Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mountain peeking

After a solid week of drizzle and rain, even a weak sunbreak is a welcome respite. I've been under the weather for the past several days with a nasty head cold. So this was the first day since Sunday that Padme the wonderdog and I have ventured out to our favorite mountain peeking spot.

The Olympic range was dressed in low puffy clouds and some bright light just before sunset. Here are a couple of favorites from our peak peeking.

I just posted a new online Mountain Gallery with some favorites from the past year, along with a couple of all-time favorites of the Olympics and Mount Rainier.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

All Hail to Water

These are just for fun. While working in my office, I heard hail on the porch roof. Hail churned up the water in the birdbath next to the porch. I photographed the action for a few minutes. Here are my favorites.

In the first image below, that's a hail crystal that bounced out of the water.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Finches eat flowers-who knew?

House finches and purple finches, regular visitors to the birdie spa, really like plum blossoms...almost as much as sunflower seeds.

Generally, anywhere from 10 to 30 finches visit the plum tree in the front yard birdie spa. I wondered why I was seeing flowers on the ground shortly after the tree started flowering.

Then I saw this guy twisting himself upside down to get the unopened blossoms, and picking off already open flowers to get to them. >

Hmm! Now I'm wondering if that's why there weren't many flowers last spring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rufous boys are back - Jim's not happy

The plum tree and the crocuses bloom in very early spring in this part of Washington, sometimes late February. We know spring is really here when the rufous hummingbirds return. The guys return first, scope out food sources, and wait for the girls to get here.

I saw some smaller hummers at the feeder this week but they were in shadow, so I assumed they were Anna's.

I don't remember seeing rufous hummers when I lived in Arizona. Probably because a family of Costa's hummingbirds took up residence in the olive tree in front of my house...and the feeder. Costas look very similar to Annas. The males have purple instead of magenta on their heads.

Female rufous are less colorful but still have a rusty orange - rufous - coloring. Some of my favorite hummer images are in my Hummer gallery.

I watched the feeders for about an hour, first from the window, then outside on the porch and in the front yard. Two rufous guys were feeding together...well, one on each feeder. They took off and a couple of seconds later, "Jim" the male Anna's landed on the same feeder.

Jim was not happy about the intruders. He stationed himself in the plum tree until dark, regularly shooing away rufous visitors to the birdie spa.

Looks like it's time to move one of the feeders to the other side of the house. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring in the birdie spa

Spring has sprung in the birdie spa with lots of play, positioning, and a little jousting.

The hummers have lots more to keep them happy with favorite flowers blooming in the woods and insects reappearing.

It took about an hour to get a few mostly bad shots of a male Anna's, somewhat smaller than "Jim" who stationed himself in the plum tree through the winter.

A pair of chickadees spent a lot of time here today but are really tough to catch.

Lots of house finches and Oregon dark-eyed juncos visited the feeders and the tree. Last week I saw a couple of finches picking plum blossoms and eating them.

Rufous hummingbirds, barn swallows, and tree swallows will likely be in the birdie spa in the next week or so. We usually see rufous by the last week in March, and swallows shortly after. See my Fauna Gallery for past visitors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Earth and Sky

Everything seems to be coming alive, even though it still dips into the low 30s at night. Already there are spring peepers (Pacific chorus frogs) making themselves known from the pond a couple of blocks away.

Gold and silver bathe the Nisqually delta and a green gold paints the forest floor.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter Moon to Spring Birds

The skies were clear until the rise of the "super moon," a perigee moon that was 20 percent larger than normal. Lots of sky drama. However, by the time the clouds parted, the moon was high in the sky.

These were photographed between 10:30 and 11 p.m.

The first day of spring is also my son's birthday. The day he was born in Arizona, it was 95 degrees. So, I always appreciate spring here.

Daffodils and hyacinths are starting to bloom and the flowering plum has been a busy place with many different birds.

A flock of red-winged blackbirds frequented the birdie spa all morning.

Lots of juncos, purple and house finches, a couple of robins, and a lightning-quick chickadee that I am still trying to photograph. I think they are faster than the hummingbirds. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing Up Irish-American

Beannachtaí na féile Pádraig!  

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am a 4th generation Irish-American who grew up in a small town with ties to the auld sod and roots in social justice. Bordentown, NJ, was founded by Quakers in 1682. For many years, the Bordentown Historical Society has resided in the former Friends Meeting House downtown. The Quakers were "first responders" to the tragedy that unfolded in Ireland in the mid-1840s: a devastating famine that killed a million and a half people and drove at least a million more to American and Australian shores.  Both sides of my family are here because of that famine: Doyles, Finnegans, and Lalors on my mother's side and Lynches, O'Connells, and McNichols on my father's side.

At St. Mary's, the Catholic grade school I attended, the priest and most of the nuns were Irish. Every year, I danced and sang in the St. Patrick's Day Show, dressed in starched organza (green, of course) and patent leather Mary Janes. I instinctively knew not to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day, lest I attract the sisters' ire, and random pinches from fellow students who knew better. It wasn't until years later that I learned the real reason for the orange ban: the Orangemen who yearly celebrated the triumph of William of Orange over King James II, the last English Catholic monarch to reign over Ireland.

People who have been following my blog over the past year will remember my images of Ireland. Last summer, I sifted through slides from a Ireland trip, scanned them...and remembered. A couple of months ago, I pulled together those blog entries, and produced an e-book which was enlarged and exhibited at my "day job."

Visit my Celtic American online gallery.

You can download the e-book from that gallery as well: Ireland Revisited. You are welcome to print a copy for your personal use or read it online. Just a reminder that I hold the copyright.

A few years ago, I gave my family members a family recipe and story binder with the idea that everyone would contribute to it. Several of us have been adding to it each year, making it a special treasure.

My contribution for 2011 is my Irish soda bread recipe. I always wondered why my family didn't really have a soda bread tradition. I did some research and learned that it became popular in Ireland after the potato famine. I also posted my recipe on my website which, as you will read, is an adaptation and not "true" soda bread.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plum blossoms

Spring is indeed making an early appearance, despite the piles of snow in the parking lot at work. The plum tree in the front yard is the centerpiece of the birdie spa. Last year, it didn't bloom at all.

This year, delicate rosy buds and pink blossoms pop open next to red leaves, just in time to confuse the rufous hummingbirds which we should start seeing in the next week or two.

Juncos and chickadees were very active in the birdie spa today. I forgot how quick both birds are. More later....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hummingbird Ballet

Lots of activity at the feeders at dusk. The challenge, of course, is that I have to shoot at 800 ISO or higher, with fill flash. So images tend to be grainy and a little diffused. Two guy hummers actually sat side-by-side for a nano-second. I think they might be brothers because "Jim" didn't immediately chase the other off.

They did alternate feeders eventually, so the drama was minimal. The second Anna's hummingbird tends to stay in motion and likes to perch on the flower part of the feeder instead of the rail on the outside of the feeder. He also uses his wings the whole time. Jim, on the other hand, sits and leisurely sips, except to chase off another hummingbird.

Hummingbird Gallery online.