Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random Thoughts

Striding Out

Freaking Out? I hope not.
Just Out
I photographed this raven on 9-22-07 at Point Reyes in the Drakes Beach (there is no apostrophe s in Drakes on the web site) parking lot. From the name of my blog, you can guess that I heart corvids :-)

My co-worker saw a bunny on a leash (it was not up for adoption; it was shopping with its people) at the pet store last weekend. That reminds me of the beach bunny at Happy Mundane.

Preserving oak leaves with glycerin at Martha Stewart

I'm reading The Science of Everyday Life by Jay Ingram. The chapter on coffee is my favorite one so far, and I was sure to look at the convection cells in my coffee this morning before I added liquid creamer. Neat!! There is a sound experiment you can do with powdered creamer (or instant coffee), but that's gross! Well, in the interest of science, I will subject myself to powdered creamer (there must be some lurking in the back of the cabinet). Ooooo, I just checked and he has another book, The Velocity of Honey: And More Science of Everyday Life. OK, that's next.

Good night,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Citizen Science in Action!

I left something off of my list of important dates in December. It’s dates, actually. The count period for the Christmas Bird Count is from December 14th to January 5th. This is the 108th year. According to the Audubon web site, “More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this all-day census of early-winter bird populations.” How cool is that? It is our winter tradition to participate in several counts. One of my favorites covers some of my old stomping grounds from my youth. It starts at daybreak at my old high school – we count the ducks as they fly over (they spend the night on a small lake in the housing development) and count the Black-crowned Night-Herons roosting in the trees over one of the school’s parking lots. I hated high school – not the best place for a nerdy outsider – so it’s nice to return there each year and to feel good.

Today was a very rare day for me, indeed – 1) I was at home all day; and 2) I cleaned. I alternated between cleaning and de-cluttering and watching TV – How Clean is Your House (a British program that I love that is a thousand times scarier than Clean House), a Howard Hughes documentary, a program presenting new evidence on when humans made it to the Americas, something on dinosaurs, a show about dogs, Doctor Who, and Torchwood. I’m getting to like Torchwood – a spin-off of the newest Doctor Who. Torchwood is kind of a poor man’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy was much better). I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was a kid, and the latest version is disappointing to those of us who knew it in its heyday (OK, I’m only 36, but I did watch re-runs of Doctor Who and The Prisoner on PBS as a kid). I am not a prude, but they need to leave the sex and romance for Torchwood and leave that out of Doctor Who. The old Doctor never flirted with or kissed his companions. What’s up with that? As my uncle, a fellow Doctor Who fan who is also a bit disappointed with the latest series, said “There is no place in the Doctor’s two hearts for love.” Well, at least David Tennant isn’t as annoying as Christopher Eccleston was. I could go on, but I will now step down from my nerd soapbox :-)

Good night,

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Important Dates in December 2007

This Ring-billed Gull looked pretty in the glow of the evening light at Lake Natoma on 12-1-07.

Important Dates in December 2007
December 10th: Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I read this every December 10th, and it never fails to warm the cockles of my heart. Here is a snippet from the Preamble:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people ...

December 13th and 14th: Geminid Meteor Shower

December 15th: Birthday of the Bill of Rights. The new United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens on December 15, 1791. Here is an “old school” version. For a more contemporary layout, go to this site and look for the “printer-friendly version” button.

December 23rd: The day after the Winter Solstice. The days will be getting longer! Yay!!

Be excellent to each other.

Good night,


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Galls and the CVBS

The gall book is in! The galls in my 11-9-07 post that look like puffy pink stars crossed with inflated rubber gloves crossed with udders appear to be made by the Spined Turban Gall Wasp (Antron douglasii).

A few notes about the Central Valley Birding Symposium (CVBS, Nov. 15-18, 2007):

The event was in a new location this year; in fact, we were the first people to stay in the new hotel. The hotel is right next door to an arena, and on the Friday of the CVBS, Ozzy Osbourne was playing. We could hear “Crazy Train” in our hotel room. Someone told me that Ozzy was opening for Rob Zombie, which isn’t fair – Ozzy is too established to open for someone. Would there be a Rob Zombie without Ozzy? Discuss.

During the CVBS, I went on a couple of field trips – Eastern Stanislaus County on the Friday of the event, and Woodbridge Regional Park in Lodi on Saturday. At one of our first stops on the Eastern Stanislaus County trip, we birded a very pretty piece of riparian habitat in the campground of Turlock Lake State Park/Recreation Area. Check out the enormous acorns I found there (the acorn obsession continues):

Here is a Pacific Treefrog that was under the sink in the bathroom at Knights Ferry (also during the Eastern Stanislaus County trip):

Here are some dinner plate-sized mushrooms at Woodbridge Regional Park in Lodi:

Well, I’m getting sleepy, so I’ll try to talk more about the CVBS in a future post.

Good night,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bug ID

I just found out about the folks at BugGuide. Here is how they describe themselves, “We are an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures. We enjoy the opportunity to instill in others the fascination and appreciation that we share for the intricate lives of these oft-maligned creatures.”

Apparently, you can post a photo and get assistance with identification. So, I plan to post this caterpillar (I'll post a better photo for the ID folks). I took the photo on 4-17-07 in Rockport, Texas, which is on the coast, NE of Corpus Christi. We were in the area for spring migration, which was awesome!

Friday, November 9, 2007

CRP at the CRP

Isn't this the prettiest poop you've ever seen? Well, I assume that it's poop, and I am not the only one who photographed it, so there. It looks like it's oozing grape juice. The poop is one of the many cool things we saw today at the Cosumnes River Preserve. We also saw some interesting insect galls on Valley Oak leaves. In the pictures below, check out the feathery thing with dew on it that is on the oak leaf. I didn't notice it until I downloaded the pictures. Speaking of galls, this field guide is near the top of my book shopping list: Field Guide to Plant Galls of California and Other Western States, by Ron Russo. I've included some pretty lichen photos below, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stuff I found this week

I found some cool things in and around work this week. On my morning walk on Tuesday, I found this nest on the sidewalk – it’s past nesting season, and it was there waiting to get squashed, so I didn’t feel too bad about taking it home. It’s fairly small -- it could have been made by a goldfinch, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to look it up.

Later that day, at a thrift sale at work, I got this neat ring

and put a bid on this print of what I think is a peony (my grandmother’s favorite flower). I found out on Wednesday that my bid for the print was successful. Here is the whole print, then a detail of the flower, then a detail of the leaves.

I also picked up this interesting wine cork

and a package of chenille stems (aka big, fancy pipe cleaners), with which I might make some flowers and these acorn cap dolls. So, I totally scored at the thrift sale!

Today, I picked up this glorious Jumbleberry Pie at a local small business that my friends and I frequent -- The Real Pie Company.

It is described as a “jumble of berries -- blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries -- in a traditional (and all-butter) pie shell.” This is the second time I’ve tried this pie, and I love it even more the second time. It’s reminiscent of Marie Callender’s Razzleberry Pie, but a million times better. Ooooo, it seems blasphemous to even mention The Real Pie Company and a chain bakery in the same paragraph! You can tell that I love berries -- on the left side of the photo, you can catch a glimpse of the strawberry-print spoonrest on my stove.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Fashion Sense is Immense … Not!

This entry is not about hummingbirds. I just wanted to include a photo :-)

When asked about his appearance, UC Davis Professor (of evolution, ecology, and entomology) Art Shapiro responded, "I dress the way I do because I believe in the supremacy of content over display. I'm also more comfortable." Ah, a kindred spirit. Check out the Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, which was authored by Art Shapiro and illustrated by Tim Manolis. For more about Art, see this site and this one.

My husband says that I am the Princess and the Pea because my clothing drives me crazy if it doesn’t fit just right. For me, “just right” has nothing to do with style (what’s that?) – it’s about having my clothes fit just loosely enough so that I can’t feel them constricting my movement. Still, I do love sparkly things, like nail polish. I rarely wear nail polish because 1) I am VERY easily distracted, and I tend to stare at my painted nails instead of um, concentrating on the task at hand; and 2) I can feel the polish on my nails, and it feels like my nails can’t “breathe.” OK, so I’m a nut, but I CAN feel the polish on my nails, and it bugs me. So, I was happy to find Neutrogena’s Instant Nail Enhancer in Pearl Sheen, because it makes my nails subtly sparkly, lets them “breathe,” dries instantly, and doesn’t smell toxic.

In terms of "fashion," I love earrings with nature themes, striped socks, striped tights, socks with nature themes, and my shiny black London Birkenstocks (they look like shoes a Hobbit would wear).

Thursday, November 1, 2007

In science, beauty … and humor

My husband shared the Botany Photo of the Day site with me, since he knew I would love the byline “In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily,” and the photos, of course.

A friend shared the following excerpt from Animal Skulls: A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch:

"Antlers do offer some offensive and defensive benefits to the
wearer. Yet they are designed to minimize the chance of injury during
conflicts and were created for sparring, not spearing, competition.
Antlers also visually display the health and vigor of males. A moose
with a smaller rack would never challenge one with larger antlers.
One researcher, Anthony Bubenik, put this to the test with Alaskan
moose. After constructing incredibly large antlers for himself, he
joined the courting area. The males quickly backed off, and Bubenik
was unexpectedly confronted with numerous receptive females."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Latrobe Road

OK, this is total stream of consciousness, but I have to go to bed soon. We had a nice drive tonight down a dirt road that winds through oak woodland, then oak savannah, and finally just savannah. There are some beautiful rock formations in the oak woodland. We were in search of goatsuckers, owls, mammals, and anything/or anyone else that might be around. At the beginning of the drive, we saw Western Bluebirds on the fence line, and listened to the intense conversation of a group of Acorn Woodpeckers. White-crowned Sparrows sing all year, and it was wonderful to hear their sweet, swinging, sing-songy song as it grew dark. We found our goatsucker – we had a distant view of a Common Poorwill who treated us to its guinea pig-like call and then flew down the road. So cool! A few minutes later, and farther down the road, we had much better views of what was probably the same bird. It was hunkered down in the road, as goatsuckers are wont to do, and we were close enough to see its throat and mouth move a few times. Very cool! Other highlights include: several bats, a Great Horned Owl, Western Screech-Owl (heard only), a flyby of a Burrowing Owl, Cassiopeia in the Milky Way, Jupiter through our spotting scope, Bewick’s Wren, mallards, Rock Wren calling, Red-tailed Hawk, Black Phoebe, and a great acorn crop. The last two years have been bad for acorns, but this looks like it is going a great year – a mast year I think they call it. Acorns are so charming, that when they first start falling, I can’t stop collecting the caps.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Baseball and the Cat Next Door

My back has been hurting lately, so I watched Game 4 of the World Series from bed. There are two problems with viewing baseball this way: 1) it’s hard to argue balls and strikes when you’re looking at the television sideways; and 2) you usually fall asleep, which is what I did before the game ended. Here are a couple of items on the history of team names:

-the Red Sox, from a friend at work

-and the Reds

And just because … here is a picture of the cat who lives next door. He is a funny old cat, and he brings me much joy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Greetings and Salutations

Welcome to my blog. Game 4 of the World Series is tonight. Inexplicably, I find myself pulling for the Rockies. Perhaps it’s because no one takes them seriously? It would be nice if they could win at least one game, but I fear that they will be swept. Boston (finally) won in 2004, so I don’t have to root for them this year. The season will soon be over, and I will have to endure months without the comfort of Major League Baseball. Sigh …

This year, I’ve been doing a lot of hand-sewing -- embroidery, felt, etc. Be warned: I am neither an artist nor a graphic designer nor a skilled craftswoman. I couldn’t draw, cut, or sew a straight line to save my life. I just enjoy making things, and most of the time I am happy with the results. I get many ideas from crafty bloggers, and I am so grateful to all of you for inspiration and for your willingness to share your ideas and creations.

Here are some felt toys that I made recently – two Bears in Waistcoats from Toys to Sew by Claire Garland, and a (lopsided) panda bear mascot from The Cute Book by Aranzi Aronzo.

Yesterday, we were birding at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, and I took several photos of this raccoon before a truck drove by and scared it away (note the splash in the second photo).