Be Back Soon… I Promise!

California Ground Squirrel, tail


I had this notion that I would try and stick with doing a full year’s worth of blogging every day. Why a year? I don’t know. Just because it sounded good, I guess. It felt like a nice solid accomplishment to shoot for.

Well, it’s only been a little more than three months of continuous blog posts, but I’m gonna’ need to take a bit of a break. I’m hoping to only be gone about a week or so as I really do enjoy sharing photos and stories of the things I love most with all of you. My GI problems don’t seem to be resolving all that quickly and I really want to try and focus as much of my energy as possible on feeling better and getting back outside where I belong. I’m doing OK and other than being somewhat uncomfortable and very exhausted, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

(Though I chose a photo of a California Ground Squirrel for this post, I can’t resist mentioning that the fox family continues to come around regularly — several times a day now for the past 6 days! Watching them from the window or out the front door has been such a incredible and unimagined delight! In between foraging for dried olives on the ground they will occasionally romp and play, leaving me completely smitten. There are at least 4, and possibly 5 of them. We have seen more foxes in the last week than we have in the last 7 years of living here. I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental, but I can’t help but feel that the “nature gods” decided to smile on me just when I needed it most. Despite how crummy I feel, I can’t possibly say I wish this last week hadn’t happened or I’d have to give up all those wonderful memories in the bargain.)

Harsi / August 20, 2011 / mammals / 6 Comments

Color Therapy

As I sifted through my recent photos looking for inspiration, a vibrant shot of pink caught my attention. It was the sky at sunset last Friday night.

pink sunset & pine

It doesn’t feel like it’s already been a week since then, but time sort of blurs together when you don’t feel good.

Even when I’m tired or hot or I don’t see anything particularly fascinating to photograph, I NEVER regret going outside. It is something that I think is always worth doing. When I’m stuck indoors for any length of time, I appreciate my memories and images of outings all the more.

At the moment, I am reveling in this sky. It gives me immeasurable comfort to know that there is this kind of wonderfulness out there.


pink sunset


Oh, did I forget to mention why I went out to photograph the sky that night? Perhaps some of you may remember that last Friday was the 12th and it was a full moon. I’d already been out for a short walk earlier in the evening, but when I looked out my window and saw that beautiful glow peeking over the hilltops, I couldn’t help but put my shoes back on and walk back outside again…


full moon, August 12th


*Savor the moments of simple beauty and joy.*
I truly believe they have the power to heal and bring happiness.

Harsi / August 19, 2011 / skies / 0 Comments

How To Melt My Heart


Gray Fox, funny face


OK, so I know this is an out-of-focus, improperly exposed and poorly composed shot… but, how could anyone not save and treasure this photo?! As I was saying yesterday, several foxes have been hanging out around our place lately. The amazing thing about our cabin is that it serves as a really nice blind for viewing wildlife. In general, (with Coyote being a notable exception to the rule) the mammals appear to view the cabin as just another element of their environment and as long as you don’t make any sudden movements, they seem to ignore slight movements at the windows, or else simply stare with a cautious curiosity. I have seen and photographed (or filmed) some truly astounding things through the windows of this place! There are downsides, of course. All but one or two of the windows in the house are screened and those photos are often very blurred or distorted-looking. The large picture window in the kitchen is my favorite place to photograph, but even those photos only come out well if I can shoot straight ahead. If I have to point the camera at an angle to the glass, the photos are once again distorted. Fortunately, while I do have very high standards for what I consider to be a beautifully-executed nature photograph, I also see plenty of value in those images that serve as visual field notes or simply to capture a happy memory or experience.

So… back to the photo! I shot this one as I crouched at the base of my smaller, screened kitchen window.  (The black on the left side of the image is actually the window frame.) The fox was busily gnawing away at one dried-up olive after another just beyond the ledge of the window (maybe 10 feet!) and seemed entirely oblivious to my presence. Though it looks as though it is making eye contact with me here, I’m pretty sure that it was just eyeballing the house itself. I’m assuming that the little bit of tongue sticking out is also incidental and not directed at me personally. *GRIN*

Harsi / August 18, 2011 / fun stuff, mammals / 0 Comments

Now Are The Foxes!

Gray Fox, running


For the past three days, we’ve had multiple Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) sightings around our cabin! I saw two running together one day and there is also a third who is recognizable due to a injured front foot. They’ve been showing up to get a drink of water at the containers, but at least one of them is also coming to chow down on the dried-up olives that litter the ground beyond our front porch. These creatures’ coloration is incredibly beautiful and they are so agile and dainty. It never ceases to amaze me how small they are (usually somewhere between 30 and 40 inches long, but their tail accounts for about half of that)!

I always feel blessed to have the opportunity to live in such close proximity to these foxes, but I have felt more intensely grateful of late. Being able to look out the window and view something so wonderful is a true gift. You see, I’ve been stuck inside (and mostly in bed) with some seriously nasty GI thing. I haven’t really wanted to clutter this blog with talk of that unpleasantness, but if by any chance you’ve been waiting on return correspondence for me — I’m very sorry for the silence. Just trying to take it easy and give my body time to heal and feel better.

Hopefully, there will be more photos and stories about our foxy neighbors (and also some more adorable deer photos) in the next few days… *grin*


Harsi / August 17, 2011 / mammals / 2 Comments

Isn’t He Lovely…?


Western Tanager, male


I’ve been seeing several Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) lately and their fiery colors never fail to please! Yesterday, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to the return of the White-crowned Sparrow and there will be many other well-loved fall and winter visitors arriving with them soon. But, this will inevitably mean saying good-bye to those species of songbird that arrived last spring and stayed to breed through the summer months. In addition to the Western Tanager, a few other familiar faces that will soon depart include the Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeak and Phainopepla. I’ve tried to be especially conscious of this when out walking in the last few weeks… spending a little more time observing and admiring these guys before they take to the wing.


Harsi / August 16, 2011 / birds / 0 Comments

Crowning Glory


White-crowned Sparrow & branchesWhite-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)


I love these sparrows… The smart look of their black-and-white caps and the dappled browns of their coat. The way their songs fill the air in the morning and evening hours. I’ll have to wait another month or so before they return to the canyon from their summer breeding areas. I’m looking forward to seeing them hopping around in the leaf litter and bushes once again!


Harsi / August 15, 2011 / birds / 0 Comments

Good To The Last Spot


Mule Deer fawn, artwork



This season’s fawns are already down to their last few spots. There’s still a smattering around their hindquarters though, like an outfit they’ve just about outgrown. Every year it’s the same, the last hint of their juvenile patterned coat remaining on the back half of the deer. It makes me wonder… why?

Perhaps because the hair is longer and it just takes more time to grow out? Or maybe there is some actual purpose behind their tail-end remaining camouflaged for a bit longer? * Anyone else have a theory? *

[For those that are interested in the process behind my digital art creations, I thought I would go ahead and share the original (unaltered) image that this was based on… Click here to view. When animals come to take refuge in the shady areas around the house, one of the frequent photographic hurdles I encounter in trying to expose the shot is an overly bright background and loss of detail or sharpness in the darker foreground critter. Nevertheless, I am often still quite attached to these photos due to compositional elements or subject matter. As I discussed in my last post showcasing deer artwork, applying artistic effects and filters is one way for me to try and salvage less-than-perfect images or perhaps let my creativity take me in entirely new and fanciful directions.]


Harsi / August 14, 2011 / artwork, mammals / 3 Comments

Harsi / August 13, 2011 / arthropods, quotations / 0 Comments

What Will I Become? (Part II)


Does anyone even remember Part I? Ha ha… oh well… I meant to get back to this idea sooner. But, hey, let’s have a little fun with tadpoles!

I walked down to the creek a few days ago with the intent of exploring a remaining shallow pool of water that my neighbor had pointed out to me. I wanted to confirm my initial suspicions that there were at least three different kinds of amphibian larvae in various stages of development. Sure enough! Additionally, there were several different kinds of aquatic beetles, bugs and snails. There was also a large interesting-looking dragonfly laying eggs on the exposed rocks. I was so excited and ready to get down to some serious photographing, but then… This rarely happens to me, but (sadly) just as I got to this point, my camera batteries died. *sigh*

I use rechargeable AAs and I always carry a spare set, but apparently I forgot to charge them after the last outing and these turned out to also be dead. Not sure if anyone else has ever been this desperate, but in order to get the following shots I would turn on the camera and take like one or two shots before it gave up the ghost and turned itself off. Then, I would turn it back on and try and eke out a few more real quick before it shut down again. Frankly, I am surprised these turned out as well as they did!

OK, so here are the three suspects for those who want to have fun guessing what they will eventually metamorphosize into… *You can click on any of the photos for a larger view.*



mystery tadpole #1





mystery tadpole #2




mystery tadpole #3



I’ve done my best to correctly identify the critters above and I think I’ve matched them up correctly. (If anyone thinks I may have made a mistake… please tell me!) *Click on the graphic below to see what the adult versions look like.*


tadpole mystery answers


Despite the unusually cool temps for mid-August, the remaining water in the creek is still rapidly evaporating. I hope that the majority of these little ones get a chance to develop enough to survive outside of their puddle refuge.

Harsi / August 12, 2011 / amphibians, fun stuff / 0 Comments

The Dry Beauty of Summer


sun breaking through the fog, sepia

eucalyptus leaves & grass, sepia


Black Sage, sepia


thistle, sepia



From top to bottom:

sun burning away the morning marine layer
eucalyptus leaves & grass
Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)
thistle (Silybum marianum, I think…)

(OK, so it’s not quite as brown out there as these photos imply! Ha!  I’ve added a sepia cast to all the images to heighten the effect, but it is looking pretty arid and brittle out there in places. Nevertheless, the cooler morning temps we’ve been having did allow for a nice, long walk yesterday up the fire road to the water tanks and then down to the creek for a little exploring. More photos to come…)

Harsi / August 11, 2011 / flowers, plants, weather / 2 Comments