Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wild Pig Redux, Also Number 80

The rain tapered off yesterday so we decided to get outside to see what was what. There were an amazing number of mushrooms that had popped up again. I am continually amazed at how many different kinds of fungi we can see during any given hour this time of year.

As we started walking down the hill on the northwest part of our property, guess which dastardly critters came into view? They moved pretty fast after I got this shot, the next picture I took was an even more blurry one of a bunch of pig butts dashing away.

After that bit of excitement we got down to the river, which was exciting in its own way, what with being swollen with runoff. The Dinosaur's favorite picnic rock under the ash tree was nearly covered with water. Sure is a different river from what it was a week ago, when we were able to cross it easily by jumping over a couple of rocks.

In addition to the pigs, we also saw two groups of mule deer, one on the appropriately named Deer Ridge, the other moving up from the river. Dino spotted a yellow bellied sapsucker, which we'd never seen around here. I didn't see it since at the time I was entranced by a particular amanita mushroom. Darn.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yay Some Rain

Looks like long walks are going to be out of the question this morning because we are getting the nicest rainstorm just now. Hope lots soaks in. Since most likely there won't be any pretty pictures today, I will post some photos from last week as documentation for the water tank project. The Dinosaur ordered up some pea gravel, which he convinced a merchant to deliver in spite of it being a small amount.

Step 1: Move the gravel from the bottom to the top of the hill

Step 2: Dump the gravel into its appointed spot.

Step 3: Spread the gravel evenly over the under-tank area.

Yes, it is a hard life being the photographer of record. One mustn't hurt one's little fingers by spreading gravel or anything.

I added a fun little gadget for no particular reason other than it's not easy always being earnest about birds and wildlife. Black boxes! Gotta love tha interwebz.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yet Another Fabulous Walk - We Don't Get Tired of It!

We got started on our Sunday bird walk mid morning. It took us almost an hour to walk the first mile or so because we kept getting distracted by watching birds. We saw a flock of forty or so meadowlarks in the area where the abandoned houses are - what an amazing noise that was! We didn't know that meadowlarks flocked together like that, the way blackbirds and starlings do.

Not long after we saw the meadowlarks we started hearing shooting - there's a shooting range of sorts established by one of the neighbors on a particular flat spot by the river. We've gotten pretty much used to it, although I have to admit it's not my favorite sound. At any rate, along comes a huge shattering boom of a shot. We keep walking, cross the river at the bridge, still birdwatching - some birds don't seem to mind all the noise - and see the men at the range. That particular area near the river is actually a really good place for birds - even with the shooting we saw some killdeer there that aren't usually around, bluebirds, a phoebe and the ravens. As we continued walking up the road, one of the men decided that he'd better warn us and drove up to let us know that they were shooting a 460 Weatherby rifle that has a range of 2000 yards so we should probably not walk along the river but stick to the road. We'd already figured that, but agreed politely, seeing as how they had the big guns and we only had some mean looking binoculars and a sack of bird books. That particular rifle is a "dangerous game" rifle developed for shooting Cape Buffalo and African elephants, both of which are in a shortage here in Madera County. Now, I'm a bleeding heart liberal Bambi lover so practicing to shoot critters just doesn't get on my good side but it's legal and they were doing it as safely as they could so I guess that's just the way of the world.

Here's a pretty spot along the river. I actually took a little video of this, since my camera will do that, but the file is so big! I don't have any video editing software so have no idea what to do with it. I just thought it would be kind of fun to be able to see and hear the Chowchilla with water in it once things dry up over the summer.

We stopped for lunch at the schoolhouse, which has been abandoned for years, but yes, was a one roomer of the old fashioned variety. One of these times I'll get up there at a time of day when I can get some nice shots of it. There's a big hay shed next to it and it's a great place for seeing sparrows. We also spotted a Nuttall's woodpecker there yesterday. While we were still munching, one of our neighbors came up in her ATV so we had a nice chat.

From afar, this little item looked like a big hawk with a white breast sitting in this tree. But no, it was a just a Common Birthday Balloon, natus mylaris, subspecies deflatus.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Band-Tailed Pigeons

We took a lovely long walk yesterday, covering 6 or 7 miles or so, mostly along the Chowchilla. A perfectly beautiful day for it too, in terms of enjoying a day from a human perspective. I suppose rain would have been better since we certainly need more of that. We had one of those great bird watching days in terms of spotting different species - 25 yesterday! Including a new species - band-tailed pigeons. Now, these aren't rare or anything, but I've been seeing dove-like birds for a few weeks now that seemed bigger and just not quite dove-y enough. We got the spotting scope on them yesterday and ta da! (Pigeon photo US Fish and Wildlife)

Now, we do realize that just counting species isn't really the point, but it does help us pay attention. After all, it's not as if there is a shortage of doves and unless you're a dove freak (we're not) why bother looking at them?

Another discovery on the other side of the river - two barn swallow nests tucked under some big rocks. They were sharing space with uninhabited mud wasp constructions. We'll see if later in the year we can surreptitiously observe the comings and goings when the babies arrive from the other side of the river. Thank goodness for long lenses and spotting scopes!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Year Cleanup

While yours truly sadly was required to appear at her actual job site to prove that she was still employed - you know, I had to go back to work - Dino stayed at Dryad Ranch and spent the time from Christmas to past New Year working on the continued fire perimeter project. He was able to open up the area just below the house where House Spring is, and there have been enough days where burning was permitted to get it all cleaned up. There is still some work left that he hopes to get done at the head of the spring where it meets the road.

He's also been getting estimates for having a 2500 gallon water tank that would hold water ready for firefighters if the worst should come to pass. The water will be pumped up to the tank, which we plan to locate at the top of Ant Hill and gravity will move the water down as it's needed. Dino's already started to clear off and prepare the area for the tank, as I found on my perambulations this morning.
Observations on today's walks: How I managed to miss it before, but stuck into the barbed wire fence on the Northwest Territory is a golf club. What the? At some point I'll try to get a nice photo of it, but today the light was against me. On our last river walk, we also found an arrow - not an old arrowhead - a modern arrow (with a very nasty looking tip) that someone had evidently been unable to locate after missing whatever they had aimed at.
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