Monday, May 29, 2023

Can of Graywater


Yellow Bush Lupines at Grandview Park

I didn't want to put the graywater photo at the top, so I plugged in some bush lupine encountered on my walk this morning. I haven't been doing any nature photography lately since my wife caught the Covid-19 bug about two weeks ago, just a few days before a big gathering for a nephew's wedding. I managed to stay bug-free until a couple of days after attending the wedding solo, but then I also tested positive last Monday. I went on Paxlovid right away and, after a few days with almost no symptoms, was stoked to test negative on Saturday. Today was a beautiful day to finally get back outdoors.

As for the graywater, about a year ago I started using the rinse water from our washing machine (using as little biodegradable soap as possible) to keep our little garden alive during the drought. I fill four buckets with each of two rinses per load, and do two loads a week, which turns out to be plenty of water. The only thing I didn't like about it was pouring buckets of water on the plants. Even trying to be gentle about it, that's just not ideal. The water pressure squashes the plants and compacts the soil, and much of the water just runs off the planted area.

I figured I needed a proper watering can, and just recently I finally got around to it. I got the biggest can I could find, which holds three gallons, to save myself extra trips up and down the stairs between the laundry nook and the garden. Now I can water the plants much more gently and efficiently.

Drought-buster watering can, with Hazel, Bleeding Heart, Ginger, Sword Fern, Selfheal, Redwood Sorrel, and some other things growing in a garden that gets very little direct sun.

Yellow Bush Lupine & Reddish Sheep Sorrel on Grandview Park

Pollinated by bumble bees, yellow bush lupine is believed to be native from Sonoma County south, but  is considered invasive farther north.

* * *

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Fox Hunt


Gray Fox on the Hunt
(see video)

In a single week, the Gardepro cam logged nearly 700 activations, but only 2 percent of them caught any animals. The rest were caused by all the new spring growth blowing in the wind. Each activation runs a 15-second video, and the rechargeable batteries were already close to dead. 

For a minute there it seemed like this camera location would be worth all the empty frames, but this last week has tempted me to move it to a new location where wind-activations won't be such a factor. Or another option would be to just set the cam to wait a lot longer between activations, so those windy days don't crank out so many empty frames.

There's still a little bit of water running in the little creek, and on May 13 a coyote drank from it. A wild turkey strolled through on the 11th and the 15th, and I noticed when I was up there yesterday that a small pool in the creek had a big ole turkey poop at the bottom of it. I can only wonder if the birds and four-leggeds are instinctively put off by that. 

Several bucks with velvet antlers passed by, and this fella had the biggest antlers in the bunch. 

A coyote checked out the fox-marked rock.

TamCam Video Clips

* * *

Monday, May 15, 2023

Random Frames

Roadside Garden (15th Avenue)


I was recently telling one of my neighbors how much I've loved watching his Coast Live Oak fill out this year. He planted it more than 50 years ago, and it's always been tall and gangly, stout and healthy -- but relatively sparsely leaved: it's always been easy to see right through its crown. 

After the drenching rains of this past winter though, the view through the crown has been closing up with new foliage, and it looks better than I've ever seen it in the 20 years we've lived here. Yesterday, my wife and I were walking in the neighborhood when we discovered another beneficiary of the winter rains -- a roadside garden that has never looked so good as it does right now. I took a phone snap of it under sunny skies, then decided to go back today with the D800 and foggy skies.

On my walk this morning I saw another surprising miniature street garden next to a fire hydrant adorned with rust and graffiti. I can't even remember if I used to notice fire hydrants before an artist friend, Anna Conti, did a series of oil paintings of hydrants around the city. She had a show of them at the Pacific Catch at Lincoln and Irving (back when it had art shows), and a few San Francisco firefighters came to the opening. (Come to think of it, Anna also made several paintings of cargo vessels in San Francisco Bay, a subject I've recently become interested in.)

After my walk I was about to head out on my bike when I checked out back to see if the cat was around and in need of something to eat. She was curled up in some leaves in a neighbor's unkempt yard/patio area, sleeping the morning away. Although we've been caring for her quite a bit since the pandemic had us working from home, I still like to think of her as a neighborhood cat, or even a semi-feral or stray cat, and I love that she seems so natural in the "wilds" of our urban yards.

When we were recently in San Diego we visited Cabrillo National Monument, and I tried to buy a lifetime senior national parks pass, which costs $80. Before he charged my card, the ranger mentioned that the pass was free to veterans, thanks to some new bill that Congress passed back in November, and he took my word for it when I said I was a veteran, so we got in for free. In the future, though, I figured I'd need proper ID.

Since I was in the Navy a million years ago and no longer have a military ID, I had to order a copy of my separation papers (Form DD 214) issued in 1983. I did it online, and it was easy.

When it finally arrived I had to take it downtown to the County Veterans Service Office, which I'd never even heard of before. I took a number and a seat in the waiting room, feeling quite a bit like I was back in the Navy, and was soon called by a clerk who verified the DD 214's authenticity. She in turn issued me another form, officially embossed, that I had to take to the DMV to get a "Veteran" designation on my driver's license. 

Since my license was set to expire in a few months anyway, I made an appointment at the DMV to renew it. I arrived early for my appointment, but still had to wait in line, take another number, and sit in a waiting area. After a couple of hours to get through the eye exam, the updated mug shot, and the driver knowledge test (no online renewal for me, alas), I was finally outta there. 

A couple of weeks later, the postman dropped my new license with its "Veteran" designation through the mail slot, and just this morning I was biking over at Land's End to photograph a container ship when I realized I could probably get the free national parks pass right there. They even had one in stock.

Total elapsed time (since San Diego) to save $80: six weeks. Not too bad for government work.

Roadside Garden (Phone Snap)

Street Corner Colors, Shapes & Lines

Very Fuzzy Wildlife

The 18-year-old Cargo Ship Manulani (recently in Honolulu) entered the Golden Gate this morning, bound for Oakland.

Time to go check out the flooding in Yosemite Valley.

* * *

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The GBGB Bird


Black-throated Gray Warbler, aka GBGB Bird

Not to be confused with the tookie-tookie bird, it's pronounced "Jee-Bee-Jee-Bee," kind of like the old New York punk-rock venue CBGB. I've noticed its melodious call on Mt. Tamalpais from time to time over the years, and thanks to the Merlin Bird ID app on my phone I was finally able to find its official name: black-throated gray warbler. Although I've never been able to put my eyes on one on Mt. Tam, I actually had photographed one once before, in October 2009 at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. 

When I tried to confirm the call on All About Birds, only the version recorded on April 14, 1986 on this page matched the jee-bee-jee-bee-jee-bee that I hear on Mt. Tam. The other calls were quite different. I've also noticed on my city walks recently that white-crowned sparrows (probably one of the most commonly heard songbirds in San Francisco) have slightly different songs from one neighborhood to another. It's just confusing enough to my untrained ears that I recently had to use Merlin to verify that a song sparrow was in fact a song sparrow and not a white-crowned sparrow with a unique call.

I most recently invoked the Merlin app on the GBGB bird when I was on Mt. Tam on Thursday. In addition to the target bird, the app also recorded (from the same location) brown creeper, acorn woodpecker, red-breasted nuthatch, northern flicker, wild turkey, hermit thrush, pacific-slope flycatcher, brown-headed cowbird, purple finch, and warbling vireo. It all made an excellent soundscape to enjoy with the little picnic lunch I'd brought with me.

Anyway, I had some spare time this morning and walked down the hill to Strybing Arboretum to see what birds I might find. I brought my very compact FZ80, but envied a couple of other photographers with nicer cameras that were still light enough for hand-held shots. One guy had an Olympus with what he said was a 600mm lens that looked surprisingly small. I hadn't been inside the arboretum in a good while, and it was interesting to see the changes around the nursery greenhouse and pond by the California Garden, and some nice upgrades to the Children's Garden (which even had some children in it).

A pair of Pacific Wrens were calling like crazy from nearby trees, but I couldn't get a decent picture, so I settled for this shot of iris on the edge of the Dwarf Conifer Pond.

Anna's Hummingbird

This pugnacious Allen's Hummingbird was spending so much time chasing away other hummers, like the Anna's above, that I wondered when it found time to eat enough to maintain its energy.

Much of the old California Pipevine area has been razed during construction of the area around the new nursery greenhouse, but there must be enough still around to support Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies like this one gathering nectar from Sticky Monkey Flower.

A pair of House Finches keeps watch from an old Yucca branch in the Succulent Garden.

I waited with a couple other photographers to catch one of these Tree Swallows entering and/or exiting one of the nest holes in this old Yucca stalk, but I gave up before seeing it happen.

Just above the Succulent Garden, a Red-shouldered Hawk was bringing material to its nest higher up in this Eucalyptus tree.

* * *

Friday, May 12, 2023

Trip to the Tam Cams


A fading patch of goldfields along Bolinas Ridge.

I'd mentally prepared myself the day before to ride into cold, foggy headwinds to check my trail cams on Thursday, but the morning turned out to be a gift of calm and clarity. As my first view of the Marin Headlands opened up from the Presidio, a dappled sunlight caressed the mountains. I stopped to pull the FZ80 out of my trunk bag even though I was pretty sure it would be a futile attempt to capture the light, although a ship came along to give the scene a little more interest. At the Golden Gate Bridge I stopped again when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a beautifully sunlit and well-placed iris patch.

The fog had been thick to the south when I started out, but it looked clear to the north. As I crossed the bridge I thought it might have been another good day for Chimney Rock. But when I reached Pantoll the wind and fog was billowing up the western slopes. Even Stinson Beach was invisible, and Point Reyes was probably in a gale. The change in weather came on so suddenly that it was hard to believe it had really been clear and calm when I started out. 

The bulk carrier Port Pegasus heads out of the Golden Gate.

Springtime at the Bridge

All but one of the calypso orchids at the Bootjack parking lot spot I've mentioned in previous posts have faded away. 

Sun and Fog on Bolinas Ridge

Goldfield Meadow with Oak and Encroaching Douglas Firs

California Poppies and Cobwebby Thistle on Bolinas Ridge

A Very Downy Turkey Feather

Mournful Duskywing & Blue Dicks

Numerous Chalcedon Checkerspots were enjoying the sun at the Presidio's Immigrant Point Overlook.

As I was watching the butterflies, a pair of F/A-18F Super Hornets from the VFA-41 Black Aces strike fighter squadron flew over the bay toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Their base is in Lemoore, south of Fresno, about 175 miles away as the crow flies, and potentially just 15 minutes away.

I was watching butterflies and Super Hornets to kill time until this container ship, the One Hannover, would get in position to show the difference in the quality of light, since earlier in the day, on the background hills. Note the flock of pelicans wheeling above the ship.


Turkey and Junco

Gray Fox


Tam Cam Video Clips

* * *

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Morning at Pt. Reyes


Yellow Bush Lupine Above Point Reyes Beach

Looking at the weather forecast over the weekend, it looked like today might be the best day this week to head out to Point Reyes National Seashore to check out the current state of the wildflower bloom. By "best," I mean I didn't want to spend hours in the car to do photography in rain or heavy fog. I think the last time I was there, the fog was really socked in, and I never even took my camera out of the bag. Not that Pt. Reyes in the fog can't be amazing, but you have to be in the mood for it.

It was still well before sunrise this morning as I approached Nicasio Reservoir and Black Mountain and noticed some tell-tale patches of darkness blowing across in the sky. There was definitely some fog in the air, but it wasn't too bad, even all the way out at Chimney Rock (where I was pleasantly surprised that they'd resurfaced the beat-up road out by the Historic A and B Ranches).

I had Chimney Rock all to myself for the couple of hours I was out there. A few deer kept their eyes on me, a raven kept watch from the bluffs, and a peregrine falcon perched on a rocky fin high above a small group of very vocal seals on the beach below. I kept hearing voices and thinking hikers were finally arriving, only to realize the sound of merriment was coming from the seals.

Waning Moon Above Inverness Ridge

Wild Mustard at Drake's Estero

Getting My Bucks In A Row

Deer in Iris Meadow Near Chimney Rock

Morning Poetry Over Drake's Bay

Bush Lupine Along Chimney Rock Trail

Small Iris Patch

Point Reyes Bluffs

Seaside Daisy

Douglas Iris

Patch of Tidy Tips

Seaside Daisies & Goldfields

Point Reyes Beach
(with two deer at lower left)

Deer Browsing Among the Wildflowers

* * *