sunny, near 70 Yard bird photos
Beautiful weather this weekend. I spent much of it in the garden, preparing beds. All I managed to
plant was potatoes, partly because they're so easy to plant and partly because I kept running across
them as I was digging the garden and felt sorry for uprooting them with their new sprouts just breaking
into the sunlight. As a crop they don't make much sense for a small garden like mine - they take a lot
of room and I generally only get a few meals out of them. Unlike zucchini, which also take lots of
room but which feed us almost daily from mid-July to mid-October.
With mornings getting light by 5:30, I haven't been able to sleep in despite staying up nearly until
midnight. I was doing very well for a few days, getting to bed by 10AM for the first time all year
after camping out at Saddle Mountain, but bedtime seems to slip by a half hour every night until I'm
back in my habit of staying up late. Anyhow, Saturday morning the maple tree by the corner of the
back porch was full of warblers so I sat out there with my camera and tried to get photos of them.
I did manage to get a few decent though distant shots but it took me several hours to warm up again
after I came in. Sunday morning I dressed more warmly and got more photos, including a first-ever
yardbird - a black-throated gray warbler, along with several warbling vireos and orange-crowned warblers.
The nice thing about using the camera is that I can study their appearance at my leisure rather than
trying to chase after glimpses through binoculars. The differences between the vireos and the orange-crowned
warblers didn't become apparent to me until I examined my photos.
sunny, 77 Wheezer Obituary
Another beautiful weekend. Daniel and David finished school and came home for the summer. Nearly fifteen
weeks ahead with no homework, no papers and few responsibilities. Today David brought Monica, a climbing
friend, home and Swee fixed a nice lunch - baked eggplant and garlic bread - which we ate at the new
wrought-iron table for four on the back deck in the sunshine.
White-crowned Sparrows mating
Yesterday, and Friday morning too, I sat on the back porch and took
more bird photos
- missed a few a good shots but got a few
too. The best one I missed was a close-up of the male black-headed grosbeak on a sunny branch; the
chestnut-backed chickadees drove him off just a second before I could get the lens on him. But on
the other hand, I did capture the white-crowned sparrows having sex, and photographed the goldfinch
pair as well as a Nashville warbler which I didn't realize I'd seen until I looked at the photo.
Digging Wheezer's grave
When we arrived home yesterday Wheezer was lying on his side out in the sun with his legs extending
uphill and his eye wide open, staring at the sun. "Wheezer's dead," I said. After lunch David and I
rolled him into the wheelbarrow (I rolled, David took pictures) and wheeled him up the driveway to
the garden path. I chose that site for his burial because the topsoil is deeper there than anywhere
else on the property. It took about an hour to dig a 2'x4' hole about 5' deep and another hour to
cover him up. Striper didn't show any sign of missing his former significant other until this afternoon
when he began bawling after David and Monica walked by on their way down toward the river. He wasn't
hungry and he wasn't caught in the fence and he stopped as soon as he could see me out on the back
porch, so I think he was lonely. I find myself noticing Wheezer's absence too, not that I'm particularly
sad; just that it doesn't seem right to have only one goat.
AM ovc 55, PM sunshine, evening rain
After a quiet day yesterday we had lots of warblers around today - all Yellow, Wilson's and Townsend's.
As soon as I went out on the back porch this morning I spotted two singing Yellow Warblers in
the maple tree and heard another one singing nearby. When I came back out with the camera all
I could find were Wilson's Warblers, the Yellows having moved north to the fir trees and out of sight.
I did get several shots of the Black-headed Grosbeak, a one-eyed male Brown-headed Cowbird and the
resident robin. Hearing Wilson's's singing out towards the driveway I decided to try the living room
window by the swallow box. Good decision - during several sessions over the next couple of hours I
took about 500 photos of mostly female Townsend's and male Wilson's warblers, some of them only about
six feet away. Unfortunately almost all of the shots were motion-blurred; I shoot at F11 which on an
overcast morning means shutter speeds generally between 1/30 and 1/100 at ISO 500, not fast enough to
stop active warblers. Still, I managed to get a few really good images, far better than any previous
photos I've taken of warblers. I noticed that the two species generally seemed to divide up the foraging
area - the Townsend's out near the tips of the branches and the Wilson's more towards the interior of
the spruce tree, though there was some overlap. On the maple tree all the warblers forage out in the
flower/leaf clusters at the tips of the branches. I wish now that I'd tried to photograph the Orange-
crowned Warblers from the living room window because they often foraged in the spruce. I heard them
singing around the house all last week but they seem to have moved on, along with the Yellow-rumped,
because I didn't see or hear either species this morning.
On another bird note, we seem to have three species of swallows nesting around the house this year -
Tree swallows in a box in the garden, Violet-green in the box at the corner of the living room and
Barn swallows in the carport. Several times while I had my camera sticking out the living room window
one or the other of the Violet-green swallows hovered in front of my lens - too close for a photo at
With all the distractions at home I didn't get to work until 2PM. I spent 5 hours on a series of queries
mapping the exclude reasons associated with about 400,000 files over to about 5,000 subdirectories in
which those files reside. Finished the queries but didn't make any progress on my primary task -
documenting the system. As I told David, who had three papers to write last week, my job this week is
writing a 10 page paper about the system I've built. He asked if anyone would read it; I told him
probably not, but it still had to be good.
I didn't get to work very early today, distracted in the morning by photographing birds again. Once there
I had a productive day though, wrote about a third of the user guide which I had intended to work on
yesterday until a serious performance issue with processing subdirectory exclusions cropped up. I spent
all day adding a step to the file load to parse out and store all subdirectories and file-subdirectory
associations for all files in the load so I could do a direct match on subdirectory rather than using
like, which turned out to be painfully slow when the number of subdirectory exclusions began to grow.
Parsing the subdirectories for a million files takes 10 minutes or so, but doing so accelerated the
calculation of subdirectory exclusions for 5000 subdirectories from several days to several seconds.
Yellow warblers have been singing in the maple tree for the past three days but today was the first time
I've been able to get photos of them. For some reason they're harder to spot and track in the tree than
the other warblers, though their song is among the loudest of them all. I finally got my best shots from
the roof - wish I'd tried that for the other warblers too but that will have to wait until next year.
On the roof I'm almost right in the crown of the maple. While I was up there I tried to get photos of the
swallows in flight but that will take more practice. The trick seems to be to track with my free eye, keeping
the lens hood an inch (measured at the hood) behind the flying bird and just trust that as I do so, the
bird will be in the viewfinder. The Tree Swallow makes it easier for me by sitting on the post in the garden
near their box, where the female is on eggs.
Sunny, 72 West Tiger
Last day of work, though I didn't work much and it actually isn't my last day. I'm returning the week
of the 15th-19th ofJune, and in the meantime I still have to finish the user's guide over the next few
days. But today Jeff and I hiked up Tiger and David and Monica joined us. Monica spent the night even
though both Daniel and Susan had a stomach bug. She didn't have anywhere else to go for the day between
finishing her Outdoor Leadership training course and her flight home to Delaware, and she likes it here.
After falling a bit behind Jeff and me on the way up the cable line trail, David turned left onto the
TMT instead of continuing straight up. We were on the summit when he called on his cell phone, having
realized that he was probably lost. I told him to return the way he came and we would meet him at the
car, and we did. We were a little late getting Jeff back to work but he didn't seem to mind too much.
I spent about a half hour in the office then we ate supper at the Indian restaurant next to Performance
Cycle, where I bought a few things while we waited for the restaurant to open for supper. We lingered
so long over supper that we followed Monica's airport shuttle down our road and up our driveway. In just
9 minutes we got her packed up and on her way.
Sunny, 72 Rattlesnake Lake
In the morning I drove out to Rattlesnake Lake to meet with the biologist there, who also coordinates
event usage of the Recreation Area. He suggested that I consider having my start and finish at the Iron
Horse State park trailhead so as to avoid having to get a City of Seattle permit. We drove over and looked
at the parking lot - 57 stalls not including the lightly-used horse trailer parking area. If I have about
70 runners and used the upper gravel lot of the Rattlesnake Lake parking area as overflow that might work.
There were a couple of reasonably good places where we could have our finish area and serve lunch. We
tried calling the state park but received no answer; budget cutbacks have made the remaining employees hard
Afterwards I wandered around with my camera trying to photograph birds. I managed a photo of a red-breasted
sapsucker and a couple of a warbling vireo but missed more than I got. I followed gated gravel roads in from
down the road a couple hundred yards from the Rattlesnake parking entrance, passed a brushy marsh with lots
of Swainson's thrushes, then back up towards the mountains to another wetland, a shallow pond surrounded by
old alders with Salmonberry understory. Hooded Merganser and Mallards, maybe a Gadwall, out on the water and
Warbling Vireos, Wilsons Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, robins, Yellowthroats around the edges. I skulked
through the Salmonberry feeling frustrated by my inability to move quietly but enjoying the sunshine and the
new foliage of spring nonetheless. On the east side of the wetland I found a path and followed it south up
onto the Iron Horse trail maybe a third of a mile above the trailhead. Shortly before I reached the parking
area, after pausing to photograph a towhee, I heard a peregrine kakking overhead but couldn't spot it. Based
on the direction the sound came from, the bird was some distance east or even northeast from the ledge so
maybe it was alarmed by an eagle and not by the colorful crowd on top of the cliff.
After lunch I hung out on the back porch and was eventually rewarded with a couple of opportunities for
close-ups of Wilson's Warblers in the maple tree. That seems to be the only warbler still around. Towhees,
Song sparrows, Chestnut-backed chickadees and a flock of young House Sparrows also visited the feeder. A
Starling flew in several times but left hastily upon spotting me.
Daniel & David on top
Daniel & David hiking up
AM ovc 50, PM partly cloudy, 70 Mt Pete
On David's insistence Daniel and I hiked up Mt Pete with him today. We didn't head over there until after lunch
when the clouds had thickened and scattered gray curtains of rain had begun to drop off to the southwest. We
did a loop on the back side, up to the right and down the old road along the west side of the "mountain". I
carried my camera in hopes of finding some birds and did - a White-crowned Sparrow on the way up and a
Wilson's Warbler on the way down. The Wilson's call was unfamiliar, a loud, thick "chk", but the bird itself
was quite unwary. A Bald Eagle soared overhead as we returned to the car.
Forest near the summit
It seems as though everything is blooming right now. The yellow Scotch Broom is at its peak along Mud Mountain
Road at the trailhead. Wild blackberry, strawberry, thimbleberry and chokecherry(?)are all flowering in the
open areas along the lower part of the trail and serviceberry is blooming around the summit. I also noticed
a nice magenta/purple wild pea and bluish-purple Penstemon along the first part of the road up.
On the way home I had David drive so I could take photos out the passenger side window. We stopped for fields
bright yellow with buttercups and along 464th where I noticed Lazuli Buntings singing on Sunday when I rode
past on my bike. I found the Lazuli Bunting foraging and singing in the ditch along the side of the road, so
close it startled me and I scared it up into the cottonwoods. Fortunately it dropped down again, still singing,
so I was able to find it and get a few pictures. That was a nice surprise; I didn't expect to get anywhere near
The cat tangled with an oppossum and lost. She has a shunt on her rump to facilitate draining of her bite
wounds back there and while the shunt is in place, she has to wear a collar like a plastic megaphone around
her neck. Not only does it prevent her from disturbing the shunt, but it also gets caught on the door mouldings
when she tries to slink around corners. She's clearly puzzled about it but doesn't lose her temper. Rather than
board her at the vet's during our trip to New Hampshire, we decided that Susan would stay home to take care of
her so just the boys and I will go to visit my folks.
Hannah came up to visit Daniel on her way to see a friend in Seattle. Susan baked a lemon meringue pie for the
occasion and we had sat at our new wrought iron table from Costco and ate a nice lunch in the sunshine. Afterwards
David and I photographed flowers around the yard. Daniel is starting to take more of an interest in photography
too. He's using David's D40 so we won't put it up for sale on eBay just yet.