Category Archives: Photography

Flowers – April 15th

Normally we would all be sweating to get our tax returns (or extensions) filed in the US today – but hey, thanks to that little pandemic thing, we get another 32 days!

So instead, let’s look at what pops out of the ice plant growing along the chain link fence at the edge of our property.

Yes, they really, really are that bright!

They only bloom for a few days around this time of year.

The bees love them – surprisingly to me, the hummingbirds don’t seem to ever touch them.

I figured that before the invention of hummingbird feeders (and, you know, humans) the little buzzbombs would have feasted on something like this!

If so, then they’re doing it in an extremely stealthy fashion.

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Fine Feathered Friends – April 14th

Another new visitor. This one made their presence known first by their call. They’re LOUD and very distinctive. (Listen to the first song recording, credited to “Oklahoma, April 06, 2012 Recorded by Wil Hershberger | Macaulay Library“)

Given the volume, I spent a few days trying to hunt down a larger bird, maybe something the size of a robin or jay, or the California Towhee. No joy.

When I did find them I was delighted – they’re tiny. “Tiny” as in “smaller than the cute little chunky Juncos!” They’re barely bigger than the hummingbirds!

Now that I know what I’m looking for, I’m finding them all over the place. There might not be as many of them as the wrens or the juncos, but there’s at least a dozen or so, maybe double that.

They’re constantly flitting about through the bushes and hedges that separate our neighbors’ yards from ours, along with the juncos and finches and towhees. Those hedges are turning into quite the little aviary.

I’ve also seen them hanging out in the small bushes behind the roses that line the driveway. That was surprising. There’s not that much cover there, but they make the best of it. But at the slightest hint that I’ve seen them and might take a step in their direction – “poof!” There’s a cloud of them heading across the street into the big hedges in the neighbor’s yard over there.

Tiny, loud, with that BIG tail sticking up like a flag or the rudder on a 787 or C-5. Welcome to the aviary!

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Flowers – April 13th

Where was I before I went off on a rant? Flowers or birds? Lizards?

Whatever.

Not from Texas. These are next to the driveway.

The first of the season to pop out – won’t be the last if this year is anything like last year.

No secrets of the universe here, nothing profound. Just a tiny bit of a reminder that beautiful things exist in the world and we need to pay attention to them every now and then, even if it’s just for a minute while spending the day battling the Forces of Evil.

Fight on!

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Not An Aircraft You See Every Day

Out at the CAF hangar today we were taking delivery of an unusual aircraft.

It’s a Fieseler FI-156D Storch, a German designed WWII aircraft.

This one was partially disassembled for transport to us from San Bernardino County, with the fuselage on one truck, the wings on another, and the propeller, horizontal stabilizer and other parts coming in separately.

It’s a fixer-upper (as many CAF aircraft are) but that’s what we do, and this aircraft will probably be flying again in 2-5 years, depending on our volunteer manpower, workload, and of course, funding.

To be honest , this aircraft is in MUCH better shape than some we’ve gotten. Some are 15-20 year projects, if we’re lucky. Here we at least have an engine and all of the major parts.

A peak inside the floor of the cockpit, showing the foot controls for rudder and brakes.

And the big picture at the firewall, engine mounted to the left, controls and cockpit on the right.

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Grass Lizards

It’s starting to look like a bumper crop year for lizards at the Willett enclave. We have the usual suspects (although I’m starting to get worried again about Doctor Lizardo) – dark fence lizards, tan ones, tree lizards, and what might be an alligator lizard.

One new thing that I have rarely seen are lizards that go out onto the grass. Normally they’re on the sidewalk or porch, possibly in the dirt. When they’re sunning themselves they have a bush or some other kind of protection or hidey hole (like under the van) to duck back under or into in a heartbeat.

In this picture there are two reasonably large “grass lizards” who have been out there for several days. (Click to enlarge the picture and find them!) They’re always out on top of the grass, almost like they’re crowdsurfing on top of the grass blades to keep ventilated and keep their feet from getting too hot, while also maximizing their solar energy absorption. Which is all well and good, but it also would seem to leave themselves very exposed to birds, and a long way from cover if an avian predator cruises by.

Perhaps there’s some finer point of lizard habitats, psychology, and metabolism that I’m not grasping. But watch where you step if you go out on the grass in the afternoon sun!

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Flowers – April 08th

Flowers and birds, all from our yard. It’s spring. Again. And we’re still spending 99.99% of our time in quarantine at home. Again. (The other 0.01% of the time is when I go out to get groceries or pick up the CAF mail at the hangar every other week.)

These are popping up next to the mailbox – some are heartier than others, fighting for space with some sort of decorative desert drought-resistant plant.

The bees seem to love them. I can see why.

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Fine Feathered Friends – April 07th

Last October, a small group of a new type of bird showed up in our back yard.

They’re distinctive looking and I’m pretty sure I hadn’t ever seen them before. We certainly hadn’t seen them at this house in what was at the time about two and a half years.

Cute little baby dinosaurs, they have a black head, a white underbelly, and they tend to be ground feeders.

We had a half-dozen or so of them at first, but soon there were more. They love the shrubs that we and the neighbors each have along our fence lines. And they loved whatever we had on our lawn.

It wasn’t long before we started putting out some bird seed for them. Word must have gotten around, because most of the winter we’ve had more like two dozen of them around.

They hop, they flit, they scurry, and then all of a sudden they simultaneously all bolt to the bushes. (The shadow of a hawk often immediately follows.)

With time I started to get better pictures, although they don’t hang out for long when I go out into the back yard. But with better pictures came an ID in the Cornell Lab Merlin app.

These are Dark-eyed Juncos, a type of sparrow. They apparently have a lot of color variation between different populations, which you can see in looking at these pictures. But the basic “chunky Junco” body, black head, white belly design is consistent. There just may be differences in detail in the grey areas.

When I found out what they are I was told that they’re migratory and won’t stay for long, so I expected them to be gone by now. But the steady food supply may have convinced them to sit tight for a while.

Fine by me! They’re now getting bold enough to come up onto the back patio (okay, seed gets spilled there and they’re voracious) and cute as can be, so they can hop around the back yard as long as they want!

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Flowers – April 06th

“Purple leaf flowering plum” according to the wisdom of Google image search. These tiny little pink and purple flowers are starting to pop in the last couple of days.

I think we did this same Google search to ID this tree/bush last year. Or the year before. Or both.

Which makes me realize that we’re coming up on the end of our third year in this house?

REALLY??!!

It’s the oddest little obvious facts that jump up and bite your ass and make you wonder WTF is going on… As if “reality” isn’t slippery enough these days.

 

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Random Old Photos – April 05th

2006, fifteen years ago.

One of the most glamorous cities in the world! Well, they want you to think that. 24/7 glitz, glamour, bright lights, action, activity, shows, and gambling, gambling, gambling!

Of course, Las Vegas.

We were there on our 5th anniversary, staying at the Bellagio. Plenty of pictures of the fountains out in front, the extravagant displays along The Strip, the wonderful facades around every corner in every hotel. (I take a lot of pictures!) Gorgeous, all of them!

But the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas are only skin deep, a veneer. That’s not necessarily bad and it doesn’t necessarily make it a place where you can’t have fun. But don’t forget, and remember why that entire fake place exists – to separate you from your cash.

And in back of the veneer… Even if you’re there for your anniversary and want it to be special… When you’re staying at one of the really nice, new hotels… But maybe got the discount room…

You might find that it’s a twenty minute hike from the front desk to your hotel room, and you can only just see the fountains by going waaaaaaay over into the corner window and peeking around the two other towers between you and the show, and about 90% of what you see looking out your window is not neon or fountains or pirate ships or roller coasters, but instead is really, REALLY LOUD construction equipment about 18 hours a day.

Maybe that’s why I liked this picture so much more than all of the expected ones.

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Easter Bunny

These were taken in the last week or so on two separate nights.

As I commented the other day to someone on Twitter, there are a surprising number of rabbits living in the Los Angeles suburbs. But there are also a surprising number of coyotes. It tends to balance out.

On the other hand, we live at the very top of a fairly high and very steep hill. And coyotes are lazy.

(Except, of course, for Wile E. Coyote. He was very much an ambitious and industrious fellow, even if the laws of physics did seem to always be breaking in such a way that he got screwed.)

So about dinner time and/or sunset, we’ll see one or two of these fluffbutts in the back yard.

Once it’s full dark there are usually anywhere from two to five or six in the front yard. It’s bunny paradise.

But they never leave eggs, colored or otherwise, just those little Raisinette-like things. (They’re not candy, taste like shit…)

If you celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

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