All posts by The Chubby Woman

Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.

Against the Wind…

Wooooosh!  We all got blown all over the place by the heavy winds today (gusts up to 35 mph), but the temperature was gorgeous (73°).  After work, it was so lovely outside, I stopped over at the WPA Rock Garden for a short walk.  Because of the wind, I didn’t expect to see a lot a bug or other critters, but there were quite a few.  Lots of dragonflies hugging onto the plants to try to keep from be whacked around by the wind.  I was following one big Darner dragonfly around the garden, trying to get a photo of it.  He moved too quickly, though, so I wasn’t successful in getting a shot of him — but, he DID lead me to a dead bush that had a newly laid praying mantis egg case on it.  Kewl!  I also saw a medium-sized Gulf Fritillary caterpillar.  It had just shed its old skin and was all shiny: blue and orange stripes with black spines all over it.  It was still not fully mature yet, so its colors will change a lot before it forms its chrysalis.  These caterpillars only eat passionflower vines, and most of the vines in the garden have been cut down almost to the ground for some reason, so this guy was practically lying in the dirt… I also found a big Carpenter Bee hugging onto the side of a plant.  She was just too tired to fly against the gusts… So it was a fairly good photo day afterall.

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Saturday at the River Bend Park

I’m a little late posting this, but I had finals for my online class this week, and had to write a reflection paper and a positional paper so I didn’t get to this earlier.  Anyway, on Saturday the dog and I went over to the American River Bend Park for our walk.  The place is kind of “between seasons” right now, so there’s not much new to see but I always manage to find something to photograph anyway.  The mushrooms and stuff haven’t awakened yet.  But we DID get to see a gorgeous Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia) and some burgeoning Sulfur Shelf Fungus that hadn’t formed its distinctive “shelves” yet.  When it’s in its early stages it kind of looks like a big orange brain.  So, those were kewl.  We actually walked for about 2½ hours before my ankles and feet gave out and we had to head back home.  The weather was perfect: cool and sunny.  I love Fall!


A Business Meeting at Cache Creek

I went to a Staff Strategic Planning Meeting with my boss, co-workers and the organization’s President yesterday at the middle campground along Cache Creek. The weather was great — but the wind was a kind of gusty at times — and I think we got a lot of ideas out on the table and a lot of plans started, so it was a productive day.

I’d never been to Cache Creek before, and was impressed with the massive rockface on the other side of the creek from where we had our meeting. It’s a huge chunk of the earth that was lifted up and thrown onto its side by tectonic action… and towering up to the side of us was Glassock Mountain (2000 feet). Really neat.  While we were talking two deer kept circling around to check on us throughout the afternoon. Now THAT’s a kewl place for a meeting!

Glasscock Mountain was named after the brothers Tuck and Clint Glassrock, a pair of horse thieves in the 1800’s, who used to use the mountain as their lookout tower.

I didn’t get a chance to walk around it much yesterday, but I’m definitely going back to that area in the fall and spring to check it out a lot more.

Looking for Fungi at the American River Bend Park

Sergeant Margie and I went to the American River Bend Park and walked around for about 2 hours this morning.  It was still cool and overcast — this first day of Fall, thank you! — and after the rain yesterday I was hoping to see some ‘shrooms and fungi and stuff like that coming out.  Well, I guess it’s still a bit too early in the fall to see much of that, but I DID find several samples of Sulfur Shelf Fungus, some earth stars and some jelly fungus…  and I got to play around some more with the settings on my new camera.

 ((Glad I bought those extra batteries; I burn through things pretty fast with this camera.)) I’m really liking the camera so far; it responds quickly and takes nice shots.  Getting the super-macro setting to focus on what I want isn’t always easy but I’m assuming that’s “user error” and not the camera’s fault.  With the long-range telephoto setting I was also able to get an awesome photo of the moon when the clouds split up over the park.

Trying Out the New Camera at the WPA Rock Garden

It was overcast and dark this morning, and we had rain by about noon…  Sergeant Margie and I were out the door by about 6:45 am and went over to the WPA Rock Garden for our walk.  There was a race taking place near there today, so we made sure we were out before that started.  With the cloud cover there was some good “half light” that makes it easier to take photos (no “washout” from sun glare or harsh shadows).  I just tested out the new camera, putting it through its paces to see what it could do.  The macro settings are slightly better than my old camera, but the telephoto range is exceedingly enhanced, so I’m able to do some better long-distance shots (which will help when I’m “birding” or trying to get photos of wildlife like deer and coyotes).  We saw a couple of different kinds of caterpillars today, including a baby Tobacco Hornworm, a tiny first instar Gulf Fritillary caterpillar, and a kind of Leafroller (Agathodes designalis¸ I think) that was just starting to weave its “nest” and pulling the leaf together over itself.  I can’t describe how small of these guys were; to the naked eye they were thin pencil-line specks… but the super-macro setting on my camera was able to pick them up with some pretty good detail, so I was very pleased with that.

            On the telephoto side, I got some long-distance shots of a hummingbird and a crow, and some of the ducks in the pond.  I need more practice with that to avoid camera “shake” over the long distance.  I also tried out the “continuous” mode that keeps the camera taking photo after photo until you release the button.  I got some photos of geese flying with that.  Again, I need practice, but I was pleased with my first-time attempts.

            We walked around for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

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