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Archive for April, 2010

I went out on my first 50+ Hikers’ hike for 2010. It was pouring rain in Vancouver and Portland but got steadily dryer as we drove East. Our first hike was Hood River Mountain – just past Hood River, Oregon.

Just across from the trail head was this gate. I think this could be called a chain of locks.

Here’s the topo of the trail:

As hikes go, this was an easy one — only 3 miles RT and a mere 600 ft elevation. As the map shows, the elevation gain was initially steep but it leveled off to a very pleasant ‘table’ with sweeping views of agricultural fields and orchards.

The spring wild flowers were just coming on. The most notable of which were the Balsamroot:

Lupine vegetation was lush but not quite blooming yet. Here’s the Indian Paintbrush :

We also saw Larkspur, Glacier and Fawn Lilli’s, Brodiaea hyacinthina, Service Berry, Big-Head Clover, Fiddlenecks and lots, lots more.

Here’s a field of Butter Cups seen on our down-hill return:

After lunch we took a second jaunt at the Rowena Plateau — a square mile nature preserve on the bluffs overlooking the Columbia River. Again, fields of wild flowers and sweeping views.

Just below this cliff we spied this very healthy looking coyote.

And last, but not least was the ice cream stop at Route 30 Cafe in Mosier, where Umpqua ice cream was served. Here’s the big picture:

See: Grant’s Getaways – Rowena Crest Wildflowers from Travel Oregon on Vimeo.

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Chickadee Birdhouse

I’ve had my birdhouse(s) for nearly two years. Last year House Sparrows robbed / invaded the Chickadees’ nest. I installed predator guards to make the entrance small enough to thwart them.

A month ago a female House Sparrow returned and spent several hours trying to get into the birdhouse. I was painting a bedroom and so was able to observe her. She squeezed and squeezed but just couldn’t fit through the opening. She cried out her dismay, but never returned.

Here’s a photo from last week when a pair of Chickadees were checking things out. The predator guard is the little wooden protrusion the Chickadee is perched on in this photo. All it does is reduce the opening to 1 1/8″ diameter.

The other thing I learned in my reading is that the birdhouses should be placed away from the feeding area. I placed two birdhouses on the West side of the house — whereas the feeding area is (or has been) on the East side.

Here’s the male (I suspect) returning to feed what I hope is the roosting female.

I placed cedar wood shavings in the box. The bird that stays in the box has been making considerable knocking sounds. So either she’s arranging the cedar shavings or trying to make more. They’ve subsided lately.

I’ve seen one bird at a time (or only the male?) coming and going quite regularly — which makes me suspect that the female might be roosting eggs. The arriving bird always announces its arrival with calls. I’ve been careful to keep a respectful distance and not disrupt their sense of safety.

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Trial and Error

This is the first time I’ve grown tulips in the ground  …  from the raw bulbs in fall in the cold earth. I’m tickled with my haphazard success. I lost about half of what I planted out of ignorance. I now know bulbs are typically planted at a depth of about 3 times their size. (I thought the label said 9″ deep, whereas 6″ – 8″ would have sufficed.)

The deep purple tulips that were to accompany this ensemble never made it.

Photographing these little suckers is another matter entirely! My camera has a hard time deciphering just exactly what it is I want to focus on. The preview screen is really very poor for manual focus. (I use a Canon S5IS.) And then there is the question of all that overhead light.

Dewy mornings mitigate some of these issues — although the top of this tulip is still awash with too much light on top.

Oh, and did I mention backgrounds? I haven’t mastered the art of clipping masks in Photoshop. Moldy trellises and drab pavement are hard to overcome.

When all else fails I let loose and swing the dials in Photoshop to salvage what little I can from my efforts or block out a scuzzy background.

Okay, that’s too much. Here’s another try…

My neighbors have gotten used to the crazy lady who’s out in her yard at all hours in her bathrobe or otherwise hunched over her flowers. A better camera and lens might help my photos … but not my image. 😉

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Mammas and Papas

I installed my Orchard Mason bee house right off my back porch, about 4 feet above ground … for easy observation. These are docile bees. They’re solitary and don’t have a queen or hive to defend. While they don’t  have the range of the honey bee — bee for bee, they are far superior pollinators.

I’ve read that the males only live a few days but I’ve seen male bees at the entrance of the tubes for at least 6 weeks. I have no idea just how they mate but the males have been hanging out at the tube entrances for several weeks now.

Thanks to Seabrooke Leckie’s post I know they’re males because of the prominent yellow “nose-fluff”.

In contrast, the females are larger and have far less fluff. I can’t say that she’s much to look at.

PS — no more males are seen these days. Once their “job” is done, their raison d’etre is fini … and they die.

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Mendocino redux

It’s been soggy these past few days. Not a good time to take pictures. That is unless dew-studded tulips are your target. (I got about 50% of what I planted — mostly due to my own ignorance of tulip needs.)

The following are a few bits and pieces from my recent trip to the Mendocino coast. First off, this heart-shaped rain puddle on the Mendocino bluffs.

Oh yes, we had 2 days of sunshine sandwiched in between drizzle. Another favorite is a new installation of tanks by 76 gas on the north end of Fort Bragg. My friend Rita and I had fun taking pictures when they were new a few years ago.

Here they are new in 2007:

Here they are today — 3 years later:

They’re still lovely shapes to me:

On the same walk (led by Ron) that passed by these beauties, was this lovely fence shadow … a blatant imitation of Ron’s recent post.

And another shot I took in the Point Richmond Ferry Tunnel to capture that yellow glow of Sodium Vapor lighting.

But I digress. Mendocino is a fabulous place to visit … and even live. We got lots of “sparkle therapy” and good times with good friends.

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Of Weeds and Roads

There’s a certain intimacy in walking. You notice things that have been there all along like some secret. Like the sound of a tree falling in a forest when nobody’s there. You come upon things just merrily thriving in spite of, or perhaps because of their obscurity.

I came across these weeds on a walk in Point Richmond on holiday over the weekend. I couldn’t help but think of nature in a battle with man’s stamp on the world. It is easy to imagine how quickly our “stamp” would be absorbed.

Today I walked to the auto repair shop to pick up my car. My walk took me over Interstate 205. I was going to title this “life on the interstate” … it could have been a Japanese garden — it was so rich and varied.

It was unexpected and gave me a thrill. But then again, the sun was shining after a long wet spell … so I was easy to please. Even the marquee against the sky was lovely.

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