Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween 2006

Halloween 2006
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Here we are on our way to school.

Ruthie is a black cat with a fluffy tail and fluffy ears. Her costume was utterly adorable and she loved being a cat.
I am a pink construction worker -- don't ask me to do anything, it might mess up my manicure! Most of the teachers were construction workers -- in honor of the new building and on-going construction at the school.
Gage is a Ninja! And, he loved it.

Crazy Day! The school does a school-wide parade in the morning. There are parties in classrooms throughout the day. Teachers dressed up. Parents all over the place. Sugar-hyped kids running rampant! Wheeeee!

Then at 5pm, we all descend on downtown and go Trick Or Treating with the merchants in town. Because we live in a hilly, windy-road, no street lights kind of area, it's the only trick or treating some kids get to do. It's totally fun. Everyone does the main street counter-clockwise. It's a blast. We ordered a pizza when we got to town and then picked it up when we were done. We actually live in a neighborhood where kids can trick or treat and so we get some. Maybe 20 groups of kids tonight. It's fairly low-key.

I'm a totally strict mom about the sugar. They get 3 pieces of candy after dinner and then one piece a day until they have forgotten about it which usually takes about two weeks. Then we toss what's left! It works for us. They don't feel deprived but they DO get to sleep and can enjoy the next day.

Ravens Flying High

During the parade at school, I looked up and saw around 16 ravens circling high overhead. I got this shot before being distracted by the chaos of the parade. They were so beautiful wheeling overhead and I felt sure I was the only person who noticed or appreciated them. Most people at the school think they are pests. I feel blessed by their closeness. They are noisy, big scavengers who retain an amazing dignity. I love them. We have a pair that has moved into our neighborhood and I'm THRILLED!

PS. Raptor Lovers (and you KNOW who you are) go check out this post from Jane (Expiration Dates). [click] She lives in Washinton state on a river in a house she built with her husband. And, they get to see things like that from their living room windows ALL THE TIME. Amazing!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
We went to a pumpkin farm outside of Davenport, CA. It's a beautiful area about 40 minutes away from us. Davenport is just north of Santa Cruz on the Pacific Coast. The day was gorgeous! Clear blue skies, crisp, cool air. We had artichoke farms all around us, wonderful pumpkins, pelicans flying by, and in the distance, the blue, blue Pacific Ocean.

I took a ton more pictures and they all turned out really gorgeous! There is something about the colors of fall that make it easy to look like you know what you are doing. [click]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What the heck is this?

Spotted Towhee (juvenile)
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
My fans are going to start recognizing my unique photographic style (ahem) but still this is a mystery bird. Spotted Towhee (juvenile)

In my yard for about a week now. Could NOT figure out what it was. Poured over the internet, Sibley, Peterson . . . no clues. The best I could come up with was Fox Sparrow but I was NOT happy with that. It would have had to be a weird fox sparrow -- just not right! Look at all the white spots all over it. It's weird.

But, today, I got a clue!

The little darling was in my front yard . . . for just a second. It was hanging with two California Towhees and a Spotted Towhee.

I mulled over it all day (I'm sure my boss is glad to know that while teaching math, I'm mulling over odd birds in my yard). Finally, it dawns on me . . . what if it's a juvenile Spotted Towhee. So, I google "juvenile spotted towhee" and voila . . .

link (this one in particular cracks me up -- I'm thinking I'll know soon if my bird starts looking absolutely BIZARRE that I'm spot on (get it!).

So, what do you think? Am I right? Can you even tell with the horrendous quality of my photos? Comments? Ideas? Opinions?

First Thirteen Birds on my Year List
  1. Red-tailed Hawk
  2. Acorn Woodpecker
  3. Western Scrub-Jay
  4. Dark-eyed Junco
  5. California Towhee
  6. Steller's Jay
  7. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  8. California Quail
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  11. Turkey Vulture
  12. American Crow
  13. Merlin

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Staying home with a sick child

I know that some kids like to be sick -- or at least that's what you hear. My kids don't. Maybe they don't ever just get sniffles where it would be fun to be home. When they are sick, it's usually super sick. At 4am yesterday, Gage came in to tell me that he was going to the bathroom. (Well, I guess it's nice to know, eh?) I got up to give him company and tuck him in. When I kissed his forehead, I knew. Hot! Damn!

So, I spent the next two hours trying to figure out how I could be in two places at once before coming to the inevitable conclusion that I couldn't be in two places at once and giving in to call school and tell them that I couldn't make it that day.

He spent the entire day hot, headachey, grumpy. He had a chairbed with his choice of TV and I tried to tempt his appetite with nummy treats. Nothing worked. He wasn't hungry. He was grumpy. He was not happy. And, all he wanted to do was go to the doctor because he knows that when he has an ear infection, he feels better fast after the antibiotics kicked in. He doesn't have an ear infection. He has some sort of virus -- probably the same one that I am still getting over from earlier in the week when I thought that perhaps my head would explode from the pressure in it and, frankly, couldn't see how that was a bad thing. So, I knew why he was so grumpy. Didn't help though in dealing with the fact that he really thought I was being mean not to take him to the doctor.

Thankfully, he got some relief from the fever in the late evening, ate a bowl of cheerios, and had a good night's sleep. Phew! He'll be home with Daddy who finally got released from jury duty after being selected as the 4th alternate yesterday. You'd think being friends with one of the county judges would get you booted by a defense attorney sooner. Maybe they like to see people sweat some! :) Greg was pretty nervous -- 4 week murder trial 9:30 - 4 everyday. It would have trashed our lives! I'm all for civic responsibility but it's hard when it messes with ones livelihood.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to mooving forward today on work, lessons, and my own schoolwork. Life is insane and I can't way for my own schooling to be done . . . December 9, here I come!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dad, Can I Interest You in a Rock or a Stick?

My darling son came home yesterday with a pocket full of rocks and sticks and acorns. Now, this isn't new behavior as my washing machine can readily attest to. What is new is the idea that he could SELL these items to family members.

"Dad, I've got some stuff in my pocket to sell. Do you want to buy some?"

Oddly enough, he got Greg at just the right moment and Greg laughed and said, "Let's see."

For me, hilarity soon ensued. Greg was interested in buying rocks while Ruthie was after the acorns and sticks. She is collecting items to make a collage, it seems. I don't know what Greg wants with the rocks.

Gage is after money. He is saving up to buy a Bearded Dragon when he is ten. He has been focused on this goal since he was 5. He's 6 and 3/4 now and very serious about it. I was surprised when he took a few dollars out to buy a yo-yo at school the other day. Every penny he finds goes into his piggy bank.

I love how goal-oriented he is. He has pictures of bearded dragons in his room. When we go to the pet store, we look at the reptile aisle and he enjoys seeing all the stuff and talks about what he'll get for his Beardie.

In the meantime, he's learning about money. Although the value of money may still be eluding him. He asked for 10 dimes for an acorn. He's a good salesman though. When Greg said, "10 dimes? What is it? A Special acorn?" Gage replied, "Yes. It's very special."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A New Look for Ruth

New glasses!
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
They're here! New glasses. And, on the very same day, she lost her other big front tooth. Hurrah! The glasses are beautiful and she looks great in them. They really change how she looks but I like the new look. Just a change. She REALLY notices the difference -- she keeps lowering them and saying, "blurry and hard to read." Then she puts them back up and says, "Clear and easy to read."

The technician that fitted them to her didn't know the prescription but says she REALLY needed them. I held them up to my head and I could NOT see through them. I don't know how she learned to read and do math with that level of farsightedness. I'm STUNNED and very grateful that I didn't blow off the two little bitty signs of trouble that I noticed.

One other note, because the glasses are correcting extreme farsightedness, they make her eyes look bigger -- giving her a sort of anime look about her. So cute.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just the Facts, Ma'am!

Here is the story from our local paper about our Friday excitement . . .


It differs significantly from what law enforcement told my neighbor but I don't know what the real facts are. Regardless, all the excitment has ended here and we're just locking up tight for now. We've always been really casual about locking our house up -- but we're probably going to be more vigilant now. At least for awhile.

It's a weird feeling. We lived in East Palo Alto for 13 years and regularly saw all sorts of action there. We had a very secure house (although a determined person could easily get in) with deadbolts on everydoor. We wouldn't have dreamt of leaving it unlocked. Part of why we moved to Boulder Creek was to return to a small town where we would have a higher sense of security. It worked beautifully. But it's been amazing to me how quickly the skills of protecting oneself come back when something like this is going on.

Still, I think I had no trouble this morning looking at the redwoods and listening to the chickadees and feeling grateful.

Off to work!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Redwoods on Golf Course

Redwoods on Golf Course
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Peace reigns again at my house. They did not catch the bad guy yet but since he's a local and knows the area, they have decided that he is not hanging out here but is probably hiding with friends somewhere. They'll just wait for him to slip up now, I guess.

So, we're enjoying a restoration of peace here. Although, I have to say, we're all locking doors again. We'll probably do that for a few weeks until this blurs to a distant memory.

We live on a golf course in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. We aren't golf course people (whatever that means) but this isn't your everyday average golf course, either. This is the kind of place where you'll see the old duffer in the plaid pants playing right along with an aging mountain man with a huge frizzy beard wearing overalls. It's an unusual place. But utterly beautiful. Aside from the golf balls that regularly threaten the health and safety of our automobiles, I find that I love living on a golf course.

Of course, this view from my front yard doesn't hurt. :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Manhunt in my backyard

manhunt in my backyard
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
I know the pictures are terrible but here's the story . . .

My son and I are home alone and we hear voices across the creek. I go look and there's a man out there in the woods. I realize he's a sheriff and he has a gun drawn. Oh crap. I close the door and as I do I hear him say that he saw someone running through the woods. Great.

I figure I'd better let my neighbor know as her kids often play in the backyard and in the creek area. As Gage and I are walking over there, a sheriff drives by in an unmarked car and tells us that there is an armed man in the area and we need to go back to our houses.

So, we run back into the house. And, I see that there are now two sheriffs with rifles in just on the other side of my fence, on this side of the creek. Yikes. As I reach for my camera to capture the surreal moment, they start moving and I can't get the shot. One of them hops my fence and is on my deck that looks over my waterfall on the otherside of my big redwood grove. He walks back towards the house and gestures to me. I open the slider and he asks what our address is. He nods and I call Rosie into the house (well, I gestured and she could see me well enough to figure it out). He hopped the fence again and they moved up the creek. That's what this picture is --- super zoomed in (no tripod, of course). They had a dog with them as well. They moved up the creek and out of sight. So, CHP, Sheriffs, State Park Rangers, and even CDF firefighters were combing our neighborhood. Eventually, things quieted down and I took Gage to soccer practice. I have to point out that the entire time the golf course was open and golfers were doing their golfing thing. Quite the juxtaposition (SAT Word!!!) -- golfers on one side of my house; men in body armor with rifles on the other side of my house.

They are all still here. Greg came home early because he couldn't reach me (he didn't have his cell phone, mine isn't charged, everytime he or anyone else called, I was on the phone so it went to voicemail, etc., etc.). Just as he got home, the cops went door to door again. They searched our motorhome and 5th wheel this time with rifles drawn and german shepherd dogs. Rather intense. I'm really glad that Greg is home. He poured me the last of my Glenfiddich scotch and we watched TV after we made sure every window and door were still locked and talked about every minute detail.

He's probably holed up in the woods for the night and they won't see him tonight but they are staying here all night to keep him in the woods. There are more bad photos including a mug shot of the guy in question on my Flickr account. [click]

Big excitement.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Naughty Hamster! Caught in the Act!

Naughty Hamster!
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Our darling Flufsy was most unhappy in her original cage. She expressed that to us by waking up at 5am and climbing the bars of her cage and chewing on them. It was loud and annoying. After two weekend mornings of this, we were willing to spring for a new cage.

We had some size requirements as the cage is on a shelf unit in Ruth's room. So, we found this really cute cage that met our requirements. It's cute, has a nice big wheel, two levels, a cozy sleeping nook, and fit in the space.

Buuuuuuuut, Tuesday we came home from school to an empty cage. Eeeek! I (not my first time dealing with a hamster) started looking very methodically. We found her right under where she fell off the shelf, hiding behind a tub of toys. Phew!

Last night, I got home from teaching all day plus an extra hour for an afterschool program. I had stopped at the store to get dinner. My stomach was upset. I walked in the door to see my husband yelling at the kids (well, speaking sternly to them). The hamster was missing again and the boys had come in from doing something and left the front door open. Oh boy.

So, I started looking again. We tore Ruth's room apart -- me looking carefully and methodically. Ruth following me around wringing her hands and being worried. Sigh. Not in the room. So, I did the hallway carefully. Then most of my bedroom and bathroom. About then, the boys came in in a panic. They were hearing noises and were worried about something. I went out to check -- the truck was making cooling down engine noises and they thought it might be the hamster in there. I managed not to laugh at them (this is a BIG truck -- GMC 3500 -- not only couldn't she get in there but if she did, you wouldn't hear her moving around! :)

When I came back inside, I noticed that the hamster's ball was on the floor in the living room open. I questioned Ruthie and she could not say for sure that she had put Flufsy back in her cage after her morning run. Hmmmmm. So, I took the living room apart and didn't find her. Rats. (Or hamsters!) I couldn't look behind our ginormous 80" television but looked everywhere else. Then, I did the entryway (so ridiculously huge we call it the Lobby). Nothing there. Next, the front closet. BINGO!

So, we now have things on TOP of the hamster cage (the door is in the plastic roof). We still found it hard to believe that she had opened it up by herself but I got this photographic evidence this morning.

Cage #3??? Sigh. Expensive damned rodent!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sometimes a story is too painful to tell with words

I love Flickr and get lost in some of the amazing photos there. Tonight was no exception.

Nikographer posted about his visit to Conowingo Dam, MD. His pictures tell the story of a Bald Eagle who fell from the sky (probably after hitting power lines). It is painful and yet amazing. Be warned, it does not have a happy ending but it is still compelling. Sometimes one just has to bare witness.

Nikoographer is a gifted photographer and these pictures will stick with you.


Monday, October 16, 2006

The State of my State

My afternoon went a little something like this . . .

came home from work. While heating up leftover spaghetti, I noticed that there was a LOT of action at my kitchen window feeders. I stopped and watched as the Chickadees went nuts over sunflower seeds and Julie Zickefoose's Suet Dough. As I watched two Pygmy Nuthatches flew in repeatedly for snacks too. Delightful. An Anna's hummer came in and sat and drank and drank and drank some more at the feeder. I grabbed my camera and snapped several pictures (through the double paned windows that are spotted with water on the inside and outside). They were not great pictures to be sure -- or at least I don't think so. Something messed up though and the pictures were not really there. My digital camera card had files but they were all 0K. Sigh. And, when I went back to snap more . . . the wind had come up and there were no birds in sight. I'm pretty sure I could hear a Pygmy Nuthatch sticking its tongue out at me and saying, "Nyeh Nyeh" but I'm not positive.

Then, I got busy and decided to make our reservations for Thanksgiving. We are going up to visit my folks in June Lake, California. This heavenly place is in the Eastern Sierra at 7000 feet. Usually, Thanksgiving is just before the snow flies but not always. We're planning to take the FMC up but if it's snowy, we're taking the truck and planned to stay in a motel. It's a resort town with fishing all summer and skiing all winter. So, I called the motel that is within walking distance of my mother. Imagine my surprise when I discover they are closed that week. Yup. Closed. A motel. During Thanksgiving. Seriously. In a resort community. My mind boggles.

So, I start checking for viable options. My parents are on one side of a very polarizing community issue up there which the next nearest motel owners are on the other side of. So, staying there would cost us an arm and a leg and might get us dis-invited to Thanksgiving dinner. Missing my stepfather's smoked turkey is not part of my plan! Sooooooo, I keep looking. Another nearby place is owned by an extremely religious family with 13 children. They state on their rates page of their website that only married couples can stay at their cabins -- unmarried couples can burn in hell (okay, that's not what they said but the implication was clear). Well, I'm all for airing your own opinion and mine is that they won't get any of MY money even though we are married. Although, I'm tempted to recommend that my sister-in-law and her boyfriend stay there . . . just to mess with 'em. Last on my list of hilarious resort town motels is the place called The Four Seasons. Now, first of all, that's a mighty auspicious name for a motel/cabin place in June Lake. It's not a high-falutin' kind of town. But, best of all, they are only open between April and October. Arguably that is three seasons but no way is it four. Hilarious. Add to that the fact that the motels all want a 30 day cancellation notice for holiday weekends and I think we'll be figuring something else out. Sheesh!

So, imagine that there is a lovely picture of a Pygmy Nuthatch noshing at my feeder and I'll imagine that I'll have a place to sleep Thanksgiving Night when it's snowing at 7,000 feet in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hard but satisfying labor

We are making some changes for the comfort of our new old motorhome. We have had -- for the past several years -- a canopy deal over our 5th Wheel trailer to keep it dry and undamaged by golfballs and falling redwood branches. But, that's not good enough for the motorhome. The FMC must have better so we are getting two new metal carports (Like these). The back one will house the motorhome and the front one will be double wide and will house two cars side-by-side. The FMC will be able to drive through both to it's little spot. We had to move a gate and dig up some debris (dirt) in the driveway, move a planter bed, and otherwise do some serious manual labor.

So, of course, we called on my inlaws. They love this kind of thing -- really! And, we all worked at it. Greg got a new shovel and pickax. Our old shovels are . . . old. The old pickax had actually fallen apart completely. And, we spent a few hours on it. We took a break for lunch and ate some amazing deli sandwiches that we made ourselves. The kids helped too -- digging and shoveling dirt and leaves into the wheelbarrow.

We got enough done for the carport people to deliver the carports now with no problem. Eventually, though, we'll finish it up by adding in a planterbox along the neighbor's fence and a rock retaining wall along the rest of the driveway down and around the mailboxes. The retaining wall will also have a planter box component to it as well.

My mother-in-law and I also tackled the front beds. The person we bought the house from had put in an English Cottage Garden in our front yard. Myself, I called it the Deer Salad Bar. I have replaced most of the inappropriate plants (like rosebushes -- ever seen what a deer can do to a rose bush in just one night?) with Lavender. Deer don't like lavender but I do. There were still a few Agapanthas left though. Agapanthas are very popular landscape plants because they are so hardy but deer do love them. I, however, do NOT love them. I don't like the flowers and I don't like they way they take over a garden and make it their own. I also don't like the way any tiny bit of root that you leave in the soil becomes a new Agapantha plant come spring.

Anyway, we dug the buggers out which is difficult work. There were two big clumps and then some "volunteers" from where I had dug out past clumps. Agapanthas are so tough that the clumps that I dug out 4 years ago and tossed on a mound of dirt for a friend who wanted them to come pick up (only she never did) are still growing happily sitting ON TOP OF THE DIRT! Evil plants! We found some volunteer Lavender plants coming up in one spot and replanted those. We put down some weed cloth and put fresh redwood bark over the whole thing. Finally, I hacked back my lavender. Lavender benefits from a good hacking (like 1/3 off!) once a year. It's hard to make yourself do it but the plant is much happier.

It looks so nice. See . . .
Lavender 1 Lavender 2

Oh, and last thing . . . after giving it great thought. Laura, this is a picture (not a good one, mind you) of what feels like home to me.

Feels like HomeThese cabinets came from IKEA. They were among the first furniture that Greg and I picked out and bought for ourselves that weren't hand-me-downs. They house our special books and art that we have collected as well as Greg's extensive music collection -- the right hand one is almost exclusively CDs. In front of it to the left is our Taos drum that we bought from the artist in Taos. On top of the cabinets are two amazingly beautiful duck decoys carved and painted by my grandfather. To the right, along the hallway wall, is the start of our picture wall. The first framed piece is our wedding invitation and next to it framed on top are the kids' birth announcements. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the front door and when I take a moment to appreciate it, it definitely feels like home.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quilt Show!

Or as my husband sarcastically put it when he dropped me off . . . QuiltConXV. :)

What a great day. I went to the quilt show -- Greg took the kids to Great America for the day. We all had fun!

I saw so many amazing quilts. This one was perhaps my favorite. Here are more that I saw and liked enough to photograph. [Click]

Spent the day with Jody. Had lunch with my friend, Denine, and her mom. I got in the car at the end feeling utterly relaxed and happy! Hurrah!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ruthie's Eye Appointment

Ruth had her optometrist appointment today. End result . . . she's VERY farsighted. She has a depth perception problem which is related to the farsightedness. She will be getting glasses and the frames pictured are what she has chosen. They are by Disney and are the Jasmine frames in purple. They have a cute little dangle on one side. They looked utterly adorable on her.

The eye exam went well. The doctor was -- as we'd been told -- wonderful with her. I wasn't thrilled with waiting so long -- Greg had to leave to go get Gage from school and missed the whole exam. :(

We will take her back in a month after we get the glasses to see what improvement there is in her depth perception. I think we'll have about 400 questions by then. I really needed some processing time. I didn't even ask what her prescription is.

She seemed okay with everything and is very excited about getting glasses. One of her friends got glasses in Kindergarten and Ruthie loves her glasses and is excited to be just like her. So, yay! for that! She will wear them all the time except for sports (soccer). I think the most amazing thing is that she hasn't shown any signs of needing them until recently. The doctor was flummoxed too as she had her eyes tested in Kindergarten and last year in 2nd Grade. Another one of the questions.

But, at least we know and there doesn't seem to be huge trauma for her about it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Per Request!

One of the massive Redwoods
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
More redwoods. More looks at my yard.

Unfortunately, redwoods are breathtakingly gorgeous and very large -- well, that's not unfortunate, unless you are trying to take a picture of them.

Look up from inside the grove

It is difficult to get an idea of how big and impressive they really are. Coastal Redwoods (the kind in my yard) are the tallest trees in the world. The ones in my yard are 2nd growth. This area was almost completely harvested for lumber 100 years ago during the rebuilding of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. So, the trees in my yard are young'uns. In Big Basin State Park (9 miles from my house), there are old growth redwoods. They are amazing and wonderful. Here is an interesting article from our local public library.

Daddy's Home!

Yesterday, after school, we hurried through homework -- that, of course, proved difficult and took all our time, and then headed off to the airport to pick up Greg. We only had to circle twice and there he was. Hurray!

The kids were giddy with excitement. He left for Oregon last Tuesday, came home briefly Thursday night, we took him to the airport Friday morning and finally he was home Tuesday night. He piled in the car and we had hugs and kisses and squeals of delight all around. I drove us to a nearby restaurant (Elephant Bar) and we went in and had a nice dinner together. The kids regalled him with stories of their time while he was gone. He told us about how the trip went. I told him how much I'd missed him.

It's true. I really did miss him. Just his presence. Sure, it was a hard week but it would have been a hard week even if he'd been here. I still would have been sick, overloaded with school work, and stressed out. I still would have had bizarre goings on with coworkers. Buuuuuut . . .

I would have had someone there. Someone who has always been there -- we've been together for 24 years. I think it's a wonderful thing that I can cope and get through a week like that just fine (okay, ONE breakdown!!! :) but when I see Greg again my first thought and feeling is, "Oh, I've missed you."

A week apart is too long but it was probably good to be reminded that we depend on each other.

Monday, October 9, 2006

The Big Bust

Hi there!
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Well, our Big Sit was a big bust. The main reason . . . I had let the feeders go empty this week (terrible week, remember?) and the birds were still punishing me. This, despite my making up Julie Zickefoose's Bird Suet Dough . . . couldn't they smell it? Man, it smelled good to me!

So, we saw (or heard and could identify) 3 species. We sat out there all afternoon -- well, I did, the kids finally left to go do other things.

Dark-Eyed Junco
Anna's Hummingbird
Common Raven

Didn't see or hear a single Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Scrub Jay, or Stellar's Jay whom we normally are beating off with sticks. Normally we'd have three to four Anna's visiting and at this time of year, we'll start seeing Allen's Hummers too. Sheesh! I bet tomorrow it's bird city here. Sigh.

Still, I did get to sit out on my back deck on a gorgeous day and relax.

I tried to get some pictures of the amazing beauty of my yard but it's hard to capture through a camera lens. I got one nice shot of the setting sun coming through one of the redwoods (I have 21) in my hard.

Redwoods over my house

Here's a shot of the first winged creature of the day . . .

Well, it has wings!

And last, just because it's so pretty . . .


PS. They are mocking me! I came home from work just now (Monday at noon) and there were three Chickadees and an Anna's hummer on my feeders. They saw me, stuck their little tongues out and went, "Nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-nyeh-nyeh" and flew off. Naughty little birds!

Friday, October 6, 2006

Is it BAFAB yet?

buyafriendabook.comThis is a cause I can get behind! Buy a friend a book. Even better . . . buy an unsuspecting friend a book. That's fabulous!

I recommend buying a friend a book written by a friend. Here's a great book to buy . . . Letters From Eden by Julie Zickefoose. I also recommend anything by Katya Reimann. Diana Gabaldon is another online friend whose books I can heartily recommend.

I have met these women through the Internet and my life has been better for it. So, buy a friend one of THESE books! Enjoy!

I sent my sister a book from her Amazon Wish List -- a slightly sneaky way to know they'll get a book they really want!

Oh yes, you'll notice that I've changed things over on the right . . . see that book list? I found a great new tool called Library Thing. WOW! What a great way to catalog my books, share my opinions, and just have a cool thing about books. I highly recommend it. I took the Reading Raven blog down because it was so awkward compared to Library Thing. It rocks!

One of those days

[warning -- ranting vent enclosed -- read at your own risk!]

Yesterday was just a gawdawful day. It got better and all is well, I think but it was gawdaful getting there.

Here is the list of the factors in play:

  • Greg is out of town
  • I am sick and while I thought I was getting better, I took a turn for the worse yesterday and had to go to the doctor.
  • I got my period -- of course I did!
  • I have a huge assignment due for school today.
  • I have a huge test on Saturday (the RICA, for those who care! :)
  • Work has been difficult and my coworkers have been uncharacteristically difficult as well.
  • Did I mention Greg is out of town. He is.
  • Greg came home last night briefly and then flew out this morning.
  • Ruth had been showing some weird eye problems and I asked for the nurse to screen her for vision -- she came up with blank spots in her vision when she uses both eyes -- alone, they are fine, together blank spots. Probably a binocular vision disorder. So, had to make an optometrist appointment.
  • There is thing called Google where you can research all sorts of things that cause blank spots in vision. Some of them are very scary -- and very unlikely. Bottom line -- did NOT ease my stress level.
  • Oh, Greg is out of town. Did I mention that?
  • In the middle of the office, I completely melted down (hit the wall) and started crying just as I was walking into a difficult meeting with a groupof coworkers and my boss. The consummate professional at work. They were great but still dammit all I hate doing that at work (or anywhere but my own bedroom, thank you very much).
  • Asthma means you can't breath well and at somepoints, your body starts limiting its activities and that's when I know that I need to get medical help. Which unfortunately means Prednisone which in my house we call Bitch Pills because while I feel better almost instantly, they utterly destroy my ability to cope with ANYTHING.
  • I also have a sinus infection so I get to add antibiotics into the mix. (ooo, better go eat some yogurt!!!)
  • Oh, Greg has been out of town since Tuesday -- he'll be back next Tuesday.
Okay, the good news is that things got better as soon as I called my doctor's office. I called at 11 told them my asthma was not responding to my emergency inhaler. They got me in at 12:35. Awesome. My doctor is wonderful and affirming. I got the scrips I needed. The visit only cost $73. I took the kids with me to get the meds. It always takes awhile so we walked down to the pet store. They are a great pet store (not that I'm a big fan of pet stores). We got to see amazing birds, bunnies, guinea pigs, chinchillas, lizards (baby bearded dragons that were like 3 inches long and a full-grown beauty who was like a foot-and-a-half), baby pink corn snakes (ahhhhh!), and tons of beautiful fish. We bought Flufsy a new bed and some chinchilla dusting powder which I understand they love for dry baths. We'll see. Gage got a cute stuffed lizard with magnets and is having a blast finding places for him to climb. We came home and Ruth did her homework and Gage and I cleaned up the house. Not perfect but nice. Coming home briefly to a disaster area wouldn't have been good for Greg and I figured it would be a good thing to help reduce my stress. It did. Then we had got ready for bed and curled up on the couch reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to wait for Daddy to come home. It was after bedtime but they needed to stay up and see him. Greg and I stayed up until almost 2 getting him packed and ready for his next trip. Still, being with him and seeing him, and talking to him helped a LOT.

So, I'm feeling better -- health and emotion-wise. Thank goodness. I'm knocking things off the stress list and feeling more supported. And, I got to bounce the workstuff of Greg and I felt better, way better, afterwards.

So, life goes on. Wheeeeeeee, what a ride. And you were warned, after all!

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A rush of adrenlaline wakes you up

Each morning, I get up at 6 am -- or as it has been lately, o-dark-thirty. I stagger into the kitchen and make myself two large mochas. I do the mochas on autopilot and luckily have quite a system down although sometimes when I've been sick or had insomnia or too many late nights cramming to get schoolwork done, I have made some interesting mistakes.

This morning, I walk into the kitchen, brutally turn on the overhead light, and start laying out my coffee making materials. From outside, I hear this blood curdling noise. Animal? Child? Adult? Can't tell but whatever it is, it's not happy! Like an agonized scream. I go to the back slider and look out. My dogs are both sound asleep -- I can see Rosie in her doghouse. The noise comes again. It's coming from the creek behind our house. Looking out that way, it looks like utter wilderness (when you can see anything -- it's pitch black back there now) but actually a highway runs through it and we can see car headlights when they go by especially in the winter. But now, I can see nothing. The sound comes again and suddenly my brain engages as I hear the sound echoed from further away, behind me, probably out on the golf course in front of my house. Coyotes! There is a coyote down by my creek or next to the highway howling its little heart out. Another was calling back to it. They did it four or five more times and then were done.

Amazing sound. They don't howl like wolves. This was an "aroooooooooor" sound. A month ago, my mother was here visiting for a few nights. She was woken up by the same thing -- only this time they were cruising up our street howling. The rest of us slept through it but Mom, fueled by sleeping in a strange house no doubt, was up and looking out the window. Couldn't see anything but heard them and again, took a little while to figure out what the noise was. The sound of coyotes will scare you but when you figure it out, you get a bemused smile on your face.

Our coyotes are small and healthy. I have seen one about 8 times since we moved here. They aren't shy. They'll run across the road in front of the car. I saw one run up the golf course at 10:30 am on a Sunday. They are beautiful creatures and I love it when I hear them. A few times, I've heard them calling each other late at night -- into the wee hours of the morning -- they'll be spread around our little valley and calling back and forth to each other -- yipping, howling, barking. It's amazing. I usually get up and go sit on the porch in the dark and listen.

So, that's what I was doing at oh-dark-thirty before I had my coffee. Listening to coyotes calling in the dark!

Picture stolen blatently from The Santa Cruz Natural History Museum.

Oh and here's what I am going to be doing on Sunday! Check it out. Here's the info. Here's a video. The Big Sit -- now this is my kind of birding!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Where I Live

Cool ComfortThis photo meme idea came from The Vitamin Sea but I heard about it from Somewhere in NJ. The idea is that anyone who wants to can request photos of "where I live" in the comments section and I'll try to indulge them. Within reason, of course. I'm single-moming it this week so too much energy is going in non-blog-related directions! :)

So, anyone curious about the amazing beauty and splendor of my world? Just ask!

Oh, and the freebie above? That's where the hammock sits in a grove of redwood trees in my backyard. Or well it did sit before the actual hammock part died. We haven't replaced it yet but it's top of the list for springtime replacement!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Mystery Sparrow???

Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Okay, so I am NOT a knowledgeable birder. I'm new at it and don't have a great camera set up and blah blah blah.

So, I took this pic at Elkhorn Slough. I scoured my bird books, pictures on the web, and the web pages for Elkhorn Slough and decided it was an immature White-crowned Sparrow.

My friend, Susan, thinks its a female house sparrow. So, I've been doing some research on it -- always love a challenge and besides, it's a great way to procrastinate the work I really need to be doing!

So, here is a web page with an immature White-Crowned Sparrow. Now this guy is a birder. And, a photographer. I am in awe of him and his digiscoping skills. Don't just look at this bird -- peruse the site -- it's amazing! Oh, here's the link! [click]

Here is a page with a female house sparrow. [click] Same photographer.

Now, to me, they look a lot alike but I notice that the House Sparrow has a bigger, beefier beak and the White-Crowned House Sparrows is more delicate. I think my bird looks to have a more delicate beak. Also, the HOSP has a shorter tail (as best I can tell) and the WHSP has a longer tail. Mine has a longer tail. I'm sure that this is one of those things that someone with any familiarity with either of the birds in question could tell immediately but (thankfully) I don't have HOSPs at my house so I'm not familiar with them in anything other than a "Oh look, a sparrow" kind of a way. Maybe I should just say its a Sparrow. Hey, at least I knew that much, right? I didn't think it was a Bald Eagle! Or a Brown Pelican! Or a really large hummingbird!

Meet Flufsy!

Ruth and her furry friend
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Isn't she sweet? Oh, well, they both are. Seriously though, I'm feeling very lucky! I've probably had five hamsters in my life and some are wonderful and some are horrible. I had one total sweetheart pure white teddy bear hamster (he wasn't albino so I'm sure he was just very light cream in color) in college who would come when he was called and follwed me around the house in his ball. So sweet.

We got that lucky this time, I think. Flufsy is adorable. Totally lets Ruthie pick her up with no nippiness. She's tolerant and sweet. YAY!

Ruthie utterly adores her and spends lots of time cooing over her and calling her a little love!

Gage is enthralled but way afraid to hold her. :) He does love it when she's in her ball though. I've already told the kids she can't be out when there are other kids over though -- is it any wonder the neighbor's hamster died when I found them flying her around the house like a spaceship over their heads??? Sigh. At least they weren't playing soccer!!!

No, we'll emphasize the gentle, loving care of animals -- they are not robotic stuffed toys! Ruthie gets it and is taking it very seriously. She asked me today if she should do the daily health check -- I assured her that a weekly health check is fine. The first health check came complete with a report -- well, Ruthie does want to be a vet so this is good practice.

Monday, October 2, 2006

The Bird Count at Elkhorn Slough

Wild Roses
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
I only counted the birds I could identify with a high degree of certainty. Birding with kids (and with my own scattered brain) is somewhat difficult. I don't have enough experience with birding to rely on my experience so often my ids rely on photos and hours pouring over books and the internet but how else will I learn.

Still, it was fun to get out and see what I could see. Birding with the kids in a place like Elkhorn Slough was a blast -- they saw so many birds -- you can't help it! They are everywhere!

Here's my list. . .
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

There were plenty more birds that I saw but couldn't ID or heard but never saw (and therefore couldn't ID).

The hedgerows of Wild Roses along the path to Hummingbird Island are worth the price of admission ($2.50).

What an amazing place!

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Hummingbird on Hummingbird Island

Another image from Elkhorn Slough. We walked out to Hummingbird Island which is in the middle of the slough. Railroad tracks cross it and we got to enjoy a freight train rumbling by while we were watching. The highlight of Hummingbird Island was seeing an actual hummingbird! And, it posed so prettily for me.

We saw many more in the canopy of the Eucalyptus trees. Along one trail, we saw a bazillion egret feathers -- must have been a roosting site.

We saw so many beautiful sights.

Oh, one more amazing sight was the mullets -- huge fish that can get to be 3 feet long. They were feeding on smaller fish and were leaping out of the water. Amazing stuff.

Elkhorn Slough

I'm hard pressed to chose a picture for today. There were so many good ones before my camera battery ran out (and since it runs for literally hours and hours, I have no excuse except I didn't charge it!). The kids and I went out to Elkhorn Slough today. It was wonderful. It drizzled on us. We saw birds and bunnies and deer and water and trains and so much. We walked 2.5 miles. We had so much fun!

You don't see me!This is my favorite shot -- so many bunnies. This one was sure we couldn't see it!
Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani)

On the way to Greg's folks, we stopped and got Ruthie's new pet hamster. She's madly in love. We've been assured she's female. She's friendly, outgoing, curious, and sweet. Thank goodness! Ruth named her Flufsy. I tried taking a picture of her but couldn't get one. I'm sure I'll have other opportunities!


Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Took a few minutes at the end of a day long seminar on reading instruction to relax out at Elkhorn Slough yesterday afternoon. It was so beautiful out there. Peaceful and quiet. These little sparrows were feeding in the old barnyard. So sweet. I might take the kids out there again today . . . or go buy a hamster instead. Hard to decide!