At Jeff and Debby’s

Though the main purpose of our trip to Arizona was to see Bill and Alice, we also planned on seeing Jeff and Debbie, Leslie’s brother and sister-in-law, on the way home. It just seemed wrong to drive through Fresno without stopping to visit. Even though we see them quite often because their son lives in Portland, we’ve only managed to get to their Fresno home a few times.  When we’ve been there in the past it’s been hot and dry, but that wasn’t the case on this trip.  Heck, I even ended up wading in water over the top of my shoes on our first walk.  

Although we did a lot more walking than we did in Arizona, we didn’t see nearly as many birds and almost all of the birds we saw were ones we often see in the summer at home. I suspect I’m generally viewed as a “birder,” but I tend to see myself as a (wildlife) photographer.  When I’m walking around with a camera I’m a lot more aware of my surroundings than when I am without one.  When I don’t see birds, I look a little harder and see other things, like this beautiful lupine, a flower we won’t see in Pacific Northwest for several months.


I can’t remember ever seeing this orange flower (which might explain why I don’t know what it is), though my iPhone tells me it is Amsinckia, commonly called Fiddleneck


We also sighted a small flock of one of my favorite birds, Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings

Although White-Crowned Sparrows are common in the summer at home, this might be the first time I’ve seen one this year.

White-Crowned Sparrow

After all the rain and cloudy weather we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest this Fall and Winter, it was a delight to be able to take pictures in full sunshine, even pictures of common birds.  

Our Last Day in Colorado

On our last day in Colorado Jen and the kids were busy getting ready for their upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, so Tyson took us on a much-needed walk before we started our long drive to Santa Rosa.  There weren’t quite as many birds as we had seen on previous walks, but I managed to get a  nice shot of a Northern Flicker marching across the field

Northern Flicker

and of a Great Blue Heron dining on frog legs.

Great Blue Heron eating frog

With few birds in sight, I shifted my attention to the nearby flora and was delighted by the many flowers along the trail, particularly since I had no idea what they might be.

The only one that looked familiar was this one, which looked like a dandelion.  I’m not sure it really is a dandelion, though.  If it is, Colorado produces much bigger dandelions than the  Pacific Northwest does.

We’ve gone to Colorado so often in the last twenty years that it seems quite familiar, but it only takes a short walk to realize that there’s still much we don’t know about it. Of course, the same could be true of Theler Wetlands which we walk much more often.

And Not Just Rhododendrons, Either

Faced with hundreds of  Rhododendron bushes, it’s easy to be distracted by other plants that stand out because they’re so different.  I’m not normally a great fan of  Magnolias, or any dramatically flowering tree, for that matter, but looking at this Magnolia flower close up I couldn’t resist taking a shot.

I was amazed to spot the same orchids that I so admired at the Bloedel Reserve a few days before.  Best of all, these had a name tag,  pleione formosan, and now I will be able to order some for my own garden.  I wonder if deer eat them. If not I could naturalize them under the front cedar tree.   

I couldn’t decide if someone had actually planted these yellow beauties or if they were native volunteers.  

If they had intentionally planted them, they forgot to include a name tag, or I would have written that down, too.  

Rhododendron Species Foundation & Botanical Garden

There’s a reason the Coast Rhododendron is Washington’s state flower.  Almost all kinds of Rhododendrons, not just native species, thrive in Puget Sound’s temperate weather and there’s an amazing variety of Rhodies, something easily confirmed merely by driving around a Seattle/Tacoma neighborhood in Spring.

If you need more scientific confirmation, all you need to do is visit the Rhododendron Species Foundation & Botanical Garden in Federal Way, as we did on Mother’s Day weekend with Dawn, where they boast of having over 700 varieties of Rhododendrons. 

I spend a lot of time in different Rhododendron gardens, but I’m always amazed by the some of the species I see there, ones I can’t remember ever seeing before, like this red one.

Although the pinks and purples in this one are quite common, the bell-like shape certainly isn’t.

Yellow is an uncommon color for Rhodies, but this shape is even more unusual.

However, the rarest Rhodies are found in the hothouse, like this delicate Rhododendron Konori from New Guinea

and this striking Asian variety.

I’ll have to admit when I think of Rhododendrons I still picture the leggy plants with pinkish-white flowers desperately stretching for light in Cascade Mountain forests, not the lush, tropical plants found in specimen gardens, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be awed when I encounter very different species in a different environment.