Thursday, August 27, 2009

Toolin' around town

Today, I had some job interview-y type stuff to do, AND I had to stay away from the house all day because they were putting new sealcoat on our road, so I played vagabond all day and just whiled away the hours until my temp-service interview by looking around. First, I drove out to some vineyards and got some nice shots in the morning mist:

After driving around for a while, I decided to go to the public library and do some research. I found Ken Kaufman's big ol' bird guide and flipped around, looking at the different migratory patterns and times out here in the west. I've been spending a lot of time reading lately (as I've been in airports and stuff), and I'm learning that the bird population out here is much different than it is back east. For instance, if all these Western field guides are to be believed, did you know that these common Eastern birds are rare and/or non-existent out west?
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
Blue Jay
Field Sparrow
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Eastern Wood Pewee
Tufted Titmouse
Black-capped Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Indigo Bunting

I know I've been hearing what sounds like a Northern Cardinal's warning "chink!" but I think it must be something else, because there's been neither crest nor feather of a NoCard out here. But I will have plenty to look as the year progresses:
Western Scrub Jay (they're everywhere)
Acorn Woodpecker
Varied Thrush
Western Wood Pewee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Western Bluebird
California Thrasher
Oregon Junco
Lazuli Bunting
Bullock's Oriole

So there's that. I also checked into what sparrows I might see during the "winter" here (when it's like forty -- brrrr!) and found a nice list with some real surprises for an Eastern birder:
Lark Sparrow--how about that crazy face pattern?
Sage Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow--golden!

I also had to look up the meaning of Western terms like "chaparral" and "desert wash." Interesting. Sounds like I'll be doing a lot of hiking in the drier areas around here. There are lots of trails and stuff to explore.

After driving around the vineyards for a while, I went to Santa Rosa to look around. First stop, childhood hero Luther Burbank's house. If you don't know what Luther Burbank did, shame on you! He's the father of hybridization, grafting bits of one kind of tree onto another, etc. He loved Santa Rosa, thinking it was the best place for growing plants year-round. (gotta agree with him there, so far) Here are some pics from his home and gardens. The actual house:Very tiny, no? They had four acres but his wife had to sell some and now there's only 1.6 acres left. It's still pretty impressive, though--I would LOVE to live among so many winding garden paths and plants:

He did a lot of work with fruits and other food plants, including the strawberries and quince shown here.

He also had a lovely rose garden with several hybrids he created:

My mom would love this place; so many flowers! He had herb gardens, cutting gardens, food gardens--you name it, the guy messed with it, always with the aim of improving the sweetness of the berry or the beauty of the flower. There's something a little vain and presumptuous about "improving" the works of Nature, but the guy's heart was in the right place.

This seat was carved out of Burbank's favorite tree, a giant Cedar of Lebanon that he grew from a seed and near which he wished to buried. The tree had to be cut down in 1989 because it had root disease, but a local craftsman carved this beautiful two-seat throne out of a big piece of the tree; the seat is now in the front yard of the house: I sat in it and was completely comfortable, cool breezes blowing on me, relaxing in Nature.

Finally, I took the scenic route home and shot this pic of the mountain that I can see out my bedroom window:Man, I love this place.


Lisa said...

Whoa. This is such a cool post - so full of good things. Go wandering more! It's like a little vacation for me to go along with you. The pix are gorgeous and I learned something and huh - what a difference in the birds!

I mean - I know you have to work, but why can't this be your job?

Beth said...

Wow - you live in a gorgeous place. Glad you are loving it - keep up with the posts and pics. I like seeing what you are seeing.


Elizabeth said...

I live 20 miles south of San Francisco and grew up in New England, so I also mourn the lack of Eastern birds. I miss blue jays and cardinals the most. Have you seen a stellar jay yet? They're almost as good as a blue jay. Same attitude.

We don't have grackles, but we have many European starlings, Brewer's blackbirds, and cowbirds, which are somewhat similar in appearance.

I've seen plenty of black-capped chickadees around. Maybe you have to go to San Francisco or San Mateo county to find them.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Great shots!

KGMom said...

Delia--first, so good to hear that you enjoying the new environs. Nothing helps a geographic transplant take better than liking the new place.
Second, NO common grackles. I will ship you a gross. I just can't imagine. It is funny how birds of a place seem exotic when one is visiting from elsewhere. When I first saw western scrub jays I thought--how cool. But they are everywhere. So it wore off.
Keep toolin' around and bringing us easterners news of you and pics, lots of pics.

Earl Cootie said...

I love those first few days/weeks in a new home when you get to explore for the first time. Too bad that old food-on-the-table thing has to rear its ugly head so quickly.

And, yeah, we're pretty filthy with Black-capped Chickadees up here. There are, I hear, Gray Catbirds in south-central WA, but I've yet to see one.

Mmmm, love those plump juicy grapes. And what a view you must have from your bedroom window!

dguzman said...

Lisa, I ask myself that question every day. Glad you liked the pics!

Beth--you wouldn't believe it! I thought PA was beautiful, but this place is in a whole different league.

Elizabeth--welcome! Yes, I saw a Stellar's Jay at Armstrong Woods a couple weeks ago, perched above a picnic site waiting for people to drop stuff; apparently they do that! Ah, I wondered if maybe the hard and fast lines of the maps were a little fudgy--I'll watch for BCChicks!


KGMom--you can keep your grackles!

dguzman said...

Hi Earl! Yup it's a nice view, once you get past the little strip mall place across the street. It's lovely right now, with the setting sun turning the hills pink. I love it here!

Rabbits' Guy said...

HA .. great post and pix ... your exhuberance reminds me of this which is (I think) the tail end of a speech given to some graduatin class in 1997 somewhere ...

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

(Chicago Tribune: 01/06/97)"
— Mary Schmich

dguzman said...

Rabbits' Guy--what a great speech! And I can believe that living in NoCal will make one soft. I see it all around me. Our East Coast impatience shows almost everywhere Matty and I go!