Friday, January 22, 2010

Birds after the rain

We have a little break in the rains this morning; official total so far this week is 1.69', over the total for all last year of 1.59'. These are the storms coming up from the Los Angeles area that are causing so many problems there. Today was supposed to be the heaviest rainfall, but the forecast has been revised to just random thunderstorms, instead of the steady rain like we had all day yesterday. Normally we get most of our rain in February coming up from Southern California like these storms, but not so much over so many days in a row. Then it’s back to dry, with a usual series of Thunderstorms coming up from Mexico via the Phoenix area (southeast direction instead of the LA southwest direction) during July and August, and back to dry again. The snow level is down to 2,500 feet, so all of the mountains around us are white, with several inches up the street around Red Rock Canyon. Should make the skiers happy, the Mt. Charleston ski resort is less than an hour drive with the ski slope up around 10,000 feet; reports say they received about 24" of snow in the last day, so it will probably be pretty good for a while. Next week afternoon temps on the mountain will probably be around 50f with plenty of sun, so it does get a little slushy for skiing late in the day.

I filled up the bird feeder out back this morning and the birds pictured yesterday are all there eating now. Along with several dozen of their friends: when I put birdseed out we usually have fifty or sixty house sparrows and finches on the ground and fighting for one of the perches on the feeder. They are quite a noisy bunch chirping at each other out there. In addition to the seed feeders we have a lot of bug eating birds, as the rains have driven a lot of worms up to the surface. I counted a half dozen robins, two quail, three or four woodpeckers, and over a hundred starlings in addition to our regular hummingbirds and mockingbirds all out back at the same time. The front yard is full of pigeons and doves eating the fallen olives.

I tried to take a shot of our water fountain out back when the starlings descended - there were about a dozen on the rocks pecking at each other. But as usual some noise startled them and they all jumped up to the trees. So you'll have to settle for five, with a robin in the lower right corner watching.

The starlings come in a flock, I can count a little over fifty in this picture, but my camera doesn’t shoot wide enough to get the whole group, extending left and right about the same amount as here.

It’s funny to watch them all jump up when there is a noise out on the street, or fly together as a group into the trees, wait a bit, and come back down. See what little it takes to amuse me?

Here is the feeder. It took a while to find one that the pigeons can’t perch on, I got this tube one and cut the perches shorter and glued plastic partially over the seed holes so that the birds can’t just swipe all the food out quickly. It holds about a pound of seed, and these guys can clear it out in about six hours.

One of the woodpeckers came back - here he is on the fountain. That black looking mark on his chest is a very iridescent bright red when caught in the sunlight. I think it’s a sapsucker, as they have circled our peach tree with holes then come back a few days later and eat the sap that oozes out. I don’t think we have that many boring bugs in the peach tree.

All the birds have black and gray speckled feathers, and blend into the dry grass and gravel yards. It's hard to see the sapsucker on the peach tree until he starts beating on the trunk and you see his head moving. The starlings turn full black in the summertime, and the robins are not a bright red but have more of a pale redish gray front, not as bright as the ones I remember from back East.

On a different front, my allergies are back and really knocking me right now. I never had problems before we moved here, but have developed an allergy to one of the trees that blooms in January. I guess the rain pushed them, and yesterday my head felt like it was about to explode from the stuffed sinuses. I’ve got some prescription pills an allergist prescribed to me last year; they help but not really enough. I’ve talked about all the pollen produced by desert trees and bushes before, because the plants are so far apart they depend on air pollination, so are quite generous with pollen output.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Birds in the rain

What do birds do when it rains for three days straight in Las Vegas? Well, they give up on sitting in the trees and look for whatever little roof they can find. Our roof extends out over the walls by about two feet, so it's dry right under that. We noticed them when we looked out our front window into the courtyard. Over on the right wall we have an iron sun sculpture.

To the left of that is our front gate.

And to the left of that is a bedroom window.

These are all the little house sparrows that eat at our feeder (when I fill it up) and come drink from the fountains front and rear all the time. They are used to coming into the courtyard regularly for a drink, and at times like this (very rare) they keep coming back. So that’s five on the sun, four on the wall, four on the gate and seven on the window frame. They are also around the brick edging on the rear patio, but our house isn’t laid out where we can see them from inside and they fly away when I try to sneak up outside.

We are hiding inside out of the rain as well. More rain scheduled for tomorrow, then clearing but cold by Sunday. So far this week we have had almost as much rain as the total last year (big deal, a whole 1.5 inches : 35mm)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

E Swinging (again)

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

E and mom came down from Portland a few days ago to visit for Grammy’s birthday. It’s a little cool here now, but warmer than back home, so the first thing E did was take off her shoes (it’s OK to go barefoot at Grammy’s) and run outside to hang out on the swing. We now have two swings, one with two ropes that she likes being pushed in, and a yellow one on one rope that she can handle herself. Since she was first one out, she hit the yellow one:

Of course, we just wrap the rope around a branch on the peach tree, and it’s easy to adjust up or down. The current best spot seems to be about eight inches off the grass, where it’s easy to sit on, walk backwards and let go.

And when you’re really moving all you have to do is hang on, lean back, and let your hair touch the grass.

But yes, it is pleasant to just sit on the green swing and let Granddad do all the work.

Plus you can go a lot higher with somebody pushing. (see DA, I do post photos of myself sometimes)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Change of careers

Since I'm looking for a job, perhaps this might be a suitable career change
(Thanks to Scarlet)

Not sure about the clothing part, but if it's in the job requirements description I guess if I have to . . .

This isn't a career change, but I love these guys, that's another outfit I haven't had the opportunity to wear. I would probably look about the same in one of those waiter aprons.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Christmas trees

What did you do with your tree when you took it down? (you did take down the tree by now, no?)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Years in Nevada

Being rather conservative we spent New Year’s Eve in bed asleep. Ah well, living in probably the number one party town in the world we just skipped it all again. The estimate was for only a half million people out on the Strip to see the end of 2009, with quite an impressive fireworks display off the tops of several big hotels. Downtown under the canopy were a few hundred thousand more, serenaded by tribute bands. So when we got up feeling nice and chipper on New Year’s Day B thought we should explore someplace new, and wanted to drive down to Searchlight. For those of you not from Nevada, Searchlight is the home of one of our politicians, Harry Reid. Driving up from LA on the interstate we pass one off ramp that directs you to this town, but wanted to see it for ourselves. It’s about an hour drive from our house, and Wikipedia lists it as a Census-designated place (CDP), which means basically it’s a wide spot in the road. Population 513 in 14 square miles, a former mining town now home to two casinos and two gas stations.

So big we didn’t even stop to take a picture. But we continued on another half hour do Laughlin, another place we had not been to (yes, another CDP). This is on the Colorado River, another wide spot in the road. It seemed that everyone lived across the river in Arizona, no homes to be seen just a lot of trailers and casinos. It is a town created by Don Laughlin when he opened a casino there in 1964 with 12 slot machines, two tables and eight motel rooms. Wow. The most interesting casino there is in the riverboat theme, though on dry land and not in the water.

Inside it just looks like an old casino, but on New Year’s Day every slot machine was taken, and the minimum age to gamble looked to be about 65.

It is on the river, where you can get a river taxi to take you over to the other casinos. Across the way is Bullhead City, Arizona.

For those of you in the cold, it’s supposed to get to 61f here today, and remembering back to last June 23, looking at the thermometer in my car. (you can see I was stopped when I took the photo)

Thinking of you Twilight fans.