Monday, July 31, 2023

July Camera Traps


Bobcat in the Woods
(2-image composite)

I realized I'd worn the wrong shoes as I climbed the steep hillside to reach my new camera traps this morning. I decided to ride up to Mt. Tam in my old running shoes instead of my hiking shoes so my feet would be cooler, but  those soft, slick soles were no match for the steep and slippery forest.

Nevertheless, despite having to swat at gnats and horse flies, it was good to be up on the mountain again. About two seconds after I thought it seemed like jackrabbit weather, a lithe brown hare loped lazily across the road in front of me. I saw another one when I was resting next to the picnic tables at Rock Spring. 

I was standing in the shade of a large Doug fir when the second hare came into view. I watched as it moved closer to me while feeding, apparently oblivious of my presence. My FZ-80 was still in my bike bag as I watched, so I had to make a choice. I could remain still and see how close the rabbit would come, or I could go get the camera and hope the rabbit was in fact aware of my presence and had no intention of racing away. Or to put it another way, I could just enjoy the experience of quietly watching, or I could go for the photo. 

I suspect that my choice failed the nature-karma test because I got the camera but missed the experience. The jackie was gone.

About six hours after the bobcat, a coyote passed through.

You don't often see such many-tined antlers on the bucks of Mt. Tamalpais.

Pretty sure this is the same buck a few days later.

Here's a brief video capture of the big guy.

At first I thought this was a "nothing" frame.

Hot times on Mt. Tamalpais. Barbecue season is over.

On my way home through the Presidio I stopped to observe the antics of a young hawk who landed on a nearby pine. Apparently the top-most perch was a little too unsteady.

Ah, that's better.

Bird royalty.

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Friday, July 21, 2023

Lily Patch, Take 2


Sunlight in the Lily Patch

The Queen Speaks

Precision Flying

Part of the Patch (50mm View)

Pebbles from the Salish Sea

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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Lily Patch


Hummers in the Leopard Lilies
(Click images to view larger.)

It would have been a beautiful day to bike up to Mt. Tam to place my trail cameras in a new location, but I figured the leopard lilies would be in full bloom and hopefully swarming with hummingbirds. Experience with the FZ-80 has shown that it's not really up to the challenge, so I drove up to Rock Spring with my DSLR. It took a minute for the hummers to get used to my presence (along with the jarring mirror-slaps every time I tripped the shutter), but after a while they paid me no mind.

I couldn't get an angle on the lilies with the sun at my back, so I had to shoot mostly into the sun. That worked fine for photographing the leopard lilies which looked good back-lit, but proved quite tricky for the hummers. Biting horse flies, prickly grass seeds, and sneaky stinging nettles also added to the challenge. 

Bright Lilies, Shadowy Forest

Queen of the Lily Patch

Lilies With Slightly Tattered Pale Swallowtail

Dancing With Lilies

Hummer Perching on Lily's Style

In addition to the lilies, the hummers also appeared to nip a few insects from some meadow rue that had gone to seed, and sipped from the purple flowers of large leatherroot (Hoita macrostachya). Apparently it is a host plant for sphynx moth, which might explain why the "hummer" that ran into my leg turned out to be a sphynx moth, the first I've ever seen on Mt. Tam. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph it.

Letting Gravity Do Some of the Work

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Monday, July 17, 2023

Olympic National Park


View toward the Bailey Range from Hurricane Ridge.

Having visited the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park many years ago, I wanted to check out the Hurricane Ridge area on this trip. Unfortunately we lost a good part of the first day because I hadn't realized we'd need to make a ferry crossing and had failed to reserve a spot when I made the hotel reservations. We spent about four-and-a-half hours waiting for a stand-by slot to open up, and even then only barely got on. 

By the time we made the lovely drive out to Port Angeles, the only exploring we wanted to do involved finding a good restaurant for dinner. We had to wait in line for that too! Fortunately we were able to spend the waiting time in the excellent Port Books & News, where I picked up a couple of the "staff picks" which seemed right up my alley (Whiskey When We're Dry, by John Larison, and The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant).

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center burnt down just two months ago, and the park was allowing only 170 cars to go up at a time. We were number 82 and quickly passed through the entrance. There would be a long line of cars waiting to get in by the time we left.

Going up high was such a different experience than the Hoh Rainforest. We had forested mountain vistas all around. On one of our short walking excursions at the top, we met a guy who told us he'd just seen a mountain lion chase some deer. I didn't doubt him, but my wife didn't believe it. However, when we stopped to investigate a creekside trail with a sign warning people not to hike alone because a mountain lion had been seen in the area, she waited for me to finish shooting pictures along the road so I could accompany her explorations.

We descended the ridge and drove over to the Elwha River to check out the lowlands. Winter storms had taken out part of the road, but we didn't have to go very far to find the small but excellent Madison Falls. We had seen some incredible forest on the drive between Port Townsend and Port Angeles (with nowhere to pull over and explore), and I held out hope for finding such a place without having to go all the way out to the Hoh. The Peabody Creek Trail next to the visitor center just outside Port Angeles was as close as we came, but it was fairly tame (and a difficult place to find compositions).

We had a very long drive home from way up there along the Salish Sea. Thankfully only Portland and the Bay Area presented any traffic nightmares. We spent a night half-way back in Ashland, Oregon, where we had dinner at a place called Sauce, where I was surprised to sit next to a table in this land-locked little town, famous for its summertime Shakespeare Festival, to overhear two guys talking  about surfing, specifically current events regarding the well-known John John Florence and his brother at South Africa's Jeffreys Bay

Over the course of our trip we spent 20+ hours enjoying the audio book version of Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver, which left both of us speechless and joyfully teary-eyed at the end. I get choked up again just thinking about how good that story was.

Look Ma, no clearcuts!

Roadside color on the way to Hurricane Ridge.

Roadside attraction, with very little traffic in the early morning.

Lots of orchids and paintbrush in the seeps.

Stout orchid along a creekside trail where mountain lions lurk.

These purple guys sprouting out of wet moss look like a cross between shooting stars and penstemon.

There was another patch of purple wildflowers (possibly Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia) near the top of Hurricane Ridge.

A couple of young women were doing radio-tracking along the Elwha River, and I wondered if they were tracking birds or mammals. It was neither. They were tracking bull trout. I hadn't realized they radio-tagged fish.

Madison Falls

Bigleaf maple along the Elwha River.

Just another sunny day on the Olympic Peninsula.

Leaves as big as dinner plates along the Peabody Creek Trail.

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Sunday, July 16, 2023

North Cascades National Park


View over glaciated granite at the Washington Pass Overlook along Hwy. 20 in North Cascades National Park.

After spending the weekend with family in Seattle we made the relatively short drive to North Cascades National Park, said to be among the least visited of all the national parks. Maybe they like it that way. The only lodging within the park are the campgrounds, and they were already full when we started planning the trip back in May. We got a hotel as close as we could, which was about 30 miles east of the park, in the town of Winthrop. With all the driving we'd done to get there, and all the driving we still had in front of us, we did not want to tack on a lot of extra miles doing round-trips, so we mostly stuck to the east side (which, like the towns east of the Sierra Nevada, is in a rain shadow).

Luckily, even a superficial drive-through yields excellent views of the mountains and forests, and there are several places to get out of the car and poke around. Rolling thunder greeted us the first time we stopped to check out the Skagit River, and rain soon followed. The only hike we did was the next day, on a very short paved trail to Rainy Lake, where a few interesting wildflowers, like queen's cup (Clintonia uniflora), were still in bloom, as well as several patches of coral fungus. 

We enjoyed the busy tourist town of Winthrop and found the plant-based food at Three Fingered Jacks Saloon and the Jupiter Cafe to be well above expectations, except for the prices which were surprisingly reasonable. We might have seen even less of the park if we'd arrived later in the month, when the tiny town rocks to the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival.

I thought many of the tree-tops were dead until I realized the brown was the color of dense cones clustered at the tops of the spruce trees. In this view from the visitor center overlook, the distant mountains were completely obscured by clouds. Light rain with sprinkles of thunder gave the atmosphere a moody and beautiful Twin Peaks vibe.

Phone snap of maple leaves in the rain along the overlook trail.

The Twin Peaks vibe still held as we pulled into the Washington Pass Overlook, where we got our first look at this peak of the Early Winter Spires as soon as we got out of the car.

By the time we made the short walk out to the vista point, the rest of the spires had come out from behind the clouds.

After walking up and down Winthrop's boardwalks to look in the windows of the tourist shops, we caught the sunset from a pedestrian bridge over the Methow River just a short walk from our hotel.

The sky was clear the next morning when we drove back into the park.

A very short hike on a paved trail led us to this peaceful vista at Rainy Lake, where a tall waterfall cascaded down the cliffs at the opposite end.

The parking area at Rainy Lake was surrounded by deep woods and this sunny meadow.

Because I wasn't traveling alone I couldn't take all the time in the world to seek out nature's details within the vistas, so I felt lucky to have this swallowtail butterfly show up at one of our pull-outs.

The Early Winter Spires from Hwy. 20, the sole driving route through the park.

Panoramic vista from the Washington Pass Overlook.

Fireweed in a fire-scarred forest.

Google maps gave us the option of a route to our next destination (Olympic National Park) that avoided ferries, but added about 100 miles of driving and went east and south from Winthrop. It was tempting because we were unable to get a reservation for the ferry and would have to take our chances on stand-by. However, we had planned to return through the whole length of the national park, so we opted to take a chance on the ferries.

I'd seen these multitudes of roadside yarrow patches on the downhill to Winthrop, so I was ready to stop to photograph them on our way west the next morning.

The double-bunk log truck (used on winding roads) that we'd just passed a while back managed to pass us just as I was about to fold up the tripod and get back in the car. We saw many log trucks on our trip of course, and when they were traveling empty, the rear bunk would be folded onto the fifth-wheel plate on top of the front one. I wondered how they did that folding and finally saw the simple winch mechanism in operation later in Port Angeles.

Fireweed patch and forest along the Skagit River.

The skies had become overcast again by the time we reached the Diablo Lake Overlook. We had hoped to get a clear view of the mountains from the visitor center on our way out of the park, but it was not to be.

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