A Tale of Two Turkeys

The first time I saw a turkey in our neighborhood was over 10 years ago – on Thanksgiving day! I thought maybe he had escaped the ax. Since then turkeys have expanded and taken up residence. We often have wild turkeys on the slope in front of our house – more over the years. Once we had a whole flock sitting on the porch when we woke up in the morning, peering in the window to see what we were up to.

PEEPING TOMS

The other day we went outside and there were eight or ten of them pecking at the slope. Usually they just slowly wander off when they see us, but one of them was closer and she panicked. I heard a bang and knew she had flown into the pergola.  The poor thing was flopping on the porch with one wing out and couldn’t seem to stand so that she was scrabbling her way off the two porch steps with her claws. Almost immediately a huge turkey flew so close over our heads we ducked. Turkeys don’t fly when they can walk, so this was unusual, but this one was on his way to protect his mate.

A Handsome Tom

The other turkeys had mostly disappeared, but a few were peeking out behind bushes at the top of the slope. Soon all of them were craning their necks to watch their friend below walk-drag herself across the bricks while her companion stood guard next to her. His tail feathers were on display, perhaps to make himself look larger to predators, as she made her way to the relative safety of a shrub by the fence. There they rested, but we didn’t have much hope for her and thought we would have to call animal control to come put her away… or pick up a dead bird.

None of the pictures are from this drama, as the turkeys were stressed enough without us.  (Most of the photos above are from previous shots of their visits in the last year or two.) We were inside where we could watch from the window without alarming them. Amazingly the pair made it up to the road over the next 15 min. where they were well hidden in some bushes. When I walked up the drive to get the mail a couple of hours later they were gone. I took this to be good news – that they may have made it “home.” We wish them well!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Notes: Wild turkeys are not native to California: they were introduced in second half of the last century as a hunting bird.  People have mixed feelings about them as they migrate into residential areas – they are attractive and amusing, but leave their droppings on patios, decks and cars and can damage gardens. Turkeys change the color of the skin on their heads from red to blue to white, depending on whether they are calm or excited. During the breeding season, turkeys can become aggressive occasionally even charging people, but mostly they “attack” the tires of cars going down the hills of this semi- rural area. Everyone seems to slow down for them and I’ve never seen a dead one on the road despite their foolish bravado.

Our Crowded Planet

The Amazon deforestation, the oceans, droughts, famines, fires, pollution, endangered species… I could write a blog on each of them. They are all linked to something few seem to talk about these days: Overpopulation.  Is this such a moral landmine that we ignore it – to our peril?  Population multiplies all of these problems.  The current global population has crossed 7.7 billion and is heading upward; growth is exponential as are the demands  our limited resources: water, land, trees, food and fossil fuels.

Here’s what Jane Goodall has to say:

“In order to slow down climate change, we must solve four seemingly unsolvable problems. We must eliminate poverty and change the unsustainable lifestyle of so many of us. We must abolish corruption. And we must contain our growing human POPULATION. There are 7.7 billion of us today, and by 2050, the UN predicts there will be 9.7 billion.” It is no wonder we despair but she ends with “I’m still optimistic…. about the resilience of nature, our intellects, social media and the power of young people.”
🙂 

 

 

  

 

Mitigating population growth would have more impact than virtually any other climate policy! Women, given the resources and the choice, will opt for smaller families. Let’s promote female empowerment, especially in the developing world. Reproductive rights are an environmental as well as a social issue.

 

  

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Let me end with some pictures of our beautiful world.

 

A planet worth saving.

More California Wildflowers 2019

The ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and a fiddleneck to the left.

Now that the drought has broken, California is bursting with wildflowers. These pictures were taken in two areas south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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There were carpets of baby blue eyes (above) in Canada del Oro– although this is a subspecies that is white rather than baby-blue. Contrast the colour with this one from Pacheco Park.

 

 

Woodland star –Lithophraga affine. Flowers are approx. 3/4 in. or 1 cm. across.

 

 

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Pacheco Park also had hillsides covered in blooms. The dominant species were shooting stars and violas.

 

 

This species of shooting stars, Dodecatheon clevelandii, takes on different colours.

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“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour” – William Blake

* Desert Wildflowers and Cactus * 2019: Anza Borrego Part II – central and southern sections

As we drove south the flora began to change slightly – more ocotillo, agaves and many more cacti. I’d been looking for the magenta monkeyflower yesterday, without any luck, but found them to be plentiful up a couple of desert washes.

 

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Mimulus bigelovii – this monkeyflower only grows a few inches high but makes up for its size in brilliant color.

 

There are many types of cacti; here are the three common ones we saw.  The first group of slides show a group of  barrel cacti.

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Opuntia cacti are jointed. The prickly pear group can be flattened like the “beavertails,”  (Opuntia basilaris) below.

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Opuntia can also be rounded like the Teddy bear cholla (they still have “joints”). The spines are attached in a star pattern and break off in a cluster that are easy to sit or kneel on when trying to take a picture of something else. Ouch. I also found them deeply embedded in the toes of my boots and hard to get out.

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Desert sunflower Geraea canescens

 

Ocotillo (Fourquieriaceae splendens) a characteristic shrub of the desert, can reach 20-feet in height. The scarlet flowers had just begun to bud out last week so I imagine they are putting on a show now.

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(all photos by CCM except “beavertails” as noted)

Anza Borrego Wildflowers: Part 1, northern section

There are many wildflowers in the northern section of Anza Borrego Desert Park… and many people vying to see them. When we came to the desert years ago – make that decades ago – we had the desert to ourselves. You just had to make sure you had enough water and gas and brought along some food. Today with social media, nature has become entertainment and people are well-informed as to when the flowers are blooming. To counter this we rented a four-wheel vehicle to go on the back sandy roads, but we weren’t the only ones who thought of that! Still it is a vast area and you only have to hike a little ways up a canyon wash to have the landscape yourself.

Anza B0rrego pse
                                                         photo by CCM

 

Desert lily  – a bloom you see after a wet winter.  It is found in nature only in the desert areas of the North American southwest – favoring Anza Borrego. Unlike most genera, Hesperocallis is a genus solely for this single species.  It is a bulb that can send a stem up to 4 feet high, although these are just getting started.  Native Americans used the bulb like garlic.

 

 

 

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Tall lupin (Lupinus arizonicus) with desert verbena (Abronia villosa) in the background.

 

Perhaps my favorite desert flower is the evening primroseOenothera.

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I’m really not sure if I have ID’ed the two species correctly but I think Oenothera deltoides is taller and Oenothera caespitosa blooms from a basal rosette of leaves. (if anyone has further information I would be grateful.)

Desert sunflowersGeraea canescens

 

The caterpillars are coming!  The sphinx moth caterpillars (and others) hatch shortly after the first wildflowers and begin munching on the delicate flowers and new shoots. They can decimate 100 acres in a few days.  They consider evening primroses (Oenothera) a particular delicacy.

 

 

 

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On the positive side when the sphinx moths hatch they pollinate the flowers – and they are attractive don’t you think?  I was standing in a patch of verbena and thought I was being buzzed by hummingbirds, but it was the hovering, swift flight patterns of the (2-3”) sphinx moths.

They were too fast for my camera so I gratefully borrow this beautiful photo of a sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) fr. Ronnie Pitman.

 

Verbena landscape with a few sunflowers sprinkled in.

Next week Part II – Central and southern Anza Borrego.

 (All photos by CCM unless otherwise credited.)

 

 

WILDFLOWER SEASON HAS BEGUN!

Catalina mariposa lily -Calochortus catalinae

California has been in a drought since 2011.  The 2018-19 rainy season has finally lived up to its name however and the drought is declared over.  There was decent rain in 2017, but a drought is gauged not only by the amount of precipitation, but also the snowpack, soil moisture, stream flow and how full the reservoirs are….
To me it also means a bountiful wildflower season.

This wild mariposa lily was a new find.  A rare native limited to small area in southern California. Yet we found them blooming by the dozens on a little patch in the Santa Ana Range west of Lake Elsinore. They were just waiting for the last 8 years for the rains (I’m not kidding).

Those who live in southern California have heard of the super bloom at Lake Elsinore. Unfortunately 100s of thousands of people from LA and other nearby cities went to see. Thus we didn’t stop-  it doesn’t make for a very wild experience if you are sharing it with crowds.  We could see the California poppies covering the hills above the freeway in the distance, however I didn’t take a photo as it was too hazy.  Here is one of many photos, posted on the internet,  I disapprove of – a couple sitting on the flowers:

So many people trampling the flowers. Over the weekend California officials declared an emergency due to the massive influx of visitors at Lake Elsinore and shut down the parking and freeway access!

But let me leave you  with one more photo of Calochortus catalinae. The male anthers are diagnostically pink – in contrast to other mariposa lilies. (“Mariposa” means butterfly.)

We are in route to the desert of Anza Borrego: my next post.

Belize Wildlife, Part 1 of 2

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Resplendant Quetzal

I remember seeing some of these wonderful birds on a hike in Belize. Also in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama – the rainforest is a treasure trove I had to write about. I have to reblog Jet Eliot’s post ( click link below)!

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CR motmot

Motmot

 

reblogging from Jet Eliot via Belize Wildlife, Part 1 of 2

Where There’s Smoke…again

Last year California had record breaking fires – that record held for almost 100 yrs. Now we’ve broken last year’s record for the most destructive fire ever. Normally we would have had rains by now and “fire season” would be over – and acres of land and homes – not to mention lives, would not have been lost. We haven’t had any rain since early spring and the land is very dry. ( In October, San Francisco had weeks of temperatures breaking 80 degrees and in November it was in the 70’s – until the fires darkened the skies.)

Plume from the Camp Fire in Butte Co. on Nov 9.

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Another larger view from NOAA shows the plume covering an extensive region and shows the Woolsey Fire in southern California as well. (I can’t find a date on this image, but it was 2-3 days later).

https://abc7news.com/time-lapse-how-camp-fire-smoke-plume-choked-northern-california/4694952/

The town of Paradise is Paradise no more, in fact very little is left of it. People have died and many more are homeless in this area… because of global warming. Think about that.

Although we live 180 miles south-southwest of the big Butte Co. fire, we are being advised to stay indoors with windows closed. Public schools are closed from Butte Co to well south of  San Francisco; even the Cable cars shut down, as we now have the dirtiest air in the world. The skies vary from hazy to a dirty orangey color and are predicted to continue this week to plague us.

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Taken at noon – smoke blocking the sun.

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We can hardly see our nearby hills where my husband hikes almost every day. Today they have “disappeared.” (photo taken 2 days ago)

It has been 8 days now since that fire started (there are others). Yesterday it was announced it was only 40% contained; today they say they are making progress.

In the first days, the sun’s rays were sometimes bent to cast an unusual gold-red glow that was ironically pretty. It reminds me of the shadows we saw during an eclipse. Smoke particles filter sunlight, scattering short wavelengths and leaving the longer reddish wavelengths of the light spectrum behind. This allows more orange and red colors to pass through the smoke.

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unretouched color

I have a cough and sore eyes, but the bigger picture is… that smoke is coming from people’s lost homes. There are horror stories of people running from the flames into swimming pools and creeks, but you read the news. My heart goes out to the thousands affected.

One Dog’s Tale

This is the story of Gaston – who originally belonged to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Baby Gaston (2)

Baby Gaston

 

He learned everything he was supposed to do and he was patient with the younger dogs.

 

 

…but this was a bit much. Really? That puppy thinks she’s the boss of me?

Sadie leads Gaston4671qk

Sadie leads Gaston ( who has exchanged his fuzzy pale coat for a curly red one)

 

 

There was just one problem….unlike the other young guide dogs Gaston didn’t really want to work.

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This is the dog who flunked guide dog school because he just wanted to play with his toys.

Hey look guys ..TOYS!  TOYS! pse.1664

Hey here are some more! toys pse_1669want that 1_pse.1665

That one, I want that one ..

Can I have one, can I can I Huh, huh huh?can I pse.1667

I’m not leaving unless I can have one. Just one?

And so Gaston lived lazily….happily, ever after….Gaston n bunny_886ps

 

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With Apologies to Georgia O’Keefe

I love to shoot close-ups of flowers – to look right into their centers a la     Georgia O Keefe.

A macro of a cymbidium

A Cymbidium – one of the easier orchids to grow.

 

These are baby-blue eyes – Nemophila menziesii, a cutie with its silvery anthers and delicate petals – the bifurcated stigma  (center) look like Martian eyes to me.

 

 

Calochortus venustus is a wild mariposa lily.

 

C.leichtinii-xcrp pse7-15 024Calochortus leichtlinii or white mariposa lily.  This is a good one to identify the flower parts : the center column is called the style and is topped by the a 3-part stigma ( the unseen ovary is at the bottom of the style), which in these lilies is surrounded by six white anthers – those are the male parts.

 

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Note the same characteristics: three petals, 3-part stigma  and six anthers. You guessed it: another mariposa lily – Calochortus luteus.

 

Calochortus tolmeii

One more wild lily is C. tolmeii – pussy ears. This is one of my favorite little (no more than ¾ inch across) wildflowers with its blue anthers and fuzzy petals  – it’s nickname is pussy ears.

And I’ll close with a close-up of a Christmas cactus flower.

I’ll save some more for another time…..