Friday, May 7, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
There were also modern-day wolves, and it is ironic and coincidental that a wolf returned this week to the Great Valley for the first time in a century. It is a young male from Oregon who made an epic journey through Modoc County into the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite Valley, and then into the Sierra foothills of Fresno County, and across the Great Valley (including two freeway crossings). At last report it's now in Monterey County (it's wearing a radio transmitter).
I have no picture, but I came upon a Gopher Snake in the road that was in serious danger of being run over. I stopped, looked at it carefully to make sure it wasn't a rattlesnake, and then I picked it up to put it in a safer spot. I was suddenly reminded of how Gopher Snakes sometime pretend to be rattlers! They can flatten their normally narrow heads into the triangle shape of a rattler, and will strike in a similar manner. I didn't hold it for long...how do you explain to the EMTs that you picked up a rattlesnake that you thought was something else?
If you are lucky enough to live near a California prairie, this is a good time of year to explore them. If you tend to rush through this unique part of the Sierra Nevada and the Great Valley on your way to Yosemite or some other mountain destination, slow down and give these precious and unique lands a quick look. You won't be disappointed.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Our eastern horizon is the composed of the alpine peaks that surround Yosemite Valley, and in the twilight picture above, one can see the snowy peaks of the high country. The snow is a welcome sight, but it is still too little to put a dent in the second year of drought conditions.
The Worm Moon refers to the thawing of the soil, allowing worms to start doing what worms do. We don't see much of a difference here in the warm climes of California, but the worms are certainly active in the garden right now.
This moon is also a "super-moon", meaning the moon is relatively closer to the Earth in this part of its orbit, so it appears a bit larger and brighter than "normal". There will be four "super-moons" this year.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
I have had few chances to write about my geological journeys for the last year, because there have been precious few geological journeys. Well, literally none. I'm blessed by having the Tuolumne River flowing by a half-mile from my house, and I'll spend a bit of time there almost every day exercising and searching out birds and other life forms. But rain turns the trail to mud, so I was pretty much stuck on the couch for the afternoon.
The rain has been rare this year, and the air outside smelled delicious (that's also truly rare in this valley). So the back door stood wide open during the afternoon while I sort of napped on the couch. But I kept the camera at my side. Who knows what could happen?five have been reported on eBird in the entire San Joaquin Valley (there are more in Southern California and the central coast, as they are starting their northward migration). Our area used to be the northern boundary of their range, but with a warming climate and the planting of ornamental palms, they are found as far north as Arcata. They like the palms to construct their unique hanging nests, and as I've found, they love the sugar water in Hummingbird feeders. They've been coming by a dozen or more times a day, a male and a female, for a drink. Normally I can only take pictures through a window and blinds, but with the open door, I got some sharper images. The male is the brighter one with the black face and throat (below).
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
|Courtesy of NASA|
The landing is almost here (or by the time you read this, it's happened already, for better or worse)! I hope, hope, hope that all goes well. Mars is a tough target, and I've seen to many failures and disasters. But...if they are able to stick the landing, we'll have an incredible adventure ahead of us, exploring the Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient sea and river delta complex. It's thought to be one of the most likely places to find evidence of any life that might have evolved on Mars.
|Jezero Crater delta complex, landing site of the Perseverance Mission|
Lots of good resources and landing schedules can be found here: Landing Toolkit: Perseverance Rover - NASA Mars. I've checked out things ahead of the landing, as you can see below, and the rock samples look intriguing.
|(You can do your own pic with the mission toolkit)|
I'm curious. The Mars landing site was carefully chosen as to glean the most information possible in a small area. If you had a single chance to land a rover on Earth for an only exploration, what place on Earth would you pick for the landing? And why? Answer in comments!
Saturday, January 30, 2021
But...the Tuolumne River also flows across the flat plains of the Great Valley of California, and if we count "Yosemite Valley" as being also some of the significant peaks and cliffs that ring Yosemite Valley like Half Dome, El Capitan, and Sentinel Dome, you can in fact see the valley from the Tuolumne River.
This is not one of my occasional posts about the better-known spot for viewing Half Dome from Hall and Keyes Roads near Turlock. I get in enough internet trouble over that one, but it is indeed possible to see the very top of Half Dome and El Capitan from my daily walking trail along the Tuolumne River in Waterford. But the additional caveat is that it has to be a really clear day, and we have precious few of those over the course of year. Sometimes weeks can pass between sightings of any mountains at all. But following our huge storm this week, the air was crystal clear today.
If you are wondering about the cranes in the foreground, our 1964 vintage bridge is being replaced by a safer, wider bridge. The anchoring columns of the present bridge are unstable during floods; all bridges are perfectly safe, the engineers say, right up until they are not.
In any case, if you couldn't make out the various domes and cliffs and peaks in the opening picture, they are labeled below.caltopo.com and find the dropdown command for "simulated view". You can adjust the map for a view from anywhere covered by the program. Below is an example of the view I used to label the peaks shown in this post.