2020—Surrounded

The Bushtits descended en masse on the fountain early Saturday morning. They rocketed into the shrubs behind the fountain and I could tell where they were by the shaking of the leaves. One by one they dropped down to the fountain and there were probably 15 or more crowded on. When I walked out with my camera, only a few were still bathing and they, too disappeared. I settled down and waited. Only three stalwarts returned, two females and a lone, innocent looking male. The females don’t look as angry as they often do but the little male looks a bit troubled to be surrounded by the two females.

2020—Curious Pup

Northern Sea Otters were so much fun to watch in Kachemak Bay in Alaska in June. There were so many mothers with pups and the pups, especially, were curious about us and seemed not to be able to take their eyes off as we drifted by them. Captain Jim did an excellent job of both keeping us near the otters and making sure we didn’t encroach on them. The youngsters spend months on their mother’s bellies, or floating near her until they develop the skills and the right fur density to enable them to begin to dive to feed themselves.

2020—Yum

One of the Sea Otter photographs I wanted to get in Alaska was of an otter on its back munching on a sea urchin. I was told that I was more likely to get that shot in Monterey Bay in California. Fortunately for me, Sea Otters also eat lots of mollusks which are abundant in Kachemak Bay in Alaska. This Northern Sea Otter scraped out the last bits of scallop before releasing the shell. It is fascinating to watch otters when they’re eating. They carry a rock with them, sometimes tucked under their arm when they dive, to crack open the mollusks they find. They use the rock as a tool to smash the mollusk placed on their stomachs as they float on their backs.

2020—Prickly Pear

Every kid growing up in Santa Rosa, California in the 1950’s toured Luther Burbank Gardens while in grammar school and learned about this pioneering horticulturist who, in 1875 declared of Santa Rosa, “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned.” Burbank developed countless botanical innovations that even today have a profound impact on agriculture and our daily lives. McDonald’s French fries (Burbank Russet Potato), a gardens filled with flowers (Shasta Daisy), and Freestone Peaches were a few of Burbank’s efforts. The one that has stood out in my mind for more than 60 years, though, is the spineless cactus developed for grazing cattle. I remember staring in awe at the huge, spineless pads of the Burbank Opuntia although I don’t think I’d ever seen a spiny cactus in real life at the time. I’d probably only seen them in cartoons and on Walt Disney’s Painted Desert but the ouch-factor of cactus spines was duly impressed on me so for some reason, I was impressed with his developing a spineless variety. Fast forward many decades and my neighbor planted a cactus between our homes. I never really looked at it until this summer when it started to bloom and grow fruit. On close inspection, I realized it is one of the spineless varieties of prickly pear and all my Luther Burbank memories flooded back. And, while it is a spineless variety, the prickly pears themselves are still covered with tiny sharp needles. I don’t think anyone will be stealing the fruit.

2020—And Action!

This is a subadult male Broad-billed Hummingbird. His jewel-like adult plumage is just beginning to appear on his head and neck. He’ll eventually look like a brilliant blue-green gem as he tussles for position at the feeders. For now, he only has partial iridescence and color but he comes with the ability to hold his own at the feeders. Here he’s preparing to dive down to the feeders below.

2020—Eye Still on the Action

The male Broad-billed Hummingbirds in Madera Canyon dominated the feeders. They swarmed around much like the honeybees darting in and out and chasing away other hummers. This male perched briefly on a nearby twig, keeping his eye on the action the whole time he sat. It wasn’t long before he buzzed away to vie for position again. Getting more than one or two shots of a perched hummer was almost as challenging as photographing them in flight.

2020—female Broad-Billed Hummingbird

The female Broad-billed Hummingbirds are not as flashy or jewel-like as their male counterparts but they’re every bit as feisty. Their feathers are not as colorful but their backs and sides have a bronzy green sparkle and their partially orange bill adds a little more color. The females are more “lady-like” at the feeders often leaving to allow an aggressive male to sip nectar. But they held their own with the ever-present honey bees.

2020—Sound Asleep

Northern Sea Otters of Kachemak Bay in Homer, AK spend most of their lives in the water. While they often are seen holding hands to prevent them from drifting away from the raft, this one is perfectly content to snooze and bask in the the morning sun without grasping another otter’s hands.