Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plovers winter commonly along San Diego's beaches. "Winter" is a relative term. For many shorebirds "winter" could mean all but 6 weeks in "summer,"--May 15 to June 15--when adults rush to the Arctic tundra to breed, then rush back. And some non-breeding birds remain locally all summer.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plovers habitualize themselves to people on beaches. Thus it is relatively easy to get good, close photos of these birds. One of the highest concentrations where approach is easy, is at Crown Point Park on Mission Bay. Several hundred plovers hang out on the sand beaches, often with other shorebirds including Red Knots, Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Marbled Godwits, and Willets. Other birds winter birds flocking together on the beach there includes Royal Terns and Black Skimmers.

These photos, however, came from the mouth of the Tijuana River estuary, on February 18, 2018.

Black-bellied Plover

The striking black underparts of adults is attained in April and May and remains to September. I don't see this breeding plumage often in southern California--even in late spring. I'm just guessing, but it may be that primarily only first-year birds winter this far south? Such first-year birds (certainly top photo) remain in the plumages shown here all summer, similar to gray winter adults, but with some black feathers showing on the wing coverts (lower photo). Adults should complete molt into breeding plumage (a considerable energy budget) before migrating north (also a considerable energy budget). They won't molt and migrate at the same time--it takes too much energy. Or, maybe I just haven't been on the beach at the right time in spring.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Storm Wigeon again

What is a Storm Wigeon? It's a male American Wigeon with a white face.

Most adult males have a speckled solid-looking gray-brown face, a green eye patch, and white crown. I've seen a few birds with the white crowns extending down to immediately around the bill. But only three that also had white cheeks as the bird pictured below. Most of these, though, show some speckling on the neck, as does this bird.

Storm Wigeon
Storm Wigeon--a white-headed variant of American Wigeon.
February 18, 2018. Chula Vista, California.
A previous page on Storm Wigeon is one of the most-popular pages on my blog. I suspect that more hunters than birders visit that page, as the Storm Wigeon is said to be highly-prized by hunters for trophy birds.

An alternative name is "white-cheeked wigeon."

Speaking of alternative names, the American Wigeon is called Baldpate in my 1940 Edition of Birds of Oregon by Gabrielson and Jewett. In my first Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds (1969) it was American Widgeon (with a 'd'). In 1973 the name officially changed from "widgeon" to "wigeon." Not sure why, but I think it simply reflects a change of English language usage generally, not specifically birders or ornithologists.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sanderlings and Western Sandpipers

Most of my photos tend to be close crops of individual birds. That's primarily because of the shallow depth-of-field on my telephoto lens. Sometimes I even have trouble getting the front and back of an individual bird in focus at the same time!

On a visit to the mouth of the Tijuana River in February, 2018, I took photos of densely packed flocks of shorebirds. There were several species present, including Sanderlings, Western Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, and a few Dunlins and Least Sandpipers.

This first photo is a mixed flock. The larger, paler birds in the foreground are Sanderlings. The smaller, browner-backed birds are Western Sandpipers. The very large out-of-focus birds in the back are Black-bellied Plovers. You can see that the effective depth-of-field (where birds are in focus) is barely a foot, front to back.

Sanderlings and Western Sandpipers
Sanderlings with Western Sandpipers.
Sanderlings are best known as the birds that chase the waves in-and-out on the beach like mechanical toys.

Western Sandpipers are more frequently found wading on the edge of quiet estuary waters. They may rest on the beach during high tides, if the estuaries are filled to their banks, but they won't be chasing waves looking for invertebrates at the edge of the surf.

The next photo is entirely Western Sandpipers.

Western Sandpipers
A flock of Western Sandpipers.
While both these species are common in the West--sometimes in flocks of thousands--I have seen Western Sandpipers about twice as often as Sanderlings. Two factors lead to this result: 1) Sanderlings are found almost exclusively on the coast, while Western Sandpipers are equally common inland in fresh water mudflats. 2) Sanderlings are found almost exclusively on sandy beaches, where I bird less frequently because the number of other species is far less than in the more productive estuaries where I spend more of my birding time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hydroponics Garden

I got sidetracked on YouTube and found myself curious about hydroponics. Well, I must admit that it wasn't just one sidetracking event.... Eventually, I found that Aerogarden had a great deal on one of their Hydroponics Garden. So I ordered one (Classic 7) with a leaf lettuce kit.

Twenty-four days after planting we had our first harvest with 4 salads with just the outer leaves. Fresh, crisp, sweet, and delicious! The plants remained in the Aerogarden, pruned and ready to keep producing! Another batch of salad should be ready in 5-7 days.

Benefits of hydroponics: Plants grow up to 5 times faster than in soil. Grow indoors. Grow year-round. No sun. No yard. No soil. No weeding. No snails, worms, bugs, gophers, rabbits, or animal contamination (no recall for E. coli). It's the opposite of labor intensive. Perfect for an apartment. Set it up and forget it.

Disadvantages: When this post publishes I'll be in the middle of a 10 day vacation. What will it look like when I return home? Will it have taken over the kitchen? Could be addicting. What happens when I have the whole house full of these? Banks of red grow lights might make the neighbors think I am growing something other than salad.

Aerogarden salad harvest 24 days!
A heaping plate of leaf lettuce trimmings. Yum!
The smaller Aerogarden model we chose had space for 7 plants and about 3 gallons of water. It comes with an airstone to keep the water aeriated, like a small aquarium. It comes with an array of LEDs--red for leaves, blue for flowers, white for human eyes to see. The arm adjusts up and down and should be kept about 1 inch above the leaves for maximum light intensity and leaf growth.

Aerogarden showing the LED array
Aerogarden on our kitchen counter showing the LED array
The Salad Mix Seed Pod Kit contains 7 seed pods with peat moss. They fit in the holes in the top of the Aerogarden with just the bottom of the peat moss reaching into the water. Eventually, the plants grow hundreds of long white root threads down into the water, and many into the moist air between the cover and the water surface. Yes, some roots gather oxygen, rather than water.

Aerogarden salad planted Day 1
DAY 1: All planted. Seeds should sprout in 3-11 days.
A bottle of liquid fertilizer provides the primary three plant nutrients--nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also contains lesser amounts of the secondary nutrients--calcium and magnesium. Since the lettuce is designed only to last a few weeks/months and be thrown out when it goes to seed, a dozen lesser trace nutrients aren't necessary for long-term plant health. Do-it-yourselfers make their own fertilizers, as it is very inexpensive to make gallons of fertilizer at home, but relatively expensive to ship pre-made liquid fertilizers, which are 99% water. The salad kit comes with a 3 ounce bottle of fertilizer. On set-up, and every two weeks thereafter, you add two small capfuls of fertilizer. Otherwise, just top off the water when needed (there is also a low-water indicator).

Aerogarden salad 14 days
DAY 14: One set of seeds was a bit slower than the rest.
I thought the plants grew a bit slowly at first. All seed pods have 5 or more seeds and are guaranteed to sprout. Oh, they did sprout quickly, but looked a bit spindly at first. "Don't be afraid to thin," wasn't very helpful advice. I ended up thinning out all but the healthiest one plant in each pod. I don't know if that was correct or not. The "late bloomer" front and center? I didn't thin that one at all. After adding fertilizer on Day 14, the plants really grew!

Aerogarden salad mix Day 24
DAY 24: Ready for the first harvest!
At Day 24 the very first leaves were 5-7 inches long and either hanging over the edge and not receiving much light, or were blocking light from leaves below. So it was time to prune. That provided our first salad meals as in the top photo.

This plant should continue to grow and produce for  a couple of months. As long as it doesn't bolt--growing a flower stalk--the leaves should remain sweet and keep growing. I'm a bit worried, as I keep house temperatures between 74-77F; lettuce really prefers temperatures under 72F. Higher temperatures may cause the plant to bolt sooner.

Other kits include spices, flowers, and miniature cherry tomatoes. I don't like tomatoes raw--and they take a long time to fruit and ripen. Marlene is sensitive to flower pollen. What is lemongrass or basil, and what would you do with several pounds of it? So, lettuce was an easy choice for our first attempt.

I've noted a few hydroponics stores in the area where I could choose other seeds and buy fertilizer. I could see growing a salsa garden mix--peppers, onions, cilantro, and maybe ONE cherry tomato. Or plant a lettuce pod every 2 weeks to keep fresh lettuce ready for harvest continuously.

Anyway, I don't intend to take this any further than this one small unit. But it's a fun little experiment and certainly an interesting conversational topic!

Monday, May 21, 2018

How would you like your teal?

Blue-winged, Green-winged, or Cinnamon?

I was able to photograph the three common species of teal found in North America on February 18, 2018 at Chula Vista, California.

Here are the drakes. Telling the hens apart is difficult, but possible with practice.

Blue-winged Teal
Drake Blue-winged Teal.
Green-winged Teal
Drake Green-winged Teal.
Cinnamon Teal
Drake Cinnamon Teal.
Interestingly, my first written records of these three teal were all at Ankeny NWR, near Jefferson, Oregon, in September 1975 (Green-winged and Cinnamon) and July 1976 (Blue-winged). It is likely that I had observed at least Green-winged Teal elsewhere before that time (I started birding in November 1972), but I don't have any exact written records for these small ducks before then. I remember that an article on Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge appeared in the local newspaper. I began to visit here regularly thereafter, as it wasn't too far from my home in North Albany, and I would have just gotten my driver's license in October 1974. Dave Potter was refuge manager, and I talked with him several times on my visits.

Did you know? There are about 20 species of teal in the world.

Friday, May 18, 2018

My most popular posts

As of May 2018...

As one of my friends once warned me, once you identify a post as your most popular, that designation causes more people to visit to find out why--a self-fulfilling prophecy. The playing field is no longer level. The publication of this post will change what the results would have been going forward without it.

But I present this post primarily for those bloggers and web site owners who may be trying to increase visitors to their site.

The Blogger site has some built-in rudimentary statistics. There are actually two different ways to measure visitors to each page: Landing Pages and Most-Visited Pages. These are unique visitors; repeat visitors are not counted (but if someone uses their PC and later uses their phone, then it would count as 2 visitors).

If Google serves up one of my pages in a response to a user's query (or another web site links to mine), and that user then clicks on the link that takes them to my blog, the first page they land on is the Landing Page. Blogger tracks that. The pages that Google likes on my site are often those that mention popular topics, but with some unique aspect that would take them to my page rather than a more authoritative site like a ".gov" site or Wikipedia, etc. I'll show some examples below.

Once someone lands on my blog and sees the lists of post titles in the sidebar, they may then choose to visit other posts that interest them. This creates another list of most-visited pages.

Blogger counts visits to all pages, but only lists the top 10 landing pages.

So, let's get into it then.

The most popular landing pages are these:

"Birds to know in San Diego: Introduction (Backyard)" is 10 times more popular than any other page on my site. "Backyard birds" is a hugely popular search query on Google. When I combine that with the name of a town in the title, this optimization makes it unique to my blog and makes this page very popular (thus SEO, search engine optimization). On average, about 200 different people per month land on this page.

Space rockets, self-driving vehicles, solar energy, and intelligent machines? No wonder my November 2016 post "Elon Musk is about to change our future" is so popular. And, yes, I knew the above two posts would be popular for the SEO purpose of bringing more people to my blog.

My 3rd most popular landing page is a surprise of sorts. Ever heard of a "Storm Wigeon"? Evidently many people have, and there must not be many other web pages out there discussing it, because this page rivals the Elon Musk page for number 2 position. My guess is that Storm Wigeon is a more popular query among duck hunters than birders. I would guess that duck hunters make up the bulk of visitors to this ever-popular page.

Barely lagging the 2nd and 3rd place posts is my introduction to Nature Journaling, "I notice,... I wonder,... It reminds me of...." My other nature journaling posts are not as continuously popular, so the continuing popularity of this page has something to do with the interesting questions in the title.

Continuing to rise with the "Birds to know" series, is "Birds to know in San Diego: Oceanside Pier," now in 4th place. Likewise, other titles in this series are also rising and may break the top 10 soon, pushing others out. In fact, it just did today. "Birds to know in San Diego: San Elijo Lagoon" just came up to the number 10 spot.

Bird identification is a popular topic, and a significant part of my blog. So the "Index to my bird identification articles" (that I have authored on this blog and others) remains in 6th place.

Of all the site guides on my blog, the "Birding Site Guide: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center" is the one that people ask Google the most about. It is in 7th place.

Now we come to a point where we reach posts that were quite popular when they first came out, but few people are visiting now.

"ID: Leach's Storm-Petrel split: Ainley's, Leach's, and Townsend's" was a popular post after July 2016 when the split of one storm-petrel into three became official. Now that these birds are described in the popular field guides, queries are fewer.

In 9th place is my April 2014 review of the 2nd Edition Sibley Guide. I had some issues with the font size and color in the first printing: "Sibley 2nd Edition Review: Unreadable." Subsequent printings resolved some of the problems and no one queries Google for this anymore, or there are more popular websites that Google directs them to now.

One of my odd posts (not really matching the theme of most posts) was a review of a lawn sprinkler: "Orbit Sprinkler Review." Just today it was bumped from 10th place, as mentioned above for the San Elijo Lagoon 'Birds to know' post. Another strange one is a post that was simply a photo only: "Mew Gull" that remained for almost a year in the number 10 place, only to be pushed off a couple months ago by the Oceanside Pier 'Birds to know' post. How in the world did this textless "post" rank high enough to be served up by Google? That's part of the mystery of SEO.

Popular with the readers--most-visited pages:

Obviously, the most-popular landing pages are most-likely to also be the most-visited pages on my blog. But only "Birds to know in San Diego: Introduction (Backyard)" is in the same place (first) on both lists.

In many ways this list of total visits is more important than landing pages. These pages primarily indicate where visitors to my blog went AFTER the first landing page. The fact that these went on to another page and didn't just leave my blog altogether, indicates these are my target audience.

Number 2 is "Storm Wigeon," and number 3 is the "Birding Site Guide: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center," which were 3rd and 7th, respectively, on the previous list.

Next is my post: "Pelagic birding trip from San Diego: What's it like?" As this is a featured post with a thumbnail photo on the sidebar of the blog, it is no surprise that many people visit this page. I led pelagic trips out of Oregon for over 20 years, and did all my own SEO, so this page is written to remain popular in the search engines, as well.

At 5th place is one of my first site guides (March 2014): "Birding Site Guide: Tijuana River Valley Regional Park: Bird & Butterfly Garden." It is actually more popular than the index to my site guides, which is also listed in the blog's sidebar, "Birding Site Guides to San Diego, California," which is in 7th place.

Additional "Birds to know" pages are expected, as they are linked together one after the other, starting with the Introduction page. However, the popularity isn't in order of the pages, so not everyone is reading through from start to finish--most people apparently are jumping around. So page 2, "Birds to know in San Diego: San Elijo Lagoon" is in 10th place; page 3, "Birds to know in San Diego: Anza-Borrego Desert" is in 8th place; and page 4, "Birds to know in San Diego: Oceanside Pier" is in 6th place. These are backwards from what one would expect if they were reading this series straight through.

Let's see, what pages are left? Oh, in 9th place, which we skipped over, is "ID: Western, Cassin's, and Tropical Kingbird."

Okay, I get to also choose my personal favorite posts, right? Here's my vanity list of posts I'm most proud of:

There are three efforts I have put forth in my birding persona that are defining to me: Organizing pelagic trips in Oregon for 21 years from 1994-2014; helping the Oregon Breeding Bird Atlas (1995-1999) get started, recruited, completed, and published; and writing "How to Identify Birds in Flight." This latter effort is a stand-alone page on this blog, not really a blog post. Although completed and uploaded to this blog site in December 2015, I have worked on its principles for 20 years--ever since I found that seabirds could easily be identified at quite a distance by flight style alone. Working to explain what I saw to others formed the basis for this work that expanded logically to all birds.

When I started this blog I wanted it to be a bit more personal than my previous blog on birds and birding in the Pacific Northwest. So I thought this electronic form was as likely as any paper form to preserve my thoughts on my paternal grandparents, as I present in "Buck and Babe." I always wanted to write more, but that's what I've got. Other personal posts that I like include a Dr. Who tribute: "The Monster Under My Bed," a look into my subconscious with: "How to tell if you're dreaming," and recently, a book review on improving social skills which has changed my life: "Book Review: Captivate!"

I put more field work into these two site guides: "Birding Site Guide: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery" and "Birding Site Guide: Hiking Palomar Mountain State Park."

The Birds to know series was a happy success, and popular with others. And I've already discussed the Pelagic Birding trip: What's it like?

That leaves me with my two favorite ID articles: "Winter Sage Sparrow identification dilemma: Sagebrush or Bell's Sparrow?" and "ID: Hybrid California x Gambel's Quail." In both instances I feel like I added personal observations to the discussion and wasn't repeating widely known information. And I got to use many personal photographs that I obtained just for these articles.

Now that I've added nature journaling to my life the last year-and-a-half, there are several posts that I like. But a more recent one gives an overview of nature journaling with links to the best examples, and throws in some of my journal artwork: "My first year of Nature Journaling."

So there you go, three lists of my most-popular posts!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Photogenic Rock Wrens

This winter I found several photogenic Rock Wrens.

One photo I've already shared as one of my top 10 photos of 2017: from Ramona on November 27, 2017.

Rock Wren

This bird actually chased me about a landscaped traffic divider and monument sign of a rural gated community. I was able to get several good photos, and the one presented here is actually a slightly different pose than the photo from the link above.

A week later at Lake Hodges I got this photo: December 1, 2017.

Rock Wren

There were a couple of birds well below the cliffs where I usually hear them. They took up winter residence at a cement cistern that was being excavated--perhaps a water transfer station to pump this winter's rain water from Lake Hodges to another area.

My most-recent better-than-average photo of Rock Wren came from the Ramona Grasslands Preserve on January 31, 2018. It has a pleasing background, that adds to the subject.

Rock Wren

Rock Wrens, as their name suggests, love rocky jumbled boulders that accumulate at the bottom of cliffs ("talus"). They also like prominent perches along the upper cliff edge, bobbing on a rock as they stand sentinel against the sky. At 6 inches in length, they are larger than most other wrens, but still quite small birds.

They occur in the Mountain West from southern Canada into Mexico. They withdraw from the northern Great Basin and Rocky Mountain regions in winter, but are otherwise mostly resident from central Washington (east slope of Cascades) southward.

They are more often heard than seen or, at least, more often first heard before they are seen. Their loud, ringing, buzzy call can be heard a quarter of a mile away, a two-syllable pid-zeer, pid-zeer, or che-poo, che-poo.

Flying away low, Rock Wrens have a gray back, a buffy tip to their barred tail, and a cinnamon rump. The gray back often seems to me to have a slightly greenish cast in bright sun. But it is always described by others as gray. Perhaps it is just the contrast with the sparkling granite boulders that makes it appear to have a greenish hue.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Harris's Hawk: My 350th San Diego County bird!

If one really works hard at it, one could see 350 species of birds in one year in San Diego County. eBird shows 3 persons who reached that mark last year, and not every birder uses eBird. The record of 387 species in a year was set by Barbara Carlson in 2013.

While I still try to see lots of species each year, that goal doesn't take priority over all other things in my life. I've recorded 270-290 or so species each year the past 4+ years. My total lifetime list for the county reached 350 species (eBird total, which includes a few escapees not counted by the ABA list). My 350th species was a Harris's Hawk in Ramona on January 30th, 2018.

Harris's Hawk

This bird was located by birders in late December 2017. However, local residents have been aware of this bird for some time. In fact, this is probably the same bird Nance Christensen photographed here in April 2016! It went unrecorded for 20 months--perhaps because no one expected it to remain. It was still present as recently as April 30, 2018.

Harris's Hawk

This is my third sighting of Harris's Hawk. However, the history of this bird makes it likely that this bird is possibly the only "naturally occurring" individual of those I have seen. You see, in the 1960's this species was gone from the former range along the Colorado River and southern California. The Colorado River forests were cut down and wild birds were captured for falconry. Thus, any birds seen in southern California and along the Colorado River in Arizona were judged to be escaped falconer's birds. It remained this way until 1994 when an incursion of at least 50 birds entered southern California. A few have been reported most years since, with birds reported in San Diego in each of the past 5 years.

So a bird I saw at Quartzsite, Arizona on December 28, 1974, and another at Imperial Dam (California side) near Yuma, Arizona on March 16, 1982, were possibly not of wild origin. Apparently, my Quartzsite record was expunged from eBird for this reason. But the Imperial Dam record is still intact--a pair nested there in 1984 and 1985.

While still rare, it appears that this species may be making a comeback.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Captivate!

Captivate: The science of succeeding with people. 2017. Vanessa Van Edwards. Portfolio Penguin. 308 pages.

This book has changed my life. It's that simple. And I am not over-stating it.

I'm a few months away from completing my 60th year of life. But, frankly, I have never learned how people work. I've never understood them. Why don't they behave in a logical manner? Why don't I?

Now I know. I know what to do and say in social situations. I understand. Now I just need practice. I'm on my third time studying through the book in the 6 weeks since receiving it.

The book is introduced with the words: "Hi, my name is Vanessa, and I'm a recovering awkward person." (page 1) Here's a person who got hives and uncontrollable hiccups in social situations. She started studying human behavior in the same manner she studied science and math. Then she'd set up social experiments and record the results. This book is the result.

When she found herself in a conversation, she relates: "My mind was always spinning trying to think of what I was going to say next. I couldn't really process what people were saying because I was too busy trying to think of witty jokes, dazzling stories, and clever responses.... I was... turning people off by my distractedness." (page 74)

And as far as understanding people, Van Edwards says: "I used to find people intimidating. I couldn't keep personality differences straight. And I found it impossible to figure out behavior--let alone predict needs." (page 127)

This is me! Or has been. The insights and techniques given apply to all human social interaction--professional, social, romantic.

The book starts out simply with first impressions. Body language. Posture. Eye contact.

Then, How are you? Where you from? What do you do? These social scripts are boring and require no thought. Get rid of small talk! Ask novel, pleasure-inducing, questions. People will remember you and seek your company.

Be impressed by the person you are speaking with. Everyone has a fascinating story... if you can find it. Mirror and match the emotions of people you are speaking with. Really pay attention to the person you are talking with and nothing else! Be on the constant lookout for common interest threads, and reasons to say; "me too!"

The real meat of the book starts in Chapters 6-9.

The 7 universal microexpressions are explained. These involuntary facial expressions are exhibited by all people when they feel intense emotions. Look for these to understand the true emotions of people when they are listening to you, and detect lies when they are speaking.

Understand and predict behaviors based on the 5-factor model of personality (OCEAN). Learn how to quickly read a person's personality. We can't change someone else's personality. But we can learn how to appeal to each type and get along with anyone.

Likewise, everyone has different ways of showing love and feeling appreciation. The 5 love languages apply to all relationships. Don't feel appreciated at work or home? Your love language probably doesn't match your boss or partner. Know what you need so you can ask for the appreciation you desire. Figure out the love language of others so you can give the exact love and appreciation they want. Avoid needless arguments.

Each of us has a primary value that drives our behaviors, actions, and decisions. Find our own from the list of 6 primary values. Then watch the other person's behaviors to infer their primary value and motivations. What need are they trying to fill in every human interaction?

Vanessa Van Edwards creates a chart for every person in her life that contains their personality type, appreciation language, and primary value. She shows how to use this chart of our own important people as a guide to build a constructive and understanding relationship with each person in our lives.

Really connect with people through stories. Empower others by giving buy-in, control, and ownership. Don't try too hard to be perfect. Share vulnerabilities. Don't hide your mistakes. The right people will like you for them.

Do you have a toxic person in your life? Learn how to handle emotional people. Don't argue with emotions--validate them. Seek the root cause or fear. Understand what brought it about. Only when the emotions are gone do you try to solve the problem. Be their ally--"How can I help?" The NUT job: Name, Understand, Transform.

The book ends with Chapter 14. My summary of this chapter is as follows: Sincere curiosity makes one incredibly engaging. We all share the desire to feel valued--loved, needed, understood. The key to being popular is to like more people. Show people you enjoy being with them. Help people feel like they belong.

- - -

Are you tired of not understanding the bizarre behavior and motivations of the people in your life? Are you ready to do something about it? You need this book. It very well may change your life as it has mine.

I didn't know any of this 2 months ago. I noticed my social interactions with people improved before I got even a third of the way into the book. I actually enjoy socializing now--though as an introvert I want more one-on-one situations and not large, loud groups. And I want to take a quiet nature walk after a larger social event. Now I know why.

Vanessa Van Edwards on YouTube:

And the website:

Saturday, May 5, 2018

California Thrashers make me cry!

When my kids were growing up, one of their favorite TV shows was reruns of Little House On The Prairie (1974-1983) starring Michael Landon and little Melissa Gilbert. I hated that show--it was so sappy, so predictable, so sad--it inevitably brought me to tears! And, if it was playing on TV, I just couldn't turn away--I was sucked in and hooked. How aggravating!

The original autobiographical story by Laura Ingalls Wilder took place in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. But the outdoor shots of the TV show were filmed in Simi Valley's Big Sky Ranch, north of Los Angeles, surrounded by mountains in eastern Ventura County. Seeing mountains in Minnesota's pancake-flat prairies (where I grew up as a child) was not the only odd thing. The outdoor filming in southern California brought many native California birdsongs into the sound track. Having the wrong birds singing on a movie or TV sound track is one of my pet peeves!

One of the loud singing birds obvious on the sound track during the show was the chaparral-loving California Thrasher. Whenever I hear California Thrashers singing I am reminded of little Laura and the troubles in her Little House 1,788 miles and 115 years away from the TV show in Simi Valley.

Recently I photographed a singing California Thrasher at Lake Hodges, south of Escondido, California. As you look at the photos below... try not to cry.

California Thrasher

California Thrasher

California Thrasher
California Thrasher on Laurel Sumac. January 21, 2018. Lake Hodges, California.