Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Blossoms and Mushrooms

I know it’s not spring, but there’s a tree in the park that burst into bloom yesterday! Granted, the weather has been wonderful, but this tree is a bit early.  The other trees are still dressed for winter, as they should be.

As you can see the blossoms are beautiful and they are a welcome treat, as there are not many flowers blooming this time of year.

On the other hand, there are mushrooms. They seem to indicate that it’s damp and gray, unlike the blossoms, but who knows what Mother Nature is up to.

The early morning bird watch has not yielded any big birds. This morning I saw a blue bird, and it actually sat still long enough for me to get a picture of it.

I also saw a quail, but trying to capture a close up of a quail is next to impossible. They move so quickly and I need a steady hand. I’m happy to see quails from afar!

One more day of "Life in the Slow Lane."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Up Close Close Ups

It was the day to test my ability to take close ups. I started with easy items, car logos. It’s not often I see an Alfa, but the rest are pretty common. 

After the logos, I started with my There’s not too much blooming this time of year, but I found these:

I even captured a bee. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jays, Squirrels and Vultures

For the first time this winter, I did not have to bundle up to take my morning walk. It was warm. The sun was shining on the lake. I loved the sparkles on the water.

The sun came up quickly! As I looked up at a “bald” oak tree, there were 3 vultures with their wings spread wide catching the morning rays. As they looked down on me I wanted to tell them that I was still alive, while I was standing as still as possible in order to capture them on my camera.

After the vultures, I was ready for anything. A jay jumped on a fence and posed for me.

That’s when I heard the scold of a squirrel who was hiding in a tree hole. Can you see him? He matches the tree well.

At the lake, Harvey, the goose was taking a bath.

This is life in the slow lane.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Camera musings

As you might know, I now have a DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 60D. It’s a REAL camera with inter-changeable lenses and more bells and whistles than you can imagine. I bought “A Field Guide to the 60D” this weekend. After reading the first 2 chapters, I was on information overload. This camera will do just about everything but the dishes! I am now only reading a few pages at a time, and then testing everything out on the camera as I read. At this rate, I should be finished with the book sometime in December!

Every day I take the camera for a walk in an effort to capture pictures with that illusive morning light. Sometimes I’m really successful, other times, not. The other morning the sky over the marina was outstanding. Not really blue, not really silver...somewhere in between. Then there were all the streaks in the sky, and the glow on water which made for an interesting image, and something that can only be captured in the morning.

From landscape to closeup...there’s nothing better than looking at a pretty duck. This female mallard is not as splashy as her mate, but she has a pretty blue stripe that he does not have. And, for some reason, I think she has a gentle eye!

Keep watching this space...someday I’ll get something really amazing and wonderful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


There are other things to do than take pictures every day. Sometimes we read. The local library is a sweet Mission-style Spanish structure located in Solvang. Not only does it have a good collection of fiction, it has a DVD library, an interesting lecture series, convenient parking, and free wifi (a little known secret--many public libraries have free wifi). It's a great place to hang out for an hour or two...and over the years we have become friendly with the staff who know us when we show up at the beginning of our snowbird season.

Last week I checked out 2 books: Spider Bones, by Kathy Reichs and the 9th Judgment by James Patterson. Both were good "popcorn" reads. Not heavy not complex, just right for an afternoon read. If you like mysteries, and have a few hours set aside, I recommend both books.

Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are one of the easier critters to see in the Park. These little guys are everywhere. They could probably give Xerox a lesson or two on how to make copies faster (and better too).
I think they are cute. I know they are pests. But, it’s great fun to see these little athletes chase each other up and down the trees and into their burrows.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spanish Moss

Do you know what Spanish Moss is? It’s that stuff you see hanging on trees in the south. Look at the cover of a piece of “bodice ripper romance fiction” that has a Tara-like plantation in the background with a tree-lined look at the trees, and you will see wispy gray-green garlands draping the trees. That gray-green garland is Spanish Moss.

So you might ask, what’s the big deal? Generally, Spanish Moss is found in the southern USA where it is hot and humid. Right now, I’m not in the southern USA and it is not hot nor humid. For some strange reason (unknown to me) it is happily growing in southern California. Maybe it does not know it’s geography well. In addition, some folklore says it only grows where the air is clean. We are in southern CA, which is not particularly known for its clean air.

Anyway, there’s a lot of Spanish Moss in this neck of the woods. It’s kind of pretty. It is not a moss, nor is it a lichen. It’s an epiphyte of the bromeliad family, therefore it is related to the pineapple.

Sometimes, Spanish Moss is called “Old Man’s Beard” but these are two separate organisms. OMB is a lichen, and a bit fluffier than SM.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vulture in the Morning

I finally saw a big bird on my morning walk. I was hoping to see a hawk or osprey, instead I saw a vulture. At first I did not recognize the lump at the top of the tree to be a bird at all, as it was all puffed up and shaggy, but as I looked more closely, I could see that the shagginess was moving ever so slightly. I was sneaking up on a sleeping vulture. That’s good...a sleeping vulture is slow. I whipped out my camera and started taking pictures of him.

Somewhere along the way he sensed that I was there and before I knew it, he opened his wings and was gone. I was able to get 16 pictures of him...and a few came out well.

 Next stop was the marina to look for ducks. The ducks here never leave the park. They know they have it good, so why leave. They are also somewhat slow.
 The ducks I focused on today are 3 Muscovy ducks, which are pretty exotic looking birds.
 They have a very distinctive red head, and the male has a really bumpy beak.
They are pretty tame, so I could walk right up to them and take their portrait. I don’t think there were any male ducks in this group as none of the beaks were bumpy enough. I wonder what I will see tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Morning Walk

I try to take a walk every morning. Recently, I’ve been getting up early in order to see the birds, and maybe capture them in a picture or two. They are all fast, and I’m slow, so I do not have much progress to report. Today I thought I might as well take a picture of a dumpster, as it’s slower than me!

The other morning I saw a bunch of acorn woodpeckers hammering away on one of the huge white oaks that grow here. The problem was getting close enough to see them and then taking a picture. If I got too close, they flew away. When I was farther away from them, I could not get the details I was looking for. One of my friends says I need another lens, but I will stick with this one for awhile, as there’s so much to learn on this new camera.

This morning I saw a huge covey of quail. While these birds do not fly away, they walk away...or should I say run away. I saw them, took a couple of pictures and then they just fled into the surrounding brush never to be seen again. There’s no way a person can escape that quickly.

What I am liking most is the beautiful scenery around the Lake. The place is not developed. There are not any houses or shopping centers or for that matter, people. It’s quiet and serene. It might even look like it did 50 or 100 years ago. That’s pretty special.