Traveling now over to my new blog Onesmallwalk.com to experience the wonder of Moldova.
There are so many ways to think about that question, but this time I am asking it literally to myself. I have been Marsha at the bungalow for quite a few years, but Marsha is not real. She has been a writing alter-ego that I cherish and enjoy. When I started adding my real name, Susan, to my comments in other blogs, it had a nice ring of truth.
As Susan – who else? – I am beginning a blog devoted to walks at home and around the world. I hope you all will join me at Onesmallwalk.com.
It’s simple – click here, then look at the top right of the webpage and click on ‘follow’ (I think a ‘follow’ button also hovers on the bottom of the page.) Of course, you can also click the link above.
For the first several walks, I will link the two blogs, and you can – almost – always find me at Restless Jo’s Monday Walks.
So if you see comments in your blogs from a Susan who sounds familiar, it might be because Marsha has become a real girl – Susan@onesmallwalk. See you around!
“Do you see your hawk?” asked Stanley.
I looked where he was pointing, and – as usual- saw tree or sky. We were on our first walk since returning from a trip, entering the area near the dunes where we had first seen Mr Hawk. Just before we left, we’d noticed Mr and Mrs Hawk had been spending most of their time near the eucalyptus trees along the highway, where the nest still sat looking a little empty.
Reacquainting myself with the neighborhood after a trip is always entertaining, and I was eager to find out what exciting things we had missed. Baby hawks? Evidence of eggs? Frantic hunting? But even Stanley couldn’t find a bird in the nest tree. So, we had continued on our walk, eventually coming to the dunes area where Stanley made the sighting.
I continued looking in the approximate direction, hoping to see a wing through the foliage. Stanley stood, his chin pointing out the sight I couldn’t see. Then the hawk treated me to a long swoop from a high branch to another tall limb, and flew off toward the nesting area in the grove along the highway. I assumed it was Mr. Hawk on a hunting expedition, but that was really just me filling in the blanks of a springtime story.
We continued on our walk. It’s Sadie’s walk, after all, and she had some important digs to rediscover. Other neighborhood creatures greeted us, hanging out in the misty sunshine.
I paused under the nest on the way back home. Looking up about 50 feet high into a broad eucalyptus wasn’t the best perspective for snooping down inside the nest. Since I wouldn’t be climbing up, it was the only perspective available, so I snapped a few photos, frail compared to the wonderful eagle cam that tracks the Washington DC bald eagles.
When I caught up to Stanley and Sadie, Stanley handed me a feather. White and gray-brown with fluttery-like fuzz, it was a thrilling memento. Why? Not quite long enough for an adult tail feather, and, with those tiny down-like fluffs, not as stream-lined, we decided it looked like a fledgling feather.
The next morning on our walk with Sadie, we stopped near the nest, but nothing seemed to be going on there. We didn’t see any creatures in the nest, none flew by, and there was no screaming hawk call. I left the eucalyptus grove disappointed. No hawk presented itself for the rest of the morning walk.
In the afternoon, I walked alone by the nest, and noticed some movement. I estimated the hawk home to be about 2 1/2 feet deep, so a lot can go on in there that I can’t see.
I aimed the camera, hoping the photos would bring some detail. Suddenly, wings unfolded and a hawk took off out of the nest. I tried to get a shot as it held onto the branch of the next tree. (click on the photos and you will see a larger view) When I got home, I rushed to the computer to let it help me see what it was I photographed. There, in a slightly blurred mix of branches, was my first look at – not a baby hawk, but – a teen-aged fledgling.
Looks to me like Mr and Mrs Hawk did a great job while we were gone.
Congratulations to the hawk family.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find on the beach. Sometimes, it nearly jumps out at you in a blur as you walk by.
Sometimes you get fooled.
Other times, the ocean hasn’t worked its magic yet, and you see sharp edges and too-clear colors.
But always, the sea glass takes you by surprise. It’s a beach, with rock and shells and sand. Not these pieces of man-made substance that are re-made by the ocean.
It’s a beach walk, for heaven’s sake. There should be shells, right? On my almost-daily walks on the beach, I watch the waves, I look at the birds, I notice the changes in the hillsides, I always admire the rocks along the way. I rarely pay attention to the shells. Today, though, just for the shell of it, it’s going to be a different walk from my usual.
I have always comforted myself when I mistakenly step on a seashell by reminding myself “I am helping the beach make sand.”
Especially the sand dollars, whose crisp crunch I try to avoid, but it is inevitable that they turn into sand. We get hermit crab shells, or parts of them, clam shells, sea snail shells, shells from abalone and oyster. I love the shells that have urchins making a home on top.
And curls in shells next to the smooth surface of a rock.
Hope you have a shell of a day. Happy Walking.
linked to Jo’s Monday Walk
My new prowess as a hawk-eye didn’t last long. The next morning, our walk took us along the same path, and even though we saw the nest, we saw no birds.
That is, until we reached the clearing by the sand dunes and Stanley said, “So, do you see your hawk?”
“Where? In the trees? Is it perching?”
“The tall tree. It’s the male.”
“The eucalyptus? The cedar?”
“Right there. Right ahead.”
We are what I estimate to be 1/4 mile away and I do not understand Stanley’s ability to spy out a 20-inch long bird hidden in a 50-foot tall tree from that distance. He continues to point and I continue to peer.
When we are directly below the tree, I see the hawk moments before it flies away. But he goes over to his hunting post closer to the dunes, and I hurry closer to get some photos.
Sadie is occupied with digging today, and I use the time to study this hawk. He does look like the one that is usually here, scanning the dunes for food. We have seen him swoop and pull out something – maybe a mouse or a frog – twice. On a couple previous visits, the second hawk, possibly the female, sits on a nearby tree and waits for food, sounding out if she becomes impatient. Today, we see only the one hawk, the hunter.
Soon, Sadie is panting with exertion and ready to go. As we approach the highway crosswalk, I pause to take a picture of the nest. One day, I hope to see a hawk there.
When I get home, I look at my nest photos, and this is what I see:
I think maybe mama hawk thinks the nest is ready!
I beg Stanley’s help, because I am desperate to find their nest. I feel time slipping away as early spring passes with each day. I know that if these two are a pair, the breeding cycle is in full swing, and the nesting is under way. But where?
Stanley, of course, has witnessed some of this hanky-panky in the air. About a month ago, he saw two hawks twirling way up in the clouds. Another time, one of the hawks swooped in a spiral down and down, only to fly up to join the second in the sky. He tells me his stories, and I read about the significance in my reference books and on-line sources. It bothers me a bit that he knows instinctively what these raptors are doing, and I believe him only if I can read it in a book. He is always right – not an overly attractive thing in a spouse – even so, I beg his help in finding the hawk home.
I point at a bird flying up high. “Hawk?”
We continue to scan the cedar trees in the clearing, the tall eucalyptus and the scrub bush that grows tall enough that hawks might venture there. Usually, we find at least one hawk in this clearing by the dunes, but other times, we see them both in the row of tall eucalyptus by the highway.
“There are two, flying together. Over the dunes,” I point, and aim my camera.
“Vultures,” Stanley says with confidence.
I am about to acknowledge that I am drawn to vultures the way Stanley is drawn to hawks. I see them in the sky all the time. They pose for me. My camera loves they way they float in the wind and spread their long wings. I think they are beautiful and ferocious-looking. But I am not wiling to give up the pursuit of our neighborhood red-shouldered hawks.
Finally, Stanley sees one raptor fly into the tall cedar across the street from the clearing and pull out a twig. He – Stanley says it is the male – flies out to his post near the dunes. I try to catch the hawk in a photo, but he is gone before I can focus.
That night just before dark, as I stand on our front porch at the bungalow, I hear their screaming chatter. I can’t see them. They are about two blocks away, just past Hwy 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway). Their distinctive call, though, has become easy to recognize.
On our walk the next morning, I remind Stanley that today, we are looking for the nest. I remember hearing them in the eucalyptus just beyond the highway the night before, and scan in the tall trees for a jumble of sticks, bark, leaves and bramble. I stay, looking up, until my neck is sore and Sadie is impatient. Stanley says the nest will be high in the trees, and big. I see nothing but leaves and limbs and branches. We continue on.
Half-way through the empty lot where the eucalyptus grow, I look back. There it is. Protected by the outer branches, I see a tangle of green woven into the crook of two inner branches.
“There it is,” I say.
Stanley looks back, smiles. “Oh, yeah,” he says, grinning.
We don’t see the hawks nearby, and wonder why they have chosen a spot so close to the highway. But today’s discovery has me hoping that these two are settling in this close to us in the bungalow. Maybe I have some promise as a hawk-watcher after all.
I am a full-out hawk snoop.
Every move, each turn of the head, each feather ruffled, I try to capture. What an inept photographer I am, but what fun I am having. Poor Stanley comes with me on just the morning walk, because I have become unbearable. My camera, though, comes along on both morning and afternoon adventures. I am elated when I can find a hawk or two on my own, because Stanley still has a mystical power and his soul connects with these raptors at a creature level. I am just a snoop.
Have you ever heard a hawk’s call? Such an insistent, scratching scream. Now, I have seen it up close in my photos. What an amazing experience. There is the two-syllable screaming plea, and the repetitive insistent screeching blast. I can now hear them from a block away and alter my walk to search for them, following their call. I know they are not really calling me – they are talking to each other. But, remember, I am now an unapologetic snoop. I interpret their calls as invitations.
I won’t bore you with all the hundreds of photos with which I am obsessed. Like Stanley, you may desert me and I will be left alone to adore these hawks. Because, certainly, even if all by myself, follow these raptors I must. I continue to try to identify them, but so far I only am guessing that there is a light colored one and a darker colored one. They look very much alike, though, these red-shouldered hawks. I hope they have a nest nearby.
So, with one last photo, I will leave you. This one is called Classic Hawk. Ahhh – beautiful – but which is it? Male or female?
Looking south across Estero Bay in Central California, Hollister Peak on the left and Morro Rock on the right
It is a pleasant and windy March day. The sun is bright and warm. As we start our walk, we must chose north or south along the bluffs. With close to 7 miles of trails, we won’t cover it all today. We start in the middle and chose to walk north, into the breeze, so that on our return trip, the wind will be comfortably at our backs.
Estero Bluffs is a state park, set aside from development to protect the natural area. Sea stacks, tidal pools, wetlands along the bluffs, native grasses and wildflowers will accompany us.
Before we get to the edge of the bluffs, we walk through the grassy wetlands along a level dirt trail. The wind disguises the over-bearing roar of the ocean, but the water is less than a quarter mile away, and I know there is a steep drop-off to the shallow beaches with their glorious low-tide pools. We pass by a few wildflowers – I think the violet-colored ones are blue-eyed grass, and there are also tidy tips (yellow), and thistle. A California golden poppy is just opening up.
The trail follows inches from the cliffs, and the sheer drop catches my attention because with all the beauty around, I am not paying attention where my feet land, and I really hope they don’t land over the edge. It’s a possibility, though, and I snap a picture of the place where the trail disintegrates, having crumbled with the last rainfall, but the photo turns out blurry due to my hyper-ventilation and shaking hands. I am not brave in the face of vertigo.
Curious about yesterday afternoon’s migration north of the sea gulls from my neighborhood, I scan the beach and water. There are hundreds sitting on the rocks and flying overhead. I wonder if these are their breeding grounds. There are also cormorants – dark black birds that are very clever fishers – , and coots floating in the surf.
I watch as a vulture scares up the flock of gulls, a hundred graceful flashes of white fleeing to the sky in one motion. I wonder if I should take a picture, but the joy of the moment is for me to simply watch. Some things are for the experience, and fumbling with a camera for me is still more a responsibility than a pleasure.
I see furry scrambling under the scruffy brush, and know there are ground squirrels close by. I doubt that any will pose long enough for me to grab a picture, then one does.
I reach the point where the bay meets the ocean. The water becomes more insistent, energetic. The powerful ocean aroma replaces the mild bay spray, and you can’t help but breathe deep that elixir that clears the head and lungs. I look north, where a stretch of sandy beach curves, continuing alongside the Pacific Coast Highway. But, this is my turn-about spot, and I am eager to have the wind at my back.
On my return, I notice several gorges, easy places to walk down to the beaches. Next visit, I will plan a low-tide adventure to explore some tide pools. There are no seals or sea otters in sight today, but later in the spring, there will be newborns on the rocks near shore.
Just as I reach the trail head, the wind dies down a bit, and I regret having left so early. By the time I am at the car, I have pulled off my scarf and ear muffs, and am unzipping my fleece jacket. The sun is warm, and it is only a 6 minute drive home. Perhaps I’ll be back tomorrow, unless those pesky gulls take me another direction. Happy walking to all.