Category Archives: Mother & Father Nature

Picture of the Moment—The Gathering

Picture of the Moment

Just a small group of friends enjoying the beautiful weather.

I titled this, “The Gathering.”

The Gathering

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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We moved to the boondocks!

I live in my own little world

So our live-in-the-sky experiment came to an end yesterday. It lasted 2 years and 3 months. For the first few months it was kind of neat to live high up but then the 45 stairs to get to the front door became burdensome. Sunrises from the home office were spectacular.

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sadly, though, there was no wildlife 50 feet up in the sky—no lizards, no snakes, no spiders, no bugs, no birds. Well, alright, one mourning dove did come to visit us in the 27 months we lived there.

Our new homeOur new home is in the boondocks, which is kind of funny since the city of La Mesa had 60,00o people crammed into 9.1 square miles. Out here in the boondocks, we live in El Cajon (ka-hone), a city of 104,000 crammed into 14.48 square miles. So the population density actually is greater in El Cajon, 7,163 people per square mile, versus La Mesa’s 6,592.

Maybe it’s the outskirts, where we lived and live, that is the difference. A-ha! (not the group). Google Maps indicates that we don’t even live in El Cajon. That’s simply the post office that delivers our mail. Google Maps indicates that we live in Winter Gardens, which is a census-designated place in San Diego County. In other words, an unincorporated area. In other words, THE BOONDOCKS!

The Boondocks

We’re at the end of a street, not a true cul-de-sac, but we only have one neighbor. The other three sides are hills. At night it is quiet quiet quiet. We kind of like it since the street we lived on in La Mesa was noisy noisy noisy, even with dual-pane windows. We also have a nice oversized 2-car garage. We haven’t had a nice garage since March 2007.

I don’t know who loves it best out here, me or Zoey the Cool Cat (ZCC). The old place was 684 square feet (we downsized too much) and the new place is 1,440 square feet. Our largest home was 3,984 square feet on 1.83 acres of land, too big for just two people. This new place feels just right for the queen and her staff of two.

ZCC has 14 low-sill windows where she can watch all the wildlife, and after 11 days here (hmmm, same number of days that Scaramucci was employed by Twitler………), she knows where the sunny spots are, the sunny windows, and, of course, the wildlife. There’s a difference between dawn, day, and dusk wildlife, so she has to go to different windows. There are a few billion rabbits, another billion ground squirrels, only a million fence lizards, and then birds of all types, with ravens and raptors prevailing. Sometimes the ground squirrels come to see ZCC.

Following are some pictures of the wildlife and, of course, the queen adjusting to her new palace. It’s all about the queen….

Common garden wolf spider found its way inside.
It was returned to the outside where it could become food for….Common garden wolf spider

….California quail, the state bird.

I built a cat box for ZCC whereby she can go through a cat door
in the window and sit outside while still being protected.
This ground squirrel came up to see ZCC in her cat box,
which is the blurred white in the lower right.
They are just a couple of feet from each other.
Ground squirrelZCC helping me put together our new desks,
although she’s more interested in the tennis match
on our new 49″ 4K TV than she is actually helping me.Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC exploring the new digs.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

ZCC helping me populate the bookshelves.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Like any cat, ZCC likes to help unpack things.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Once all the work is done, of course, one has to sleep,
and ZCC has lots of options for that vital task.
Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

Zoey the Cool Cat

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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

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

Monarch caterpillars are eating all the milkweed!

Did you know?

There are three sites in San Diego County where monarch butterflies overwinter, one in Grape Street Park in Balboa Park,  one in Presidio Park in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and one at the University of California San Diego Coast Site on Azul Street.

Surprisingly I have not been to any of them. Next winter….

Meanwhile, though, over at the Botanic Building in Balboa Park, there are two huge milkweed bushes at the entrances to the building. Monarchs, of course, love milkweed. On March 24, the bushes were full of monarch caterpillars, six just in this one picture:

Monarch butterfly caterpillars

By now those caterpillars probably have eaten every leaf on the plants and are nice and comfortable in their chrysalises. Here’s a fresh chrysalis from last year:

Chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly

As the chrysalises age, they turn brown.

Monarch caterpillar chrysalis, September 2011, San Diego

By Memorial Day the bushes will be full of monarch butterflies, flittering all about. Another picture from last year:

Monarch butterfly

Now, let’s learn how to tell the difference between a male monarch and a female.

Male monarchs have a black spot near the rear of each wing. Females don’t.

Here are two pictures to illustrate. The first picture is a male, the second a female. See the black spots on the male’s wings?

Monarch

Monarch

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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

Friday Flower Fiesta (3-24-17)—Flowers, and more!

Friday Flower Fiesta

When I was in 7th grade (1966), my wise old grandmother bought me a microscope set. I had so much fun picking things out of the yard and then looking at the under the microscope. I think that was what enticed me into wanting to go into forestry research. I did get a degree in forestry but the research part never happened. I know microscopes are still for sale but I haven’t seen one for sale in a store in a couple of decades.

I find microscopic pictures to be quite interesting, such as this picture of my left eye:

Russel's left eye

If I had a microscope, microscopic pictures of flowers could easily be my favorite pictures. Since I don’t have a microscope, you’ll have to do with these “Flowers, and more!” pictures for today’s Friday Flower Fiesta. See if you can identify the “and more!” in the pictures.

Yellow wildflowers in San Diego

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Flowers, and more!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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

Out & About—I guess they are planning for a population boom

Out & About

The first time I went to the Mojave Desert was during the Summer of 1973 when I went with two friends (Jaime and Larry) on a tour of the United States west of the Mississippi River. Since we lived in South Texas, a desert in its own right, the Mojave didn’t really interest me, at least not near as much as San Francisco, Oakland (home of the Raiders and A’s), Los Angeles, and San Diego. The only reason we were going there was to visit Death Valley, which has the lowest point in the lower states and the highest recorded temperature of 134°F (July 10, 1913).

Now that I am a couple of years older, I have a greater appreciation for the deserts, finding them quite interesting. For some reason, though, they still are quite hot, so i don’t visit them often.

In early February, I was in the western reaches of the Mojave Desert tracking trains that have to get through the desert to points east. Here are a few pictures of what I found in the Mojave Desert:

California Aqueduct & Lake PalmdaleCalifornia Aqueduct & Lake Palmdale

Seems kind of odd to build an open-air aqueduct in one of the hottest places on Earth.

The desert seemed to be one huge dumping ground. Trash was everywhere, and I’m not talking about litter. I’m talking about huge items abandoned as trash. The beauty of the Mojave Desert was ruined in so many places.

Sofa bed dumped in the desert

Trash in the Mojave Desert

Trash in Mojave Desert

Winfield’s Custom Shop had the most interesting advertising sign.

Winfield's Custom Shop

When Winfield says “custom,” I think he means it. Check out this custom police car:

Custom police car

Wind farms were everywhere. Many people find them ugly but I find them strangely fascinating and beautiful.

Mojave Desert wind farm

Notice the snow-capped mountains in the picture above. This is the high desert, and although it gets extraordinarily hot and has little precipitation, the mountain peaks are high enough that they can get snow on them in the winter.

I saw Edwards Air Force Base where the Space Shuttle would land when bad weather prevented a Florida landing at Cape Canaveral. More snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Edwards Air Force Base

My little hometown of Kingsville TX had numbered streets all the way up to 17th Street, paved with concrete and asphalt, and houses lining both sides of the street. Out in the Mojave Desert, it’s a little different.

233rd Street East

233rd Street East

You might be inclined to think, “Well, obviously it’s a new street.” Doesn’t matter. Every street from 1st Street East to 233rd Street East looked exactly like that. I guess they are planning for a population boom. I don’t think it’s coming. I did not bother trying to find 233rd Street West.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat