SPRINGTIME BIRDS

There are two times of the year when it is especially exciting to be a “birder” (someone who loves birds). They are Fall Migration and Spring Migration. These two events give us the opportunity to see birds that we don’t see during the rest of the year. Some of them stay for a few months and then leave, and some of them we just see one time because they are passing through on their way to somewhere else. Spring Migration is especially exciting because it is so welcome after having endured a bleak and dreary winter. It is definitely a sign of hope for better days to come.

This year we seem to have a little bit later Spring migration time than usual. I’m not sure if that is really the case of if it just seems like that to me. Our Anna’s Hummingbirds have become quite scarce now, but we have been delighted to see a couple of Rufous Hummingbirds already. On April 21st, Linda spotted a very colorful hummer outside the living room window, going to the golden currant flowers. I grabbed my camera and got a somewhat-in-focus-but-also-a-bit-shaky video of him. It was most definitely a Rufous hummer. I grabbed a still photo from the video of him, showing him sitting on a branch after he had gotten his fill of the nectar from the flowers. He was so cute sitting there on a branch with his tongue sticking out!

He flitted around to a lot of the flowers. After he was done he flew off and we haven’t seen him since. I did, however, see a female hummer go to my feeder this morning (after having not seen one for at least a week). After looking at it through my binoculars, I determined that it was a female. Two sightings of Rufous Hummingbirds in the last couple of weeks is a good sign for their return to the Yakima area for the summer. Below is the video that I shot of the male Rufous. It’s a rather long video, so watch what you want of it. The beginning is a bit shaky, but it does get better towards the end.

We’ve had some pretty warm days lately, but also some pretty chilly ones…such is Springtime in Yakima. We also had some actual rain one day, when it drizzled on and off throughout the day. This was a proper rain for Yakima, even though it only amounted to around an inch of precipitation. Rain here certainly is not like the rains we would have back in North Carolina where we would get several inches worth in the course of a couple of hours. The rain we got the other day has seemed to jump start everything into producing flowers and leaves. We welcome this because all of the green is so wonderful after having stared at brown for so many months. Here are a few pictures of the flowers and plants we have in our yard.

CLOSEUP OF THE INSIDE OF A RED TULIP

BEAUTIFUL YELLOW AND PINK TULIP

MORE TULIPS

STILL MORE TULIPS

FANTI AND MINGO ENJOYING THE TULIPS

HOSTA LEAVES ARE STARTING TO UNFURL

MAY DAY AT RANDALL PARK

Sunday, May 01, was an especially beautiful day so we decided to take a walk down at Randall Park. I wanted to go see if there were any baby ducks or geese. We did find four juvenile goslings foraging around with their parents. I was surprised that we didn’t see more, but the last couple of years have been sparse in the baby bird area. The pond did look better than it has in a long time, so maybe that’s why we had some babies this year. Below is a video of the goslings.

Since the pond looked so much better than it did last time we were there, I wanted to walk over to the wildlife viewing area on the other side of the bridge, just to see what was going on with the big blockage on the creek. We found that the water had managed to go around the blockage, so it was flowing a little bit although not as much as it should be. There was still a huge marshy area over there that wasn’t there in years past. However, we saw something that we had never seen before in the creek. I took this video below from over there and at the end you will see what I’m talking about.

As we were walking along, checking out the blockage area, we noticed something was jumping into the creek on the path just ahead of us. We finally were able to clearly see what it was and we were both surprised to see frogs! I have always found it odd that I didn’t ever see any frogs around here in Yakima, except for a couple of the little green tree frogs. But here we were seeing a large number of frogs jumping around and swimming in the creek. Of course, it was impossible to get a video of them jumping because as soon as I’d spy one, it would jump and swim off at warp 10. But I did see two guys sunning themselves on a log and they posed for me to get some video of them. Later I posted a picture on a local Facebook group and found out these were Bullfrogs.

AT THE HOUSE

We have been seeing more California Quail at our house this Spring, which always makes us happy. So far we have seen up to three couples at a time feeding underneath our seed feeder. Sometimes they can get a little testy with each other, but I guess it’s all in the family. I am just hoping that one day soon we will see some babies, too.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl followed me around the yard that one day that I was taking pictures of the tulips. I couldn’t resist getting her in on a shot, she looked so sweet. But you know, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

Bonnie, Birds, and a Book

SWEET LITTLE BONNIE

The other day I asked my sister to send me a few pictures of their little Pomchi, Bonnie. A Pomchi is a cross between a Pomeranian and a Chihuahua, which must be a new breed of dog because I had never heard of it before. Bonnie is an absolute ball of fire and keeps my sister and her partner on their toes at all times. Not to mention she is adorable as well. I am sure she is well on her way to being spoiled rotten! Without further ado, here are some pictures of the cutest little ball of fur you’d ever want to see.

After Bonnie has worn everyone else out with her antics, she plops down and takes a nap herself.

SLEEPY LITTLE GIRL

In this picture, she looks as if she is quite satisfied with herself. She’s a cutie and she definitely knows it.

STYLING AND PROFILING

Here’s Bonnie doing her best Easter Bunny imitation, and doing it while asleep to boot!

EASTER BUNNY?

BIRD SITUATION

Last week’s blog had a video of the snow falling on Tuesday, April 12th. It was our third straight day of snow, with none of it sticking. The next day after I had posted my blog, I took some more video that afternoon and was lucky enough to get a hummingbird on the feeder while it was snowing! I was elated, to say the least. The hummers have not been coming as often as they were there for a while, but I do see one or two off and on throughout the week. The goldfinches continue to be a bright spot in the mostly dreary days of early Spring here in Yakima. And since we haven’t had as many hummingbirds as usual, Mother Nature has given us a consolation prize in the form of California Quail. Enjoy these birds in the video below.

BOOK REVIEW ~~ PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir

Last week I mentioned that I had been listening to the audiobook of Project Hail Mary. I have just recently, within the past few years, started listening to audiobooks mainly because my eyes got so tired when trying to read. I have really come to enjoy audiobooks. Not only do you get the experience of the book from the words that were written by the author, but there is an added dimension that comes from hearing the words. This is where the person reading the audiobook, the narrator, comes into play. I have started some books and then turned them back into the library because either the narrator did not have an interesting voice, or else the sound quality was bad. A truly skilled narrator will change his/her voice so you can distinguish between the characters in the book. So I will now give my review of the book and the narrator.

Project Hail Mary is my second-most favorite book of all time (Dune is, and always will be, my absolute favorite). Andy Weir makes a very complex subject very interesting, and totally immerses you in the situation of his book. The science, although extremely involved at times, is understandable for the most part. Even though there were many times when I knew absolutely nothing about what the author was saying, I was able to follow along because the book is so well written. Andy Weir did the same thing with The Martian, which was eventually made into an excellent movie. A lot of that book dealt with science, but even someone not very well versed in science (like me) could understand and get the gist of it. I must say that I found myself getting a bit teary-eyed at a couple of points in Project Hail Mary, (which I find amazing for me) and other times found myself sitting in my chair with my AirPods on, grinning like an idiot. I actually felt like I had just watched the most well-made miniseries on television…the listening-and-imagining experience was that engaging. I was so sad when I finished the book because I just wanted it to go on forever. But, sadly, it had to end, and I must say the author had the perfect ending for the situation.

The narrator for this book, Ray Porter, did an outstanding job reading it. He voiced the different characters so well that you could distinguish one from the other very easily. A good narrator for an audiobook doesn’t just “read” the book, they “perform” the book. Ray Porter has won a lot of awards for his narrating, including Audie Award 2022 Best Audiobook of the Year, Science Fiction for Project Hail Mary, awarded by the Audio Publishers Association. He certainly deserved it, in my opinion.

I’m not going to go into any details of what the book is about in this review because I wouldn’t want to spoil a single second of it for anyone. I just will say if you can get your hands on it in any form, be it physical book or audiobook, then do so as quickly as you can. You will definitely be glad you did. Your imagination will be glad you did. Andy Weir and Ray Porter will be glad you did.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl was surprised to learn that not only had her Florida cousin Bonnie taken over the top spot in the blog, but her spot in the Parting Shot had been usurped by Bonnie’s brother Indigo. That’s what happens when you are too busy napping to get your picture taken.

INDIGO, AKA “INDY”

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SO IT’S SPRING, YOU SAY?

This past week has been really freaky! We have run the gamut of weather here in Yakima from Springtime temperatures in the low 70’s, to Winter temperatures in the low to mid 30’s. As if that wasn’t enough, the weather has also provided us with a very late Spring snow…or two…or three. For the past three days and nights we have had some snow fall. Thankfully, it hasn’t been much and none of it has stuck. We are especially grateful of that since by Washington law we had to have our snow tires removed as of March 31st. Not that we have anywhere to go, but still.

Yesterday (Tuesday) the snow flakes that fell were absolutely the biggest ones I have ever seen. They came floating down from the sky as if they weighed nothing at all. A bit later, they plummeted down like rocks. I think the snow got wetter as it continued (for an hour or so) and that’s why the flakes fell faster. It certainly was beautiful to watch, though.

In the video below, I first filmed the snowfall in slow-motion just so you could see how big the flakes were. You can tell as the video goes on that the flakes are falling faster and faster. A lone Red-Winged Blackbird was the only visitor at the time, and he made his presence known by his sharp call.

The kids at the Montessori school where Linda volunteers built a snowman very quickly before it all melted. Way to go, kids!

MR. SNOWMAN

On the hummingbird front, I went for a week from April 5th to April 12th without seeing a single hummer. Granted, that doesn’t mean they didn’t come to the feeder when I wasn’t watching, but I have tried to keep an eye on it more lately. Then yesterday on April 12th, as I was listening to my audiobook in the afternoon, I saw a beautiful male fly up and take a few sips of nectar. After a little bit I saw what was either a female or a juvenile perch on the feeder for a little drink. I wish I was able to tell the females and juvies apart, but I just don’t know how to do that. One can’t exactly peer between their legs! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera set up so I didn’t get any pictures of these two hummers…except in my mind.

As if it wasn’t excitement enough to see hummers after one week of not seeing any, recently we have had visits from the little flying Easter eggs (and just in time for Easter!). I am referring to our beautiful state bird, the American Goldfinch. The males are sporting their yellow breeding plumage and they are so very bright that all the pictures I take of them turn out a bit overexposed. I told Linda the other day that one was sitting in the plum tree and he looked positively fluorescent.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (male)

The House Sparrows have been bringing their little babies to the feeder lately as well. They seem to be the first ones to have babies in the Spring. The male White-Crowned Sparrow has his breeding colors on too…his white cap is much brighter in the Spring than it is in the Winter.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS

PUZZLE UPDATE

This past week we selected one of the puzzles that Linda got for her birthday, The World of Jane Austen. This is one that Manners and Susan gave her. It was a lot of fun to do and wasn’t all that easy, which is the way we like it. When we got almost done with it I went to separate the pieces by shape, which is what I do when we get close to the end. We discovered that this puzzle has only two different shapes for all of the pieces! One shape is for the edge pieces, and the rest of them are all shaped the same. Well, not exactly the same size but the same basic shape 🧩. Funny that we didn’t notice that until we were almost done. Anyway, it was a fun puzzle to do and one that we will definitely do again in the future.

THE WORLD OF JANE AUSTEN

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

I mentioned the audiobook I was listening to when I saw the hummer this week. It is the latest book by Andy Weir, the author who wrote The Martian (another great read). This book is entitled Project Hail Mary. Emily gave Linda this CD audiobook for her birthday, and it came directions to a website with instructions on how to download it to iTunes on your computer. At first we were racking our brains trying to figure out how we would listen to it since our only CD player (that we can use headphones with) is an large, heavy, ancient boombox from the 1980’s. But we could have done that if all else failed. Fortunately, I was able to download it and now I can listen to it through my headphones. If you have the opportunity to purchase this book (or get it from your library), I highly recommend it. It does get a bit bogged down in scientific detail at times (Andy Weir is known for this), but the concept is fascinating. It is one of those books that you do not want to put down.

GET THIS BOOK IF YOU CAN!

A LITTLE EASTER SURPRISE

One day last week we received a package from Manners and Susan (my sister and her partner). They are notorious for sending little surprise gifts every now and then. Upon opening it we discovered two packages of Peeps, two chocolate bunnies, and two adorable little stuffed Easter gnomes (see picture below). The pink one is Linda’s and the blue one is mine. We haven’t named them yet but I am sure we will get around to that. Veronica Valentine decided that she wanted them to keep her company on the bed.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl now has to share the big bed with two more interlopers. Will there be no end to this encroachment upon her space?

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

COLOR!

A lot of people say Spring is their favorite season of the year. I tend to favor Summer, not only for the heat but also for the fact that I used to grow my vegetable garden in the Summer. This year that will change because I am not going to have a big garden, just maybe a few plants (tomatoes, peppers) grown here and there about the yard. But that’s another story for another blog. Anyway, Spring is the overwhelming favorite season around here because of all the color it brings us after what is almost always a dreary winter.

PLUM TREE

We took a walk down at Tahoma cemetery the other day and some of the trees were in bloom already. I got a few pictures, like the one above showing the blossoms of some kind of plum tree. It isn’t the same type of plum tree as we have in our front yard because, for some crazy reason, our tree only blooms on the bottom part of the tree. Other trees like ours in the neighborhood do the same thing. But this one down at the cemetery was in full bloom.

PLUM TREE IN FULL BLOOM

There was one tree with bright white blossoms on it, which made it stand out from the others that were pink and light yellow.

BEAUTIFUL WHITE BLOSSOMS

As we were walking along I thought I saw something pop up out of the ground a few yards away. I couldn’t tell what it was, so I took a picture of it. That “something” turned out to be a ground squirrel.

GROUND SQUIRREL

We also took another walk at Randall Park to check up on the ducks and geese on the pond. Sad to say that there is still some sort of blockage upstream from the park, and the water was not flowing at all. I am afraid it will be stagnated again this year, like it was last summer. I reported it to the Yakima Parks & Recreation department, but did not get an answer. Typical of what to expect from a government agency.

While at the park we saw some pretty ducks swimming around making sweet little peeping sounds. These little guys are American Wigeons (<–link to info about this duck), and they are smaller than the usual Mallard ducks that we see.

AMERICAN WIGEON

I happened to see a very nice bird’s nest in a bush at the pond’s edge. A sparrow perched near to it but I don’t think it was his nest. I will have to keep my eye on it when we go back to the park.

APARTMENT AVAILABLE TO RENT

Back at the house, I decided to walk around the yard and look for color. I didn’t have to go far because things are starting to really bloom. Most noticeable of all are the numerous Golden Currant bushes that surround our property. A few of them are in full bloom, and I suspect those ones are blooming before the rest because they get more sun. Soon, though, they will all be full of pretty yellow flowers. The birds, as well as the bees, just love these flowers.

GOLDEN CURRANT

CLOSEUP OF GOLDEN CURRANT FLOWER

Tulips and daffodils are popping up all over in various stages of blooming. I am so glad that Linda made the effort to plant these beautiful flowers. Most of the tulips were already here when we moved in, but she has moved the bulbs around to different places so that they are more interspersed throughout the yard.

TULIP CLOSEUP

JUST ABOUT TO OPEN

THE SMALL, ORANGE TULIPS

The daffodils are no slouches either, and we have a couple of different types of them. I think I like the one with the light-colored petals and deep yellow center, which is called a “corona“, which is the Latin word for “crown“.

MY FAVORITE TYPE OF DAFFODIL

Upon close inspection of the picture above, I believe the tiny little bugs on the daffodils are baby earwigs. Ewww! They were the scourge of my vegetable garden and are ubiquitous in our yard.

REGULAR YELLOW DAFFODIL

Also adding a lot of color to our yard are the Basket of Gold plants. We have quite a few of those scattered around and they seem to multiply every year.

BASKET OF GOLD

We do have some beautiful shades of green in our yard as a nice contrast to all of the pinks and yellows. This Variegated Euonymus bush pictured below has been growing for about 14 years as it was one of the first bushes we planted. Linda keeps trimming it back, otherwise it would be known as the “Euonymus that Ate Yakima“!

VARIGATED EUONYMUS

My parsley plants from last summer are still around and have been growing lately. Parsley is one of the few herbs (along with thyme, tarragon, and oregano) that can survive the winters in Yakima. It is nice to have them around during the winter, although a lot of the time they are covered up with snow.

PARSLEY LEAVES

OTHER HAPPENINGS AROUND HERE

We got a new roof on the house last week and let me tell you, it was something I hadn’t experienced before and don’t wish to again any time soon. It was so noisy! During the day we tried to keep ourselves confined to the areas of the house where they weren’t currently working. I was more than happy to listen to my audiobook with my noise-blocking headphones on. The street in front of our house was lined with trucks and heavy equipment for the workers to get the job done. It was quite the undertaking but they completed it in three days.

GETTING A NEW ROOF!

On Wednesday, the last day of the roofing job, Linda’s sister Wendy arrived to surprise her for her birthday, which was last Thursday. Linda opened the door and Wendy said, “Surprise! Here’s your present!” and gave her a hug. We always enjoy visits from the sistah-friend because it means there will be lots of walking down memory lane, sitting around talking, drinking wine and cocktails, and eating some great food.

Wendy presented Linda with a bouquet of tulips as she entered the house. They were enjoyed by us all and are still hanging in there with their pretty blooms.

TULIPS FROM LINDA’S SIS

Let me tell you, Linda was in hog heaven because she received tons of books for her birthday. Most of the books were written by Emile Zola, a French writer who was born in 1840 and died in 1902. She is planning to do a reading of this author next year with a group of her friends on Instagram.

She did receive one other book, though, from her daughter Emily. If you don’t mind swear words, this is the book to buy to give yourself a daily laugh (On This Day in History, Sh!t Went Down by James Fell).

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl made herself pretty scarce over the past week, what with all the activity and people around. It took her a few days to get back in the swing, but she is now doing her favorite thing for this time of year…lolling about in the sun.

SUMMER GIRL

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

THE BEAUTIFUL WEST

Way back in 2007, Linda and I took a trip across the country in our little Toyota truck to visit Yakima. We planned this trip to see some of the sights along the way, to visit with Linda’s parents, and to eventually wind up in Tacoma, Washington. There we stayed with Linda’s sister Wendy and her husband Robin for about two weeks, during which time we drove over to Yakima and met with a real estate agent. We looked at quite a few houses before we decided on the one we would eventually purchase. We left our truck at Wendy and Robin’s house and then we flew back home to Lumberton, to finish packing up our house in preparation for the big move to the Pacific Northwest!

I was fascinated by this trip. I had never driven anywhere further west than the mountains of North Carolina. So the stunning beauty of the Western United States was very new to me. The terrain was very different from the swamps and tree-filled landscapes of the East Coast.

I’m saying all this to introduce the topic of this blog, The Beautiful West. Our best friends in the whole wide world, Mike and Scott, are currently making a similar trip across the country in their RV. They plan to be on this trip for several months, and will be stopping in Yakima towards the end of May to visit us! Since they are in an RV and are taking their time at each stop, they are getting to see up close a whole lot more of the country than we did. They have been sending me pictures which are so beautiful that I decided I had to share some of them with you on my blog.

CAMPGROUND OUTSIDE TUCSON, AZ

SAGUARO CACTUS – TUCSON, AZ

MORE CACTI

The sky is just amazing in these pictures, ranging in color from a deep blue to a hazy pink-orange. The unobstructed view of the landscape and sky is very different from the view I was used to in North Carolina. There, the landscape is always covered with trees, mostly pine trees.

JUST LOOK AT THOSE MOUNTAINS!! WHAT A VIEW!

Below is a short video of Mike explaining an interesting fact about the Saguaro cactus. I had no idea!

This almost makes me want to take another road trip across the country…almost. Although Linda and I drove across from Washington state to Florida in 2019, we were on a timetable so we did not get to stop and enjoy any of the beautiful sights. We did, however, see a lot of cactus passing by us!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of one small area of our vast country. I encourage everyone who has the time and the means, especially if you have never been there, to make a trip into the Western part of the United States. You will definitely fall in love with it.

The blog is a bit shorter this week because I want to bake a loaf of bread for my honey’s birthday, which is tomorrow. Baking bread usually takes me the better part of the day, so I had better get at it!

PARTING SHOT

I wasn’t able to get a picture of Summer Girl today for the Parting Shot because we are having a new roof put on our house, and she is currently hiding under the bed. However, here is a picture from the past just so she can keep her spot on the blog.

Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

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