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PNW Roadtrip: Rogue River Hike

dragonfly nymph exoskeleton

We took a walk along the Rogue River the morning before heading home on our last day of vacation, and came upon, literally, piles of empty exoskeletons left behind by metamorphosing dragonflies.

dragonfly nymph exoskeleton dragonfly nymph exoskeleton dragonfly nymph exoskeleton daisy

Crowning madrone.

madrone crowning

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Vaux's Swifts


In September, 2012, Rick surprised me on a date by taking me to Rio Lindo Adventist Academy in Healdsburg to witness a natural phenomenon. We arrived before dusk and found the building of focus. A dozen or two people were already gathering, some with folding chairs and snacks. Rick didn't tell me what was about to happen, just that an old brick building with a large chimney was to be the focal point. We explored the back of the building, the south-west corner, where there were no other spectators. I'm an avoider of crowds, but also am drawn to sunlight facing lighting when I have a camera in hand. We noticed that there was a large ravine behind the school, between the hills, and that the billions of flying insects that filled the air were very visible in the setting sunlight.

We also found an old rusty truck among the weeds while we waited for the sun to sink lower.

rusty truck rusty truck

A few small swifts appeared, and suddenly hundreds. After a few minutes the air began to fill with thousands of the birds, swirling and vortexing through the sky.

sky of vauxs swifts vauxs swifts going into chimney

A merlin, predator bird, attacked the swarm and I heard a thud a couple feet from me.

dead vauxs swift vauxs swifts going into chimney

After the last bird was tucked away in the chimney, Rick and I explored closer to find out if we could hear them inside, though we couldn't. Everyone else had left and we were alone in the dark, knowing that the chimney behind us contained ten's of thousands of vaux's swifts.

ari at chimney ari at chimney ari and rick at chimney

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Tree Swallow

tree swallow

Tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nesting at my parents' house.

It's been a busy spring for me, beginning a house remodel project with a rushed timeline. I've taken many photos (of the remodel project, as well as other adventures) that I have not had time to sort, edit, and post, as nesting has been a priority.

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Spring 2013

bird wild garlic

Wild garlic (Allium triquetrum) flowers

wild garlic rosemary flowers

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) flowers

daffodil arugula flower

Arugula (Eruca sativa) flower


Grape hyacinth (Muscari)

Boxelder Bug

Within the past few days, hundreds or thousands of these Boxelder Bugs (Boisea trivittata) have suddenly gathered in my backyard. I tried to get the chickens to eat them, but they turned up their beaks to the crunchy critters. Today we noticed the bugs are covering the south facing walls of our house with eggs.

Reading up on them, I'm not too worried about them messing up my garden since they are pretty specialized in their diets, preferring boxelder trees, though they could do damage to my apples, pears, or plums later on.

Boxelder Bug Boxelder Bug

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Mexico Trip 2012 - Bay Life


So peaceful.

Beach chairs

Our casita was right on the beach and so we took advantage of that every moment we could (while not away sightseeing or cooking in the fully equipped bungalow kitchen), and snorkeled, swam, played with fish, read in hammocks, walked on the beach, and watched the pelicans fishing.

Kayaks on beach

Kayaks and snorkels for our use.

Snorkeling Rick Snorkeling Rick

About as graceful as a pelican's dive.

Rick and pelican

The pelicans liked to hang out with Rick while he swam.

Beach chairs

Our slice of beautiful bay. That's Rick and a pelican out there. That green stuff under the water, sea grass, was full of fish and other bay life.

Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelicans Pelican

A male and female pair seemed to share the beach and fish with us.

Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelican Pelican

They made a funny splash diving for fish.

Pelican Rick and Ari Ari in hammock

Reading a good book. Kicking back in hammocks under our beach palapa.

Rick in hammock Bungalow from hammock

Nuestra casita. Being on our own private beach was so incredible.

Hermit crab

Giant hermit crab lived in a hole by the back door.

Hermit crab Gecko

There were cute geckos inside the bungalow and out. I chased this one around the trunk of one of the many coconut trees around the patio.

Gecko Osprey

I think this was an osprey flying over our beach.

Osprey Flock of egrets

Flock of egrets....

...and a flock of little sand piper birds.

Sand birds Sand birds Sand birds Sand shells

The white sand was made of tiny shell and coral particles.

Beach chairs Beach cat Beach dog

Chile, one of the two resident dotsons.

Caribbean sunrise

Sunrise on our last morning.

Caribbean sunrise Caribbean sunrise Caribbean sunrise

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Mexico Trip 2012 - The Road to Soliman Bay

Laguna Birds

Wildlife along the rough dirt road out to our bungalow on Soliman Bay.

Laguna Birds Laguna Birds Laguna Birds Laguna Birds Laguna Birds Laguna Birds Iguana crossing the road

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Slow Food - an Escargot Experiment

snails snails snails

There comes a time when every gardener asks the question, "is this escargot? Can I eat this garden snail who eats my lettuce?" And then most gardeners are repulsed by the thought and try to put it out of their mind. The answer I found some years ago is yes, they are indeed edible. I think it was in my mid-twenties that I first attempted a homegrown escargot experiment, though after keeping them in a terrarium with cornmeal for a week, I got grossed out and fed the whole mess to the ducks.

This spring when the rains brought a batch of snails out in my chard patch, I decided to try again. This time, armed with the power of internet, I did some research to be sure it would be a safe experiment, rather than rely on hearsay alone. The important things to do are: cleaning them, inside and out, with a controlled diet, then purging them and getting them to dry out by making them fast.

In the evening, when the snails are active, collect them. Because of the amount of work that goes into this culinary project, even a dozen snails turns out to not be a lot of food. Collect a couple dozen or more. Be sure you haven't left snail bait out for them before you do this; remember, you are eating them instead of poisoning them. Though the purging process will remove anything harmful they've eaten, plant matter or otherwise.

escargot makings

Use a large container with holes punched in the top or tightly covered with breathable cloth (they are escape artists and can quickly cover a surprisingly great distance across your kitchen despite their reputation of slowness). I used a gallon-size glass jar, but a glass terrarium, lidded bowl, bucket, or anything that will keep them contained will work.

I used a glass of water to act as a vase to hold fresh chard and parsley. Cucumber, fennel, or lettuce is also used. In addition to greenery, I added a pile of corn meal at the bottom of the jar. Some people use cornmeal alone.corn meal The cornmeal feeds them and is an effective internal scrubber, cleansing their digestive tract. You'll see the dietary transition in the drastic color change of their long curly poops.

Every couple days, I washed out the container, rinsed and/or replenished the greenery, and added fresh water. After a week I removed the greenery and left them with just cornmeal and a shallow dish of water to be sure they were all eating only cornmeal and getting throughly cleaned. After a few more days, I removed the corn and water, washed them and the jar, and put them back for a fast of a few last days. At this point, some people put the snails in a wood crate or canvas bag which they hang in a dry place. This further dries their slime production. I read that when the snail has retreated into it's shell and sealed itself in with a dry crust, it is ready to cook. I, however, did not wait for that point, and many instructions online do not mention it. I wondered at meal time, however, if they would have turned out less slimy if I had taken that step.

escargot jar

After a total of two weeks, it was dinner time (slow food indeed!). While bringing a pot of water to boil, we washed the snails and put them in a metal sieve, then dunked them in the boiling water, stired them around for one minute, rinsed them with cold water, and removed them from their shells. If they are large and have dense shells, they can be pulled out of the shell easily with a small sharp pronged implement such as an escargot fork or pickle fork. Smaller snails or those with delicate shells will break apart. Rinse well to remove shell pieces and slime.

washing a snail

Lightly sauté diced garlic in butter; add white wine, thyme, salt, and pepper; bring back to bubbling and add the snails; cook well.

escargot frying

I added chopped fresh parsley after removing the snails from the heat and we ate it atop French bread (of course!) though I've come across recipes online for turning them into filling for stuffed mushrooms, or returning them to the larger shells or purchased decorative shells, topping them with cheese and baking. I thought it was particularly appropriate to eat them as an appetizer before fresh greens: lettuces, baby chard, borage and calendula flower salads... things from my garden that the pests would have been munching on if I hadn't eaten the little guys/gals first.

escargot meal

Overall, the experiment was a success (my brave boyfriend and I survived and were nourished by their proteins) but the amount of effort it took to make a tiny serving didn't seem worth it. I'm conscious of the imbalance that can happen in a vegetable/flower/herb garden ecosystem when animals are not allowed in. I don't think it's the best method to poison pests and would rather utilize them. Chickens and ducks make great use of snails, slugs, and insects, converting their proteins into meat and eggs that are more efficient for me to collect and cook.... and I think I'll leave it to the poultry.


Snails really are such creepy, gross, and beautifully fascinating creatures!


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Acorn Woodpecker

acorn woodpecker acorn woodpecker acorn woodpecker

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Rooftop-Hopping Turkeys


A flock of turkeys cruised through my neighborhood today, rooftop-hopping.

turkey turkey turkey

“Let go and give away the past. Share your gifts with generosity. Feel the freedom gained.”
Medicine Cards: Turkey

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ladybugs mating ladybugs mating

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Garden Insects

garden insect garden insect garden insect garden insect

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The Lizard and Hamilton

hamilton holding lizard in potter valley hamilton holding lizard in potter valley hamilton holding lizard in potter valley hamilton holding lizard in potter valley hamilton holding lizard in potter valley hamilton holding lizard in potter valley

Hamilton holding a blue-bellied lizard for me to photograph. Taken with a Nikon D300 with a 50mm lens on backward to get close.

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Spring Garden Activity

bee on borage flower borage flower fly on borage flower bee on borage flower red bug on cactus insect on purple flower bee on purple flower bee on borage flower

These were taken with my Nikon D300 and a 50mm lens on backward (using a reverse ring) to get close. No electronics pass through to the old lens and focus is determined by distance.

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Parsley Flowers

Fly on parsley flowers Fly on parsley flowers

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Yuki the kitten Kittens-in-law Quin the kitten

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Garden Spider 2010

spider spider spider

I don't know how many photos of garden spiders I've taken over the years, but each time I get a new camera or lens I need to try again. Here's one with my newest camera, Nikon D300, with a lens extension tube to get a little closer.

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That's a Huge Grasshopper on My Corn


I wonder if this is the baby all grown up?

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Baby Grasshopper

baby grasshopper

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Joshua Tree Insects

caterpillar lady bug lady bug

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Newborn Calf and Ray

calf calf

On a scorching August day at my parent's house in Potter Valley, a calf got through the pasture fence and rested in the shade of a great oak by the irrigation ditch. Ray helped it get back to it's mother.

ray and calf ray and calf ray and calf ray and calf

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Ukiah Butterfly

ukiah butterfly

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Garden Spider

spider spider spider eating

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Lizard Wood


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Lizard Overlook


The lizards battle for this spot.

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Property Line


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Dying Butterfly


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Robin Nest

robin nest robin nest robin nest robin nest robin nest robin nest robin nest

A few inches from my back door, built on top of a light, is this red-breasted Robin's nest. Too high for me to see inside, even when standing on a chair, I used the camera as a periscope trick: held my camera up above it and snapped photos, which I could then preview on my camera. I checked on them every few days or so.

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Blue Jellyfish

blue jellyfish

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Baby Snail


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Slow Motion


Theme Thursday theme: motion

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Snail in the Rain


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Window's Bug

window bug

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Stumbling Bee


This poor bee wasn't feeling well. But it was still difficult to get a clear photo of him in the late afternoon shade while he stumbled around confused and unable to fly.

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Raspberries in the Rain


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stunned bird

While in Paradise Donovan found this bird on the sidewalk next to the house. It wouldn't fly away so we guessed it had flown into the sliding glass door. Worried that it was injured, I wondered what I could do for it. I thought about the pigeon Kellen had taken in and asked, "what would Kellen do?" Fortunately, it recovered and flew away.

I've had this photo in my folder of photos to upload for a long time now! This photo is for the Saint.

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Beetle Bucket

bug on rusty water

A beetle swims on the surface tension of a rainwater filled bucket of rusty metal things.

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Lizard Patio


One of the things I like about California is all the lizards basking and scurrying around.

This one had the longest tail I've ever seen on a lizard of it's size. The length doesn't come across in the angle of the photo, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

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Green Bee

green bee

10/07 At a rest-stop along I-80, somewhere in Wyoming.

(The Westward series was taken while driving from Michigan to California in October. I'm going to post them three at a time, in no particular order and will try to mention if I remember what state it was taken in. The majority of these photos were snapped while driving 80 miles per hour on interstate 80 so will be blurry, have dirt specks or water droplets from the day it rained, or have a slightly-tinted-car-window look. Don't worry, I rarely shoot while at the wheel, so most likely, they were taken while Donovan was driving, after I had done my share for the day.)

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moth A couple in Dow Gardens saw me taking photos and showed me this bug hiding in a bush. I crawled in and got a few photos of it. They wanted to know how I got such a clear photo so close up. I showed them how to use the macro setting on their camera. It was a good trade.

Creatures (75)

Cidada Exit

cicada exit sign This is from July in Dow Gardens in Midland.

Creatures (75)

Cicada Skin

cicada skin This is from July, Dow Gardens in Midland.

Creatures (75), Dead Stuff (24)



Creatures (75)


poolside bugs

Creatures (75)


jasmine I've never had a dog but this is Jasmine, my dog-in-law.

PhotoTime Tuesday theme: Pets

Creatures (75), Phototime Tuesday (15)

Window Climber


Creatures (75)



Creatures (75)

Vestigial Wings?

strange insect The wings of this insect do not look to be big enough for it. I wonder what kind of bug it is and if it can really fly?

Creatures (75)



Creatures (75)

Tahquamenon Forest Frog


Creatures (75)



California Summer 2004 (45), Creatures (75)


yellow jacket hive 26 Things III item "Bottom".

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Inch Worm

inch worm

Creatures (75)


turtle This incredible creature was hanging out in the backyard today. First on the break wall then it came right up to the house to sit on the stone walk. I couldn't get enough photos of its amazingly spiky body. I've never seen such a dangerous looking turtle before.

I put a desktop wallpaper up of it.

Creatures (75)


bee on daffodil

Creatures (75)

Blue Bug


Creatures (75)

Red Bug


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Carpenter Ants

ant Yesterday I noticed a bright red thing bobbing around behind a bush in front of the house. Binoculars clearly exposed a large Pileated Woodpecker perched on the log which serves as border along the driveway. These are the Woody Woodpecker-style woodpeckers with a red pointy mohawk looking thing. Trying to get closer with my camera only scared it off, but I did find what it was after: Carpenter Ants, the Pileated Woodpecker's favorite food. He had torn open the log in several places, turning it into an ant buffet.

PhotoFriday challenge: macro

Creatures (75)

Bottoms Up

Duck Bottoms This male and female pair of ducks came over from where they were hanging out in a bush. After eating all the bits of roll I tossed in, the ducks thanked me and swam away.

Birds (29), Creatures (75)


Found another large beetle while raking leaves. This one looks like a scarab.

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Praying Mantis

I found this huge (at least 4 inches) praying mantis while raking leaves.

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Fond du Lac KOA

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Giant Grasshopper Thing

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Found in my archives, taken last year at the San Francisco Zoo.

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Creatures (75)


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Creatures (75)


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Broken Beetle

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Sun Bug

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Huge Squirrel

This squirrel was enormous. We were on a walk through a park in Midland.

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This is a freshly hatched dragonfly on the sleeve of a girl we ran into on the path to the falls. Donovan used to know her or someone she was with.

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Giant banana slug, maybe 6-7 inches long.

From hike in Bohemian Grove, Forestville 04/19/2003

Photo Friday challenge: Skin

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