Who are you?

IMG_4151
Susan in Stockholm with a well-deserved ice cream cone (raspberry licorice with salt)

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!

apr5 007
made for walking
Advertisements

Hawk News

“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. IMG_4380

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.IMG_4292

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.IMG_4366

Looks to me like Mr and Mrs Hawk did a great job while we were gone.IMG_4379

Congratulations to the hawk family.

Classical Glass

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.

IMG_2343
bright green seaweed, not glass

Other times, the ocean hasn’t worked its magic yet, and you see sharp edges and too-clear colors. IMG_2349

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.

IMG_2405

 

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk 

 

Just for the shell of it

IMG_1496It’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.

IMG_1500
Shy shell, trying to hide

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.

IMG_2240

And curls in shells next to the smooth surface of a rock.

IMG_2227

shell

Hope you have a shell of a day. Happy Walking.

walking logolinked to Jo’s Monday Walk

 

Hawks 4

IMG_0859I 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.

IMG_2152I point at a bird flying up high. “Hawk?”

“Vulture.”

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.

 

IMG_2169I 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.

 

 

Anticipation

 

apr5 007
made for walking

You practice-packed and repacked last week. You printed out and saved to your phone or e-pad all your travel information. Your passports and health screening is up-to-date.

IMG_0196
Sadie – we’d take her if we could

You made sure your neighbors knew you’d be gone. You made arrangements for pets, gave loved ones your itinerary.

The refrigerator has been culled, the bread box is empty. The patio plants will survive on their own, you hope.

The time is here. Lift-off. Sail-away. Engine warmed-up. Doors closed. All those elements of a vacation’s beginning announce new steps in your journey. It’s a delicious feast of anticipation. What will the next adventure hold? Perhaps Norway, Sweden and Finland, and maybe some more.

IMG_3028Just don’t forget to stash away -somewhere safe in the travel gear – the most important stuff.

Hawks 3

 

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?

IMG_0829

 

Hawks 2

IMG_0289We have known there were hawks in the neighborhood. I saw one posing on the utility pole across the street the first month we moved here. Who am I kidding? I think there have been hawks in every California neighborhood I have ever lived in. Certainly, they have always been close by on the fence posts and telephone poles. Though I feel familiar with hawks in general, these two have captured my heart.

At least I think there are two. I am attempting to identify my new friends. Once, briefly, we found two of them together and I was able to take a couple blurry photos. It was over quickly, though, and I haven’t had a chance to study their markings or follow their activities. Are they truly a pair, as I hope? Or are there more hawks in the area, and are they jockeying for space – wanting their own bedrooms in the large house of neighborhood trees? I simply don’t yet know.

IMG_0279Stanley, with his keen hawk-like sensitivities is essential to my task. I am learning to identify the hawks’ call thanks to him. He stops on our morning walks and points to the tall trees whenever one calls out. It seems that when one flies to a new post, it calls out its location to the other(s). It’s a clue to us, also, to look up and search.

“Two of them. There,” says Stanley, stopping and pointing to the eucalyptus trees in the clearing next to the dunes.

“Two? Where? Which tree?” I ask.

IMG_0859“There, right there. Can’t you see?”

“High or low? Which tree?”

“Right there. Right there. Together.”

The mass of leaves and branches and the distance between us and them complicate my view. How can Stanley see through all this? And they haven’t even sounded off yet this morning.

“You just see them right in the middle of all that greenery?” I ask. The foliage looks tumbled together to me, a mass of nature designed to hide wonderful creatures from me, while to Stanley, everything is revealed.

“On the big branch. Together,” he says. “Right there. Right in front of you.”

I look around and see tree, leaves and branches, not hawks. We walk closer. And closer.

“Are they still there?” I ask.

Stanley looks up and nods as if it is the simplest thing in the world to see what nature wants to hide.

IMG_1072Finally, two hawks sitting together on a tree branch. I see them. I make my way to the nearby bench, sit and snap as many photos as I can. Too soon, one flies off. Which is it? Male or female? At least now, I can begin to know that these are truly a pair, possibly readying a nest somewhere close, getting prepared for parenthood, if all goes well.

And I certainly hope all does go well for them. With Stanley’s hawk-like senses and my camera, we will be marking their progress this spring.

“There. Up in the sky. It’s hunting.”

“Where? I’m looking right there. I don’t see anything.”

“It’s circling. Probably the male.”

“I want to see.”

“Now over by the tree. There.”

“Which tree? Where?” I ask, then..

IMG_1026

“Oh. I see it.”

“No, that’s a vulture,” says Stanley.

I have already snapped a picture. ‘Are you sure? It looks like it might be a hawk.”

Stanley shakes his head, certain. “Vulture. Look at the wing span. See how it soars?”

I look back to the photo, thinking he might be wrong. It looked to me like it might be a hawk. I had aimed the camera in the direction he pointed, sort-of at the same time. While I am engrossed in the camera, Stanley continues to scan the area.

“There they are. In that tall tree. Across the street.”

“The cedar? Where? Over there?”

When I get home, I think about the scene we make, Stanley and I. A thought occurs to me. What if the hawks were observing us? Two humans, one stumbling along with a camera waggling from the neck, one stopping and pointing hawk-ward with precision. Are we as entertaining as they?

 

 

 

Estero Bluffs Walk

IMG_2048

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.

IMG_2084

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.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk 

 

Meet the Hawk Family*

IMG_0260
Mr and Mrs

Stanley saw them first. Actually, he had been hearing their particular screech for awhile now on our morning walks, commenting “Hawk.” We would pause to search, see nothing, and I would say “Isn’t that a crow calling?” Then we would hear the ever-present crow sound out, as if reminding me that nothing else on earth should sound like that scratchy caw. And soon, Stanley would pause again, and I would hear the distinctive repetitive screech of the hawk from their eucalyptus-ringed home.

As you might have guessed, Stanley is a bird-whisperer. I am the one who fell in love with this pair, but it is Stanley who interprets them and points them out among the million other distractions that call for my attention. He has a razor-sharp ear for their sounds – an amazing quality since he has trouble hearing most everything else on earth. But the screech of this pair of neighborhood hawks calls him every time. As we stood watching, one – we think the male – flew away. The larger one, I hope the momma-to-be, flew to a more sheltered branch, then posed.

I want to say that this pair are red-shouldered hawks, but it is too early. The tail, as much as can be seen in my photos, is not the classic red of the very common red-tailed hawk. I think I see a slight smudge of copper along the shoulder mixed in with the more neutral colors. If you click on the photos, you can see a larger version, and help me with the classification. What do you think? Red shoulder or red tail or something else entirely?

The hawks will help me become a better photographer. Attempting to worm my way to better views, I appreciate the power of a telescoping lens, but the nuance still escapes me. My neck is sore with the looking up, and my hands waver with excitement as I try to hold the frame still. I may even try to learn the manual selections on this new camera for better views. As I get to know this regal pair, the camera will help me figure out exactly who they are, and what their days in our neighborhood are like.

IMG_0263
it amazes me that I can sit on a bench far, far away and bring home this (fuzzy) photo

*Many, many thanks to Tiny at http://tinylessonsblog.com/ for her inspiring story of the Osprey family in Florida. Her blog is my motivation for this new animal-world friendship, loving birds from coast to coast, then posting their antics online.