Birds-like you see every day…but different

Wherever I go, I watch for birds.  Even in my back yard, I love watching our birds at the feeder.  Normally, juncos are ground-feeders, but ours just love hogging the feeder, watching for chickadees and nuthatches who might want to get in.

junco-sparrow

This is a junco and our song sparrow vying for the preferred station on the feeder, and there’s another junco perched on the side of the suet feeder on the right.

red-breasted nuthatch

Here’s one of our nuthatches (we have at least two pairs who frequent our feeder).  They usually go for a sunflower seed, then take it to the top of the fence to tap it out of the shell to eat.  They can go back and forth numerous times, rejecting the millet seeds and teasing out the sunflower seeds.

Chickadee at suet feeder

We get both Black-capped Chickadees and Chestnut-backed Chickadees at our suet feeder in the winter.

When we go on vacation, I especially love seeing familiar birds in new locales.  We met up with this fellow at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

IMG_2327

I think he was actually posing for me!

Also in the Southwest, we went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, and I added two new birds to my life list.

Bird on Cactus, Desert Botanical Garden
Curve-billed Thrasher on cactus
Quail foraging under the agave
Gambel’s Quail foraging under the agave at Desert Botanical Garden

Our recent trip to Hawaii on the Crystal Symphony added new birds, but also new views of familiar birds.  From the deck of a cruise ship, you can get a view of a bird flying below you, like you rarely can on land.  Before we even left San Francisco, I got pictures of familiar birds from on the dock, and standing at the rail.  We have Western Grebes in western Washington, and here they are in San Francisco.

WesternGrebesSF

And from the Promenade Deck on the Symphony, I was able to get good pictures of the various kinds of gulls that were fishing in the harbor.  I think there was a big school of fish right there, since we saw pelicans, Western Gulls, California Gulls, and Herring Gulls wheeling in the air and crying while scooping up fish at the surface.

GullsFishingSFGulls-green water

Autumn and winter are now approaching, which will afford me great opportunities to see local birds, right in the back yard.  My camera will be ready!

Tranquil Thursday-Sea and Sky over the North Pacific

Tranquil Thursday-Sea and Sky over the North Pacific

it’s the end of the day on Thursday, and it’s time to get in a little relaxation.  Gaze at the photos of the North Pacific in July, from the deck of the Crystal Symphony.  Many faces of the North Pacific Ocean, and the infinite sky.

Sea-sky 7-17

sunset0717

Sea-sky 7-18

sea-sky 7-19

sea-sky 7-26

sea-sky 7-29

In the photo above, can you even see where the sea ands and the sky begins?  And have you ever seen water that blue?

Something else I found on my trip to Hawaii…Birds!

I am an amateur bird-watcher, and when I see a new one, I check it off on my “Life List”, which is in the back of my 1960s edition of Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds (which is now a collector’s item).  Fortunately, in this guide are two pages of pictures of Hawaiian birds, one of natives, and one of introduced species.  All but a few of the new birds I saw is on those two pages.  Here, first, are the new ones I saw.

Barred Dove

This is a Barred Dove, which we found in the center courtyard of the Ala Moana Shopping Center, at the Starbucks there.  We saw lots of these around all the islands we visited, and they formed small flocks.  I thought they were prettier than the common pigeons we see in most cities.

CommonMynah

This black bird is an Indian Mynah, and their screeches fill the air everywhere in Hawaii.  They fill the niche of the Brewer’s Blackbirds we see on the mainland.

2Mynahs

The one on the left is a juvenile bird.

Egrets

These are cattle egrets, and they were everywhere around Pearl Harbor.

Egret-Mexico

And this fine fellow is a Snowy Egret, and I actually saw him in Ensenada, Mexico.

Brazilian Cardinal

Here’s an introduced species, seen at Pearl Harbor.  He’s a Brazilian Cardinal, and was actually easy to identify by his red crest and black-and-white body.

Saffon Finches

This is a pair of Saffron Finches.  Aren’t they pretty, with their yellow bodies and orange heads?

As we headed home from Hawaii through the North Pacific, birds were pretty much absent.  However, as we approached Ensenada, Mexico, I was happy that I had my camera with me on my walk around the Promenade Deck in the early morning, because I was able to “capture” a sea bird that was new to me.

Masked Booby

This is a Masked Booby, and I was thrilled that I could get this good of a picture.

However, there was one new bird whose picture I took that I could not identify.  He was in the grass in the company of the saffron finches, and I have no idea what he was.  Maybe one of my loyal followers can identify this Hawaiian bird.

IMG_0880

I’m sure they’re some kind of finch, but nothing I found in my bird book looks like this, with the all-over gray body and red “mask”.

Bird-watching is a very rewarding pastime, and the fact that I got new ones for my life list in Hawaii will always bring a smile.

I found my retirement “calling” on the Hillsdale cruise to Hawaii

I found my retirement “calling” on the Hillsdale cruise to Hawaii

I am 69 years old and still working full-time as a buyer for an aerospace company. Aside from vowing never to draw Social Security or be subject to Medicare (as a reason for keeping working), I couldn’t think of what I would do with myself if I retired. I play violin, but there’s not much opportunity to play chamber music in my town. I wouldn’t want to just sit around and read all day, which is my favorite pastime when not working.

Funny, but my retirement calling was staring me in the face, and I wasn’t seeing it. My husband and I are big supporters of Hillsdale, and we are members of the President’s Club of donors. It’s also convenient that his employer matches both our contributions and my employer matches mine (so my contribution is tripled). While sitting in one of the excellent lectures on the cruise, it hit me. If and when I retire, I intend to become a Hillsdale Associate, someone who recruits students and donors for the college and generally talks up the place. After reading Dr. Paul Rahe’s post on the Main Feed over at Ricochet.com, perhaps I’d enlist a letter-writing campaign to the Wall Street Journal to get them to add Hillsdale to their yearly college rankings.

In my everyday life now, I always talk up Hillsdale. My work coat closet has a Hillsdale flag on it for all to see. On the cruise, we provided Hillsdale literature to our cabin attendant! I can’t think of a better way to spend my retirement years than promoting Hillsdale College.

Last Half of the Journey-Hawaii Cruise Travelog-Leaving Hawaii for Mexico…And Home

Last Half of the Journey-Hawaii Cruise Travelog-Leaving Hawaii for Mexico…And Home

Wednesday, July 25 through Monday, July 30, we were again at sea, and you know what that means…  Lectures!  The weather wasn’t conducive to much deck-walking, but I did get a few ocean and cloud pictures.  This was the last picture of Hawaiian waters.

Out of Kona6PM

Sea-and-sky-July25

July 25 speakers were Roger Kimball on “Trump vs The Elites”; John Steele Gordon on “A Brief History of American Medical Insurance”; Dr. Arnn on the history of the Administrative State; and George Neumayr on the political papacy of Pope Francis.  The Pope has been the subject of lively discussions, both on the cruise and on Ricochet among the site’s many devoted Catholics, and Mr. Neumayr’s talk generated lots of questions.  In fact, the ship’s Irish-Catholic chaplain had some slightly-hostile remarks which Neumayr fended off masterfully.  We took home a signed copy of his book entitled The Political Pope, which is a must-read.

Thursday, July 26 saw a new roster of speakers.  Nick Lloyd discussed the part of World War I from 1915-17; Patrick Caddell discussed media and polls; and Walter Russell Mead spoke on “Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World”.  I brought home Mead’s book God and Gold, and it is proving to be a very interesting treatment of the history of Western Civilization with an emphasis on the invaluable contributions of the English-speaking countries.

This is what the view was from the Promenade Deck that day.

Sea-and-skyJuly26

And this is what we saw from the Churrascaria restaurant that evening.

Sunset-July26

Friday, July 27, brought more captivating lectures.  Michael Ramirez gave a history of the editorial cartoon, with ample examples of his own work.  Victor Davis Hanson discussed the Battle of Midway, and John Steele Gordon spoke on the history and future of money (which everyone was very attentive to, for obvious reasons).  After lunch, Michael Walsh spoke on the decline of music in Western culture, a subject that interests me greatly.  I have never been very fond of recently-composed music, since it seems to me to be aimed at the composer rather than the listener, and if you can’t please the audience, your music might not get played or sung very much.

Here’s the view from our balcony on Friday.

ViewFromBalcony7-27

On the trip home, the sea was pretty rough, and we got excellent balance practice every time we walked anywhere.  I was lucky, and never completely lost my balance, even in the pitching, rolling shower!  Saturday’s lectures were by Walter Russell Mead on US foreign policy, George Neumayr on the “never-ending investigation”, and Nick Lloyd on the end of World War I.

RoughSeas7-28

On Sunday, July 29, we approached land again, toward Ensenada, Mexico.  I could tell that we were nearing land when the color of the water changed, the skies grew lighter, and the air was warmer.

Sunrise7-30

I couldn’t sleep well Saturday night, so I was up at dawn to capture this beautiful sunrise.

CalmWaters7*29

The water was very calm, and almost seemed to melt into the sky, making the horizon almost disappear.

Wake-7-29

My followers will know that I love watching the wake of a big ship, and I have pictures of the Washington State Ferries, as well as the cruise ships I have sailed on.  I just love the patterns the wake makes in the water.

Land-Island-Mexico7*29

This is an island off the west coast near Ensenada, called Todos Santos Island.

IslandMexico7-29

I had to zoom in to see it, but about 3/4 of the way down the slope to the right, there is a structure that I saw was a big cross, which is consistent with the name of the island.

PelicansandGulls7-29

We could tell there was a big school of fish out there, due to the presence of seagulls and pelicans having a fine time fishing for breakfast.

Pelican-Mexico

This guy came out to meet us.  The name on the boat was PilotoII, indicating that he was a Harbor Pilot, assigned to guide us into the crowded harbor at Ensenada.  See how his wake is twice as wide as he is.

PilotoII

Then, I saw something that reminded me of home in the Puget Sound.  There were a few big buoys out in the harbor, and this one was occupied.  By a local sea lion, a kind of seal.

RestingOnTheBuoy

In Seattle, big sea lions rest on the buoys, and use them as a spot to fish for passing salmon.  I’m betting this guy was fishing too, and he has a gull to keep him company (and compete for fish).

MexicanWaters

That’s our wake in the water of Ensenada.

HarbotToursEnsenada

We also saw numerous Mexican tour boats which go out of Ensenada, all filled with enthusiastic tourists.  When we landed and walked around, we saw people lined up for the next tour.

I saw this structure in the harbor, just outside the working waterfront, and wondered what it might be.  Followers, can you enlighten me perhaps?

Floating-what?

As we approached our berth at the cruise-ship terminal, we got to watch this container ship, the COSCO Indonesia, being loaded with containers.  COSCO is a big Chinese state-owned shipping company.  It was fun watching the orange crane picking up and placing containers precisely where they should go.

CoscoIndonesiaUnloading

Here are some more highlights of the Ensenada harbor.

HillsideHomesEnsenada

Homes on the hillside above the harbor.

BigFlagEnsenada

I think this is one of the biggest flags I’ve ever seen.  Those Mexicans are proud of their country!

Marina-Ensenada

Nice Marina they have there.  There’s another one on the other side of the harbor.

CarnivalInspiration

Our berth-mate that day was the much-larger Carnival Inspiration.

CruiseTerminalEnsenada

The cruise terminal at Ensenada is very colorful, and has a building with lots of shops where the locals sell their wares.

Fountain-Seagull

The fountain is a very convenient bird-bath, and this gull was taking his daily shower.  Ensenada, in Baja California, has a very dry climate with little rain, so you can understand how the gull takes advantage of what humans have provided.

Upon disembarking, we walked around the bay to a crowded, lively marina shopping area, and took in the sights and sounds of Ensenada.

Band-PlazaMarina

Restaurant-Ensenada

CantinaBand

My husband, who plays accordion, got a kick out of this little band.

All too soon, it was time for us to board the Crystal Symphony, for the journey back to San Francisco.  Monday, July 29, was a sea day, and we had lectures by Michael Walsh and Pat Caddell.  The final lecture of the cruise was supposed to be Dr. Arnn discussing Hillsdale’s Mission.  But it turned out that Dr. Arnn left the cruise at Ensenada, to answer the call of Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, to go to Washington DC to discuss education.  Since he was not there, the Hillsdale crew cooked up a big panel discussion with all the remaining speakers, and the audience asked lots of interesting questions.  The Hillsdale cruisers are well-educated bunch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures and all the speakers.

FinalPanel7-30

Personnel, from left: Tim Caspar, Hillsdale Associate VP for External Affairs who moderated; John Steele Gordon, Michael Ramirez, Pat Caddell, Michael Walsh, Nick Lloyd, George Neumayr, Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Kimball, and Walter Russell Mead.

Monday, July 31, we arrived back in San Francisco.  We had packed the night before, and when it was time, we all filed into the Starlite Club ballroom to await our group being called.

WaitingToLeave7-31

When we disembarked, we boarded a bus for the ride to the airport.  We got checked in, and awaited our flight back to Seattle.  Once in the air, I pointed my camera out the window, and got some spectacular cloud pictures.  And mountains, too.

AboveTheClouds7-31

Mountains7-31

The cruise had been wonderful, but we were glad to be home.  And the kitty was glad to have us back, too.

Next year’s Hillsdale cruise will be to the British Isles, to celebrate the conclusion of the project involving the complete Churchill biography and documents.  We don’t know yet if we will go, but we will have this year’s cruise to remember for a long time.

 

 

 

Vacation Travelogue-Last Hawaii Stop-Kailua-Kona

Vacation Travelogue-Last Hawaii Stop-Kailua-Kona

After the thrilling volcano-viewing session, a nice dinner, and a good night’s sleep, we arrived at our last Hawaii stop, the town of Kailua-Kona.  Again, the Crystal Symphony had to “anchor out” in the harbor, and we were ferried in on the ship’s tenders.  It was only a 15-minute ride, and we got a good view of the other vessels.  On these trips, passengers and speakers rode together and got a glimpse of famous people dressed-down.

VDHOnTender

Yep, that’s Victor Davis Hanson in shorts and lime-green t-shirt.

SymphonyAnchoredOut'

Seen from the dock on shore, there’s the Symphony and one of the other tenders, which shuttled back and forth all during the day.  Here’s what we encountered after getting off the tender.

OutriggerCanoes

Now that’s Hawaii!  Those outrigger canoes were available for rental right at the dock.  Also right at the dock were some very Hawaiian businesses.  I got the biggest kick out of this shop.  I wonder what distinguishes “gourmet” from “ordinary” Hawaiian Shave Ice?

ShaveIceSign

My husband just had to try real Kona Coffee, so we went into the shop next door.  Another sign that just caught my fancy.  We don’t have kids, but I wonder if parents would find this funny.  I sure did.

CoffeeSign

From the dock, we took a walk through town, just seeing the sights and peeking into the various shops.  We found a little outdoor mall, which had a very interesting fountain in the middle.  It featured some exotic plants, and some interesting animals too.

FountainPlants

Mosses

I thought those mosses were so beautiful, with the rivulets of water cascading down.

Greenery

Now, see that tree trunk?  I moved around to the left, and used the zoom setting on my camera, and what I saw was quite remarkable.

Animals

I spotted both the little green lizard on the left, and the big snail on the right very quickly.  Hubby had to be shown the snail!  I was fortunate to get them both in the picture before the lizard moved, and he was standing very still.

We headed down the street, and passed this landmark.

PalaceSignPalace

I don’t know, that doesn’t look like much of a palace to me, but it was in its day.

We (well, I anyway) did some shopping, and on our way back to the dock, we found a little beach, in back of a motel in town.  This beach had some beautiful volcanic rocks, and a nice view of the harbor and the incoming surf.  No surfers, however, since the beach was way too rocky!

Beach

BeachAndBoats

BlueWater-rocks

On a pretty gray day, that wave looked awfully blue!  And see the kite-surfer on the horizon?  We seemed to see them at every port we visited in Hawaii, though this one stayed pretty far from shore, for obvious reasons.  I did like the volcanic rocks, which showed the makeup of the terrain on this island.

VolcanicRocksRocksAndSurf

KonaShore

We walked as far as we could on the beach walk, then headed back toward the street.  I did enjoy viewing all the varieties of plant life in Hawaii, many of which were brightly-colored.  These flowers grew on the motel property.

Hibiscus

WhiteHibiscus

I thought this tree-trunk looked a bit like an elephant.  I wonder why?

BigTrunk

So we made our way back to the street to walk back to the dock.

PalmTrees

GnarlyTree

I really liked the twisted branches of this tree.  I zoomed in on it to capture the smaller branches.  Can you see the bird in this photo?  Even I had to look more than once to see what I had captured!  And I don’t know what kind of bird it was.

FindTheBird

We took the tender back to the ship, and while en route saw this.

Sub-Atlantis-Kona

That is a little half-submarine, which took tourists out to see what is beneath the waves.  We went back aboard the Symphony, and left harbor around 6:00PM.  From this shot from the ship’s deck, it looks like the trip home might be a bit choppy.

LeavingKailua-Kona

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation Travelogue, Hillsdale Hawaii Cruise, Days 9 and 10-Hilo and beyond

Vacation Travelogue, Hillsdale Hawaii Cruise, Days 9 and 10-Hilo and beyond

We arrived in Hilo just before noon, and the skies were hazy with what had been described to us as “vog”, or “volcano fog”, caused by the still-erupting volcano on the other side of the island.  About which more later.

HiloHarbor2

Above is the view from the port side of the ship.  Below is the view from the starboard side.

Port side Hilo

We disembarked from the ship, and walked into a large concrete hall, where we found the welcome murals.

WelcomeHilo

WelcomeMural

mural2

We boarded a bus for the short ride into town.  When we got off the bus, the downtown area was just across the street.  To be honest, we didn’t think much of the town of Hilo.  To us, it looked rundown and in need of a facelift.  At least where we were, the buildings looked old and tired, and rust was evident everywhere. [but that is probably not unusual in a town on an island in the ocean, where they are surrounded by salt water].  The first thing we saw across the street was this.

HiloFarmersMarketSign

Most people are familiar with farmers’ markets, where local farmers gather to sell their produce and other merchandise to the people in cities.  This, however, was a very unusual farmer’s market, where the items for sale were somewhat unfamiliar to those of us who live on the mainland.

MarketBuilding

Roots

You would expect Maui onions, which don’t have very far to travel.  See the big roots called taro?  Those make the island food called “poi”, which, from its description, is pretty awful.  But it was very popular in the islands through history, and seems to still be an island staple.

Fruits-veggies

I was just flabbergasted at the size of those green onions in the foreground.  They must have been two feet long from one end to the other!  There were flowers, and other island products in addition to the various fruits and vegetables.

IFlowersjpg

jewels

We left the farmers market to walk through town and see what we could find.  We knew that Hawaii is a very liberal state, almost entirely governed by Democrats.  So this combination of signs did not surprise us.

LibsLiveHere

Here are some of the sights from our trip around the central area of Hilo.

StreetArt

1925Building

PineappleBuilding

I got a kick out of the pineapples on the side of this building. How very Hawaii!  Actually, pineapple is my favorite fruit, and was a staple of the breakfast buffet on the Crystal Symphony.  It was also the end-of-meal palate-cleanser in the Churrascaria restaurant aboard ship.  I got my fill of pineapple on this cruise, and now that we are home, I miss my daily ration of pineapple!

We had a nice lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Ocean Sushi.  Then, it was back to the ship for our cruise around the island of Hawaii to our next stop at Kailua-Kona.  Leaving the harbor, some of the vog had cleared up.

LeavingHilo2

PaddlersHilo

BigIsland

HawaiiHomes

Nice views from those houses!  The sun was setting as we left.

LeavingHilo1

LeavingHiloSunset

As the sun was setting, we left the rail and went back inside for dinner.  But after dinner came the very best part of the cruise for us.  After sunset, we approached the other side of the big island of Hawaii.  Here is our first glimpse of the most important part of our cruise, the part that everyone had been waiting for.

View1jpg

Yes, this was the first sight of the still-erupting Kilauea Volcano.  We were still fairly far away, but we could hear the sound of the lava hitting the salt water, and we could smell the sulfur in the air, too.  It’s hard to capture the entire experience on film, since it involved all your senses.  But this was something that we will never forget.  Here are some of what I think are my best volcano pictures, but they don’t really do it justice.

IMG_0760

IMG_0767

IMG_0768

IMG_0772

You’ve heard the phrase “fire and brimstone”?  Well, this is real, live, fire and brimstone.

IMG_0774

IMG_0775

IMG_0777

IMG_0778

Needless to say, anyone who could, found their way to the top decks of the ship, close to the bow.  This is the passengers crowded at the bow of Deck 12, the Sun Deck.  There was excellent commentary by the resident scientist on the ship, describing what we were seeing and hearing, and providing some background history of the geology of Hawaii.

ViewersOnDeck

IMG_0782

Finally, though, the Captain came on the loudspeaker and informed us that, due to the water around our ship becoming too warm (!), we would have to leave the area and proceed on to our next destination.  So we left, motoring around the Big Island to our next, and final port of call.  But you know what the topic of conversation was all the rest of that night!