Camping in Palm Desert (Again)

Camping Setup

We left our Arizona home this morning at about eleven AM and arrived to check-in at the RV park at about two PM. That sounds like good travel time, but we gained an hour coming to the PST time zone, so the time was nominal as compared to our previous experience coming here. We had a good trip with one little slowdown where an eighteen wheeler rolled over in the median along I-10.

We got here and set up camp for our weekend visits with the kids and the grandson. We had been invited to the in-laws for dinner on previous trips here, but this time we’re inviting the kids and the other set of grandparents to the campground for a steak cookout on Saturday. With the big RV, we can prepare the sides and grill the steaks right here.

The RV Resort is packed today; we took a walk around and saw vehicle license plates from all over the US and Canada. There is an “Oh Canada” dinner and show here tonight (we will not be attending, eh? $40 USD per plate, hosers). Besides, we brought the food and beverages we need and are now settled in and quite comfortable.

We are using the Verizon Jetpack® MiFi wireless internet hot spot we recently obtained and thus far, it seems to work much better (and is more secure) than the often spotty performance of the unsecured WiFi offered by the RV park. We will probably report on our performance assessment of the new gadget after using it for a while.

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Cardinal on the Block Feeder

CardinalDamsel is usually the one to get spectacular photos of scenery, classic objects and wildlife, but once in a while, I get a lucky shot. I took this photo of a cardinal visiting the seed block feeder up on the hill behind the RV drive.

I was in the shadow of the house crouching next to the patio with my Canon Rebel SL1 and the 75-300mm telephoto lens when this handsome fellow showed up. I positioned myself in anticipation that he would eventually approach the feeder after I first spotted him in a mesquite tree some thirty feet up the hill. It was only a matter of tens of seconds before he arrived on the top of the feeder. I took several frames of which this was the best, in my opinion.

This bird is the one that Damsel refers to as the “orange” cardinal because there is another one that comes around which is much brighter red than this guy. I read in Wikipedia that they get the feather colors from things in their diet and, possibly, this one did not get as many “red” food staples as the other one.

The details on the camera settings are as follows: Canon EOS Rebel SL1, F7.0, ISO 100, 1/500 sec shutter speed, focal length 180mm. The image was shot from a crouching position about ten yards from the subject. No tripod or other stabilizing utility used at the time. Click on the image to enlarge.

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First Plum Flower of (Early) Spring

Plum Flower

We were watching the last rays of the setting sun in the courtyard this evening when I noticed that there was a flower open on our flowering plum tree. The open flower surprised me since the tree is completely denuded of leaves after the recent freezing weather (well a few nights, at least).

The mature plum tree is a replacement for the original tree the landscapers planted in 2011. The old tree snapped off at the trunk (it was a smaller tree) during a 2014 microburst that took out a lot of the natural vegetation that summer.

Soon, this tree will be growing it’s new spring leaves, but not before we prune off a few of the very low branches and suckers to encourage the tree to grow vertically and not into the walkway or the courtyard wall. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Cactus Wrens at the Feeders

Cactus Wrens at the FeedersI photographed this colorful pair of Cactus Wrens (binomial name Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) taking seeds from the feeders up on the hill behind the RV drive. Wrens are not usually seen on the feeders since their diet is more of insects and small critters, but, there they were, so I captured this image using the Canon EOS SL1 and the 300mm setting on the telephoto lens from about thirty feet away. They will take seeds and berries from time to time, however. This was one of those times.

Cactus wrens habitat ranges from Mexico and into the desert southwest all the way from Texas to California within a few hundred miles north of the border. They are happy with the arid conditions and seldom drink water, even when it is available. They subside on the water content of the food they take.

Image: a pair of Cactus Wrens partaking from the seed feeders out back. Click on the image to enlarge.

I looked up some details about these birds on Wikipedia:

The cactus wren is the largest North American wren, at 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long. Unlike the smaller wrens, the cactus wren is easily seen. It has the loud voice characteristic of wrens. The cactus wren is much less shy than most of the family. Its marked white eyestripe, brown head, barred wings and tail, and spotted tail feathers make it easy to identify. Like most birds in its genus, it has a slightly curved bill. There is little sexual dimorphism.

It is a bird of arid regions, and is often found around yucca, mesquite or saguaro; it nests in cactus plants, sometimes in a hole in a saguaro, sometimes where its nest will be protected by the prickly cactus spines of a cholla or leaves of a yucca.

The cactus wren forms permanent pair bonds, and the pairs defend a territory where they live all through the year.

In residential areas, cactus wrens are notorious for getting into mischief. Being curious birds, it is not uncommon for these wrens to be found flying about out-of-place in automobiles where the owner has left a window open or it may even enter homes with an open door or window and find itself trapped.

With regard to that last paragraph - I’m not absolutely sure about this, but shortly after the back patio was screened-in, there was a bird trapped within which we shooed out of an open door shortly thereafter. This may have been one early encounter with a Cactus Wren after moving to the desert.

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Hummingbird

Hummingbird

The hummingbirds that visit our feeders seem to be accustomed to the presence of humans near the feeders. This allows us to stand near the feeders and get up-close and personal photos of the little guys when they come for a sip or two. This little guy was six feet away from the lens when he had his beak deep inside the nectar. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Fireball over Wickenburg

fireball.jpgDamsel and I were out in the courtyard to watch the overflight of the International Space Station this evening. It was still pretty light out and I wanted to see if I could see Sirius in Canis Major as a gauge for the predicted magnitude of the ISS at -1.9. Sirius is magnitude -1.46, a little less bright than the satellite.

Image: Similar fireball photographed over Russia.

When I turned my attention eastward to look at Sirius, a bright meteor streaked across the sky, bright white initially and turning to orange and breaking into fragments as I watched. It was gone by the time I called to Damsel to come and look. This is the first fireball meteor we have seen in Arizona and the first one I, personally, have seen in over 20 years of looking up. The image in this post is not of the event we witnessed tonight, but a stock image of a fireball seen over Russia in the past.

In scanning local news reports, I have not seen any mention of this event. The good news is that Damsel and I both saw a nice ISS pass which makes three out of four in this recent series of evening passes. One was rained out earlier in the week.

We like to keep looking up. The stars here are usually spectacular and we see the Milky Way most clear nights.

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Wet Weather Coming Followed by Cold

pacific-storm.jpg

The Pacific storm system currently going through California should be here in a couple of hours. All of the west needs the rain, but the colder nights are of little use to those of us with osteoarthritis and other cold-sensitive ailments (or just plain old hate the f@^&ing cold syndrome). The lows after the system moves through will be below freezing and the daily high temperatures are scarcely enough to thaw out the achy pains of old age.

The rain just started as I am typing this. I started the first paragraph of this post an hour ago while there was still some blue in the sky. Now, it is completely overcast and the rain and wind are apparent even from inside our secure little home.

We were going to watch a pass of the International Space Station this evening, but the clouds and rain (not to mention wind gusts to 30kts) preclude any stellar observations. If it clears up, there is another ISS pass tomorrow and a couple more evening passes early this week. We will bundle up and attempt to watch the flyovers in the cold.

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