Archive for the ‘Atmospherics’ Category


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,


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!  


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


Yesterday I was snooping around our extended backyard looking for some possible areas where the bobcats might have a den. I was also armed with my telephoto lens in hopes of recording any other activity that might cross my path. The weather was cool and overcast, there wasn’t much activity. The motorized trail bike didn’t help much either but the individual controlling the noisy device was quite pleasant. He stopped and we chatted for awhile. He seemed to have an active appreciation for the nature and wildlife.  He asked me if I had seen any snakes, I told him unfortunately not. He then asked, if I saw one would I take a picture of it? I responded, “Absolutely!” I am still curious about the question and what other answer he thought I might provide.

I did come several unfortunate wildlife victims, a dead Western Fence Lizard frozen in the position at its time of demise. The lizard was on the dirt road but didn’t appear to be the victim of this days bike rider. Further along several crows were agitated at something, and thinking a possible predator, I went to take a closer look. As I approached the area I noticed one of their comrades was lying beneath a power pole. It too was frozen in the position at the time of its demise. The crows were apparently offering final rights and a eulogy to their fallen comrade. They left soon after I arrived. It appears that the crow had been electrocuted on the old power pole that still displayed exposed insulators and wires. This day there didn’t seem to be much active wildlife activity in the extended backyard.

Expired Western Fence Lizard and American Crow (Click on photo for larger image)

I was on top of a ridge with wooded canyons on either side when the fire engine raced up Clinton Keith Road with sirens roaring . After slowing its way through the Palomar Street/Clinton Keith Road intersection the sirens increased in volume and were loud and clear as the fire engine passed only a half mile away from where I was standing. It was then that I heard what I thought was a child imitating the siren, then another joined in, and another, and  another. Suddenly a chill went down my spine. The sounds were coming over my left shoulder only 15-20 yards from where I was standing. More individuals joined the chorus in response to the fire engine siren. The chorus finally ended in an explosive crescendo. With the fire engine now far in the distance, I stood there with my mouth wide open as  the sounds over my left-shoulder slowly subsided and quiet returned.

I estimated that there must have been 6-8 pups and 3 or more adult coyotes responding to the fire engine siren as well as trying to scare the hell out of me. They did a pretty good job at both. I cautiously tried to locate where the coyotes might be residing in the small canyon from several different vantage points. I was however unable to detect any trace or movement of the coyotes. The interior live oaks (Quercus wislizeni) that make up the woodland community in this area provide a great cover for wildlife with the foliage dropping all the way to the ground.

Yesterday also conducted my annual “casual”  Birthday Big Day bird count (BBDBC) – rules for BBDBC are still in development after establishing the BBDBC tradition over the past 15 years. So, I spent a lot of time looking at birds in both our backyard and our extended backyard. I didn’t have a particularily great count day (26 species) for the limited time I counted but this will set a mark for future BBDBC at our new location. I did however add 2 new nice birds to this years CA list (both seen in the extended backyard) – Golden Eagle and Phainopepla.

Ah, living on an urban/wildlife interface is proving to be a wonderful experience.


Another nice Dudleya shot and sunset closed the day!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in Southern California

Yesterday on the Santa Rosa Plateau

Yesterday, Wednesday, May 12, 2010 I was on the plateau a 8:30 am. I tried some new trails on the plateau that appeared to be underused. I hiked more than 3 miles before getting back on one of the main trails where I encountered the first person of the day. Even then, I met only six individuals on the trails during my nearly 4 hour stay on the plateau. The Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) is truly a very special place and I will continue to be one of the plateau’s pupils for quite some time.

I was ready and hoping to capture photographs of some of the SRP wildlife with an emphasis on mammals. But, alas, the only mammals I encountered yesterday were the six homo sapiens  (4  joggers, 2 hikers) that I met along the trails.  It is apparent to me that I need to get to the SRP at sunrise or visit the SRP at dusk in order to have a chance of photographing the SRP mammals. I am fully aware that they are on the plateau and know that as I wander through their territory they are fully aware of my presence, and are probably watching me as well. The other strategy is to just find a location with a good view, be inconspicuous, and wait for the wildlife to come in to view. Surely this is what I will do as soon as I complete my continuing exploration of the SRP. I am still checking out the trails on the SRP. To date, I have hiked only about 15 miles of the 40 miles of trails on the SRP.  

I am finding it interesting that each trail on the 8300 acre reserve of bunchgrass prairie and oak woodlands habitat provides a different view, vista and presentation of this wonderful habitat. For more information regarding this wonderful place please check out: or contact the SRP foundation: 

I was able to photograph a few encounters with wildlife yesterday (click on photo for a larger image).

Photos in order: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Callippe Fritillary butterfly, Western Red-tailed Hawks can be confusing, Beavertail cactus in bloom.
In addition to the birds above the following were also seen: Mallard, White-tailed Kite, California Quail, Mourning Dove, Acorn Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, Western Scrub Jay, Common Raven, American Crow, Violet-green Swallow, Oak Titmouse, House Wren, California Thrasher, European Starling, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark. The Mallard was a female with two ducklings in one of the small riparian pools. I thought to myself that there was little protection from predators and wondered about how large her original clutch might have been.
There are still a few wildflowers in bloom on the plateau including the California Poppy but most have waned and the bunchgrass is now browning up. The cacti are just now coming into bloom. The vernal pools have dried up leaving only the common horsetail (Equisetum arvense)  to define where the vernal pools were.
We feel blessed to have found such a wonderful place to live and enjoy. Each day brings a new adventure and most days close with a beautiful sunset. Yesterday was no exception.
Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in California