Thursday, December 31, 2015

Our Look Back At 2015

January sunrise in Capitola

February Kite at the marsh

March Skypools in Capitola

April Cliffs in Capitola

May Pelicans in Capitola

June Butterfly at the marsh

July Virga and cloud shadows in Arcata

August Full moon rise Arcata

September sunrise in Capitola

October shorebirds at the marsh

November King Tide waves

December Surf Scoter at the marsh
Happy New Year, friends.
Thank you so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Day Without Rain

We had a day without rain! It was so sparkly bright everywhere. We didn't have to turn the lights on in the house all day, even after the sun had set. This is our first winter in the new house, and on Saturday we could see how much light still comes in through the west-facing windows at twilight. We've gotten almost twice the amount of average rainfall for the month of December here, more than 14 inches of rain. It's been great for replenishing our drought-devastated forests, rivers, creeks, and reservoirs, but for a sunlight atmospheric optic lover like me, it's been bleak bleak bleak.

But then the sun came out on Saturday. There were a few scattered clouds here and there, enough to make things very interesting. I was on the phone with my mom for our daily 4:00 pm chat, when I looked up and saw this. I kept holding the phone and talking and clicked away with one hand.

Oh yes, I had definitely missed seeing these beautiful iridescent colors. They were so lovely after so much gray darkness for so long. I have no idea why the blue sky looks so "not blue" in the first three photos, but that's what the camera "saw." The blue in the last photo is much more what the sky looked like. Ah well, I think you can get the splendidness of the moment anyway.

Then, of course, night did fall. We didn't get to see the full moon on Christmas, but on the day after we saw this.

The moon rose in a sea of incoming clouds, creating halos of rings in red, blues, and greens. The night air was cold, almost freezing, but I stood out there anyway, delighted by the light.

It was a perfect day without rain.

Monday, December 21, 2015


It has been more than three weeks since I had that mishap with a very sharp knife and completely sliced off the finger pad of my left middle finger. In that time I have learned how to do quite a bit of left-handed stuff without using that poor injured finger. The index finger and ring finger have pitched in and are handling new tasks fairly well, although it took me three tries just now to type the word "new" because I kept getting "nrw." Ah patience, another nrw task for me, hah!
A Blue Heron high in the stormy sky
I have photographed the healing process every four days just to keep visual documentation of how these things unfold. It's been wild. It reminds me of the way a small pond freezes. First at the shallow edges small ice crystals appear and then freeze. The frozen edges move slowly in toward the deeper center. My newly formed flesh is quite like that. The wound is still open in the center, but the edges are solid and firm. I'm not going to post the pics because I don't want to freak people out, but if you're at all interested please let me know. I'd be happy to send you the images. They're cool in a medical documentation way. My twin brother won't look at them at all, but his wife sent me photos of when her finger met up with a hand blender while she was mashing potatoes. It's a whole new world of wild images for me!

Bufflehead in sunlight
In the meantime we've had only two days of sunshine since November 30th. We are breaking rainfall records and more is on the way. The hardest part of such dismal weather is not being able to get out there and take a good long look around. We have been taking our local neighborhood walks whenever there is a bit of a reliable dry spell. We did make it to the marsh last Tuesday and got to see this beautiful little Bufflehead in all his purple and green markings. Click on the pic to see those colors. He's a beauty.
Coast range and a bit of snow
We also had to run some errands in the "big" city just south of us. We drive across the bridge over Humboldt Bay to get there. We were surprised to see bits of snow in the coastal mountain range. Next storm headed for us on Monday has snow levels down to 2000 feet. It should be pretty beautiful out there, so we may have to head out to take a look. We're hoping for a clear Christmas to watch the full moon rise. Maybe I'll get a nice photo opportunity from Santa!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In Between Storms

December is turning out to be one heckuva rainy month. According to a few online weather sites, the average rainfall for this part of Humboldt County is about 8 inches for the month. We've already reached that and aren't even quite halfway to December 31. Here's a screen grab of the weather calendar for December, so far.
The rest of the month doesn't look much different. Plenty of rain in our future, except for Tuesday. So, you know we're planning a walk at the marsh. We haven't been there in weeks, and there have been King Tides and lots of coastal flooding. There will be so much to see!

We did have to run a few errands after the record-breaking weekend rains, so had an interesting view of how wet it has been.

In the meantime, I run outside at any hint of light.

It's been dramatic every time I've run out there.

And, I've been so happy to take a peek at such ephemeral splendors.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Day Of The Vultures

If you follow the weather at all you know that the Pacific Northwest and northern California have been getting a crazy amount of rain. For more than a week now the skies have been gray and our rain gauge keeps filling. We run out in the morning to see how much has come down. It's been substantial and good, and we definitely need it, but it sure does get old pretty fast. So when the skies clear if only for a half hour or so, we run out to take a walk and look around. We do have rain gear, but it's just not that inviting to head out into the windy wet mess of a day. We tend to wait for the sun.

On Wednesday we had the brief respite we had been waiting for. I noticed the clearing when I looked out the window to see the silhouette of a very large bird on a wire behind our neighbor's house. It was a very big bird. I was intrigued. It looked like a Turkey Vulture, but they don't typically come and hang out on the wires in our neighborhood. So, I zoomed in to make sure it was a vulture. Yup!
The blue skies beckoned, so we headed out and noticed that the vulture had been  joined by several others. They were gathered on the poles, and of course we wondered why.
So, we walked on the street behind our house and looked around to see if there was any carrion anywhere that would have attracted them. Nope. We didn't see or smell a thing. There were five vultures and several ravens out there, all carrion eaters. Definitely made us wonder what they were sniffing that we couldn't at all.
Or maybe they had just gathered to dry their wings in the brief period of no rain. A little online research told us that this wing-spreading behavior is called the Horaltic Pose. They do it to also raise their body temperature. We certainly understood that in this cool, rainy weather. So, we bid them a good day and headed out for our walk. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Looking Across The Street At Cows

You may have to click to actually see them!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Under Gray Skies

Wrapped and ready for getting wet
It is going to take some time to get used to this finger injury. I really hurt myself last week, and now I have to think about that finger every time I go to move my hand. It's rather surprising to learn how much strength the middle finger exerts in everyday activities, and how often the right and left hand work in concert to carry out tasks. Oh, you want to wash your face, your hands, that plate? Really? Good luck with that. Oh, you want to brush your hair and pull it back with a clip? Really? You want to zip your jacket or tie your sneakers? How funny. This is going to go on for quite some time (probably MONTHS!), and it's challenging, depressing, and annoying. But that's life right now, and I'm learning how to accommodate it.

I still try to find some beauty even in these darkening winter skies. It's easy to look up and dismiss these clouds as just another gloomy, rainy day.

But knowing that these are a lovely asperitas formation helps to brighten the rather dim moment. It's actually nice to know that I'll run outside to take a look, even with my poor bad finger.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

One Hand Typing

I made a terrible mistake Saturday evening. While I was slicing and dicing onions I looked away for one second and cut myself in a VERY bad way. Worst injury I have ever experienced in my 63 1/2 years on earth. I completely sliced off the pad (where the fingerprint is) on the middle finger of my left hand. I spent a very short time in Emergency where the check-in nurse took one look at my finger and said nothing could be done. He stopped the bleeding, put a tight bandage on it, and sent us on our way. So, now we are learning how to care for this crazy wound. It's not easy, and I am a very queasy patient. I don't even want to look at it. Roger is managing the bandage replacement. This injury will take a while to heal. I have been told that the skin will regenerate. I am definitely looking forward to that.

We did get to see some interesting bird behavior out at the marsh Saturday afternoon. I made a little video of it.

These are Northern Shovelers in an eating circle. Something yummy must have been swimming right underneath them. They barely had to do much dabbling. I said to Roger that no matter how many times we walk this marsh and bay, we always see something new that surprises us and teaches us something new about bird behaviors.

We plan to keep on walking, and I'll be grateful that my camera is perfect for my right hand, which is still working. Yay!

Friday, November 27, 2015

What We Did On Thanksgiving

Roger and I have spent many a Thanksgiving holiday just the two of us, and this Thanksgiving was one of those. We like each other's company so that works out well. Thursday dawned quite cold here with temps hovering around 40 F. There was plenty of frost on the roofs in the neighborhood and even the lawn grass glinted in the morning light. We knew exactly how we wanted to spend this beautiful, blue sky day. There was a King Tide expected at noon, and we wanted to be there when the tide was as high as it was going to be.
We headed out to the marsh around 11:30 and found it to be humming with lots of fellow walkers, families with kids, and plenty of well-behaved happy dogs all on leashes. When we got out of the car, the first thing we noticed was some people standing on the small dock in the very high tide watching a strange flat craft moving out into the bay. We could not see anyone in the craft, except for two arms that came up out of the vessel in a rowing movement. We wondered what that person was up to, but it was a beautiful day, so we didn't stop to watch. We walked on just a bit and then heard the loud crack of a shotgun. BOOM. Then BOOM again. We couldn't believe it. That boat suddenly had two people in it and one of them had a gun and was shooting at some ducks in the bay. They had been hiding as they approached the birds. We were shocked. BOOM again. I took some photos of them and walked on quickly. We ran into three people who were as shocked as we were. One of them had called 911 to report gunshots at the marsh. It was quite disconcerting to have a gun being fired so closely to where a host of walkers, hikers, bird-watchers, and families with kids were enjoying their Thanksgiving.
That sound was so disconcerting I wasn't sure I could enjoy the walk, which we had only just begun. But we kept going and found that the sight of hundreds of birds taking off in flight helped to lift our spirits. We walked and walked and filled our eyes with all the beauty that spread before us.
In the meadow that is usually dry, we found the Kingfisher and Heron taking advantage of the very high tide. I was so glad they posed for me like this!
This view from the little bridge gives you some idea of how high the tide was. Here's a view at much lower tide, taken four days earlier.
So, this was our Thanksgiving walk. When I look at these photos, I am struck by how blue everything is. We are always grateful for these sunny days. The rains will be back in a few days, and we keep hearing about an El Nino winter headed our way. Until that happens, we'll walk in the sunlight and rejoice in the rain when it comes.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I Saw But I Did Not Hear

It's been foggy and rainy here on the north coast of California. Not much good for walks or photography. Still, when just a hint of sunlight comes through, we take advantage of it and head out the door. On Saturday I said to Roger, "Let's just do the local neighborhood walk, but let's not go the long way around. It's too close to Thanksgiving and I really don't want to run the chance of seeing those farmers slaughtering a turkey the way we did last year." He agreed. I wrote about that encounter here. Lesson learned.
The rooster looked like this one
So, we walked around the streets of the old neighborhood where we lived in the rental. We stopped in to see a neighbor we hadn't seen in a while and had a nice chat with her. It was good to be out and seeing familiar faces. We came upon another old neighbor who we thought had moved. He had his van in the driveway and was holding a beautiful rooster in his arms. He came around from the back of the van to talk with us. He was petting that rooster and holding it like it was a favorite pet. This neighbor speaks very, very quietly. My hearing definitely is not what it used to be, so I could hardly understand a word he was saying. I nodded and smiled like every cartoon character does when portraying hearing loss. Roger's hearing is quite good, but even he has a hard time hearing this guy talk. So we all smiled and nodded and made small talk. I pet the rooster, told the neighbor what a beautiful bird it is, with its dark black feathers that shone iridescent green in the hint of sunlight. I also told  him that I was worried about the rooster's feet, they looked a bit gnarly; and I noticed that it had lost some feathers around its neck. Chickens do have a hard life; it's absolutely true about the results of the pecking order. The neighbor replied, but I have no idea what he said. So then, we all wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving, and Roger and I continued our walk.

I must have said something about that rooster while we were walking, because Roger said, "Oh yeah, he was just about to kill it. He's planning on having for it for dinner. He said the bird's name is 'Supper.'" What? Did he actually say that? Yes. That's what the conversation was all about. I felt so bad for that bird. There I was talking to it and petting it, worrying about its feet and pecked neck. Well, I guess not hearing well does have its upside.

I think the lesson here is to not walk anywhere in the neighborhood this close to Thanksgiving. It's not that you don't know what you'll see, it's that you do.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Window of Many Lunacies

If you follow our blog at all, you may remember that I sent several photos to Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics and asked for the scientific explanation for the multiple moons we saw from our dual-pane windows last summer. On Thursday he put up a post on his site explaining how we saw what we saw reflected in our window.
 Take a look. It's really interesting!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hummer Bummer and Flower Power

When we were still living in Grass Valley we stopped feeding the birds. We had been feeding them for a decade, but the bears and raccoons finally made it impossible to keep at it. They smashed and crashed every feeder we hung. So, with some sadness we watched the birds come looking for food and fly away, come back and look again, and then fly away. It took a while but they stopped coming. The year we were in the rental here in Arcata, we didn't feed any birds and had no plans to start up again. Then we bought the house.

Well, the house came with a hummingbird feeder. A very nice one. I knew I should have just taken it down and not start up again with such madness. But the hummers came by with their flashy iridescent greens and reds and literally chatted me up with their insistent tweets, "Fill this feeder. Fill this feeder." Okay, okay I gave in.

For two months all went well. When we were out of town for two weeks at my mom's a friend came and refilled the feeder for us. She loved it so much, she went out and bought a feeder for her yard. Life was sweet with the buzz of wings and the flash and dash of color. I loved knowing that our friend was feeding birds in her yard too. Kindness has its rewards.

Then, the weather changed. The rains came. The temperatures dropped to the 40s, and the winds blew. I noticed that one hummingbird decided the feeder was his and only his. I never liked those arrogant birds who won't let another bird eat. They just sit there right where the feeder hangs and nastily chase off any other bird that approaches. What little jerks they are. I went out there to talk some sense into this one, reason with it about the wisdom of sharing. It literally flew up in the air and tried to chase me back into the house. I had a good laugh. But this behavior makes me want to take the feeder in the house and tell that little bird to "buzz off."

A lot of the online discussions about selfish hummingbird behavior suggest getting another feeder and hanging it far enough away so the tyrant can't reign over both. That is not what I am going to do. We did that in Grass Valley and a second tyrant took over the new feeder kingdom. I have no solution other than glaring out the window and shaking my fist at a bird that has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, and quite frankly couldn't care less. Jerk. Oh wait! I just realized that I do have a solution, and it's a very nice one. We're going to plant a garden full of flowers that hummingbirds will love, and not one tyrant will be able to lay claim to. Imagine a yard full of perennials, like bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines; biennials like foxgloves and hollyhocks; and annuals like cleomes, impatiens, and petunias. It will be a hummingbird paradise! Thank you, little crazy one, for reminding me of the sane way to go. Ah flower power!