Reasons to Travel

I’m not much of a traveler and am probably happier hiking up in the nearby Cascades than traveling to exotic lands. Still, it strikes me that one of the best reasons to travel to new places is to discover new things.

I’ve been to Santa Rosa far too many times to consider it “new” in any real sense, but I haven’t been there since I started watching birds seriously. So, I wasn’t surprised to see birds that I haven’t seen before, like yesterday’s mockingbird, a bird I’ve only read about before.

Strangely, I also saw a number of “local” ducks that I’ve never seen in the places I hike here in the Pacific Northwest. For instance, as soon as I saw this little duck:

I knew that I’d never seen it before and took numerous shots in an attempt to get a good enough one to identify it. I’m not entirely positive, but where it was would seem to indicate that this is a female Ruddy Duck, which, while not as exciting as seeing a male Ruddy Duck still made the walk around Spring Lake more exciting that it would otherwise have been.

I also managed to see my first ever male Lesser Scaup,

a bird I’ve often confused with the Ring-Necked Duck that I see quite often at Nisqually.

It was a cloudy day when we went to Bodega Bay, but I was still thrilled to watch all the Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets feeding in the adjoining wetlands. Still, this shot of a solitary Willet feeding in the surf was probably the highlight of the day:

Though I’ll have to admit that I was equally thrilled to watch a pair of Common Loons a few feet away at eye level as they dove and surfaced:

None of these birds are unknown here in the Pacific Northwest, though I suspect they’re more common in California during the winter than they are here during the summer.

The Fun is in the Chase

Although we did a lot of things while at my mother-in-law’s house in Santa Rosa, I probably spent more time in her backyard than anywhere else, at least while I awake.

The first morning we were there I saw this Scrub Jay out in the front yard while getting the paper off the porch and knew I had to get a picture of it. It wasn’t nearly as easy to do as a I thought it would be. There was actually a pair of jays living somewhere nearby. Despite their willingness to loudly announce their presence, the jays seemed just as camera shy as any other bird whenever I pointed my camera with its 400 mm lens on them. I didn’t get this shot until the last day.

Still, the jays were relatively easy to photograph compared to this Mockingbird which also seemed to live nearby, but insisted on sitting on the other side of this tree. I never saw it in the open the eight days we were there.

The bird I most wanted to get a picture of was this Varied Thrush that showed up every day about the same time but spent the whole time behind the rhododendrons or behind the ground cover in the shade. I finally had to set the A.S.A. to 800 to get a picture at all, which explains the graininess:

Still, the challenge of capturing a picture made the hours I sat on the patio reading a poetry book with a camera beside me far more interesting than they might otherwise have been.

California Dreamin’

Although rain was predicted for Santa Rosa most of last week, the weather turned out much better than forecast. Though, we were greeted by fog when we entered California, we quickly broke into sunshine as we passed Mt. Shasta. Strangely, it wasn’t until I joined this panorama together that I realize Shasta has multiple tops. I was so accustomed to seeing it from the North that I’d never noticed the other peaks.

It was definitely spring in Santa Rosa, as the plum trees were in full blossom:

Even Mary’s primroses, seemed to herald the sunshine that greeted us:

It was still sunny Sunday, and we headed out for a bird walk of over four miles, where I saw many new birds. I’m sure all the locals must have known I was an out-of-towner when I made a fuss over getting a picture of this Snowy Egret, who was wading in the creek:

The sun even held out for Monday, when we all headed out for walk around Spring Lake, where I was greeted by even more birds that I haven’t spotted before:
This silly goose was probably a local escapee, but she seemed as happy reflecting in the sunshine as I was, and, besides she fit in well with the rest of these pictures.

Of course, we couldn’t be lucky enough to avoid all the rain. It’s not summer even in California yet, and I was caught in a couple of showers while out walking.

But we didn’t really pay a price for our luck until we started back on Saturday. We decided to drive the coast to see the Redwoods, but it was raining so hard when we got there that even Skye didn’t want to go for a walk. It got steadily worse as we headed further up the coast. We read reports that there was snow in the passes, and considering the amount of rain we didn’t want to chance that much snow. So we continued up the Oregon coast but never even bothered to get out of the car because of the heavy rain.

Luckily the Prius was a delight to drive, and knowing we were getting 45 miles per gallon even when I insisted on pushing the speed limit the whole way made the drive more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been. There’s nothing like driving 400 miles between gas stations and still adding less than 10 gallons to the tank.

Miriam McFall Starlin’s Wait a Minute

While here at Mary’s house, Mary showed me a volume of poetry written by Oregon Poet Miriam McFall Starlin that her cousin Barrett had given her. It wasn’t a name I was familiar with but when I started reading I found a number of poems I was rather fond of.

I suppose most of us would find some resemblance to ourselves in:

Reminder to myself – No. 1

She holds her bitterness
like a pin oak clinging
to its dead brittle leaves
through autumn gusts
through winter storms.

With mean-spirited tenacity
she refuses to see
the promise of spring.

I’m sure I liked this poem much more because of the subtitle. It’s easy to blame others for holding grudges while forgetting the grudges we ourselves hold. I know I’ve held a few longer than a year. Perhaps that’s because we refuse to take time to recognize the opportunities for new growth.

I found a lot myself and this web site in:


If it seems there is
too much silence
too much acceptance
remember before I closed the door
the sign I hung outside it
said, “quiet,”
“please do not disturb.”
but should you decide
to enter stealthily
or by passkey,
you will find faded photographs
of anger,
single-spaced typed white sheets
of pain
and dulled black carbon pages
of sorrow
scattered everywhere ,
and off in the farthest corner
all my broken promises
and bits of my scattered mind.

I’m not unaware I often present a rather Pollyannaish outlook on life here at “In a Dark Time” but that doesn’t mean that I don’t harbor some dark thoughts about life itself and certainly about our government. Luckily you can’t see all the newspaper articles I’ve stored in Yojimbo with the intention of ranting about them . Luckily for you, the mere act of bookmarking an article knowing I can go back to it at anytime is sometimes enough to make me let go of my anger. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t get outraged by the stupid acts of people and their needless cruelty.

I’m sure some readers may find Starlin’s book too sentimental for their tastes, but I like poems like this one:


There is no magic except
sunlight or moonlight or
or mayflower or snowflake
or love.

There’s certainly no magic in life if we don’t bring it ourselves, but Starlin points out some of the magic if you’re paying attention. Hopefully, I also manage to do that with something I’ve written or photographed.