Blackbird

A male red-winged blackbird perches on a cattail at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

I got up early this weekend hoping to see blackbirds at Ridgefield and wasn’t disappointed, both redwings and yellowheads were active near the edge of South Quigley Lake. My yellowhead pictures aren’t as good as previous years but it was still nice to see them singing and chasing each other around. I didn’t catch this male redwing singing but I love the colors of the early morning light. Song and savannah sparrows were also out and about and singing their hearts out, those pictures are yet to come.

Visitations Part II

Some more quick thoughts on my web traffic since my last update:

  • I was mistaken earlier when I said that I had been visited by 49 states with West Virginia the lone holdout. It turns out West Virginia hadn’t visited, that part was true, but neither had Delaware or Rhode Island. West Virginia did visit this week, followed by Delaware, and then finally Rhode Island, so all 50 states have now stopped by. Drinks are on me!
  • I am unpopular with the druids. Exactly zero visits from the towns around Stonehenge. Zero! This may hurt my chances at becoming Archdruid.
  • I am also unpopular in Japan (Finland and China have since clocked in, so Japan is the lone holdout of countries I’ve visited). Perhaps the druids have taken over Japan. I need to look into this.
  • Each country has a two letter identifier at the end of their Internet address, except for the US, which is only fair since Al Gore did invent the Internet. Much like two letter identifiers for the states of the US, however, some of them are not for the countries I expected. For example, did you know that Switzerland is ch, so China is not ch but cn, and Canada is not cn but eh?
  • Canada has visited but at a much lower rate than I expected compared to the US. I had planned to run a targeted campaign by blogging about hockey sticks and Pocky sticks (attracting both Canadians and the druid-Japanese), but I no longer believe it will be enough to attract my friends to the north. What we need is an invasion. Fifty-Four Forty or Fight! Who’s with me? Hello? Anyone? Hello?

Barking Up The Right Tree

Patterns in the bark of a tree near the Rio Grande in Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

While in Taos, my wife and I drove out to the Wild Rivers Recreation Area for a little hiking and sight seeing. My wife wanted to touch the Rio Grande so after waiting for some thunderstorms to pass through, we hiked the Little Arsenic Trail down into the Rio Grande Gorge. Following a long and seemingly endless series of switchbacks down into the canyon, we were tired but happy when we finally reached the riverbank. The trees by the water had a beautiful red color and I loved the patterns in their bark. The hike back up was even more punishing, but I was excited to find a tarantula sharing the trail with us, the first one I’ve seen in the wild.

The Black of Night

Our black cat Emma sitting on the stairs

Another picture from New Year’s Day, Emma’s first full day of freedom to roam the house. This was also the time I started carrying a flashlight to bed with me.

When I used to go to bed, I’d leave the lights off to avoid waking my wife and head up the stairs in the dark. We’ve lived here enough years that I can do it easily by feel. Templeton would stay behind in my office to sleep while Scout would wait (oh so patiently) for me to come to bed so she could climb on top of me. When the new cats arrived, however, I found that I was not alone in my climb upstairs in the dark. Sometimes Emma would hang out on the stairs like here and sometimes she’d literally follow me underfoot. It was impossible to see a jet black cat in the pitch black stairwell and I ran into her more than once. So I started carrying a flashlight so I could see my little black shadow before I kicked her.

Now that she’s so comfortable here, she often stays where she’s sleeping like Templeton used to. I’ll rub her head before I head upstairs to see if she wants to join me, and she gives me that “Would you get up if you were in my shoes?” look that my little gray cat used to give me, and then she goes back to sleep. She’s in bed with us when we wake up in the morning, so apparently she just comes to bed in her own time.

The Stare

Our cat Sam sitting on the bed staring into the camera

Sam on New Year’s Day. He was still getting treatment on his ears at this point so some of the hairs in his ears are wet. The drops were cold since the medicine had to be refrigerated, so little Sam was understandably less than happy about his treatment. Despite the intense stare in the picture, though, he was immediately all purrs and happiness when you finished rubbing the drops in and started cuddling with him. Although he had a handful of things he had to be treated for from the time he was at the Humane Society through his first couple of weeks with us, thankfully he’s been healthy ever since.

Visitations

I’ve been monitoring web traffic at racphoto.com for a week or two and here are some quick thoughts:

  • All 12 visits from Ireland have come from Dublin. I’m pretty sure this is Bono visiting my site, I’m a big fan of his and I assume the feelings are reciprocated. Tell the Edge and Adam and Larry I said hi!
  • Out of the 50 states in the US, I’ve been visited by 49. The lone holdout? West Virginia. West Virginia! One of my favorite places to hike when I lived in Virginia. Come on folks, show me the love.
  • Visitors came from six continents. Google doesn’t show Antartica, so I’m not sure if they’re visiting or if I’m persona non grata down there.
  • Visitors came from 38 countries, only one of which I’ve visited (the United States). I know people from China have visited the blog (at the very least to try and spam it) so I’m not sure why they don’t show up in the list. People from Japan have visited before but perhaps not the past week. But what’s up with Finland? People of Oulu, hear my plea! It’s dark and cold, what exactly are y’all up to? I visited you in November when it wasn’t exactly tourist season that close to the Arctic Circle!
  • Two iPhone visitors stopped by (and viewed a combined total of 3 pages, one more than I would have expected). I can’t imagine what my site must look like on such a small screen, but I’m curious to find out. If I accidentally drop my current cell phone under the train tomorrow and need to get a new one, it’s pure coincidence I assure you.
  • I’ve only been visited by one of the three countries in George Bush’s infamous axis of evil. I’m disappointed, as my efforts to spread peace, love, and understanding through pictures of my cats has stalled. The visit from Iran doesn’t seem to have attracted the attention of Vice President Cheney as I haven’t seen any entries for “undisclosed bunker” in my logs.
  • The vast majority (over 85%) of the visitors come from the United States. Apparently the rest of the world isn’t as anxious to learn about America’s newts and squirrels as I initially thought.
  • I’ve been curious to see how many of the places that I’ve lived (even if just for a summer) have visited. There are a few towns I’ve lived so small they’ll never show up no matter how long I watch, but more places showed up than I expected.
  • For that matter, the site is getting a lot more traffic than I expected.
  • There are many more Mac users than I anticipated. I expected the blog to be Mac heavy since many of the people who know about it use Macs, but the regular web site isn’t that much lower. But where are the BeOS and AmigaOS users?
  • There haven’t been any visits from Atlantis. I was hoping they might slip up and give away their secret location, but so far no luck. I’ll keep watching.
  • It’s really hard to type with Scout draped on my arms, so I’ll stop now.

Papa Smurf

An onion or garlic flower is about to break out of its casing and bloom

When we moved into our house, there was a forest of weeds growing under the grapes that lined the backyard. While clearing out the weeds, I found a few good plants as well, either remnants of an old garden or volunteers from some other place. I preserved as many of the good plants as I could but some of those were later casualties when I decided to dig up the grapes.

One such casualty was a cluster of onions or garlic, the bulbs got broken up by the shovel while digging up the roots of the grape vines. One survived as it grew on the other side of the little metal guard that separated the yard from the grapes. This picture was taken in late June of last year, the flower is just about to break out of the casing and fully bloom.

A Nice Quiet Weekend

The past few weeks at work have brought added stress even though my workload was usually not bad, as we knew layoffs were coming. I survived the axe once more but can’t say the same for some of my friends. A nice quiet weekend was just what I needed.

The weather here in Portland was projected to be beautiful so I got up before dawn Saturday morning and headed out to Ridgefield. No great pictures as the best subjects came after the first hour of sunlight when the light wasn’t so good, but it was an enjoyable morning nonetheless. The yellow-headed blackbirds have indeed returned, they stayed in the interior of the marsh but their singing could be heard from the road. Hopefully I’ll catch them near the road sometime over the next couple of months before they leave us.

The savannah sparrows were out singing in the meadows as well but I didn’t get the good looks I got last year. Two coyotes were out and about but just out of reach, one had something dark and duck-sized in its mouth. Red-winged blackbirds were numerous and singing, and while watching them I noticed a young bittern just a few feet away at the edge of the marsh.

As I was about ready to leave I spotted a river otter nearby in a narrow channel. I waited to see if it would resurface but they swim fast and can hold their breath for a long time, so it was probably already off fishing somewhere far away.

The rest of the day was spent in yardwork, as was Sunday afternoon. I can barely move but it was lovely weather to be outside. I moved a blueberry bush that was struggling due to lack of sunlight, as well as some strawberries that were too close to the fence. They are both survivors from when I weeded the forest of weeds that was growing under the grapes when we moved in, and from when I dug up the grapes as well.

The strawberries in particular have done well since I sent the grapes on their longest journey, there were only a few straggly plants but with the grapes gone they get a lot more sunlight and now there’s a whole patch of ’em. The berries are surprisingly delicious so I hope the transplants will survive.