Common Ground


Pipes & Roots - Common Ground Series

This is one of a series of images that I’ve been playing around with for awhile… Juxtaposing photos of organic and non-organic subject matter. In this case, there’s an interesting thematic similarity in that both the metal pipes and the exposed tree roots are used to convey water. But, in general, I’ve simply been playing with analogous patterns, lines, color or light.

Any thoughts or insights on this concept? I’m quite certain it’s not an original one… Just wondering if it works effectively here?

Harsi / July 11, 2011 / not nature, photography, plants / 2 Comments

A Moment with the Mule Deer


Mule Deer, female & fawnNice to see you out my kitchen window, Ms. Deer. I wonder why you look so alert? And who is that hiding in the sumac behind you?

Mule Deer, female & fawnWell, hello there little one!


Mule Deer, female & fawnBig and little bookends.

(I fear this once burned and then felled olive tree will never manage to grow much larger. The deer come through and nibble on its tender new growth every day.)

Mule Deer, female & fawn

The intense number of bitey flies these days means that their large ears are in constant motion, flicking back and forth, almost as steady as their breathing.


Mule Deer, female & fawn

Whoops! I was so busy photographing that I didn’t even notice your sibling hanging back in the foliage.


The Mule Deer have been a daily joy to watch. Sometimes, when I’m wandering around outside photographing and I see a group of deer staring at me, I wonder if they don’t find some amusement on their end as well. *GRIN*

Harsi / July 10, 2011 / mammals / 3 Comments

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

Before moving to our cabin here in the canyon, I never had the opportunity to observe the Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota).  states that the species’ range extends from “S. Oregon south to S. California, east to edge of Great Plains, north to S. Wyoming, and south to central New Mexico.” They are not uncommon butterflies, but are reportedly often very localized in their distribution which may make them more difficult to find. According to Jeffrey Glassberg’s Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West, they are “most frequently encountered along streamsides and other water courses through foothill woodlands, but also in chaparral and oak openings, sagebrush steppes, and high mountain meadows.” Fred Heath’s An Introduction to Southern California Butterflies makes specific mention of their fondness for “well-watered mountain canyons … such as Little Dalton Canyon & Evie Canyon” (located west and east of our home, respectively). I wouldn’t say that I have ever seen large numbers of this species, but every year (reliably!) there are a few that camp out near the house and can be seen from late May into July.

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

The above image shows the ventral (underside) view of a male (left) and female (right). While these two individuals’ coloration look somewhat distinct, I don’t actually believe that you can tell the sexes apart from this view.


Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)


As can be seen in this image showing the dorsal (topside) view of a couple of males, they are usually a brown/copper color with an occasional purplish tinge and not much in the way of distinctive patterning.


Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)


I’ve seen many males, but thus far, only one female. I felt I was lucky to be able to get these few nice images of her nectaring at Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). If you can get a clear view of the dorsal surface, the orange-y wing pattern is quite distinctive.


Ribes species


While adult butterflies will nectar at a number of different kinds of plants, their larva is dependent on those in the Ribes genus — specifically gooseberry and currant. Here are a few of the varieties growing here in the canyon. (I confess that I don’t have firm IDs for these yet… my ability to identify plants to species is still a work in progress.) While I have searched through foliage many times in early Spring, hoping for the opportunity to find the eggs and/or caterpillars to photograph and observe, I have yet to be successful. I couldn’t even find an online photo of their larva to show you, so my guess is that they are not so easy to discover. describes them as follows, “caterpillar green, darker toward head, with fine double white line down back, yellowish line down side, and covered with minute yellowish-white hair”.

At about 1-inch in size, they are among the smaller butterflies in this area. Fortunately, the males have a very conspicuous habit of choosing an elevated perch (such as a small shrub) and then patrolling the area, investigating any passing insect (or other critter), presumably in the hopes of finding or attracting a female.

If you live an area where these butterflies do, I’d love to hear your experiences with them. And, if you have yet to find one for yourself, I hope this post will prove helpful!

Harsi / July 9, 2011 / arthropods, flowers, plants / 0 Comments

Do you know this lovely?

mystery butterfly

I’ll be posting more photos and information tomorrow, but I thought I’d just lead with this teaser. For those who know their butterflies and are up for the challenge, I’ll give you a few hints… 1) the larval host plants are gooseberry (Ribes spp.) and 2) it has something in common with both a penny and a police officer. *GRIN*

This butterfly was photographed nectaring at buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.). I love that you can just see the tips of its antennae poking out at the bottom of the flower cluster!

Harsi / July 8, 2011 / arthropods, flowers / 4 Comments

A Picture Worth 501 Words

Moments after our awesome bear sighting on the 4th, we were cresting the top of a steep rise further on down the same road…

“Deer”, I said.

“To the right.”

This is my typical shorthand way of informing my husband of impending wildlife on the road as he drives. It’s usually not necessary as he’s just as good at spotting the critters as I am, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to have two sets of eyes looking. Especially at this time of year, we encounter so many deer, rabbits, and ground or tree squirrels that you really have to drive slow and be mindful in order to avoid the unthinkable.

The deer around here seem to have any number of ways of reacting to our oncoming vehicle. Sometimes, they will bound swiftly off the road, boing-boing-ing their way off into the brush or up a steep hillside. Other times, they seem uncertain of what to do, meandering in the middle of the road or crossing one way then back the way they came. Then, there are those times when they freeze and just watch our slow approach.

The deer we were nearing at the top of the hill had a choice to either go down a very steep embankment behind her, cross the road and go up an equally steep embankment on that side, or run up the middle of the road in front of us. But, as she was a little ways off the road and (perhaps) imagined herself somewhat concealed in the high grass, she chose the option of just standing very still and waiting for us to pass. As we steadily inched our way forward, my camera still in-hand from filming the bears, I hatched an idea. I have photographed at the spot we were nearing on so many occasions and I could see in my minds’ eye the position of the deer relative to the view behind it. A view that overlooked the property where we live and beautifully showcased the canyon and the foothills beyond. I rolled my window all the way down, and as we moved past the deer, I managed to take this photo:

Mule Deer & canyon overlook


I have many, many images taken from this point on the road, looking out over the same view. But, none of them makes me quite so happy as this one. The Mule Deer in the foreground. In the distance, glimpses of the trails behind our cabin. Trails that I have walked thousands of times.

Some photos are more than the sum of their parts. They are a feeling that cannot be explained and may very well not even exist for anyone but the photographer. They capture not only the visual information of what the camera sees, but also somehow find a way to capture the essence of what it was like to witness the scene for yourself.

Well, anyway… sorry for the rambling and philosophizing.

Mostly, I hope you enjoyed the photo.

It’s better than my words.


Harsi / July 7, 2011 / hillsides, mammals / 4 Comments

Harsi / July 6, 2011 / artwork, birds / 0 Comments

The “4” in My July 4th

We were driving out of the canyon around 7 o’clock last night. No holiday plans, just running over to my parents’ place to take care of their dog. We rounded a blind curve that turns onto a straight portion of the road which parallels the seasonal creek. (I shared a picture of this lovely spot in a previous post.) My husband slowed the truck to a stop… There, standing squarely in the middle of the road — looking like a large, shaggy road block — was an adult California Black Bear Ursus americanus californiensis). Always an amazing thing to see at such close range, but our delight grew as it became quickly apparent that she was not alone. One. Two. THREE! Three incredible little cubs! A typical litter is two cubs and it was our first time seeing more than that. I had my camera with me and there was ample opportunity to photograph out the window as the adult first crossed to one side of the road and then thought better of it and padded back towards the creek with her cubs trailing behind. Unfortunately, it was late enough that the tree canopy was not affording much light and I could quickly see that my slow shutter speed was going to mean somewhat blurry images. I decided to switch to shooting video and ended up with a lovely little film clip to remember the moment. Despite the technical imperfection of the first few images, I ended up really liking the surreal, dream-like feel of them. But, they didn’t tell the story of the bears crossing the road, so I put together a series of still images from the video too.

Black Bear with cubs


Black Bear with cubsBlack Bear with cubs

Black Bear with cubs


Black Bear with cubs


I called my neighbors later to tell them about the sighting and they responded that they had seen the same family much earlier in the afternoon at the same point on the road. (The creek attracts animals year round, but with the current heat wave the wildlife is even more keen to seek out the dense shade and remaining stands of water.) I am hopeful that I may get to see this family again as Summer progresses… But, you never know about these things, so we watched them until they had completely disappeared from sight and there was nothing more than the twitching of leaves where they had passed into the dense foliage. Aloud, I wished her and her cubs success and safe travels. I said a silent “thank you” and smiled to myself.

Harsi / July 5, 2011 / mammals / 4 Comments

My July Sky II

More images and thoughts from my walk at sundown yesterday…


sky, tree & moon triptych


Everywhere I looked the sky was doing something different.

Washes of color and fast-moving clouds.

Swallows dancing through it all.


Western Fence Lizard, sunset profile


Tearing myself away from the views above, I found plenty of interest down on the ground.

Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis longipes) — such beautiful creatures.

After approaching slowly and gradually, I was duly rewarded with an amazing series of shots.

I made sure to say “thank you” when we parted ways.


Phainopepla & branches


The Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens) are so numerous this year.

Everywhere in the bare branches are crested pairs — I imagine their nests are hidden in the foliage below.

Quail sputtered loudly from the stands of dry thistle and brush as I passed.

The shrill begging cries of a newly fledged hawk demanded my attention over and over again.

I think (as I have thousands of times before) that birds are pure magic.


plants & sunset


Even after the sun had set from view, the sky remained drenched in lovely shades.

I took the opportunity to photograph some stunning plant silhouettes.

From left to right: Black Sage (Salvia mellifera), California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) and White Sage (Salvia apiana).


rattlesnake, soft focus


It was almost 8:30 PM when I neared home…

Just enough light to still make out the potential dangers while wandering around in the hills.

Not quite enough light to get the camera to achieve focus though.

  Not to worry… I like the soft, brush-stroked look of this rattlesnake rendering.

Harsi / July 4, 2011 / birds, hillsides, plants, reptiles, skies / 2 Comments

My July Sky

While it has been my general observation that the sunsets in the months of April through August are not nearly so impressive as the remainder of the year…


July sunset


…today was a spectacular exception.

This was the amazing backdrop for my first decent outing in more than a week. It felt incredible to be walking my familiar path again.

I did way more than I should have today and my body is exhausted. But my mind and my spirit are soaring once again! I truly am not at my best when kept indoors for too long.

Tomorrow there will be more photos from this walk. Promise.

Harsi / July 3, 2011 / hillsides, skies / 0 Comments

Rambunctious Ravens

Have I mentioned the family of Common Raven (Corvus corax) that have decided to be our neighbors this year? I’m still uncertain as to where the actual nest was located, but the now fledged juveniles and parents have included the area around our home in part of their daily foraging activities. Ravens (like hawks and owls) invest a lot of time in the raising of their offspring and continue to feed them well beyond the time they can fly and have reached their adult size. So, imagine if you will, the entire family of seven jet black birds — each about two feet long with a wingspan of a little less than four feet — hopping around on the ground, flapping, begging and croaking loudly at one another. They have a rather dependable schedule of landing in front of our cabin just as the sun is setting. As far as I can tell, they then proceed to forage on the ground for the small fruits that have been falling from the heavy-laden ornamental plum trees. The clamor is impressive and the spectacle is well worth watching.

Now that I am feeling better (FINALLY!!), I’ll do my best to get some decent pics to share with you guys. In the meantime though, I had some fun creating this bit of digital art from various in-flight images. **Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.** I think I was imagining polka dots when I first started creating, but looking at the finished piece I find myself fantasizing about a sky filled with countless moons as ravens wing their way home to roost for the night….


Common Raven & moons, artwork


Harsi / July 2, 2011 / artwork, birds / 2 Comments