Friday, June 11, 2010


I had some birdseed that was too big to fit through the openings in our bird feeder. It was full of kernels of corn, peanuts and sunflower seeds. So I put some in a bowl on a rock in the garden for the squirrels. This is what happened next.

Grosbeak found a big bowl of birdseed in the garden. “Oh my!” she said. “This is good. I will eat it all myself.”

Tanager came. He said, “Grosbeak, may I eat some of this seed?”

“No! No!” said Grosbeak. “It is mine. I will eat it all.”

“There is too much for you,” said Tanager. “You must learn to share.” “No! No!” said Grosbeak. “It is mine. I will eat it all myself.”

Tanager flew away to eat bugs on the lawn.

Blackbird came. He said, “Grosbeak, may I eat some of this seed?”

“No! No!” said Grosbeak. “It’s all mine. I will eat it myself.”

“You are very selfish,” said Blackbird. “There is too much here for you. You will not be happy if you eat all this seed.”
“Yes, I will, “said Grosbeak. “It is mine. I will not share.”

“If you eat all this seed you will get sick. Then you will swell up and explode into LIT-TLE TIE-NEE BITS,” said Blackbird.

“LIT-TLE TIE-NEE BITS?” said Grosbeak. “OH MY!”

“Yes,” said Blackbird. “You should learn to share.”
“I think you are right, “said Grosbeak.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Grand Teton National Park borders Yellowstone National Park on the south side. You know you’re really there when you see the ridge of the Teton Mountains rising from the valley like hard, sharp carnivore teeth.

The weather was stormy so we couldn’t see the top of Mt. Moran (named after a pioneer artist whose work convinced the people in Washington D.C. that the place must be preserved). The clouds also obscured the 13,770 ft (4198 m); crest of The Grand Teton (The Big Breast) named so by love-starved French Trappers.
"The Grand" on a sunny summer day
I would have called it The Fang, but that name wouldn’t have been as useful for joke tourist tee shirts—“I love Grand Tetons!” or, “Not All Tetons are Grand.”

The Teton Mountains are visible from our home in Idaho. And if we wanted to go home we had to cross over Teton Pass or take the long way around.

It started to rain.


It was a good thing DH was driving, and also that we would be traveling on the side of the road against the mountain.

There was plenty of snow on the sides of the road and heavier rain as we went UP.

Confidence builder.

At the top there is quite a view on a sunny day. You can see halfway across Wyoming to the east and halfway across Idaho to the west---but not this time.

This is not a theme park ride. People die on The Teton Pass almost every year.

Not as much rain past the summit. Everything is downhill from here.

Just when condtions started to look better we see Road Damage.

Fortunately the mud slide didn’t cross the road.

We’re not in Wyoming any more.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Although the snow has just been cleared from the roads, the tourists are pouring in. DH and I hoped we were early enough we wouldn’t have to deal with hoards of Winnebagos, tour buses and goofy people wearing goofy clothes. But they were there well ahead of us.

We live near enough to Yellowstone National Park that we can do a drive-by visit in a day. We’ve been there in all kinds of weather and seen a lot of nature and a lot of changes.

The biggest change came in 1988 when the largest wildfire in the recorded history of the U.S. burned over a third of the park.

View of smoke from the Yellowstone Fires from Idaho—August 1988.  Note the dry landscape.

Even from our home about two hours’ drive away we could see the huge clouds of smoke rolling into the sky most of that summer. The conflagration was fought by thousands of firefighters with everything from airplanes dumping fire retardant to people on the ground with shovels. The final flames were not extinguished until snow fell that October.  For more on the fire check the link at the end of this post.

Even today the effects of the inferno are still evident in miles and miles of charred forest littered with downed and standing burned trees. New growth is gradually filling in, but even after twenty-two years the scars are deep.

Another change is the introduction of wolves. The undertaking is controversial, but for those in favor of the wolves it has been a success.

For the first time in my life I was able to see a wolf in the wild. He was pointed out by a group of photographers lining the highway.

My photos are blurry since the wolf was far away, but there he was casually stopping to check for rodents in the grass and then trotting off.

There are still geysers--

--and more geysers--

--and hot bubbling mud pots---surrounded by people posing for photos.

New babies of all kinds are making their appearance. And even though bears are no longer a common sight, plenty of buffalo are everywhere. They like to hang out near the warm springs and leave plenty of poop in the park.
People who are used to theme parks have to be instructed over and over not to approach the wildlife.

Don’t think you can set your kid on the back of a big bull for a photo op.

Don’t think you can go up and pet the cute baby calves. Mommas never take kindly to strangers getting too near their children.

We arrived at the village surrounding Old Faithful Geyser just as it was spouting. We could see the water jet into the air from the parking lot. But there was no place to park. We’d seen the display plenty of times so we just circled until it was all over. Within minutes the people cleared the area and we found a parking spot. We still had a big problem. We’d been driving all morning and needed to make a pit stop. Most of the crowd had left Old Faithful and lined up at the bathroom.

I have a theory about Old Faithful Geyser. I think all the pressure from tourist bathroom flushing is channeled into pipes that go to that big fountain. When enough flushing force is built up--the geyser blows. Could this be why they won’t let people anywhere near the spouting water? And maybe all those piles of do-do around the geyser are not left by the buffalo.

The seven-story Old Faithful Inn built over a hundred years ago still stands thanks to the brave efforts of hundreds of firefighters. The line of burned trees ends just a few yards from the building. The story of how it was saved in 1988 is well worth checking out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Perhaps the discovery of a dinosaur led to stories of dragons. And a twisted narwhale tusk may have been evidence of unicorns. The glimpse of a manatee gliding under a boat could turn into stories of mermaids. So it wouldn’t take much to go from being buzzed by a hummingbird or to see a couple of them flit through the trees to generate tales of fairies and sprites.

But even seeing hummingbirds up close doesn’t take away the magic for me. When I was a youngster a tiny dusty-green female we named Fanny would perch on my finger and sip sugar water from a lid I held in my hand.  Her toes were as delicate as earring wire. Her eyes were like jewels.  She was probably a Black Chinned Hummingbird.

Male Black Chinned Hummingbird

There was a little motel on Grand Lake in Colorado where a row of hummingbird feeders hung on the sunny side of the guest house. I stood with my camera among a swarm of brilliant hummers who were so intent on feeding and defending their right to do so that I was just an obstacle in their way. But I caught nothing on film that morning but blurs and shadows.

We visited our daughter a few days ago.  She has a hummingbird feeder hanging on her porch.

This time I had a digital camera to do most of the thinking and an auto focus lens.

Still I was shooting shadows. Fortunately the hummers kept returning to the feeder.

So I increased the ASA and shutter speed and tightened down the aperture until I was finally seeing a bit of success.

In the moments they landed on the feeder it was not too difficult to get a few adequate pictures.

But they would appear out of nowhere and the fleeting seconds they’d hang in the air before zooming off made the hover-shot a real challenge.

When I finally did stop that action in my camera---again it didn’t take away from the wonder. It only increased it.