Wednesday, 21 May 2014

03:19 pm - Going west
Long time since I've posted here. I love Spring and I've spent a lot of time tromping around enjoying nature.

Friday I fly to Tucson to participate in a group nature trip to experience the wonders of southeastern Arizona, especially the birds but also other fauna as well as flora and landscape. This will be the 8th such organized trip I've taken. I guess I'm hooked. Spectacular nature in the company of like-minded people to places I've not been before with someone else handling the logistics. And our leaders are terrific guides.

Here are a couple of bird photos from local walks:
Male wood duck

Common merganser with a dozen little ones

The merganser was really special. I wish it were a better photo.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

11:44 am - It is indeed snowing today
Maybe this is really the last gasp of winter--it's been snowing gently all morning. The temperature is just above freezing so it's not accumulating on the pavement but there's a fluffy inch on other things.

I'm happy because this morning I finally got around to doing my federal and DC income taxes. Both completed online and e-filed at no cost to me.

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Monday, 24 March 2014

07:32 am - Glimpses of Spring
The Cherry Blossom Festival is underway in Washington DC but the cherry blossoms have been delayed by lingering winter. Snow is predicted for tomorrow. After days of being pinned at home by necessity I did nature walks Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday at Carderock I spotted two barred owls roosting in a tree near the parking lot where the group was meeting for a tree id walk. We also saw eagles on their nest.

But there was a real sign of Spring: lovely spring beauty wildflowers in one spot.

Sunday on a bird walk along the Potomac and through the Dyke Marsh wildfile refuge, I saw my first phoebe of the season. A definite harbinger of the return of birds from their winter homes.

The osprey couple that nests at the marina is back from tropics. Their nesting platform is now tilting severely, probably from ice pressure over the winter, but they proceeded to rebuild their nest anyway. Here are photos--

Osprey nest

Osprey nest

Fingers crossed that it will hold.

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

09:45 am - A walk in the snow
Suffering from cabin fever I decided to go for a walk Sunday morning on the canal towpath. We'd had about 8-10 inches of snow a few days before which was followed by rain and some above freezing temperatures. I didn't expect the walking to be easy, but there was a tromped-down path about a foot wide through the hard-crusted snow (probably thanks to cross-country skiers). I walked slowly and carefully. My metal-tipped hiking staff helped me keep my balance on the bits where there was lumpy ice underfoot.

Snowy towpath

The effort was worth it. Sunny. Quiet. Beautiful. I identified about 18 species of birds. I walked about a mile from Carderock to just above the Marsden footbridge where my reward was the sighting of a barred owl in the same place we saw it last month.

Barred Owl

This red-shouldered hawk may be the same one spotted on our January walk.

Red shouldered hawk

For the first 45 minutes of my walk (I started at 9am) I had the towpath to myself. Then I begin to meet a few others: 4 cross-country skiers, 8 other walkers, 3 dogs, and 2 bicyclists (!). We exchanged greetings and pleasantries.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

10:36 am - South Florida was wonderful
I got home from my trip Sunday. We picked a good time to fly south. We had temps in the high 70s while the folks at home were suffering from frigid weather.

As a group (ten participants and three leaders) we saw about 130 species of birds and learned a lot about the native vegetation and ecology. The Everglades is a landscape that's very strange to me--flat and serene sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps, and hammock islands. The profusion of wading birds was particularly striking: many kinds of egrets, ibis, and herons. And of course there were alligators everywhere but we also saw crocodiles at Florida Bay. Manatees were special, too. Here are a few photos:

Of course, one of my favorites was the burrowing owl on Marco Island that lived beside a medical office.

burrowing owl

Here's the obligatory alligator:


An anhinga shows its lovely patterning:


A few more photos are behind the cut.

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The Everglades is suffering from human interference with the natural sheet flow of water southward into it because of the canalization and drainage for agriculatural purposes. There are some efforts underway to mitigate the problem in places but anything large scale would need to take on the highly-subsidized and powerful sugar industry.

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Friday, 24 January 2014

07:55 am
Happy Birthday la_penguinita!!!

May the coming year bring good things.

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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

05:54 pm - A winter day
Winter in Washington can be peculiar. Yesterday temps were in the mid-50s. Today it's been snowing all day with a steady drop in temperature to the mid-20s. It's on the way to the single digits overnight. High winds expected. The snow accumulation will probably be less than 5 inches here in town.

This morning, as condo president, I had to deal with the plumber who takes care of our hot water heating system. Our 4-story, 8-unit building is 105 years old with mysterious ways and we've had a problem with the top floor radiators going cold. He added water and this time upped the pressure so the top-floor residents should be OK during the coming extreme cold. Fingers crossed that it doesn't fall over again.

I've been making lists and sorting through STUFF in preparation for leaving Winter behind for 10 days. I'm flying to West Palm Beach Friday to join a group of nature-lovers intent on exploring the wonders of south Florida. I'm looking forward muchly to my first visit to the Everglades.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

02:28 pm - cute stuff
Yesterday I stopped by the National Zoo to see Bao Bao, the 4-month old panda cub. This week members of FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) have the opportunity to visit Bao Bao before the general public viewing begins on 18 January. On my way to the panda house in the morning I had great views of the fishing cats, asian otters, and red pandas. Unfortunately the cub was napping out of sight when I got there and I decided to come back at 1:30 when we were told that the keepers would bring Bao Bao out for a training session. I'm glad I came back--Bao Bao was adorable and she stayed in view for a half hour before returning to her napping spot. She sleeps about 20 hours a day.

My camera didn't cope well with the lighting and glass enclosure.


She's an 18 pound ball of fluffiness. Good pictures here.

Last Wednesday I did a nature walk with the Audubon Naturalist Society. It was cold but nothing compared to the day before. We were all dressed for a polar expedition. It was sunny and calm so we weren't cold at all.

This red-shouldered hawk was all puffed up against the cold:

Red-shouldered hawk

The hawk flew to another tree:

Red-shouldered hawk

The highlight of the day was seeing this barred owl, soaking up the sun from a tree cavity:


Owls are rarely seen and there's something so special about them.

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Saturday, 21 December 2013

07:21 am - First day of Winter
The weather is quite mild today--not wintry at all but that's fine with me. I fly to Michigan tomorrow where winter is real. Today I'll be puttering around preparing for my trip and giving the cats extra scritches.

Yesterday morning I walked along the C&O canal. Four miles, four hours. I walked alone because my usual companion on these Friday walks couldn't come and the other occasional walker broke her leg two weeks ago. (Rotten luck. Homes are dangerous places. Be careful).

I found intense quiet joy moving at my own slow pace, concentrating on the sights and sounds of the winter woods. I saw and identified 21 species of birds. I'm pleased that I'm beginning to recognize the usual suspects. Usually I'm out with people who are better birders and I rely on their ID.

I had good long looks at a couple of favorite birds: the tiny elusive winter wren and the big spectacular pileated woodpecker.

Holiday best wishes to all of you.

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Monday, 16 December 2013

06:03 am
Happy Birthday pperiwinkle!!!

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