Monday, June 30, 2008

76 Trombones

OK, not actually trombones - bird species. We hit 76 today for the ranch list with the spotting of two juvenile Cooper's hawks. We also saw the nest, but did not catch a glimpse of Mom or Dad, although I'm sure we'll be going back soon to watch some more. We also spent some time at the river watching the bullfrogs and fish and also watching other winged critters such as this Flame Skipper dragonfly.

Since we will both be here all week, as we are taking some vacation time, we're hoping to get several more bird walks in before we have to head back. We've gotten all the manzanita cutting done for now - there may be more we'll end up taking out during the winter but we made a big dent in removing any that were within the defensible perimeter if we should be so unlucky as to have a fire get this close.

We've been watching twin Chinook helicopters fly over the ranch many many times a day going back and forth to the Oliver fire, which Bill tells me is 65% contained now. The air is definitely better, with even some blue sky showing through this afternoon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cutting Down Manzanitas

We've got quite a number of manzanitas fairly close to the house - close enough to make us want to do a little better job of clearing and making the house defensible from fires. We both are quite fond of these trees, as they have an attractive red bark and berries that the critters eat, but unfortunately, they also burn very hot and are a fire danger. So any that we find within the 100 foot required perimeter are coming out. We got out three groups today and it looks like we'll have another two or three sessions before we're done for this go round.

Here's yours truly with a big piece ready to load into the truck.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nobody Can Prove that We Started This Fire with the Flames of Our Love

We celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking a leisurely walk to the spring where Lion Creek comes into Dryad Ranch. We spent quite a lot of time watching birds come down to drink and escape temporarily the heat of our 111 degree afternoon. Their bills were all open in the way birds do when it gets hot - evidently it helps them cool off. In addition to the usual acorn woodpecker and oak titmouse sightings, we were able to enjoy spotting another new addition to the ranch list - a wrentit! These birds have an unusual looking eye - yellow with a black center. And yes, they do look like like a wren and also like a tit! There were several juvenile ash-throated flycatchers there as well as a Bewick's wren family, making our luncheon stop ever so enjoyable. After our stop at the spring, we headed down to the river and during portion of our walk, the clouds gathered, the thunder roared and I'll be darned if rain didn't start rearranging some of the dust, sort of.

After getting back to the house and cleaning up, we headed to Mariposa for a lovely dinner, including a gooey and sinful dessert, and on the way home stopped to watch firefighters working this brushfire, which was started by a lightning strike during the aforementioned thunderstorm. We spoke to some other folks who were also watching the fire and assuming everything stays under control, no one's home seemed to be in danger. And we were reassured that it was traveling away from Dryad Ranch.

Our final interesting discovery of the day came as we were stopped to open one of the gates coming into the ranch and saw this Common Kingsnake. Good thing we didn't squish it with the car! It was a fine looking guy or gal and a good 4 feet long.

Wrentit photo in the public domain US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Last Weekend's Walk

If anyone's an arachnophobe, the spider photo will be at the end of the post.

We had one of our best bird walks ever yesterday - it was hot but not too hot for walking and we saw 26 species of birds. Our best ever one-day species count for here was 27 last fall sometime. We were able to add another new species for the ranch - a western tanager! Yes, of course, they are known to be around here, but this was the first one we've seen, so it was exciting for us. I do wish we had a better camera/spotting scope combo because this isn't the greatest photo, but it gives an idea of how pretty these birds are.

We saw our first fish of the season in the river - little inch long minnow type jobbers. Also saw many butterflies and dragonflies and the ridiculous European bullfrogs which go "Eeeeek!" and jump in the river as you walk by.

While cleaning up under the eaves, we found a little two foot rattlesnake tucked up behind a pile of something - it was making its music. We watched it for a bit and then went off to inspect a tarantula that had also scared up out of somewhere. Usually the tarantulas don't come out of their hidey holes until the fall, so this one probably wasn't too thrilled.

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