Spring Returns – Day Six

Spring had arrived (officially, Wednesday, the day after my birthday), at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More heavy rain, thunderstorms, chilly temps rolled in mid-week, with more coming this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice and warm, I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera – and apparently got enough pictures to fill up almost a whole week of posts! (I think this is the last of them.)

With the warmth, out came a couple of the Freds. I saw the Tree Fred from the kitchen, but he had boogied for cover by the time I went out. However, this guy was soaking up the rays on the sidewalk.

These guys won’t let me get anywhere near them, unlike the ones at the old house. Not a big enough sample size to know if it’s nature or nurture – are those pinhead-sized brains capable of learning that I’m harmless and enjoy looking at them, or are these guys just more skittish?

Yeah, sneaking up behind me isn’t going to work either. This was the point where I took about one-half step forward and he was into those bushes at Warp Six.

Farewell until the next sunny day in the back yard!

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Spring Returns – Day Five

Spring had arrived (officially, yesterday), at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More heavy rain, thunderstorms, chilly temps rolled in yesterday and today, with more coming this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice and warm, I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera – and apparently got enough pictures to fill up almost a whole week of posts!

While looking at the big tree of unknown species with the exploding umbrella-like leaves (I don’t think that’s it’s official Latin designation) I saw a flash of yellow. Way up in the top of the tree was this guy who WOULD NOT STAY STILL.

This was a classic case of “if you shoot enough pictures…” Statistics were on my side even though the bird wasn’t. “Flitter” was the word of the day as he hopped and bounced and swung and burst and jitterbugged all over the tree.

But even with that I could see the fantastic black & white polka dot pattern on his breast and the bright yellow patches on his neck and shoulders.

But what kind of bird is it? I’m familiar with a lot of the local species, but this wasn’t a common house sparrow. And the occasional goldfinch I see are all bright yellow, not just little patches. Maybe the coloration varies by sex or mating season?

There’s this thing called “the Internet” which lets you go searching for answers to questions like that. In this case, it brought me right back home completely by accident. The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society website is where I found the best description that matches this guy, especially the part about, “Another bird that never seems to sit still.” I’m pretty sure my new neighbor is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

1 Comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Spring Returns – Day Four

Spring had arrived (officially, TODAY!), at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More heavy rain, thunderstorms, chilly temps rolled in today, with more coming tonight, and tomorrow, and this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice and warm, I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera.

The centerpiece of the back yard (aside from the view) is this honkin’ huge tree with a couple of bird nests way up at the top. I have no idea what kind of tree it is. My Boy Scout days are pushing fifty years behind me and they were in Vermont, so if it isn’t a sugar maple, a fir tree, or poison ivy I don’t know it. Whatever it is, it lost all of its leaves and has been looking bare for three or four months. But…

…it too is starting to push green stuff out of the end of nearly every branch and twig.

It’s interesting how everything here seems to explode straight out of the end of the twig, where the flowers on the other trees seemed to be cocked off to the side at 90°.

These are like parabolic antennas or umbrellas – after they have pushed straight out, then they spread and get maximum exposure to the light. It’s a photosynthesis thing!

This things going to be providing plenty of shade real soon. Which is a good thing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

Spring Returns – Day Three

Spring has arrived, at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainiest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More rain & chilly temps are coming tonight, and this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera.

Closer to the house, the apple tree is leading the fruit trees in getting out the flowers.

The netting keeps out the birds and squirrels from eating the fruit, but allows the bees in.

The flowers are springing out left and right.

All of that pollen! (All of the sneezing!)

It’s the season of tree sex, and our sinuses pay the price!

The views are worth it though.

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Flowers, Photography

Spring Returns – Day Two

Spring has arrived, at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this past weekend where it got up about 80°F. (More rain & chilly temps are coming tomorrow, and this weekend, and next week, and next weekend…) While it was nice I wandered out and noticed that the yard was responding to the warm up by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera.

There’s a small tree out by the edge of the hill. It’s always got red leaves – it might be a Japanese maple, but I’ve been wrong before and probably wrong now, so don’t bet the house on my blatherationings… Where was I? Oh, yeah, red leaves. Right now it’s got nothing, but these little red buds are trying.

With the sun out and warm, it was tempting to pull up a chair and see if I could actually watch these things pop open in real time. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it – the ugly rumors about me just wanting to pull up a chair in the warm sun and take a nap are being spread by folks who are jealous of my sun and pillow fort plans!)

Some of those little buds are bursting. They’re overachievers, but the bees are out and grateful for their efforts.

See, there’s one of those red leaves that hasn’t fallen out yet. It doesn’t look very maple-like. I grew up in Vermont, I’ve seen maple leaves. That isn’t one.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t bet the house?

2 Comments

Filed under Castle Willett, Flowers, Photography

Spring Returns – Day One

Spring has arrived, at least for a couple of days. After one of the rainest and coldest winters recorded in Los Angeles, followed by extremely windy conditions for a few days, we actually got a couple of relatively calm days this weekend where it got up about 80°. I noticed that the yard was responding by coming to life, so I grabbed a camera.

Let’s talk about the view from our back yard.

You’ll recall that about ten months ago we moved into a new place. It’s on the top of a hill where the old place was at the bottom. It’s one of the best things about the property. From the front porch we get to watch brush fires and planetary conjunctions, while out the back we get to watch orange moon rises. (I guess if I was actually up that early I could watch the sunrise out the back, but I am not a morning person and have no intention or desire to become one.)

A lot of folks who live elsewhere still think Los Angeles has a huge smog problem. That’s really not true – it’s several orders of magnitude better than it was in the 60’s and 70’s. However, we do get a fair amount of haze and fog and low clouds on most days just as part of the “late night and early morning marine layer” (there’s that whole huge freakin’ ocean thing just over there), so “clear and a million” days are a treat. Today we had one, helped by all of that rain and wind cleaning out whatever junk was in the air.

I mention the haze because it makes a big difference in what you can see from our back yard. The view never sucks, but there are days we can see four or five miles and then days when it feels like you can see all the way to Las Vegas. Today was one of those latter days.

We have a ton of trees back there. And there are some other slightly lowers hills that we’re peeking over. I don’t mind the trees – that’s where the owls and hawks and crows and mockingbirds and hummingbirds and mourning doves and woodpeckers live. But with the naked eye, I naturally start to want to figure out what I’m looking at.

As we zoom in, ignoring the houses on the next hill, that tall, brownish building sticking up on the right in the middle distance is the Hilton over in Warner Center. (The huge red sign on the top is a dead giveaway at night.) You can also see all of the Fine Arts buildings and the parking structure covered in solar panels over at Pierce College in the center.

Beyond that you can pick out the cluster of skyscrapers over at Ventura and Sepulveda in Encino. And way, way, WAY off in the distance, up on top of that mountain, is a white dot with some dark spots on top…

Cool! That’s Griffith Observatory! It’s 21 miles away according to Google Earth.

Nice. View!

Leave a comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

YAK-52 (Completed)

(AAARGHH!!! – Hit the stupid “Publish” button by mistake! Here’s the whole thing. Sorry. Oops)

Airshow season has started and pretty much everything we have at the CAF SoCal is off for the first few weekend shows, except of course for those undergoing maintenance and restoration. This leads to a bunch of empty hangars, which makes it a good time to be cleaning them. However, today when I got in, there was a strange plane there.

It’s a YAK-52, a Russian trainer. Not quite a “warbird” since it’s less than twenty years old, but it still must be fun to fly.

It’s got that nice, big Russian rotary engine up front.

So, what’s it doing in our hangar temporarily? Shelter from the storm, as it were.

It’s been windy as all get out for the last couple of days and this aircraft’s a taildragger, so it can be tricky to land in nasty winds. Like, yesterday, when it came into Camarillo.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The tips of those three propeller blades? They’re not supposed to end that way. Really, really not supposed to end that way.

A gust must have caught the plane, raised the tail, lowered the nose, and the spinning blades hit the runway.

It’s said that any landing’s a good one if you can walk away from it, but the great ones are where you can use the aircraft afterwards. This aircraft will fly again, but it will require some work to that engine and all new props.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography