Monday, July 13, 2020

Past & Future

In contrast to the North Coast greenery of the previous post, here are a couple of high desert views looking toward the Mono Craters in July of 2006, scanned from Fuji Velvia.

I used to make a lot of quick trips to distant places until somewhere along the line I began to get sick of all that driving. The nail in the coffin was having to relinquish my four-day workweek to go back to five days. With all due respect to the Eternal Now, I get wistful looking back at all the interesting places I used to photograph so many years ago, and I look forward to having the time in another couple of years or so to re-acquaint myself with the natural beauty of California, and in a more leisurely way than I could in the past.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

North Coast Dash

We managed to snag a two-night stay at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park campground--the only openings that were available all month.

It was a heck of a lot of driving for such a short stay, but I needed to refresh my memory of how excellent the redwoods up in Humboldt and Del Norte counties are.

We visited the Stout Grove up near Crescent City and the Lady Bird Johnson Grove to the south, both of which were truly awe-inspiring, but the trails right around the campground were also excellent.

I brought a trail cam in case Bigfoot would make an appearance, but we settled for a gray fox that traipsed through around midnight.

The Elk Prairie for which the campground is named had a dozen bulls in residence.

Fern Canyon was a hugely popular spot, with lots of cars parked at the end of the dusty road. I was last there in 2008 when I spent a night camping at Gold Bluffs Beach. I didn't recall there being any more than a couple of cars there at the time. Fortunately, the trail itself wasn't all that crowded, so we were able to maintain "social distancing," and most people wore face masks.

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Sunday, July 5, 2020


I moved the cams back to an area I've used during the dry season before. Right now there's still a fair amount of water everywhere, but soon pools like this will be rare patches of Eden for the local wildlife. I like this spot for its potential. I can just imagine a nice wildcat coming here to drink, and in my dreams maybe even a puma.

A second cam is pointing down the length of the log that you see in the background of the top image. I'd love to see a weasel go across it, but I'm not sure weasels come up this high on the mountain. Way back in the '90s I found a dead weasel just lying on a log across Redwood Creek. I took it over to the rangers at Muir Woods because I didn't know what kind of animal it was. I left it with them in case they wanted to preserve it for an exhibit, but I've never remembered to check back to see if they did.

Which reminds me, I passed a road-killed squirrel on the way up to Rock Spring Saturday morning, then went back to move it off the road so scavengers can make use of it without getting run over themselves, or having the carcass too flattened to hold much promise of gustatory delight.

Just the usual suspects so far: deer, raccoons, robins, juncos, a flycatcher, and several band-tailed pigeons.

Here's a deer's-eye view of the cam.

It was a beautiful day for a ride up the mountain. When all I want to do is check the cams and just experience the mountain for an hour or so I'm grateful to be able to bike up instead of having to drive. The round-trip distance of 44 miles is pretty close to the limit of what I'd want to do on a weekly basis in hilly terrain, though, even with an e-bike.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Pt. Reyes in July

Lizard Tail & Friends, North Beach

Lone Hiker, Drake's Beach

Bear Valley Meadow

Hilton's Nudibranch, Palomarin Beach

Bat Star Crossing Constellation of Coralline Algae

San Diego Dorid

Feather-veined Red Seaweed, Surfgrass & Mermaid Coin

Lined Shore Crab

Opalescent Nudibranch 

Anemones Colonizing a Rift

White Pelicans, Abbott's Lagoon

Sun & Wind, Drake's Bay

Brants on the Shore of Drake's Estero

Feast for Scavengers, Drake's Beach

Islands, McClure's Beach

Dawn at McClure's Beach

California Beach Hopper

Cliff with Orange Trentepohlia, Shell Beach

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Hummer in the Hedge Nettle

A long time ago, probably in the '90s, I used a ripe blackberry to entice a wood rat from its nest so I could photograph it. At least, that's what my memory is. I can't find the image. I went to Redwood Creek (downstream of Muir Woods) to try again yesterday morning, parking in a pull-out beneath a beautiful California buckeye tree in late but still-full bloom. (Many years ago I collected a few of its buckeyes and tossed them into an empty lot near my home; one of the seeds germinated and is now a good-sized, flowering tree.) 

Although I didn't find any wood rat nests in the limited amount of time available before I had to head back to town, I enjoyed briefly communing with the nature of the riparian world.

Early in my explorations, a small flock of band-tailed pigeons descended from the sky to alight high in the branches of an alder tree. Hop by hop, they dropped lower and lower, until they finally reached the object of their desire--the bunched red fruits of coastal elderberry.

With hermit thrushes singing in the woods and salmon fingerlings darting in the shadows of the creek, a Steller's jay dropped onto a nearby alder branch just as I was staking out a mystery bird in some willows. I waited for the inevitable alarm to sound from the jay, but it paid me no mind. Instead it darted into a couple of nooks for possible insects, then posed very briefly before flying deeper into the woods. (The mystery bird remained mysterious.)

On the underside of the rickety bridge that crosses the creek was a small papery hornet's nest. It was about the size and shape of half a football, and it appeared to my naked eye to be inactive. Looking through my long lens, though, I spotted a single hornet standing guard at the entrance.

Bee Plant (Scrophularia californica), with Bee (Bombus sp.
& Coast Hedge Nettle (Stachys chamissonis)

I eventually got back in the car to check another area for wood rat nests and ended up spooking an Allen's hummingbird that was feeding on the nectar of purple coast hedge nettle flowers. I decided to stake out the patch for a while and as I waited for the hummer to return I watched bumblebees (and other bees) feeding on the nectar of tiny bee plant flowers.

Eventually a hummer returned, but now that I look more closely at the pictures I'm thinking this is a female Anna's hummingbird. I had definitely photographed an Allen's hummingbird as it rested on a branch after feeding briefly (see last photo below) and mistakenly assumed this was the same bird.

She moved very fast, and I was focusing manually in the low light, but I managed to fire off a few frames.

After she took off I mosied a little farther down the trail and spotted a bright yellow Wilson's warbler gleaning among a tangle of willow branches.

I fired off a few frames, and even though I did not manage to get a usable image of Wilson, I did get a laugh out of seeing that in my only sharp image, the bird's head was cut off behind some leaves. So it goes.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Vision Thing

I conceived my 2015 Pt. Reyes photography project just as I was wrapping up my Circumannuation of Mt. Tamalpais which is chronicled at the beginning of this blog. (To begin the circumannuation I deleted all the previous posts going back to 2007.) I did a separate blog with the Pt. Reyes project, deleting the whole thing when the year was done. 

Deleting the blog had been my vision from the beginning, though I wasn't sure I would be able to go through with it as the year progressed. I did go through with it, though, and am still glad even with five years of hindsight. I was inspired by Tibetan and Navajo sand mandalas, or sand paintings, whose intricate preparation is a means of bringing order and wholeness to bear on a point of discord or imbalance. When its work is done it's poured into a nearby river or returned to the earth.

The other day I was going through some old magazines that have been in the same small pile for years, thinking it might be time to toss them in the recycling bin. Instead I realized why I'd saved them in the first place, including a couple issues of Bay Nature magazine that touch on Pt. Reyes. One of them, from 2005, looks back on the Vision Fire that had burned ten years before. 

The image above, with the morning sun trying to burn through the fog, was made on Mt. Vision in 2015, twenty years after the fire. This part of the mountain didn't see the worst of the flames, which started south of this location and destroyed 43 homes before burning all the way down to Limantour Beach.

Right now Mt. Vision Road remains closed (it's been a long time!) due to the possibility of fire danger. This image looking northeast from Inverness Ridge over Tomales Bay and out toward Mount St. Helena was made near the 1995 fire's starting point. Apparently a couple of teens thought they'd put out their illegal campfire, not realizing embers remained deep in the forest duff where, a couple of days later, strong winds kindled those embers back into flame.

Mugwort and Fennel, Graffiti & Coastal Gumweed

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Return to Pt. Reyes

Five years ago I spent a lot of my spare time photographing Pt. Reyes, and I've been thinking about doing something like that again. After all, it's a magical place, as you can see from the above image. :)

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Light Show

I had a bit of luck when I arrived at the gate below Rock Spring at maybe 6:55 a.m. and found it partly open. Maybe it hadn't been been shut properly the night before, but there was no ranger around so I scooted through the half-open gate. If I'd arrived five minutes later I'd have missed the glory.

When I got out of the car I was so stoked I didn't even consider how ephemeral the display might be.

You probably need to get there well before the usual gate opening at 7 a.m. to have a more leisurely experience.

Less than three minutes elapsed between this shot and the previous one, and the fog retreated downhill from there, taking the glory with it. 

I wasn't in the mood to bike in the fog and wind to check on the trail cams, so I took the opportunity of driving to bring my camera gear and maybe photograph a few wildflowers.

I'd checked the day before to see if the air at 2,000 feet would be still enough to run a few focus stacks, and it looked like it might be okay. Unfortunately, the mountain turned out to be windier than I'd expected, and I was only able to fire off this one stack before it became impossible.

The Indian pink was bobbing like a prizefighter by the time I got there (it was near one of the trail cams), and it would have been difficult to get even a single-frame image of it under natural light, so I popped a flash at an angle to keep the background clutter to a minimum.

I've walked past this patch of coyote mint (Monardella villosa) several times lately, but this was the first time I had a camera other than my smartphone with me.

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