Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fauna: Got any eatable? Asks the squirrel?.......

No other critter can beat a squirrel in unique, adorable approaches of begging for food. It's mouth is stuffed with an almond, yet its asking for some more. 
I have seen these critters are not fussy about eatables, munch on any snacks handed over to them. Be that a scrap of bread, a peanut, a piece of granola bar, a chunk of choco pie or popcorn they accept the eatables joyfully.
Like this guy who convinced me to share some of my pies.....

This guy crept into my front porch and I treated him/her with this piece of candy, which he happily took and relished....

This furry chap squatted on the pine needle carpet  holds a big bread slice in its tiny limbs and nibbles..
It's fun watching them nibbling on the offerings as they cast occasional glances of gratitude.

Information: License to pluck fruits from others yards......

California is blessed with just the perfect climate for growing an array of luscious, delicious exotic tropical fruits. I had heard it, now I see it. Almost every yard have some trees loaded with fruits. Mandarin, clementine, loquat, prickly pear, lang jujube, persimmon, dragon fruit, kumquat, passion fruit, banana,apple, guava, rose apple, pomegranate...the list goes on. Sometimes, I see fruits overhanging the fences and sidewalks. Sometimes fruits are strewn on the ground and rotting. Of course it is difficult to suppress the urge for plucking a delicious-looking guava, or a never-tasted but oft-appreciated persimmon or kumquat. Picking a fruit out of the bounty hanging on the trees will nor hurt the owner neither prick my conscience, but somehow I can never muster courage.

Recently, I got to know, in several cities in California, it's permissible for the pedestrian to pluck the fruit from the branches coming in the way. Its not branded illegal or petty theft, rather the owner is charged for not pruning the tree and enticing the passers-by. May be this nugget of information can be used during my next loitering around the residential area. :).

Fruit pictures from other yards.........
Apple.........


Citrus......



Monday, February 27, 2012

People: Recreational activities by the Upper Newport bay...........

It was a sun-kissed pleasant early spring day in Upper Newport Bay. The mild breeze was carrying the aroma of wild plants. The birds were creating a pleasant cacophony and the hawks were gliding overhead.  Its not surprising that flocks of outdoor-loving people hit the dust and gavel path with their family and pets.

Its adjoining coastal scrubs of chaparral offers great trails for horseback riding...wilderness offers fabulous trails for enthusiastic horseback riders. Lost in photo-shooting the mockingbird perched atop the berry-laden Brazil pepper tree, I was startled by the trotting sound. As I looked down behind the veil of rambles, saw a lady mounted on a majestic horse galloping ahead......

Also, these adventurous women riding horse near the marshy trails ...It must be a thrilling experience to mount the chestnut horses on such a sunny day amidst such scenic setting of the estuary.

Many more.......





Two golfers honing their skills ...on my way to Upper Newport Bay reserve, I pass by this sprawling golf course and the activity going inside the fence makes me pause for a while and take some snap shots....

A cyclist pauses on the trail to watch the sunset on the picturesque bay. This coastal wetland created by  Pacific Ocean is a paradise for cyclists, horseback riders, hikers, joggers, dog walkers, birders, ecologists, nature lovers. The plethora of migrating birds and the twice a day tides are added attractions of this estuary.

Plant: Oaks and acorns.................

Much before arriving to the USA, while reading fairy tales as a kid, when coming across the word 'giant oak tree' I had dreamt of seeing one in real. In India oak don't grow, so my wish remained unfulfilled for almost two decades. To my great delight, in California I saw many new interesting plants. Sycamore, sweetgum, silk-floss, magnolia, palms, carrotwood, weeping fig, ficus, olive, Brazil pepper, pine, cedar, cypress, eucalyptus and many more. But, oak remained elusive. Then one day, I spotted a Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)...  
Cross mark on a live oak in Whiting ranch...

.......and a Cork oak (Quercus suber) in my neighborhood.....the suberin-rich bark of immense economical use.......

the ubiquitous scrub oak.......this variety of oak known as 'Chaparro' in Spanish gave the name chaparral, characteristic of South California...


But, I was not quite satisfied, perhaps I was wishing to see a colossal Valley Oak (Quercus lobata). The other day, as I was walking in a park adjacent to the Upper Newport Bay, I saw these tender, lobed leaves on a tree. I instantly recognized that its a Valley oak, though its yet to bear acorns or assume its full size.

Black oak in Mount Laguna recreational preserve..............



Up there, acorns hang pretty...of so many varieties..
cork oak......

Scrub oak.......




Just look, how nice it looks, just like a ripe date palm fruit.....

Native Indians used acorns as food...even now-a-days foragers make flour of the acorns...
However, one should me aware that the acorns are too rich in tannic acid, which must be removed by repeated leaching in water...before consumption...

Plant: Dodder, the menacing plant parasite............

Dodder (Cuscuta) belonging to Convolvulaceae family is a light green, yellow to orange colored stem parasite often wrapping the host plant, choking with their dense mat. These parasites insert their haustoria into the host plant and absorb nutrition. The host plants fall susceptible to pathogenic attack. So, its required to remove the parasite before things go out of control, requiring host plant to be pruned. I had seen these menacing parasites in India, growing on hedge bushes and dripping from higher plants. Recently I saw heavy infestation of dodder in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve. I was horrified to see the native shrubs and trees engulfed by this terror. I wonder, the authorities are aware of this threat on not. Whatever, its high time to eradicate the parasite for safeguarding the natural vegetation.

draped on pickleweed (Salicornia)........

Tiny blooms...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Observation: Swanky cars on California streets......

Though I was never fascinated with car designs and models, the countless varieties of swanky, fancy, high-end, imported, classic, vintage, convertible and hybrid vehicles rolling the California streets have instilled the interest.........


Spotted this shiny, sleek limousine, parked near a auto service. Well, even in California, one does not glimpse these luxurious vehicles so often. So, I thought it's worth a shot.

Any one would have gone weak in the knees by the looks and grace of this high-end Lotus Esprit sports car. I could not help either to marvel at the elegant shape of the coupe. I gathered that this brand shot to fame after featuring in the 1977 Bond movie " The spy who loved me". I think that's the advantage of living adjacent to car dealers, you can swoon over the swanky models.

Yesterday, on our way to Newport beach, glimpsed this cute electric car.....Perhaps, in coming days, when gasoline becomes costlier, these mini EV will rule the roost.

Observation: Garbage truck-the urban scavenger

 I get scared by the immense size and grunting noise of this  monster of a vehicle, the green garbage truck. I see this giant truck pulling up to the garbage bin, lift them, dump the enormous piles of waste and haul them to the solid waste treatment facility. I learned that this dumpster is a front loader vehicle, fitted with a pair of crab-like forks which aligns with the sides of trash container. The garbage is dumped into the truck and pressed by hydraulic system. When the garbage picking is complete, or dumpster is filled with compact waste, they are ejected via the tailgate. Demonic they may look in front of the sleek cars, but these janitor vehicles deserve appreciation for keeping the residential and urban areas filth-free.




Bird: Northern mockingbird sightings........

I had heard about mockingbird (from the Harper Lee  novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird'), but never seen one, at least I was clueless that the bird often perched atop the Brazil pepper tree in Upper Newport Bay Preserve was a Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). I learned that this is the only species of mockingbird found in the USA. This omnivorous bird dining on insects, berries and seeds lives in urban and suburban areas. Sporting long-tail and a mix of grey, black, white plumage is the state bird of as many as five of the USA states i.e Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.       

I spotted this one perched on a wooden palisade of a residential area nearby the Eco Preserve. It lingered on for about a dozen pictures before vanishing into the Canary Island date palm fronds. I found the palisade covered with passion flower vine and abloom with purple-white flowers, being swarmed by many Gulf-fritillary butterflies. Apparently, the bird was waiting for its lunch.
   
During a ramble in our neighborhood, this tall pine with reddish needles caught my attention. Pines are  so common in this part of California, but I had never seen one with such unusual color. A little research later I learnt that summer has rendered the needles dry. Anyway, the tree looked gorgeous. Adding to the splendor was a Northern mockingbird perched on a twig........



And the following two shots were taken years later in San Diego...the bird was fiercely guarding its nest in a bougainvillea hedge...



I have found them territorial like other birds..


Bird: Hummingbird spottings in South California............

This part of South California is proud to have a thriving population of hummingbirds. Be that Anna's, Allen's or Rufous hummingbird, we have the privilege of watching their lovely plumage, acrobatic stunts and listening to their enthralling calls.
Every single time I venture out of our house, I go  with my camera in tow, because these tiny beauties show up and I can't miss taking their photographs. Some shots.........
Blending with the bare pear tree......

Atop acacia shrub.....

Feeding on aloe nectar...

Just the size of a dried magnolia seed pod........


Crocosmia drink......

On a pomegranate twig........

Perched atop an alder twig ..............

A tiny Rufous humming bird perched on its favorite sweet gum tree. Despite maximum zooming, this is all I got.

Silhouette of a humming perched  on a sweetgum branch tip on a rainy day. See, this tiny avian beauty is just about the size of a sweetgum fruit..but its chirp is too mellifluous to ignore...

 This stout bird with iridescent emerald plumage, sipping from bladderpod flower is a female Anna's hummingbird....

An Allen sucking nectar from the pretty sage (salvia) blooms....

Another pretty Anna's hummingbird perched on a sweetgum tree...

Hovering female Anna's hummingbird on Kangaroo paw blossoms..........





I was ambling along the apartment pavement and this pretty sight captivated my attention. This pretty humming, most likely a female Anna's was perched on the syrup feeder hung from a neighbor's roof.
Unlike other days, instead of flying away like a dart, she decided to hold her ground and continue the luncheon....to my immense delight...



On abloom quince branches...


Sipping nectar from cape honeysuckle.........

On an autumnal mulberry....


On a Greater bird of paradise....

On a citrus plant...

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