Simple Gifts

I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world; the Snoqualmie Valley. I get to see amazing things everyday. It's time to celebrate that. (You can view pictures in larger format by clicking on them)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mountain Light - A poem

The sun slaps,
Morning bright,
Against the side
Of the mountain.
Where green trees
Normally drape,
Heavy and dull,
Across rounded shoulders,
Champagne colored veils
Shimmer and entice.
Flashing her sinuous flanks,
The mountain stretches.
The sun dances away,
Taking away glory
As morning moves to day.

Well, some people have been encouraging to do more writing and share my writing more. So I've decided to post some of my poetry here too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

San Diege Zoo Birds

I really enjoyed watching the birds at the zoo. I didn't get pictures of them all. I was especially impressed by the vulture and secretariat bird, but those weren't good photo opportunities. This is my final zoo post. I've run out of things to say so enjoy the pictures...

The herons were not in any exhibits. They were flying free. This heron was on the edge of exhibit. Most of the herons I saw were over at the flamingo exhibit. Apparently they were feeding on the baby ducks in the exhibit. (I know the last pictures isn't very good, but it does show that the heron was actually catching food)

The peacocks were running loose throughout the zoo.
This guy created quite a traffic jam.

Chris (not me, Renae's husband) didn't understand why we were watching baby ducks. Tasha was especially enjoying them. So what if we were at a zoo, they were cute.

Scarlet Ibis

Ok, what the heck was this guy doing?
He spent several minutes, just sitting on one foot with his head dangling. He'd move his head slowly around his feet. It was very odd. If I let my head dangle that long, the blood would be pounding!

I took a lot of pictures of the flamingos

Bumble Bee Intermission

A week or so ago I was out thumping around on my porch. It was night, so it was dark, and I found the deep buzzing that followed one of my thumps disturbing. I guess a bee buzz is fairly distinct because my brain instantly identified the sound "BEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". I like all sorts if 'creepy' critters. Snakes, slugs, worms, spiders, mice, rats, etc are all just fun and interesting to me. Bees, well, they may be interesting but I'm moderately allergic. With all the time I spend outdoors, I can expect to get stung. I understand that, but that's not how it works with me. If it were somewhat predictable I probably wouldn't feel so nervous around bees, but I get stung at the strangest times- driving down the road, taking the books out of my locker in school and sitting by the fireplace.

I was rather alarmed by the buzzing. It took me about a week to locate the source of the buzzing. Partly because I was reluctant to get close and I was working a lot so it was usually dark when I was on the porch. It was odd, because I thought they'd bee easy to see. I've seen plenty of hives and there are is always a lot of activity. This wasn't happening. Also, it seemed like the buzzing was coming from an old birds nest. I quickly determined that what was living on my porch was not a wasp/hornet and I was in quite the dilemma. Bees are good and disappearing. I didn't want to have to harm them. The nest was right above Coal's dog bed too. Sure, I can move Coal's bed but that doesn't mean Coal is going to stay out of that area. He has to be able to go into the fenced in yard.

They were rather annoyed with the picture taking
I considered retreating but all they did is buzz
This is the most bees I've seen at one time (click on photo to enlarge)

Finally, I was positive of my identification. They are bumble bees! I am still nervous, but I have also found them fun and I'm very curious. I have climbed onto the porch railing so I can peer closely into the nest. They really seem quite docile. I've done quite a bit of research online, but the information is somewhat contradictory and lacking. The information that does seem to be consistent is that bumble bees nest in odd places like birds nests, they don't produce much honey (just enough for the hive), they are less aggressive then honey bees, they don't lose their stinger after stinging and their colonies are small compared to honey bees (a few hundred bees at the very most). There are over 200 species of bumble bees! The buzzing sound doesn't come from their wings, it comes from vibrating their thorax.

The bee 'nest'

I am going to try to live with the bees. There don't seem to be many bees in the colony at all. I suppose the number will grow as summer progress. Coal, my gentle mutt who is even scared of bubbles, gets a little crazed and obsessive when it comes to bees. So far, I've only seen one altercation between him and the bumble bee, and no one seemed to be harmed. Since he's old, slow and mostly deaf I think maybe Coal can live with the bees too. I imagine I'll keep updating on the status of 'my' bumble bees.

The nest is above the wind sock
I stand on the porch railing to view the bees
Coal slept through the picture taking and bee annoyance

Friday, May 11, 2007

San Diego Zoo Favorites

Here are some of the favorites from the zoo trip. As always, you can click on any image to enlarge. I wish I'd gotten some pictures of the tortoises, they'd be in my favorite list too...


  • Bononos were once called pygmy chimps, but they are not chimpanzees. They are less aggressive then chimps
  • Bonobos are the primate most closely related to humans
  • Adult females "take charge" in bonobo society
  • Babiess stay with their mother for several years
  • San Diego Zoo was the first zoo to have a successful bonobo birth

She's sitting with a baby, if you look closely (you may need to enlarge) you can see the little one's hand and a bit of the head.
Yep, I think that's poop she's messing with

Of course I had to take lots of photos of the baby.
Adults were never far from the little guy

Source- San Diego Zoo

  • Orangutans tend to be solitary
  • They have been described as "relaxed problem solvers". Instead of lots of trial and effort activity they seem to day dream and then solve the problem.
  • Their arms are longer then their bodies, over 7ft from finger tip to finger tip.
  • At the San zoo they are offered cabbage, romaine lettuce, kale, carrots, yams, broccoli, bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes. They get treats of papaya, corn, turnip, onion, popcorn, raisins, peanut butter, and walnuts.

A lot of people were captivated by the baby bonobo, but I spent a lot of time watching this big guy. It seemed like maybe the other one came over to give him comfort. Anthropomorphism? Maybe, but we keep discovering the obvious, how very like our primate relatives we are.

Giraffes (one of my favorite animals currently)
  • Giraffes make noise. They can even moo!
  • A giraffe's feet are the size of a dinner plate—12 inches across (30.5 centimeters).
  • A giraffe's tongue is 18 to 20 inches (46 to 50 centimeters) long and blue-black.
  • Giraffes have the longest tail of any mammal
  • The giraffes at the San Diego Zoo enjoy raw onions as a treat!
  • We fed the Giraffes briskets and that was nifty!
Source: San Diego Zoo

The 'little' guy in the first 2 pictures is a baby

This is the Giraffe I fed.
There heads are huge!

The pole to the right of the giraffe marks height in feet

  • They can survive without drinking water, getting moisture from their food.
  • They can eat venomous snakes
  • One of the San Diego Zoo's meerkats was the animator's model for the portrayal of Timon in Disney's film The Lion King.
  • Meerkats have a close knit family with individuals taking turns filling different roles like sentry, hunter and baby sitter
  • Their underground tunnels may have up to 20 different entrances.
Sources: Bush Gardens, San Diego Zoo

Polar Bear (Renae's favorite)
  • A polar cub is about the size of a rat when it's born.
  • Polar bears have an excellent sense of smell.
  • The skin under the white fur is black.
  • Their outer fur (guard hair) is made of clear, hollow tubes filled with air.
  • A bear's stomach can hold up to 150 lbs of food.
Sources: Enchanted Learning, San Diego Zoo

  • Guanaco are like llamas, but live wild in South America
  • They have thick skin in their necks, to protect them during fights or "necking".
  • They can run 35 mph
  • They are related to camels
Sources- Wikipedia

San Diego Zoo

When I was a little girl I thought zoos were "bad". I wanted all animals to be free and happy. I was a geeky kid, I got more excited about National Geographic episodes on Sundays then Disney. I watched a lot of nature shows and my simplistic view began to change. I understood that animals had to be protected. I wanted to be a wild animal vet. I was so excited about Joan Embry that sometimes my parents would let me stay up late and watch her on Johny Carson. I had books about the San Diego Zoo and would dream about being a vet there and saving animal species from instinction. My life took a different path but I finally got to the San Diego Zoo. (I went with my friends of course, in the picture are Renae and Chris trying to break free from the killer flamingo)

It was both disappointing and wonderful. Spring is a great time to go to the zoo and I saw many animal babies. The zoo has a wonderful diversity of animal and I saw species that were new to me. The zoo that was new and cutting edge when I was a child is now outdated in many ways. There are old style cage enclosures and a lack of good graphical information. However, like many zoos they are working diligently at upgrading exhibits. I am neither idealistic or uncaring. I still caring that wish that all animals could roam free, but as the world's habitats diminish zoos are a necessity for protecting species. While zoos continue to exist I will go and marvel at the diversity of life.

Baby Cougar

Brown Bear (They'd just fed it)

Brown Bear (Look at the claws!)

Klipsrpinger Antelope


I am going to make a separate post for birds and for favorites to keep things manageable.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spring Break Trip

Over spring break I went down to California and spent time with friends. We spent some time with Renae's grandma then headed to San Diego. After that we spent several days at Knotts Berry Farm. I like roller coasters :) It wasn't at all my typical vacation but it was great fun. Between a crazy work schedule and the energetic holiday I haven't had much energy for posting or formatting photos. I am not going to say much about my trip. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but I'll let the pictures speak for me.

A friend looked at my vacation pictures and commented I didn't take many of the people I spent my time with. I took pictures at the beach and at the zoo, mostly of animals. (Here's a few of the beach and the next entry will cover the zoo). I've never really liked posed photos of people. They aren't "real" to me. I'm not much good at getting people in action. For on thing, if they see you trying to take a picture they pose. For another thing, I'm usually involved in the moment too. What matters to me when it comes to people is the shared experiences. I don't think photos can capture that but my memories hold it close. I wonder then, what that says about all the pictures I've taken of animals and nature? Perhaps I know. I still carry inside the child that was filled with awe at the varied and unique world outside the human landscape.

Tasha, Renae and Chris (I do take pictures of people sometimes)