Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Baby Barreds

Never would I have expected that another peaceful visit to Rocky Point Glades would make me a spectator to something like this. I stopped by Bill's to say hi to a good friend for the first time since November, when I left for California. He was excited to share the experience:

A very concerned landowner southeast of town contacted the nature center to report that two fuzzball owlings had become lost from their nest. Baby birds, like Barred Owls, leave their nests every spring as fledglings to spend time on the ground in their quest for flight. They may be cute, but are not often pretty or recognizable and are sometimes mistaken for injured adults and are brought to the nature center for rehabilitation. Fledglings should be left alone so that they may learn to fly and to live independently, but these were no fledglings; their eyes were not open and their feathers were only fluff. At this stage in a birds development they belong in the nests. Outside of the nest they are subject to predation and will not be able to feed themselves (thats mom's job!)

The friendly landowner introduced us to the tree under which she discovered the babes- just a short walk and a fence-hop from her long wooded driveway. Barred Owls are cavity-nesters, meaning that eggs are laid in secluded holes and crevasses off of the ground.
It appeared likely that the tree could have hosted a healthy nest because it had the most obvious 'cavity' in sight- a large hole where the trunk began to branch out. The tiny things were carried in a comfy shoebox to the base of the tree with a ladder and the saving operation would have be over quickly.
Our devoted crew searched through the grassy understory for evidence of a nest above- feathers and gaks would have suggested that we were in the right spot, but we found nothing. Bill climbed the ladder to investigate the suspected hole, but found no evidence there, either.
So many mysteries were discussed!
Why were the babies evicted from their nest? What did it? Where was the nest?
The spot where they were recovered was isolated by a fast creek and a driveway. babies this young could not have gotten far enough on their own for their nest to have been anywhere else but in our likely tree, and even if they could, they probably would not have been found together as they were.
We moved the ladder around the trunk so that Bill could climb to investigate another hole, though this one was much smaller than the original. He stuck his hand in and explored it as deep as he could, as he had done earlier, but still found nothing. The nests location was becoming an even deeper mystery.

The owls may have been kicked from the nest by the loving parent of a different species. Birds like jays and cowbirds are notorious for confiscating established nests and nesting sights by throwing existing eggs or babies out and laying their own eggs. It would take a courageous jay to face an angry mom-owl many times its size!
Maybe our babies had fled the nest to escape something else?

We continued to search the ground for even the smallest clue of a nest and Ruth discovered a feather-possibly belonging to an owl- deep in the grass very close to the original hole. We considered that feathers and such may have been washed away by recent severe storms and Bill had to give the hole another look.
He climbed higher on the ladder this time and began to dig into the soggy dirt and dead wood at it's bottom.

He tossed the soggy compost to the ground, one handful after another, until the remains of the nest appeared- fluff, feathers, poop and all! The mood lightened just then and Ruth strapped a backpack carefully loaded with the fragile chicks with Bill continued to puzzle over their eviction.
From the top of the ladder and before blue skies and the first canopy greens of spring he announced his discovery of a spout which emptied into the nest- a drenched hole which could easily have funneled rain-water into the main trunk of the tree from the rotted hole on the top of a branch above.
I imagined the dramatic flooding of the nest from the small hole hidden directly above the helpless babes. The owls may have been wet with direct rain water before it began its torrential poor. Maybe a trickle first, then a steady pour as the storm- perhaps the second or third of the system as they're likely to ravage this part of the state- raged violently around them. What would it feel like to rely on a the delicate trunk of a tree for your life as it is torn and beaten by winds more awful than you knew could exist?
The water would have to have come quickly so that it could fill many feet of the hollowed tree and reach the floating babies to the top.... just a couple of days ago many parts of the county were flooded by such a storm. The hardy hatchings had endured all this and a potentially fatal drop, too- also avoiding hypothermia, hungry predators and starvation on a foreign earth. Still they were alive and well.
The story, however unlikely, was all that we could think of and it appeared that our blind, bald babies were not so helpless after all.

Styrofoam, wire mesh and the toolbox were recruited to plug the hole. Bill spent several minutes ensuring, to the best of his ability, that the nest would not be flooded again and that it would be ready to host its owlings once again. Ruth carried them to the nest and set them inside carefully. Then I climbed with the camera-
What an experience! Thank you Bill!!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fishin Pond

Had a beautiful mornin at Jerry Smith Park with the bro. We started down at the pond where our competing jerk baits landed us a pair of healthy large-mouths within seconds of each other. (mine's the big one!) The bass were released with the others and Elliot's big bluegill.
The pond was ours- didnt see a soul while we were there, but got to share the stories of past visits to the pond and park- REDICULOUS happens frequently here!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'm stealin' my roommates Internet to post some pics, Each one has a cool story- Its been 'a hell of a week and lots of cool photos as soon as I get to the town's library; library's been closed of late. All of these images are in RAW format, but I cant wait to fool with 'em on my favorite computer program. Yesterday I worked the top of Chair #11- The storm broke after a miserable, blizzarding early morning. From nearly 9150 ft, the top of chair 3 looked pretty awesome through a coloured polarized lens. The crew thinks I'm kinda weird for takin' so many photos.

I rode up Chair 12 with my roommate, Josh- its a primitive fixed-grip which gives passage to some of the most exciting and least-known intermediate runs on the Mountain. Where the lift ends- high on WhiteBark Ridge- there was an incredible view of this awesome complete circular rainbow around the sun. A friend and coworker suggested that it was a sundog, but I recognize it as something different.

Mike and I had our randomly-assigned days off together. The mountain was smothered in discouraging storm-clouds and we werent going skiing. Instead we drove south- a joy ride of sorts...
And while my co-workers continued to struggle with the wind and snow, Mike and I enjoyed more than 80-miles sunshine, 60-degrees and the amazing scene of a boiling winter range.
The photo is of the mountains very near Mammoth, from the "Green-Church Road" which leads to the local hot springs and some secret fishin' holes.

One of Mikes spots on the Owens river just miles from Mammoth Lakes. We cast in 'a copper John, and I got a short hit, but neither of us could hook a fish.

Mammoth Mountain hosted a/the Olympic-Qualifying snowboard competitions this week. I got to see the famous guys compete in our Halfpipe and over the huge ramps. My roommate Josh took this photo of a qualifier flying over him on the Halfpipe. He got to watch from a bit closer than where i watched from work.

Friday, January 1, 2010

PLEASE EXCUSE- Just puttin this here for a minute!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Work at 10,525

The snow report is 5 fresh feet on the mountain- nearly 3 feet in town.
It snowed Friday night, Saturday and Sunday- laying waist-high snow along streets and sidewalks. Car accidents are abound and power outages are equally common.
Work, though, is sweet. The mountain is offering me more hours now that the runs are open and we approach the holiday season. I'm working all over the ski-area: today at 10,525 feet on Lift#3 "The Face Lift Express." I get to the slope and back via bus and snowmobile- its always a bit more exciting than you'd expect work to be and the view cant be beat when its not snowing ! I took some pics early in the day, and experimented shooting through my polarized sunglasses when the sun faded out the horizon.
At work we stand in negative windchills. Infact the other day a gust of wind atop one of the chairs measured 140mph.. Winds over 40, which occur almost daily, shut the lifts down. I can tell you that it's no fun waiting for the lift to start up again in those conditions.

Friday, December 4, 2009



When I walked out of the library Friday evening the world looked much different than when I'd gone in. The miserable-grey sky had been replaced with a dramatic passing-storm one and the ground was all white. The Library looked extraordinary at dusk- with the dark breaking clouds above it. Instead of rocky and grand, the tall range that hid our sunset was nearly black.

I yanked the Canon from my pack and started the cold walk back to the apartment with a photo of the library. I leaned against a parked car to take the shot- the glowing building backed by our first winter storm. Not even a block away I found my shoes cold and packed with dense snow. It wasn't the powdery stuff.

The air was cold enough, though, that the ice in my shoes would not melt- a nice surprise when I came to realize that my toes were still cold and not numb. Some power lines ran down an alley towards the dark mountains to the southwest- I brushed off nearly four inches of snow from the rock that I suspected would make a fair tripod: It took the painful cold to drive me away from the scene some twenty-photos later. Most would surly be blurred; a brisk wind set in quickly and had me shivering over the 1/30 sec exposures.

The silly wind picked up again and I wasn't halfway home when the sun had failed our valley completely and offered passage for the second bout of weather.
...I turned my back to the wind which stung from the direction that I traveled.

The folks of Mammoth Lakes are much more accustomed to foot-travel than the big-city people that come to visit in their cars. Town is not big enough to risk the icy roads in a vehicle and the 20-min. buses are free to everyone. There were many people walking the same road as I. Some looked like simple masses of warm clothing and the rest of 'em were just frozen cowboys. The snow on the ground blew fiercely to my back as even more fell into the glow of streetlights and passing headlights. Six and eight inches accumulated on curbs, but the busy sidewalks were packed short from the rush hour to get home during the storm. I took photos on my walk: street scenes, Christmas lights and some cool ones when the silhouette of a bundled pedestrian walked in front of an SUV's snow-lit headlights. Most of my photos were disappointing, though: Blurred and dark. It was only those where I'd paid special attention to clean the lens of my camera and steady it on a ledge or mailbox that came out.

Icicles began forming by morning. The system was moving south violently, but our storm wasn't over yet. My ski-pass was revoked for the weekend for some silly flubs with administration in the workplace, but I could still ride the gondola on Saturday. I planned to take it to the top.
Saturday morning I hopped onto the bus for Main Lodge. The woman-driver jumped out frequently to chisel the ice from the steps with a small pick, and once we started moving the bus slid on every icy turn. She wasn't having a good time- turning off of old mammoth road the bus went so far as to miss the street-sign by inches and had an oncoming car make an exciting break.

The cars were more numerous than I'd scene them before. At the lodge there were snow-bound vehicles parked on the side of 203 for more than a half-mile down past the overflowed stump-alley lot. Maybe it is the fresh snow that brings them, or the weekend? At the gondola was posted:
I gave the man my pass to see how far I could get- Only to McCoy station, though, at 9630feet in elevation.
The storm was much more than an examination from the bottom of the mountain would have revealed. I couldn't see the lodge or the peak of Mammoth mountain from half-way- only the most devoted riders and a few strips of dedicated conifers. Even the air was washed-out and crispy- It tore at my exposed face more awfully with each gust of icy wind. I walked from the station and up the flatter parts of a few runs. My meandering left me only cold until I found out just how deep the snow was where it wasn't packed down. The well of a tempting pine left me knee-high and unpleasantly surprised. The step I took destroyed my dry snow boots and sent me back to the station perhaps a bit earlier than I would have chosen. After shopping the unreasonable food-stuffs in the station I returned to the gondola and my apartment, assuming that I'd had enough of the storm. With my planned trip up 14-thousand-foot Whitney in mind, its now much easier to see how such a storm could leave you lost or in a bag!

Monday, November 30, 2009

BLACK and WHITE and blues, greys and greens

Snow is white- it naturally fills in the grey spots with something more exciting, but there is something to be said for the greens and blues of a snowy mountain scape, too. I rode down hwy 395 yesterday- they've opened most of the roads to vehicles with tire-chains or 4-wheel drives after our big snow-dump on the night of thanksgiving (I'll post storm-pics later!)
Anyways, I was somewhere north of the village of Tom's Place when I spotted this gorgeous scene on the foothills of the Sierra. . Took several photos in colour and then considered the black and white-potential of the rough, dark trees and the beautifully smooth slopes. With the shutter speed up only a single click, I leaned again against the railing on the side of the road and snapped several more. When they are together, I think I like the colored-photo better, but individually the grey-scale one makes a more awesome impression on me. Which do you like best?- what could I do to make either of these even better? Adjust the mid-tones? Ups the contrast? More colour? Each seems to be missing something that would make them great! I would greatly appreciate any feedback! THANKS!