Avon Manor

Avon Manor in heavy snow

There are a bunch of courtyard dwellings in our neighborhood that were apparently built in the heyday of the streetcar era. It’s interesting how they adapted as we gave our cities over to the automobile, Avon Manor (which I think was built in the late 1920’s) is fairly unique in having a central garage with a shared entrance that sits just below street level. I love the archway and the little bits of art, but it was especially beautiful on this snowy winter day.

Artwork of a bird eating grapes is surrounded by heavy snow

Insert Food Here

Our dog Ellie yawns in front of a blossoming tree

After studying the feeding techniques of the alligator snapping turtle, a large turtle that often sits and waits with its mouth open, using its tongue to lure in prey, Ellie decided to give it a go on our walks. She can charm treats out of just about anyone. She’s been on a bland diet for a while after some brief digestive issues but started normal food yesterday and, much to her great relief, was given her white dental bone treat this morning.

Art the Millikan Way

Signal art at the Millikan Way MAX station

Years ago TriMet started the Westside MAX Public Art Program to install art at the MAX light rail stations on the Blue Line’s west side and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the art at my stop near work, Millikan Way, where the art reflects technology and nature. Millikan Way is named after a famous scientist like many of the area streets, in this case for Nobel prize winning physicist Robert Millikan who measured the charge of an electron. I included my shoes in most of these pictures since I spend about a third of my commute walking and the other two-thirds on the train. This shot of some signal artwork shows off an older pair of blue New Balance running shoes, I bought these several years ago during a stretch when I was driving to work instead of taking the MAX and they’re still in good enough shape that they haven’t been relegated to dog-walking status. I tend to wear the other shoes in this post more often when I’m walking instead of driving, leading to their long life.

A goldfinch sonogram at the Millikan Way MAX station

My favorite art pieces are the many bronze plaques containing sonograms of songs of local birds, plots showing the different frequencies the birds make over time as they sing their song. I especially like this art as it combines two important parts of my life, you probably know my love for wildlife if you’ve spent much time here, but you wouldn’t know I’ve spent most of the past twenty years of my work life working with signals in the frequency and time domain. The equipment we design (like my last project or the one before it) is usually used in very different applications, like analyzing wireless communications or radar systems, and at much higher frequencies and bandwidths than birdsong, and with many different types of plots, yet many of the fundamental principles are the same. This sonogram is for the American goldfinch, I took the picture on a day when it poured rain, which is why I’m wearing my waterproof Merrell shoes. Like my orange running shoes, this is a pair I wish I had bought a handful of once I realized how much I liked them. They are great for keeping my feet dry when I have to walk through puddles but are still quite breathable, they’re wet in the picture but my feet were not.

A Bewick's wren sonogram at the Millikan Way MAX station

This sonogram is for the little Bewick’s wren, you can see how different it is from the goldfinch, especially the trill at the end where the song bounces between two frequencies. Birds have multiple vocalizations even though only one is shown in the plaques for each bird, and the songs can change with geography so that a bird on the east coast may have a different song from a similar bird in our area, but you can get a sense of how varied the songs are from one species to the next. The shoes are my blue New Balance trail running shoes that are the newer version of my beloved black shoes that finally fell apart, and are a favorite for days when it might rain some but not enough that I want to risk wearing out the more expensive waterproof shoes. These are my favorite shoes and the only thing keeping me from wearing them every day is that they weren’t available in brighter colors, although I do love this color of blue.

A great blue heron sonogram at the Millikan Way MAX station

This sonogram is for the great blue heron, full of lots of frequencies and not exactly the prettiest of songs. They’re squawkers, the herons. Shown too are my new yellow New Balance sneaks which replaced the orange ones which were wearing out, I wear them on dry days to make me more visible, plus I love colors. I don’t wear them on wet days as if they get dirty they’ll lose some of that eye-catching color. A clever photographer would have photographed his yellow shoes with the yellow goldfinch and his blue shoes with the blue heron, but you’re stuck with me.

A utility building at the Millikan Way MAX station

Even the utility building gets in on the art action, with brick patterns suggesting trees of the small wetland behind. There’s a little creek that runs past the other side of the parking lot that I walk over to get to work, and while it’s not the prettiest thing, I do see beavers in there at times (I believe they live at the nearby Nike campus). Occasionally a muskrat too, but nutria are much more common as is true of many of Oregon’s waterways. And a few varieties of ducks, and the occasional great blue heron too.

Sinusoidal signal art at the Millikan Way MAX station

There are lots of other little art pieces around, from mathematical symbols to pine cones and leaves and the like. I love that TriMet did this and over the years I’ve thought about getting off at each stop on my commute to take pictures as the art varies from station to station, but so far I’ve only done it for the stop where I normally get off. I do have a small camera now that would be perfect for the task, but I’m eager to either get to work or get home to the pup who is waiting for her walk.

The Ascent of Ruby Beach

Smooth rocks leave patterns in the sand after waves flow around them

Rocks worn smooth by the motion of the ocean make the climb up Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park to join the many others on the rocky beach, leaving patterns in the sand after the waves flow around them. Or maybe, after days of heavy rain, they were taking advantage of the sunshine to head down to the ocean for a refreshing swim in the Pacific.

All Anemones Great and Small

A giant green anemone sits beside a colony of aggregating anemones in a tide pool in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

There are two species of anemones in this tide pool at Enderts Beach, the big green one is an aptly-named giant green anemone. The clustered little ones are aggregating anemones, they can reproduce multiple ways but this colony would likely consist entirely of clones. Giant green anemones are sometimes seen in tight groups but if there’s room they often spread out.

Summer & Winter

Our dog Ellie stands next to a tree in Irving Park in the morning light of summer

I got up early this morning to walk Ellie as we are in the midst of a heat wave with back-to-back days near or over 100˚, and it only cooled off to 70˚ overnight (and even then only for a short while), so I wanted to get her out before sun and temperature rose high. The early light was beautiful and since I had my camera with me I made Ellie pose in front of the same tree near the dog park as the picture below (which I’ve posted before). The two pictures are taken in the same spot and the same year, separated by six months, one on one of our hottest days, the other on our snowiest. Two different cameras too. Same great pup.

On that winter day she gave me an epic walk but a rather short one this morning, although she cut it short because of hunger not heat. Her stomach was upset overnight so she’s on a bland diet of chicken and rice for a few days until we’re sure she’s feeling well again, and she hadn’t had even that for breakfast yet. She kept reminding me all day that I ‘forgot’ to give her a dental bone this morning, her favorite treat. My pup keeps careful track of her treats. It’s going to be a long few days, but thankfully at least cooler weather returns tomorrow.

Black in White

The Oystercatcher

A black oystercatcher stands on a rock covered with goose barnacles and California mussels in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

A black oystercatcher stands in what must feel like heaven to a bird that eats mollusks, a rock covered in goose barnacles and California mussels. When the tide comes in this rock will be underwater, something I still have trouble wrapping my head around. I love watching and listening to oystercatchers as they hunt in the tide pools so it was a special treat to get to photograph this one so completely in its element. After watching them at several places in California and Washington, I began to wonder why some of them had extra black spots next to the pupil of their wondrous orange-ringed yellow eyes, leading me to a paper that suggests you can fairly reliably determine whether the oystercatcher is male or female by these eye flecks. I suspect this one may be a male since it had only small specks next to its pupil, they were hard to see unless I zoomed in on the picture.