awesome vegan mac-and-cheese.



And there's always ... taking another neighborhood walk.

When I go for my first walk in the early morning I'm always surprised to see people getting in their car to drive somewhere. For those of you who are going to work at great personal risk to bring us our food (from the growers and farmworkers to the truckers and grocers), to the folks who keep the water running, the lights on, and the internet connected, and to all the medical staff on the front lines of this health crisis, I salute you and thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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Adios, March


Anise Swallowtail on Checkerbloom

As we say "Adios" to the most surreal March of our lives, I thought I'd post some favorite bird and butterfly images -- the lighter side of nature -- from the month of March in years past.


Townsend's Warbler



Green Hairstreak



Fox Sparrow



Pipevine Swallowtail



Yellow-Rumped Warbler



White-Crowned Sparrow



Allen's Hummingbird



Red-Winged Blackbird



Scrub Jay



Long-Billed Curlew




Although my wife and I are both working from home, there is enough down time even during the workday that it's good to have a book to pick up. On my wife's recommendation I started sheltering in place with Frank Herbert's Dune. I finally finished it on Saturday, and we streamed the movie that night after a dinner of rice with baked tofu and broccoli, generously spiced.

On Sunday I picked The Forest Unseen, A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell, which I'm re-reading. I was going to photograph it on the ground in our garden, but it was too wet. The bird bath, with antler and quartz crystal from Mt. Tamalpais and Buddha from a friend, seemed appropriate because the book starts off with a description of a Tibetan sand mandala and segues into the circle of life that the author will study for a year. 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Agony & Ecstasy



If you've ever felt the ecstasy of being one with nature, one with the universe, you may also have felt the agony of being unique, separate and alone.



Two sides of the same coin, as the saying goes. We each carry these polarities, if only as potentials that graze our conscious selves like tangents on a circle. 

Would we trade the bliss of ignorance for the torture of clarity? Or, better yet, marry them together?



I like to think we're drawn to frontiers, to edges where the land meets the sea, because they tune these polarities within us, bring us into harmony.



We're all one, all born of elements formed in exploding stars, born of a virgin that science calls a singularity. From that unique mother of the universe comes a family of forces and elements, of life and consciousness.



Spring is a great reminder of the mystery of life.



And I don't just mean mystery in a religious, poetic, or mystical sense, but an actual mystery that has scientists completely flummoxed.



All the insights we've made into physics and biology remain fragmentary knowledge, as yet unsynthesized into a coherent story of the mystery of life.



This all came together for me as I was reading an interview in Quanta Magazine with the physicist Nigel Goldenfeld and was struck by the following passage:

“It’s in that sense that I think our view of evolution as a process needs to be expanded — by thinking about dynamical systems, and how it is possible that systems capable of evolving and reproducing can exist at all. If you think about the physical world, it is not at all obvious why you don’t just make more dead stuff. Why does a planet have the capability to sustain life? Why does life even occur? The dynamics of evolution should be able to address that question. Remarkably, we don’t have an idea even in principle of how to address that question — which, given that life started as something physical and not biological, is fundamentally a physics question.”



I like to believe that humanity will someday be able to address that question, to tell that story. And maybe in doing so, become able to address the ability of a virus that's just following the laws of nature to jam up our life systems, not just individually but extending to the entire tribe of human beings throughout the world.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Hooves & Feathers



Anyone else remember the break of, I don't recall how many years, when dairy cows were gone and tule elk had the D Ranch pastures for themselves? That was good times for wildlife viewing. My heart sank a little when I went back out there some years ago and saw that cattle ranching was back.



March is a good month to spot baby blue egret eggs in a pine tree full of feathers.



Alert and frisky in the fields of spring.



Willets foraging in the pickleweed.



One bull still hangs onto his antlers while three others have already shed theirs and begun sporting velvet nubbins.



A black turnstone walks the tide line.



Deer take an early morning break at Chimney Rock.



A raven pontificates in clatters and clicks.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Clearing the Air



Ever since the work-from-home order began for me last Monday I've been taking my phone along as I stretch my legs with a walk around the neighborhood, in order to photograph this view toward Mt. Tamalpais from about the same place each trip. No special reason. It just seemed like something to do. 

This morning, though, the clarity of the view was more incredible than usual. Not only is there a significant reduction in air pollution going on due to reduced economic activity, but it also rained yesterday and took out whatever scrud was still floating around.



Just offshore, a beautiful squall hovered over the Pacific. At one point during my walk I could see a very faint but thick rainbow between the base of the cloud and the ocean. My angle was too oblique for the 'bow to gleam in all its splendor. I continued my walk thinking that if the squall kept sailing north over the ocean, I would eventually have a better angle. When I got home I grabbed my Nikon bag and got in the car to drive to a likely location, only to find that the squall had moved inland....

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Life on the Edge



Sunrise with Wight's Paintbrush at Chimney Rock



Tidepool and Surfgrass at McClure's Beach



Holding Fast
(Aren't we all!)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Moods of Carrizo



When I first heard of Carrizo Plain in a botany class at Santa Barbara City College back in maybe 1983-84, the professor's description imbued it with an almost mythical quality, as if it existed on another planet, a secret garden of treasure known only to a select few. 



Something of that mythic quality lives on despite the fact that it's become a social media darling, the scene of cars parked bumper-to-bumper along its dirt roads. 



I've actually never been there during one of the so-called super blooms, but I've seen fantastic carpets of wildflowers, had close encounters with pronghorn (much closer than shown above!), and walked alone among the pictographs of Painted Rock when I had it, and virtually the whole plain, to myself.



Luckily there isn't enough oil under the plain to make it worth drilling for, or all of this would look the same as it does on the other side of the Temblor Range, a vast plain of pumpjacks instead of fiddleneck and goldfields, tidy tips and phacelia.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Anza Borrego



Cactus Garden (Anza Borrego in March)



Sphinx Moth and Chuparosa



Camouflage (Banded Rock Lizard)



Palm Oasis



Chorus Frog at Palm Oasis



Passing Storm With Barrel Cactus



Passing Storm With Barrel Cactus (looking the other direction).



Henderson Canyon Wildflowers



Cactus Wren on Ocotillo



Black-Throated Sparrow



Palm Oasis Sunset.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Changing Times



I'm glad to see the trap is still picking up a bobcat, keeping my hopes alive that I'll eventually capture a couple of bobkittens tagging along. The time on all of these is still PST since I didn't get around to updating them to PDT until today.



Big-Eyed Mouse.



I have a video clip of the mouse coming in from the right side of the frame, and it looks almost as big as an American pika.



Leaping into the manzanita.



Another leaping rodent.



Spotted Towhee.



I hadn't caught a Band-Tailed Pigeon since back when the traps were set down by a creek-bed pool.



So my wife and I looked over these manzanita plants this morning and could not find sign of deer-browsing on the leafy stems. I had wondered if they could simply be eating the flowers, and am pretty sure that's what they're doing. In some clips, the deer press into the brush to reach farther back, even though there are plenty of leaves right up front. I've gotta think they are reaching for fresh bunches of flowers.



The fox has been paying the camera no mind.



I've started picking up a jackrabbit in the area also.



And several turkeys pass through once in a while. We heard quite a bit of gobbling on the mountain this morning.



The buck deer are already beginning to grow back their antlers.



We were surprised by how few people were on the mountain. Even by the time we headed back to San Francisco, only a dozen or so cars were parked at Rock Spring.  

Ironically, the only person we saw in the woods, despite the fact that we were on regular trails quite a bit, was a guy walking a deer trail through the chaparral and heading right for the manzanita camera trap. I'd already collected the SD card, so I guess I'll find out next week if he spotted the cam. 

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