Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Beach Life


Sometimes there's just no better place to be than the beach on a September morning.

Marbled Godwits have dropped by for the winter.

They are right at home among the teeming Sanderlings.

Which is not to say that sanderlings are team players.

And plucking isopods out of the sand isn't the only lip-smackin' fun going on.

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Saturday, September 26, 2020



It was more foxy than usual around the pool the last couple of weeks.

One difference, though, is that the fox was always alone. Another is that it's showing up in the daytime.

Sometimes I can't figure out how an animal that appears to be heading directly for an area covered by another camera manages to escape without being camera-trapped. This fox is leaping toward the pool, but it didn't trigger the pool cam.

Often, an animal will light up one cam...

...then trigger a second cam.

This is where the fox ended up when she jumped off the log. In the past, this cam often didn't get triggered at times like this. The pool is to her left, but she has never stopped there to drink. As I was biking up the mountain I was surprised to hear a fair amount of running water in one of the roadside drainages, so I imagine there are still plenty of watering holes for a fox on the move.

The pool keeps getting smaller, but the raccoon continues to check it out. It's not coming to drink, but to hunt.

This guy chattered at me from high in a nearby tree almost the whole time I was hanging around the camera trap area. I recorded some video on my phone to capture all the sounds -- the scolding squirrel, the laughing acorn woodpeckers, the drumbeat of the woodpeckers making acorn holes, the loud calls of a nearby pileated woodpecker, and numerous small songbirds companion-calling.

This big buck made his first appearance.

Stepped in for a close-up.

Here, a different cam had caught him ten hours earlier.

And here he is trailing a doe.

I've always liked the general view of this cam, but it seemed to be missing a lot of shots (for example, when the bobcat was on the log, this cam did not fire), so I moved it to another tree slightly closer to the log. When I got the memory cards home, though, I could see that the cam had suddenly been doing much better. Why, I don't know. Hopefully I won't be sorry I moved it. It sometimes seems like whack-a-mole to get the position just right. I also brought my yard-cam up, so there are now four cams in this one little area.

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Friday, September 25, 2020

For the Birds


September is a good time to go out and find birds fattening up for the winter. Back in September 2009 at El Polin Spring I watched this Western Tanager stalk a nice fat meal hanging on a willow leaf.

I haven't been able to identify the caterpillar, unfortunately. It seems close to some kind of sphinx moth, but I can't find an exact match. Despite the tanager's powerful beak, he was unable to yank the caterpillar off its leaf.

Berries are much easier to catch. Figuring out this is a female Western Tanager was not so easy. I looked her up in Sibley with no luck, but National Geographic led me to understand that the top-pictured bird is a male (yellow on its top wing bar), so it followed that this was a female. 

I also tried to google it at one point. How do you google a bird? Even the images didn't cut it. Those birds looked so much more yellow than mine. I woke up in the middle of the night, still thinking about that, and fell into a silly reverie about impossible google searches. Imagine getting a million people, all at once, to search for things that don't exist. Now trending: chewable barbed wire; milk of titanium; carbon trioxide; water pianos; and sunspot remover. Yes, I do get even more goofy than usual at 2 a.m. 

It almost looks like this Townsend's Warbler is interested in the little urn-shaped flowers, but there's probably some little insect up there that I just can't see.

This Pygmy Nuthatch seems to have a nutritious little prize.

And this Steller's Jay was going to town on a seed, hammering off the pulp to get at the nut inside.

I recently read an alarming news story about hundreds of thousands of migrating birds that dropped dead in New Mexico. Biologists thought the mass die-off could have been the result of wildfire smoke, drought, and an unusual cold front that swept through. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Forensics Lab (home of the Feather Atlas) is trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ten Lakes

In September 2007 I took my first DSLR, a Nikon D40, out for a test drive, an overnight trip to Ten Lakes Basin in Yosemite. That was a big fire year too, and smoke marred the view to some extent, although the "California Fall Firestorm" that struck Southern California was still several weeks away. That year, about 1.5 million acres burned. That's about 2 million fewer acres than have already burned this year.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Passing the Baton


Summer passes the baton to autumn, and autumn says Holy cow! Who turned the racetrack into a steeplechase? 

But autumn, always up for a challenge or adventure, quickly shakes off her surprise and shows her true colors as she blazes down the course. These blazes are from the Eastern Sierra of September 2003.

There's something special about golden leaves. The way they warm the light, the way they glow, even on a chilly day. The way they remind us how precious this moment is. Chlorophyll fades, having done its job. Nourishment is pulled into branches. Leaves are sealed off. 

The abscission layer is coming. Get ready to fall.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Ready for His Close-up


Smile, you're on Bobcat Camera.


Like we say in the city so much these days,
stay safe, Kitty!
(Click on images to view larger.)

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

High Country


September can be a great time to be in the Sierra High Country. After having our pick of campsites, we woke up with Thousand Island Lake pretty much all to ourselves. 

I don't recall the last days of summer back then, in 2011, as being particularly fraught or portentous. Nothing like it seems this year, anyway. Thankfully there are still places to go to experience the beauty, peace, and majesty of nature, to recharge the spirit for the work that needs to be done back home.

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Dewy Mornings


Jeweled Orb on Tomales Point Trail

Setting Moon from Grandview Park

It's been fairly warm and damp the last couple of mornings, without much breeze even on the exposed hilltop at Grandview Park which I circumnavigate in the dark these days. No point bringing the phone camera. We'll be hiking on Mt. Tam this morning, hoping to beat the return of smoke which the weather forecaster warned about.

As for Point Reyes, it looks like the Woodward Fire is close to 100% contained. The new General Management Plan Final EIS is also out, and it's not looking good for seeing our national park prioritized for nature and wildlife instead of cattle ranching.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Bird's Eye View


Even on a beautiful day, basking in the sun on a sandy beach, these long-billed curlews do not let their guards down. They are predators who don't want to fall prey to a speeding peregrine.

I wonder if marbled godwits ever fall prey to conspiracy theories the way so many people seem to these days. It's kind of shocking when people you know suddenly seem to disappear into the dimly gaslit atmosphere of outlandish tales from an unreal world.

I think such people could benefit by spending more time in nature, more time watching the flight of sanderlings, more time just letting nature heal minds that have been engrossed too long in a venomous sea of emotional manipulation.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Welcome Visitors


I was sitting in the back yard the other day when a Cabbage White butterfly fluttered down to nosh on the nectar of our lantana flowers. We've had the lantana for years, but this was the first time I'd caught a butterfly taking advantage of them. I chalk that up to the fact that I'm spending more time in the back yard these days than when I had to work downtown.

I didn't have even my phone camera on me when the butterfly landed, but these shots are the same species, shot on another September day nearly ten years ago. Of course I'd really like to see a Green Hairstreak come streaking down to partake of our flower garden. There is a "Green Hairstreak Corridor" just a block or so away, but the only place I've actually seen one is Lobos Dunes, way on the north side of town.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ansel Adams

Thousand Island Lake
Ansel Adams Wilderness, September 2011

Wildflower Meadow
(Click on images to view larger)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dinner Bell


We've been adopted by one of the neighborhood cats, and I've been trying to get her to come when I make a non-verbal cat-call (if there is a word for that sound, I don't know it). She must not have been nearby because I didn't hear her footfalls in the leaves in the neighbor's yard, or even a meow to let me know she was on the way. It was last call, though, so I set out some food in the hope she would get it before the raccoons found it.

No such luck.

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At the Pool

Camera Trapping on Mt. Tamalpais


Gray Fox


Blacktail Doe


Screech Owl

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


The Day the Earth Stood Still

N95 Weather

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