Christmas stalking - Looking Back With 2020 Vision, Part I - CycleBlaze

December 25, 2019

Christmas stalking

Come rain or come shine, after ten nights in San Diego we’re finally leaving the city tomorrow and heading north.  We’re using our last day here, Christmas Day, as a holiday from the bikes since we expect to be riding most days in the coming weeks; and Rachael is using it as a bit of a holiday from me, taking off on her own for a more energetic walk than she’d get with me slowing her down.

Left to my own devices, I go off for my own walk but at a slower pace, stalking for birds if I can find any; or for whatever else catches my attention along the way.  The first thing that catches it is a bird of a different sort - a jet coming in for a landing at the San Diego airport, less than a mile to the west.  They don’t seem particularly loud at first, but once you develop an ear for them you’ll hear another arrival approaching about every five minutes, all day long.

And then, a faint rainbow appears to the north.  Now that my ear is attuned, I wait until I hear the next jet approaching and time my shot for when it crosses the street beneath its arc.  One arrives just in time, and the arc fades away a minute later.

And then, the deluge.

The end of the runway at San Diego Airport is only a half a mile from our hotel in Little Italy. Arrivals pass low overhead about every five minutes all day long.
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This was lucky. The rainbow only lasted a few minutes, just long enough for me to capture this plane passing under it. Unfortunately, rainbows normally come with rain in the vicinity.
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Suzanne GibsonYou are a true photographer, predicting and waiting for the perfect shot.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThanks, Suzanne. I think I have the birds to thank for developing a bit of a sense for anticipation. So much of the time you have to focus ahead of where you think they’re going to have any chance of getting them into the frame.
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3 weeks ago
As I was just saying. Fortunately I know what to do in this situation now. Wait five minutes in a dry place, and hope it will pass.
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I’ve mapped out a loop for myself, starting with a short walk to the hiking trail through Maple Canyon, the deep ravine that the Quince Street Bridge spans.  It looked enticing from above when we walked across this bridge, but mostly I wanted to get a view of the bridge from below.

On the short but pleasant path through Maple Canyon.
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Looking up at the First Street Bridge from Maple Canyon.
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Viewed from below, the Quince Street Bridge doesn’t inspire that much confidence. Looks like it’s missing a few struts.
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Jacquie GaudetIt's normal that not every bay is braced. I don't think anything is missing.
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekAhh, what's the worst that could happen?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekI give up. Trump gets re-elected?
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonAarrggh!
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3 weeks ago
The Quince Street Bridge again. We just saw this a few days ago, but it didn’t have these great clouds as background then.
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The trail ends when it climbs steeply out of the canyon just past the bridge.  I walk across it and continue a few short blocks to the edge of Balboa Park, where I’ll spend the remainder of my walk.  It’s a big park, plenty of green, there should be some birds.  I don’t see any at the moment though; just a lot of interesting and exotic trees.  

It would be easy to fill the whole post with tree photos, but I’ll just include this one for now.  It’s another like the one I took a photo of growing through a fence on our first pass through here.  I thought that one was dead and blown over, maybe a great old juniper; but now I see that it’s just the way this strange tree grows, sprawled low along the ground with a ropey trunk that makes you think of a worn ship’s hawser.  If I’m right, I think this is the multi-trunked Australian tea tree.

An Australian tea tree? Its trunk looks dead, but it’s very much alive.
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And then, unexpectedly, a bird of another sort entirely approaches, calling my name.  It’s Rachael!  It’s uncanny how often this seems to happen, with us crossing paths when we’re off wandering on our own.  We stop for a chat, I give her directions for the Maple Canyon trail, and we continue on our way.

I’m all set to take a photo of that yellow ginkgo tree when someone crowds in and photobombs my shot. Annoying.
Heart 6 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyI don't know .. I think the ginkgo and Rachael look quite pretty together.
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3 weeks ago

More strange trees and plants.  This part of Balboa Park, the narrow sliver west of the canyon and its regrettable freeway, is particularly interesting with a pair of short walking paths with signposts identifying exotic species.  After wandering around here for a bit, I see a bridge lower in the canyon spanning the freeway and carefully work my way down the steep slope to it.  It looks like an old or never completed overpass, and gives you a way to cross the canyon without walking south to the El Prado Bridge.  

This is the first time I’ve seen cactus growing up a tree. I didn’t know they did this.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be some species of Hylocereus.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hylocereus
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThat was my reaction too. Some of these blades were fifteen or more feet above ground.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThat, or a Selenicereus. They both look like climbers, and spectacular night bloomers.
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3 weeks ago
Another surprise: I didn’t know that the blue gum is a flowering tree. I’ve never seen it in the right season before apparently.
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Another new one to me.
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At the tumbleweed racetrack.
Heart 4 Comment 5
Jen GrumbyCan't you just hear the voice of the Singing Cycling Cowboy?

"I'm a lonesome cowboy, riding all day long ... See them tumbling down ... (something, something) .. tumbling tumbleweed!"
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThe Singing Cyclign Cowboy! It’s been far too long since we’ve heard his dulcet tones in these parts.
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3 weeks ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonOw-ow-ooooo!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownVery nice, Andrea, but I don’t think Ron is at any risk. We all know who the real Singing Cycling Cowboy is.
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonThanks. I appreciate all tributes to my art.
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3 weeks ago

From a distance this looks like an attractive crossing; but it isn’t really.  At the other side you’re buried deep in a ravine walking along Richmond Street, cut off from the park by steep slopes on both sides with fences running along the top.  To the south is the boundary of the San Diego Zoo, so you really can’t access the park from this direction without walking around its northern perimeter.  

And, down near the freeway, it’s loud.  If there are any birds around I can’t hear them, unless there’s an occasional thunderbird or skylark passing below.

The Richmond Street overpass gives you an option for crossing the freeway, but not a particularly pleasant one.
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An interesting take on the school’s namesake, at Roosevelt International Middle School.
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Finally I’m back in the heat of the park again, walking through the monumental buildings from the Panama-California Exposition once more.  It’s all worth a second look, and a third and fourth if we come back here again; and I’d love to go inside the Botannical Museum, one of the largest lath structures in the world; or to see it across the reflecting pond after dark; or to explore the Museum of Photographic Arts.  There are definitely reasons to return to San Diego some winter.

Today, Christmas Day, all of the exhibition halls are closed.  It’s beautiful out right now though and the place is alive with people just wandering around and enjoying the ambience and unexpectedly fine weather.  Out front of the Botannical Building, a street musician playing classical guitar adds just the right accent.

The Spanish Village Art Center, Balboa Park
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An olla, Casa Del Prado
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Covered walkway, Casa del Prado
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The Botanical Building, one of the largest lath structures in the world.
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The Botannical Building
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The Botannical Building
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The Botannical Building
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Finally, after crossing the El Prado Bridge on my way back to our hotel, I find what I’ve come for.  There are more of these remarkable tea trees sprawled along the ground beside the road, and they appear to be bird magnets.  There’s not much green to them, but it must be intoxicating.  Warblers zip in, pick a perch, and then zip off again maddeningly quickly - they’re still just long enough for you to focus on them, then they’re off again.  

Amazingly, a black-chinned hummingbird alights at the top of a low-crowned tree and just sits still for about two minutes.  Long enough for me to get several shots of him and then move to a different spot with fewer branches blocking my view.  And then, for just a second he looks my way, the sun catches his neck and it shockingly flashes magenta - it’s not really black after all - and then he’s gone.  I won’t know if I captured this until I get back to the room and unload the camera.  A nice Christmas gift.  Santa’s been good to me this year.

This is such an amazing tree. I’ve never seen one grow like this, gnarled and sprawled across the ground.
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An Australian tea tree?
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Two takes on a Black-chinned Hummingbird. Same bird, same perch, two minutes apart but from a different angle. Light is everything, isn’t it? Amazing that it sat still for me for so long.
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Jen GrumbyThat's my kind of Christmas gift!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThis was pretty special alright. It was a pretty great day already, and then this.
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3 weeks ago
Andrea BrownThese guys summered up in Montana, so delightful.
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3 weeks ago
The top bird is a Townsend’s Warbler, I think, but I’m hardly a warbler expert. What about the lower one though, seen soon after at the same spot? A female Audubon’s Warbler?
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Bill ShaneyfeltFrom what I have been able to find, I think you might be correct. But like you, I am no expert... Well, I am not even familiar with warblers for that matter.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Townsends_Warbler/id

https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/audubons-yellow-rumped-warbler-bull-setophaga-coronata-auduboni.html
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI don’t know them well either. We don’t have all that many of them in the northwest, and they’re so small and elusive. Pretty lucky to catch two of them together like this.
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3 weeks ago
A bit of Christmas cheer.
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Comment on this entry Comment 5
Bob DistelbergAll in all, it sounds like a pretty nice way to spend Christmas Day.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob DistelbergAnd I didn’t even mention the Italian dinner we enjoyed at the end of it. Pretty much a perfect day.
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekThat's my kinda Christmas!
We had a picnic in Balboa Park near the reflection pond last year, and were the source great amusement and curiosity to a large group of Asian tourists, who stopped and took photos and the funny people sitting in the grass eating sandwiches. I realized they probably recognized me as The Singing Cycling Cowboy, so I jumped to my feet and offered to sign autographs and take selfies with them. But, for some reason they screamed and ran toward their bus. I chased them for a mile or so, singing Goodbye Old Paint at the top of my lungs.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekThat explains the No Cowboys sign then. I was a bit taken aback by it, but it makes perfect sense now.
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3 weeks ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonI leave evidence of my visits wherever I go.
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3 weeks ago