The Miracle of Letting Go

I haven’t been feeling very well the last several days. The biggest bummer is that I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping. My fatigue just seems to make everything I try to accomplish so much harder. Like swimming in molasses. To compound the problem, my mood has been pretty contrary as well. I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this… but there are certain things that never fail to improve my state-of-mind, yet sometimes I stupidly avoid doing them. I’m really not sure why… I suppose it’s the adult equivalent of having a bit of a tantrum. Things aren’t going my way, so I temporarily just stubbornly refuse to let anyone or anything make it better. So, anyway, I’ve been struggling with this and when it came time to do my blog post today, I just didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t coming up with any good ideas and the whole process was starting to feel really excruciating. Finally, I decided to give in. I did the one thing that never fails to clear my head and put things in perspective. I put on my shoes and went outside, determined that I would just do what I always do — look for something beautiful or extraordinary and photograph it. Then, when I came back home, I would simply post whatever I found and not think too much more about it.

I couldn’t have walked more than about 5 minutes from my house when I stopped to listen to the birds, absorbing the sounds that I love so well. California Quail whooping and popping in the bushes. Phainopepla doing a perfect impersonation of water slowly dripping from a faucet. The happy twittering of a small flock of Bushtit trickling through the underbrush. Something caught my eye in the tangle of young olive trees ahead and I instinctively lifted my camera. I had just enough time to process the shape of an immature Cooper’s Hawk, looking a bit startled at being discovered. I wasn’t even sure if I had the bird framed in the viewfinder, but I knew it was “now or never” and I pressed the shutter just before the hawk sailed over my head. I took only one shot and this was it:


Cooper's Hawk immature in-flight**Be sure to click on all of the images for detail shots!**


I relaxed, knowing that I had at least one wonderful image to share when I got home. I eased into the feeling of just being outdoors. I took a deep breath and felt more and more of my funky mood slipping away. I spied a Mourning Dove perched high in the spindly branches at the top of a eucalyptus. The bird and branch swayed side-to-side in the strong canyon breeze. The trunk creaked like an old boat in the wind, and the mass of leaves below the bird quivered and rippled like big green waves. I decided to test if lightning would strike twice and I framed the bird in the lens and waited patiently to see if I could catch a flight image. The dove stayed stoically still, eyeballing me and cocking its head, but not budging. Then, I saw a flicker of movement and reflexively pressed the shutter. Miraculously, I captured this wonderful hummer who zipped in for a split second to investigate the dove and then was gone!


Mourning Dove & hummer


A smile couldn’t help but spread across my face and I grinned foolishly up at the dove. Let’s try this one more time, I said. The dove made me wait awhile before finally flapping noisily over to another branch a few feet away — but I got the shot! Not only that, but I got a second one when it finally had enough of me and flew off that perch as well.


Mourning Dove in-flight

Mourning Dove in-flight


I’m still exhausted (more now than before I went out) and I’m yawning as I write this. But, I’m feeling peaceful and content inside. Tantrum over. Lesson learned. When nothing seems to be working and everything feels harder than it should — go outside, let go, and enjoy what comes!

Harsi / May 31, 2011 / birds / 7 Comments


J-O-YThe death of “joy” in nature is leading to the death of nature itself.

Francis Schaeffer (1970)


I hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend… and perhaps managed to discover a bit of the joy and fufillment that is always present in nature, just waiting to be savored.

Harsi / May 30, 2011 / arthropods, conservation, flowers, mammals, quotations / 0 Comments

Why Don’t We Do It In The… Diplacus??!!

Dasytinae in monkey flower

First off, my apologies to The Beatles for usurping the title of their song for my nerdy, semi-humorous, botanical purposes. *GRIN* This is a photo I took yesterday of a pair of mating Soft-winged Flower Beetles (Dasytinae). Be sure to click on the image for a close-up of the beetles. I discovered them nestled deep inside the center of a Diplacus aurantiacus blossom. Diplacus aurantiacus is also referenced as Mimulus aurantiacus, and is known commonly as Orange Bush Monkey Flower or Sticky Monkey Flower.

This is a very common and prolific flower here in the canyon. As it is extremely drought-resistant, it easily covers the hillsides in a bright, orange perfusion of blossoms and continues to bloom long after most of the other Spring wildflowers have peaked.

orange bush monkey flower hillside


orange bush monkey flower hillside


Beautiful from afar and beautiful up close… don’t you think?


orange bush monkey flower

Harsi / May 29, 2011 / arthropods, flowers, hillsides, plants / 4 Comments

Second Chance

Around the same time as yesterday, in just about the same place… guess who I spotted again?

Hah… “spotted again”… that’s funny! This little one certainly is spotted and terribly cute.

This time, I managed to get to my camera in time to grab a few shots. The resolution is not fantastic because I had to shoot at a pretty steep angle through the glass of our kitchen window, which always causes some unfortunate distortion. But, these images are all about capturing and preserving my memories of this lovely creature. Mission accomplished!


mule deer fawn

mule deer fawn

Harsi / May 28, 2011 / mammals / 2 Comments

First Fawn!!

This morning, I had the blinds in my bedroom open while I was working away at my computer. I registered a bit of movement and looked up in time to see a bunch of spots, two pair of wobbly legs, big ears and dark eyes staring back at me. This is the first Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) fawn I’ve seen this season and it made my heart smile!! I wasn’t fast enough getting to my camera to snap any pics before the skiddish youngster trotted out of view, but here’s an honorary pic from the archives to celebrate the occasion. (I love the expression of the foreground fawn in this photo and the whimsical out-of-focus background that the tail-end of its twin sibling provides.)

mule deer fawn

Harsi / May 27, 2011 / mammals / 0 Comments

Waiting There For Me

gold and rose sky

Gold and rose,
the colour of the dream I had,
Not too long ago,
Misty blue and lilac too,
Never to grow old.

Jimi Hendrix, “One Rainy Wish”


As I leisurely browsed through sky images yesterday, I stopped to reminisce on my photos from January 27th of last year. A short walk behind our cabin and up the fire road (a plowed service road meant for fire and other emergency vehicles) brings me to a great west-facing overlook spot. This is where I shoot a great majority of the skies in my archives. Some days (like this one) it’s honestly hard for me to comprehend the beauty I’m seeing…


gold and rose sky

gold and rose sky


gold and rose sky


The view to the east was equally spectacular… but in a much more subtle way. The sky reflected back the colors of the sunset in an amazing pastel gradation suspended above the hills…


pastel gradation sky


pastel gradation sky

Harsi / May 26, 2011 / hillsides, lyrics, skies / 6 Comments

Epic Battle

In the last few days, all of our lovely, unseasonably cool weather and cloud-filled skies have started to evaporate. Those who know me will understand my disappointment. I am just not a fan of the “blue sky” days that are so common here much of the year. What I mean by “blue sky”, is exactly what it sounds like — nothing but blue… not even a hint of clouds to break the monotony of that wide expanse. The light is constant, bright and glaring. Ugh!

I like movement in my skies… I like the way that clouds change and shift the light so that from one moment to the next everything you view is transitioning… making new shapes, new colors, new moods. In order to console myself a bit I decided to do some vicarious cloud-watching by sifting through my ENDLESS stack of sky images. (Seriously, I could have a blog devoted to nothing but showing pics of the sky every day and I would currently have enough images to last me years and years.)

I picked this one out to share with you guys. So, come on… join in the fun! What do you see in this wonderful sky? What can your imagination turn these fantastic shapes into? (Don’t click on the image or read any further until you’ve got it all worked out in your head!)


cloud shapes


What I saw was an epic battle between a Great White Shark and a mythical fire-breathing dragon! Can’t see it for yourself?! OK, go ahead… click on the photo to see my (barely) artistic interpretation. *GRIN*

Harsi / May 25, 2011 / skies, weather / 12 Comments

There’s No Place Like Home

Yesterday, I was heading back to bed to relax and read for awhile with a hot cup of tea… but, in doing so I cast a passing glance out the east-facing window of my bedroom and instantly knew that I wouldn’t be getting to that herbal tea anytime soon.

Let me back up for a minute and say a few things… Ever since we moved here to the canyon, I haven’t been terribly inclined to visit other places. Previously, we had lived in a truly soul-sucking environment — the suburban apartment complex. Perhaps that is a happy housing experience for some, but not for us. Every weekend that we could, we made a mad dash for someplace more wild and lovely, and in doing so we were often heading down to the coast or up into the mountains. But, once we moved to this surreal haven, where “wildlife” and “homelife” intersect seamlessly every day, a lot of the motivation for getting in a vehicle and sitting on the freeway to get somewhere else kind of vanished. Now, some people might think that things would get boring wandering around the same piece of land day in and day out… but it never does for me. I love being able to get to know this area so intimately. Having a feel for when certain bird species will return, where certain wildflowers will poke up through the ground in Spring, understanding the cyclical quality of how the light changes as it filters through the canyon each day in winter vs. summer… these are things that you can only grasp after years of living in a place and wandering the same trails day after day. While I certainly still feel the thrill of excitement that comes from traveling and investigating new places, I believe there are always new discoveries to be made wherever you are if you are willing to look hard and long enough. It is only rarely that I go outside in the canyon and don’t come away with some brand new bit of information that I never knew before. For instance… Woodpeckers and thrushes seem to swallow the fruit from the olive trees whole — pit and all! — while finches and sparrows peck at them and swallow little pieces. Or… Cottontail scat is very different looking in Spring vs. Fall — small, dark and moist vs. larger, light-colored and dry. Anyway… Why am I going on at length about all of this? Well, because if I wasn’t so attuned to my surroundings and I didn’t know the view out my window like the back of my hand, I’m certain the following sighting never would have occurred.

So, where was I? Oh, yes… Cup of tea in hand, I stopped dead in my tracks, scrutinizing a spot of bare ground under a patch of olive trees about 50 feet away. The ground rippled ever so slightly. A sinuous shimmer of banded earth. I instantly turned on my heel, grabbed my camera and hurried to put on a pair of shoes. I walked quickly (but carefully) to the spot behind the cabin and scanned the area until I saw it — a large rattlesnake slowly making its way across the mostly brown earth. My first thought was that this was a really good-sized snake. [According to, the average adult length for the subspecies of rattlesnake that occurs in this area — the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) — is “30 – 44 inches long, sometimes up to 54 inches”. After doing a little post-sighting calculation, using the photographs that I took as a guide, I went back out and measured some of the adjacent rocks. Not an exact science, to be sure, but using that data I arrived at an approximate measurement for the snake of 47 to 50 inches!!] It certainly made for an impressive sight and (despite my affection for these snakes) a bit intimidating too. A curled-up snake, if given its space is never something that concerns me too much, but with an active snake I think it’s really important to keep an eye on them and make sure to leave ample distance between yourself and the snake — especially when a portion of your attention (and visual field!) is compromised by photographing or filming. I stayed several feet behind the snake and moved slowly so as not to alarm or intimidate it. My presence seemed to go completely ignored, which is exactly what I aim for when shooting in the field. After several moments out in the open, during which time it investigated small clumps of plants and bits of wood, occasionally flicking its tongue to “taste” the air, it finally disappeared into denser foliage. I am definitely NOT foolish enough to follow a rattler into an area where I can’t keep track of it, so I said a sincere “thank you” (as I always do with accommodating wildlife) and headed back inside. I was pretty sure my tea would need to be re-heated, but what a very small price to pay for such a lasting memory.


large rattlesnake series


large rattlesnake series

Harsi / May 24, 2011 / reptiles / 2 Comments

Wordless Warbler

Black-throated Gray WarblerA male Black-throated Gray Warbler (Dendroica nigrescens) in the oaks.

I thought I might have something more to say today… but when I sat down to start typing… all I got was a BIG BLANK.
Hmmm… might have something to do with it being the 6th day of my feeling cruddy. Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow’s post!

Harsi / May 23, 2011 / birds / 0 Comments

Harsi / May 22, 2011 / birds / 2 Comments