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"Ellis Island"

I was driving down Ninth Avenue
As the sky was getting dark
Didn't have nothin' else to do
So I kept on riding to Battery Park
I stepped out in the damp and misty night
As the fog was rolling in
Man said, "Last boat leaving tonight
Is the boat for Ellis Island"

As my feet touched solid ground
I felt a chill run down my spine
I could almost hear the sound
of thousands pushing through the lines
Mothers and bewildered wives
that sailed across the raging sea
Others running for their lives
to the land of opportunity
Down on Ellis Island

"What is this strange paradise?"
They must've wondered through their cries and moans
After all they've sacrificed
Their faith, their families, friends and homes
Then on the Inspection Stairs
They were counted out or counted in
Frozen while the inspectors stared
Down on Ellis Island

Now me I only stumbled in
Just to wander around that empty hall
Where someone else's fate had been
Decided in no time at all
And cases filled with hats and clothes
And the belongings of those who journeyed far
They're strange reminders I suppose
Of where we're from and who we are

But as the boat pulled off the shore
I could see the fog was lifting
And lights I never seen before
Were shining down on Ellis Island
Shining down on Ellis Island

No Thinking Required

I keep hunting for photographs worth publishing here so I don’t have to resort to actually writing something about the books I’m reading, or, worse yet, having to write something about books I finished nearly a year ago and still haven’t figured out what I want to say about them. God forbid I should have to drag some of my political commentary over from Facebook.

Even when birding is slow, and it seems to be, I sometimes come up with a semi-interesting shot, like this one of what appears to be an almost-adult Bald Eagle

that didn’t like me taking its picture.

When we returned an hour later and the tide had risen considerably we found the eagle in nearly the same place but perching on a stump and, having already checked me out before, it studiously ignored me.

I shoot a lot of shots of Northern Pintails, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a better shot of their feet.

I’m not sure I knew their feet were the same color as its beak.

I don’t see a male Red-Breasted Merganser nearly often enough, so I was thrilled when I saw this one at Theler, but frustrated that he stayed on the far side of the Union River.


Not everything in life fits into neat categories — thank goodness — and these shots are just leftovers from our California trip. Debbie and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify this raptor without a positive identification, though we both thought it might be a juvenile that hadn’t fully developed its plumage. John tells me he thinks it’s a juvenile Prairie Falcon and he knows more about hawks than I do.

Here’s a shorebird I’ve only seen a few times but was pretty convinced it was a Spotted Sandpiper (lacking the spots, of course, because it’s in its non-breeding plumage.)

We made a quick stop on our way to Santa Cruz from Fresno but ended up seeing remarkably few birds considering the amount of time we spent getting there. My favorite shot would have to be this one of a Black-Necked Stilt.

This American Coot was alone and quite close to the road, so I had to get a shot of him.

A Truly Trumpless Day

Monday looked like the perfect day to get back to snowshoeing, and, strangely enough, it actually turned out to be a nearly perfect day. We snowshoed the Narada Falls-Reflection Lake trail which was between five and six miles long with a 500 ft elevation gain. It was rated “moderately difficult,” and it felt that way until I got home and had severe cramps in my legs.

The trail begins by following the creek up a rather steep bank.

Luckily, whenever I felt tired I was distracted by the beauty around me.

The trail is designed so that about the time you think you couldn’t climb another foot it levels off, and you have time to regain your breath before starting up, or down, again.

Glimpses of Mt. Rainier across the valley provided several opportunities to drag out the camera equipment and rest while taking a picture.

Reflection Lake wasn’t spectacular with six feet of snow, but I was happy enough to take a break before heading back to the car.

We were joined by a small flock of Gray (Robber) Jays looking for handouts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot of them as they flew down to get food.

Although I took several shots of the mountain during the hike, I couldn’t resist stopping for an even better shot on the way down to Longmire.

It was exhilarating to spend most of a day simply putting one foot in front of the other, plodding along in rhythm with my heartbeat rather than sitting in front of my computer reading about the Trump’s latest fuck-ups, even if I did suffer some awful leg cramps when I finally sat down that evening.

Snow Geese at Merced NWR

On our way to Fresno from Santa Rosa we stopped at the Merced NWR where we saw the Snow Geese that we hadn’t seen on our earlier stop at the Sacramento NWR but not the Sand Hill Cranes we had seen on our previous visit to Merced. (No, I don’t really think these are the Snow Geese we’ve seen in the past in Sacramento, and I was told by another birder that the Cranes had been there earlier in the morning.)

When you bird you learn to be ready to be disappointed and to be surprised, good training for life. Needless to say, I was thrilled at seeing this many Snow Geese even if my wide-angle lens couldn’t come close to showing how many Snow Geese were in the refuge. This shot is made up of three wide-angle shots fused into a panorama, and there were still more geese on the left and right side of the shot.

In the distance, it looked like a snowstorm was advancing as thousands of Snow Geese took to the air in the distance.

As it turned out, the huge flocks made it even harder to get shots of individual Geese than it was at the Sacramento NWR.

Though we were never directly in the flight path of large flocks of Geese, I did manage to get a few shots of the Geese in flight, always my favorite shots of birds.