Friday, August 30, 2013

The Summer Time Blues.....I can't wait much longer..

When you look out our window in the early morning light, looking down on the Oak covered ridge below, every thing is blue. It almost looks like a blue fog, but it is not. It is a heavy blue-grey smoke from the American and Rim forest fires burning for days now. You dare not take a deep breath outside! Little particulates can and will go into your lungs and may never leave. The down-slope air in the morning pushes the smoke down from the fires and when the valley below warms, maybe along with a Delta breeze, the smoke funnels right back up the canyons and over the Sierra. It strangles everything from Auburn on the west, to Reno on the east. What is a guy to do? Stay inside or plan your day to go where the smoke seems thinner? Couple that with the fact that it is August, and we have a case of the Summer Time Blues.

The grass is brown and crisp, the birds are sparse, the fish are down deep in the Sierra lakes and all the frogs have gone too. Where the frogs have gone, nobody knows. They think they all died from a world-wide fungus that is killing amphibians everywhere. Some of the deer are coming at night into our green pasture to feed, but are gone somewhere when the smoke comes. I want to go with them but don't know where to go?

I like every day I wake up breathing and feeling no pain. But now soon after I wake, I try not to breathe and my pain is a longing for that chill that's a coming, with the rain and the wind. And I long for the snow on that high ridge above. I want to breath that cold searing wind and chill-out my face. You see....we have the Summer Time Blues and I can't wait much longer. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

This has been a summer of Wild our house. First it was the Killdeers hatching the four chicks in our neighbor's gravel driveway. 22 days we watched from our lawn chairs on our deck for this to happen. The male and female Killdeer taking turns sitting on the eggs.  Then mama and papa  guarded over the 4 chicks for 24 days in our back pasture...mostly under the Weeping Willow tree, where I had created a mud pond. They finally fledged and never came back. We were happy at first, and then sad. Did they not know this was their home?
Then the Red Shouldered hawks moved in. For three weeks the female started screaming at daylight and then continued almost every hour. She sat on the gates, in most of our trees, and the front lawn, for days on end. She pulled huge red worms out of the lawn after it was watered, and sat waiting for the water to shut off so she could feed again. She killed our King Snake that lived in the back garden. She sat in the pasture and ripped it apart, a feast she surely enjoyed.  She allowed me to approach within 20 feet or so. She had found a home I thought! The male would stop by from time to time...but like many males I have know, he was inclined to wander. She did not care it seemed. She had us with our big cameras and lenses clicking away. We deleted almost 300 exposures and still had many left for our use.

What a wonderful summer with our wild, wild, visitors.  The female hawk sat one last time on a low limb of one of our Maple trees in the front yard. Without a sound, she just up and flew away. We are sad for the moment. And then we feel really good. Maybe next July, when the pears ripen in our yard and the lawn is green, and the red worms are crawling about.  We will have the dripping hose under the Weeping Willow, to make that soft and oozy mud.We will be waiting in our lawn chairs with our cameras and glasses. Will the wild ones visit us again?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A SECRET PLACE.......A hidden meadow along a remote back 5300 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Where on the 1st of July each year we can find hundreds of wild Leopard Lilies. But not this year. The normally wet meadow, spring fed, was dry and crisp. Three small lilies hung brown and limp. The victims of our very dry winter. What about the butterflies, bees and birds that make this place their summer home? In all our years of visiting this sacred place we had never seen such a disaster.We looked under the tree root where a Junco always builds a nest. Nothing. We pack all our camera gear back to our car, thru the thick growth of trees which hide this place. We follow down the series of normally wet meadows to where the forest is thick and covers the small almost dry creek. Hiking thru the forest to the creek, with some water now, we find a thick grove of lilies. Some survive! There is hope for the future of our hidden meadow. All we need is rain. Now if we can survive too?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

THE SANDHILLS ARE BACK !!!   "What ever happened to Summer"  Shirley asked when the temperature dropped to 35 degrees just north of Truckee yesterday. It was August 2 and we expected it to be in the low '90s later in Auburn where we live. We really thought we had missed a month somewhere when we rolled into Sierra Valley and saw more than 50 Sandhill Cranes feeding and resting in a large brown field along Harriet road. We could not believe our eyes! The Sandhills showed up one month early last year but that was the first part of September. We were really checking on some nesting Cranes in the north end of the valley to see if the parents and perhaps a fledged bird might be seen, like we saw last year about this time. Boy were we off on our timing this year. The marshes were all dry, the Feather River was muddy from cattle and more than a hundred steers were all bunched up in a corral waiting for their last ride to McDonald's. Had we forgotten that there was little water left in the valley after one of the driest winters on record? What about the thunder storm a couple of weeks ago that caused a flood throughout the valley. The water was really gone. We did photograph a pair of Wilson's Snipe, some 1/2 grown Coots, a hawk or two, some just fledged "dicky birds" but the big news was the cranes are back. I wonder if we need new parkas for this winter?