Gorgeous Coyote at the River Bend Park

Around 10 o’clock, I took Sergeant Margie over to the American River Bend Park for our walk (and to see if there were any fungi out).  The dog and walked for about 2 hours and headed back home.   It was brown and dry out there, but I did get to see some birds, and also had a close encounter with a coyote, which stepped out in front of me and then went on a squirrel hunt right near me.  I tried videotaping it but, of course, as soon as the squirrel ran and the coyote jumped after it, my camera shut itself off.  Arrgh!  I did get some short videos of the “stalking”; and at the end of the second one, you can see the squirrel up in a tree to the right of the screen.  It was safe up there, but for some reason, it ran down onto the ground — right in front of the coyote — and dashed up another tree.  The coyote was a gorgeous female one; big with a thick coat, so it must be eating well despite its lack of success this morning… I actually wondered if she was preggers…  I kept an eye out for the male, because they normally travel in pairs, but I didn’t see it…

Female Coyote.  Photo by Mary K. Hanson.  ©2013.  All Rights Reserved.
Female Coyote. Photo by Mary K. Hanson. ©2013. All Rights Reserved.

 Here are the videos of the coyote:  http://youtu.be/ZQ3dy77g0dQ and http://youtu.be/qW8kQKFDv4k

I’m Not Calling Them “Resolutions”, but…

I’m not much of a “resolution” person, but since I was able to meet my resolution for 2013, I decided to try to find some things I could do “better” in 2014.  I came across an article in Forbes magazine that actually touched on some things that I may focus on myself in 2014 (even though I’m not technically referring to them as “resolutions”).  Here they are:

Meditate for a healthier brain: It’s all over the news these days, and with good reason – meditation has the scientific backing to warrant its growing popularity. Studies have shown that meditation can help us not only feel more centered and relaxed, but it can also literally change the setup of our brains, from increasing grey matter density to shifting how the neurons themselves are connected.

This is something I should be able to do more without a great deal of effort.  Meditation can be done practically anywhere at any time…  Of course, having a fishing pole with a bobber on the end of it helps

Get Physical: You might not want to hear it, but moving your body is one of the single best things you can do for yourself, both body and brain. Until recently, the adult brain was thought to be relatively unchangeable, but evidence over the last decade shows that it can actually sprout new neurons, particularly in an area called the hippocampus, which is the seat of learning and memory.

I’m already working on this one, and am filling up my calendar with short outings that require both mental and physical effort on my part.  Walking is a great, low-impact, healthy way to get started on a more physical lifestyle.  You don’t have to do the killer workouts at the gym or the 10-mile death march hikes.  Just walk for an hour or so…  Walking gives you a slow work out that also forces you to actually look at where you’re going and what’s around you (rather than whizzing by everything at a jog or on a bike)… and that makes it easier for you to focus on your mind-body interface and meditate more effortlessly.

Get A Practice: Making a routine out of something – just about anything, provided that it’s healthy – can be life-changing, and for some people, life-saving. Having a ritual to come back to is one of the ways to give yourself a sense of security in rough times. It almost doesn’t matter what the practice is – run, walk, practice yoga, write, pray, meditate, chant, have a cup of tea at 6 a.m. while gazing out the window – just so long as it’s a practice. We’re creatures of habit, and giving yourself a healthy one to fall back on (rather than a destructive one) is a key to giving the brain what it wants – structure.

Routine already hogs up a lot of my day, but it’s a mindless disconnected kind of routine. Being more “mindful” can also be good for your brain (and your mood), so maybe adding a “mindful” routine to my day will help to jog some of those neurons around.  I’ve notice on my way to work, for example, that there’s a great view of the Sacramento River that stays the same yet changes with the seasons.  Maybe my new routine will be to stop and take a photo of that every morning…instead of just driving by in my “got-to-get-to-work” mindlessness.

These all sound like they’ll work for me in 2014.  But I’m still not calling any of these things a New Year’s “resolution”…

Sandhill Cranes!

Well, I was finally able to get some video and photos of the Sandhill Cranes (Grus Canadensis) around the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I’d gone to the preserve for their 3:30 pm tour to see the cranes, but there were about 100 people there (!) and they were going to pack us out into two large groups — which meant traveling with about 50 people I didn’t know, unable to hear the tour guide, and not being able to keep up if they walked quickly…  So, I went inside the visitors’ center there, snagged a map of where the cranes usually roost around the preserve, and went out to look for them myself.

I started off by picking the nearest crossroad and, as luck would have it, within less than a mile I found a whole flock of the cranes sitting and standing in a wetlands area with egrets, White-Fronted Geese, and other birds.  They were maybe 75 feet from me, so I had to use my zoom lens, and the light was “severe” because it was late in the afternoon and the shadows were getting long, but I was still able to snag some fairly good shots of them… These are “Great” Sandhill Cranes, different from the smaller ones in Florida, Cuba and Mississippi in size and some coloring (especially in the red patches on their heads).  I figured the largest ones were about 4 feet tall (the taxidermied one in the visitors’ center came up to about my shoulder), and I saw some ochre-brown ones mixed in with the grey ones.  They all towered over the geese around them… They have this great “crackling” call that’s very distinctive; once you hear that call, you know they’re around somewhere…  I also got a few photos of some little Killdeer that were skittering around closer to the road.  In the end, I missed out on the tour, but not on the birds… so, I was satisfied.

 According to All About Birds:   “…These are slate gray birds, often with a rusty wash on the upperparts. Adults have a pale cheek and red skin on the crown. Their legs are black. Juveniles are gray and rusty brown, without the pale cheek or red crown; but some adults are also stained rusty-orange from iron-rich mud.  Chicks bright rusty-orange and covered in fluffy down… Cranes attack aerial predators by leaping into the air and kicking their feet forward. They threaten terrestrial predators by spreading their wings and hissing, eventually resorting to kicking.  The Sandhill Crane’s call is a loud, rolling, trumpeting sound whose unique tone is a product of anatomy: Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch and harmonics that add richness… Although some start breeding at two years of age, Sandhill Cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. They mate for life—which can mean two decades or more—and stay with their mates year-round. Juveniles stick close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching… Sandhill Crane chicks can leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, and are even capable of swimming… The omnivorous Sandhill Crane feeds on land or in shallow marshes where plants grow out of the water, gleaning from the surface and probing with its bill. Its diet is heavy in seeds and cultivated grains, but may also include berries, tubers, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. Non-migratory populations eat adult and larval insects, snails, reptiles, amphibians, nestling birds, small mammals, seeds, and berries…”