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JUST TWO WEEKS after a pair of finches set up housekeeping in the hanging flower pot outside our kitchen window, we've sighted a pair of hatchlings with a third chick on its way. Our view is limited to big eyes, bright beaks, and fuzzy heads. At first, the number of chicks was uncertain but now it's easy to count those hungry mouths.

Momma and fledgling

Momma and fledgling

It's great to watch the adult finches being such good parents -- building and tidying the nest, guarding the eggs from predators, and tending the needs of their new offspring. And now it's constant fetching and feeding as the little ones demand attention. Both parents take turns with the chores and the nest is rarely unattended.

Proud papa

Proud papa

The nest building continues as family grows.  What began as a few twigs and leaves supporting tiny eggs, has now become an impressive home for the growing chicks.  So far we've watched those fuzzy heads bobbing above the sides, but hopefully we'll see more of the newborns before they develop feathers and fly away.

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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GOT TO KEEP VIGILANT these days or home grown zucchini will take over the garden... and the world!  These two were found hiding under one of those huge plant leaves. Fortunately, we have grateful vegetarian neighbors and own a handy cookbook: 365 Ways to Cook Zucchini.

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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WE'VE BEEN VISITED by a number of Black Swallowtail butterflies recently. The swallowtails will flitter through our backyard and dance from flower to flower until they settle down for a taste of the juicy nectar. That's our chance to enjoy their markings -- those spots and dots of orange, yellow and powdery blue. A rainbow of color on their wings.

You might consider it a "butterfly flutter-by!"

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Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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WE'VE BEEN WATCHING CONSTRUCTION of our neighbor's new two story house--right next door!  Excitement grows as the family anticipates moving back to their new home. The second floor framing has begun so now we can visualize how the final product will appear. The new roof appears to reach the backyard sycamore tree, so it could be appropriate to call this "the tree house."  And fortunately, our yard trees will continue to maintain mutual privacy.  Tall trees do make for good neighbors!

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Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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PERSPECTIVES can be tricky.  The same landscape seen from different viewpoints can be quite different. For instance, the rocky Sierra Buttes dominate the Pacific Rim skyline and complete this perfect alpine scene. Would the view from those craggy peaks be equally dramatic?  Let's find out...

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Of course, no reward is worthy unless you work for it, and the Buttes trail was no exception.  The route requires lots of water, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes, and fortunately there are plenty of meadows, forest groves, and inspiring viewpoints to interrupt the arduous journey.

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Colorful wildflowers nourished by the late seasonal rains lay abundantly at our feet. The paintbrush, liles, clover, flowering mustard and lush grass were abuzz with butterflies, bees, and birds.  A perfect distraction.

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We eventually came to the foot of the crags, a stone fortress that capped the very top, and prepared to ascend the magma remains that pierced the earth's surface eons ago.  For many visitors the true adventure begins here. That last climb was barren and steep, and we could definitely feel the affects of the light air at 8,500 feet.

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I didn't count the final steps but there were many, and those sturdy steel stairs made the final ascent much easier than clambering over boulders. Fortunately the lookout station was solidly anchored at the edge of the precipice so it could accommodate the several visitors that joined us as we enjoyed our lunch and the view -- which was incredible!  A great time to check my altimeter and confirm that we were in nose bleed territory.

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A pioneer registry carved in a rock dated back to the 1880's, well before the fire lookout was built (1915).  The station is now occupied only during the peak fire season due to its remote location, but a visit here any day is well worth the trip! 

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We took advantage of the clear weather to linger awhile and absorb the scene from a new vantage point -- a bird's eye view to the distant horizons. It was exciting to enjoy the lake basin from here.  A great hike for sure.

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Mountain weather can change fast so we kept an eye out for dark thunderclouds. Sierra storms develop quickly and can become dangerous to anyone on this exposed precipice, so we reluctantly headed back down to safer ground. But you must admit this "natural high" was a great place to spend a birthday!  And get a new perspective on life...

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe