Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunset on the Columbia

January 31, sunset on the Columbia. Tonight was a treat. The clouds in Astoria are not often so dramatically tall. For just a moment, the river and sky were the same hue.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A heron in the sun

Juvenile great blue heron on the Columbia River, Astoria, Oregon Yesterday morning a juvenile great blue heron (at least, I think that's what it was) found that the radio tower outside my office was a good place to catch some sun in the 31-degree morning.

Great blue heron perched on the radio tower, Astoria, Oregon You can see it there near the base of the tower with the pilot boat passing. I love the colors on the river. The heron hunkered and preened by turns. I hoped it would extend its neck in a gorgeous photogenic pose, but it preferred to conserve heat, extending as little as possible. Periodically it would throw its head one way or another to reach spots on its back and underside, but never did it give me an opportunity to catch a pose other than . . . well, scroll down and see for yourself. It was pretty interesting. The herons usually find other places to perch in Astoria, so I consider myself lucky when they come this close to home. Click photos for larger images.

Juvenile great blue heron, Astoria


River, ships, pilings, Astoria: winter


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Astoria: Cold and beautiful morning

This morning was about as cold as it usually gets here in Astoria. The colors and clarity on the river showed the scene in all its glory. The photo was taken looking approximately east, and the bit of land sticking out into the river in the background on the right is Tongue Point. I took the photo from a block or so east of the Maritime Museum.

We usually have a few days each year when we have ice on the ground. Here is a puddle with the top frozen between the River Walk and the river bank.

Looking back west toward the Astoria-Megler bridge through trees that show damage from our big storm in December.

[Your visit to my blog helps us generate traffic to support the Tapir Preservation Fund and its online gift shop. Thank you! ~ Sheryl]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This time it was a skinny one

Here's one of the more troublesome logs we've had. It's odd, because it's not very big around, but it got lodged under the building's pilings and it wasn't working its way out, or when it appeared to be coming out, it went right back under. And it would float back in when I tried to pull it out. It was stubborn! You can't see how long it is, but went all the way under the building. I'm writing this after the fact, but I think it came out the other side. It's surprising how big a thump it can create, banging over and over again in the current when it's caught and won't release. I feel sure this is one we had to cut up.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Flotsam

I love living on the river. I suppose someday I may not be living on the river, but elsewhere, and I'm sure I'll look back at everything connected with this time as somewhat magical and romantic. I even like watching what the currents bring in. In some seasons, it's not unusual to have logs and grass wash into our bay. By "bay," I mean the tiny bay created by the fact that our building doesn't protrude as far into the water as the ones on each side. The pilots' building has screening under it to keep out the logs and the bigger junk. At the moment, ours does not. Sometimes the logs get in there and thump for awhile in any waves caused by wind or passing ships and boats. Usually they wash out on their own, but sometimes they have to be cut up or hauled out. It's hard to tell the scale here, but these are logs, not little sticks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Our visit to Safari, Ltd

This morning we were picked up in style by Nicole from Safari, Ltd. for our visit to the company's headquarters. A number of their customers who had bought over a certain amount of their products during 2007 were invited to Miami Gardens to see the facility and meet the people we only knew as phone contacts. The invitation seemed to be both about building a relationship with the customers and getting feedback on proposed products. We were also invited to discuss any issues we had, what our needs were as customers, etc. As a company selling almost exclusively online, we had found that our needs were often somewhat different those of companies selling mainly via store front, and we were happy to have a chance to talk with the folks at Safari. They were attentive and we also learned things about them and their way of doing business that were interesting. We saw a lucite display rack in person that would fit our needs and were able to work out a way to get it from Florida to Oregon. (See the story here!) The women at Safari were extremely helpful about that, and we thank them for our wonderful display rack!

In the entry was a diorama with some of Safari's products, including . . . drum roll . . . TAPIRS!

This big playroom was where we were brought to relax, have a snack, and look over the inventory. It was fun to see everything in person, after buying out of a catalog for 7 or 8 (?) years.

The warehouse was huge. We'd wondered about the actual size of their facility for a long time. This is only one aisle.

One of our favorite of the sample animals was this realistic plastic hippo. After spending a couple of hours at the site, they took us to lunch, then back to our hotel, and later they picked us up for dinner, which was extra good, and of course the portions were of a size this hippo would have appreciated. It was pretty relaxed. Everyone was nice to us, and we had an enjoyable and interesting time. We could now put faces to many of the names we'd been dealing with for so long. We came away with the feeling that this was a company that cared about its customers.

Home from Florida

We got up really early. This isn't the night before, it's leaving our hotel in the morning. I had to return the rental car, I wasn't 100% sure I wouldn't get lost, and the airport was a good half an hour away or so.

Sunrise at the car return next to the airport. Gorgeous. I love it when the electric lights begin to match the intensity of the sky. I've probably said that before.

Back in the West. I don't know where this is, but it's a tweaked effort to get a good airplane photo from a bad original. I love taking pictures from the plane. Or just looking at the changing landscape. Give me a window seat and I'm happy.

Crater Lake, Oregon. Again, the original was pretty bad due to glare and a less-than-clear-window. The flight path to and from California often goes this close to Crater Lake. It's so beautiful and interesting with the cinder-cone in the water Click the photo and you can see the crater within the big crater.

Typical western Oregon from the air. It looks like there's a fire. We have a lot of these cotton-puff clouds usually. We're nearly home and glad to be back in a reasonable climate. Yes, there was a reason I moved to Oregon!

I always love coming into PDX. Portland has one of the prettiest and most user-friendly airports I know. It's even a good size - it's not tiny and it's not overbearing. Now we only had to drive two hours back to Astoria.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A day with dolphins, iguanas, manatees and an orca

The ambiance at Miami Seaquarium was not stunning, in fact it felt run-down, tired and sad. But the day was, thankfully, cool and nice, and we had come to see animals, not to be entertained by a park.

Although some aspects of the park were entertaining if we didn't actually want to use the vending machines, which were mostly broken. What was in them wasn't that appealing. I've already mentioned that we were trying to eat healthy food on this trip.

The dolphins were cool. Actually, I get pretty excited seeing almost any animal up close, and dolphins are magical.

One young visitor was chosen to get up close and personal with a dolphin. She seemed ecstatic and could hardly believe this was happening to her. I liked the herons and pelicans that hung out where the fish were being given away, too.

Hey, kids, beware of the . . . shark? You could have your picture taken with it; but it's shift was about over, and a few minutes later it got up and walked away.

Nice pelicans, but the shot was on the run. I wish the focus had been better. We were on our way to see what was in "Discovery Bay: A Wildlife Expedition."

I usually think of alligators as being green, but the ones here were very gray and rough. There were several on the gray sandy beach to the left, and I could see where a person could trip over one if they weren't careful. Yikes! But these were off limits behind a fence.

There were two colors of iguanas. I don't know if they were male/female, different species, or what, but this guy was in the branches of a tree not far from the circular visitors' walk above a lagoon, and we spent a long time admiring it while I was taking pictures. It was amazing to watch it eat. Here's another post about this iguana that I made on the day of our visit. The post I'm writing now is after the fact, but dated correctly.

This second iguana's coloring was even more striking than the first, although it was further away from us and I couldn't get as nice a picture.

Below the iguanas in a lagoon were several sea turtles, most or all of which had been badly damaged and brought here for refuge. They seemed stoic enough and even sort of friendly.

The greenery was nice. It was different than what we were used to in Oregon. That is, Oregon is very, very green, but we don't have a lot of palm trees.

Here's one of the stars of the sea lion show. They kind of look like big, wet dogs when they're young. There was an older one, also. I read that some of the sea lions at Miami Seaquarium were bought from the State of Oregon, where they tend to get shot for eating fish in the Columbia River. There's a whole history between the sea lions and the fishermen. The sea lions have proliferated for reasons I don't remember, and there are so many now in Oregon that they threaten the fishing industry. To be honest, I haven't learned as much as I could about it. They come back when they've been relocated, and nobody knows what to do with the ones that won't cooperate. There are a lot of people around here who would just as soon shoot them as not. I like watching them when I can see them in the river, or when they're sleeping and resting on the docks.

Manatees are just strange, no matter how you look at them. Stuffed and other toy manatees are constructed to make the heads more appealing to humans, but the shape of a manatee is like nothing else. The head is tiny compared to the body, like a flattened bump on the end of a massive floating blob. The manatee in this photo is on its stomach (right side up), but they often just float upside down and wait until the food gets near their mouths, then suck it in. Or at least they do that here in the Seaquarium. Sue loves manatees because they're peaceful and friendly. It's also their downfall. They get hurt easily by boats and careless humans. The ones here had all been injured, some pretty horribly. Manatees are endangered and there are apparently signs all over Florida telling boaters to watch out for them.

This flamingo was an elegant surprise. I'd seen flamingos lots of times before, but in memory, at least, they were most often PINK. This flamingo was an incredible color of orange with pink under-plumage. It was unbelievably striking to look at - not to mention the crazy way it kept twisting its neck nearly into knots.

I got lousy pictures of the orca, except when it was relatively still like it is here. It was late in the day, the sun was off the tank, and the exposures didn't allow for much movement. And the animals were fast! Once again, it was amazing to be so close to such a huge creature of the watery world. You think about their intelligence and their gentleness. The tank seemed kind of small, but I understand that conditions have improved, and the original tank was much smaller. Still, I'm always torn because something like this should have an ocean, and yet to be able to be close to one is a remarkable experience. If we humans don't learn about and fall in love with the animals, we aren't as moved to do something about the ones that need our help in the wild. Of course, they usually need our help because of what others of our species have caused, but I won't get into that here. The animal ambassadors like this one that make us care for their species and other wildlife deserve our gratitude.

There were several dolphins in the show tank with the orca. They were a different species from the first dolphins in this post, with different coloration. They were smaller, and oh, could they leap high and fast! The sun was going down over the edge of the amphitheatre and you can see that the dolphin's head has found a patch of warm light.

Here's one of the dolphins from the first show, this time seen from deep below the tank's surface in the fish aquarium area that surrounds the big dolphin tank. The dolphins come right up to the glass to check you out. I kept wondering what they were thinking. It's amazing being watched like that.

I loved the bright green moray eels. I'm not sure how much of the coloring is due to the lighting, or if they are always this green. Anyway, they are stunning.

I got a few good fish portraits despite the low light levels in most of the tanks. You can see some sparkling color if you enlarge the photo.

The sky was turning to dusk as we left, and this rather crudely-made sculpture looked a lot better in the low light. The statue appears almost majestic here.

It was quite a drive back, and was completely dark when we reached "home." And we found a good restaurant, Sarah's Tent, which at first I didn't even realize was a restaurant. We turned into the parking lot looking at something on the other side that was closed, then wondered what the large building was that was pointed on top. It didn't have flashy signs. In fact, it hardly had any signs at all. It turned out to have excellent food, classy, friendly service, and was interesting because it was Israeli, Jewish, and Kosher. There is not a lot of that in Astoria. They had a place along one wall where the Orthodox could wash their hands between courses. I think we ate about right for once and, as it turned out, we were only about two blocks from our hotel. Nice.

Iguana at Miami Seaquarium

Seeing this beautiful dinosaur-looking iguana was one of the highlights from our day at Miami Seaquarium on January 14, 2008. Sue and I were invited to visit Safari, Ltd., one of our vendors for the Tapir and Friends online gift shop. It was a wonderfully peaceful day at the aquarium. The weather was cool, the people were few, and the animals highly visible and for the most part seeming to enjoy themselves. I got lucky with the iguana pix. Most were in focus. This guy was in the branches of a tree only a few feet away. It was amazing to watch him (her, it) pulling branches toward his mouth with his long feet and angle the branch and/or his head for each bite. You can see how his body is completely bent around and he's attempting to eat over his left shoulder.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lion Country Safari, Florida: Tapirs, rain, and golden light

After having had no luck with the beach and high-rises, we decided to look at animals. It would be a drive-through and we wouldn't be bothered by heat. As it turns out, it stormed like crazy during the hour or so that it took to get there. The rain was coming down so hard and fast that we sat it out in a parking-lot-cum-swamp. The skies were still black when we got there, but the rain was letting up for the most part.

The giraffe on the concessions cart near the front gate was cool. It reminded us of the giraffe eyeglass holder in our online gift shop.

The real animals were nice, too. It turned into a pleasant afternoon watching animals at close range. There were some dark long-legged birds and black buffalo with horns flattened backwards that caught my attention. Maybe someday I'll put their pix in a web album, although if I'd had a really good one, I would have posted it. The windows were a big problem.

We had started late and were driving slowly, taking a lot of photos, most of which were pretty lousy. We weren't allowed to roll down the windows, and they were watching me. The zebra-colored vehicles seemed wary of anyone looking that carefully at the animals and pointing a camera. To be honest, it was very tempting. The lion was, I'm not sure why, particularly majestic and compelling. Both Sue and I felt it, and since he was behind chain link, I really, really wanted to get out and take his picture. But the staff were vigilant, so it didn't happen. By evening, the light had turned gold as we drove toward the sun on our way out of the park.

Sun, rain, green, and animals. It had been a relaxing few hours, for sure. We were almost the only ones there, so we didn't have to deal with crowds, either.

In the first exhibit, a huge area with few fences, we found the tapir, here resting under some trees out of the rain along with a few avian friends. I should say a lot of avian friends, although they didn't all turn up for the photo shoot. The white chunk out of the photo is another stork. Click on the photo to see the dark birds he's cuddling up with.

Having eggs for dinner at iHop was also a sane choice. The food wasn't overbearing, and if anything, the air conditioning was too cold.