Monday, May 28, 2012

Wetlands Birding, Redux

Went back to the wetlands early this morning to catch birds at breakfast. Neighbor T came along, as she had never been there.  I got to add a few more birds to my life list, and can now name the turtle I saw on Friday. T is a big reptile lover, and she identified them as red-eared sliders. There were quite a few out sunbathing today. Today's birds included tentative identifications of a ring-necked duck, blue-winged teal, and cinnamon teal, but I'm not confident on my ids of these three at all. But I've been able to definitely add the northern shoveler, Abert's towhee, pie-billed grebe with its black ring around the bill, great egret, and the northern rough-winged swallow.  I used to see hundreds of cattle egret in Belize, so I was happy to officially see their big cousin.We also saw a couple of great blue herons, old friends of mine from Belize.

But the highlight of the day was seeing a mama great horned owl and her two babies, less than six months old, sitting only about 20 ft overhead. Herewith:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing Hooky

Well, I didn't really play hooky; I took a vacation day so I could enjoy a 4-day weekend. Since staycations are supposed to be fun, I decided to go birding. Now, Gentle Reader, I confess I am a terrible birder. I'm always looking at the wrong end of the bird for the identification, and I'm always 2 seconds too late. An example:  it took me years to see a toucan in Belize, because Glenn would say "There's a toucan!" and I would turn, all excited, just in time to see a toucan tuchus. Years it took to see that magnificent beak. But I enjoy my hobby nonetheless, even if I stink at it.

So this morning I undertook two expeditions: one to a local park, and one to a reclaimed water wetlands. I had read on a local bird blog that a wood duck had been spotted at a local park last Friday, and as that park is just a couple of miles from my home, the dogs and I went over at 6:30 this morning to see if we could spot it. True to my birding prowess, we did not. In fact, there were just a couple of ducks, but we did successfully identify 5 Homo sapiens dogwalkerii, four Tennis playersii elderlygentsi, and a flock of H. sapiens exerciseii, all running together as a group. It was still a lovely walk, cool and shady--we hardly ever get that this time of year here in the desert.

After I fed and medicated the boys, I went to the wetlands. And I saw 5 new-to-me birds! Now, when you see these birds, you'll think, "Mossy, these are common birds. Why the excitement?" I remind you I live in the desert. Water birds are generally scarce where there is no water. However, I couldn't figure out which swallow I was seeing, and there are some kingfishers and other birds there I didn't see, so I am tempted to undertake another urban excursion at a more appropriate birding time, in other words, obscenely early, to catch these critters at breakfast. Which means I'll have to ditch the dog walk one morning. The boys will not be pleased.

What I Saw (New to Me)
common moorhen, ruddy duck, American coot, blue-winged teal, fulvous whistling duck (? present in the wetlands, but I'm not confident in my id)
What I Also Saw (Not New to Me):
mallards, red-wing blackbird, morning dove, vermilion flycatcher   

I've linked to online photos so you can see what these birds really look like, but I'm going to post some of my amateurish photos anyway. I believe you can have as much fun birding with lousy binoculars and a point and shoot camera as someone with a 3-ft long telephoto lens and binoculars that weight 40 lbs. The blue-winged teal had such a purple head, I wish I could have gotten a shot of it, and the vermilion flycatcher was just too fast, and the moorhen too far away, but here are some other moments from this morning's urban birding expedition.

Two coots, preening

I know it's just a mallard, but look at the curly tail feathers.

Apparently I was there during the official bird post-prandial bathtime, as this ruddy duck was also bathing. Too bad you can't see his beautiful blue bill.

Even the turtles were bathing.

Closest I'll ever get to a bird book-like photograph.

See his lovely red and yellow wing spot? There were gaggles of redwings this morning.

"Hey, are you taking my picture?"

Turtle, now clean, dries off in the sun while the coot looks for dessert. I admit to sometimes eating dessert after breakfast, too.
The first in my new collection of Bird Butts of North America: Ducks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Awesome Science Photo

The latest photo from Opportunity, the Mars rover still chugging along all these years after landing, is a beauty--overlooking a crater towards an outcrop or hill on the horizon. These NASA photos go beyond awesome and cool, beyond stupendous, to somewhere in the neighborhood of spectacular and mind-boggling. Enjoy the view on Mars today (or actually, the view on Mars March 9).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Backyard Science: Solar Eclipse

Really bad photos of tonight's annular solar eclipse from my backyard, where we were expecting 87% completeness. The light is a strange, watery, light color, not the normal intense sunlight of sunset in the desert.I apologize for the quality, but my little point and shoot couldn't figure out what to focus on.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Backyard Resident

This little guy divides his time between hiding under my Lantana and Nandina spp. bushes, and then racing through the chain link fence as soon as one of the dogs spies him and tries to chase him down. I appreciate him giving Mr. Big a little bit of a cardio workout every now and then. He is a desert spiny lizard, Sceloporus magister.

These guys do the head-bobbing, push-up behavior that is probably very intimidating if you are only 2 mm tall, but this afternoon, he was just lying still as a statue, hoping that one of the big, slobbery dogs wouldn't notice him. They didn't. But the big, scary human did, and shooed the dogs inside 'til he decided to retreat to the safety of the fenced area.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Christmas in May

Santa's local elf, a.k.a. A, left me three boxes of yarn in my carport the other day. It's mostly great acrylic in good boy colors, but as you can see, there are some baby yarns (enough to make one blanket, and some single skeins to edge fleece blankets), and a bunch of white and off-white to mix in with the boy colors to dilute them and make them seem less dark. I am set for the summer! Thank you, A! You are the best!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tall Boy Goes to Law School

Tall Boy recently spent three hours at the local law school, helping the students to de-stress during the final exam period. The experience confirmed my suspicions when I decided to get a golden retriever for my next Delta dog--his strength lies in his breed being so familiar. He played with 15 students, and 6 of them (I counted) walked in and cried "OH! A golden retriever! I had/my parents have a golden retriever!" and then went on to tell me how wonderful the breed is. Pupgirl's therapy strength was her unusual breed and overwhelming gorgeousness that lured even dog-dislikers or dog-fearers over to find out what kind of dog she was and if she was as soft and cloud-like as her coat suggested. His strength is that everyone knows a golden, or knows someone who has a golden, or has seen one in the movies or on television. He may be be common in some ways, but he's very uncommon in so many others.

Tall Boy and Grace on the left, with Grace's human J rewarding the dogs for a job well done.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Remember Twizzlers? Those yummy, chocolate, gummy-like shoe laces? I haven't had a Twizzler in 30 or more years. Last week, I was in the grocery store and walked down the candy aisle, which I usually avoid. And there they were. And they called out to me and jumped into my cart. And today, late on a Friday afternoon, stuck in my cubicle when it was gloriously warm and sunny outside and I didn't want to be in that cubicle, I revisited my childhood. The photo says it all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pet Therapy Appreciation Party

April 28, 2012, community hospital appreciation party for Pet Therapy program. Missing: about 10 or 12 teams, including the therapy cat, ponies, and miniature donkeys. Yes, cat. Yes, ponies, who once a month give rides to the ambulatory children in pediatrics.

The second photo is of 4 of the 6 golden or golden mixes in the program (missing: Sunshine and her owner, and Dorado, who was preparing for leg surgery but whose owner took this photo).

Nope, no woofs of complaint while we were lining up, no high jinks while waiting for the photo (even from Tall Boy).

And then, we paraded through the hospital. It was a blast. I just wish we could do this during the week when departments were open and more people were there, so we could advertise what therapy animals do to a wider audience.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Requiescat in Pace, My Sweet Lana

My sweet little Lana died yesterday. I adopted her when she was 8, after my neighbors abandoned her and her two cat companions. I adopted all three. Lana was attacked by two neighbor dogs shortly after she was abandoned. They ripped open her chest, broke ribs, and punctured her lung. She fought back. A year later, she threw a blood clot that gave her a permanent limp in her left back leg. She fought back. She then developed chronic kidney failure and lived with that and all it's unpleasant side effects. She fought back. She developed megacolon. She fought back. She was diagnosed with cancer in November. She was given a series of enemas that made her lose weight and left her bedridden. She fought back. In January, she was given another enema that sucked the life out of her. But she fought back.

She went for a colon evacuation two weeks ago, which she had been throuh before with no problems, came home, lay down to rest and recuperate, and stopped walking. She was alert, but couldn't eat, had no energy, couldn't stand, couldn't even drink water or pee on her own. She tried to fight back. You could see it in her eyes. She was determined.

This weekend, the cat who took four years to utter her first meow, started crying. I took her to see her acupuncture vet yesterday morning, and decided it was time for her to rest. She now joins her beloved Georgie the Russian blue cat and my beloved Pupgirl on the Big Patio in the Sky, where there's a big wicker chair with a soft green cushion in the sun, just for her.

kitty bunk beds--now reunited
Good thing she liked the dog bed the dogs didn't like

Lana's tuffet

Lana and her adorable crocheted sweater

Lana's favorite place--a lap

More photos to come.