9/22/2017 Point Reyes

Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:50 pm
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I left Berkeley at 7 am with U and MF for a long and excellent day at Point Reyes. We stopped briefly at Park Headquarters, where we saw several large coveys of quail, a song sparrow that stumped us because it hadn't gotten its song together properly yet, dark-eyed junco, Brewer's blackbirds, and a bobcat that apparently has been hanging around the picnic area for several days. Kind of worrying for the animal. Next brief stop was where Sir Francis Blvd crosses the northern end of Drake's Estero. There we saw great egret, song sparrow, Savannah sparrow, several red-tails, what were probably a couple of Say's phoebes and heard, off in the distance, greater yellow-legs and clapper/Ridgway's rail. Then it was on to the first really cool spot, the old RCA site, labeled on google maps as the Cypress Tunnel, a long avenue of tall, old cypress trees that leads to a more open area with a few buildings, varied vegetation, and usually fabulous birding. Tragically someone had turned off the water leak and torn out all the vegetation around it that used to be an amazing draw for migrant birds, even a swamp sparrow one winter, but despite this misstep we had a great time there. Four warblers! Birds of the RCA site: )

Next stop was the Fish Docks, where I got a fifth warbler and a few other species. Birds of the Fish Docks: ) Bird of the day was here, a broad-winged hawk on migration.

There were other things up in the cypress but I could not pull them out. And of course we could see, and often hear, the elephant seals hauled out in Drake's Bay. We then went out to the lighthouse, where we saw the local peregrine, some cliff swallows, sundry sea birds (pos Brandt's cormorants) from a great height, and a few humpback whales. It was after 2 pm when we finally ate lunch at Drake's Beach beside a bank of willows from which we heard Bewick's wren, wrentit, song sparrow, California scrub jay, a Steller's jay faking a red-tail badly and, just before we left, presumably from the marsh behind the willows, a Virginia rail. Additional species seen along the road were Canada geese, wild turkey, tri-color and red-winged blackbirds in amongst the dairy herds, a Cooper's hawk, many red-tails, and an American kestrel. Somewhere we heard killdeer. Also saw deer and coyotes, but no elk.

9/21/2017 Nimitz Way

Sep. 21st, 2017 02:45 pm
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I walked out to the Mezue trailhead and back, seven hours, eight-and-a-half or nine miles. Almost like the old days except that carrying bins in my fannypack turned pouch limits the number of layers I can remove and stash. Today it worked well. The weather was perfect, no fog, little wind, yet cool enough that I wasn't miserable in two layers on return. The white-crowned sparrows are back! I saw a couple of juveniles and heard some iffy songs in the open area just north of Conlon, but only on the way back. On the way out I was dawdling to allow a coyote to put some distance between us (this was just after I'd dawdled to allow a cow with calf to do the same - there were a lot of mammals up there today) and noticed an unmistakable, non-native bird: a European goldfinch, presumably an escapee. So I had three kinds of goldfinch today, lesser, American, and one apparently healthy European. For migrants I had one Pacific-slope flycatcher in an sheltered oak at about 3 mi and one black-throated gray warbler in an oak at the top of Laurel Canyon Road. Oh, and my reward for getting all the way out to the trail head was a Say's phoebe at the junction and a large family of coyotes in the near distance. The list may be less fun than the incidentals: )

One other mammal, my first skunk! Way out in the dry grass north of 3 mi, a striped skunk trundled up the slope from the west, crossed the road, and trundled on east through the fence and disappeared. If only I'd had the presence of mind to take video.

9/20/2017 Diablo Foothills State Park

Sep. 20th, 2017 03:02 pm
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
Went out with U, DW, and one other for the first time since early July, starting at 8:30 am. It was overcast with no wind so I went out in a t-shirt, a canvas shirt, and my trusty neckwarmer and was fine. No goddamned warblers nor any migrants save a Pacific-slope flycatcher or possibly two, and here it's the goddamned equinox. Very frustrating. A nice list of residents: )

Experiments in carrying bins )
just_ann_now: (Star Wars: Rey and BB-8)
[personal profile] just_ann_now
Let's just take a minute from fighting with the phone software upgrade (But I don't want to connect to iCloud! I don't want to use Apple Wallet!) to talk about books. Much less stressful.

What I Just Finished Reading

I wanted something quick to read on my Kindle, and so picked up Uncharted Territory, by Connie Willis. This is early Willis, and it's not quite as polished as her more recent work, but it was Spoiler! ) a fun read.

Since I still wanted more quick e-book stuff, I picked up a Star Wars Challenge on Worlds Without End and read Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure and Smuggler's Run: A Han and Chewbacca Adventure, both very light and popcorn-y. And then, because I wasn't quite ready to be done with Star Wars, I read Phasma, by Delilah Dawson, which was NOT light and popcorny. Let's be honest: we know that the only reason we loved Captain Phasma in SF:TWA is that we knew it was Gwendoline Christie under all that shiny metal. How bad could she be?
This Phasma is not that Phasma.
This Phasma is a stone-cold bitch determined to survive and prosper no matter who or what stands in her way, and her origin story is fascinating and horrifying.
This Phasma would have strangled Finn, Han, and Chewie with their own entrails without breaking a sweat.
If this is the Phasma of The Last Jedi, oh wow, we are all in BIG TROUBLE.
And then, when I was temporarily out of Star Wars stuff, I read Reincarnation Blues. I had seen this compared to Good Omens, so I thought, "Great!" The parts that were light and fun were fun, and a quick read, but the darker turns, where the whole reincarnation business isn't working out too well, were QUITE dark, and hard to read. So I'm not sure how I felt about the book overall. (And I don't know why on Earth they asked Robin Hobb and Sherwood Smith to blurb this book, since it's about as far from their stuff as a fantasy can possibly, possibly be.)

Oh, I forgot, I also read Rebel Rising, another Star Wars, this one with Jyn Erso's backstory. If you've seen Rogue One then you know that her story is not one of flowers and dancing unicorns, but the novel was very well written and engaging.

What I Am Currently Reading

Leia, Princess of Alderaan, by Claudia Grey, which is just excellent (as is to be expected from Claudia Grey.) This begins with Leia at sixteen, and I imagine it will end just where Rogue One did. I am looking forward to finishing this later this afternoon.

Autonomous which came out yesterday and which I picked up yesterday (♥ my library system). Just EXCELLENT and something I expect to see on all the awards lists next year. Very topical, fast-paced, engaging characters including one really hilarious bot, original plot.

What I Am Reading Next

Also published yesterday, and picked up yesterday, Null States by Malka Older, political thriller/scifi, the sequel to Infomocracy, which I read last year and liked a lot.

Waiting for me at the FCPL: At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon, which I only just heard about the other day, and didn't expect to get so soon. Look at that cover! Looks like someone's trying to sell it as a cross between "The Man in the High Castle" and "Agent Carter". We shall see!
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
The "Wildcat Peak Trail is closed" signs disappeared a while ago so this morning I went up to see if the trail had really been fixed or just bashed down by foot traffic. But first I was surprised on Upper Packrat Trail by a bicycle coming up behind me. The guy claimed to have come from a trail "up there" and to have seen no signs; I know of no trail "up there" and the ranger I reported it to much later didn't seem to believe the claim, either. I wish I could say I made him turn back, but I think he would have pushed me off the trail had I refused to step aside. So that was a nice start.

Wildcat Peak Trail has indeed been fixed, wider and flatter than before. I guess it was done by a couple of guys with shovels as I cannot imagine how to get any other equipment to the site short of a helicopter. Maybe that's what they did. Anyway, once up that far (the slide site is a lot closer to the top than I recalled, but then I was too freaked to remember clearly) I of course did not turn around (my plan were it not sufficiently fixed) and after briefly contemplating going down Conlon I settled for the connector down to Laurel Canyon Trail and out.

There have been first of season reports for a number of winter species, but I neither heard nor saw any. Wildcat Peak Trail has no hard bits but it's boring and today was no exception. Just the usuals: )

So not an exciting morning, and it produced some un-encouraging empirical data. Stupid back. )

I forgot to say that the weather was perfect, clearing quickly but cool. I went out in two t-shirts and a light flannel, with my neckwarmer to start, and was quite comfortable.
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I got out about sunrise, went to three places, and was home about 11:30, so have three short lists. Point Emery: )

I didn't stay long before heading up the frontage road to what used to be called Berkeley Meadow. I walked east up the Virginia street extension, through the park, out the west gate, and along the fence back to the car. McLaughlin Eastshore State Park: )

There were great reports from Richmond Shoreline yesterday monrning but today it was the least productive. Meeker Slough: )

A day of mysteries.

My timing was terrible in that I was at Richmond Shoreline right around high tide and didn't want to hang around for an hour or more while the tide receded. There was also intense clean-up activity, which is wonderful if only briefly noticeable, given the unimaginable amount of crap that washes continually onto those shores and marshes, so too many people, however good their reason for being there.
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
I drove up through the fog to higher overcast, but the weather rose as well. It looked like this )

There were breaks in the clouds over Contra Costa and thunder to the SSE while I was in the parking lot, but it got worse as I headed north: not much rain but wind so strong I turned back at the first gap in the ridge lest I be blown over. Twenty minutes later I was able to continue and despite not much energy I walked out to 2 mile and back. Lack of birds doesn't help, but it was all made worthwhile just north of the first cattle gate. I was looking for a thrasher calling in a little hollow to the west; I never found it but I did find a wonderful mixed flock: bushtits, several blue-gray gnatcatchers, a Hutton's vireo, two orange-crowned warblers, and a chickadee. This is what we're always hoping for. I wasn't going to bother with a list til that happened: )

Some colorful and varied vegetation at about one and a half mile. )

It was 11 am and I didn't want to go home yet so I spent an hour at the EBRP Botanic Garden. It was still overcast but not cold, or even windy down in the gorge, and I had quite a few birds not encountered up on the ridge. Best was sitting on a bench and listening to purple finches singing and calling just over my head: Another short list: )

My view from the aforesaid bench )

Other taxa: From the Botanic Garden's primary bridge over Wildcat Creek I watched an enormous crayfish slowly but steadily working its way upstream. I've never noticed one there before and saw no other in other parts of the stream. I know they're in Jewel so presumably they're in Anza, but that's still quite a ways downstream. Impressive.
just_ann_now: (Reading: Books and Tea)
[personal profile] just_ann_now
This was a great week for reading, even if not everything I read was that great. But a lot of it was!

What I Just Finished Reading

The Immortal Descendants, Books 1-3 by April White. I feel bad giving only two stars, since this series did provide hours of entertainment, but, yeah, two stars.

Time's Child, by Rebecca Ore. Oh, this could have been so good. The premise was a killer - hearty peasant stock (with a few broad-minded intellectuals thrown in) brought through via time travel to rebuild society following a devastating worldwide plague. The political and social worldbuilding - city states, warring future factions sneakily making the time-travel possible - was really thought provoking. Alas, the narrative was absolutely flat, and the characterization of the time travelers was ridiculous. The whole read more like a clean first-draft of a novel, rather than a finished work. So disappointing.

Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett. Hilarious, and a perfect palate-cleanser after the two previous!

Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey, the sequel to River of Teeth, which I LOVED. At first I thought, "Where are the feral hippos? This is reading like a soap opera." But eventually the hippos showed, and YES. (Also, I never expected to see a case of mastitis as a significant plot detail, so yay for that! Also, ouch. I really felt for Adelia. )

What I Am Currently Reading

Golden Age and Other Stories, by Naomi Novik. This is a very slender book - 177 pages - and illustrated with assorted bits of fanart, some of which inspired the stories herein. They are Temeraire-verse stories ("Now that I'm writing other stuff, let's clear all this dragon stuff off the hard drive. I'm sure somebody will buy it.") but so far, I'm not delighted. *sad*

Dreaming Death, by J. Kathleen Cheney. Secondary-world sort of police-procedural fantasy, very engaging, intriguing characters!

What I Am Reading Next

Not sure! I bought a copy of Good Omens, and won a copy of Reincarnation Blues at our local bookstore, and have a load of things on hold at the library, so I am pretty spoiled for choices right now.

Question of the Day: Weather, weather, weather - how's yours today?

GIVEAWAY!

Sep. 11th, 2017 03:38 pm
mrkinch: albatross soaring (Default)
[personal profile] mrkinch
So I wore the flanged ear plugs on the way to work once and discovered they are useless to me. Returning them is too much trouble (I've given up amazon AGAIN so returning stuff is a pain) and will ship them at once to anyone who wants to try them. Comment and then we can take it to email or whatever for the details. Please take them off my hands!

9/10/2017 Inspiration Trail

Sep. 10th, 2017 09:44 am
mrkinch: Erik holding fieldglasses in "Russia" (binocs)
[personal profile] mrkinch
Took what is becoming my usual Sunday morning walk down Inspiration Trail, this time almost to the not-a-junction with Nimitz Way (blocked by cows). I was only out two hours because by 9 am it was quite warm. Surprise of the day was hearing both acorn woodpecker and white-breasted nuthatch up on the ridge. Not much migration so far: )

On the way out there was a coyote that kept peeking back around the corner at me to see if I was still coming, which I was, though very slowly. I glimpsed it on the way back, too.
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