Sunday, February 21, 2010

Western Pond Turtle Redux

After doing a few necessary chores - like finally putting away the laundry I washed Thursday night - we started off on our walk, only to have it grind to a halt right away by the sight of the foals right above the circle driveway. That required some minutes for scratching and cooing. At first, the palomino colt was unhappy with the sound of Dino's slicker but eventually figured out that it wasn't a horse-eating monster.

We also spent some time watching a group of twenty or so Western Meadowlarks in one of the open areas on our neighbor's place, right next to the road. Several of them would sing together and what a lovely chorus that was.

When we got to the river, we spotted this Western Pond Turtle sunning him or herself on a rock. They seem to like this area - I took a picture last year of a pair of them, but I wanted to see if I could get a little closer and work with the big lens and what I could get. I started out pretty far back from the bank and worked my way closer. By working, I mean crawling on threes - the fourth was holding the tripod/camera. Crawl a little, stop, take a few shots, crawl a little more. The turtle let me get all the way down to the edge of the riverbank and for once, didn't leap into the water in alarm right away. I was so oblivious to everything else during this process I didn't even notice that someone had driven up on the other side of the river until he asked us what we were looking at. (Turned out he was working on a portion of the fence on that side.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can It Be? Spring-like Hints

It is very difficult to avoid feeling smug about living in California this time of year. Other than knowing that we really, really do need more rain and more snow in the high country, the warm and sunny past couple of days have been a real joy. The horrid muddy spots on the road going up the hill have nearly dried up (for now and until the next rainfall, which as already mentioned Must Be Hoped For) and the wildflower season is beginning.

One of the lovely features of this particular form of media is that one gets to post pictures of whatever one wants to. The last couple of seasons I have been somewhat obsessed with fungi. This year, I made an unofficial goal to photograph all of the different varieties of fungus I saw. Sunday on our walk, we saw so many different/new kinds, I was beside myself. I was somewhat disappointed that I ended up giving up on the last two sightings. The first of those was a lovely bright red number, which Dino believes to be a type of bolete, the other was a horse poop mushroom, with a very white sponge-like cap. The bolete I passed up because that whole area was covered with big red ants that I recognize as having a nasty temper for humans sitting in the middle of their paths and the pooper was on the side of a steep-ish hillside and I could not figure out how to set up so both I and the equipment didn't tumble.

Here's one I spent some time with, though. Helvella lacunosa - Black Elfin Saddle. While I was noodling with this, Dino happily entertained himself by watching a flock of lesser goldfinches eating the seed pods of an Oregon ash.

In bird news, we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count again. We counted 28 different species of birds, and I'm not sure how many individuals. Our favorites from this weekend: Hermit Thrush, Bullock's Oriole (yay for migration) and Yellow-rumped Warbler (ditto).
Wildflowers up: Indian warrior, baby blue eyes, shooting stars, those white belly flowers and a popcorn flower or two. Also, those tiny magenta numbers, I like those.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Orchard Continued

Over the last several days, we've been getting the new trees in the ground. Bill got the first ones in the ground by himself, then recruited my help for a half day or so over the weekend.

Midweek, the nursery in town called to tell us that the Honeycrisp bare roots had finally showed up and been approved by the agricultural inspector. I sneaked away from work to pick out a likely candidate and reserved a second apple, a Gala, to act as a pollinizer. I also succumbed to temptation and bought a good looking forsythia that has the appearance of producing some blooms this year, small as it is.

Dino finished up the last arduous tasks of the planting on his own. Still to come: installing the watering system.

He'd rented a backhoe to dig the holes, and magnificent deep holes they were. Note: the backhoe was declared a "very nice piece of equipment." Santa, are you listening?

Into the holes went a cage of strong wire to discourage those dreadful gophers, and two lengths of white PVC pipe. The holes were filled with a compost/soil combination that had been mixed in a wheelbarrow - about three bags of compost per hole. Then pea gravel went in the pipe and a protective plastic collar put around each tender trunk.

The weather is cooperating nicely, giving lots of lovely sprinkly moisture and not too cold temperatures.

Last weekend, we heard and Dino saw a glimpse of a Northern Pygmy Owl.
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