Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Odds and Ends

28 September 2019

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This weekend the high temperatures fell below 70 (F). But I got on the train for my usual ride up to Folsom. They were getting the streets ready for the annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, featuring food, drink, and entertainment on the Capitol Mall, just blocks from where I live.

At some point in the ride, a young lady – very cute and wearing short shorts – boarded the train and sat down sideways in a seat a few yards in front of me. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of her feet sticking out into the aisle.

American River Parkway

As the Parkway goes into autumn mode, the scenes there are mostly predictable, but with little variations due to the season. The geese are flying around more and gathering on park lawns more. In this shot I also caught a ground squirrel standing at his burrow.

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The four does I had noticed earlier were split into two pairs today. One pair was right at the bike trail. I am surprised they come that close, but they must be a bit acclimated to humans nearby.

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The late-flowering yellow asters are about the only flowers left in these woods now. The big-flowered ones are particularly showy, but their range is very limited – that is, I only see them in a few places.

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The taller plants with all the flowers near the top are more ubiquitous. One field where they predominate is very bright with them right now. And I saw many more on my short walk over to West Sac.

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A new yellow flower joined these usual ones today. It is called Sundrops, or sometimes Evening Primrose. This one may have escaped from cultivation, as it is rare in the wild here. But it is a perennial, so once established it should continue to grow.

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The Festival

I have been out of this scene for so long, it is a bit difficult for me to understand why these events attract so many people. It’s as if these people are constantly looking for “things to do” and ways to spend money. I don’t have to look for things to do or ways to spend money. My various interests keep me totally occupied. But that does not seem to be the case with most of these folks.

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In this typical scene, we have beer being served in the background, and a street entertainer making balloon shapes for kids. The glass of beer in the hand of the woman in the foreground is typical, if anything, a bit small.

On stage at the bridge end of the Mall (nearest the river) a blues-rock act named Samantha Fish was performing.

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This stage – and I suppose the performers using it – was underwritten by Bank of America. The festival is free to get in, so it must make back its operating costs from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Beer is extremely popular in this area. It probably is everywhere and I just have never paid that much attention.

Drake’s Barn

And thus another activity quickly becoming popular in this area – Drake’s Barn. This place has only been open for about a year now. Drake’s makes beer in San Leandro and has another taproom (bar) in Oakland. The Barn is located across the street from a housing development aimed at up-and-coming young people. I am guessing most of them work in Sacramento, as it’s very close to the main bridge that connects Sac and West Sac.

The Barn will be hosting a show of “electric art” next weekend, mostly light-oriented I think, and I plan to go over and check that out. So this weekend I walked over to the location to see exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there (about 20 minutes).

The place was full of kids playing – I guess that’s just part of the amenities there – while parents sipped their cold ones. I wondered what sort of lives these people lead, and what their futures will be like.

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Above you can see “The Barn” in the background. It is an odd-shaped flowing building made of numerous wood planks. Here’s a closer look, from the rear:

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I was keeping track of the time by taking pictures of my phone. However, I had my camera set wrong on this one, and the phone instead worked like a mirror.

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On my walk back, I glanced over the side of the bridge at the bank below and saw two cats there. I’m guessing they are feral cats. The one I caught licking itself in particular looks a bit scary.

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World Peace Day

An event earlier in the week at my church was a small presentation commemorating the International Day of Peace, officially observed each year on 21 September. This was started in 1981. Costa Rica had a lot to do with getting the U.N. resolution written.

The guest speaker at our church event was Edrine Ddungu, formerly of Uganda. He personally witnessed the terrorism in Uganda instigated (apparently) by Idi Amin. His own father was brutally murdered, at which point he was quietly sent to live in Kenya and finally made it to the U.S. where he wanted to study at Sacramento City College.

He told us that his desire to play a leadership role in promoting interfaith cooperation and non-violence comes mostly from his desire to continue the work of his father. He is currently president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento.

The situation in Africa

Uganda could be considered to be at the center of a very bad scene in Central Africa. I don’t understand it well, but it probably has partly to do with a breakdown of civilization in Africa that occurred in ancient times which has been followed by criminal meddling from outside players ever since. The Portuguese were the first to arrive on the Atlantic coast. They almost immediately started slave operations there. But slave operations on the eastern coast of Central Africa (Indian Ocean) had already been active for hundreds of years, and these were non-European operations.

There seemed to have been an almost world-wide agreement that Africa offered resources that could be freely taken advantage of by any group that had sufficient organization and weapons. And that has been the pattern ever since.

All Mr. Ddungu can do now is return yearly to his home country with a bit of money and educational assistance. The general situation in the region is still largely out of control.

The continuing violence in Africa seems to be fueled both by a complete lack of moral compass on the part of any of the major players in the region, and by increasing demand from the rest of the planet for the various commodities that are produced there.

Of the handful of people who attended the event, several were not particularly aware of how brutal and desperate the situation in Africa has been. We saw the great advances made in South Africa and thought that perhaps the rest of the continent was on a similar path. Though this may some day come to pass, it certainly is not the current situation.

However, getting reliable data on what has really been going on in the region has been nearly impossible. So my characterizations of the current scene are guesses based on reports I have been able scrape up or ran into. I am not a student of African politics or economics. But to say that part of the world is in definite need of sanity would be an understatement.

Earlier in the year, Scientologist Tim Bowles had visited us to talk about his work in Africa. He described the experience of meeting with the leader of one of the many African extremist groups. The man was at the emotional level of a teenager, mainly interested to know if Tim had met any famous Hollywood personalities. These people have stars in their eyes. They think they can become rich off the world’s dependence on various strategic minerals found in Africa. My guess is that they care about little else.

While Tim has had some success at starting real human rights education in Central Africa, it seems to me that until the companies that deal with African suppliers demand compliance with basic standards of human decency, people there will continue to suffer.

It’s our job, then, to get to those companies and change their minds about how they deal with Africa. That racism has nothing to do with this is very hard to imagine. Yet racism is just another manifestation of the insanity we are confronted with on this planet. We must make the people we can reach saner. If we don’t, this planet will be lost.

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Equinox

22 September 2019

A few days ago we had our first rain in at least six months. I was wondering if any of the plants in the American River Parkway would respond to this. Of course, we are also just a day or two away from the fall equinox, the official beginning of autumn, and the plants could be responding to that, too.

But I really only saw one big change along the trail, and that was a renewed flowering of the mysterious yellow asters that I haven’t yet identified. While the tarweed that was so visible in a Folsom field has decided to stop flowering, these other yellow flowers decided the opposite.

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The other yellow flowers that I mentioned in a previous post are also blooming more strongly now. I think this may also be triggered by soil moisture.

This is also a time when flocking behavior and migration starts to occur for some birds. This was very evident on the river, with large groups of gulls appearing. I hardly ever see gulls on the river during the summer.

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Some of the larger aquatic birds will also begin to move around more this time of year. This egret is stopping at a man-made water control pond in Folsom. I hardly ever see egrets at this pond.

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The “ARP deer” were camped out at their usual place along the trail. For some reason, though, most of them were lying down – almost hiding – in the dry grass.

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The parties associated with the end of summer – and of the summer school break – are mostly at an end. But I missed including this shot in my last post, and I wanted to mention it because I had never seen something like this before. It was part of a party at Hagan Park last week.

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A child (or even an adult, I suppose) can climb into this clear inflated sphere through one of two ports and then walk or crawl around inside it. I found the somewhat bizarre structure of the object most intriguing.

On my way back home, I usually stop at this little mini-park in midtown to get a drink from the water fountain (the one in the foreground, not the cute one).

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And in the same neighborhood – a quite posh part of town – I happened upon this restored vintage car. This appears to be a 1937 Cadillac.

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The equinox symbolizes a momentary balance that our universe oscillates around. May your balance move towards perfection and your oscillations be interesting and instructive.

 

 

I sight a special bird

3 March 2019

I’ve been going to Winco in Folsom almost every weekend, as it’s such a nice store compared to anything near downtown, it’s near a light rail station, and food costs much less there than in town.

Last weekend I spotted this special bird, but I didn’t remember to look it up and find out what it was until this weekend reminded me. It was swimming in a creek that I cross over when I walk to Winco.

Known as the Hooded Merganser, this duck winters in no-freeze zones, then returns north during the summer. It is absolutely unmistakable when you see it; the appearance of the male’s head is so striking. This photo was borrowed from Wikimedia Commons, and kindly provided to them by scientist/photographer Ken Billington.

Bike Trip East

12 October 2017

I took this trip on the 24th of September. Got busy and almost forgot to write about it!

yellow asters

These hardy yellow asters thrive in an otherwise very dry landscape.

I have taken the American River Bikeway (also known by other names) west into Sacramento many times, but never east, so that’s what I decided to do one recent Sunday.

wild growing grapes

Here is another plant that grows in dry areas. But the fruit needs shade.

I have already written about the plants that grow along the river, but I never tire of photographing them – always hoping for a better shot than the last one. The jimsonweed with its huge white whorled flowers is always interesting to take pictures of.

jimsonweed

The trail east (towards Folsom) goes through drier land than that found downriver. And at one point the soil becomes almost 100 percent large gravel. This is a deposit from an ancient glacier, as far as geologists can tell. The stones are very worn and rounded. You will see these boulders in gardens; there is so much of it around here.

There is also an area of cliffs upriver. I took some pictures, but they didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t really want to go on about geology, as it’s not my subject. There are also some really fancy houses up on top of those cliffs (other side of river). The views from up there must be pretty darned good.

Meanwhile, down on the trail a little group riding horses pass by. Horses are allowed along most of this trail, but they have their own paths they are supposed to follow, so they won’t interfere too much with the bike riders. These paths weave in and out along the river bank, sometimes using the bike path shoulder. This time of year you can often tell if there are horses ahead because their passing stirs up dust.

horse riders

Egret

egret by the trail

About a week before I made this trip, I saw a very large bird – probably a blue heron – land on the roof of a nearby house. It reminded me of seeing large birds following the creeks of Pullman down to wintering grounds closer to the big rivers, where it stays warmer and the water doesn’t freeze over.

But the fish eaters in this region don’t need to migrate. It never freezes here. Yet these birds do move around, and I am sure they are joined by more birds that summer at higher elevations were it does freeze in the winter. So there was one, one day, standing on a rooftop in Sacramento.

And then on this trip I saw this bird, an egret, by the trail. Myself and another photographer got pretty close to it before it took off. She had a fast camera and said she got a picture of it flying. It is really quite a large bird so seeing it in flight close to the ground is quite dramatic. My attempt to photograph it in flight captured only blue sky.

Lilacs

An another subject, there is the question of the “California Lilac.” Someone decided to call a bushy tree that somewhat resembles the traditional Lilac of the northwest, midwest and east coast by this name. The Lilac we are used to in “temperate” areas originates in the Mediterranean region (or Asia) and is in the Olive Family and rather closely related to the Privet (which does grow in the Sacramento area).

northern lilac flowers

Real lilacs are in genus Syringa

However, the plant found in drier climates named after the Lilac is in the Buckthorn Family, which has a somewhat unusual flower structure. Many of these species are native to California and are seen all over the place, including in many yards and urban plantings. They can be white, pink, violet (purple). A have seen plants that seemed to have totally red flowers, but those were perhaps a different plant, as Ceanothus flower colors apparently don’t include red. In gardens they do appear much like traditional Lilacs. However, the larger plants remind me a lot of mountain-ash (rowan). This particular specimen was hanging over a fence and getting dried out, but the shot shows its flower very well, with its showy frilled petals seated atop rather long slender stems. This plant was probably bred to have flowers this showy.

california lilac flower

California “lilac” is in genus Ceanothus.

Sacramento Critters

2 July 2017
squirrel Sutter's fort

Tree squirrel at Sutter’s Fort.

We are all aware that many animals share human environments with us. Besides the obvious organisms that take advantage of the fact that we leave behind a certain amount of trash, both inside and outside, there are the ones that live semi-wild in our garden and park areas.

Perhaps the most obvious animals that share the urban environment with us are the birds. However, with my resources these are some of the most difficult animals for me to photograph. Robins, sparrows, swallows, and all their various relatives are familiar regulars in urban trees and bushes. Pigeons are also well-know, and often seem like a nuisance bird. In open areas you will see hawks and other raptors, indicating a considerable but hidden population of ground mammals (mostly rodents). Tree squirrels move around where we can see them, but the rest of those types of animals hide in underground areas much of the time.

Home gardens and park areas may have water features (or regular sprinklers) that support additional animals. These include various amphibians and reptiles, insects, even fish. I should mention soil worms, though these usually only appear when we dig around or after it rains hard. Worms and other soil organisms are an important part of any ecosystem but are another group that does not lend itself to ordinary photography.

We will also see some migrant species come through our cities. Many of us are not particularly aware of which animals are in this category. And there are some birds, like the geese and ducks pictured below, that you might think migrate but might actually be full-time residents. Some of these have lost the instinct to migrate due to being held in captivity over several generations.

geese and ducks at Sutter' Fort

These geese are probably permanent Sacramento residents. I don’t know about the ducks. This is at Sutter’s Fort.

Yesterday (Saturday 1 July) I visited a little museum on Auburn Blvd near Watt that has been known as the Discovery Museum, but will be known as the Powerhouse Science Center when it moves to its new downtown building (an old electric power station). This museum specializes in exhibits for children. Its original emphasis was probably the natural sciences, but it is moving into “hard” technology in a big way, with a “space mission” experience for kids, a planetarium, and more technology-related exhibits in the offing.

The museum grounds include a park and pond. The pond is kept aerated by a fountain. Aeration is important for most urban ponds, as they are usually quite shallow and warm up a lot in summer, which deprives them of vital dissolved oxygen. This particular pond was probably seeded with many of the animals that now grow in it. It has a lot of turtles for just one pond and is teaming with developing frogs (tadpoles / polliwogs). I also saw many dragonflies and a hummingbird. I asked the flying animals to pose for photographs (a habit I’ve taken up, as it sometimes works) and a few dragonflies consented to do so, but the hummingbird would not stay put long enough for me to get a proper photo.

turtles sunning themselves

Turtles sunning themselves at the Discovery Museum pond.

tadpoles in pond

Tadpoles were teaming in this pond.

dragonfly at pond edge

The dragonfly that posed for me.

Some of the first “wild” animals I ran into in Sacramento were ground squirrels at the Marconi-Arcade light rail station. I noticed them many times running across the tracks between their burrows and the public waiting areas. They are a bit nervous and so hard to photograph, but I got a few shots of them finally.

ground squirrel near its burrows

One of the infamous track-jumping Marconi-Arcade ground squirrels.

Fawn leaps out

25 June 2016
view east early morning

Nature area with industrial park above it – 5AM.

After working most of a Saturday first shift, I went out for my usual shopping trip, returning around 3:30.

There is an open area that serves as a wildlife passage between the small nature area in the bottom lands leading north out of Pullman and a wild area to the west, “behind the high school.”

I have seen a couple deer in the nature area this year. Last Saturday one trotted out onto the street in front of me. But I NEVER have my camera handy for such sightings.

This afternoon as I was returning from shopping, a saw a doe and her fawn poking their way down through the open area towards a low clump of trees. I hurried home, got my camera, and walked up behind my apartment building (there are two more buildings up there – I never go up there; great view though) to see if I could spot the deer.

Sure enough, they were in a the clump of trees trying to be discrete. I squatted down and waited to see if anything would develop. Sure enough, the fawn ran out into the clearing (as fawns are wont to do) and walked about a bit in the grass before returning to its mom under the trees.

fawn leaps out into grass

A portion of my too-big photo, featuring the little deer.

I think I should have been able to get a better shot than this. Obviously I have a way to go to become a decent wildlife photographer.

I still catch some pretty nice photos of flowers, though, such as this lupine which grows luxuriantly in a small watered public garden on my way to work.

lupine flower closeup

Lupine, a member of the pea family.

Larry visits Idaho

5 May 2013
Chipman Trail sign

Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail

Idaho is only about 6 miles from Pullman, so it wasn’t that long a trip!

The area was experiencing an inversion. Warm air pushing down from the east. Temperatures around 80°F and dry. I couldn’t resist going out for a bike ride. I didn’t pack water because I didn’t think I would stay out long. But after an interesting visit to Palouse Treasures thrift shop, I set out to see if the North end of the Pullman bike trail connected to the Chipman Trail. And sure enough, it did!

So I went out on it. My basic purpose after getting under way was to reach someplace where I could get some water. This happened just across the Idaho border, at the Moscow (weird name for a Western town!) Walmart. That’s about six miles out on the trail; I skipped the last mile and came back.

There were quite a few people using the trail. A few walkers and runners. A lot of bikers. And a group of student-age people riding bikes, skateboards, roller skates (a church group?). The trail follows the creek, so is somewhat scenic, unlike much of the surrounding area, except on a grand scale (the rolling hills). If you slow down and watch you’ll see lots of birds. And a few butterflies and insects were out.

The ride “up” to Idaho is indeed uphill (though very slight gradient – maybe 100 feet in 7 miles) but was also against the odd east wind. But as I glided back down towards Pullman I thought: What a joy this is! The greenery, the birds, the rustling grass. The sun twinkling in the moving water of the creek. What a simple pleasure!

I wish everyone on the planet could enjoy such things!

Chipman Trail info

Info sign at Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail.