Bobcat Bonanza

Never having been lucky enough to get one of these guys through my lens, I went out with a photographer that knows how to find them and we saw six.  I always thought early morning should be best but these guys were late morning/early afternoon actors.  Makes sense, as that’s when the ground squirrels are active too.  These are wild animals…just not harassed in this area.  You can see the images in full frame by double-clicking on them.

Bobcat 7

Bobcat Portrait

Bobcat 3

“What’re those guys in the car doing?”

Bobcat 4

“Ahh, boring…!”

Bobcat 6

Bad hair day

Bobcat 2

“I’m getting tired of this invasion of my privacy.”

Bobcat 12

“Gotta get this tail clean”

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“Dinner’s hiding in the hole…come on out!”

SANDHILL CRANES

In early October I hear the cranes high overhead as they head down to their wintering grounds in the Central Valley. Looking up into the sky, I usually can’t find them as my hearing aids scramble the direction of the sound and they’re often above the clouds anyway.  But their calling indicates their presence and as they’re one of the few birds my failing hearing can still detect, it is a joy.  April brings a similar event as they start to head back to their breeding grounds in the north.

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Driving the farm roads in the upper Sacramento Valley is the way I find cranes in the winter. They frequent the farm fields, tilled until next season’s plantings; the several waterfowl refuges; and open pasturelands.

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Sadly, their core habitat surrounding Lodi (yes…the Lodi of “stuck in Lodi again”) is rapidly being converted to wine grapes, good for us cabernet enthusiasts but very bad for the cranes.

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Yesterday was a great day for crane photography as I found a flock of about 30 near the road. They were obscured by the roadside vegetation from vehicles but I was able to park on the apron, quietly setting my tripod up in the bed of my truck where I could see over the fencerow.

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I then spent 2 ½ wonderful hours watching them feeding, flying in and out, and interacting.  I took over 1200 images, erased most, but here are some of the best.

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Sandhill Crane 11

Sandhill Crane 13

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Sandhill Crane 28

Sandhill Crane 16

TALKING TO GOD ON THE IPHONE

I recently read an editorial by Thomas Friedman on the sad state of our future.  Some of it seemed pretty silly (global warming; protection of natural resources, etc.) especially now that we’ve got a Congress who can keep reminding us that “science” is just another unproven theory. However, Friedman introduced me to a “law” coined by Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, that states “the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years” or, in simpler terms, the speed and power of microchips will double every two years.  This led me to believe that the time is rapidly approaching where those who can afford iPhones will have a direct link to God.  This, in itself will pave the way to solving all of the world’s problems; getting first-hand confirmation on the sanctity of our current beliefs as to how we should treat our environment and its inhabitants (human or otherwise); and pinpoint the exact time of the gleefully anticipated “rapture” so we can get to Nordstrom’s or Walmart in time for the best clothes to wear when we enter through the pearly gates.

Sadly, I don’t have an iPhone…can’t afford one… and if I did, I’m just not smart enough to use it so I’ll have to rely on the conservative members of society (and Fox News) to provide me with the information they retrieve from God on these subjects.  But having always been a curious type (saddled with the generally contested belief in science) I have so many questions as to why and how things work…questions most conservatives just already instinctively know the answers to:

  • Evolution is a good start.  O.K., clue us in…how and why did you stick all those sea shells on some mountain peaks?  And Neanderthals…just skeletons from expired WWA participants…right?  And the frozen baby mammoth in Siberia?  Come on…that’s just going a bit too far.  Was this a Halloween prank?  And, if it was you who sent angels down to chip those crude drawings in the sandstone cliffs of our Southwest, why didn’t you begin with a few art lessons?
  • Can we finally get confirmation that the growing air and water pollution that’s now killing thousands in China is simply retribution for their ignoring your dictate against limiting families?  That would sure help us in abating the abortion issue here in the States.  And the tsunami in Indonesia?  None of those 228,000 people drowned were in your camp, were they?  Why should anyone surprised as you have advocated that “clean slate” scenario in the past on many occasions?  (Yes, I’ve read Deuteronomy 2:30-37…pretty gruesome!)
  • Since marriage of gays (or even being gay) is off the table and the liberals keep us from following the Biblical direction to kill them, can’t we just use them as slaves?  They do make good waiters and waitresses (but not in the NBA or NFL…please!).
  • And I’ve always wondered why — being you’re so opposed to abortion — you insist that children continue to be brought into this world with incurable, horrendously painful mental and physically debilitating conditions (obviously these are your mistakes…why are you unwilling to fess up to them?). Yes, I know their parents often tell of how much “happiness” these children in their care have brought them but are the affected children truly happy with their lot?
  • Can you tell us when (or if) the heavens will open and rain will fill all the new reservoirs that the voters just approved to be constructed in California?  We need to know if we can continue to water our lawns and golf courses, especially in Palm Springs and Bakersfield.
  • And then there’s the issue of “natural” disasters: Will we be better able to avoid them with this one-on-one contact? “Glad you called, Reverend Jones…Just for the Hell of it I’m sending a Stage 4 tornado your way at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning…better get everyone out of town.”
  • We know that you, guns and guts made us great but looking toward the future, we need to know just what type of guns you prefer we acquire so that we can deal with in-house liberal tyranny.  It seems to achieve your stated objectives of ridding the country of sinners (Isaiah 13:9 and 13:16) we need more fire-power than AK-47s.
  • To solve the immigration issue, it would seem you could arrange for Mexicans to come into this country during the fall harvest through a temporary parting the Gulf of Mexico but requiring them to be back by November or it would close up and if they remained in the U.S. they’d turn to stone (preferably gypsum so they could be ground up and used as building material).
  • If things keep getting worse (e.g. more high school text books with “nasty” images of sperm or more restrictions on the type of guns we need to kill each other with) you could arrange for another great flood.  Maybe Carnival Cruise Lines could get the contract for a new arc and you could appoint Mike Huckabee as your modern-day Noah and let him choose who gets on board.  Thankfully, it wouldn’t have to be too big as the last one as the number of species is rapidly declining world-wide.
  • Lastly, I’d like to recommend that you provide the same courtesies to the NRA and Cliven Bundy as you do for the Koch Brothers.  The former two have complained of being put on call-waiting the last few times they tried to contact you.

Looking at the make-up of our new Congress and Senate I sure hope iPhones are in the budget for each and every Congressperson and Senator (although a high number of them claim to already have a one-to-one working relationship with God).  Hopefully this new technology will pull us through because without it, Mother Nature seems Hell bent on taking us out.

HUMMINGBIRDS

Small, aggressive, energetic, and colorful, hummingbirds have been a target for my lens for several years.  Four hummingbird feeders off our deck have, at times, had nearly 100 individuals clamoring for the sugar water.

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At other times, as right now, an aggressive individual keeps all the others away.  While I’ve identified 4 species here over the years, the majority are Anna’s.  A few smaller rufous are always around and it’s usually an individual of this species that keeps all others at bay.  An occasional black-chinned appears off and on during the summer but only during spring migration do I see an occasional calliope.

Anna’s Hummingbird                                  Rufous Hummingbird

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Hummingbirds are unique; found only in the western hemisphere. They range from southern Alaska to Patagonia, including islands of the Caribbean, but the majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America within the tropical and subtropical forests of the northern Andes.  Ecuador has over 130 species.

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As hummingbirds primary food is nectar from flowers, many bill designs have evolved to utilize the great variety of tropical flowers.

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One could easily see the evolution of the swordbill hummingbird’s bill to extract nectar from flowers too deep for other birds to obtain.

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On my trips to Central and South America I’ve had an opportunity to photograph a lot of hummingbirds, I think my total is somewhere near 40 (meaning I have well over 100 left to see and photograph!  Never happen!).

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Taking images of hummingbirds in flight is a challenge as the speed of their wings requires extreme shutter speeds …

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…so a “set-up” where several flashes are often arranged near a feeder or flower to stop the action is often used.

Set-up images

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Personally, I prefer the photos of the perched birds better as they show some of the habitat but because they don’t sit very long and move fast, I have a lot of frames with nothing but the perch.

Whoops!

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Here are some of the ones I’ve captured over several trips to Central and South America.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet (Ecuador) 

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Guango Lodge, Ecuador   

Green Thorntail (Ecuador)

Green Thorntail 3a

Long-billed Hermit (Panama)

Long-billed Hermit 3                                                                    

Collared Inca (Ecuador)                                                                                

Collared Inca, Guango Lodge, Ecuador

Purple-crowned Fairy (Costa Rica)

Purple-crowned Fairy 2

Glowing Puffleg (Ecuador)

Glowing Puffleg

Booted Raquet-tail (Ecuador)

Booted Racket-tail, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador                                                                   

Sapphire-vented Puffleg (Ecuador)

Sapphire-vented Puffleg 2

Violet-bellied Hummingbird (Panama)

Violet-bellied Hummingbird 4                                                      

 Brown Violet-ear (Ecuador)

 Brown Violet-ear 5

  Great Sapphirewing (Costa Rica)

Great Sapphirewing, Yanacocha, Ecuador

 Black Mango (Panama)

Black Mango 2

Buff-winged Starfrontlet (Ecuador)

Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

 White-necked Jacobin (Ecuador)                 Purple-throated Woodstar (Ecuador)

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Violet-tailed Sylph (Ecuador)                      Velvet-purple Coronet (Ecuador)

Violet-tailed Sylph 4Velvet-purple Coronet

Sparkling Violet-ear (Ecuador)                      Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Ecuador)

Sparkling Violet-ear 5Rufous-tailed Hummingbird                              

Rufous-crested Coquette (Panama)           Buff-tailed Coronet (Ecuador)

 Rufous-crested Coquette 1Buff-tailed Coronet, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

Revolution

From primal ooze they say we came
That cells congealed to form a brain
And since…the world’s not been the same
Humanity evolved.

For those first several million years
We hid in caves to quell our fears
Protected there, we persevered
To our lot we resolved.

Then we began to sharpen stones
And tie them tight to sticks and bones
To the ends of staffs… which then were thrown
We soon learned of our might.

It wasn’t till these tools we made
That man, the hunter, found his place
Then soon the warrior was embraced
And found a cause to fight.

In all those years that went before
There was no strife or need for war
Then greed, and skill with weapons bore
O’er battlefields we trod.

To justify the path we’d laid
The lives we took by gun and blade
To lead us in a world crusade
We so created God.

We offered our prayers up to Him
That war in His name, we should win
That He absolve us of all sin
At our communion feast.

But victory did not bring us calm
It brought, instead, human aplomb
With brain and hands…we built the bomb
And said it would bring peace.

The world is better now, I think
Since humankind became extinct
And rat and cockroach rule the stink
Of what we once called “Earth.”

Our spirits roam the starry plains
Reflecting back from whence we came
But cannot overcome the shame
And thus, defy rebirth.

It begins again in primal ooze…

Dean Carrier

Our Domestic Military

Like it or not, we are Hell bent on becoming a military society. This not only stems from our federal efforts to solve foreign political and religious problems through military means; or on the growing capacity and focus of our internal state and local law enforcement agencies to control, rather than protect their citizenry; or on the extreme growth of a radical military citizenry who believe the Constitution supports, even condones, revolution and is amassing military firearms to be prepared for it. It is all of these.

Recently, at a course on firearm safety, the instructor cautioned us that “your concern is not whether you might get into a gun fight, but WHEN…and you need to be prepared for it?” In America? Really? I try to think of all the friends and acquaintances I’ve had in the past 75 years and cannot point to one who was or knew anyone involved in a domestic gun fight. Guns were for hunting.

I admit as a teen-ager I got into my scrapes with the police; throwing cherry bombs from a vehicle; driving over someone’s lawn; throwing water balloons at police cars. But when I was apprehended, I was not shot, or handcuffed, or tear gassed, or jailed, but was put in the back seat of a police car and taken home and my parents for my retribution. The officers were stern…but fair and I even knew some of them by their first names because they lived in our neighborhood.

At the Snow Goose Festival a couple years back the two personnel manning the California State Parks booth were law enforcement officers, both wearing full battle gear on their belts: automatic pistols, mace, handcuffs, baton, etc. I recalled the State Parks were places my family took me to learn about nature, camp, hike and fish…not to be intimidated by a military presence. These didn’t appear to be the ones I’d want to ask how the fishing was in Lake Oroville.

Why has this changed? Well, when I was a young man no one walked into department stores or restaurants carrying automatic weapons to “prove” their Constitutional rights; no one owned a military weapon capable of killing a couple dozen kids before reloading; and few believe war was the panacea to all our foreign problems. But, it’s a new world out there and I, for one, am glad to have been part of the old one.