Saturday, February 28, 2015

End of February Photos

Just some of the photos that didn't make it into a blog post this month. Farewell to February.
American Avocet

The fog coming in

Marsh Wren

Sunrise looking east

Sunrise looking west

Red-shouldered hawk
Moon, Venus, and Mars
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Faraway, Then Close-up

It had been many years since Roger and I saw a White-tailed Kite. They are such memorable little raptors. We were so surprised to see one again, and we got to see them three days in a row. On the first sighting, I did not have the camera. The bird was hovering and hunting so close to where we were walking, it would have made an incredible shot--trust me on that! The second time it was far, far off in the distance in its standard hunting position.
It was really much too far for a good shot, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. The Cornell Birding website describes the White-tailed Kite hunting behavior this way:
While hunting, the White-tailed Kite characteristically hovers up to 80 feet off the ground and then drops straight down onto prey items. This ability to hold a stationary position in midair without flapping is accomplished by facing into the wind, and is so characteristic of these birds that it has come to be called kiting.
The next day, we got a much better and closer view of another White-tailed Kite while it preened and looked around from the top of a tree.
The White-tailed Kite has a very interesting range. I made a copy of the Cornell website range map to post here.
While it does say that it is a year-round bird here, it also says that, "Although some populations fluctuate regularly in size, it is unknown whether the White-tailed Kite is migratory, nomadic, or both." Isn't that wildly interesting?

So, yes, we were really happy to see this bird again. Such a fascinating and beautiful little raptor. I added the above photo, just for one more look. Hello beautiful!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sheep In Our Bones

After my osteoporosis diagnosis, Roger and I began an online search of the best ways to maintain and grow new bone mass. All of the pharmaceutical interventions sounded horrible to us, so we knew I wouldn't go in that direction. We both had our Vitamin D levels checked and were not surprised to learn that we were low. I had a doctor's appointment on Friday to discuss the bone density and lab test results. She suggested that we increase our Vitamin D3 intake to 3000 units a day. For many years I had only been taking 400 units and had been thinking I was adding to that with sunlight. Hah. Not happening at this latitude in winter.

So we went to the co-op to get our D3 supplements and came home with the co-op brand. I looked at the back of the label because I'm always curious about everything and saw this: Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol from wool oil) 2000 IU. WHAT? What do they mean wool oil? Where does Vitamin D3 actually come from, I wondered? I began googling around and had my mind blown and my consciousness raised and thought I should share it here.

The only naturally occurring Vitamin D3 in food is found in fatty fish, and the most is found in cod liver oil. So, unless your Vitamin D3 label specifically says fish oil, it probably says cholecalciferol, which means it is from lanolin made from sheep wool. The process is rather bizarre:

Lanolin is derived from wool-bearing animals like sheep. To get vitamin D from lanolin, supplement manufacturers first purify it and crystallize it, then put it through a chemical process that produces a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then liquefied in an organic solvent and exposed to ultraviolet radiation. These chemical changes turn 7-dehydrocholesterol into a substance called vitamin D-3. Next, supplement manufacturers further purify and crystallize this vitamin and add it to their products.

I had never heard of such a thing, but it's completely true. We are not opposed to deriving our Vitamin D3 from fish, but thought if we could get it from another source that didn't require an animal dying, that would be better. So, sheep wool seems fine because the sheep lives another day after its wool has been sheared. Still, the whole process seems more like science fiction than science.
Photo borrowed from the internet
Sure would be nice and simple to just derive all the Vitamin D3 our bodies need from the sun. I read that the body stops producing Vitamin D3 from sunlight when it reaches the appropriate level. Aren't bodies the coolest thing ever?

(Many thanks to fellow blogger and raiser of beautiful sheep and lambs Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts for letting me use her beautiful photos.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Panorama of Geological History

When Roger and I went for a walk on Monday we noticed this sign on a part of the Hammond Trail we hadn't been on before.
I'll write here what the sign says in the lower left:
A Geologic Staircase--with Marine-Deposited Carpeting

Looking north towards Trinidad, you can see a sequence of abandoned marine terraces, or wave-cut platforms, rising inland from the sea in a roughly staircase formation.

Waves pound against the exposed shoreline cutting a vertical face over time. Wave action then planes smooth the sea floor at the base of the cliff, forming the flat surfaces of the next terrace ‘step.’ Marine sediments are deposited on the flat surfaces. These terraces rise up as the Gorda Plate thrusts under the North American Plate. They then become the vegetated, inhabited landscape you see today.

I wanted you to see what it's like to look to north from this point and see what this sign is talking about. I have been inspired by Mark P of CaniConfidimus to try to piece together a panorama, and this task was perfect. I haven't tried to do a panorama in years. This photo is three separate shots, showing Trinidad Head and Strawberry Rock, the abandoned seastack.

Trinidad Head is an erosion-resistant block of gabbro (similar to basalt in composition) in the Franciscan Complex bedrock— an assemblage of diverse rocks embedded in a soft matrix of sheared shale and serpentinite.

Strawberry rock, visible in the distance, is an abandoned, erosion-resistant seastack (composed of greenstone rock, a metamorphosed basalt), that rose with the surrounding land during periods of tectonic uplift. You can see present-day seastacks scattered along the coastline.

You have to click on the panorama and look to the right from Trinidad Head to see Strawberry Rock, and along the way notice those marine terraces. I've added the above close-up, in case you miss the rock. I think the interesting thing to consider when looking at a beautiful ocean landscape like this is the nearly unfathomable number of years it took to create this scene. And there, in a little rise is a formation so easily missed, a seastack:  a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by erosion. Stacks are formed over time by wind and water, processes of coastal geomorphology.

There's nothing quite like getting my weight-bearing exercise while walking along this stunning expanse of ocean, and learning something new all at the same time. Yes!

UPDATED on Wednesday, February 18

I wondered if it might be possible to hike to Strawberry Rock, so I googled around and found this incredibly interesting site. The seastack is located in a 2nd growth redwood forest. This link will take you to a website that shows the efforts by locals to save that forest. More beautiful naked people laying their bodies down for the earth.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Was That Nessie At The Marsh?

We went to the marsh the other day to take a good long walk. We went expecting to see, as we always do, many shorebirds and dabbling and diving ducks. We were quite surprised that the ponds and lakes were almost empty. Just a handful of American Coots, a few mallards off in the distance. Mmmm... very odd.

We came upon one of the ponds, and there wasn't a single bird to be seen. I said to Roger, "There must be a predator out there somewhere. Maybe there's a shark!" We had a good laugh about sharks. Then, we saw this out of the corner of our eyes. Whoa, what is that?

Often we see the concentric circles of something that we just missed, as it dives down into the food-rich waters there. But this, this looked like our own little Loch Nessie. We were pretty intrigued. Suddenly it came up again, and there were two of them, coming up for air and diving down just as quickly.
We hadn't seen a river otter here since 2008. Sure was nice to see two again. Wikipedia says, "Fish is a favored food among the otters, but they also consume various amphibians, turtles and crayfish. Instances of river otters eating small mammals and occasionally birds have been reported as well." That may explain the absence of birds in these waters.

Not what we expected to see out on our marsh walk, but what a truly welcomed sight it was.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Dem Bones Dem Bones

Here to the land of winter rain and clouds, high latitude, and summer fog, I brought my old bones. I did think about it before we moved here seven months ago, but we tipped the scale on the side of water in a drought-stricken state and headed where the possibilities were greatest. I figured I could get the Vitamin D3 I needed for my bones by catching whatever rays of sunshine offered themselves and through good supplements.

So, I went to the osteoporosis clinic last week and had a bone density test and got the results on Friday. Let's just say the news was not good, not good at all. Dem bones, dem old bones ain't what they used to be. The diagnosis was osteoporosis in the lumber spine, left hip and femur. Bummer.
A photo from the internet showing healthy vs osteoporotic bone

I did a little online sleuthing to see if I really could get enough sunshine to produce Vitamin D3 at 41 degrees northern latitude in the winter. The answer was a loud and shattering NO. The study most often cited was one done in 1988 by Webb, Kline, and Holick, "Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin." The abstract reads:
Sunlight has long been recognized as a major provider of vitamin D for humans; radiation in the UVB (290-315 nm) portion of the solar spectrum photolyzes 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin to previtamin D3, which, in turn, is converted by a thermal process to vitamin D3. Latitude and season affect both the quantity and quality of solar radiation reaching the earth's surface, especially in the UVB region of the spectrum, but little is known about how these influence the ability of sunlight to synthesize vitamin D3 in skin. A model has been developed to evaluate the effect of seasonal and latitudinal changes on the potential of sunlight to initiate cutaneous production of vitamin D3. Human skin or [3 alpha-3H]7-dehydrocholesterol exposed to sunlight on cloudless days in Boston (42.2 degrees N) from November through February produced no previtamin D3. In Edmonton (52 degrees N) this ineffective winter period extended from October through March. Further south (34 degrees N and 18 degrees N), sunlight effectively photoconverted 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3 in the middle of winter. These results quantify the dramatic influence of changes in solar UVB radiation on cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis and indicate the latitudinal increase in the length of the "vitamin D winter" during which dietary supplementation of the vitamin may be advisable.
I was surprised and dismayed to learn that I could not produce any Vitamin D3 no matter how much time I spent in the winter sunlight. And my meager attempts with supplements did not help my bones at all. All of the literature says that weight-bearing exercise, Vitamin D3 and Calcium are the best for maintaining good healthy bones. I really thought I had been doing all the right stuff. 

The bone density results have made us rethink our plans about where to live. We're starting to consider moving further south for the sun. It's a good thing that all (and I do mean ALL) the houses that have come on the market here have been so outrageously and laughably bad. They're as bad as my old bones.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Imagining A Hawk Conversation

We went out to the marsh on a brilliantly clear blue-sky day over the weekend. The sun sparkled on the water, and people milled about everywhere enjoying the warm sunshiny day.
The tide was midway between high and low, and there weren't very many birds around. Neither the divers or dabblers found this particular tide level appealing. Oh well. We sure liked the sunshine so we went for a nice long walk.
We saw a red-shouldered hawk fly to a tree across one of the ponds from us. It was pretty far away, but I focused my camera on that beauty and clicked. It called out, and another hawk answered.
Whoa! The answer came from not more than 20 feet above our heads. I strained my poor arthritic neck to see this bird. I couldn't believe we had passed it right by. It let us stand there and take a few photos of it, chatting with its mate across the pond.

They were probably talking about the weather and the tides, or the little critters they were hoping to find later, or complimenting each other on their beautiful red-shoulders. Or maybe they were saying, "What is it with these strange creatures and their cameras, always looking up at us and making a fuss. Sure wish we could eat them. We'd be full for a year!" LOL. I love imagining bird conversations.