Thursday, November 29, 2007

Red Tide

There's been a rusty-red tide here in Monterey Bay and hundreds of sea and shorebirds have been sickened or killed by it. There has been extensive research done and as far as it can be determined, the tide is a natural phenomenon, but quite possibly exacerbated by fertilizers and run-offs.

The tide shifts from place to place, and right now it's back in the Santa Cruz area having traveled from Moss Landing and Monterey. We have definitely noticed the impact on bird life here. In addition to seeing three dead birds, we've seen strange behavior, like this seabird propelling itself seal-like to get on to the shore. At first we weren't sure if this bird had been injured. Its movements looked so wrong. But after conferring with friends and fellow bloggers, it seems like it was moving the only way it could on land, but its presence was troubling nonetheless. Why would a seabird come ashore like this?
We went back down to the wharf to watch the Grebes (this may be a Clarks or a Western), to get an idea of how these birds move in the water. It was a relief to see those little legs and feet propel these birds around, and yet look absolutely useless as land legs. It occurred to us while we were watching them in the water just how much those legs are more like flippers than anything else. No wonder they look so peculiar on land.

The best hope for this tide to move on will be for rains or big winds. As much as we have been thoroughly enjoying this balmy November weather, we'll take the wind and rain if it will restore the waters to their blue and beautiful state.

Bonus Red-Shouldered Hawk Pic: Yum.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Slowly But Surely

Healing takes its own sweet time. There is no pushing it. We try to do all the right things and simply hope for the best outcomes. In the meantime life happens outside our windows.
This is our next door neighbor's roof where the Red-Shouldered Hawk likes to hunt. It's been there for several days, hunting along the railroad tracks below, and then coming back to the roof with something to eat. This hawk seems fairly well habituated to humans, and doesn't seem to mind much if I click a zillion photos of it. It's got a few choice spots it hunts from. As I type this, I see it on top of the power pole across the street. There's some comfort in having wildlife this close everyday.
We did get out on Friday for the minus tide. It was great to see these familiar tidepools again, although we didn't find an octopus, the way we had so many years ago. Still the colors on the anemones were enough to thrill us.
We like the steady rhythm of life unfolding outside our window. We're quietly watching, listening, healing.

Roger's health issues have put blogging into a peculiar perspective at the moment. We seem to have settled into a life that doesn't readily yield to a diarist approach. So, blogging will be light to non-existent, but I guess that's already obvious. Thanks again for all of your good wishes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

words and a picture, with a graphic update

i am overwhelmed by the sympathy and buoyed by the good wishes from our readers. i owe you all a good story and you shall have it when things are resolved, which may happen today. i am not feeling pain. i see why rush limbaugh likes percocet, or whatever flavor of oxycodone he went for.

here's a picture (of a picture) of me, in my younger and healthier days, and my siblings and an unknown little girl (on the left) on the beach here in capitola in what must be 1953. that's me in back, my sister (style leader that she is, topless on the beach) on the right, and my two brothers in front. the buildings in the background are all still there, now transformed from tacky bars and arcades and boathouses into chi-chi bars and restaurants.

it is fun to be back here, though i'm not such a beach person anymore.

The medical update: We're waiting for a call from a surgeon to find out what yesterday's CT scan shows, if there will be a need for surgery, and if so will it be done in the office, or in the hospital OR. Percocet has restored Roger to his pain-free self. Yay!

another update: the surgeon informed us at 3pm on wednesday that i have (well, as of now, had) a large abscess in the wall of my colon which required immediate attention. at 7pm i had successful surgery in the OR. the hardest part to endure was after the procedure waiting for the epidural (saddle block) to wear off. very strange feeling, er, non-feeling. no sensation or muscle control from my belly button on down. robin brought me home at midnight. i slept well and feel fine now. mmmmmm percocet. the procedure involved lancing and draining the abscess. no new apertures in my body were created. don't use your imagination.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sights and Sorrows

We've been distracted by beauty and pain. Stunning sights of sleeping sea otters and stories of rage and murder. We were supposed to be on the road today, Sunday, heading south in our rented 2007 dark red Malibu (such a nice car, alan) for Thanksgiving, but Roger has been sick for days and days, in bed--in pain. It's so unlike him to yield to pain like this, he's been known to have a root canal on a very vital tooth without novocaine. Roger's tough. This pain has laid him low. All I can say is that we've been to Urgent Care and the pharmacy, and there will very likely be a colonoscopy in the near future. Need I say more? Probably not. We are worried but mostly about the unknown, of course.

The old neighbors whose family had the house next door for probably as long as Roger's family has had this house, sold their place a year or so ago. The new owner, a real estate mogul-tycoon had the place gutted and is erecting something that seems slightly larger than the original footprint. A lot of wrangling with the zoning and coastal commissions. I write about this because the former owners were fantastic gardeners and loved to feed the birds. I noticed their old birdbath had filled with a bit of drizzly rain water the other day. A few birds were enjoying a bath in the stingy puddle. So, I went over and poured some nice clean water into the bath. The next day we were treated to this: a Townsend's Warbler bathing and looking happy as ever.
It made me a bit nervous to pour that water into our neighbor's birdbath because we had just heard a story about feuding neighbors that ended so badly, two people dead, and a 72 year old man in prison facing a death penalty case. The story has special significance for Roger and me because the husband of the dead couple, shot to death in their front yard, was Roger's oldest friend's law partner. He had been shot by his next door neighbor, with whom and he and his wife had been feuding for years, over an easement. An easement. It's the kind of thing that just makes you scratch your head and wonder, how did they let it get to this? I've been reading some of the newspapers articles covering this horrific crime, and it just seems to have come down to insanely bad neighbors and long-held grudges. After hearing a story like that, what was I doing going over to the neighbor's front yard, pouring water into the birdbath? Being a good neighbor? Well really, I rationalized, nobody actually lives in the house yet. It doesn't have any fixtures or even mud on the sheetrock. I assumed nobody even notices that the birdbath is there, with all the construction going on.
Our walks have been limited, as you probably guessed, so I am entertaining myself with the neighborhood birds and trying to stay out of trouble. Our last walk was on Wednesday when Roger, my twin brother, and I hiked around in one of the local redwood forests. It is always a revelatory experience to walk among the coastal giants. The day before we had been to Elkhorn Slough and seen beautiful shorebirds, tentatively identified as Curlews and Godwits. We saw families of Harbor Seals curled up sleeping. But it's the Brown Pelican in breeding plumage that knocked me out. That, and the Sea Otters floating about in their peaceful slumber, struck us as truly incredible sights.

We may leave for points south on Monday. We'll see how Roger responds to the medication. It's a foggy Sunday. So thick, I can't even see the neighbor's birdbath. It's probably better that way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our Pogonip Hike

We took a walk on Monday in a place called Pogonip with our good friend and fellow blogger Tara. It's another one of those places that we should have walked when we lived here, but didn't. We did a lot of biking back in the day, so now we are discovering wonderful hiking trails in so many places.
Pogonip is a 640 acre park of open meadows, woodlands, and creeks. There are eight miles of hiking trails. We picked one trail, the Pogonip Creek trail, and headed out. It's been fairly dry here on the central coast, so we did not expect to see any water in the creek. We were rather pleasantly to surprised to both see and hear the water. As we left the dry meadows and headed down toward the shadow of tall trees along the creek, it occurred to us that we were walking in the redwoods again. I have to admit it's always thrilling to walk among the coastal giants. There is something about a tree that is hundreds of years old that helps put the news of the current day in proper perspective. It's not that the news is not important, it's that no matter how important it is, it will all be dust long before any of these giants fall, merely a tree ring noting a dry season.
We walked out from the shadowy creek and up into the bright light of the meadow. There were butterflies there, and surprisingly they weren't monarchs. I thought we might have seen these before, but I didn't know what they were. I photographed three of them and did some research when I got home. Turns out they are Common Buckeyes. Somehow calling these beautiful creatures common seems wrong, I find them uncommonly lovely.
It was a perfect day. The sound of a red-tailed hawk came piercingly from a nearby treetop. The sky was cloudlessly blue and the temperature was warm enough for Roger to have hiked in a short-sleeved tee-shirt, and flip-flops without socks (of course). We only saw two other people on the trail. They both reminded me why Santa Cruz sometimes has a reputation for a bit of looniness. One guy came up out of the creek area, completely off trail. He had a bit of that wild unstable look in his eyes. We were relieved that he chose to go in the opposite direction from ours. Shortly afterwards, another man came from the other direction on the trail towards us. He was absolutely bare-assed naked, except for a pack on his back, and shoes. He said hello. We said hello back. I didn't photograph him, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Would it surprise you if I told you that he bore the brunt of our jokes for the rest of the day. We were merciless I tell you. Merciless.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monarchs and Pelicans

It's surprising to think that for all the years we lived in Santa Cruz, and the number of times we biked and hiked around and past Natural Bridges State Park, we never actually stopped in to take a look around. It's one of the places where Monarch butterflies come to winter. They arrive in mid-October and stay until late January.
It was difficult to capture both the butterflies in the trees and sky simultaneously. There were Monarchs everywhere, and the trees looked like they were covered in orange and black flowers. (These photos really need to be clicked on to get a sense of what it looked like.)
After walking the Monarch butterfly path, we headed out to the beach at Natural Bridges. The pelicans and gulls covered the rocks.
We could walk fairly close to them. Close enough to get a close-up of a Brown Pelican grooming in the Sunday afternoon sun.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Old Footsteps, New Footsteps

There was almost a minus tide on Wednesday. It was a 0.3, so we headed out to take the old walk we used to take when we lived here years and years ago. It occurred to us that we never checked the tide tables when we walked back then, we just ventured out and were met by the tide of the day. We are older and perhaps wiser now, so we plan ahead. Why leave to fate what can be construed by the sun and moon? You know why we came? It was to see if the old fossil beds were visible and not covered by old storms and higher tides.
But first we found some new birds. Who could this little black and white be, we wondered. Fortunately my brother and SIL let us borrow their Sibley's for our stay, so we could ID this beauty: a Black Phoebe, sitting on a little shore rock. What a fine way to start our walk.
Then we saw what might be a Willet. A beautiful lithe and winsome bird hunting along the shore. When we looked at the photograph after we had gotten home, we saw that it was standing by another little shore bird that might be a Western Sandpiper.
Then, we took the longer view. Here is what the shoreline looks like.
Roger walked over to some rocks and called me to come and take a look.
Oh yes. There was a beautiful fossil, and one we had not seen before.

As we walked on though, we could see that there had been considerable erosion and much of the best fossil beds were under huge fallen pieces of the cliffside.

We talked about long geologic time, global climate change, earthquakes. We were wondering what cataclysmic combination it would take to bring back the fossil beds. Rising waters, thrusting plates. When will the old be new again?

Check here for a bit of info about the fossils, or Google Capitola fossil. The seawall has not been built.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What We Are Seeing These Days

The fog blew in and never left. It's a hot summer weather pattern, or maybe it's a marine layer inversion. I think I heard the weather guy say that on the local weather report. Whatever it is, it's like living where there is no horizon line, sky and earth blend into each other. A gauzy, light gray sameness. Still we venture out into the chill everyday just to see.
There are birds here we haven't seen in Washington. That makes looking around very exciting. Tuesday was a grand day for glimpsing things new to us, like this Western Scrub jay. Look at that blue. If we miss the sky, we find it here in feather and wing.
We headed down to the wharf and discovered this lone Western Grebe (at least that's what we think it is). The Cornell Bird website says that Western Grebes live in the middle of the country on lakes, but winter along the Pacific Coast. We certainly understand that migration. Our journey took us to the same place.
But it's this hawk that has really gotten our attention. We live in the middle of its territory. I see him on the roof of the house below ours towards the bay. It has even come and landed on our deck railing.
It spends a good deal of time on the roof of the house next door. We have no idea what kind of hawk this is, but are intrigued by the mottled markings on its back. If anyone out there has a clue about this bird's identity, we'd love to hear it.
I just had to include this photo because there is something about seeing a hawk with waves crashing behind it that tells us we're not back home in Washington.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Catching Our Breath

We've been in California a week. We're not exactly settled in yet. We have no routine. We live upstairs and downstairs. It's been hot. It's been foggy. We've seen more family and friends in the past six days than we have in three years in Washington. Okay, I exaggerate, but we are socializing beyond our usual limits. We do take a walk every day and have a good look around. We're seeing hummingbirds in November. We're seeing a little hawk in the neighborhood we can't identify yet. We're watching pelicans sail past the window.

We don't have cable TV. We don't have caller ID. We are roughing it.