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

Out of Context


abstract crop


No tricks with this one! Nothing mirrored, flipped, reversed, altered or otherwise manipulated. What you see is simply a cropped poriton of a larger photo. It looked so otherworldly to me today that I wondered how recognizable it would be without the surrounding context.

** Can you tell what it is??! **

As always, you can click on the above image to see it larger. Once you’ve decided what it is, go ahead and click on the question mark below to see the original uncropped image:


Click here for answer!



Harsi / August 10, 2011 / fun stuff / 8 Comments

Geranium Grouper?


geranium, flipped


It might just be that I didn’t sleep enough last night, but does anyone else see a hungry fish coming right for you?

Lovely plant:                                                     courtesy of my mother-in-law’s garden

Interesting patterned leaves:                             courtesy of hungry insects or snails

Fanciful underwater interpretation:                   courtesy of yours truly



I hope no one is sick of the whole (mir)ror im(age) thing yet…  I have really been having lots of fun with this!! And since laughing, smiling and generally having more fun are all items on my “How To Improve My Life” list, you can expect to be seeing more in the future.

Harsi / August 9, 2011 / fun stuff, plants / 8 Comments

The “See Ya’ Later” Lizard


Southern Alligator Lizard, reddish


This may be the most brightly colored Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata webbii) I have ever seen!! They are always beautifully patterned, but usually draped in more subtle shades of brown, gray or green. (Sightings like this are always so much fun, but they are even more fun when my neighbor and her 3 yr. old son are along for the walk. Many thanks, J, for spotting this one for me on our walk together last week!)

The alligator lizards around here seem to really enjoy hanging out at various points along the main road as it parallels the creek. describes them as “generally secretive, tending to hide in brush or under rocks, although they are often seen foraging out in the open or on roads in the morning and evening. They are common inhabitants of suburban yards and garages.” This description matches up quite well with my own observations over the years. I’ve often found them creeping about on our porch in the early morning hours and twice I’ve had to figure out how to trap-and-release young ones that somehow found a way inside the house itself. (I can tell you from firsthand experience that the snake-like look of their head and eye can really throw you for a loop if you can’t see the rest of their body… Just imagine one popping its head out from behind a bookcase as you are strolling through your living room. *grin*)


Southern Alligator Lizard, rescue


Southern Alligator Lizard, rescue


They can move extremely fast when they want to, but my experience has been that they prefer to remain very still up until the last possible second that danger (or possibly prey?) approaches. When the object finally gets too close, they either strike or run away. Sadly, it is my belief that this strategy — which may work quite well in most situations — might be responsible for the potentially large number of accidental deaths along the road to our home. They seem to rest in the shadier spots and can be extremely difficult to pick-out from the surrounding ground, twigs and leaves. I think that this, combined with their seeming preference to remain motionless until something approaches very closely, may prove to be a fatal combination when sharing their habitat with automobiles. I can only hope that their numbers in this area are healthy enough to support these tragic losses. (For what it’s worth, I always move the dead bodies off to the side of the road and I am pleased to report that there are enough scavengers here that the corpses rarely linger for more than 24 to 48 hours before something makes a meal of them.)


Southern Alligator Lizard, roadkill

I’ve heard from a lot of people that they think these guys are “creepy”. I’ve also heard some comments that they bite and are aggressive. I can only say that I have never personally experienced any of these things. And, aside from being startled on occasion — they do look and move a lot like a snake! — I greatly enjoy having these lizards around and only wish that I had more opportunities to photograph them.


Southern Alligator Lizard, eye close-up


Harsi / August 8, 2011 / conservation, reptiles / 2 Comments

Out of Sight

I continue to hear the calls of the juvenile Great Horned Owls every night… This has been so reassuring after the “summer of silence” last year. I continue to open windows and smile into the dark black night, imagining them in my mind.

For years now, as I took photo after photo after photo of the owls — roosting on a branch in the afternoon, grooming, hunting, incubating and feeding their young, learning to fly — I knew not to take it for granted. I was acutely aware of how precious and unique the opportunities were and I made the most of them. That being said, I suppose I hadn’t considered how hard it might be to find an owl to photograph now that they’ve moved their nest further afield. It can’t be too far away, but as I don’t know where the nest is exactly, finding an owl to view or photograph in the daytime is no longer as easy as simply scanning the large trees directly around our cabin. I do see them occasionally when we drive the road at night — silent, dark shapes flying across the sky. But I confess that I miss seeing their yellow eyes, their impressive talons gripping a branch, or the delicate tufts of feathers that constitute their “ears”. I decided to check my photo files to see when the last time I had the opportunity to photograph one and was surprised to find that it was as long ago as November of last year. Here’s the photo:

Great Horned Owl, most recent photo

Sometimes I take what I call “record shots”. For me, that means a photo that is simply meant to record the existence of something in my area, or perhaps to record a notable date or significant sighting for something. My intent is not necessarily to create a photo anyone else would want to see… just to take a mental snapshot (a “screen capture”, if you will) of what I am seeing.

Oddly, I can remember that when I took this photo, it was meant to be a record shot. At that point, we were still seeing the adult owls around the property and there wasn’t really anything notable about this particular sighting. But, perhaps I intuitively sensed their impending move as something compelled me to record this (at that point) fairly common occurrence of looking up and seeing a roosting owl. Well… in any event, I’m happy that I took the photo when I did. Also, I’ve decided to try harder to locate where the owls are currently spending their days so that I might get the opportunity to see them once again. Wish me luck!


Harsi / August 7, 2011 / birds / 2 Comments

The Unbearable Cuteness of Being


California Ground Squirrel, juveniles


California Ground Squirrel, juveniles


California Ground Squirrel, juveniles



I was looking through some old folders of images that I hadn’t browsed recently and came across this series I took back in July of 2006. A California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) raised her young under a little wooden bridge behind our cabin that year and I had the fun of seeing the whole family out together on several occasions. I’m not sure where the mother was on this day, but her spectacled brood sure was adorable as they cautiously ran in and out of their burrow.

I know at least one of my friends is keeping tabs on a couple of nests around his place and getting some nice shots of baby birds …

* Anyone else have juvenile animals visiting or growing up somewhere in your yard or garden right now? *


Harsi / August 6, 2011 / mammals / 0 Comments

Doubling My Fun

This past week, I took a few more shots of trees with the express intention of playing around with flipping the photos. I had such a good time with the last few (mir)ror im(age) posts — here and here — but I wondered how I could step it up a notch for this round.

Well, if two images mirroring each other created something fantastical… What would FOUR look like?


Oak tree, flipped2x



UNK tree, flipped2x



Just in case anyone was curious, these are the original images:



trees, pre-flipped


Harsi / August 5, 2011 / fun stuff, plants / 0 Comments