Monday, April 30, 2012

Point Sur Lightstation

On our recent visit to Big Sur we had an opportunity to tour the Point Sur Lightstation.
This California State Historic Park is operated and maintained entirely by volunteers.  Visitors drive to a parking area at the base of the hill and hike up 360 feet to the lightstation.
You can't actually see the light from this side.  The lighthouse is lower on the hill so that the light would be under the clouds.
Restoration of the lantern room was made possible by grants, tour fees, gift shop sales, donations and membership fees in the Central Coast Lighthous Keepers.
If one has a fear of heights or is claustrophobic they might not care to clime up into the cupola.
This arch was not just an attractive window for viewing the Pacific, it supported a chimney.  The fog horn was operated by a wood fired boiler and it was necessary to direct the smoke away from the light so that it would not limit visibility.
 Wooden stairs led from the lighthouse up to the living area.
The small house on the left was the home of the head lighthouse keeper.  The three assistants and their families lived together in the larger house in the center.  Volunteers have almost completed restoration of the head keepers house.  So faithful are they to the effort that they are cutting down modern 12" linoleum tiles to the 9" that were common when the buildings were occupied.  They must wait for asbestos removal before they can restore the larger house.
In their spare time, the keepers would use their woodworking and blacksmith skill to make items to trade with local ranchers and farmers for fresh food and other items.  The dedicated volunteers have found period tools on e-bay and at yard sales to restock the shop.
A water tank, right.  No, though one did stand on this spot at one time.  It is a cell tower.  I think it is a big improvement over those fake trees we see all over.

For more information or to check tour dates, go to the Point Sur Lighthouse website .

To see more of our wonderful world got to Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pelagic Cormorants and More

I thought that the birds we saw at Point Lobos deserved their own post.
My images don't do justice to the pelagic cormorant.  It's black feathers glisten with a blue green sheen in the sun.
It's amazing, the tiny ledges these colonial birds choose for there nests.
A larger ledge would have several nests.
Those not sitting on the nests could often be seen sunning themselves on the rocks below.
 Of course, there were other birds as well.  Brown Pelicans skimmed over the water.
Common Merganser
I enjoy watching mergansers, one instant they are floating on the water and the next they are gone, diving for dinner. 
red breasted merganser hen
 The red breasted merganser was a new bird for me as was the pelagic cormorant
While this image is poor I think it is good enough to identify a horned grebe, another new species for me.  Point Lobos is a wonderful place to enjoy natures variety.

More birds can be found by going to World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Point Lobos State Reserve

One of the main objectives of our recent trip to Big Sur was a visit to Point Lobos
There are plenty of reasons to visit this State Reserve beyond the spectacular ocean views.
There are opportunities to view wildlife.  The harbor seals were lounging with their new pups when we visited and some people saw gray whales just off shore.
Brown Pelicans and Pelagic Cormorants
 There are opportunities for bird watching, but more on that tomorrow.
Blue-eyed Grass
Even with our dry winter there were plenty of wildflowers.
The tide was out so there were plenty of opportunities to explore the tide pools.
It's a treasure hunt to see what we can find, this guy was easy to spot.
This little crab was more difficult to find.  I saw several hermit crabs as well but they were not positioned for a good photograph.  I chose not to move them for a better view as is requested by the Reserve.
Even the rocks were interesting.  Point Lobos is definitely worth a visit if you are ever near Carmel, California.

More about Point Lobos here and here

See more of our world at That's Our World, Tuesday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

San Luis Reservoir


We finally had a chance to go in search of new adventures and images to share.  We spent the first night out at San Luis Reservoir.  The Basalt campground is in a lovely, tree shaded valley protected from the wind by  rolling hills just beginning to turn green. 
The sky had the dramatic but nonthreatening clouds common at the end of a stormy period.  A good omen for camping trip.

Find more skies at SkyWatch, Friday, hosted for us each week by Sandy and Sylvia.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Garden Blooms

This wet spring is keeping us close to home.  We canceled a camping trip last week so I have only views close to home to share this week.
 We can go for a stroll in my garden.

Enjoy the tulips.
Since I took these shot they have been beaten up by hail, I will miss them.
I love the heady fragrance and lavender blooms of the wisteria.  It is so beautiful in bloom it's worth the effort to keep it under control during the summer.  It does try to take over the garden and wants to sneak out into the open area where it would get me in trouble with the Homeowners Association.  It's like a beautiful, endearing but naughty child.

This beautiful Japanese Maple had been poorly placed (by me I'll admit).  Now I have transplanted it into a pot and given it a spot where we are better able to enjoy it.  I will also be able to move to a more protected spot during the heat of summer.
This is a look at my part of our world, see other views at That's Our World, Tuesday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Storm Clouds and Dogwood

Nature seems to be trying to make up for our unusually warm dry winter with an unusually cool wet spring.  Most of the precipitation is in the northern part of California but this current series of storms should make it to the south.  Not enough but we are grateful for whatever we get.
Find more beautiful skies at SkyWatch, Friday, hosted for us by Sylvia and Sandy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sibling Rivalry

If you have a romantic view of the natural world you might wish to skip this post.
I trained my lens on a heron rookery recently.  I can't get close and it is hard to know just what is going on until I down load the images.

I was able to see that there were chicks in this nest and I could hear them squabbling.

After looking at the images it appears that one chick grabbed the other around the neck.
There also appears to be the limp body of another chick at the lower left side of the nest.
I regret that I couldn't get better images, even if it was possible to get closer I wouldn't have wanted to disturb the nesting birds by moving closer.

The pair continued to squabble and the parent pays little attention.  The limp chick does not move.

Then my attention was distracted by a pheasant nearby and I spent 10 minutes photographing the pheasant.
When I returned my attention to the nest, the agressive chick again had a nest mate by the throat but I couldn't be sure if it was the limp one or the other as the limp chick was no longer hanging over the edge. 
The aggressive chick tossed the the other one into the corner of the nest
 and there it remained as long as we were there.  Only now does the parent show any interest in the chicks.
It seems harsh but if parents are unable to feed all of the hatchlings the stronger will out compete the others for food and intimidate or even kill the others.  With our dry winter, I suspect that hunting has been difficult and many of the chicks in this rookery will die, some at the beaks of their siblings.
Find more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Iside Filoli

Two weeks ago I showed you the gardens of Filoli, an estate south of San Francisco built in the early 1900's.  Today I'll give you a peak inside the mansion.
Reception Room
Most of the first floor is open to visitors.  You can take a guided tour or wander through on your own.  Volunteers are stationed throughout to answer questions and protect the furnishings.
The house is furnished much as as it would have been during the period it was a home.  Some furnishings were donated by the grandson of the first owners, Mr. & Mrs. William Bourn, some by the second owner, Mrs. William Roth.  Much of the furniture was the gift of a collector, Melville Martin, who wanted his collection showcased in a realistic setting rather than a museum.

With his involvement in gold mining it is not surprising that William Bourn would feel the need of a vault in his home.  In fact, he had several.  One was off the kitchen for storing the family silver and two were in his study.
The second owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Roth had no need for three vaults.  One of the two in the study was turned into a wine cellar and the other into a wet bar.

Ballroom Mural
The Bourns gave their daughter Maud and her husband Muckross House and Abbey as a wedding gift.  It included eleven-thousand acres around Ireland's Lake Killarney.  He hired a San Francisco artist to paint murals of the estate on canvas which were applied to the ballroom wall.  A rather nice wedding present.

The second owners of the estate were Mr. & Mrs. William Roth.  This room, originally a breakfast room now houses ship models and other maritime collectables.  One model is the Matson flagship the Lurline.  Mrs. Roth was the daughter William Matson, founder of the Matson Navigation Company.

The large commercial Oven in the kitchen had originally been intended for use on of the Matson ships.  When the household oven broke during the second world war and couldn't be repaired this was diverted for use at Filoli.  It's interesting to see it juxtaposed with the modern oven.  The walls are decorated with covers from Matson Liner menus.
 Through out the house are lovely flower arrangements, made each week by volunteers with flowers from the cutting garden.
Screen and detail
The frame for this screen had belonged to the Bourns and Roths.  The panels, scenes of Filoli, were stiched by the San Mateo Tuesday Stitchers. 

The gardens of Filoli are spectacular and the house displays fine workmanship we don't often see.  We greatly enjoyed our visit and hope to go back.  There was far to much to see in one visit.  You can learn more about Filoli here.

Find more views of our amazing world at Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Año Nuevo State Park

In mid March we visited Año Nuevo State Park.
The park is home to a colony of Elephant Seals.  To visit in the months of December through March one must be on a guided tour.  Tickets sell out fast for the months of December and January when there is the most interesting activity; male dominance fights and calving.
 By March the calves have been weaned and their mothers have gone back to sea.  The young must figure out how to get to the ocean, learn to swim and hunt before they loose the stores of fat they got from their mother's rich milk (55% butterfat) and starve.  The mortality rate is high, about 50%.
They must also avoid the inappropriate advances of the young bulls who are still hanging around.
An immature female, coming ashore to molt, also tries to avoid an ardent male.
All of the seals must come ashore to molt, a few, like this juvenile female have already arrived.  More juveniles and females will arrive on the beach in the next couple of months and the adult bulls in August.  Elephant Seals have a very interesting life cycle and you can read more here.
There is more to this park than just seals.  We saw a couple of deer.
A ranger pointed out what he said were mountain lion tracks on the dunes.  There were also middens, evidence of the Ohlone, indigenous people who inhabited the area before Europeans.

We also saw several of these, the San Francisco Garter Snake.  A beautiful reptile that in endangered due to habitat loss.  The rangers and docents were quite excited to see so many of them this spring.

Find more views of our amazing world at That's Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.