Our Country is Burning!

I was thinking about the wildfires burning millions of acres in the western USA right now as I noticed a sign while walking a road in the town of Summerhaven, Arizona. Seventeen years ago this town burnt down due to a wildfire and 4 months ago the Bighorn wildfire once again threatened the town. Everyone in the town was evacuated for weeks and forest trails will remain closed till November.

Almost 120,000 acres burned here and now millions of acres are burning in Washington, Oregon and California. Why is our country burning? A whole host of things contribute to the issue. With increased greenhouse gas emissions, there are warmer temperatures drying organic material. Droughts add to the increase of dry vegetation thus fuel for fires. Strong winds and lighting strikes add to the increased size of wildfires.

Controlled burns help and so do homeowner assist programs such as being stated here on this sign:

More people are building in wilderness areas, power lines are above ground and people are not safely putting out campfires and/or participating in creating defensible space. Wind and lightning will continue, but we do need to reduce the fuel a fire survives on. We also should be concerned about the drought affecting so many areas in the west and southwest. All wildfires leave us with devastation of communities along with air and water pollution. The economics and social implications are huge as people try to return, rebuild, and survive never knowing if they will be met with support and success.

As we look to the future, we need to research and support programs addressing greenhouse issues with alternative methods. A closer look should be taken of our own backyard and local neighborhood to ascertain if we could have a wildfire, flooding or other natural disaster concern and what we can do now to prevent it. There is scientific information available so we can be pro-active in understanding and preparing for whatever concern we may have.

While today I am talking about our country burning, we should also think about why coastline areas are flooding. When will we think and do something so we have less loss of life and property? Should we build in the wilderness, on a flood plain, or along a coastline? What can we do now to help ourselves and plan for future building zones or whatever else is needed? Much of our country is burning and we all should be concerned!

Visit San José de Tumacácori

Tumacácori is a park preserving a Spanish mission ruin where you can also walk to the Santa Cruz River and two trailheads of the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail on the park boundary. During this COVID pandemic, rules are listed at the entrance and certain areas, such as visitor center, are not open. Yet one can walk the property and feel its history.

Tumacácori is one of 24 missions founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, an advocate for the O’odham native people and spreader of the Catholic faith. As the O’odham people rebelled against Spain a military post was built in Tubac for Spain to protect its interests. Plenty of history to be understood and realized here and fortunately the National Park Service has an informative pamphlet available to help one understand it.

Walking the property, you’ll see fruit trees at the heritage orchard, water ditch, the church built during the 1800’s, a cemetery, lime kiln and courtyard. I also spent time in front of the place where there is a butterfly garden. A “monarch waystation” with flowers which truly attract many butterflies this time of year! This is a park worth visiting and I am sure when the visitor center is open to show displays and videos it will even be better.

Here are some photos from my visit:

The mission church and grounds at Tumacácori.
Another view of the church and Santa Rita Mountains beyond.

Vote! Here is how to do it …

If you are unsure about what you need to do to vote, then discover what you need to know at the Better Know A Ballot link:
https://www.betterknowaballot.com/

This site will provide you with the needed information. It has details specific for every state in the USA so it will be informative for your needs.

Everyone needs to vote. There is no excuse not to vote. 
Here is the link: https://www.betterknowaballot.com/

Click on the link above, be informed and VOTE!

Love is Carried on the Wind

My sister, mom and friend celebrate September birthdays and I am physically thousands of miles away from them. I don’t speak of love 365 days a year, but I would hope each knows my heart feels for them everyday.

My daily routine includes meditative moments where I send positive energy. Most recent for my sister, mom and friend I hope my positive energy radiates to each of you for your day’s activity to be somewhat eased or your personal struggles to be lessened. When we live in the moment of hope and positivity a birthday celebration can be enjoyed with all near and far.

Think of my love being carried on the wind and you are wrapped around on all sides by that wind; that is my loving hug to you as you celebrate your special day. Live in that moment and know you are loved. Happy birthday!

Was I Surprised!

Just when I thought it was time to call it quits on my birdwatching … the sky was darkening where I had been so I left, the wind was blowing in another place so my photography would be less fun, and I was getting tired of driving. I thought I would make one last stop before heading home.

When I pulled into the Historic Canoa Ranch parking lot I saw people with their binoculars zeroed in on something. I also saw people carrying their zoom camera lens to the area. My luck told me just get out there, see what was going on and worry about the right camera lens later. If there was a bird it was sure to fly off by the time I get there! Or maybe not!?!

Juvenile northern jacana

With the best of intention for physical distancing and wearing a mask, I slowly approached a woman to ask what everyone was looking at along the shoreline of the lake because I saw nothing. With specifics from her, there it was … a juvenile northern jacana! My last birding stop resulted in another bird on my life list! WOW!

I did not have my big zoom lens so I creeped around to find a good location for a photo with a smaller zoom. One of the photos actually caught a look at this bird’s extremely long toes. It continued to casually hang out and no one bothered it which was wonderful to see!

I left the birdwatching to get home and read more about this bird. Apparently for this bird’s size it does have extremely long toes and in the field guide it says the bird may stay around for awhile. Cool; others may happen upon seeing it too!

Contemplative Mood …

Hmmm… hmm… okay, well I best get started with this post! To say this year so far has been frustrating would be an understatement. Covid-19 has put such a dampener on everything!

Time to sit and think!

I have a lousy sense of time, which more often than not is a blessing as I can stay immersed in whatever I am doing and not worry about running off somewhere, but these number of months have D-R-A-G-G-E-D, and I have noticed it. I speed it all up with projects such as reading, birding, walking, talking via phone, writing, and taking photos… but I still want to get on the road to visit family, friends, see new places and meet new people. I crave adventure and these months are sucking all of it out of my realm of possibilities to do so!

I have been physically distant and wearing a mask when within feet of others. I am appreciative of the fact that I do not need to work or to be in places where I have to contemplate if I should or should not do a particular activity. I am doing my part to keep my family, friends, and others in this state healthy. And yes I do wish all others were on the same wavelength as me, but many are not!

When I enter stores I follow the signs requiring masks be worn and physical distancing be done. I have no idea why others find it so difficult to follow. We as a world are one and should be caring for each other, but often I see is not the same belief as others and it is disappointing.

I love to travel the world. I always have an appreciation for the various cultures, scenery, food, history, local people, and the camaraderie of fellow travelers. I learn so much when I travel. While armchair traveling these past months, watching the Tour de France bicycling event and seeing areas of France or other travel programs offer a glimpse of an area of the world, there is nothing better than actually being on location! Seeing other people around the world being more cooperative in stemming the tide of the virus has been heartening, but then I wonder why others simply do not care to participate in the safer approaches for their own community and in mine.

We are one world. As time goes on we as world citizens need to think globally in order to tackle the next planet issue. Will it be another virus? Or wildfires, floods, or catastrophic storms of some nature affecting multiple places around the planet at the same time? Will anyone be ready? What are we leaving to the next generations?

The storm overhead suggests it is time for me to move on! I take advantage of these types of notices so I will take cover elsewhere. I can only hope enough of us awaken to where we are at, where we are headed and support positive, productive, environmental, healthy, local and global goals with leaders who support the same! May we have a better 2021 and be Covid-19 free! I can only hope. Do your part for a better world tomorrow, thanks.

Bird Documented in a Photo!

Most birds I observe are flying by so quickly I only see their overall body shape. I consider myself an advanced beginner birder. My challenge, and goal set for myself while bird watching now, is to catch sight of the bird’s head, specifically its eyebrow and eye ring. For some birds it will be the difference in being one bird or another. I am improving in noticing beak, wing bars or not, and tail shape, but have to look closer and faster to see more and then picture it all as I consult my field guide book.

The other day another bird watcher, 6 feet away from me due to Covid-19 physical distancing, told me I was looking at a MacGillivray’s warbler. I would have loved to add the bird to my life list, so I asked how do you know it is that bird, I only see its rear end? Notice its split eye-ring. Even as I used my binoculars the bird kept its rear end toward me so I saw no eye ring. I knew I would never be able to identify this bird from its tail end, so I did not add the bird to my life list.

This past month I have seen birds, photographed some, and later identified them thanks to Cornell Lab’s eBird and Merlin Bird ID. Female birds are often drab-looking and it is difficult to catch subtle differences between species. Other times I know I am looking at a new bird and yet I have not perfected the note-taking necessary to remember what it is I am looking at, so a photograph is my go-to method of capturing my sighting.

Digital cameras are fantastic! Years ago I used to budget money to purchase film, more money aside to develop the film, and finally more money to print some of the photos. Now-a-days I can take hundreds of photos on an SD card. I look forward to the time at home to see what looks like a good picture and to delete many other photos.

Here are a couple of birds I observed, photographed, and when home I used Merlin Bird ID to help me identify these two different species of female hummingbirds.

When bird watching you always need to be ready. All of a sudden I saw a bird I knew I had never seen before and it was so cute! I had to capture a photo of it and later discovered with Merlin Bird ID it was a pygmy nuthatch.

Pygmy nuthatch

While looking through all my photographs, I discovered another bird that looked different to me. Unsure of what this drab female bird would be, I put the photo in Merlin Bird ID and it identified as a blue-throated mountain gem. I knew these blue-throated hummingbirds were in the area, but during my observations I was looking for the blue throat of the male. The female is not so colorful, but I did notice an eyebrow or facial stripe I had not seen before, so I snapped a photo or two. I also listed the bird in eBird for my life list, yet received an email questioning if I did see the bird.

Blue-throated mountain gem, female.

The blue-throated are the largest hummingbirds species in the US and I waited to hear back from eBird staff to learn if they agreed with the Merlin ID. Fantastic news, yes they agreed with the identification! I am so thankful to have had the photo and now have also learned how to add my photos to eBird!

No doubt, bird watching and bird photography are lifetime hobbies. In time I can only improve with patience while learning both skills. Wish me luck!

Bird Loves Water!

My escape to the mountain forest provides me with relief from the hot dry desert temperatures. Thankfully within 25 miles I can be at a higher elevation with a 30 degree cooler air temperature!

I like walking along or in a creek bed in a wooded area with my tripod, camera and binoculars. It is fun despite any little black gnats wanting to bother me. I am looking for birds. I capture a few photos of birds in trees, but my best are when I find a puddle of water in a creek bed. Today is one of those days!

In the tree sits a female black-throated gray warbler. (I learn its identification later in the evening when I do my research.) Water is below the bird. Other birds flew in and out of this area, but what will this bird do? She seems to look my way to see what I am going to do. So we both wait.

Finally she flies down to the water and again seems to be watching me, or so I think! No one else is around and she can enjoy the water.

Now for some bird fun in the water! I love it, but should have also changed my shutter speed to something faster to catch those water droplets in mid-air and the feathers flying all over, but instead I enjoy the bath time activity! Bird watching took priority over my photography.

Finally a chance to jump back onto a branch and relax!

I hope she had as much fun as I did!

What Is The Red Thing In the Tree?

When birding, I watch for all activity, especially anything moving since it could be a new sighting for me. On this day, I was happy to see a red-faced warbler, black-headed grosbeaks and a mountain chickadee. While I might want to tell you more about the birds, I have a story to tell you. I asked myself, what is the red thing I see on the side of the tree? It’s moving and it is not a bird!

The fun thing about bird watching for me is being outdoors with the excuse to look for birds, but in reality I just want to see nature and whatever activity is happening. Through tree branches I watch the movement of what looks like a red apple. Could it be an apple? How is it moving up, down and around the tree? Finally a squirrel appears and I see the apple being moved up and down the tree while held in the squirrel’s mouth! Aha! Tree branches and power lines were blocking my vision, but now I see it all.

The next few minutes were interesting and funny as the squirrel did squirrel around to seek out, what? I could imagine the squirrel thinking about the best place to put this apple. Where will I put it so I can come back later and continue to eat this sweet thing? The squirrel decides on the crook of a tree and leaves it there.

I am thinking to myself I have to get these photos. I had no plans to be photographing birds this high in a tree, but I wanted a photo of this squirrel and the apple. I was also thinking, does this squirrel really think this is a safe place for the apple? I am distance away and that red apple just seems to pop out with such color to be easily seen here in the forest. It has to be an invitation for another!

No surprise, it was a few minutes later when a common raven discovered the apple. He flew in, checked it over and after a few minutes knocked it to the forest floor. The squirrel and raven had a bit of a tangle down on the ground, but the raven scared the squirrel away and enjoyed the apple.

What was funny about this whole wildlife encounter was the fact I had seen all of the action from the start and then worried about the Granny Smith green apple I was eating in the minutes after this activity. The raven was back up in the tree and sat there the entire time I ate my apple. I honestly kept it hid from the bird as I was sure it would have flown my way if he saw any piece of my apple! What a wonderful sighting today! I love nature!

Raven sat and watched as I ate my green apple.

Prayers Carried on the Wind

Prayers flags

Each flutter of the flag in the breeze denotes a prayer blown by the wind to spread good will into all pervading space. Every thread unravels, flies away and carries the prayers and mantras to promote peace, compassion, wisdom and strength.

The flags are always arranged in a specific order, from left to right: blue represents the sky, white represents the air, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. All five colors together signifying balance.

I have seen prayer flags flown from stupas and mountain passes in Tibet, Nepal, Northern India, Bhutan and at my home. It is always important to respect and acknowledge their religious meaning. Buddhism is a complicated religion, but learning about the actual teachings of the Buddha has benefits. People find the teachings relevant and helpful in their own lives, including meditation which has been proven to have benefits even according to Western science. Buddhist belief is strong in the power of prayer flags which include mantras from three of the great Buddhist Bodhisattvas: Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), Avalokiteśvara (Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, and the patron of the Tibetan people), and Manjusri, to be carried on the wind.

Prayer flags are to be treated with respect and not ever touch the ground. Disposal can be by burning them, but they are not to touch the ground while they burn. The smoke carries sacred blessings. I always keep my flags flying, getting old, fading away and allowed to slowly disintegrate.

My main reason to hang prayer flags is to spread positivity far and wide.