June 2013 Archives

Barn Swallow Feeding Video
June 24, 2013 6:30 AM | Posted in: ,

Photo - barn swallow feeding a babyThe photos I posted of the barn swallow family got enough positive reaction that I decided to get some video of the parents taking care of the young'uns. 

Following is a five-minute video distilled from about a 45 minutes of raw footage. I've edited it to focus on the interactions between the adults and the babies, which of course is all about the feeding. During that time period, I counted 11 distinct instances of feeding.

Here are some of the highlights you'll observe if you watch the entire video.

  • It appears that both parents contribute to the feeding. I can't tell them apart, but at the 2:50 mark, one shows up to "tag team" the other (although at first glance, it seems not be be a welcome appearance).

  • I have always assumed that barn swallows fed their young by regurgitating partially digested insects into the babies' mouths, but right off the bat - at the 30 second mark where I've slowed down the action - you can see a whole insect, legs sticking out of the adult's mouth, and it gets stuffed right down the gullet of the infant. I guess they know what they're doing.

  • Another slo-mo feeding takes place near the end, at the 4:10 mark, and this one seems to clearly demonstrates the regurgitating process.

  • It's also fascinating to watch how the adults seemingly know who gets fed next. If there was any doubling up, with one youngster getting fed twice in a row, I didn't catch it.

Nocturnal Neighborhood Visitor
June 23, 2013 2:59 AM | Posted in:

Debbie went outside just before 10:00 p.m. last night to look at the "Supermoon" and came back to report that two women were in the street in front of our house watching what they feared might be a "baby rattlesnake."

I grabbed a flashlight - which proved unnecessary because the reptile was directly under our street lamp, and also because the moon was living up to its advanced billing - and immediately recognized that it was not a dangerous species (other than possibly causing a heart attack in the unwary night time dog walker). The snake was only about 12" long, and wasn't happy to be in our company, as it did its best to get away.

Photo - Young snake

However, I confess that I don't know for sure what kind of snake it was. My first guess was a juvenile bull snake, simply because we have so many of them in this area. The head is not as thick as I would have expected, but I really haven't seen enough young ones to know for sure. After googling it, I think it also bears a close resemblance to a king snake, but I don't know if they range into our part of the state.

Update: Our resident habitat expert, Burr Williams, says that this is a long-nosed snake. It will eat lizards, but not, unfortunately, rats.

Photo - Young snake

I took a few photos and allowed the youngster to slither down the gutter toward the park. With any luck, he'll get big enough to take care of some of the cotton rats that are coming into the neighborhood in search of water.
As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we decided to let the barn swallows finish building a nest on our front porch, mainly because they picked an innocuous spot and I figured if I ran them off, they'd just find a worse place while we were out of town.

The clutch of eggs in the nest hatched recently and we've seen some tiny bird heads leaning over the edge, waiting to be fed. I figured this was a good time to snoop.

I put an adhesive-backed GoPro mount near the nest (it's about eight feet above the floor), and attached the camera to it, set to take a picture every 30 seconds. The setup didn't go unnoticed.

Photo - Barn Swallow Nest

It also wasn't completely successful on the first try. I was sitting in the living room when I heard a loud thump. I went outside to find the camera laying on the concrete. I had combined several mounts into an articulating arm in order to get the right angle for the shots, and the leveraged was too much for the adhesive.

Fortunately, the GoPro housings are very sturdy and the camera was unscathed. I redesigned the setup to reduce the strain on the mount, and tried it again. Following is a sample of the results from about a two hour period. Click any photo to see a larger uncropped version, or start with the first one and use the controls on the pop-up to step through all the images.

Photo - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow NestPhoto - Barn Swallow Nest

I think my favorite shot is #14, the one where the adult is flying away and the babies are still fussing because they think their mouths need to be filled again. They were obliged shortly thereafter.

A Fitting Epitaph
June 19, 2013 10:01 PM | Posted in:

We went to a funeral this morning, a memorial service for a friend who passed from this life much too soon. It was held in the chapel of our church, a striking new addition with beautiful stained glass windows all around, illuminated this morning by a bright sun that defied the inherent solemnity of the occasion.

The service began with music, a recorded song, and the beginning notes were immediately recognizable to a few of us sitting in the pews. I was at first a bit puzzled by the song selection, but then the significance dawned on me, and I couldn't help grinning while perhaps fighting back a few tears as I listened to it. 

Was it one of the great old hymns of our shared faith, or a beautiful contemporary worship chorus? Well, not really, but it was deeply personal for those who knew the man and his surviving wife.

One of my memories of the couple - who had been married only a couple of years - was of them dancing, getting lost in each others arms, obviously in love and, yes, having fun with it. I suspect that most of the people in attendance at the funeral didn't even know that side of them...the man's family expressed surprise when I mentioned it to them in the greeting line after the service; I think they'd been puzzled by the music selection, too, and they were pleased to learn its significance.

I mentioned our shared faith; it's a faith that assures us that this life is just a prelude to a much better and eternal existence, one that helps us understand that this parting is just temporary. As such, a memorial service is equal parts sorrow and gladness, and as such, a country song that celebrates the joy of life and love is entirely appropriate. We Baptists may not be dancing in church, but that doesn't mean that our hearts aren't moving in time to the music, and beating in synchronicity and empathy and joy, even during a time of earthly grief.

My prayer for all married couples is that when that inevitable sorrow comes, that it not be avoided, but that it be tempered by the knowledge that the love they shared was, above all, simply fun.
I ran across a link in my Twitter feed to this article, which describes Apple's attempts to modify Siri, its voice-activated iOS "personal assistant" application, to provide more helpful feedback for people searching for suicide-related information. 
With an update to phones running iOS 6 and iOS 7, Siri now reacts with a strong, two-fold approach when mentions of suicide come up. First, the assistant offers the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and will even offer to call directly -- a new feature that makes seeking help as simple as clicking "yes" on the phone. If for whatever reason the user decides to select "no", Siri does a search of all local suicide prevention centers, offering a list and directions powered by Yelp.

According to the article, here's what Siri now returns when suicide is mentioned:

Screenshot of Siri's suicide response

However, either this update hasn't been rolled out to everyone yet, or Siri isn't particularly sympathetic to my inquiries. Whenever I tell her that "I'm thinking of suicide," she says she doesn't know what I mean, and offers to search the web for that phrase. Perhaps this is actually an iOS 7 update that will be released this fall.

Anyway, the article goes on to say that Apple isn't the only tech company sensitive to the increasing problem of suicide. Google has modified its search results so that a search for "suicide" will display a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, along with a prominent display of the toll-free number.

Unfortunately, Google hasn't completely anticipated and accounted for the results that appear immediately after that well-intentioned link. As with many searches on generic words or phrases, a Wikipedia article is at the top of the search results, and at least a portion of those results seems designed to counteract Google's efforts. Here's a screenshot of those results.


Notice the highlighted phrase? What an unfortunate placement of information for someone who might be contemplating suicide.

It's not as though folks can't or won't find such information despite the best well-meaning efforts of the companies and organizations who run the web, but this is an example of just how complex such sensitive issues can get, and even the best plans of the smartest people on the planet don't always work out as they expected.

Recumbent Bicycles for Sale!
June 17, 2013 5:45 PM | Posted in:

[Updated 8/16/13]

It's with greatly mixed emotions that I announce a clearance sale on the inventory of recumbent bicycles now inhabiting our garage. None of these bikes have been ridden in more than a year (and a couple of them have sat idle for about two years), and there's no point other than maudlin sentimentality for keeping them around. I'd rather they be owned by someone who will ride them periodically, if not frequently. 

Besides, it's hard to accumulate new toys when the old ones are taking up space.

These bikes are being offered for sale as is. None of them are anywhere close to being new but they're all in good condition. Nevertheless, the new owners are advised to take them to their favorite local bike shop to get tune-ups (assuming they're not comfortable doing the work themselves), if for no other reason than they've been sitting for a while and the tires, tubes, and lube probably need attention. Also, I don't want to mess with shipping, so you'll need to be prepared to come to Midland, Texas to pick up your purchase.

Here are the bikes being offered for sale. Note: Click on each photo to pop-up a larger and uncropped picture.

Ryan Duplex Tandem - $750 OBO

(Priced new at $2700; no longer in production)

We bought this bike new in 1998; it was our 25th wedding anniversary present to each other. I estimate we've put around 20,000 miles on it over the years, and we accumulated some wonderful memories as a result. But we bought a new tandem recumbent last year and this one is now just gathering dust.

This bike was designed and built by Dick Ryan, the man whom many consider to be the father of modern recumbents, and he definitely built the first commercial tandem 'bents. Only 250 were made; I don't know for sure but I think ours is about #200.

The steel-framed bike features underseat steering. It's one of the safest, most comfortable bikes on the market, due to its long wheelbase, low center of gravity, relaxed seating position, and cool mesh seats. It has V-brakes front and rear, and the rear wheel is also outfitted with a drum brake that's controlled by the stoker (the rider in the rear). The components are Deore XT.

The bike as pictured doesn't have a front fender but I have one that I'll throw into the deal if you think you'll be riding on wet streets (not a huge problem in Midland, you know). The stoker also has a bike computer that's included in the deal, and who can resist the cute pink beeper?

This bike is ideal for cruising the neighborhood, but it's also comfortable and sturdy enough for all day rides (we did a couple of 75+ mile rides on it, as well as riding from Frisco, Colorado, over Vail Pass, down to Vail and then back in one day...one of the best - and toughest - rides of our lives). It has a 24-speed drivetrain and will handle hills just fine if you don't mind spinning up them. 

If you don't like to ride bicycles due to strain on your neck and shoulders, or pressure points on your hands and rear, you'll be delighted at how this bike solves those issues.

The downside to owning this bike is probably obvious: the challenge of transporting it. But we managed to haul it all over the country so it can be done.

Photo - Ryan DuplexPhoto - Ryan DuplexPhoto - Ryan DuplexPhoto - Ryan Duplex

Easy Racer "Black Gold" Gold Rush Replica Sold!

(New models available today starting at $3495)

My wife bought this bike for me in 1999 (I have a very, very nice wife!) and it's been one of the best bicycles I've ever owned. It's the only one of the bikes being offered that's still being manufactured. The Black Gold is an aluminum-framed recumbent and its awkward name comes from the fact that it's modeled after the version that Fast Freddy Markham used to become the first person to exceed 50 mph, then 60 mph, and finally 65 mph on a bicycle. And it is fast.

Components are top-notch (Shimano Deore XTR), with a 24-speed drivetrain, and the seat is even more comfortable than those on the Duplex, although the non-mesh bottom isn't as cool in hot weather. The frame size is L, and according to this document on Easy Racers' website, it will accommodate riders with x-seams ranging from 41.5" to 45".

The fairing is an optional add-on, and is pretty beat up. It doesn't do much for the ride except in a headwind and intensifies road noise, but it's easily removed without tools. But it looks cool.

Again, with its long wheelbase and stretched-out seating position, this bike is very safe and comfortable. However, it also has very quick handling - a characteristic of recumbents in general - so don't expect to do any "look ma, no hands!" tricks...at least, not any successful ones.

This is a versatile bike - you can keep up with the club rides, or outfit it with touring gear and ride across the country.

Photo - Easy Racers Gold Rush ReplicaPhoto - Easy Racers Gold Rush ReplicaPhoto - Easy Racers Gold Rush ReplicaPhoto - Easy Racers Gold Rush Replica

BikeE RX - Free Gone!

(Originally priced at $1800; manufacturer is no longer in business)

We bought this bicycle for my wife in 2001, and it's been ridden less than 200 miles since then, not because it's not a good bike, but simply because she prefers to ride the tandem and isn't interested in riding by herself.

If the preceding two bikes are examples of engineering prowess, the BikeE is the pinnacle of simplicity (but with a few cool design twists). You won't find a simpler frame than the aluminum beam on the RX. This 27-speed bike has SRAM components, a carbon fiber headset extension, and a padded-bottom/mesh-back saddle. It also has a tunable rear air shocks, which is helpful due to the very short wheelbase and stiff frame. The bike comes with a high-pressure pump made especially for the shock, and also a custom-made resistance trainer that attaches to the back wheel if you want to use it as a stationary bike.

The BikeE is best used as a cruiser, for neighborhood rides. While some may find it comfortable for longer rides, I never did.

Important Safety Disclosure - Read carefully!

"So, why so cheap?" you may be asking. The simple answer is that there were two safety recalls issued for this bike, and neither of the issues have been addressed on our model. I don't want to sell a potentially unsafe bicycle to someone else (and though we haven't had any problems with it, we also haven't ridden it that much, other than indoors as a stationary bike). If you'd like to take the bike as is, understanding the potential for risk, and either live with or try to fix the problems yourself, you're welcome to take the bike. In any event, the parts and components might be worth something to a bike-tinkerer. The previous link does contain additional information about the source for parts to fix the two issues. I just don't want to spend any time or money since we don't plan to ever ride the bike.

Photo - BikeEPhoto - BikeEPhoto - BikeEPhoto - BikeE

8 Track Lookback
June 17, 2013 6:36 AM | Posted in:

Attending the Happy Together Tour concert last week put me in a musical nostalgic mood, and I rediscovered these in my small Museum of Obsolete Technology:

Photo of 8 track tapes

These are the only survivors from the dozens of 8-track tapes I accumulated during my high school and early college years. I'm not sure of the strategy behind the selection of these tapes, other than they represent a wide range of genres. For the record, I wasn't a Black Sabbath fan - I didn't even realize Ozzy Osbourne was a member until a few decades later; I think this was my form of rebellion in my small West Texas hometown of Fort Stockton.

However, I did love the jazz-rock genre, hence the Chase and Chicago tapes (although my favorite group in that vein remains Blood, Sweat and Tears). I also had multiple albums from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and who didn't love the [Young] Rascals? Grand Funk Railroad was straight-ahead rock and was in good company with Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Steppenwolf. (Of course, once I started dating, there was an interesting shift to artists such as The Lettermen and Rod McKuen (gasp!), and the soundtrack from Romeo and Juliet. Funny how those things work.

I mounted a Radio Shack 8-track player in the family's barebones late-Fifties Ford, which my parents won in a raffle at the local drive-in. The car had a straight-six motor, and the engine compartment had enough spare room to sleep in. Anyway, it didn't have a radio - heck, it barely had a glovebox - so the 8-track was the only musical option available at the time.

I bought a couple of speakers but never figured out how to mount them in the car, so they sat in the backseat floorboards. I did, at least, hide the speaker wires running from the dashboard to the backseat, preserving the classiness of the installation.

Nevertheless, there were many enjoyable hours spent listening to the music emanating from that player. I mastered the skill of coaxing tape back inside the case (some of you may remember how often those tapes came unwound), and recognizing when to swab the tape deck playback head with rubbing alcohol to remove the residue that built up over time and spoiled the otherwise pristine sound. Well, it was pristine compared to, you know, silence.

Confession: I'm still using an 8-track storage box, with the partitions removed, as a receptacle for small parts and doo-dads (a technical term of art) in the garage.

It's hard to believe that I now have 3,719 songs (including quite a few of those on the tapes pictured above) of significantly better audio quality available in device that's a quarter of the size of just one of these tapes. There are some things I'm nostalgic about, true, but going back to 8-tracks tapes isn't one of them.
Your grandfather probably doesn't have a pedometer, but if he does, I'll bet it's not a Fitbit. Photo - Fitbit ZipDebbie and I both acquired a Fitbit Zip via our participation in a wellness program sponsored by BP, in which the company is challenging employees and retirees (we, of course, fall into the latter group) to rack up a million steps over the course of a hundred days. That works out to 10,000 steps a day, and it's been interesting to see how wearing the tiny device acts as a motivator to try to achieve that goal.

I was initially skeptical. We're regular exercisers, and a normal workout is either a five mile run, 45 minutes on a stationary bike, or a twenty mile tandem bike ride, and I would categorize our lifestyle as "active," especially when you add in the dancing. So I figured it would be a breeze to get 10,000 steps in a day, but I also thought that I'd quickly decide that a pedometer was a lame idea and set it aside after a short time.

But the Fitbit unit itself is just a piece of the entire system, and it's the system that makes the program attractive. The unit automatically tracks your daily steps, mileage, and calories burned (based on your height, weight, and age), and resets itself to zero each 24 hours (but still counts the calories that a normal resting metabolism consumes even during sleep, which is a nice touch).

It then periodically syncs with your smartphone, tablet, and/or computer, and provides a "dashboard" that provides a nice visual status report of how you're doing. Here's a screenshot of my dashboard from a couple of weeks ago.

Screenshot of Fitbit Dashboard
Notice how I cleverly picked a day where I did good?

In the live Dashboard (which, by the way, is very nice piece of programming...very responsive), you can mouse over the bar graph to see the actual number of steps recorded for a given time period, and I find it interesting to see how activity level varies throughout the day. June 2nd was a Sunday, and other than walking around church and going to the grocery store, we didn't do much until about 3:00 p.m., when we went for a four-mile walk through the neighborhood. A normal day at the office yields 2,500-3,500 steps for me, depending on how many trips between floors I have to make via the stairs.

Even if you're not a walker or a runner, you can get credit for your activities by manually entering them via the website. The site also provides a section for tracking your diet, although I haven't done anything with it. And if you're the competitive type, you can hookup via Facebook with other Fitbitizens to do the social thing. Again, not my bag, but it may be a motivator for some.

I didn't expect that putting a Fitbit on my belt or waistband would change the way I perceive normal everyday activities, but it has. There's something satisfying about knowing that mowing the yard, or walking to the mailbox, or vacuuming the house is not only accomplishing a task that needs to be done, it's also contributing to the achievement of a goal.

It can get a little silly, though. Last night, just before bedtime, I was getting ready to retire the Zip for the night and I saw that it read 15,905 steps. I'm just OCD enough to not be able to let that go, and so I made a few laps around the living room and kitchen in order to break the 16K mark. So I've got that going for me.

There are more expensive Fitbit models; one purports to track your sleep habits, although the reviews are mixed regarding its effectiveness. Another model is in the form of a wristband, but it lacks the display of the Zip.

Having lived with the unit for a month, I would gladly pay the purchase price to have one. The basic model is $60. But BP thinks highly enough of the potential to improve health that it provided the units to employees and retirees for free.

The Happy Together 2013 Tour: An Irreverent Review
June 14, 2013 10:55 PM | Posted in:

The Happy Together Tour 2013 (hereinafter referred to as "THTT13") bopped into Midland's Wagner-Noël Performing Arts Center last Wednesday evening. This was one of only three stops in Texas for the show, the others being Austin (of course) and Stafford (say wha?...if you have to google Stafford to find out where it is, don't feel bad; I did too).

This show has been around sporadically since 1984, with varying participants - undoubtedly determined by who had best recuperated from hip replacement surgery - all of whom were popular musical groups in the 60s and early 70s. This year's incarnation included, in order of appearance: Gary Lewis (frontman of The Playboys); Mark Lindsay (lead vocalist of the awkwardly-named Paul Revere and the Raiders featuring Mark what's-his-face); Gary Puckett (lead singer of the Union Gap); Chuck Negron (the Three Dog Night guy who hit the high notes, and, unfortunately, rode the White Horse); and Flo and Eddie (aka Mark Voman and Howard Kaylan, founding members of the Turtles).

None of these guys were what I would call my musical idols, and I wouldn't pay to attend a solo concert by any of them. But the idea of all of them on the same bill was intriguing, and so we sprang for mezzanine seats in the Winpac, which was filled to the rim with old people. You know, people like me. I saw very few people under the age of 40, and those probably either lost a bet or were there as caregivers.

Overall, THTT13 was worth the price of admission*. Here's my quick takes on each performance. It's worth noting that the common thread throughout all the acts was comfortable footwear.

  • Gary Lewis - Lewis was introduced as the guy who, in 1965, was selected as Cash Box Magazine's Male Vocalist of the Year, beating out two mooks named Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. After the first few notes of his set, I began to wonder whether the payola scandal of the Fifties had extended beyond that decade, and also whether our investment in two tickets for the evening was misguided. Fortunately, he eventually found the key (more or less), and, buoyed by a very skilled backup band, put on a winsome show, singing four or five of his group's biggest hits. Of all the performers, he seemed to be the most appreciative of the audience, perhaps realizing that his skill wasn't quite up to the standards of those following him on stage.

  • Mark Lindsay - Lindsay made an entrance twirling his trademark tricone hat on a forefinger and wearing a bathrobe. The Raiders were always a schlocky act, but they also had some big hit songs, and Lindsay's vocal skill has not diminished with age (nor has his schlockiness). His mid-act pitch of his CD was appropriately self-deprecating, and went over well with the general demographic of the audience.

  • Gary Puckett - I was never a fan of the Union Gap, and Gary Puckett's melodramatic singing style has become a parody of itself. Plus, he now resembles Ken Railings, that smarmy Aussie dancer in Strictly Ballroom. Here's proof:

    Gary vs Ken

    Plus, have you listened to the lyrics of some of their songs lately? How creepy are these lines:

    Young girl, get out of my mind
    My love for you is way out of line
    Better run, girl...you're much too young, girl.

    Perhaps the concept of statutory rape hadn't been fully developed in the 60s. Regardless, even though he included a sincere and moving tribute to military veterans, his was my least favorite part of the show.

  • Chuck Negron - The members of Three Dog Night were notorious party animals, even before that term had been coined, and Chuck was the one guy on stage who looked like he'd been rode hard and put away wet. On the other hand, the fact that he's kicked a heroin addiction and could still hit [most of] the notes was a testament to his determination and talent. He had a few funny lines, but was mostly business, and Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog was the crowd's favorite song of the night.

  • Flo and Eddie - These guys are the common thread throughout the Happy Together tours, which should be obvious considering the name was taken from the biggest hit of the Turtles' career. They wear the role well, and put on the most entertaining act of the night. They've always been known for combining silliness and music, and they manage to stay contemporary even while riding the hits of fifty years ago. Their entrance was to the music and video of Gangnam Style, complete with dance moves, but it ended with Eddie lamenting "what have they done to our music?!," much to the delight and apparent agreement of the audience.

    They were and perhaps still are very musically creative and adventurous** - nobody joins Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention*** without having that bent...or being that bent. I suspect that they had a lot of influence on the musical arrangements for the tour, and their performance was rightly positioned as the climax of the evening. One of fun musical throwaways of their act was allowing each of the backup musicians - who were impressively talented in their own right - play a riff from a highly recognizable tune from the early rock era: the lead guitarist did the opening notes from Sunshine of Your Love, and the drummer rocked a bit of the classic drum solo from Inna Gadda Da Vida, and my possibly faulty recollection is that the keyboardist did the opening of Light My Fire - all of which blended seamlessly with Flo and Eddie's original song.
After two hours of continuous music, all five acts reassembled for the finale - a rousing encore of Jeremiah - with the enthusiastic participation of the audience. Despite some occasional glitches - is the sound system at the Winpac really that bad, or is it the fault of the acts that appear there? - I saw nothing but smiling faces on the folks exiting the theater. Volumes could be written about the societal implications of the staying power of musical white bread, but do you really believe that people will still be lining up to hear Gangnam Style fifty years from today? If you get a chance to catch THTT13, there are worse ways to spend your time and money, especially if you're tired of prancing Koreans.

*Enter the recurring outrage over the online purchase "convenience fee" that equalled 20% of the base price of the tickets. Seriously? That borders on shameful.

**I did not realize just how many well-known musicians these guys have appeared with or backed-up in the studio.

***The MOI's "We're Only In It For The Money" was one of the three first albums I purchased with my own money, the other two being the eponymous "Chicago" and "Blood, Sweat & Tears."

Quelle Quail? These Quail!
June 4, 2013 10:01 PM | Posted in: ,

This evening I noticed some shallow disturbances at random between the flagstones on the east side of our back yard, as if something had been digging or scratching. I also heard some rustling noises around the mediterranean fan palm in that vicinity. This looks like a pretty good place for something to hide, doesn't it?

Photo of palm tree and ground cover

I decided to do a little investigative photojournalism, so I grabbed my camera and a long lens and went snooping. Here's what I found hiding in the middle of that shrubbery.

Photo of hiding quail

OK, so it wasn't a catamount or a lemur, things that would have generated a bit more excitement. But can you identify the type of bird?

Photo of quail

It's a scaled quail, aka blue quail, and there were two of them under the tree. Shortly after this one ran out - in an apparent attempt to lure me after it and away from their nesting spot - another one sprang from the brush. (If you don't have quail where you live, be sure to listen to the bird's calls on this page.)

Photo of palm tree and ground cover

I'm guessing the second bird is the female, and she was protecting something until the suspense became unbearable and she decided to flee. Sure enough, when I looked closer, I saw at least two baby quail disappear into the ground cover, too quickly to photo (and I wasn't crass enough to paw around trying to flush them).

The female didn't go far; she was determined to keep an eye on me.

Photo of quail on roof of house

The neighbors' roofline made a perfect lookout spot, close enough to see what I was up to, but not within reach.

I decided to wait her out, and hid behind the wall next to the palm tree. Pretty soon, curiosity got the best of her.

Photo of quail peering over fence

She would peek over the wall, disappear for a few seconds, and reappear at a slightly different spot, all the while making note of my position. 

Eventually, her patience, the 100+ degree temperature, and the swarming flies crumbled my resolve, and I retreated, while she gave me the nonchalant "I have no idea why you'd want to hang around here as there's nothing to see, and nothing to worry me" look.

Photo of quail on fence

I walked quietly by the tree about ten minutes later and could see her hunkered down, presumably with her babies safely underneath. She didn't stir, but I could feel the stinkeye all the way around the corner.

We've noticed a lot of quail this spring around the neighborhood, mostly in pairs - no full-blown coveys. I presume that the drought is driving them in from the dry pastures. They're fun, goofy birds, and I'm glad we can offer a preserve for them for a while.

Gallery Photos
June 2, 2013 5:30 PM | Posted in: ,

It's been a while - a few months, to be accurate - since I updated the Gallery. There's a bunch of new stuff out there now, including larger versions of these images.


Bunny Stop
June 1, 2013 8:14 PM | Posted in: ,

Baby cottontails are perhaps the cutest wild animals in existence, especially when they try to hide in plain sight.

Photo of a bunny

This one inexplicably stopped just short of a bridge that would have completely hidden it. Perhaps it thought that we'd be confused by the rebar right behind it, thinking it was a snake. In any event, I was able to get a picture looking straight down from the bridge.

Photo of a bunny

It quickly tired of the paparazzi and disappeared under the bridge, as it should have done in the first place.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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