What do San Diego and Kakadu have in common?

It was amazing to see animals in the wild after having been so recently to the San Diego Zoo.

Here is is the Plumed Whistling Duck we saw in the Kakadu park in Australia. Not a perfect photo, they were far away and suffered camera jiggle, but this is one of my favorite photos anyway. It was just the feeling I had being there among so much bird life. I wasn’t sure if the amazing displays of birds would be present during the dry season, but I wasn’t disappointed.

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Here is the photo of the whistling duck from my San Diego Zoo, May 6th post (https://niccicarreraromance.com/2017/05/06/san-diego-zoo-birds/) clearly a different species, but related.

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There was enough water in the Kakadu to see wildlife without being overwhelmed by monsoons (and thrown overboard to swim with crocs). I don’t think they do tours in the wet season, or “The Wet,” as locals call it. Here are some shots showing the environment in The Dry.

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As you can see, it’s still not so dry! These are fantastic wetlands. Let’s hope they continue to be because they are vital habitat for almost 300 species of birds.

I hope you have a good Monday, or a good Monday evening for my Australian friends and a good week ahead. I will be continuing to share photos from our mad dash around Australia, so stay tuned!

Australia’s top end: Kakadu National Park

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Our whirlwind tour of Australia was a success, except for one round of getting sick. Fortunately, our first stop was a long one in an apartment so my husband could recover. Unfortunately he missed six days of socializing with our friends.

However the episode made us even more grateful to be able to do the tours we had lined up because it was touch-and-go we would have to cancel.

Kakadu is a national park in the Northern Territory and next to Arnhem Land, both of which are owned and managed by the indigenous people.

We took a cruise on the Yellow River where we saw several saltwater crocodiles. They are magnificent animals giving a sense of what it would be like to live in the days of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Not all Australians are thrilled that they have been brought back from the brink of extinction, for good reason. They do hunt people, sometimes successfully.
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When humans are killed by crocodiles, Australians say they were “taken.” I like that; it’s respectful.
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After the tour I started researching crocodile attacks on humans and ran across an article by a woman who survived one, Val Plumwood, Being Prey, Utne Reader. It’s a little abstract, she’s a philosopher, but a few things resonated with me. They are not monsters. They are animals. And yes, we are prey, though we don’t like to think of ourselves that way.
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I try to avoid putting myself in a position to be eaten by a predator, which may be hard to believe, given these photos, but we were on a steel boat with rails, high off the water…and I have a powerful zoom.

The way these birds hung around, I thought they must not be prey, but later at the museum in Darwin, I found indeed they are. On display was a stuffed crocodile (huge) inside of which, after they accidentally killed it, they found a heron. That’s pretty much a smoking gun, crocodile style!
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Bird tableau
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Plumed whistling duck

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The fish-hunting birds hang around because the crocs stir up fish when they’re hunting under water.

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I don’t want mountain lions, for example, roaming suburban neighborhoods. And that’s a little bit what it’s like in the Northern Territory for people. The fact is, you better not go swimming except in a swimming pool, or down to river banks, or walk along the shoreline, and fishing is hazardous. The croc will watch you for days and if you have the same habit, it can get you. One fisherman was taken when cleaning fish over the side of his tinny (small boat). So, I get that not all Aussies really want these creatures around, and yet they are protected somewhat, which is good for tourism and the ecosystem. And also just for, you know, the wonder of nature and prehistoric animals living among us today.

What an amazing experience to venture out into the wild on a mini safari and visit these animals in their natural habitat.

I love the birds too. Kakadu is a huge wetlands area. The guide said that as many as 280 bird species, a third of the world’s bird species, migrate through here or live here.

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Whistling Kite
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Snake-Necked Darter, female
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Snake-necked Darter, male, drying wings
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Pygmy Geese (actually ducks, these are misnamed)

These cave paintings are thousands of years old. Here are my hubby and me in front of Nourlangie, a site of the paintings that was on our tour.
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To be continued…

San Diego Zoo snow leopard

I’m going to have to give you a slow feed of the San Diego Zoo photos because I thought I was going to have a lot of photos from the finch feeder, but I had to take it down! I’m so sad, but they started creating problems in our back yard. Turns out in addition to the seed I was feeding them, they loved to devour the leaves on some of our vegetable plants. All those finches you saw on the feeder? Well, when it was full, there was an equal number on the plants. It was a sad day yesterday. I had to keep the blinds closed so I wouldn’t see them looking for the feeder all day. *sniff*

But I have some good photos from the zoo and I’ll dole them out one at a time until I can get out somewhere to take more photos and have more material to share. Here is a favorite of mine.

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Snow Leopard, San Diego Zoo, May 2017, photo copyrighted by Nicci Carrera

Chronicles of the #CaliforniaDrought The End

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A local creek that has been dry for a long time

I wrote around 10 of these chronicles over the last two years, sort of tracking the whole experience. I really thought it was permanent. I had a moment of fear when we were told if we didn’t cut back, California could run out of water. We cut back a lot. The restrictions and warnings and increased prices resulted in a massive conservation effect. We were successful, yay!

I also was sad taking pictures of Sand Harbor because these shallow waters used to be deep enough to dive into.

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You could still carefully wade out, but even that would be gone soon.

I walked in the Truckee River, the only outlet of Lake Tahoe.

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Truckee River bed

The piers weren’t much use any more!

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These rocks aren’t really supposed to be part of Commons Beach

The gates at Fanny Bridge, the mouth of the Truckee River looked like this two years ago:

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Volunteer anglers working with fisheries personnel caught the huge trout who lived there, put them in aquariums, moved them to the lake, and released them…before it was too low for them to live.

Now all 17 gates are open:

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Just like we couldn’t assume it would always be like the drought, we can’t assume it would always be like this past year, but it’s a massive relief. We now have a gravel front yard. Here’s a photo from the post when we first had it delivered a couple years ago.

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We just have drip watering now.

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Hope you have a nice week!

Wild bunny

This was supposed to go up yesterday for Easter, but I forgot. I happened to capture this little guy by zooming a lot before he hopped away (of course). This was taken in Sparks Nevada, which has a lot of these little cotton-tails and also a lot big jack rabbits.

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This time of year is also for taxes and planting our vegetable garden. One thing is not so nice, but the other is great. We planted two weeks early after looking at the long-term forecast and seeing it wouldn’t get too cold, so we have a good jump on it. It’s been raining like crazy, my husband roto-tilled in a lot of fertilizer, and the plants are growing really fast as a result.

We also now have a wood chipper for our palm branches and can turn them into a nourishing mulch which in turn provides food for the palm tree when you spread it around the base. The dried palm fronds make a golden brown mulch that’s pretty.

We also took the plunge and bought a compost barrel. You’d think we live on a farm rather than the suburbs, but this area (Silicon Valley) is incredible for growing things. It’s more a matter of getting control of the weeds than anything else. We don’t have a lawn any more, but lawns tame the weeds in some ways. Our neighbor’s lawns look amazing again after a brown year last year when our watering was curtailed, but we have gravel with plants and drip watering now. Lawns are in some ways easy and in other ways a lot of work. So is weed control in our vast areas of mulch, especially when you want to be organic. But I guess it’s a matter of what work you like to do. I don’t mind pulling up the weeds by hand as long as there aren’t too many, which we have managed because we used plastic as a barrier. Weeds grow on top of the plastic in the bit of soil that the mulch creates, and they grow through the drainage holes we punched, but those weeds come up easily. Weeding is my job. There are a lot of things only my husband can do, so I do the things I can do. Yard work is oddly enjoyable though!

You can look forward to some plant photos at some point and I have a surprise planned for you, but I have to wait for the rain to stop before I can do that. I have to tell you, it’s bizarre getting this much rain in California. In the mountains it looks like January. It’s starting to rain up there so maybe the snow will melt, but honestly, it’s not going to melt this summer. They are planning to keep the ski resort at Squaw open all summer, which is pretty exciting in some ways, but the locals are quite sick of snow. It’s feast or famine, I guess! Down here in the valley, there was some catastrophic flooding and California roads are a disaster. The legislature just wrote a bill to slap us with a 12 cents a gallon tax to fix the roads. That’s understandable, but the thing I don’t know is, where was the money for roads coming from before? Why is there a shortfall in funding for that? I’d like to know what money was spent before and if the storms caused a shortfall in funding, and if so, how long will we need that tax? I think the roads have been under-funded for some time. I’d like to know why. I have so many questions, but so far, no answers.

Well that’s it for this wandering post. Have a great week!

A gift of flowers

I’ve been playing with taking macros with my small travel camera…and enjoying it!

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A friend brought this bouquet. I’ve printed out the advanced user manual. It took a ream of paper and all our ink to print! But I’m slowly learning how to use it, including the macro setting.

Have a great week.

Memories of snow

We were up in the Sierra mountains during the peak of the snow. People were out taking photos, having fun and shoveling out.SONY DSC

Drought is determined by the level of snowpack in the Sierras in March. We went from a low of 58 inches of snow a couple years ago to about 48 feet of snow this year.

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Winter recreation has been amazing this year, although there is such thing as too much snow to ski. The roads leading up to the ski areas were basically closed in February. Not just snow, but mud slides were to blame.

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Road work on Interstate 80
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Mud slide on Interstate 80 covered by plastic
Digging out
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Buried chairlift

There can be too much snow! But it’s nice to be out of the drought. We rid our property of all grass and only have drip watering to the plants we want to keep alive. We won’t put the grass back, but we have eased up on water rationing inside the house.

We still have a lot of snow in the mountains, and the ski resorts plan to stay open until July 4th, promising continued recreation into the early summer. Much fun lies ahead.

The best thing of all, Lake Tahoe is full again, and the Truckee River is flowing. Fish and wildlife will thrive, and the forest is a dark, rich green.

 

Back in the saddle

Sorry for the long break in posting. I am starting again.

I’ve been taking photos, reading, and using our new home cardio machine. I try to do 90 minutes on it most days and then I’m tired! The days do seem to click by. I should say they fly by but that’s not really true because I slowed down a lot. I want to enjoy life, not to feel rushed. I took a big break, I relax more, and I would say that I get more out of each moment, but time does still fly.

Spring has sprung in parts of the world, including ours.

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Moon over plum blossoms
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Ants like the plum blossoms

Have a great rest of the week.

Bodega Bay California

The rain stopped just in time for our planned overnight to this coastal town. Neither one of us had been here before. It’s a cute town with gorgeous scenery located in Sonoma County. We arrived in the evening and braved some cold and wind to take shots of the bay, town and harbor.

This is shot from the breakwater at Spud Harbor.

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This is shot from outside Gourmet Au Bay, a wine-tasting place right on the water.

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The town is best known for being the site of the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds. Fortunately the birds are, in reality, cute and pretty.

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We had breakfast at The Tides at the Wharf, a restaurant and inn that replaced the original where The Birds was filmed. The new building is lovely with high ceilings and beautiful wood open beams with tongue-and-groove roof paneling. The tables overlook the calm bay where we watched ducks and, unfortunately, a drone. I didn’t photograph that, but it flew in and hovered over the birds, scaring a few into relocating. It was probably somebody wanting close up photos of the birds. Wait until there are hundreds of amateur drones hovering out there. It will be hideously ugly. I have some science fiction short stories I’m working on about drones, just taking a look at some of the unintended consequences of the coming nightmare, should they be approved for widespread use.

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At Bodega Head, the cliffs block tumultuous waves that make for gorgeous photography. It’s a state park with bathrooms and parking and has a high accessibility-to-beauty ratio.

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There is a famous tree out there, famous in the sense that it is oft photographed. It’s really quite striking. As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s easy to see which way the wind usually blows.

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Cutting back to Highway 101, we passed by beautiful working farms, a lot of them organic dairy. I even saw a farm that participates in the organic cooperative whose milk I buy: Organic Valley.

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Sorry  I missed a few posts. I really didn’t have any new photos. It was raining continuously, so I couldn’t get out. The Bodega Bay trip was the first dry day in a couple weeks. I’ll be able to milk these shots for a few more posts, so please do continue to check in on Mondays and Fridays. I will be getting more photos!

Have a great weekend.

 

Child’s play

My previous photos mostly concealed the fact that there were a lot of people out there with me enjoying a gorgeous winter day. Santa Cruz tends to be warmer in the winter than where I live, down in the valley near the San Francisco bay.

So here is the human element of Natural Bridges, the best part–children.

Mind you, I wasn’t trying to get photos of children or people at all. When I saw this image though, I was glad I accidentally caught this little girl at the edge of my frame. Next time I’ll pay more attention to the human element in the composition as I think it adds a lot of interest to the scenery.

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Another accidental shot, I love how the dad is kicking his foot in the air.childs-play-at-natural-bridges-2

That’s the beauty of digital photography and Lightroom–you can take a lot of photos and get some surprising captures that way.

I hope you are having a nice weekend!