The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

moonrise over hillside

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I headed out the door for a walk. I was feeling good and one of the first sights I saw was the faint outline of the moon rising above the hills, which are currently decked out with the pale orange blooms of monkey flower (Diplacus aurantiacus, I think). Usually, by the time I notice the moon in the daytime, it is already fairly high in the sky… it was cool to capture a few shots of it nearer to the horizon.

I decided to take the road that parallels the seasonal creek. The oaks that grow down there are so magical. And the way it looks when the sunlight streams through the dense canopy is something that my camera never seems quite able to capture. It looked something like this…


oak woodland light

As I was walking, I heard a noise coming from the dense plant growth next to the creek. I looked down and saw this tiny bundle of brown feathers struggling to keep its balance and grip on the twig where it perched. It failed and tumbled down, disappearing into the foliage. I assumed it might be a juvenile bird and so I waited very quietly and patiently to see if it would return. I was delighted when this very young Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) reemerged!!

juvenile song sparrow (melospiza melodia)

The photos aren’t fantastic due to the heavy shade cover, but as you can see it is in the early stages of feather growth — the wings are nowhere close to their eventual full length and the tail is practically nonexistent! Sweet little thing that it was, it sat there and made the most endearing peeping noises over and over (and over!) again.


juvenile song sparrow (melospiza melodia)

Even though the juvenile didn’t seem to mind my company, I didn’t stay too long because I assumed that my presence was probably keeping the parent(s) from returning with food. [Sure enough, when I was walking by the same spot again on my way home, I saw one of the parents flying away from the clump of vegetation where the juvenile was still “peeping” away.]


balloon trashToday’s trash has been brought to you by the letters “G-R-E-E-N  L-A-N-T-E-R-N” and the numbers “6-17-11”.
The title and release date of an upcoming superhero film.

So, in this case, “the bad & the ugly” part of my walk were the same thing: TRASH. We live in a pretty remote area of the canyon and there is relatively little human and vehicle traffic. Nevertheless, every time I go out for a walk, I bring a bag with me and never fail to find new bits of refuse which I pick-up and take home. The constant winds in the canyon must blow a lot of stuff our way, some things get washed down the creek when we have heavy rains, and some of it undoubtedly gets thrown or falls out of cars traveling on the main road. I try not to get up on my soap box too often, but this issue makes me so disgusted. Balloons seem to push my buttons even more than other things… I think because they are just so superfluous. The epitome of a single-use, non-essential, impulse item that people don’t seem to think twice about. They are insidiously designed to escape and travel long distances, often ending up in the mountains or the oceans. Had I not picked it up, the best case scenario for this balloon would be that it continued to break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic that scatter through the environment. The worst case scenario is that one of the many critters here in the canyon would mistake it for food and try to eat it — a situation which can have dire consequences for the animal.

For those of you who take regular walks in natural areas, I’d like to ask you to consider carrying a small bag in your pocket or with your gear so that if you run across these bits of garbage you can remove them. I know it’s only a very small solution to an overwhelming problem, but I truly believe that every little bit helps.

Thank you for putting up with my rant. May your Saturday be full of the “good” and none of the “bad & ugly”!

Harsi / May 14, 2011 / birds, conservation, hillsides, not nature, skies


  1. Ruth Gravanis - May 14, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Wonderful photos and comments as always! My thoughts exactly regarding trash. I’m working on an ordinance to ban balloon releases in SF – not just because of the threat to wildlife and the pollution of land and water, but also because the earth is running out of helium. ‘So grateful for your blog, dear Harsi, reminding me of Nature’s beauty and wonder and keeping me from gritting my teeth all the time.

  2. Harsi - May 15, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    Ruth, I’m so glad you commented because I thought of you frequently while I was preparing this post. You know how we’ve talked about how I feel a bit guilty at times for immersing myself in the beauty of nature, but having yet to truly throw myself into the fray of various conservation issues that are important and dear to my heart. Well, this was a first, tiny step on my part towards speaking out publicly. It is my hope that my photos will reach people in a way in which perhaps words do not always succeed. I’m thrilled to hear that you are working towards a balloon release ban in SF, let me know if there is any way you feel I might be able to help. You are truly one of my heroes. I know that the conservation work that you do is full of struggles and headaches with small, hard-won victories and very little personal recognition or reward… but, it is so crucial and so very important. Thank you. 🙂 Talk to you soon, Harsi P.S. I had no idea about the helium shortage issue… I just pulled up a few articles to read later. Thank you for cluing me in!

  3. Ruth Gravanis - May 16, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

    Well, I think I goofed on the helium issue. ‘Saw a simplistic article that implied there’s a shortage of all helium, when it appears that it’s only helium-3 that’s in short supply. ‘Got to be so careful these days. Anyway, we have more than enough reasons to stop balloon releases. Thanks for the support, Harsi. Ruth

  4. Harsi - May 17, 2011 @ 12:27 am

    Happens to the best of us… I hadn’t even gotten around to reading the articles that I pulled up the other day, but I’m still planning to take a look because I’m still curious — even if it isn’t ALL forms of helium. Couldn’t agree with you more though… there are PLENTY of sufficient reasons already for halting the release of balloons. I meant what I said — if there’s anything you think I could do to help, just let me know.


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