Monday, March 20, 2017

Brown Buds.

3-20-17 SHORT HILLS: It got up to about fifty today, but with the wind, it still felt cold. The snow cover is slowly dwindling. The birds continue to mob the feeders.

I got a close look at some of the shrubs today and saw a lot of dead, brown buds. Some were flower buds, and some were leaf buds. The frozen flowers will not regenerate this season, but the plants will make new leaves.

However all the energy and material that went into the early leaf development, because of the early, extended warm spell, will be lost to the plants. Some of the ends of the branches may also have died from the cold. If there are no further traumas, most of the shrubs will survive. Marginal plants may have been too traumatized to recover. More extensive damage may yet appear.

The Vernal Equinox occurred early this morning in our time zone, marking the sun’s crossing of the Equator and the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Now is when it should be warming up, not in February. Blame climate change—it has happened and will be getting worse in spite of the deniers.


Quince. The round buds are flowers and will probably open with minor damage. The brown buds on the upper side of the branch are leaves that are dead. The shrub will grow new ones, but that will eat into its energy reserves.

Forsythia. The brown buds were flowers, now dead.

Viburnum. The leaf on the right may be OK, the shrub will likely survive.

Hydrangea. These leaf buds are probably dead as is most of the branch.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More birds.

3-18-17 SHORT HILLS: We’re back after an uneventful red-eye flight Wednesday night. We picked up the dogs at the kennel in snow and ice covered NJ. After filling the feeders and winding the clocks, I caught up on sleep.

There’s a lot of snow here, about a foot at first, but less each day that is above 32°. The snow cover always looks the same from day to day until it gets down to the last few inches, and then bare areas appear in the sunniest spots. Today we are receiving a rain/snow mix. After April in February, we have January in March.

The birds are hitting the feeders with a vengeance. I have been refilling them every day. Speaking of birds, I have more pix from Los Gatos and a hike that Judy and I did with Siobhan and Pam last Monday. We hiked along Los Gatos creek, which is still carrying high volume. We could see that the creek banks had been swept clean by the previous torrent when the L G reservoir spillway was open. There were a few trees that had been taken down. We walked up to the reservoir and saw a few minor mudslides in the canyon from the days of heavy rain.


NJ cardinal has puffed up his feathery coat to stay warm.

California scrub jay from the back...

And front. This bird has vivid color.

At the L G reservoir, behind the Canada geese is an American coot, looks like a duck, swims like a duck, but is not a duck.

Another blue heron, this one in Los Gatos creek.

Mallards in L G creek.

Stellar's jay.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Point Lobos.

3-15-17 LOS GATOS, CA: Yesterday Judy, Pam and I went south to Point Lobos State Park in Carmel and walked around the coastal cliffs. At the first place that we stopped the rock of the shoreline was conglomerate, a sedimentary rock, filled with boulders, cobles and pebbles mostly well rounded by the river that flowed into the ocean here during the Pleistocene Epoch. The conglomerate is part of the delta left by that river. Some sandstone strata are exposed that were deposited seaward of the conglomerate.

On land there were a lot of Monterey pines, seaside shrubs mixed in with a lot of poison oak, and a variety of wildflowers. There was a fog bank a mile offshore that looked like a wall. It was slight foggy onshore when we arrived, and then the fog moved in and condensed on my glasses and camera lens before retreating. We saw gulls and cormorants and harbor seals in the surf and on the rocks when the fog lifted.

The site is beautiful anywhere you look. Judy and I were here once before, in the early 1990’s, and we’ve always wanted to go back. It’s still in pristine condition in spite of huge crowds everyday. There were eight cars in line in front of us to pay the modest entry fee, and it was hard to find a parking spot in the park.

We went to a second site to see the igneous rock, which dates from the Cretaceous Period. The Monterey cypress seem to prefer this area. This cove is more sheltered from the surf, and we saw other water birds including a great egret, pairs of mallards and Canada geese and a great blue heron on a treetop. There were more harbor seals and, wait for it, sea otters.


Sea Otter lolling in the kelp.

The conglomerate rock part of the shore line. You can see the clear water and the rocks eroded out of the conglomerate formation.

The granite, actually grandiorite, part of the park topped by Monterey cypress. It's partly hidden by the fog that moved onshore and then back to sea.

Pelagic cormorant on weathered igneous rocks.

Great egret working the kelp bed about 30 feet off the beach.

Harbor seal awaken by the incoming tide.

Great blue heron on a treetop. Advertising for a companion?

That heron surrounded by cypress and fog.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Raptors and Strings.

3-13-17 LOS GATOS, CA: Jon and Siobhan live part way up a mountain a bit west of downtown Los Gatos. They have great views, and a lot of raptors drift by during the day, and small birds flit around through the oak, bay and eucalyptus trees that surround the house. I managed to catch a couple pix over the last few days.

This morning Judy, Pam, Siobhan’s mom, and I hiked upwards from the house and saw a raptor land in a nearby tree and pose for a few pix.

 Tonight was the big concert. Eoin is in the Senior section of the San José Youth Chamber Orchestra. All the divisions of the SJYCO, played at the Trianon in downtown San José. The music was from Telemann and Bach, through Haydn, Schubert, Wagner, Bizet, Ralph Vaughan Williams to John Williams.


Coopers Hawk, I believe, anyone?

Another view of putative Coopers hawk.

Red-shouldered hawk??

Turkey vulture??

Fellow hiker.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

San José Youth Chamber Orchestra - Senior group on stage at the Trianon.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

California in March.

3-12-17 LOS GATOS, CA: We left from EWR in light snow that had stopped before we boarded the plane. The cautions about flight cancellations from United were ultimately unnecessary.

California is as green as it can be after all the rain. Jon and Siobhan’s place is covered with wild flowers and the planted flowers. Deciduous trees are leafing out. It’s 70 in the afternoon and 50 at night. We are at the Los Gatos Hotel whose gardens are also in bloom. The town is as spic and span as always.

The big blizzard due on Tuesday has caused us to reschedule our flight home and reschedule the rental car return, our hotel stay, the dog pick-up in NJ and appointments scheduled for our planned return. We’ll figure out some activity to fill the extra Cal day and a half.


First rose of the season.

Vinca major, big brother of V. minor that I showed on the blog a few weeks ago. The flower and leaves are very similar, only bigger.

Siobhan entry garden.

California has greened up after all the rain.

Green and flowery.

Lemon tree with ripe and green fruit and flower buds.

What NJ looked like when we left.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Spring Today, Winter Tomorrow.

3-9-17 SHORT HILLS: We are supposed to fly to Los Gatos, CA tomorrow to see the West Coasters and hear Eoin’s concert, but the incoming snowstorm makes our departure iffy. We have boarding passes, and our bags are packed, but we’re worried about getting out. Actually one of us is much more worried than the other. And, coming back to Tuesday might have us in another storm.

Today was warm and windy. I was outside doing more pruning and trimming, yesterday also, and put granular lime on the grass and forsythia and lilacs, all of whom like things a bit on the alkaline side of neutral pH. I also fertilized all the spring bulbs that are showing shoots or flowers.

New blooms: snowflakes, more crocuses.


A lot like snowdrops, but with some extra frills.

White crocus.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mozart, Neptune and Levine.

3-7-17 SHORT HILLS: Today has been rainy, on and off, and warmer, reaching about sixty this afternoon. Yesterday started the warm up, but it’s forecast to be cold again over the weekend.

We heard Mozart’s opera Idomeneo at the Met yesterday. Our evening started with dinner at Café Fiorello with my Aunt Jean. Last night’s performance was the season premiere for this production. It got a rave review on operawire.com. The usual, improbable plot includes the ever-popular love triangle between Ilia, a Trojan princess/slave, Idamante, the son of the Cretan king Idomeneo, and Elettra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and brother of Orestes, all expats from a different myth.

Idomeneo, returning from the Trojan War, when caught in a tempest, makes a rash and hasty prayer to Neptune, promising to sacrifice the first man he sees if he gets safely back to Crete. He does, and of course, that first man is his son Idamante. His failure to fulfill the vow to Neptune brings devastation to Crete in the form of a sea monster that eats many people.

Well, no more spoilers—you’ll just have to hear it. It might be available as a telecast. Matthew Polenzani is commanding as Idomeneo. Soprano Alice Coote plays Idamante in a trouser role. James Levine conducted and got much, much applause before each act. The young and beautiful Nadine Sierra sang the part of Ilia and opens the opera with a long solo. What may have been the hit of the evening was Elza van den Heever as Elettra in her mad scene.


Idomeneo, Neptune, menacing and harassing the populace of Crete, acting just like a bullying deity. Some things never change.

The Met and the fountain at Lincoln Center Plaza. It always looks so inviting.