Friday, June 11, 2010

last and signs

Back to the stream side...

Bernie trying to tempt fish...

He's as happy as can be.

But no fish are biting here either so we move on.

Jill: Wait a minute! Did you see that?

Bernie: We can't pull over on the freeway. I'll swing around to the other side of the lake (which is where this picture was taken.)

Could it be?

Sure looks like a bald eagle.

OK...I'm going to say it IS a bald eagle unless someone else has another idea.
Or a more powerful zoom on their camera.

(Well, actually it isn't. Bald eagles don't have white stomachs. Maybe it is a hawk?


(Vicki at Wordsandcats identified it for me. It is an osprey! I can't wait to go back for another look and to see if I can video it fishing with its talons!)

On to yet another part of the river.

While Bernie is happily fishing here, I am back to looking for nests.
There's one....

There's another one.

I scan the tree tops.

Nothing here.

Hmmm...nope, nothing here....

Whole lotta o'nada.


I got it!!! I got a picture of a yellow warbler NEXT to it's nest!

Happy dance...happy dance...happy...oh wait.

(I look down and notice that my pant legs are ENTIRELY covered with enormous angry ants. By enormous I mean the ants are about a third of an inch long. And they are moving fast. I begin a new kind of dance: a shoeplattler, where I slap my feet and legs and every part of my body that I now realize has ants crawling and biting. My arms, my neck, and OH NO! The ants are up inside my pants!

Trying to get away from the ant's nest, I try climbing on rocks and fallen trees. It only takes a few moments to realize that where I am standing is in a huge field of ants. There is no escape to be found!

Still slapping and stomping, I race back to the car. Thankfully the doors are not locked. I put my backside into the front passenger seat, put my feet up on the dash and start rolling up my pant legs. Ants are all over my calves...and I suddenly realize that they are now past my thighs and inside my underwear!

Forget rolling up my pant legs! Lifting my hips up, I arch and pull down my pants to ankle level, mindful that the freeway is overhead and that there is another car parked about a block ahead of our car.

I scrunch down as low as possible in the car seat while I pull out the top of my underwear and begin picking ants out of, uh, let's just say "delicate spaces". I can feel ants crawling up my torso as well, but right now I just want kill those perverted ants.

It was at that point that Bernie came strolling back up to the car.

You are welcome to imagine him holding his fishing rod, wearing his fishing vest and hip boot, catching sight of me squirming with my pants around my ankles, shoes on the dashboard and me digging around in my undies with my tee shirt pushed up to just below my bra.

Oh yeah. What a sight. I really don't know what he thought I was doing, but he did manage to ask if I was OK.

I yelled that I had ants EVERYWHERE on me.

He advised me that I should be outside the car as otherwise the ants would get into the car.

Right. I'd be doing what I was doing on the side of the road. That would have stopped traffic for sure!

He suggested I could have stood between the open front and back door.

I suggested that I JUST WANTED THE ANTS OFF ME and didn't think of his idea.

Eventually I got the ants killed. My skin has been crawling with ant bites since Sunday afternoon.

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.)

As I continued to squirm and find random ant escapees, Bernie drove us home.
We did stop for a moment to get a picture of the pretty swallows.
Love those tail feathers!

I ain't no spring we didn't stop.

We did go down Funny Avenue this trip.

Eventually this adventure will be shared between us as we take strolls down memory lane.

I love going down Memory Lane. Don't you?

Of course there are other folks who prefer to just walk down....

(Yes, there was a T at the end of that word. It is in the shade.)
And so that was the end of our Sunday afternoon adventure.
And that, my friends, is no bull!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Utah Adventure part 4: Who knew the Devil even had a slide?

Just driving around the back country is plenty of fun with my hubby and my camera by my side.

The road winds through the hills and scenes like this one delight me.

Vermillion red train rolling along beneath a vivid blue sky...

Curious formations that remind me of an elephant nuzzling her calf with a strange squid like creature behind her.

(Some people look for shapes in clouds, others of us look for shapes in the rocks!)

Then there are other forms that don't really don't suggest anything to me.
Maybe the thing on the far right has an old franklin stove shape?
I know almost nothing about geology.
I have not a clue why these shapes are perched atop the smooth mountainside.

At one point along the road side we saw a sign telling us that the Devil's Slide Look-out point was just ahead.
Not sure what that would mean, we pulled over and saw the above rock formation.

Strange, isn't it?

The center was quite slide-like smooth.

It is really big...

and my mind kept saying this had to be man made.

Man had nothing to do with it.

Totally a Creator thing.

Seeing the Devil's side made me curious enough to want a learn a bit about geology:

The sides of the slide are hard, weather-resistant limestone layers about 40 feet high, 25 feet apart, and several hundred feet in length. In between these two hard layers is a shaly limestone that is slightly different in composition from the outer limestone layers.

This middle layer is softer, which makes it more susceptible to weathering and erosion, thus forming the chute of the slide.

This site is a tilted remnant of sediments deposited in a sea that occupied Utah’s distant geologic past. Approximately 170 to 180 million years ago, a shallow sea originating from the north spread south and east over areas of what are now Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. This sea extended as far east as the present-day Colorado River and south into northern Arizona.

Over millions of years, massive amounts of sediment accumulated and eventually formed layers of limestone and sandstone. In northern Utah, these rocks are known as the Twin Creek Formation and are approximately 2700 feet thick.

About 75 million years ago, folding and faulting during a mountain- building episode tilted the Twin Creek rock layers to a near-vertical position. Subsequent erosion has exposed the near-vertical rock layers and created Devils Slide.

I'm not convinced that the site got the number of years right, but it does explain why there are so many rock structures that are at 45 degree angles from the ground.

And why there are seashells embedded in the rock!

Our next stop was made because I was intriged by this rock wall.
I am shooting the picture standing straight.
The lines are almost 90 degrees up from the ground.
I can't imagine how it must have been for the mountain to lift from the ground that much...
The sound of that earth movement must have been deafening.
Very tough trees grow in the solid rock.
How do they do that: cling and grow at that angle?
My bonsai loving man commented that that particular tree specimen actually thrives in the tough growing conditions.
He told me that if the tree was transplanted to rich loamy soil it would die.
Now there's something to remember to think about when things get tough.
I'll let you ponder about that until tomorrow...when the Utah adventure continues!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Another Utah Adventure part 3: A Scoop, A Pod, A Field, A Sea...

I did mention that the Weber River was running high didn't I? The hot weather was melting the mountain snow pack very suddenly. As Bernie tried driving to another fishing location, we passed this scene.

Pretty huh?

And how about this: Those white spots in the first picture were pelicans!

And those are fence posts behind those pelicans!

The pelicans are bobbing along in the middle of a farmer's flooded pasture!

Aww...look how happy they look in their (chose one collective noun: pod, brief, scoop, pouch, squadron)..

Ducks, geese, sea gulls AND pelicans had settled into their newly created "seaside" abode.

There were even Canada geese, but you can see them practically everywhere. Any day now I expect to find a Canada goose sitting next to me at church, or rolling a shopping cart through Costco.

I wouldn't bat an eye if I did.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the pelicans.

My friend Sara sent me an article that explained what was going on here:
In Utah, the only known breeding colonies of the American white pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, are located in the northern portions of the state, specifically within the Utah Lake/Great Salt Lake ecological complex.
During spring migration, the breeding season, and fall staging and migration periods, American white pelicans can be observed at many reservoirs (and apparently flooded fields) throughout the state.
American white pelicans are highly social. Nesting in colonies, using cooperative flight and foraging strategies, pelicans are among the most gregarious of avian species. These birds are often observed sleeping, roosting, and sun bathing together.
They are monogamous.
They are social and monogamous?
Isn't that nice?
How romantic!
Perhaps we should put pelican pictures on our Valentine's Day cards?
Or start the tradition of releasing pelicans at wedding?
(You know they can hold three gallons of fluid in their pouches. Maybe they should be the symbol of fraternity parties instead?)
I got a kick out of their "call"...if tolerating a snoring spouse is sometimes part of marriage, imagine having THIS be the sound of your mate talking to you.
Or imagine what it would be like to having a couple of pelican taking up residency in your back yard, like happened to these folk who owned the field.
If your think calling robins or mockingbirds are annoying, perhaps you should think again.
Anyway, seeing the pelicans "out to pasture" answered my question about why the pelicans were flying over my head earlier.
Tomorrow: The Adventure Geologic wonders!
Take a good look at the pictures on this post again. See that rocky crest rising at a 45 degree angle?
That is just a taste of the kind of things we saw next on our adventure.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Another Utah Adventure part 2: That nesting instinct

While Bernie was fussing around with his fishing gear, I headed along the river, looking for flowers and listening to bird calls. Ahead was a meadow surrounded by several varieties of trees; I figured there was bound to be some good birding and flower-ing to do there.

Silly me...I had forgotten my pocket "Wild Flowers of Utah" guide.

Pretty little flowers; each one seemed to be at a different coloration phase. How cool!

I knew the name of this plant: Horse Tail Fern.
As a child I delighted in pulling the whip like plant's sections apart and then popping them back together. A fun primitive and organic form of legos.
My best friend's mother had them growing around a garden fountain; I wonder how Mrs. Beach felt about that little game being played with her exotic water plants.
Here's a factoid about Horsetail fern to justify your blogging time:
Equisetum hyemale: 'Horsetail Fern'
The Horsetails belong to a class of their own, the Equisetacae, that has no direct affinity with any other group of plants. They are nearest allied to the Ferns. They are fern-like in function but not fern-like in shape. The class includes only a single genus, Equisetum, the name derived from the Latin words equus (a horse) and seta (a bristle), from the peculiar bristly appearance of the jointed stems of the plants.
Huh. How about that?
I always wondered why they were called horse tail when they didn't look horse's tail like at all.

Now I swear this looks exactly like lupin except it is yellow instead of blue. The leaves are not shaped lupin-like thought.

Maybe God just thought it would be nice to have yellow lupin-like flowers too.

Within the tree circled meadow the air was scented with a fragrance like honeysuckle, lily, and a harsh rank smell combination. I soon figured out that the sweet scent was coming from the yellow vine climbing through a white blossomed tree.

Hum...seems we have a bit of a yellow theme going here today.

The rank scent came from these pretty white blossoms.
There was a skunk scent too; I made sure I kept my eyes open for a wandering skunk or two.
They aren't supposed to be out and about during the daytime, but who knows. I sure didn't want any surprise confrontations with a stripey critter.

Just beneath the drip line of one tree was this Georgeanna O'Keeffe like still life composed of rock and a white sheep's skull. Why would just the skull remain on a rock? Was someone being artsy with a sheep's remains? take a close look at this tree.

You are looking for the bird...a tiny yellow bird to be exact.

See it? Maybe you can hear it better. Listen closely, the bird is singing like this:

Sweet sweet sweet...sweeter than sweet....sweet sweet sweet...I'm so sweet....

And there it is! Or at least a glimpse of the tiny Yellow Warbler!

Can you see the rusty marking on it's chest? That means it is a male.

Here's your factoid:

The scientific name is Dendroica petechia; the first part meaning "tree lover". Petechia is a commonly used medical term referring to reddish or purplish spots on the body, typically caused by minor hemorrhaging of capillary blood vessels. I guess the Yellow Warbler reminded Linnaeus of this malady when he named the critter back in 1766.

(this from an Ohio bird loving blogger)

Dang that little bird is tough to photograph! Every time I spot one, it zips away through the air, after teasing me with it's gorgeous song which you can listen to HERE.

I decided to try to follow one bird inside a tree's canopy. I pushed my way in between the thick branches and looking up I saw this:

Gob smacked! I was so stunned to see such a beautiful nest!

It was about the size of a soft ball, and completely covered with a soft looking plant down or perhaps spider web, very tidy and tightly woven. I was impressed!

Not wanting to disturb the scene I took my pictures and moved on.

The ground beneath me was covered with a plant that looked vaguely like bamboo.
The tiny flowers smelled quite sweet. Nice and all...but frankly now I was hooked on looking for birds nest!
Once I started looking, I saw bird's nests EVERYWHERE!





Six.. (and extra points for the graceful flowering sprig as a view, and reddish bark for surrounding color. Obviously this bird is the Martha Stewart of the Bird World.)

Now picture me poking about all the trees, still hearing woodland bird calls all around me.

I hear red wing black birds trilling, humming birds whirling (and I am so hoping I will see a hummer's nest), sweet-sweet calls, bunting calls, and the robin's bark like call.

Then suddenly:



How weird it that. We are no where close to the ocean. Yet...those birds are definitely pelicans. They swirled about over head, swooping low to look at me and then headed east.

What the heck were they doing out here in the mountains and meadow scene?

(Dang...I almost got a good picture of another yellow warbler...almost, but not quite.)

I was impressed with this deep nest.

I want to think it is a weaver nest, but I am not sure.

Hey Dad...Any guesses?

(My dad minored in Ornithology in college. He knows his bird and bird nests when he sees them!)

I almost got a good shot of the gorgous red wing blackbird that had been calling. Usually I have seen them hanging around as a cloud (cloud being one of the collective nouns for describing red wings. Another noun is a merl).

They have such a memorable call: O-Kaay-LEEEEE or Konk-a-REEE!

(Listen to the call HERE)

Red wing black birds with their red and yellow shoulder patch make regular blackbird seem boring.

Eventually I headed back toward the river. A very nice horse came up to inspect me, posing with the yellow lupin at her hooves.

Bernie was finished with his fishing attempts at this location: the Weber River was running very high and very fast. No fish were biting; it was time to try another location.
That was OK with me. I showed Bernie my "catches"; I was very excited about getting a picture of a yellow warbler's nest. He was excited too!

To be continued....