Lately, many House Finches have been coming to our bird feeder. They are tough little birds that yield to no one except the larger Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Otherwise, they perch around the feeder portholes and would not let any other bird species come near them until they’ve had their fill. The Juncos, for example, keep a respectful distance and wait until their turn come.
More pictures of the amazing scenery along Highway 46 in California in early March.
These are the flowers that accounted for those masses of orange.
There are no flowers in this last photo, but the green hills were striking nevertheless.
The Tufted Titmouse is a regular visitor to our bird feeder all year round. They look very cute with their big eyes and serene disposition, and they don’t fight like Juncos always do. This year I was able to get some close shots as shown below.
Once a Tufted Titmouse grabs a sunflower seed from the feeder, he or she (I can’t tell) takes it to the nearby magnolia tree and spends a few minutes trying to open it with their small bill as you can see in the following photo.
Chickadees are small birds, albeit bigger than hummingbirds. During the winter they are quite nervous, darting to and from the bird feeder, barely giving me time to take even one shot. Now that spring is almost here (it is 30 F as of right now!), for some reason they have been bolder and have willingly posed for the following shots.
A little more than two weeks ago, at the Vista Point on I-280 near San Carlos, CA, while taking pictures of the scenery I saw a couple of ravens behaving strangely, at least for me anyway.
The male raven flew toward another raven, a female presumably. They introduced themselves.
They came closer together.
Then they each went their way.
A few minutes later, they were at it again, at a different spot nearby.
Finally, the couple separated for good.
If any of you is a bird expert, please tell us what was happening there between the ravens.
The Lone Cypress is probably the most photographed tree in the world. It is about 250 years old and can be found near Carmel, CA on the famous 17-mile drive. When we got there three weeks ago in early afternoon, the lighting was harsh and unforgiving. I tried my best and got the following two versions. Let me know which one you prefer by clicking on the poll at the bottom of this page.
If you look carefully in either photo, you can see part of a pelican toward the lower right-hand side. It was standing on the granite rocks.
Yesterday’s snow brought many birds to our bird feeder. At one point I counted more than 20 juncos perched on it and on the nearby magnolia branches. However, as usual, the cardinals stole the show with their brilliant colors.
One lonely starling also came by.
Two weeks ago, on our last day in the Bay Area, we drove up to a Vista Point on I-280. It provides a good view of the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir which supplies water to San Francisco, San Mateo and the neighboring cities. Some of the water is provided by runoff from the local watershed, but most of it comes from snow melt in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The water is transported through giant pipelines from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park 167 miles away.
San francisco is of course famous for fog, and we saw it moving down from the Santa Cruz mountains to the reservoir that day.
Brown Pelicans are huge and colorful birds as much as 4 ft long with a wingspan of 6 ft. They became almost extinct in the 1970’s, and their plight led to the banning of pesticides like DDT. Since then they have made a come back and are now no longer listed as endangered. I found many of them at Natural Bridges State Park and at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area between Santa Cruz and Marina.
Almost two weeks ago, on our California trip, we passed by Castroville, CA which proclaims itself the “Artichoke Center of the World”, and I had to stop to take pictures. California produces all of the artichokes in the United States, with Monterey county, where Castroville is located, accounting for 80% of that. I am told that artichoke plants like the fog that comes almost on a daily basis to this part of Northern California.
From Los Angeles we went to Lassen Volcanic National Park at the northern end of California. It was a 620-mile drive, with winding and twisting road toward the end, but it was well worth it.
Starting in 1914 and over seven years, many volcanic eruptions occurred in the area. Almost a hundred years ago, in May 1915, a series of major eruptions, seen from as far as 150 miles away, created much of the volcanic landscape as it is known today. Lassen was declared a national park in 1916.
Not as well known as other national parks, Lassen does not have many visitors despite its beautiful mountain scenery with lakes, tall Ponderosa pines and cedars, and lots of hiking, boating, and mountaineering opportunities. In the winter, when an average of 55 ft of snow falls on Lassen peak, most of the park is not accessible by car, and many of the volcanic features such as fumaroles, mud pots, boiling pools cannot be easily visited. The main roads sometimes do not get completely cleared of snow until June or even July. However, people do go there to ski, walk on their snowshoes, or ride on snowmobiles. This year the snowfall was lighter than normal, but we still saw plenty during the one day we were there.
Driving through California’s Central Valley I saw miles and miles of fruit and nut trees, as well as rows of lettuce and other vegetables stretching to the horizon. There were signs complaining that last year the federal government cut off water supply to California farmers in order to protect the endangered Delta Smelt, a small fish about 2 inches long. A few days ago NASA predicted that the state’s water supply will run out in 2016. What will become of the farmers then? Where will the nation get those oranges, cherries, pistachios, almond, vegetables and other produce from?
I am certainly no expert on these issues, but this is what I saw last week around Hollister, CA.
From Marin, CA I drove to Los Angeles, using Highway 46 to get to Interstate 5. Between the town of Paso Robles and the entrance to Interstate 5, there were many patches with millions of wildflowers on the green hills along the way. There were swaths of yellow, orange, blue, and purple, at times with several colors laid out side by side as if the mountain was a giant quilt.
This last photo was taken at the Pinnacles National Park, the newest national park located off Highway146 30 miles south of Hollister, CA.
McWay Falls, located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 37 miles south of the town of Carmel and almost at the end of Big Sur, is another place that I like to come back to whenever I can. You will see why in the following photos, but as you look at them, please tell me which one you prefer by taking the poll at the end of this post.
These photos were taken late in the afternoon, from different spots on the walking path next to the falls. Some things have changed since I visited this place three years ago. Several boulders have fallen to the beach, and some flowers have disappeared, but this could be a seasonal change. Otherwise it is immaculate, as no one is allowed to go down to the beach. This unique landscape, with the waterfall discharging right onto the beach, is as beautiful and mesmerizing as always, and I highly recommend it to you.
Along the coastline of Central California, from Santa Cruz to Monterey, I could not help but notice the abundance of yellow flowers everywhere. The flowers are oxalis pes-caprea, a native of South Africa, It has invaded the region and many other parts of the world as well. It may be an invasive pest which is very difficult to get rid of, but it provides a welcome color at the end of winter, heralding the arrival of spring.
I found them first on a high shoreline in Santa Cruz, with the flowers looking down at surfers below.
They were also in the yards of houses, on street corners, everywhere.
Here they are against a fence at Moss Landing State Wildlife Area.
Finally a closer look.
Bixby Bridge was built in 1932 along Route 1 on the Big Sur coastline south of Carmel, CA. It is one of the most photogenic bridges in the world because it is so handsome and the landscape around it so beautiful. You will probably recognize it in many car commercials and in a few movies.
Last week, from the north end of the bridge, the view was breathtaking.
I also shot a few pictures from the back side, looking out toward the ocean.
Later on that day, I came back after the sun set and took this night shot.
The following photo is a cropped version of the above.
Natural Bridges State Park is a seaside park in the town of Santa Cruz, CA. There used to be three natural arches formed carved by the waves into sandstone. The outermost arch crumbled in the early 1900s, and the inner arch fell down in 1980. Only the middle arch remains, and it is said that it will also disappear one day.
I came there one morning last week as the tide was at its highest and the waves were coming fast and furious. Only a couple of surfers were on the beach. I took the following photos from the safety of the shore.
As you can see, cormorants and pelicans had taken over the top of the natural bridges.
My apologies for not posting anything last week, and for not responding to your comments or visiting your blogs. I went to California for a short but very busy visit, and I hope you will enjoy the photos on this post and others to follow.
I took the following photos at the beach near Marina, CA, a town between Monterey and Santa Cruz, on the first day of the trip.