Archive for the ‘CA Home’ Category

IN THE CROWS PATH

IN THE PATH OF CROWS

I’ve always had a casual interest in crows. Primarily for their social structure and intelligence. But I, like most people, have taken them for granted over the years. This all changed soon after our arrival in Southern California.

We were introduced to the Murrieta Crows Roost early after our California arrival in late 2009. While we were looking for a home we rented an apartment in Murrieta, CA. The apartment complex is located adjacent to the Murrieta Retention Basin. The retention basin contains water year round and is host to the largest contiguous forest of large trees in the area. The trees extend into the apartment complex area and our unit was located under a number of large trees. The retention basin is a terrific birding spot with a trail around its perimeter but the area doesn’t attract a lot of birders since there is a lack of parking in the area.

Murrieta Retention Basin-01-w

It’s easy to see that the large tall trees (pines, sycamores, eucalyptus, and others) provide the perfect place for a communal crows roost.

It rained for three straight days when we moved into the apartment and nothing out of the ordinary occurred, although the local residents thought three straight days of rain was quite “unusual.” At sunset on the fourth day we heard a lot of crows calling. We went out on the patio to see what all the commotion was about. It was quite a surprise as “calling” crows dropped into the trees by the hundreds. The crows would sit for a while then rise up and put down again. This went on for some time before they all settled down in the trees for the night. At sunrise the next morning all the crows were gone.

I asked some of the other residents of the apartments whether this was a regular occurrence and they casually responded, “Yeah, it happens every night!” From then on we witnessed the evening event on a regular basis making sure to get under cover on their arrival. It was common for the crows to “dump their excess baggage” before settling down.

A month and a half later we found a home five miles north of the Murrieta Retention Basin. We moved into our new home under a steady two days of rain. Our new welcoming neighbors remarked about the “unusual” amount of rain. During a downpour our first yard bird at our new home ran around on our front lawn occasionally posing on a boulders. The Greater Roadrunner welcomed our arrival. I took this event as a harbinger of more good birding things to come.

RoadRunner-20100206-02-w

After settling in to our new home, I had more time to start renewing my acquaintance with the western birds and to begin creating my new yard list. I also had time to enjoy the cool evenings in the backyard and immediately became reacquainted with the crows once again. Our new home is located “in the path of crows” that fly to the communal roost each evening from the north to the roost five miles south.

MAP-CROW FLIGHT area -N-w

Since first witnessing the crows roost and now living along the northern route of the crows, I have become interested in learning more about the nature and structure of the roosting crows. Apparently there is little known with regards to why, when, and where crows decide to share a common roost.

The website crows.net lists the number of crows at the Murrieta Crow Roost to be in excess of 3,000 birds. The site also indicates that there are only two crow roosts in Southern California.

I have been at different locations in the Temecula/Lake Elsinore valley in the evening and have observed crows flying to the roost from all different directions. It appears that the northern component (the ones that fly over us) make up at least one third to perhaps one half of the total roost population. This would make sense since Lake Elsinore and the area north of the roost site is more rural than south and east of the roost site. The area west of the roost site is the Santa small numbers of crows heading east to the roost at sunset.

crows at sunset-01-wcrows at sunset-02-w

I have conducted a number of crow flight counts to get an idea and to see if there are any patterns that might be of interest occurring. During the 2012 Christmas Bird Count, I counted 1,268 American Crows (AMCR) heading to the roost. During a BIG SIT in 2011, I counted 1,195 AMCR heading to the roost. I also conducted a 12 day count in 2011 which resulted in a 12 day average of 664 AMCR (9 days of 500 or more, and 2 days of inclement weather). Just this past week I was up early to photograph the full moon setting before sunrise – during that time I count in excess of 700 AMCR heading north from the roost site.

crows passing moon-01-w

It appears that there are three or four distinct flocks coming through each evening from the north. The first flock passes through just before sunset, the second flock shortly after sunset, and the third and fourth flocks closer to dark. There are always a few stragglers bringing up the rear. I’m guessing that the distinct flocks may be related to the distance the crows are from the roost when they initiate their flight (the first flock – closest to the roost, the remaining flocks- further away).

The crows roost essentially ceases to be during the breeding season with the exception a few non-breeding birds that continue to fly to the roost each evening. Soon after the breeding season ends and the young have fledged the numbers heading to the nightly roost start picking up again. During this time there is a lot of “calling” among the crows during the flight to the roost, perhaps the parents trying to keep the youngsters on task.

There appears to be a pre-flocking process that is used from time to time. Prior to initiating their flight to the roost the crows first gather at a staging area. A lot of “calling” takes place during this process and at some point a command is given and the flock of crows begin heading towards the roost site in silence. The staging areas appear to be random and may not be used on a daily basis. The purpose for these staging areas remains unexplained but may be weather related or perhaps staggering the flocks so they don’t all arrive at the roost at the same time.

crows-stormy weather-w

The line of flight of the crows each evening is weather dependent. Generally from our vantage point we can see most of the crows heading to roost each evening even if the flocks choose an alternate route. During inclement weather or heavy winds the flocks may be hard to see. The crows fly low in the valley and blend in with the trees along Murrieta Creek.

We are very fortunate that our new home in Wildomar, CA provides us the rare privilege of witnessing nature’s free outdoor entertainment almost every evening.

 

COR=K LOGO-web

A Simple Formula for Nature Discovery

Jim Lockyer
Wildomar, CA
BCDC WESTERN OUTPOST

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Marl Twain

2012 Stonehurst BIG SIT

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TEAM: Stonehurst
TEAM MEMBERS: Jim Lockyer
TEAM CAPTAIN: Me!

Last year I wrote a brief account of my first BIG SIT event in California and explained the rules and history of the BIG SIT in that account. That information is still available in my BLOG account of the 2011 BIG SIT.

2012 Stonehurst BIG SIT

The scope and camera were setup and ready to go at 7:30 AM, with a cup of coffee in my hands and my bins (binoculars) around my neck I found a comfortable chair. The 2012 Stonehurst BIG SIT was underway. The skies were clear with calm winds and the temperature was a cool 57 degrees.

It wasn’t long before the first bird of the day appeared, a skulking White-crowned Sparrow under the shrubbery gleaning for seeds beneath the feeders. The sparrow was still a bit shy while he waits for more of his comrades from the north to arrive for the winter. Once there is safety in numbers, the White-crowned Sparrows are quite gregarious. The sparrow was quickly followed by two California Thrashers arriving to gather sunflower seeds and drink at the water feature. These two birds were introduced to our feeder/water complex by their parents earlier this year, and have been regular visitors ever since.
 
White-crowned Sparrow                                                       California Thrasher

Other birds began to trickle in here and there but for the most part the bird activity remained relatively slow. The non-resident breeding birds had already left and the wintering birds were just beginning to arrive.

The weather forecast for today was HOT. It’s the middle of October and the forecast temperature for this day was 95 degrees. At 11 AM the temperature had risen to 82 degrees, and still no soaring birds had chosen to go skyward. Twenty-two Bushtits made a brief appearance to glean what they could from the plantings, seldom standing still for more than a second or two. Anna’s Hummingbirds frequented the feeders regularly only to be chased away by the “bully” Anna’s Hummingbird after a brief feed. A single Costa’s Hummingbird made a brief appearance.
 
Bushtits

House Finch

At noon the temperature had risen to 86 degrees. I took a short lunch break from 12:30-1:00 PM to cool off a bit while still keeping an eye to the sky from inside the house. When I returned to my count circle the temperature had reached 91 degrees.

With the sun now on the south side of the house, I moved under our covered patio to take advantage of the shade. We had the patio covering installed last year we wanted a lattice-type covering, but the salesman convinced us that a solid covering would provide more shade and keep things dry during the rainy season. At the time that seemed like a good idea so we went with the solid patio covering. Now after our second summer with the patio covering we are realizing that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. The south facing patio Alum wood cover serves as a heat trap during cloudless sunny days. After mid-day, the temperature under the patio covering begins to increase at a rate of 5-10 percent over the ambient air temperature. This continues until the sun sets. At 1:00 PM both the ambient and shade cover temperatures had risen to 91 degrees.

Finally a few soaring birds began to appear. A Turkey Vulture flew over and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks rode the few thermals caused by the rising temperatures.
Red-tailed Hawk 
Red-tailed Hawk

At 1:15 PM, a bird or birds caused a shadow to be cast when passing the sun. I jumped up to see what I expected to be a large hawk or vulture, but was surprised when I noticed a flock of 26 blackbirds. They came in from the south passed our home then made a sharp turn to the northeast. They were moving fast but I was able to get a quick look at the birds through my bins as they disappeared out of sight. I was speechless and astonished to what I had just witnessed. As the birds rapidly passed by, the flash of yellow to the throat and breast of these blackbirds left me in awe. I had seen this bird a number of times in the east and Midwest, but usually as a solo bird mixed in with a flock of other blackbirds. I was thrilled to see my first flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. This was also a CA State bird for me. These birds were most likely migrants heading for the San Jacinto Wildlife Area 9 miles to our northeast which was the direction they were heading. Yellow-headed Blackbirds are regular winter visitors at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.

At 2:00 PM the ambient temperature was 93 degrees as the shade cover temperature had risen to 98 degrees. The afternoon count slowed as the temperature rose. At 4:30 PM the ambient temperature was 95 degrees and the shade cover temperature was now 100 degrees.

I began preparing for the Stonehurst BIG SIT finale, COUNTING CROWS. Each evening at sunset crows from the north head to a common roost site at the Murrieta Retention Basin, 5 miles to our south. Usually the crows fly above the skyline making them easy to count. At 6:00 PM the sun dropped behind the mountains, the winds were calm, and the ambient and shade cover temperature both dropped to a comfortable 86 degrees.

At 6:08 PM the first crows began to appear, tonight with calm winds, they were low below the skyline making counting a challenge. For the next 22 minutes I counted a steady flow of crows. The final tally was 1,195. While counting the crows I noticed two Phainopepla capturing insects at sunset, I clicked another bird species to the total BIG SIT count.

I thought about staying out to see if I could get the Barn Owls that regularly forage in our area, but decided to shut down the 2012 Stonehurst BIG SIT at 6:30 PM, the temperature as now down to 81 comfortable degrees, and we opened the house to let the cool evening air flow in. I do like this Mediterranean climate.

All in all it was a nice relaxing productive birding day! It’s been a long time since I have spent a day totally devoted to a birding activity.

Jim Lockyer

TOTAL COUNT: 26 species (6 more than last year).
EXPECTED BIRDS MISSED: White-tailed Kite, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barn Owl
OTHER SIGHTINGS: Sky Jumpers, Vintage Aircraft (returning from the Miramar AIR SHOW in San Diego at sunset)
  

© Jim Lockyer, jl-studio 2012
All Rights Reserved.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.  Mark Twain

2011 BIG SIT – WILDOMAR, CA

Wildomar BIG SIT Panorama

What’s a BIG SIT (don’t say these words too fast), you ask? Bird Watcher’s Digest, the official sponsor, describes The BIG SIT as, “A Tailgate Party for Birders!” The original idea began with the New Haven, CT Bird Club 17 years ago. Though touted as an international event its popularity resides primarily in the Midwest and Eastern US.

The rules are pretty simple. The counting team (one or more individuals) must stay within a designated 17 foot diameter circle (you can cram as many individuals, pets, and food in the circle that will fit) to count and tabulate the birds that heard or seen from the circle.  BIG SIT sites can pick their own hours, 24 if they like (12:01 AM – 11:59 PM), but most sites run their BIG SITS from dawn to dusk. For complete BIG SIT “honorary” rule information check out the Bird Watchers Digest BIG SIT RULES.

I must say BIRDERS, when it comes to their birding, adhere and abide by an honorary rule system like no other I have ever seen. Its success is simple however. Avid Birders are extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of their recreation. A single bird species migration dates, range, habitat, most recent sightings, songs, calls, and subtle feather markings are all recorded in the birdalogus portion of left hemisphere of their brain. This establishes an immense database that provides a very strong cadre of individuals with regulatory power to maintain the BIRDERS Honor System. As you might imagine any deceitful, dishonest, or birding braggart that might show up in the birding community is quickly found out and exposed. Occasional bird miss-calls and improper identifications by reliable birders are graciously forgiven. But if a continued pattern of sensational sightings and/or birding claims prevail the reporting party is deemed unreliable and the name of the individual ripples through the entire birding community.

A portion of my 17 foot BIG SIT circle

Hmm, why did I go there? This is somewhat of a stall from reporting my meager results of the 2011 WILDOMAR, CA BIG SIT. Since I was the only one participating in my 17 foot diameter circle in my backyard at Wildomar, CA, as far as I could tell there were probably no others doing a BIG SIT within a 25 mile radius of my location. I had all the opportunity to inflate my count and noone would ever know. Well, noone but myself and the other excellent birders in the area where we now reside!

I was fortunate to be tutored by some of the best birders in the Midwest and East Coast and they taught me well. They have more birdalogus brain matter than I have in my little finger nail and I would never disrespect them by doing something stupid. Plus, I’m a member of the ABA (American Birding Association) and for any kind of fraud I would surely be excommunicated from the organization, unless my dues were paid up, of course.

I woke up on Sunday morning forgetting that it was BIG SIT day. When running through my daily computer stops; CA earthquakes since I last looked the night before, the weather, the news, email, and Facebook – there it was on Facebook. A message appeared that the Rose Tree Park HawkWatch (A location where I spent over 10 years of  hawk watching) BIG SIT was under way.

My BIRDER TAILGATE PARTY started in my WILDOMAR, CA BIG SIT circle at 0800 PDT with me as the single partygoer.

The weather was very nice and the views beautiful with cirrus clouds streaming over the Santa Ana Mountains.

 

NOT FOR ME, THANKS!

The first aerial activity viewed from the circle began at 0930 PST when the first sky dive plane gained altitude over our home before depositing its contents further north. I thought it was a bit early for a drop but once it was made I realized it was some sort of sky dive team doing a rather dangerous maneuver.

Sailplane Tow

At 0945 PDT the first sailplane was observed in tow overhead. By 1030 PDT the winds from the west had increased and the sailplanes called it a day, as did the birds. West winds don’t favor the soaring planes or birds and it seemed to kill other bird activity as well.

I finally decided to make this a SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BIG SIT so I shut down the circle at 1200 PDT, had a nice lunch – Tuna salad on Jalepeno Cheese Bread, and took a very nice long SIESTA (for those of you who don’t speak Spanish SIESTA=NAP).

At 1600 PDT I reopened the Count Circle for business, well casual business at best. I did pick up two distant soaring birds, one diving on the other.  Putting the scope on the activity it turned out to be a White-tailed Kite diving on a Red-tail Hawk. This turned out to be the best sighting of the day.

I ended up counting a whopping total of 20 species of birds, a reptile and a few insects. Nothing exceptional or not expected were seen. Perhaps the late Black-chinned Hummingbird might be considered unexpected.

It was nice to see the White-crowned Sparrows back for the winter and the 18 soaring Ravens were a morning highlight.

The THREE Stooges - House Sparrows . . . . The FOURTH is sitting in a chair watching them!

I will mark the date on my calendar for next year and do it again. Once you have been infected with the birding bug it is impossible cure.

 

Jim Lockyer

 

 

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  Mark Twain

 

 

A WESTERN ART DEBUT – MINE

After nearly two years of non-intentional ART IDLENESS, a result of our relocation from EAST to WEST, I have recently been reawakened to the wonderful world and pleasures of creating original ART.

It was two years ago, July 1, 2009, that I suspended my ART activities in PA as we began preparation for our relocation west – An exciting time into the unkown for sure.

Since arriving in Southern California in late November 2009 we have spent most of our time settling in to our new home. My post-settlement creative time has been spent photographing everything and anything to learn more about the wonderful natural world in our new location. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (SRP), just 5 minutes from our home, has been of particular interest.

The SRP hosts an annual Art Show each summer so in April I decided that it was time to put down the camera for a while and start creating some original ART again. The studio space, until now neglected, was put into full operation. It was great to get back to using brushes, pencils, paints, and paper again.

I will be showing my recent works at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve 14th Annual Art Show, July 9 – August 20, 2011. The beautiful Santa Rosa Plateau provided the subject matter for the work which will include watercolors, mixed-media, and photographs.

California Towhee - watercolor (15 x 22)

SRP Bridge Seasons - mixed-media (12 x 24)

Vista Grande Trail Rockscapes -01 & 02 (each watercolor - 11 x 15 inches)

SRP Wildflowers - Columbine & Poppy (watercolors - 7.5 x 11 inches)

While cleaning out some portfolios so I could use them to transport the new artwork to the SRP I came across an item that stopped my task and warranted my immediate attention.

It was a piece of mat board that I had pasted some items on years earlier. Since this item was so appropriate and timely, I had to stop what I was doing to provide the deserved attention. I found an empty frame that was worthy and proceeded to mat and frame the item so I could hang it in a prominent place in the studio where it belonged.

On Christmas 1994 I received a wonderful gift from our son Jason. It was an assortment of art supplies that was accompanied with a special note.

Dad

Here is some paint’in stuff. You should really start painting again you’re really good at it. It wouldn’t take a lot of time to start dabbling and then painting. I think it would relieve a lot of stress and be very beneficial. Look at Uncle Bernie with his wood carvings. You just have to set aside some time. I know it’s hard to find time but there is no time like the present. I think you need to hear this to give you a little push. I hope you start painting again. It would be a terrible waste if you didn’t.

Love, Jason

The item in question was the collection of Jason’s original note scrawled on four 5×7 yellow note pad sheets which now hangs proudly in the new studio.

We are looking forward to the Art Opening this weekend and enjoying Jason and Rita’s company when they come down for the weekend to enjoy the festivities.

Jim

Travel is fatal to bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice.  Mark Twain

RAINBOWS and BOBCAT

It was 7:00AM on Sunday, May 29 while photographing early morning rainbows that my attention was drawn to a number of agitated crows in our front yard. I turned to see what had prompted all the commotion. Crossing the street was a bobcat with a live rabbit clamped in its jaws. The bobcat casually moved along with its ears cocked back in the direction of the crows. The bobcat took its time as it wound its way across our neighbor’s front porch, into their backyard, then over their back wall and into the dense chaparral.

Bobcat with prey passing neighbors front porch possibly heading for her den.

It was last year on the 25th of May that a female bobcat visited our front porch with two kittens. It was a brief appearance and the bobcat family departed before I was able to locate my camera. This sighting occurred within minutes of learning of the passing of Judy’s beloved uncle Bernie. At the time we thanked Bernie for his gift of sending the bobcat family to our front door. Bernie, a self-taught naturalist, has been a great influence and inspiration to both Judy and I.

I saw a bobcat about a month ago as it passed by our front porch but it disappeared by the time I got outside. At the time I thought about Bernie and hoped that we would see the bobcat again soon. I’m assuming that this year’s bobcat is the same that paid us a visit with her family last year. At that time I thought the bobcat probably had her den in the green-space, our extended backyard, adjacent to our home. This space comprises nearly 300 acres of grassland, chaparral, and oak woodlands. This Sunday’s bobcat sighting would however indicate otherwise.

Sunday’s bobcat was carrying live prey into the development. Live prey would suggest that the bobcat had young and she was taking the live prey to her den. The purpose of live prey is to provide her young with a necessary lesson in successful predation. It is more than likely that the bobcat’s den is located within our development. This actually makes good sense. The housing development would provide the bobcat with better protection from her natural enemies than would the adjacent green space. Apparently this bobcat has adapted to our human community and we welcome her and her family as good neighbors.

I provided our neighbor with a photo of the bobcat that graced his front porch. He then told me that he and his wife occasionally see the bobcat in their backyard. This would further suggest that her den is probably below their back wall in the dense chaparral and eucalyptus trees.

I’ll be heeding the crows in hopes of seeing this beautiful animal and family again soon.

Thanks Bernie,

Jim

Travel is fatal to bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice.  Mark Twain

BLOG NAME CHANGE

FROM the GRABEN – New Name for the CA SETTLERS BLOG

The California Settlers are now reasonably settled. The initial “shock and awe” experienced by settlers arriving at their new location has waned a bit and everyone has calmed down becoming more comfortable and familiar with the new surroundings.

Jim no longer takes 100’s of photos of sunsets, sunrises, clouds, plants, animals, and anything else that catches his eye in the process of exploring the new area. He is now more discriminate with his photo selections. He now concentrates on finding the better shot of what he already has and spending time cataloging the photos to see what he is missing.

Jim and Judy have become more involved with local activities. Judy continues to improve her garden and is active in the Temecula Garden Club. Jim is active with the Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) and is leading 3rd-grade students on Nature Hikes several times a week. Judy has also been volunteering at the SRP occasionally working at the SRP Visitor Center and finding it a lot of fun.

I have settled in as well. I no longer run and hide on Thursday’s when the trash trucks arrive, nor do I run and hide every time the doorbell rings. The skateboarders however still bother me somewhat. Karter my next door neighbor comes by most every day and we converse through the screen – he from the outside and me on the inside. He is a big showoff and occasionally drops off  a present at our back door demonstrating his hunting prowess.

When I am not napping, begging for food, lying stretched out absorbing the sunlight, rubbing against Jim and Judy’s legs, or stomping all over them in the middle of the night, I have been studying the geology of our new location. I learned that we are residing in a GRABEN. I suggested to Jim that we probably ought to change the name of our BLOG now that we are comfortably settled in. My suggestion was to name the BLOG to “From the Graben.” I further suggested that Jim create an illustration explaining a GRABEN (see below). Part of my rationale is that From the Graben would best describe the specific area where we now reside, not to mention that I love that sinking feeling.

GRABEN – In geology, a graben is a depressed block of land bordered by parallel faults.
Graben is German for ditch. A graben is the result of a block of land being downthrown
producing a valley with a distinct scarp on each side. Graben are produced from parallel
normal faults, where the hanging wall is downthrown and the footwall is upthrown. The
faults typically dip toward the center of the graben from both sides.

With regards,
Velcro, the CAT

“OH, it’s been a long long day . . . . . . . .”

 

 

 

SIX GOLDEN EGGS

We inherited a wishing well when we purchased our home in Wildomar, CA. It required a little work to stabilize its aging structure. I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to remove it and replace it with something more contemporary. Judy remarked that she had always wanted a wishing well and advised that it might be a better idea to let it remain.

After completing several structural stabilization projects and removing the artificial flowers from the wishing well bucket, the wishing well remains in place. It is top heavy and still leans a bit to the east despite the stabilization. More stabilization projects are warranted.

Accepting the decision to keep the wishing well prompted me to think that the wishing well might make a nice venue to decorate for holidays and special events. Last Halloween season I removed the wishing well bucket and replaced it with a plastic pumpkin. Christmas Bells and a red bow replaced the bucket for the Christmas season. Then came the approach of Easter this year and I started looking for a large egg or eggs to replace the wishing well bucket. Unable to find any suitable large eggs, I decided to get some smaller plastic eggs, glue them all together and place them in the wishing well bucket. The chore took more time than I anticipated but the project was finally completed and the decoration was presented to the neighborhood. I placed several left over plastic eggs from the project to fill the void spots. I must say it turned out to be an attractive and subtle decoration appropriate for the season.

I began noticing that neighborhood children were attracted to the decoration and the Easter eggs therein. Over time some of the single eggs were removed. On one occasion when I heard children’s voices at the wishing well and observed a little girl yelling at her brother who was chasing a plastic egg that was rolling down the street. His sister was in the wishing well quickly putting the pieces of the decoration back in the wishing well bucket continuing to yell at her brother who apparently caused the original problem.

When shopping before Easter at the local grocery store I passed the stores seasonal decoration area. A package of three plastic golden eggs caught my eye. I purchased two packages. Late on Easter eve I placed Six Golden Eggs (each containing one dollar), three on each side, at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Each egg contained a taped note on the outside stating, “Take Only One, Please.”

Late on Easter Day the Six Golden Eggs remained in place. It appears that most of our neighbors were elsewhere today and few children were seen.

A second day passed and there has been no activity on or around the Six Golden Eggs.

The only activity on the third day was wind related as the wind moved one of the eggs. There has still been no sign of children activity in the general area. It is afterall spring break so perhaps many of the neighborhood children may be elsewhere. I repositioned the Six Golden Eggs closer together to make them a little more obvious.

Perhaps tomorrow I will place the eggs in the wishing well basket to make them even more obvious.

ONE WEEK LATER – May 1, 2011

One week later the Six Golden Eggs remain undiscovered.

After not being discovered, the Six Golden Eggs were first placed in the wishing well bucket. On several occasions I thought that several had been taken only to learn that the wind had blown them out of the bucket. All six eggs were accounted for lying in the bottom of the wishing well. I have since placed the Six Golden Eggs at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Despite children traffic in the area no one has yet found the eggs or have chosen not to take one.

ONE DAY LATER – May 2, 2011

Mid-day I noticed that two of the eggs were missing. I checked the area out soon after noticing the  missing eggs – they were nowhere in sight. I then checked out one of the remaining eggs that appeared to still be taped up. The egg still had the label stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE” still attached. On opening the egg, the one dollar bill was missing. I then checked out another egg and it was also lacking a one dollar bill. The individual(s) that claimed the two eggs apparently also claimed the contents of the remaing eggs.

I suspect the recipients of the eggs were two teenaged girls that I noticed in the area late on May 1, 2011. This suspicion is based on the fact that two eggs with the attached note stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE,” were taken suggesting that two individuals took one egg each. Since the note said nothing about, “the contents of the remaining eggs not taken”, would suggest, that the recipients reading the “egg note” rationalized that they were in compliance by removing the contents of the remaining eggs and leaving the egg shells behind. Sounds like a couple of teenagers thinking a problem through that would provide them the greatest reward.

This was a fun little experiment, but will need some refinements for next year.  Stay tuned!

Jim Lockyer

“Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

 

In late May I headed to the extended backyard (X-BY) for a hike. When reaching the X-BY from the path behind our home several crows were giving warning calls from a nearby tree. I thought there must be a predator nearby. I slowly moved in their direction hoping to catch a view of their concern. As I got closer the volume and repetition of the calls increased. That’s when I noticed one of their own was lying dead below a power pole. The calling crows left as soon as they realized I had located their concern.

Looking at the top pole, directly above the location of the dead crow, I noticed a matrix of uninsulated wires and concluded that the crow probably met its demise by electrocution. I felt bad, but then it was just a crow I thought, and I continued on my hike in the X-BY. On subsequent X-BY hikes I made it a routine to check the area below the pole . . . . . just in case. As the weeks went by no more bird electrocutions were noted and I began to feel that he crows electrocution was probably just an isolated incidence.

Just before sunrise on July 20, 2010 we lost power to the house for about 45 minutes. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Two days later I headed to the X-BY for a hike. My pole checking routine was now ingrain and I headed first towards the power pole . . . . . . just in case. As I came closer to the power pole I noticed something lying beneath the pole that blended into the ground. The closer I got to the pole the features of the bird lying below the pole became apparent. This bird was lying on some of the remaining crow’s feathers where it fell several months earlier. I was devastated to see this beautiful expired Barn Owl at the base of the pole. The Barn Owl had been electrocuted. I concluded that the power outage two days earlier was probably the result of the Barn Owl’s demise.

The crows had already warned me two months early to do something about the pole, but I didn’t heed their advice then. It took the Barn Owl to motivate me to see if something could be done.

During my X-BY hike that day I was not able to get the Barn Owl out of my mind or the crow’s earlier warning for that matter. I returned to the pole before heading home to view the tragedy again. I wondered if there was anything I could do.

Arriving home at mid-morning I looked for some place to report the problem. I entered the Southern California Edison (SCE) website and was impressed by its content and ease of use.  There, at the top of the website was an ENVIRONMENT tab. A power utility company with an ENVIRONMENT tab on its website was unbelievable to me having lived in the east coast power gird for the last 30 years.

I pushed the ENVIRONMENT tab! Listed there was a list of SCE’s environmental programs, including one for AVIAN PROTECTION. The contact list for the SCE Environmental Staff listed Archaeologists and Biologists, I sent an email to the Senior Biologists explaining my find and asking whether anything could be done.

That afternoon I received an email from the SCE Senior Biologist advising me that my report was a valid concern and that she was directing my email to Kara, the biologist in charge of the Avian Protection program. The following day I received an email from Kara asking for more information regarding the pole location and pole ID number. I provided the information to Kara and she responded informing me that an inspector would check to pole.

I received a message from Kara several days later advising me that the pole would be retrofitted to prevent anymore bird electrocutions and said a work order had been initiated. She would notify me when the work would be scheduled.

A couple days later I noticed a SCE vehicle parked on our cul-de-sac which overlooks the power pole. When I went out to talk to the individual he had already left. While hiking in the X-BY, later in the week, I encountered Kevin who was walking down one of the roads in the X-BY. Kevin was the SCE trouble-shooter who was parked briefly on our cul-de-sac earlier in the week. I introduced myself and he explained he was surveying ways to get the SCE trucks into the area to do the work. With two locked gates along the road he explained the possible difficulties of getting to the pole. He told me one way or another they would get the work done. He advised me that the work would be completed within 30 days.

The power pole in question is the last overland pole before the power is directed underground into our development. We were heading into the hottest time of year when we received a POWER OUTAGE NOTIFICATION mailer from SCE on August 3, 2010. It announced that a power outage would occur on Tuesday, August 17, 2010. The notice included SCE preparation tips for the long outage and stated that the power to our neighborhood would be shut-off between 9:00 AM and 3:30 PM . . . . . . Oops!  

The SCE Power Outage Notification listed the reason for the shut-off as:  Upgrading aging infrastructure or completing other repairs to make needed improvements.” Fortunately SCE didn’t reveal the real reason by stating:  Your new neighbor at 23045 Sweetbay Circle found a couple of : dead birds below a power pole and we are interrupting you creature comforts for 6.5 hours during one of the hottest days of the year!”

It was already HOT at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, August 17, 2010, when the SCE trucks rolled towards Pole Number 4061682E. I told Kara, the SCE biologist, that I would take some photos of the retrofitting operation. I went to the X-BY as the trucks began setting up. I introduced myself and mentioned to the crew to please don’t tell the neighbors that I was responsible for the power shutdown. I stated that I wasn’t sure all the neighbors would understand the reason for the inconvenience. Fortunately for me, the crew indicated that they were unable to get the power shutoff. They were going to complete the job by working around the live wires. The SCE crew was great and after 2.5 hours had retrofitted the pole working around live wires with temperatures in the mid-90’s.

  
  
Click on photos for a larger image

The next day I received a call from Kevin at SCE who wanted to let me know that the job had been completed. He said they almost canceled the work because of the heat but decided to get the work done.

Pole # 4061682E is now hopefully bird safe as of August 17, 2010.

Will I still maintain my routine of checking the pole when starting my X-BY hikes?  Yes, I will, . . . . . . . just in case!

I have been totally overwhelmed and impressed with the rapid response and timely action of  SCE to address and correct a seemingly small problem in the context of their entire responsibilities. Everyone I came in contact with at SCE, from my initial contact regardng the problem to the crew who retrofitted the pole, were highly professional, courteous, and friendly. They are a dedicated and passionate group of people. Many thanks to all! 

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Travel is fatal to bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice. Mark Twain

 The Marine Layer 

Marine Layer Lifting

 

  While growing up in Southern California (SoCal) I was always interested in the weather. As a child I built a weather station in our backyard and monitored it daily recording all the data and plotting graphs and charts. One of my friends at the time gave me a subscription to the US Weather Service daily weather maps which arrived by mail several weeks past the real time dates. The weather in SoCal hasn’t changed much in all those years. It is still pretty boring for weather enthusiasts (weather weenies).  

What has changed is the technology and tools. NEXRAD radar, satellite imagery, forecast models, and the Internet now provides real-time weather reporting, maps, and warnings. The other change that I have noted is the terminology used by today’s network weather oracles to describe the often mundane weather in SoCal.  

I recall when growing up in SoCAL during the early summer months we would often wakeup in a FOG (meteorologically speaking, of course) which is now referred to as the Marine Layer by the SoCAL weather oracle community. The fog would usually burn-off before noon just late enough to ruin plans for an early beach day. Of course this fact isn’t revealed by SoCal natives to the outside world for fear of diminishing the tourist traffic. Much like the Seattle, WA natives seldom speak to the outside world regarding the traffic on Interstate-5.  

The other day I was actually startled to hear one of the weather oracles utter the word fog. I had never seen this oracle before, nor have I seen him since.  Obviously he was new and now no longer, most-likely being punished for uttering the banned weather word. Today this marine layer ebbs and flows along the coastal communities and sometimes reaches over the Santa Ana Mountains into the Inland Empire just the same as the fog did 40 years ago. We have had a number of foggy mornings; I mean marine layered mornings that have made their way over the Santa Rosa Plateau and into our backyard. They do provide for a nice cool day.  

Marine Layer Burn Off  (VIDEO) Click to veiw time-lapse VIDEO of Marine Layer (a.k.a. FOG) lifting (dots are birds-hummingbirds and finches).  

Gray May – June Gloom  

The SoCal weather oracles have developed meteorological terms to describe the marine layer phenomenon. Gray May describes the flow of the marine layer in the month of May and June Gloom describes the same event in the month of June. June Gloom was actually extended into July this year which locals tell me never happens. The forecast for later this week is for the marine layer to make several more appearances along the coast and Inland Empire a – August Disgust, I imagine!  

CLOUDS   

Spring 2010 rainbow from the backyard of our new home.

 

During a winter visit to SoCal several years ago there were a lot of nice cumulus clouds while we were there. At the time Jason was fascinated by the clouds and repeatedly photographed them. I must admit they were impressive but they were just clouds commonly seen on the east coast throughout the year. I asked Jason about the fascination and he told me that winter was the only time they got clouds like this. I had forgotten that fact having spent the last 40 years living in the mid-west and east coast.  

When we arrived in SoCAL in mid-November we had clouds on a regular basis which continued through the rainy season and into spring. I was impressed by the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that the clouds provided and took advantage by photographing a lot of sunrises, sunsets, and rainbows. Becoming busy with settling into our new home there was always more work to do and as the clouds drifted out of sight with the changing season, they drifted out of my thoughts as well.  

The Southwest is currently in the monsoon season. I never thought there was such a thing until I attended a conference in Phoenix, AZ years ago. I was expecting nice dry heat and couldn’t believe how humid it was. I awoke the other morning and when opening the blinds and curtains to welcome the new day, I observed CLOUDS! “Wow,” I thought, “clouds, neat little popcorn cumulus clouds, VERY COOL!” Some of the monsoonal moisture had moved in from the east overnight. I now know the feeling that Jason was having with his fascination of the cool clouds. I hadn’t missed them until I saw them again, and they were impressive. I was rewarded that evening with one of the more spectacular sunsets we have seen since we have been in our new home.  

Popcorn cumulus cloud sunset - early summer 2010

 

We were fortunate to spend nearly 40 years living in the Midwest and Northeast, areas where one can experience the change of seasons firsthand. It is nice however to be back in Southern California enjoying the uneventful, mostly sunny, weather and listening to the network weather oracles try to make the mundane same day-after-day weather into something it is not. But I suppose that isn’t really much different from the eastern network weather oracles competing to predict the exact time of arrival and the precise amount of snowfall the approaching storm will bring.  

Since everyone experiences the weather and you are in the business of talking about it you had better be prepared. You can either impress the masses with your meteorological knowledge and prowess, or you can be an attractive person of desirable proportions that will distract the viewer from whatever you are saying.  

CA Settlers  

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO  

  

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."   Mark Twain
 

 

FORKED-TAIL

Fork-tailed (on branch upper left) guarding feeder complex

I’ve noticed the activity at the hummingbird feeders has recently dropped off dramatically. Rather than filling the six feeders on a daily basis, I am now filling them every two to three days.  Initially I attributed the decline of the feeder activity to the hummingbirds moving on elsewhere. However, the more I began watching the feeders I noticed that a single male Anna’s Hummingbird was taking it upon himself to chase the other hummingbirds away from the feeders.  He is very aggressive and has established three distinct perches created with mathematical precision forming a triangular perimeter to defend his claimed feeding grounds. I am quite impressed, but also somewhat discouraged as I watch the other hummingbirds being chases away from the feeders.

  

As it turns out I had photographed this hummingbird several times before. He was easy to identify since he is missing several tail feathers.  After one of his first photo sessions I named him “forked-tail” (FT).  It wasn’t until I started observing the feeders to learn the cause for the diminished feeder activity that I realized FT was the tyrant. Since FT was around during the heavy feeding activity, I’m still convinced that many of the hummingbirds have departed.  With fewer hummingbirds to deal with it is now just easier for FT to control the feeder activity.

It has been interesting to watch the strategies of the hummingbirds attempting to use the feeders. Some come in low out of the view of FT, while others would come in pairs. As FT gives chase to one the other feeds quickly. FT feeds occasionally in between chase episodes. He seems to be doing a good job of protecting his feeding complex.  FT most often gives chase to an incoming hummingbird before it reaches the feeders making it a real challenge to photograph the interactions.

  

There have been several other interesting FT encounters.  A Lesser Goldfinch occupied one of FT’s three mathematically placed perches. FT tried without success to chase the goldfinch off the perch by repeatedly diving and hovering over the bird. FT chose one of the other two perches until the goldfinch left. I have not been immune to FT’s aggression. While standing too close to the feeders FT flew over and hovered near my knees, while moving back and forth horizontally in front of me while making repeated clicking calls. Obviously FT is unaware of who is refilling the feeder complex he has claimed as his own. Or perhaps he actually did know who filled the feeders and was just scolding me for not keeping them filled. Several of the feeders were empty at the time.

I’ve thought about spreading the feeders out making it more difficult for FT to defend them all. Noticing that FT was also chasing hummingbirds off the oriole feeder located some distance away, I realized that would probably not be a satisfactory solution.

It is obvious that such aggression and control is not an easy job at all. FT is in constant patrol mode from dusk til dawn daily.

 

KARTER

VELCRO (inside) and KARTER (outside)

Our cat VELCRO has befriended our next door neighbor’s cat KARTER. Our neighbor advised us earlier that KARTER had adopted them not visa-versa. They warned us that we should not let KARTER in our house or he would adopt us as well. VELCRO and KARTER have been meeting on a daily basis now through screened windows or doors. They usually meet nose to nose at the front window with KARTER on the brick ledge and VELCRO inside looking out.    

 

Recently other neighborhood cats have been showing up to visit VELCRO but usually stay below the brick ledge of the front window. Several days ago I heard VELCRO making a tender “cooing” meow and went to see what was claiming his attention. Looking up at VELCRO from below the brick ledge was a beautiful black cat with green eyes. Hmm, I thought surely it must be a female cat based on the way VELCRO was acting. Of course, VELCRO being neutered, declawed (he was a rescue cat), and an indoor cat . . . . unfortunately for VELCRO, only in his dreams. 

Last evening I noticed VELCRO and KARTER were engaging each other but KARTER was staring out away from VELCRO and VELCRO was looking intently out the side window. I approached VELCRO and began to pet him when he started hissing and growling while intently looking down out the window. Through the bushes I noticed an orange cat, then another. Out the front window two more cats arrived slowly walking across the grass heading towards KARTER and VELCRO. It was an amazing assemblage occurring all at the same time – like a scene from the movie Eclipse. All the time KARTER sat at the edge of the brick ledge overlooking the cats as they assembled on the yard below him. It was as if KARTER had called for the meeting to introduce VELCRO to the other neighborhood cats, or more likely to show off his harem and subjects to VELCRO. KARTER was also probably advising VELCRO to quit cooing with his green-eyed black cat lady friend. She was not present at this gathering.

". . Oh, those green eyes!"

I imagine keeping all the neighborhood cats in line is no easy task either. It is apparent that KARTER is the Top Cat in the neighborhood as we expected him to be the first time we met him. Now he’s proven it!

 The adventure continues . . . . .

 Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

* STONEHURST is the housing development in Wildomar, CA where our home is located.