Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pt. Reyes Medley

Sunrise at White House Pool

Elk Bull Scents the Sunrise

Dawn at Pierce Ranch

Cypress in Sun & Fog

Abbott's Lagoon

Lagunitas Creek

Bull Between Bugles

Making Some Noise

Sculptured Beach

Feeding Phalanx of Starfish

Sense of Direction

Tomales Point

Moon Unit

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Marsh Critters

White Pelicans at Corte Madera Marsh
October 2010


When I ride the short boardwalk over Bothin Marsh on my way up to Mt. Tam I often see a pair of black-necked stilts and think I'd like to bring my camera down there to photograph them sometime. I took these pictures around sunrise which explains the magenta cast. I wasn't sure I liked it natural, so I took it out of the top image.

Snowy Egret & Pickleweed

Snowy Reflection

The tide was pretty high by the time I headed home yesterday. I knew it was going to peak at something like 6.5 feet and had been wondering if the boardwalk would actually flood. I've often seen high-tide flooding in the little bowl-section of Shoreline Highway near the Manzanita Park and Ride Lot. I was glad I didn't have to ride through saltwater or even brackish water, especially on an e-bike.

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Sabrina Basin

First Light at North Lake

I read about a guy this morning who, after a couple of years of immersion in QAnon, finally snapped out of its dark fantasy world. 

Lakeside Dawn

The most interesting part to me was the guy's reason for losing trust in the mainstream media and turning instead to fringe media: "It felt to him like the world was shocked by Trump's win. How had seemingly no one seen it coming? And most importantly, who had? 'I kind of switched off from all mainstream media,'" Jadeja said.

Still, Chilly Morning

It reminded me of my trip down conspiracy lane after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The possibility that the Bush Administration, or some other cabal, had orchestrated the whole thing, seemed at least believable enough to look into. After all, we had just recently experienced Florida's "hanging chad" shenanigans in the presidential election (another time when the popular vote was overruled by the electoral college), and the fact that the Supreme Court essentially made Bush president in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, lent credence to the idea of nefarious actors in high places.

Taking a Break from it All

I read the conspiracy theories and watched the videos purporting to show the "squibs"--small explosive devices--going off and bringing down the World Trade Center towers. The reasoning seemed plausible, not just as to the why but also the how. And unlike the QAnon fantasy, the WTC attack really happened.

Creekside Aspens and Willows

But I didn't limit my internet research to conspiracy sites. I also looked at mainstream media sites and was probably finally convinced of the truth of the official explanation for how the buildings came down by an article in Popular Mechanics, a reputable media organization.

A Bend in the Stream

The thing is, sure the mainstream media is biased. But that's not the same as being malevolent, or unhinged, or even entirely incorrect. I like to browse The New York Times and Washington Post, and also Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Although journalism isn't a licensed profession, reporters for major news organizations like these have professional standards that conspiracy theorists do not.

Aspen Grove

Bias in reporting (or anywhere else) isn't the same as lying. For one thing, an individual's bias is probably mostly unconscious. It's not as if journalists are trained to detect their own unconscious bias (although such training is available). Bias is mostly about choosing what stories to tell, what point of view to emphasize, and how prominently to display a story. Very rarely, a journalist does get caught lying, and they are demoted, shamed, or fired. There are professional standards in journalism, and folks like Alex Jones and Q do not meet those standards. Guys like Rush Limbaugh are not journalists but entertainers (at best).

Photographers at North Lake

In my own brief stint as a newspaper reporter I covered a Republican fundraiser where Rush Limbaugh was the keynote speaker. This was in the '80s, before he became a national figure. The one thing he said that has stuck with me all this time is that he had read all the left-wing material he could get his hands on, but that he just couldn't understand any of it. Here's a guy who gained a national audience as a political pundit despite being unable to understand a point of view other than his own.

Another thing I remember about that election cycle was covering the Democrats' fundraiser, which was a "bean feed" (literally franks and beans on paper plates) featuring March Fong Eu at the county fairgrounds, whereas the Republicans' fundraiser was a chicken cordon bleu lunch (with linen tablecloths) featuring Rush Limbaugh at an exclusive country club.

I keep hoping the national discourse will find its civil center, a place of mutual understanding and respect, but it seems like one political party wants us all to hold hands and sing kumbaya while the other wants to play winner-take-all hardball. That seems like a pretty tough pair of opposites to reconcile, but I believe it is possible and, more importantly, necessary, if we're going to rise to the challenges Mother Nature will continue slinging our way in the 21st Century.

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Taylor Creek


I read that Taylor Creek State Park was going to remain closed during the salmon run this fall due to Covid-19 concerns and problems with dog-walkers having scary encounters with bears along the creek.

When I went up there ten years ago the close bear encounter I experienced was probably the highlight of my trip. A large mama bear suddenly emerged from the woods and crossed the creek toward all the people.

I was down by the water's edge and swung my camera around to shoot a few photos and was thrilled--and a little bit concerned--when the bear kept coming closer, eventually getting so close I could barely fit her head in the frame. The bear wasn't interested in me, though. She was interested in the small crowd of people off to the right of me. There was a whole line of them pressing their backs to the brushy forest edge, holding their dogs for dear life. I don't really understand why dogs are allowed out there during the salmon run.

On the other side of the creek, Junior was using some driftwood to get closer to the action in the water.

But when mama scampered back across the creek, Junior soon followed, and both disappeared into the woods.

Farther up the creek, Mr. Claws was feasting on the kokanee salmon.

Taylor Creek

This salmon looked like it wasn't going to take any guff.

Kokanee Salmon on Taylor Creek


Merganser feeding on the creek.

After checking out the bears and salmon and other wildlife at Taylor Creek I drove out around the lake to visit the Bonsai Rock. The next day I'd head down I-395 to check out some fall color in the Eastern Sierra near Bishop.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Almost New


I was still out on my morning walk when I saw the rising crescent moon, picking up a little earthshine, centered between the Twin Peaks. I knew it would move out of position by the time I could get home, but I dragged out the camera and snapped this shot anyway. Maybe I would take little gifts like this for granted if I lived in a place where the sky was generally visible, but I definitely cherish these little reminders of what shines above the fog.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. A seemingly random assortment of elements that followed laws of nature that we have yet to fully comprehend, and by doing so, came to life. Look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are composed of elements that were formed in exploding stars and sent soaring through outer space. Now they have come to reside in you, a living being with an inner space.

It wasn't that long ago--a few hundred years--that European philosophers believed the most fundamental elements were earth, air, water, and fire. Classical Chinese philosophy included those four, plus metal, to make five basic elements. In John McPhee's 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Annals of the Former World, the author mentioned there were 92 naturally occurring elements (with uranium at 92). That number has since increased to 98 (with californium at 98). The other 20 listed on the periodic table of the elements have been created by scientists but have not been found in nature.

Elementals is another name for nature spirits, but I like to think we're all elementals, tracing our lineage to a moment when time itself mysteriously began almost 14 billion years ago.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Art of Tracking

I've had Louis Liebenberg's out-of-print book called The Art of Tracking in my Amazon wishlist for years. It stayed there because the only copies were going for more than $300.

Amazingly--and thankfully--it is now available for free download, along with Liebenberg's 2013 book, The Origin of Science. His introduction was timely in 2013 and even more so now that huge numbers of people seem to be losing the ability to think rationally, to follow sign all the way to its source the way our ancestors did in order to survive.

I look forward to finally being able to read these books!

From Liebenberg's introduction:

In this book I will address one of the great mysteries of human evolution: How did the human mind evolve the ability to develop science?

The art of tracking may well be the origin of science. Science may have evolved more than a hundred thousand years ago with the evolution of modern hunter-gatherers. Scientific reasoning may therefore be an innate ability of the human mind. This may have far-reaching implications for self-education and citizen science.

The implication of this theory is that anyone, regardless of their level of education, whether or not they can read or write, regardless of their cultural background, can make a contribution to science. Kalahari trackers have been employed in modern scientific research using GPS-enabled handheld computers and have co-authored scientific papers. Citizen scientists have made fundamental contributions to science. From a simple observation of a bird captured on a smart phone through to a potential Einstein, some may be better than others, but everyone can participate in science.

Today humanity is becoming increasingly dependent on science and technology for survival, from our dependence on information technology through to solving problems related to energy production, food production, health, climate change and biodiversity conservation. Involving citizens in science may be crucial for the survival of humanity over the next hundred years.

Scientific reasoning was part of hunter-gatherer culture, along with music, storytelling and other aspects of their culture. Science and art should be an integral part of human culture, as it has been for more than a hundred thousand years.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020


I wonder how long this mountain gnome will stick around. There was a notebook inside the white mailbox, but I didn't look at it. There was something slightly uninviting about reaching into the dark box to pull out the large dark notebook. I figured it was either a geocache or some other kind of visitor's register. I'll check it out next time I'm up there and slip a print of this picture in there.

Earlier in the morning I'd been watching the rising sun as it tried to break through thick layers of fog and cloud. The woods were dripping enough to make the ground wet, creating water shadows beneath the trees. Where there was no drip, the ground was dusty and dry. Where the drip was captured by moss, the moss had turned bright green. Beneath the dripping trees at Rock Spring, a banana slug, straight as a pencil, glided slowly over the surface of a picnic table.

The moisture, the moss, and the banana slugs were an intimation of wet weather to come. Hopefully we'll get the real thing before the month is out.

Last week all the news outlets eagerly announced that the season's first rain could be on its way. It's a great reminder of how complex nature really is, when the most modern meteorology, despite all of its measuring devices and supercomputers, often can't predict a change in the weather more than a day or two in advance.

Going through my past October images from Mt. Tam, there was a good amount of moisture on the mountain in 2010, '11, '12, and especially the latter part of the month in 2016. It's not that often that Cataract Creek is running while there's still fall color in the canyon maples.

On Friday I spent a lot of time chasing fogbows and hoping to find Inspector Brokken, but the right conditions didn't materialize.

Despite having no luck on that front, there was still a lot of beauty in the landscape.

A large covey of California quail also diverted me for a while.

They were difficult to approach, but if I remained still for a while, they'd slowly venture within camera range.

Surprisingly, this lovely, blue-tinged mourning dove didn't fly away when I staked out a quail-stalking position just a few feet away.

Not long after I left the quail, I saw a cooper's hawk down in a ravine. It hopped up onto a rock and fluffed its feathers awhile before flying over the ridge toward Bolinas. The sun broke through as I walked down a trail where the hawk had been. Its warmth lit up a couple dozen or so fluffy balls in a thicket of coyote brush that turned out to be white-crowned sparrows.

These deer were too busy browsing in the grass, so beautifully lit, to be overly bothered by my presence.

They eventually crossed a few feet in front of me to enter the woods through a little gnome hole in the branches. I walked over to look at the trail to see their hoofprints still sharp in the dust.

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