New Camera!

I was finally able to put enough pennies together to get myself a new camera, a Fujifilm SL1000.  According to its specs it “… features a 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that is able to produce high quality imagery with notable low-light sensitivity. High speed performance is afforded throughout the system, enabling fast continuous shooting up to 10 full resolution frames per second and an auto focusing speed of 0.2 second.  An incredibly long 50x optical zoom lens is also built into the SL1000’s design, giving a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-1200mm…”  Between the 50x zoom and the super-macro setting that’s supposed to allow me to get within 1/4-inch of a subject, I should be able to get some really interesting shots.

A lot of the reviews of this one said it was a great camera but that the battery burns out fast, so I got a couple of extra batteries.  Oddly, though, the case it came with doesn’t fit the camera (?!) so I’m going to have to get another case for it.

I tried it out a little bit today, and liked this photo I took of my dog, Sergeant Margie, with the red-only setting on it.

Sergeant Margie.  Photo by Mary K. Hanson.  ©2013.  All Rights Reserved.
Sergeant Margie. Photo by Mary K. Hanson. ©2013. All Rights Reserved.

Flowers and Bees at the City Cemetery, Saturday Morning

I slept in a tiny bit today and got up around 7:00 am.  I was out the door with Sergeant Margie in about 10 minutes and we headed out to the Old Historic City Cemetery for our walk.  It was cool and breezy outside; really nice for walking.  And it only got up to about 88° today… We saw some neat flowers (and amber sap running off the side of a cedar tree), and I got a cool photo of a large female Carpenter Bee flying in toward a yellow lily.  She had been the flower before I took the shot, and flew off then flew back again, and I caught her mid-flight — with yellow pollen all over her body…  We walked around for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

…And my dog, Sergeant Margie!  Love him!

Sergeant Margie.  Photo by Mary K. Hanson.  ©2013.  All Rights Reserved.
Sergeant Margie. Photo by Mary K. Hanson. ©2013. All Rights Reserved.

Walking Through the Rock Garden on Sunday the 8th

Heading home from a weekend at Lake Berryessa, I stopped at the WPA Rock Garden for a short walk.  The praying mantises are getting really big now as they head into the season when they’ll start laying their eggs…   When I got back to the house Sergeant Margie was going crazy, barking and barking.  When I sat down, he whined and whimpered and snuggled against me…  It’s so nice when your dog is so happy to see you home again.  **smiley face**   He wouldn’t let me out of his sight for the rest of the morning. Hah!

Weekend Excursion to Winters & Lake Berryessa

This is going to be a l-o-n-g post with several galleries so try to bear with me.

Friday, the 6th:   I was going a little stir crazy waiting to leave for Winters after I had all of my chores done for the morning, so I took Sergeant Margie over to WPA Rock Garden for a short walk.  He knew something was up; we never go out that late in the morning for our walks… He stuck to me like glue, and sat in the front seat of the car going to and from the garden, and when we got home he stayed by my feet or sat in my lap.  Awwww….  He’s such a huggy boy!  We didn’t see a lot to take photos of on our walk, but did get to see several Skippers, a dark brown caterpillar, and some fry in the duck pond.  One of the little fish was about as big as my thumb and had a white face.  I wonder what kind it was.  Sergeant Margie could see it just under the surface of the water and kept putting his paw into the pond to try to touch it.  Too cute!

When we got home, I took a shower, did some last-minute email checking, and then got ready to leave.  I left the house around 2:30 pm and headed toward Winters.  It’s about an hour drive on the route I take (which avoids as many of the major highways and interchanges as I can, hah!), but I stopped along the way to pick up some batteries for my camera and some snacks.  There are a lot of restaurants in Winters that are supposed to be excellent, but I figured I’d be too stressed from the drive and worrying about the BBQ tomorrow to feel like eating out tonight.  I got some fruit and a turkey wrap and some sodas… The sodas were “Gus” brand sodas, “100% natural” and “dry” (which basically meant they weren’t really sugary sweet).  The rootbeer had birch oil and vanilla in it.  Very yummy!

I got to the Abbey House Inn just a little before 4:00 pm.  It’s a very pretty little house with a small garden and wrap-around front porch.  But it sits on a corner across from a kind of “ugly” building and raggedy lot, and there really isn’t any place to park around it.  One comforting thing is that the police station was nearby… and the place was lovely inside.

Inside it’s an eclectic mix of the modern and early 19th century.  The fireplace in my room, for example was outfitted with a modern push-button remote.  I loved my Sherlock Holmes room.  (No pictures of Riechenbach Falls, though.) It was on the main floor but toward the back of the house so I didn’t get any street noise.  The walls were painted a deep oxblood red, and all the trim was pristine white.  There was a fireplace, two nightstands a small chest of drawers, a chair, and a queen-sized brass bed, but somehow it didn’t feel crowded at all.  There were outlets everywhere, so I could plug in my phone to charge it, and my computer.  There was even a teeny scrap of public wifi to connect to, so I was able to shoot Marty a note to let him know I got to the place okay.  Oh, and beside the little bedside lamps, there was also a chandelier in my room with pretty brass fittings that looked like rope.  All the doorknobs in the place were glass, and there were pretty little knick-knacky things everywhere that made it really “special” and different; not at all like staying in a cookie-cutter hotel room.

Saturday, Sept 7th:  Phew, what an exhausting day!  I was up and in the shower by about 5:30, then stopped at the Putah Creek Café for breakfast (sausage and biscuits with scrambled eggs) and then was on the road toward Lake Berryessa.  I was the first one of our party at Oak Shores (the big park on the Lake) and was greeted by a 75-year-old guy named Jim who was the host and sometimes ranger of the park.  He escorted me to the area where our picnic tables were reserved, at Coyote Knolls, and opened up the ranger gate so I could drive my car right down to where the tables were so I could unload everything there.  He also checked in with us a couple of times throughout the day, and brought us a bunch of life preservers for folks who were going to go swimming and boating on the water.  The time of year, the water level is pretty low, but there was a spot right near our tables that took you right down to the water’s edge.  I didn’t go in, but other people brought their suits and kayaks and rafts.

I had my car unpacked just as my coworkers Charlotte and Angel arrived with their truckload of stuff.  We got everything out of the truck and then moved the vehicles back up to the parking lot.  While I cleaned off the picnic tables and put covers on them (we got a roll of table covering that covered all of them, and still had enough left over for several more tables, so that worked out well), and set up the check-in table Charlotte put up  signs so our guests knew where we were and how to get to the picnic area, and Angel set up our fold-out chairs.  By then my other coworkers Carol and Brendan arrived.  Carol was going to be the hike leader, and Brendon came with the big grille he was loaned by one of the restaurants in town.

As guests drifted in, I checked them in and gave them all tickets for the drawing we were having at lunchtime.  The early morning group of guests went on a hike down Smittle Creek Trail with Carol and Charlotte, while Angel, Brendan and I set up everything for the BBQ.  Charlotte later said the hike (about 2.5 miles) was a nice one, right along the short of the lake, but one of the guests got sick and had to bow out.   Around 11:30 the early morning folks were back from the hike and the “later” folks had all arrived and were ready for lunch, so we all sat down to eat.  There was more food than we knew what to do with.  Everyone brought something — a side or a dessert — to go with the burgers and hot dogs Tuleyome provided.  We had gotten beef patties, veggie burgers and turkey burgers and the veggie ones were actually the most popular and we ran out of them almost immediately.  (Something to remember for next time.)  Brendan grilled the burgers and Angel grilles the hot dogs.  Everything turned out really well and there was more than enough food for everyone.

While we had everyone together, I wrangled up Andrew, Tuleyome’s President, and had him help with the prize drawing.  We had a bunch of geocaching “Travel Bugs” to give away, a one day pass for 4 to the Sacramento Zoo, two Tuleyome bags filled with over $100 worth of goodies, and two turkey vulture hats.  I’d gotten those as kind of a gag, but all of the adults just loved them, and the two adults who won them wore them all over the place.  I’d also gotten a Couple of Fuzz That Wuzz froggie toys (made out 100% recycled plastic bottles) to put in the goodie bags, and all of the adults “awwwwed” over those, too.  We’re all just big kids, I guess.  Hah!  Once the prize drawing was over we had Cara, the coordinator of our youth group, speak for a little while, and then we just kind of let everyone do whatever they wanted.   By then it was after 2:00 pm and I was exhausted, so I dragged some stuff up to my car, then drove over to ranger’s post where Jim was and asked him if he could drop the gate at the picnic area so we could load everything up again.  And while he did that, I followed after him picking up all the signs we’d set out along the way…  When we got back to the picnic area, I drove my car down there and loaded as much as I could into it — then I headed back toward Winters.  By then it was 97° outside, too, and my old body’s radiator doesn’t work anymore. I was getting pretty flushed, so I figured I’d better stop before I got heat stroke or something…

The drive to Lake Berryessa from Winters (and back again) is only about 10 miles, but it’s 10 miles of steep inclines and winding roads, so you have to creep along in places at 20-25 miles per hour… and the 10 miles takes over an hour to accomplish.  Coming back from the lake, too, you’re going downhill a lot, and my knees got really cranky from riding the brakes a lot.  I made it back to Winters a little after 3:00 pm and went straight to the Abbey House Inn and crashed for the rest of the day. I was seriously considering taking a soak in the whirlpool tub there, but… nah.  There was no way I could get up once I got down into it.  Poor old body…  Hah!  I did take another nice hot shower, though.  I’d eaten enough at the picnic that I didn’t really need any supper, so I just had some juice and a banana…

Sunday, the 8th:  I slept pretty well last night, but am looking forward to getting back home and sleeping in my own bed with my dog…  I was up and out of the Inn by about 7:00 and when I got into Woodland I stopped at the Denny’s there for some breakfast: coffee and one of their sausage skillets.  They have this big breakfast sausage that they serve with a pile of potatoes, bell peppers, onions all fried up with cheese and an egg on top.  Super yummy and filling.  Then I headed back to Sacramento…

My Monarch Caterpillar is Showing Up in the News

My photo of a Monarch butterfly caterpillar has been appearing in the press along with the fabulous Tuleyome Tales article on native plant gardening by author Nancy Bauer.    Woot!

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar.  Photo by Mary K. Hanson.  ©2013.  All Rights Reserved.
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar. Photo by Mary K. Hanson. ©2013. All Rights Reserved.

Here it is in the Daily Democrat newspaper.

Daily Democrat in-print artic

And here it is in the News-Ledger newspaper (from West Sacramento)… This is just a portion of the article…

Caterpillar News-Ledger, West Sac

You go, little wormy guy!

At the American River Bend Park

The weather is weird today: it’s totally dark and overcast, but warm, and there’s little (read: “almost no”) rain, so we don’t know what the sky is up to.  I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door with Sergeant Margie in about 15 minutes.  We went over to the American River Bend Park for our walk.  We were drizzled on occasionally, and heard some distance thunder, but otherwise I didn’t feel the need to wear a jacket or bring an umbrella.

I hadn’t been there is quite a while because there were a series of fires that burned through parts of the park and I didn’t want to be in the way of the firefighters.  I was happy to see that most of the area where I usually do my mushrooms hunts in the winter, and watch for Pipevine Swallowtails in the spring weren’t burned… but other areas, especially where they’d built up some new picnic tables and camping sites were burnt to the ground, everything flattened and blackened.  It’s always sad to see the incinerated forest… but I also know that the burning makes way for new growth… and as this is a “mast year” for acorns, black walnuts, and buckeye chestnuts, there will still be plenty for the wild critters to eat (and for new seeds to plant themselves).  It’ll be interesting to see how the burned areas “translate” in ‘shroom season.  I wonder if there will be any (or maybe different kinds of) mushrooms where the ground has been burnt.  Some fungi — like the Elfin Saddles — prefer burnt earth, but I don’t know how long it takes for them to establish themselves…

Between the summer-burnt vegetation and the fire-burnt areas, there wasn’t a whole lot to photograph today, but the sky was interesting with all the dark, sometimes roiling clouds, and I got a lot of good exercise.  I got some shots of the burned areas (and the plants already trying to reestablish themselves in it) — including some small bones of what was probably someone’s cat or dog, although I couldn’t find the skull.

There were signs all over the park saying that the Park Service will be dropping gravel for the spawning salmon in the river over the month of September… but I don’t know how that will affect visits to the park during the month.  I’m glad they’re laying the gravel for the spawning season, though.  I don’t remember them doing that around here over the last 3 or 4 years…

The dog and walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist