Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lake Berryessa

Winter Transitions to Spring

March 19, 2016

I had no real plan on my drive yesterday other than to head in the general direction of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.  It's a brand new monument, less than a year old.  It's one of the weird ones not actually administrated by the National Park Service.  The upside of that is it will get the protection of a national monument and without NPS involvement the area probably won't change a whole lot.  The downside is the NPS is very good at balancing the needs of the tourists and the environments it manages.

Common Goldeneye -- Oakland/Alameda Estuary, Oakland, CA
Common Goldeneye
I never got to the new national monument.  Too many distractions.  That's OK, that happens a lot.  My first distraction was two blocks from my house.  As I crossed our neighborhood drawbridge, I spotted some ducks near the mouth of Sausal Creek.  They were obviously goldeneyes, but even from the bridge I could see they weren't quite what I'm used to seeing.  These birds were either in their non-breeding plumage or molting in that direction.  That was a new one for me.

Scaup -- Oakland/Alameda Estuary, Oakland, CA
I wonder if these ducks were aware that a pair of peregrine falcons reside in the the bridge next to the little beach they'd chosen to inhabit.  I'm guessing not.  Then again, I suppose that's just part of life and death for these birds.  The Central Valley wildlife refuges provide winter homes for millions of ducks and geese.  They're also great places to go to see hawks and harriers.

After shooting the ducks I headed North.  Lake Berryessa is near the Southern end of the monument.  I knew that the exit I was looking for was a few miles past the Lake Berryessa exit, but I couldn't help myself.  I've never been to Lake Berryessa.  I knew heading to Lake Berryessa would mean I wouldn't make it to the new monument, but I've never been to Lake Berryessa either, so that's where I headed instead.

One of the great things about not a having a well-defined plan is not having to stick to that plan.

Pipevine Swallowtail -- Putah Creek, CA
Pipevine Swallowtail
Once I got into the Lake Berryessa area I didn't make a stop without seeing a pipevine swallowtail.  In some places I saw dozens.  I eventually stopped taking pictures of them because I figured I'd tire of looking at the damned things in post-processing.  How many hundreds of pictures of butterflies do you need to take in one day?

Truth be told, I only took about a hundred photos of the butterflies and I didn't tire of looking at the photos while doing the post-processing.  Butterflies are one of my favorite subjects.  They don't seem to spook as easily as birds but they also don't stay in any one place for very long, so they're a challenge to photograph but also not impossible.

I saw a monarch near home yesterday as I started this drive and realized I never made it to the monarch grove in Pacific Grove this year.  Argh.  Well, this little trip kind of made up for that.  I wasn't photographing monarch, but I had no idea how plentiful these swallowtails could be.
Pipevine Swallowtail -- Putah Creek, CA
Lake Berryessa, CA
I didn't actually stay long at the lake once I got there.  I took a few pictures then turned around and headed home through Napa.  I will definitely return, most likely with my kayak.  I was surprised at how hilly the area was.  I always think of the Napa area as being relatively flat.  The valley is, obviously, that's why it's called a valley (duh).  The hills in Napa are very pretty and a little more wild and rugged than I realized.  I want to spend some more time there.

Osprey -- Lake Berryessa, CA
Napa, CA

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Muir Woods National Monument

For the Love of Trees

March 13, 2016

If all you've ever known about Muir Woods is what you've seen in my posts, you might think that it always rains there.  Obviously, that can't be true.  What is true, though, is that this is my main rainy day destination.  I love this place in wet weather.  For one, it thins out the ever-present crowds a little.  Not completely, but this place can fill up with loud, obnoxious tourists on a nice day.  The loud and the obnoxious don't seem to like bad weather.  On a rainy day I can walk the paths and enjoy the peace and serenity of the place.  I see plenty of people, but they seem to be the same type of people as me, the type that are seeking out a place where the wind in the tree tops and a high-flowing creek replace the urban sound-bed of the surrounding area.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
I went strictly with long exposures today.  It's what seems to work best under the redwood canopy.  There are a few shots I wish I'd tried with a more normal setting, especially some of the creek shots.  The water was moving pretty well and I think that was lost a little bit in these photos.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Not much else to mention, here.  It was a nice day for a walk in the rain in a place that works for that kind of thing as well as any other.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2BP: Squirrels 'n' Stuff

February 29 - March 4, 2016

With the weekend behind us, we all settled into a regular routine for the week.  Pongo.  Work.  Hospital.  Dinner.  For the next four days, that was basically my life.

Canada Goose -- Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Bald Eagle
We woke up early enough one morning to get to Baskett Slough.  The light wasn't very good.  Still, I took some photos and Pongo enjoyed the short drive through the refuge.  It was his only real adventure for the rest of the trip.

We saw a bald eagle.  It was high on the hill, though, and Baskett Slough doesn't allow dogs out of cars even on leashes.  So, I had to settle for long shots from the parking lot.

Aside from this short trip to Baskett Slough, Pongo had to settle for walks around the neighborhood.  We spent a lot of time taking walks, though.  They were good for both of us.

Western Gray Squirrel -- Salem, OR
We saw a lot of squirrels on those walks around the neighborhood.  I suspect these sightings were Pongo's favorite aspect of the entire trip.  He seems sworn to rid this country of every squirrel he sees.  It's an obsession with him.  Sometimes it's entertaining to watch him get so focused on something, but it's not so fun when he just about yanks my arm off trying to catch the damned thing.

Western Gray Squirrel -- Salem, OR
By Friday, my mother was settled in and recovering at home.  Dad had things pretty well under control.  It was time for us to head home.  We made a brief stop at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge on our way out of town then bombed our way home.  That was pretty much it.  Mom continues to do well in her recovery.

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, OR

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2BP: Pacific City to Newport

February 28, 2016


My mother had been recovering nicely and would continue to do so.  The list of potential visitors for the day was overflowing.  Pongo had been stuck in a crate for the better part of two days with four more days of crate time looming for the work week.  I was getting itchy feet.

Grand Ronde, OR
Oregon Route 130
I was thinking of going to Mount Hood.  Pongo enjoys snow and we'd never been there.  The weather knocked it off my list, though.  It was raining all over Oregon, meaning it would be snowing at higher elevations.  I like going to the snow but driving while it's snowing is not something I enjoy.  So, we headed to the coast instead.  The nice part of this plan is that I know how long it takes to get from just about any point on the Oregon coast to Salem.  I'd be able to ensure we'd get back in time for me to spend a few hours in the hospital with my mother.

Little Nestucca River, OR
On my last trip to Oregon during Thanksgiving, my dad and I tried to drive down the coast from Tillamook to Newport.  We only made it to Pacific City.  Pongo and I agreed to try to complete that trip.

Nestucca River, Pacific City, OR
Haystack Rock, Pacific City, OR
The Pacific City beach is one of the more spectacular beaches on the Oregon coast.  There are three haystacks know as Haystack Rock on the Oregon coast.  One is near Coos Bay, another is at Cannon Beach and the last--my personal favorite--is at Pacific City.  There's a connection to my mother here.  She's an author.  In her first book, Haystack Rock was a central symbol.  I'm not sure which Haystack Rock it was.  I'll have to ask her when I call her tomorrow.

Pacific City, OR
Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
According to Wikipedia, the Haystack Rock in Pacific City is also known as Chief Kiwanda Rock.  Huh.  I had no idea.  Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is adjacent to the Pacific City beach.  It has cliffs and tide pools and a big dune that kids love to climb.  My brother tells me we used to like to climb the dune and run down it when we were kids.  I have no recollection of that.  There's nothing unusual about that.  He's got a sharp memory.  Mine's a bit dull.  Funny, those facts work both for and against both of us.

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, Pacific City, CA
Two people died falling from those Cape Kiwanda cliffs last month.  Sad.  Yosemite has the same problem with its cliffs.

Stay away from cliffs.

That's my public service announcement for the day.

Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Canada Goose
Our next stop was at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  It's a beautiful refuge along Highway 101.  I've seen a few bald eagles there.  No eagles on this trip, unfortunately.  We saw a lot of dusky Canada geese, though.  Canada geese aren't the most exciting birds to spot, but I still enjoying seeing them in the wild.  I like how geese are distributed along the West coast with Canada geese in the North and now and Ross' geese in California.  We get a few Canada geese in California as well.

Siletz Bay, OR
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, OR
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, OR
Otter Crest, OR
Devil's Punch Bowl State Park, OR
I don't suspect most people n Oregon have considered how Otter Crest got its name.  Sea otters used to be plentiful along the Oregon coast.  They are all gone now.  They were hunted to extirpation.  The last Oregon sea otter died over one hundred years ago.  They may be making a comeback.  A lone otter was spotted in Depoe Bay (a few miles from Otter Crest) in 2009, but as of yet a permanent population has yet to return,  We can only hope.

Devil's Punch Bowl State Park, OR
Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport, OR
California Sea Lion
When we reached Newport, Pongo and I headed down to the waterfront.  I didn't really have a plan.  I was thinking about grabbing some chowder at Mo's, but the sun was out so I didn't want to leave Pongo in the car.  as we drove we heard the barking of sea lions so I found a place to park and we got out to take a look. Holy cow!  What a show these beasts put on!

California Sea Lion -- Newport, OR
California Sea Lion -- Newport, OR
Pongo used to be frightened by the noise sea lions make.  He begged to go back into the car on one of our first trips when we encountered a large number offshore in the Seventeen Mile Drive in California.  He's come a long way.  On this trip he poked his head through the fence railings to get a better look.  They were close and they were loud but he just grinned and wagged his tail.

California Sea Lion -- Newport, OR
Out on the South Jetty in Newport we saw a wide variety of birds including a number of harlequin ducks.  Boy, they are beautiful.

Harlequin Duck -- Newport, OR
Harlequin Duck -- Newport, OR
Harlequin Duck -- Newport, OR
Beverly Beach State Park
We headed back to Salem after the stop at the jetty.  We had plenty of time to get back and for Pongo to have dinner before I went to the hospital.  I sat with my mother and showed her the pictures from the day.  She seemed to enjoy them.  She says she enjoys my photography.  I'm never sure if she really means it or if she just says that because she's my mom.  One of the things I am sure of, though, is she understand my need to be alone.  She's the same way, although she handles people better than I do.

Beverly Beach State Park, OR