Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Antelope Squirrel

Antelope Squirrel at White Tank Regional Park:

So cute!

It was funny, because I was on 10-mile hike, probably almost 9 miles into it, and I hadn't seen any mammals.  Lizards:  check.  Two vultures playing in the wind:  check.  Various other birds:  check.  Squirrels, rabbits, packrats, javelina, coyotes:  nothing.  Then finally I saw this little guy.  Literally 2 minutes down the trail I saw another.  Then, just beyond that, a rock squirrel.  They must have been having a rodent convention. 


Saturday, March 21, 2020

More Interesting Lizards

I don't usually so many lizards this dark, but the hills were alive with them on my hike mid March.  This was in the Estrella Mountain area, Phoenix, Arizona.  My best guess is ornate tree lizard, but if you have a better guess, I'd welcome comments below.

Whatever their species, they were beautiful little guys.  Look at this one's short, thick, blue tail!  I'm wondering if it's regenerated.  

Monday, March 16, 2020

Common Side-Blotched Lizard

Lizards were out in force last week at White Tank Regional Park.  This one posed like a model.  It's a common side-blotched lizard, and here in the Phoenix, Arizona area you see them all around the desert parks.  The males have blue on their tails and often some rusty orange on their chins.  Beautiful creatures.  

Here's a close-up of those gorgeous scales:

If you want an interesting article about

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

"Rattlesnake" Eggs

Some people in Arizona find a clutch of small eggs in their yard and In their worried minds they skip over all the possible birds that might have laid these eggs, skip over all the possible reptiles, and jump right to "rattlesnake!" Rattlesnake! Then they call the snake removal guy (who told me this story) and insist that they have snake eggs in their yard.

Well, rattlesnakes don't lay eggs.

Usually what these people are finding are quail eggs. Not nearly as scary.

It's interesting to me how we can ignore the obvious, logical, non-emergency explanation, and skip right to the far-fetched, illogical, end-of-the-world explanation.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

This is a book I found on a "Best of 2019 YA Literature" list.  I really enjoyed it.

It has a sort of Groundhog Day premise, with our hero reliving the same four months or so, over and over.  It's not repetitive in an annoying way, and it takes full advantage of the premise to investigate how things could go differently if you had a chance to try again.  Very good execution of an always-intriguing set-up.

The characters are interesting and sympathetic, the conversation witty.  The romantic interest isn't the only relationship important to the story.  

I did feel that the ending was a bit abrupt, but it was a great book. 

I will certainly read more by Justin A Reynolds.

My star rating:  4.5

Find it on Amazon: Opposite of Always

Thursday, February 20, 2020

When the Desert Begins to Bloom

On my Presidents' Day hike in the Arizona desert, I didn't really expect wildflowers yet.  But I found some!

In my experience, it's usually best close to the end of February and into March, but it's different every year, and depends where you go.

These pictures were taken at Cave Creek Regional Park on the edge of Phoenix on 2/17/2020.

And a not-flower:  

Gambel's quail, my absolute favorite quail.  


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage, Alaska

If you're on an Alaska cruise and your captain or cruise director is kind enough to tell you when you'll be sailing through Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage, get out on deck beforehand and stay out the whole time.  You may see nothing but beautiful scenery.  Or...if the weather is decent and luck is with you, you may see lots of whales!  It's a common feeding ground for them, so it's not unusual to see some, but this last August we saw more than I'd ever seen before in one place.

Most weren't super close, but there were so many.  They don't live in pods, but they do sometimes travel together while feeding, and we saw three of these big groups of 8, 10, 12 individuals.  Incredible.  Plus various others alone or in pairs.  We saw spouts, humps, tails.  We saw breaches!  And for the first time, I saw fin slapping.  The breaches and fin-slapping were far away, small even in my binoculars, but it was fantastic.

Some pics:

A nice fluke

Blow this up and try to count how many you see.

A humpback's humped back


For tips on having your own budget adventures in Alaska, read my travel guides: