Birdie num num, part 2 – a Very Special Visitor

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I swear this wont turn into a bird blog, but since the feeder is new and exciting and I am home to enjoy it..well…

My hope was to get some fun varieties in the yard, and today has been a jackpot day. Since I finished in my bedroom yesterday…oh yeah…here’s that set of pics..solid day of work to get this done:

My bedroom - no longer the junk closet of the house!

Reading corner. All set for 2010 - the Year of the Book.

ok, back to the birds. So this morning I cleaned the windows for optimum viewing & picture taking. Once I was back inside for good and the birds knew it was all clear to resume feasting, there were new visitors immediately:

Song Sparrow, side view

Now, I know this looks quite a bit like the Rufous Crowned Sparrow (see how hard this ID thing can get?), but even though the head looks similar, it’s the super streaky breast that differentiates this one:

Song Sparrow, front view

Hah – caught him with a seed in his mouth! Soon after this guy flew off, I spotted the one I was hoping for:

Male White Crowned Sparrow

Isn’t he pretty? I just love their shocking yellow bills & perfectly coiffed stripey crowns. The female has the same yellow bill, but a duller version of the crown. Like the Rufous Crowned & Song Sparrow, these guys are ground dwellers and take to the area under the feeder looking for spill over seeds. The House Finches still dominate the feeder itself. Heh, just noticed there’s a female finch tucked up in the tree behind the pretty sparrow in the picture. That’s the way it is back there now – dozens of birds all over in the trees, on the feeder, on the fence, and on the ground at any given time.

So while I was enjoying the ground show, I still keep an eye up on the trees in case of a warbler or two. Then I saw this:

Nuttall's Woodpecker

Not a great picture but it was literally there for maybe a minute so all I could do was point and shoot and hope! I’m just glad it turned it’s head so that I had that back view like that because that’s how I got to the ID. There’s a shot in my bird book of the back of a Nuttall to show the unique pattern since there’s another variety otherwise quite similar that also crosses territories of course! I thought I had heard a woodpecker in those trees before, but never good a clear view to identify it. So today was a major jackpot!

And now I have to go out and refill the feeder already. I guess pigs do fly!

Birdie num nums

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House finches enjoying a new source of food

Sweet Prince brought this bird feeder over from work on Christmas Eve & I nearly rejected it. Fear of rats & too much mess. But, I do still have that rat trap service on contract from several summers ago, and we’ve now been two full seasons without even a sign of a rat, living or dead. I have this perfect tree to hang it on right outside the back set of french doors. It’s all pebbles below so hopefully it wont cause an explosion of weed growth and I knew the birds would love it. And, of course so would the cats :-)

Amber in her newly permanent pose looking out the window

Within 24 hours I had a small flock of finches calling my yard and the trees surrounding it home. They are pretty, but I am more interested in what might follow them.

Rufous Crowned sparrow foraging on the ground below the feeder

Trust me on that :-) I just did a feature by feature comparison of this guy to my bird book to secure an ID. He’s much more skittish and seems to be traveling alone so there is just one for now. But I know we also have White Crowned sparrows in the area and I really hope they come in. And once a yard becomes bird friendly, others do follow. I know I’ve already have one Yellow Rumped Warbler (aka butterbutt) and another warbler variety that I could not immediately ID. Even though they are not seed eaters, the activity brings them in. Now I’m thinking about a water source for them :-)

Meanwhile the cats just sit and stare. Heck, I do too! Gotta clean that window for better viewing and picture taking. Oh, and they wont like it when I take down the Christmas lights. They have been using the strands as perches!

Another glorious day of hiking

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I rewarded myself for working mad hours this week by taking off at 2:45 yesterday and meeting two friends at Torrey Pines. One was from out of town – camera in hand much like Robin! – and the other lives here though is a recent transplant from the mid west. Of course, that fabulous book that I picked up when Robin and I were there with the wildflower guide was left at home! Duh. Oh well, I managed to remember a *few* items I’d read. We hit up Guy Fleming Trail AND Flat Rock so it was a pretty long hike. The weather was perfect though with the clouds rolling in just enough to ease up the sun and keep it from being hot. Especially on the way back UP the hill from flat rock, cloud cover is critical! Here is one flower which FoodGal remembered – a Wild Hyancinth:

Bird activity was really high, though no peregrines yesterday. FoodGal started asking me about the songs we were hearing and the trail to flat rock had a lot of activity so I had a blast rattling off the names of birds I recognized by voice or on sight. We saw a pair of California Quail scramble down the path ahead of us, a White Crowned Sparrow, a Rufous Sided Towhee and his cousin the Brown Towhee and a Scrub Jay. We heard a Wrentit and a Gnatcather in the shrubs.

The state bird of California:

Quails are so cool!

Anyhow, we were hungry and FoodGal had suggested her favorite restaurant for dinner so I gladly joined them. The place is called Spread and is a vegetarian restaurant that goes out every day to the local farms and buys ingredients for the evening. The open at 6:00pm until…whenever for dinner and their menu naturally varies according to what they can find when they are out shopping. It was SOOOOO good! Omigosh I have never had food so fresh and packed with flavor. We had an arugala salad and a bruchetta that I honestly could eat every day. Here’s a kicker – there are some veggies that I really don’t like raw, or at all. Tomatoes for instance – love them cooked, but just cannot eat them raw. There were fresh tomatoes on the bruchetta that were amazing – I was eating them without abandon! Another sauteed vegetable dish had zucchini and almonds in it – two more I would normally pick around and avoid – no way, they were so so good!! The key besides the fresh organic vegetables, is also the seasoning/sauces they create. They were absolutely perfect compliments to the food. The only one that was a little over powering was the citrus sautee. But, that was the last dish brought to the table and I was so full from the first three that I did not mind! And the sangria! The first one we had was a passion fruit blend and the second was a cinnamon apple. So lovely. As someone who is quite a committed carnivore, this restaurant is now on my list of favorites.

Of course, the company was awesome. FoodGal and NYCGuy are people I met from DailyKos and have since met in Vegas and Chicago at the YK conventions. We had a wonderful time trashing the debate and the media together!

Random Wednesday

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So this was supposed to be Spring Break week for both SportsBoy and I. Then the work stuff came down and there is just no way I can abandon my post for that long until we have someone hired. Fingers crossed people – interview with a very promising candidate tomorrow!

Since I was going to stay home I never did arrange for SB to be anywhere so on the fly last weekend we started arranging play dates and so far, so good. Several of his friends actually didn’t go anywhere! So he is having fun and tonight his buddy is here with us for an overnight. At least this makes it feel like a real break for him rather than having to be at the Boys & Girls club or a camp somewhere so I think this works out better. Well, as long as the play dates don’t run dry..then he’d have to come to work with me :-)

The cats went to the vet yesterday. Amber is almost 15 pounds! Chip is a little over 12. Both cats are healthy – not overweight. Of course, Amber’s fur weighs 2 pounds alone, right? Right? They both were groomed too and came home quite mad about the whole thing. And *really* tired. Instead of sleeping for several hours at home they were tortured! With shots! Exams! Water! Soap! Nail clippers! Brushes! Flea treatment! Terrible things I tell you. Considering that Amber is purring in my lap now, I think I have been forgiven.

We’ve been getting emails about the upcoming 25 year high school reunion. I’m excited because Jax and I had a blast at the 20 year and a lot of the same people are coming again. I played around on Facebook last night and found some other graduates which was a real hoot. This internet thing is pretty damn awesome.

I love that it is baseball season again! Gives me something to watch every night no matter what.

Clearly my brain is dead though as I can think of *nothing* of any substance to say at all. I think the pile of papers which grew again today on my desk is sucking the creative juices away. I leave you with a photo of a peregrine falcon since Robin and I were so thrilled to see one zip back and forth past us on Monday but of course had no chance to actually snap a picture for ourselves. That face is unmistakable!

Afternoon walk pictorial

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All pictures except for the bird taken with my Blackberry as I went on about a 5 mile walk around the neighborhood around 4 this afternoon. This is what is blooming in people’s yards right now :-)

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Snapdragons at the entrance to the Catholic church

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A common succulent used as hillside landscaping – a large patch blooming at once is a shot of magenta that takes your breath away and makes you put on your sunglasses!

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No clue what these are! Puffy slate blue flowers in the streetside landscaping.

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Non fruit bearing cherry blossoms.

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White Cyclamens in a yard.

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Tulips and petunias in a yard.

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Geranium intertwined with yellow daisies in a yard.

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Finally, lavender daisies in MY yard!

Backyard birding

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The cats and I have been entertained this AM. Amber is still up on her new bird viewing post:

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From there she gets a ‘birds eye’ view of some house finches checking out the front porch overhang for a nesting spot:

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Then we were entertained in the back yard by the song stylings ofthe Bewick’s Wren:

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Then we saw a gorgeous Townsend’s Warbler up in the trees and it flitted down low enough to clearly see all these markings.

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No, I did not take any of these pictures! I don’t have enough patience or the camera to pull this off, but trust me, the birds we saw looked just like these!

Someday there will be someone else awake in the house when these birding opportunities arise and then they will be able to take a picture of me and the cats standing at the back window staring up at the trees together :-)

Wake me up Wednesday!

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First of all, a great link to save as this primary process keeps going that is constantly updated:

Delegate counts.

McCain is pulling away and look how tight the Dem race is!! Post-game analysis today is heavily pointing to Obama coming out ahead because of the money he has raised and because of the upcoming states that will vote this weekend. Suddenly those four (Louisiana, Nebrasks, Washington & Maine) become critical. How cool is that? You they were at first not please with all the states pushing up their primaries creating this Super Tuesday event which could easily have rendered the primaries for the later states a moot event. But now? Hah! It’s the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl baby and the score is TIED! The spotlight is now firmly on those states staggering in later than the rest. Good for them. Voter turnout was again higher than previous years yesterday.

On the way home (from work, not the all night meeting!) last night there was a handful of Obama volunteers on a street corner waving signs. No other campaign had that in my area. There was a boy who looked to be SB’s age out there with his mom. Awesome!  That is all the political analysis I can muster up today.

My dad continues to do well. He’s been out of ICU since Monday night and is now focusing on rebuilding his strength and get back into a normal day/night routine. He spends the day in a chair rather than a bed and the nurses get him up to shower and walk around the floor. All is still going well and he could go home as early as Friday. I’ll be heading out there with MM again tonight since I couldn’t go last night, but I wont hang out that long since I am a tad wiped out. I think SB and his dad will be out there tonight as well.

Kudos to the Tri City Medical Center in Oceanside. That place has been fabulous all around.

And now, some random bird pictures to liven things up:

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Green kingfisher. I just love kingfishers. They come in a huge range of sizes and look kinda goofy with their bills longer than their heads, but their plummage is so gorgeous! Here’s is an awesome action shot of the Common Kingfisher:

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Nothing “common” about this bird in my opinion!

And a repeat – because it makes me giggle and kinda shows how I feel today:

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From Super Bowl to Super Tuesday

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My thoughts still feel scattered from everything last week. I am probably the only person happy to being a normal Monday at work! My dad is doing well. He sat up and was feeding himself yesterday and today is supposed to get up and walk and shower and be moved out of the ICU wing. After being forced to lay perfectly straight since Wed AM I am sure all of that is feeling pretty good!

I wanted to add to my hike post. The WordPress server was abysmally slow the day I loaded those pictures so I left out a lot of detail and a couple of shots. I wanted to share a link first of all to my favorite birding site from Cornell University (hat tip to Alto2 for turning me onto to this a few years ago).  Here is their page on the California Brown Thrasher. Check out the song of this bird. It serenaded us almost the whole way on the Broken Hill trail. There were two males sitting on top of bushes and just singing away.  They let us get pretty close too. We also had the pleasure of watching a male Anna’s Hummingbird do it’s little mating dive. They zip straight up into the air and then dive bomb down with a quick “zeep” sound as it turns back up into the air.

If you watched the game yesterday wasn’t it awesome?! I had chosen the lesser of two evils and was rooting for the Giants. When Tom Brady hit Randy Moss for the touchdown pass that put them ahead 14-10 with under 3 minutes to go, I honestly thought that was IT. I mean, the Patriots made their living coming back late to take down opponents and I just did not see them giving up a score at that point. Yay! I was wrong! That one play when Eli Manning somehow scrambled away from the clutches of what looked like the entire Patriots D-line, then chucks it down field as if it was just a hope and prayer of a pass, only to have David Tyree make the most stunning catch ever with defenders hanging all over him…GOOSEBUMPS! How did that happen?? And then I knew – the Giants would do this! When Eli lofted that pass to Plaxico Burress for the go ahead score, SportsBoy and I just sat there stunned and kept saying “Did I just see that? Did the Giants really beat the Patriots?” We loved every minute of it.

Commercials that made an impression on me: The Diet Pepsi spot with “What is Love?” on in the background and people nodded off to sleep and then did the “Night at the Roxbury” head bob once they drank the Pepsi. Loved it! The talking stain during the job interview had us cracking up. So did the dancing lizards. Of course, being the political nut that I am, I am guffawed at the Bill Frist/James Carville Coke commercial. Oh! And the rather unattractive gal using Planters Nuts as her perfume – hysterical!

Oh, and a comment on the one political add we had in San Diego – Mitt Romney ran an ad twice where he points out that Hillary Clinton has no experience running anything and highlighting his experience running a business, a state and the Olympics. Clearly they made that ad before the last Democratic debate, right? The one when the moderator specifically asked Clinton and Obama how they would respond to Romney pointing out his successes running a business as an indicator of a plus for him. And Obama answered that the current president had the same background and we can see where THAT got the country!! Then Clinton said she didn’t think the country *should* be thought of as a business to be run to make a profit – that is supposed to be there to safeguard and care for it’s citizens. Points which scored HUGE both in the room and apparently in people’s houses according to the CNN rating of independent voters. I guess the Romney campaign missed that :-)

Speaking of politics, it was funny how as soon as the Super Bowl hoopla ended, which usually begins a rather large time of despair for sports nuts like SB and I, he immediately looked at me and said “Well, Super Tuesday is up next!” Hah! Love it!

Google stats + Politics or American Idol?

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Given my blog title, I get a lot of Google hits on variations of Trees, Flowers or Birds. Or, birds in trees, or trees with flowers..you get the idea. Today there was a particularly funny one: ‘Emotional pictures while cutting trees’ – I guess some folks get a little sniffly when cutting down trees? Or how about this odd phrasing: ‘Really trees birds’ – say what? Anyway, I may have shared this picture before as it is one of my favorites. A Yellow Rumped Warbler – slang name = Butterbutt. Yes, it does have a bright yellow patch on it’s rump just like those on it’s head and breast. This is another cold weather (such as we have it!) visitor that flits down from the mountains to the suburbs and is rather commonly heard and seen when I am out walking.

Speaking of stats, one other thing that I like about WordPress is that I can see total views of particular posts. Given the attention received by There is No Crying in Football, it is easily the most viewed with 92 total. It’s been getting hits again this week at the rate of 1 or 2 views per day thanks to random Google searches. One search was ‘muddy football uniform’. That’s another one that makes me go hmmm. Why would one search for that? And yet, my request for comments from those who stumble upon it has yielded nothing :-) People are quite committed to lurking as I’ve learned.

So what do I do tonight dear readers? There is this little thing called American Idol debuting at 8:00pm. There is also a Democratic debate in Nevada at 6:00pm and the Michigan primary results to watch. Michigan only counts for the GOP, but I’m still interested. Oh, and somewhere in there I am supposed to go to the grocery and cook dinner and make sure homework is done! Yes, I have a DVR. I’ve got it set to begin recording MSNBC at 5:00pm. But, the tv is not in view of the kitchen (I have GOT to remedy that some day!) so it will be a juggling act to watch the recorded shows (fast forwarding as needed) and trying to get it all done by the time AI starts since SportsBoy will want to watch that with me. Yes, I realize it is the ultimate in contrasts – bad performances, heart warming background stories, sniping critiques and lame interviews VS American Idol :->>> Gonna be a fun night!

Staying true to my blog title

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Given the number of times people stumble on my site after searching on some variation of the title, I thought I should actually write something about trees or flowers or birds :-) So here you go. Notice that I have changed my flickr photos so that the three displayed in here are of birds. In order of appearance those are a Belted Kingfisher, A White Crowned Sparrow and a Cedar Waxwing. I chose those three because they are species that I see pretty regularly this time of year.

The kingfisher hangs out at the mouth of the Penasquitos Lagoon as it meets Torrey Pines state beach. A good view of the area can be seen in this post from Feb06 when we were out hiking at Torrey Pines. The bottom two pictures show the lagoon after a nice winter high tide. The kingfishers hang out there and as I drive back and forth to work I often see them. The real treat is if I catch a glimpse just as they dive down for a snack. *splash!* So cool.

The sparrow and waxwings are true winter visitors to the suburbs of the coast line. I see them when I am out walking. The sparrows will be foraging in a little flock on the ground under landscaped areas. The bird’s song always makes me turn my head and look for it. I remember when these would appear in the backyard of my childhood house in Westminster. For me, it is a sign of the season.

Cedar waxwings are just the neatest looking birds! And also, rather hard to see. The first time I ever saw one was back in 1990 or so? I was sitting at my desk at work back in the Mission Valley days. My office was on the second floor, and yes, I had windows (what a concept!) There was a pine tree just outside and this little flock of waxwings settled onto the tree almost right at my eye level. I could actually see the lovely yellow tail tips and red wing tips. Since then, I have noticed that they also show up the same time as the white crowned’s do. They always travel in fairly large flocks and they tend to hang out in the Sweet Gum trees which are our major source of fall leaf colors and which have a gnarly spiked seed pod (scroll down at that link and see examples). The waxwings just love those spiky things! Waxwings are always seen up in trees, rarely if ever on the ground. It’s really rare to see all their markings as I got to that day at work. Usually I recognize them by their crested heads and dark face masks which do still stand out even from up high. I usually have to get my binoculars out to see all their awesome colors. It’s worth it for sure.

So this is why, if you were to see me out on one of my walks, you also might see me stop suddenly and start staring at the tree tops :->