Sunday Stills: Kinda Backyard #Birding

Hummingbird ready to feed

This week’s Sunday Stills’ post is partially inspired by Lisa’s Weekly Bird Challenge. What kinda birds live or visit in your backyard?

As you read in my post last week, I have enjoyed my backyard as a happy place. Not a huge backyard, but it does the job with the 5 redwood trees I planted which attract a variety of birds. The sunflower seeds and various bird feeders also attract a nice variety of birds and offer a treat to boot!

Blue jay contorts to get some yummy treats!
Bluejay contorts to get some yummy treats!

The Backyard Hums

My hummingbird feeders sing their sweet siren call to the local hummers who nest here most of the year and offer a syrupy sip.

Hummingbird ready to feed
Hummingbird quartet at feeder

In the above image, four thirsty hummingbirds manage to share the feeder.

I tried my hand at the image compare feature of the block editor to show that the squared version for Becky’s KindaSquare challenge doesn’t look as good as the original as seen above, since it cuts out one hummer.

Hummingbird enjoying his shower
Hummer after the rain
Puffed up hummingbird enjoying the rain

Do Kites Fly?

Kite on a wire

Our redwoods are home to nests of White-tailed Kites, a bird of prey from the hawk family.

As recently as the 1940s, this graceful hawk was considered rare and endangered in North America, restricted to a few sites in California and Texas. In recent decades, it has increased greatly in numbers and spread into many new areas.

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/white-tailed-kite
Kites sharing the top of a tree

Each day at twilight they gracefully circle the neighborhood on the hunt for abundant small rodents! The first family of kites moved here 20 years ago.

Kites Birds of Prey

These birds are large, with a wingspan of 35-40 inches! We’ve seen several generations of them over the years and our moderate climate in Northern California keeps them here all year long. I’ve seen as many as 20 filling the skies at sunset as they hunt. Quite a sight.

My images are a tad fuzzy since the sun was setting and the birds are in the branches 300 feet up!

Other Visitors and Other Backyards

Swallow

I’ve kinda considered the Sacramento Delta as our backyard these last 11 years, as we maintain a campsite there all summer. Swallows nest in the spring here and sometimes think it’s OK to nest in our sail shed.

You may remember this cutie from July. A blogger told me that it is Black-headed Grosbeak!

Black headed Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak

Some of these are square images inspired in part by and Becky B’s KindaSquares Challenge. Bird treats and eye candy were also inspired by the Lens-Artists Challenge theme “Quite a Treat.”

I like that Lisa has her weeks planned out with the theme for each type of bird. If you enjoy birding as much as some of your fellow bloggers, please visit her page for more inspiration. How I wish I could capture all these types of birds on her list with my own lens! I’m still holding out for the American Bald Eagle.

Some of these birds have been nesting in some old blog posts and image files. They are happy to be viewed today! I would love to see what kinds of birds visit your backyard and while you are at it, do link to Lisa’s weekly bird challenge!

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Sunday Stills: Your #Happy Place

If you have followed my blog for very long, you know that I write about the concepts of recreation and leisure and our ultimate pursuit of happiness.

The year 2020 has shown most of us that, like it or not, we are living in a new normal. Oh, how I resisted that notion! After all, isn’t “normal” being able to hike trails without wearing a mask or worrying if we are 6 feet apart from others?

Hiking in Valley of Fire State Park
More walking in the Valley of Fire

Isn’t “normal” having the ability to travel without fear of taking a flight to visit friends, family or traveling abroad? How about simply being able to use your local gym, campground, swimming pool or neighborhood park without fear of infection or the disappointment of closure?

Play-all-Day

The fundamental spaces and places we love and visit on a regular basis have been compromised due to the new normal of living within a pandemic.

For me, March 18 was the day California shut down, exactly 7 months ago.

Sacramento County has recently re-opened with some restrictions and I am so happy to be able to get back to my gym! I’ve been a member there since 2008 and have made many friends, and I get great workouts, too. One of my happy places. I will miss this gym once we move.

exercise equipment

As motivated as I am for physical activity, our hot smokey summer deterred me from being able to get outside. I tried my share of working out to youtube exercise videos, but I settled for walking the dogs a few days a week.

Walking two dogs

On my walks around my neighborhood, there is only one street in which I am fond. No, not mine, as you will read shortly, but a street a few short blocks away. This photo shows a morning walk in early Fall.

favorite neighborhood

There is something about this street with its well-kept yards, lack of chain-link fences, and fewer cars parked on the street. Really a gem in an otherwise deteriorating neighborhood. Autumn will show its lovely face on this street in November with elms, birch, and liquid amber trees that will look more like this photo taken two years ago.

liquid sunshine in liquid amber tree

As we kinda got used to our own backyards, many of us found them to be our new happy places. We longed for our vacations abroad, road trips in our RVs with abundant campground choices, open restaurants, and the like, but grudgingly stayed home to stay safe.

My backyard has been a happy place for me since June 2019 after my foot surgery, and then more so in late March, 2020. Here I planted sunflowers, plumeria, hydrangea and other garden flowers and enjoyed the hummingbird shows.

Sadly that summer, bound to my backyard by crutches and my knee scooter, I was exposed to one neighbors’ rantings and ravings as she loudly cursed her children and dropped the F-bomb all day. These were new renters behind us that shared our backyard fence, so there was no getting away from her. This behavior led us to begin our search for another place to live and inspired us to move to Washington to be closer to family and enjoy semi-rural living.

You will be happy to know that the renters were evicted after the owner discovered they destroyed the house! The new renters are quiet. The random shouts of happiness from their young children playing in their backyard is music to our ears! Their yard sounds like their happy place.

This Monday, we are on the road north with a moving truck full of boxes and furniture. Hubby is driving the U-Haul while I follow behind in his Ford truck. Our first stop is near Bend, OR, then we are back on the road Tuesday to Spokane. Wednesday we will unload into a storage unit and get that much closer to our new happy place.

We love this walk near where my in-laws live in Spokane Valley.

Spokane's Urban Forest

Even in the smoky air, there is beauty in nearby Washington’s Riverside State Park along the Spokane River. A short 15 minutes from our new home.

We won’t make the final move until mid-December.

Other happy places I’ve visited include Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, the delta and lakes, beaches, and rivers, near and far. But as 2021 approaches I am still open to find more happy places to discover and love!

Forgive me if what you’re reading sounds like my post “Happiest at Home,” published in early June. With our world turning the way it is, I predict we will continue to enjoy our happy places at home or close to it!

I am thrilled to link my happy places with this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge: My Hideaway!

Some images are inspired by Becky B’s Kinda Squares, Dawn’s Festival of Leaves, and Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Is your happy place a state of mind or a place you can visit and enjoy? Share your interpretations through images, stories, poetry, and music!

Autumn SIGNature

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Sunday Stills: Fall Color Challenge–Acres of #Ochre

Banner yellow ochre color challenge

I’m introducing some color into the Sunday Stills photo challenge! Once a month, I will feature a seasonal color, which I hope will spark loads of creativity on your part as a photographer or writer.

Photo by Adonyi Gu00e1bor on Pexels.com

October’s color is ochre, a brownish yellow, as shown above, but can range from yellow to deep orange. Perfect for showcasing your Fall colors!

I dug into my archives to find images of the range of colors seen in ochre.

Seeing the Fall display of leaves is what I miss by not being on the university campus these days. By late October the ginkgo trees have shown their glorious yellow leaves. Once the leaves fall, the groundskeepers arrange them into circles and other shapes.

ginkgo leaf display

This next image isn’t very exciting but it shows yellow ochre in the form of saffron fields grown in the Central Valley of California.

saffron field of ochre
Saffron Fields

I managed to find an image of a yellow Anna’s hummingbird, perfect for Lisa’s Bird Weekly Challenge, starting with letter A. I have to admit, I’m not sure hummers have yellow feathers; it may have been a trick of the light. I did not change the color, but it sure works!

yellow Anna hummingbird

These dried marigolds could have been the star of last week’s “dry” theme. They show a nice range of the ochre color.

dry ochre marigolds

On my last visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, I captured this gorgeous peachy-orange hibiscus on my walk with Graham at Hilo’s Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. Both floral images are submitted for Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

Orange hibiscus
Orange hibiscus

What do I miss now? Having my fall decorations on my fireplace mantel. They are packed away!

hello fall

The rusted yellow sun is still hanging from my backyard shed. Why haven’t I packed it yet?

Metal Aztec sun showing a little rust

Last winter, I held some of the orange sand from Nevada’s Valley of Fire in my hand. I was surrounded by this rich ochre color.

Valley of Fire's Sand
Reddish-orange glow of sand

In November, the show begins in my front yard with the reds and oranges of my Japanese maple juxtaposed onto my mulberry tree’s yellow leaves.

Autumn Peak

These leaves and the ginkgoes’ are submitted for Dawn’s Festival of Leaves challenge!

I hope you enjoyed the color challenge today and that I sparked your imagination! I attempted to show each image from ochre’s lightest hue to its darkest. I’m looking forward to your version of ochre!

Autumn SIGNature

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Sunday Stills: Kinda #Dry

Dried and gone to seed

If you haven’t guessed it, this week’s Sunday Stills theme is DRY. I’m using the literal version of dry, as in lack of water, to share my version of dry.

This post marks my first entry to Becky B’s October Kinda Squares Photo Challenge. Many of my photos today are square, some are not.

Last week’s images featuring water droplets displayed my yearning for cool temperatures, less heat, and an end to smokey skies caused by wildfires. This time of year in Northern California is very dry, usually through mid-November. Most people’s lawns are dry, a choice many make to save water.

In this image below, taken during our drought in 2015, even the public parks were rarely watered. Parks crews did make sure that trees got some water due to the need to maintain the Sacramento area’s urban forest.

Dry Park during droubt

The surrounding mountain ranges including the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada Range are also notoriously dry in summer and Fall. The excessive dry underbrush acts as dry tinder to fuel wildfires.

In the mountain and foothill areas, the wildfires tend to spark due to dry lightning from stray thunderstorms that form from monsoon moisture coming from the south and southwest.

Now that you have had a dry lecture on geography and weather, let’s get started with my images depicting our dry area.

Many of the plants in my backyard have withered in their natural cycle. My once glorious sunflowers have gone to seed from this stunner…

Macro view of sunflower

…to this withering bloom…

Drying sunflower

…to this bounty of seeds…

Sunflower gone to Seed

…and finally, to this…completely dry, but starkly beautiful.

Dried and gone to seed

The birds love those sunflower seeds. I harvested loads of seeds to be used for planting next year and to send some to my daughter for her garden.

Speaking of birds, Lisa’s bird weekly challenge is macro or close-up birds. This close-up of one of my loyal backyard hummingbirds is seen perched on a dry twig of our California Redwoods.

Closeup view of Hummingbird
Hummingbird close-up

In another close-up, this fella seems to be yearning for liquid refreshment in the dry bird feeder. Oops!

Hummingbird and Dry Feeder

As I said, Northern California is dry everywhere. The last of these dry grapes in nearby Apple Hill will not yield any wine. Raisins, anyone?

dried wine grapes
Dried grapes AKA raisins

Further south in Mammoth Lakes located in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the desert shows its dry heart along the shores of salty Mono Lake.

Dry desert around Mono Lake

With dry weather, comes dust! We quickly raised our car windows when we slowed down for a sheep migration on highway 395 returning from the Mammoth Lakes area.

Sheep Crossing Dusty Highway

This week’ images are inspired and submitted for the following blog photo challenges:
Cee’s Flower of the Day
Lisa’s Weekly Bird Challenge
Becky B’s October Kinda Squares

Is it dry where you live? Share your dry images and other creative ideas or your dry sense of humor with us at Sunday Stills this week. Remember, you can link all week.

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