Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Neighbors

Black-capped Chickadee?

Yesterday was, if not the first day to hit 70 degrees, one of very few.  After walking home from the pool in shorts & a tank top (woohoo!) and running a bunch of errands, I decided to take advantage of the lovely day and clean up the deck. I rearranged all the plants and swept up a whole winter's worth of dirt & debris. When I had nearly finished cleaning, I paused to answer the phone. I stood leaning on the railing, and suddenly a bright green Anna's hummingbird was hovering about a foot in front of me, right at eye level.  I looked up and realized that there was a chaos of bird activity going on all around me.  I didn't get any good shots of the hummers, but I did get decent pictures of a few of the common visitors to my neighbor's feeders.
I've assumed that the bird in the first picture here was a Black-capped Chickadee, but on closer inspection, all of my bird guides show them with black bills.  Hmmm.  When I leaned over the railing to watch a hummingbird, I noticed this little guy coming out of a hole in the corner of my deck railing.  Later I saw his mate come out of the hole to take food from him.  Whne they were both away, I saw a tiny white egg in the bottom of the hole.  Later I looked down and saw his mate sitting on the nest.  The white stripe in the hole in the second picture is a chickadee!

This little guy looks like a sparrow, but it's got a lemony yellow breast, which doesn't match any of my bird book photos either. Hmm.  It's got a bright white stripe right down the middle of his head and behind each eye.

I'm guessing that the other birds below are either House Finches or Purple Finches.

I also spotted but did not photograph a Golden-Crowned Sparrow.

Hooray for spring!


Pair of finches

House finch, or maybe a Purple Finch?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Little Tour de Kitsap

A bit belated, but nonetheless...

Surf Scoter
Inspired by a sunny Saturday bike ride the weekend before, I decided a few Fridays ago to have a little bike adventure.  James & I had planned on heading across the Sound to visit friends anyway, and I had the day off, so I decided to load up my pannier bags and hit the road.  I managed to get everything I needed for the overnight trip in my bags: a light jacket, a change of clothes, a few snacks, running shoes (just in case I felt really energetic), toiletries, keys, wallet, phone, etc.
It was all downhill to the ferry terminal, where I had 20 minutes to watch the water birds and peer over the railing into the crystal clear water.  Crabs scuttled around between the clusters of acquatic plants on the pebbly bottom that was littered with  fragments of their less fortunate brethren.

I spent a few minutes chatting with one of the ferry workers, a woman who had just transferred up to Edmonds after many years working at one of the downtown Seattle terminals.  It was only her third day there, and she hoped that she could hold on to the good feelings about her new position.  I imagine that Edmonds would be much more peaceful than downtown Seattle, and the difference in the level of daily exhaust exposure for employees would be vast.  

The boat arrived on time, and I enjoyed boarding ahead of all the motorcycles & cars, riding all alone through the big empty belly of the ferry.   I tied my bike to a railing with a makeshift knot, wishing once again that I could tie a proper bowline on the spot.  No matter how many times I learn that knot, it just doesn't stick, and I have to look it up again.  Perhaps I should start tying knots in things unecessarily until it sticks.

As I mapped out my route the might before, I knew that Kitsap County had its share of hills.  I have driven a lot of the roads between Kingston and Sliverdale, but I  never paid much attention to details that would matter on a bike, like shoulder width, speed limits, traffic volume, and hills.  I just thought, "Well, it will be half uphill, half downhill. Not so bad, right?"   I failed to factor in that going up a hill might take 5 to 10 minutes, but going back down the other side would only take 30 seconds.  So I spent most of my ride sweating up steep hills, spinning in low gear, and the rest flying back down, getting goosebumps from the combination of sweat and wind.  

The route I chose could have been better.  The first few miles out of Kingston had bike lanes (hooray!), but after that I turned onto a winding 2-lane road with a 45-mph speed limit with rolling hills.  Fortunately it was early afternoon, so there wasn't too much traffic, and most of the drivers who passed me gave me plenty of room.  Another 2 miles and I turned right onto a similarly narrow road that seemed to go straight up.  The cars that made the turn up that hill were all downshifting too, and as I rounded a bend I realized that this was going to take a while.  I stopped at the top to switch into my fingerless gloves, stow my jacket, and drink some water.  I looked at my computer and saw that the hill was less than half a mile.   It sure felt longer than that.
A few miles outside Poulsbo, I turned onto a more heavily trafficked road, but the wider shoulder made me much more comfortable. 

I considered stopping in for a break at Liberty Bay Books, but I had chosen to bypass downtown Poulsbo.  When I realized my mistake, I looked in the direction I would need to turn.  It was uphill.  I decided that I still had plenty of hills ahead of me - maybe next time.  I stopped on the sidewalk in town and had a Gu and some water, then continued on my way.  I took the main road most of the way to Silverdale, then turned off into a neighborhood in hopes of riding downhill to my destination. 

I made it!
 Unfortunately the road I chose was a single lane in each direction, spearated by a median but lacking a shoulder. Not very bike friendly, but the speed limit was only 35, so I didn't fear for my life. Next time I'll stick to the highway.  My plan worked, though: I coasted downhill to my friends' house, and as I pulled into their driveway, the sun came out.  I had a snack on the front porch, stowed my bike, and walked into town to meet friends for happy hour. Success!