Monday, November 12, 2007

Abbey Road revisited

My little girl was hit by a car two weeks ago while she was riding her bike. She is going to be fine. As a parent, I am deeply impacted by her accident in significant ways. I can not image being a parent of a child lost in the Bush's wars. How do people not understand the depth at which Bush and Cheney and their minions will crawl to do such evil? And the biggest evil to start wars, with lies, stealing the lives of our nation's children?

On this Veteran's Day, I am sadder then ever. The men and women who gave of themselves.... I am deeply saddened by this war of choice... this should never be! We need to stop it.

What have we as a Nation wrought? Here and elsewhere?


I went to Oklahoma in January to do what I could for my daughter's band and CD party. And I had to do this shot. I am sure that every band since the Beetles have had to do this pose, too.... but did you know that a very fine college textbook called, Molecular Biology of the Cell also had the authors pose for their back coversimilar shot? And guess who were walking down Abbey Road????

Funny how iconic images cross all barriers! (Whose that guy in the funny hat?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just walkin' cross the road...

Well, it all started when a dear friend asked if I would like to go to the Los Angeles Zoo's new exhibit on spiders, and I said. "Yes!" My life has become a bit crazy and that particular weekend I also promised I would take some shots of the first rain in the mountians.... This was the end of September....

My friend is very uncomfortable about spiders. She says it is because of the numbers of the large garden spiders that cover the garage doors and back doors of her parent's home in Ohio next to Lake Erie. She describes how you can wash all the spiders off in the morning with a hose, but the next day, they are back covering the doors and walls again. In the San Gabriel area we have large garden spiders that drape large webs in the evening and which are destroyed by morning light.

There are nocturnal orb weavers and diurnal orb spinners. When disturbed, the diurnal spiders use the 'bounce' (if you touch the web the spider vibrates in place in the center of the web for many minutes) as a defense against the destruction of their webs. Nocturnal spinners do not need to do this. Large moths like the the sphinx moth, are a large part of the nocturnal spider's diet and they tear the web apart. And the only thing that could fly through - bats rarely fly through their webs... The nocturnal orb spider just runs to its hiding place when under attack (the web attachment under a leaf or twig at the top of the web... or under the the light next to your back door!!!)... Rarely, will you find nocturnal orb spiders still in the center of the web in the morning from the night before. They usually are hiding in their special spot well before the sun comes up but will return to fix their web when dark falls.

Daytime is bad for spiders and their webs because of birds. Birds eat spiders and they fly through the webs which are woven in clearings to catch flying insects. The bouncing defense of the diurnal orb spider confuses birds - makes it hard for the bird while in flight to see the spider and ... diurnal orbs spiders weave heavy stripes radiating from the center of the web which looks more 'solid' while the spider shakes.

Well, back to my friend. I am real proud of her. She has come a long way from her days in Mugu when all spiders made her skin crawl... She used to kill all spiders that found their way into her bathtub or sink. But now, she wanted to see all sorts of spiders - live spiders - at the Zoo.

I had to take this small detour up the mountain and we visited the pipe-cleaner forest. This area on the mountain where the trees have been burned so many times though, still alive, have no limbs so the needles grow out from the tall main trunks. They look like they have had a 'poodle cut'

Well, I got the shots I needed and so we were set to drive to the Los Angeles Zoo. As we were zooming down the winding road my friend shouts, "STOP!! A TARANTULA!!" I turned around and then parked and sure enough, there was a wandering male hunting for his lady love.

(The poor male has to hunt around for the ladies who sit in their lair... and it's the males who become the meals for the tarantula hawks this time of year, too) And, of course... in harms way on the road.... These poor fellows tend to get into ALL sorts trouble looking for love in all the wrong places. So, we got out of the car and decided to prod the fuzzy guy back into the brush.... My friend helped scoop him up with a stick and not drop him (they are fragile!!! and these guys do NOT jump!!). The spider tried to entice us to touch his back end by waving it about and rubbing the stinging hairs with his back legs and with his long adroit spinnerets.

Needless to say we missed the opening of the Spider show that day, and we met the next weekend to oooggle at the black widows and brown recluse at the Zoo.... but, I think the best was meeting a wild and crazy 'guy' waving his cute hairy butt!!! In the street, no less!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rocks - lots of rocks

The rock faces of the San Gabriel Mountains have a particular look. The shapes are sharp and they are made of very crumbly material. Grasses have a hard time growing between the rocks because there are so few nutrients and things to grasp with their roots to survive. When the rains come, anything that can get a grip grows fast and takes advantage of the short wet season. The canyon wren, Catherpes mexicanus, is peeking from under the large bolder. Click on the picture for a larger view.

This photo is becoming a painting. It is taking longer then I thought it would but I am finding so many wondrous things that live in this vertical quarry. Centipedes hide in the cracks waiting for a juicy beetle. Grubs, beetle larvae, emerge from their winter sleep. So, no wonder brown creepers and wrens hop about these places.

This rock face is adjacent to the face in the upper image. It is composed of completely different substances and is far more crumbly. It bulges as if it is about to pop - I did not alter the image or enhance it.

Many veins of speckled rock have very large boulders that project out over trails and roads. Considering how crumbly and loose the pieces are, these faces can be quite a hazard. But, oh, how dramatic they are.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh! Those opossums!

Oh my! My heart has been stolen! Stolen by five funny, smelly, wonderful little two month old opossums!

They came into my life because a friend had found them, not abandoned but lost - their mother had been hit by a car and they were left wandering the street. My vet's secretary took them in and forced fed them until they were 3.5 inches long in body length until six squirrels were given to her to raise, too. I said I would look after the opossums and I knew they were almost ready to release....

.... but then I fell in love....

I picked them up and carried them about and they found that sitting on my head was the best place to be... second to finding a pathway through my hair.

I fed them dog food (wet and dry), apples, bananas, peas, beans, seeds, sow bugs, crickets on the hoof, worms from the garden, flies, grubs, and my favorite - cheese. They would grab with their dexterous hands their slice and chew and chew and chew and chew.... My next favorite food to give them were small snails. They would crunch and crunch and crunch....

Their jaws do not 'grind' their food like a cow or horse or even like us. Their bite is more like a lizard (on a couple of occasions once when one was frightened by something and another time when my finger smelled of food), biting straight down with a strong squeeze. Their tongues move their food around inside their mouths until the juice is squeezed out and swallowed. The solids are spun within their pointed shaped jaws and their very masterful tongue until the shape of the bolus is in a possum sized cigar, which is THEN swallowed. Lots of good food falls from their mouths eating in this fashion... but is then eaten by the next happy possum who does not have to work so hard to fill its tummy. Many times the possums would try to steal food from each others' mouths in the process of chewing.

Cheese is such a funny substance and they love it! Cheese really doesn't have much moisture so the jack cheese is studiously worked on for many many minutes. All five possums facing in various directions chewing and grasping and licking..... I have to say, it is much more amusing to watch opossums eat cheese then a dog with a tongue full of peanut butter or even.... a goose with a bill full of peanut butter! All of which I have observed.

Possums greet each other by touching noses after some huffing sounds. Everyday, I would call their names (BABIES!) snuff a bit by their cage and they would come to me to touch my nose with theirs. (- NOW! For YOU who are reading this....I would not do this with a wild un-introduced opossum!!... they might try to eat your nose! - ) And when I let them wander my yard they would come back to my back door to say hello... where we would do our greetings ("BABBIES!" snuff snuff, 'bump nose'). One little male called to me when he got worried (it sounded like a sneeze) and I would call back with kissing sounds - which seemed to calm him.

Well, tonight, I had to let them go out into the wilds of the San Gabriel Mountains. They were still sleepy from a big meal of cheese, apples and wet dog food. It was dark and I drove them to a place where there were still some people about (forest rangers and others who care for the Angeles Forest) but not too many. I put some dry cat food on the dirt and left their smelly blanket for them to return to if they got cold. The little guys had more then doubled in size and were ready to explore this world.... but it was hard for me to say 'Good-bye, Babbies!"

Be safe little Guys! And have many more babies!