Category Archives: Fauna

Out & About—Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Out & About

Escrow has closed and the move has started. We shall be completely in our new home on August 1, 2017. Meanwhile….

I’m still cataloging pictures on my fine fine fine new super computer, and probably will be for many more months, perhaps even years. That’s how many pictures I have. In an effort to get caught up on cataloging my newer pictures, here is a collection of pictures from the Ramona Grasslands.

Baby and, presumably, mama ground squirrel
Mama and baby squirrel, Ramona Grasslands

Hippity-hopping Peter Cottontail
Hippity-hopping Peter Cottontail, Ramona Grasslands

Mourning Dove
I know many people consider mourning doves
to be up there with pigeons as pest birds but I like both.
Mourning dove, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown flower buds
Unknown flower buds, Ramona Grasslands

Magnificent home overlooking the grasslands
Magnificent home overlooking the Ramona Grasslands

Patch of unknown purple flowers
Patch of unknown purple flowers, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown bird
Unknown bird, Ramona Grasslands

Unknown flower
Unknown flower, Ramona Grasslands

Immature (probably Anna’s) hummingbird
Immature hummingbird, Ramona Grasslands

Public art
Public art, Ramona Grasslands

More unknown, but beautiful, flowers
Unknown purple flowers, Ramona Grasslands

Airplane taking off from nearby Ramona airport
Airplane taking off from Ramona airport near Ramona Grasslands

Relaxing tree and pond
Relaxing pond and tree, Ramona Grasslands

Patch of thistle
Such a beautiful flower, but like roses,
oh can those thorns cause pain!
Patch of thistle, Ramona Grasslands

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Ground squirrel sentry
Ground squire sentry, Ramona Grasslands

Brahma
One of the best ways to maintain the health of an ecosystem
is to let Mother & Father Nature use it as they see fit.
The Brahma was the mascot of my high school,
Henrietta M. King High in Kingsville, Texas,
so I was pleasantly surprised to find a herd of Brahma
grazing and resting on the Ramona Grasslands Preserve.
Brahma, Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Abandoned cattle chute
Abandoned cattle chute, Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Unknown raptor
Unknown raptor, Ramona Grasslands

A different unknown raptor
Unknown raptor, Ramona Grasslands

Bird unable to read
No parking, Ramona Grasslands

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

Ramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA
Rramona Grasslands Preserve, Ramona CA

The Ramona Grasslands Preserve consists of 3,521 acres in the Santa Maria Valley and includes a significant portion of the remaining undeveloped are of the Santa Maria Creek watershed. The watershed supports a mosaic of habitat types, including native and non-native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, Santa Maria Creek, its adjacent riparian area, and a diversity of unique vernal pools, vernal swales, and alkali playas.

Many rare animals make their homes in the grasslands, including Stephens’ kangaroo rat (oh how I want to get a picture of one of them!), fairy shrimp, purple stipa, blue-eyed grass, and woolly blue curls. There is a huge concentration of raptors in the area, no doubt because of all the small critters available for a raptor family reunion picnic.

There is a four-mile loop trail which is where all my pictures were taken, and I can highly recommend taking a leisurely stroll on the loop. Invariably, you’ll meet other walkers, bikers, and joggers.

Part of the mission for the Preserve is to provide passive recreation opportunities within the Preserve that further the development of the Coast to Crest Trail.

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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Picture of the Moment—Finest and most bestest ever!

Picture of the Moment

My wise old grandmother had lots of hummingbird feeders throughout the trees in her yard, and ever since I got my hands on an SLR camera in 1966, I have been trying to get a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird in flight.

Yesterday I took my new Tamron 150-600mm lens to Balboa Park for a walk around the many gardens. I knew where the hummingbirds hung out so I was hoping to get a chance to try out the lens on those fast flyers.

I switched my camera settings to AI Servo focusing for to better track fast-moving objects, set it to use the 19-point autofocus system, and set it to take up to five pictures per second, and went to work.

Following is one of the pictures I came home with.  I rank it right up there at #1, bestest and mostest fine fine fine Russel Ray hummingbird photo ever.

Hummingbird in flight

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Friday Flower Fiesta (3-10-17)—Spring is springing and the bees are going crazy

Friday Flower Fiesta

Spring usually begins around January 1 here in San Diego. It got delayed a couple of months this year due to the extraordinarily wet winter we have had.

My back balcony got 12″ of rain just in February; San Diego gets around 10.3″ each year, so it’s been pretty wet.

All the rain means the spring flower season, while late, should be spectacular, from ice plant along the coast and freeways to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park to the desert wildflowers 100 miles inland in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

I have not been to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see the wildflower bloom but all indications are that this year is turning out to be a “Super Bloom.” I’ll have to take off a day and go out there, even if I have to go all by my lonesome self.

Meanwhile, what’s going on locally:

Ice PlantIce plant path picture by Russel Ray Photos

Orange, yellow, and purple ice plant

Ice plant

Cherry Blossoms at Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa ParkCherry tree at Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park

Cherry blossoms

Garland chrysanthemum known locally as “crown daisy.”
This stuff will make you sneeze like you’ve never sneezed before.
Yellow wildflowers in San Diego

Yellow wildflowers in San Diego

Speaking of yellow, Oxalis is covering the hillsides
and the bees are going crazyFriday Flower Fiesta #9

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

A short history of (my) pets

Halls of History

I grew up with animals of every kind—ponies, donkeys, dogs, cats, a monkey, snakes, rats, skunks, opossums, raccoons, birds, mice, rats, fish, bugs. If it moved, it interested me.

I always considered myself a dog person, though, simply because my dogs would follow me around, roll over on command, sit, shake, and lie at my feet wherever I was. It was obvious that my dogs loved me. The other animals, no so much.

My first dog was a mutt named Bosco. I don’t have a picture of him. He was an alley dog, roaming wherever he wanted to go. One day he didn’t come home. I’m pretty sure he simply died; he was an old dog at that time.

I didn’t have another dog until I graduated from Texas A&M University and moved to Houston. I got two dogs, both purebred Beagles from the same litter. I named them “Union” and “Pacific” after the Union Pacific Railroad. Yes, I was weird even then. One day I came home from work and my apartment was open with fire, police, and apartment personnel rushing in an out. Union and Pacific had pooped in the bathtub (just like I had taught them to) but then had managed to turn the water on. The dog poop clogged the drain and the apartment flooded. I was upstairs, so water was leaking into the apartment below me and the roof in their unit collapsed. Fortunately everyone had insurance which covered us, but I either had to give up Union and Pacific, or move. I couldn’t afford to move at that point.

Finally, three years later, I did move. My Houston rent had gotten to a dollar a square foot, so I picked up and moved back to College Station where I was hoping to get a job with Texas A&M University so I could get that awesome state-supplied health insurance. I did. That was when I bought a duplex and got two dogs, Penney, a Long-haired Dachsund, and Sugar, a Chow Chow/Besenji mix. The only Chow Chow part of Sugar was her purple tongue.

Penney and Sugar

One day when I was preparing to leave on my motorcycle, Sugar jumped up on the seat. I took a few minutes and left her on the back seat and drove around the neighborhood fully expecting her to jump off and run home. Nope. She stayed. Happiest dog in the world.

Sugar the motorcycle riding dog

Since she was so happy, I took time out each day to take her for longer, and faster, motorcycle rides. Eventually she rode with me on the highway at 65 mph from College Station to Waco, a distance of about 90 miles. She was the best backseat rider ever, keeping her head pinned to my side and watching the road to determine which way she should lean into the upcoming curve.

On April 15, 1993, I left College Station on a suicide journey (see my unsuccessful suicide journey post here). I gave Sugar and Penney to a friend and never saw them again. I also lost contact with the friend, so I don’t know what happened to Sugar and Penney, or how long they lived.

From 1993 to 2007 I was too mobile and too into work to have a pet, although I did have several aquariums, even a 300-gallon aquarium full of African cichlids. Then, on Thanksgiving Day 2007, a black cat came to visit. Jim and I gave it food and water. It ate and drank, and left. Didn’t even bother saying “Thank you!” or “Goodbye!”

On Christmas Eve, it came back. Imagine that, a cat that knows human holidays!Sophie the Black Cat

Jim and I gave it food and water again, it ate and drank, and stayed. We named her Sophie.

We moved 8 months later and took her with us, all the while trying to make her into an indoor cat. Didn’t work. When darkness came, she would howl like a coyote until we let her out. She always came home, though, until the morning of September 20, 2007. No Sophie. A phone call at 7:30 a.m. No one calls me at 7:30 a.m. It was the worst phone call ever. A neighbor a couple of blocks over had found a black cat that had been hit and killed by a car. She had moved the cat out of the road, saw the collar tag, and called me. I went to retrieve the body and give it a proper burial, out near the house we had just sold, her old neighborhood.

Sophie grave

I was so devastated with the loss of Sophie, and how she died, that Jim and I immediately went to the El Cajon Animal Shelter to get another cat. We wanted an older cat that was an indoor cat, but I also wanted a cat that would let me hold it and pet it. We found Zoey, but she wouldn’t be ready to adopt until the next day. We were there 10 minutes before they opened, signed the adoption papers and paid the adoption fee, and brought Zoey home. Three hours after she arrived in our home, I captured this picture:

Zoey the Cool Cat

That was when I renamed Zoey, adding “the Cool Cat” so that she became Zoey the Cool Cat.

At first, having a 100% indoor cat was difficult. One of the reasons why I never considered myself a cat person was because cats like to jump up on things, climb on things, climb up things, and study gravy by knocking anything and everything to the floor. About the same time that I was getting really frustrated, a new show made its debut on cable: “My Cat From Hell” featuring Jackson Galaxy. I will admit that I judged a book by its cover and as soon as I saw Jackson, I said, “No way!” Yes way.

I learned from Jackson that cats are vertical animals. They like to climb. Once I was able to accept that and help Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC), she and I became much better friends. I catified my house so that ZCC has vertical places she can go with no questions asked. I even have a special cat shelf in front of a window in each room. She loves them.

Zoey the Cool Cat on her window shelf

I also found out through Jackson Galaxy and “Pets Rule” at SeaWorld San Diego that you can train cats. I had never believed that. ZCC can go anywhere she wants except the top of the railing on the balcony (don’t want her falling off), the grand piano (just no), the leather sofa (don’t want cat claw holes in the leather), the kitchen counters (that’s where I prepare food), and the top of the refrigerator. Actually, she can go to the top of the refrigerator if she can figure out how to get there without making an intermediate stop on the kitchen counters.

Cats will react to a loud clap and a loud NO, usually by jumping down and hiding. Jackson taught me to wait about a minute and then give them a treat to let them know that I still love them, but it’s far enough away from the clap/NO so they won’t connect being bad with getting a treat.

Also, when you find cats somewhere you don’t want them to be, pick them up and put them someplace where it is okay to be, along with some loving words, a soothing voice, some petting or head butts, and a treat. You can get them to go where you want them to go by leaving treats there. Just don’t leave too many; otherwise, they’ll think that’s their eating spot.

Make it easy to get up and down. It’s more easy for cats to go up and not so easy for them to come down. I have catified my home so that it’s just short jumps from here to there, both up and down. In the window shelf picture, it’s a short jump up to my desk and then another short jump to get to her window shelf. She comes down the same way because they are short jumps. ZCC prefers those spots where she has to make a short jump. So, floor or bed? Bed. Floor or chair? Chair. Chair seat or chair back?

Zoey the Cool Cat

One thing it took me a little while to discover is that ZCC, and most cats, prefer the old and smelly to the new, so I never have spent money on a cat tree or cat toys. If I want to spice up ZCC’s life, a box or sack from the store is all she needs, and her favorite cat toy are the red rings from the gallon milk jugs. She’s easy.

Red Rings

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat and her red ring

Zoey the Cool Cat in her new sack

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Out & About—They had cats!

Out & About San Diego

I delivered packages for Amazon Prime Now from October 2015 to August 2016. During that time, most of the orders to be delivered were just a few of sacks of groceries. One day, though, I only had one order, but the complete order of over twenty sacks filled the trunk and the interior of my car to capacity. Everything was going to what I now know is a Buddhist temple. Looked like this:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

The temple actually was split in two with the other half being located a block away:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

I know absolutely nothing at all about Buddhism so I went to Wikipedia for help.

Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. Buddhism originated in India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, from where it spread through much of Asia, whereafter it declined in India during the middle ages. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: “The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (Sanskrit: “The Great Vehicle”). Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion, with over 500 million followers or 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.

Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. Practices of Buddhism include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, study of scriptures, observance of moral precepts, renunciation of craving and attachment, the practice of meditation (including calm and insight), the cultivation of wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion, the Mahayana practice of bodhicitta and the Vajrayana practices of generation stage and completion stage.

In Theravada the ultimate goal is the attainment of the sublime state of Nirvana, achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Hmmm. I fear that I still know absolutely nothing about Buddhism….

While I was roaming around, I got pictures of four cats making their homes on the property:

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

I don’t care who you are or what you believe, if you are a kind enough human to take care of the most vulnerable among us, including wildlife but especially cats and dogs, you’re alright with me.

Following are some other pictures of the Temple buildings and grounds:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

I admit that when it comes to religious buildings, I find most of them interesting but gaudy. With the money that it took to build them, I wonder how many homeless could have been sheltered, how many sick could have been cured, how many hungry could have been fed.

Do the all-powerful, all-knowing gods of the world’s religions really care so little about people worshipping differently, or worshipping others? Are they really sitting there watching television and rooting for their favorite football or basketball superstar?

This touchdown is for you, Jesus

This post approved by
This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Cold & wet—not my kind of weather

Out & About

I spent a couple of hours in La Jolla yesterday taking pictures and videos of the splashing waves of the King Tide as well as wildlife that was enjoying the cold, wet weather, something that I was not exactly doing myself.

I know that big waves can be destructive but they sure are fun to watch.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

One of the better photos of the crashing waves because it also shows the harbor seals and, at the lower right, that little pup seemingly wondering if it’s safe to go in.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

The stairs down to the beach, except that when the tide is this high, there is no beach.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

There were many birds and seals hoping to get their 15 minutes of fame in a WordPress blog.

Harbor seal pups at Children's Pool in La Jolla CA

Bird at the Cove in La Jolla CA

About six months ago I bought a new Canon Rebel 760D because it has a tilt/swivel screen which makes it easier to take pictures and videos from weird positions, and auto focusing for videos. I haven’t really learned to use the auto focusing yet. Either that or it just plain is abysmal. That’s one of the reasons why I was out taking videos yesterday, to find out exactly what I have and how to use it. Here is a 55-second video of the crashing waves at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

“Mommy! I’m scared!”

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Although it’s been raining all day today here in San Diego, I set out at 6:30 this morning to go to La Jolla to watch the Spring Tide waves crash against the sea wall protecting the Children’s Pool.

I was not disappointed.

Spring tide in La Jolla CA 1/11/17

In addition to all the seagulls on the beach, you can see five adult harbor seals. It’s pupping season for the seals and sea lions at the Children’s Pool. There were quite a few babies splashing around in the water, or rather the water was splashing them around. The one in the following picture was just deposited on the beach by a large wave, and it doesn’t look too happy, perhaps even looking a little scared.

“Mommy! I’m scared!”

Harbor seal pup at Children's Pool in La Jolla CA

Pupping season goes from December 15 to April 15, with the height of the births occurring in February. If you get to San Diego for any reason, take a couple of hours off and head to La Jolla to see these magnificant creatures in the wild in the city.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat