Views from the valley floor

Here are a collection of photos taken from the floor of Yosemite Valley. All of these shots were taken just a short distance from one of the roads in the valley. Easy views to get.

First up is a shot of El Capitan. Tammy and I ate lunch next to Merced River one day, and this was our view. The next photo after this is with my long lens, zoomed in on climbers on the rock face. They are completely invisible unless you look through something with magnification.

El Capitan

Climbers on El Capitan

This is a sideways view of Yosemite Falls, the water falling away from the rock face as it crosses the brink.

Sideways View of Yosemite Falls

A short trail to a bridge over the Merced River takes you past this meadow. The next shot is from that bridge, looking downstream.

Valley Floor

Merced River

I decided that this last photo looked better as a black and white. Maybe I was inspired by Ansel.

Rock Face

A Collection of Critters

A short and sweet post that addresses two concerns: I haven't posted in two weeks, and I have a small collection of animal photos from Yosemite National Park that I want to share.

First up, Western Fence Lizard, found next to the trail up to Inspiration Point.

Western Fence Lizard

The next two were both found along the trail to Sentinel Dome. First Mountain Chickadee in the shadows, and then Yellow-rumped Warbler in the sun,

Mountain Chickadee

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The last two are of a Yellow-bellied Marmot, found at Olmsted Point, who was just as curious about me as I was of it.

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yosemite Falls

When you visit Yosemite Valley, you really can't help but see Yosemite Falls. But you really ought to take the time to take the walk up to the lower falls - it is just too easy of a walk. On the other hand, if you are up for a real challenge (which we weren't :-), you can take a trail to the very top of the upper falls.

Here are a few photos of the short easy walk to the base of the lower falls. The path through the grove of trees, the distant view of both the upper and lower falls, and a pair of views of the lower falls.


Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

I Do

As mentioned a couple posts back, this trip to Yosemite was a vacation with a purpose. Tammy and I decided to tie the knot, and we elected to have our ceremony in the park. It was just me, her and the minister. Oh...and the view as well.

We did not have an official photographer. The minister agreed to take a few photos after the ceremony, to capture us in our wedding attire and the view. I still chuckle when I see our functional foot wear.



Mist Trail

On Monday Tammy and I hiked Mist Trail. The loop we hiked was about 5 miles total distance (I think), the first half of which follows the Merced River up to Vernal Falls. The Merced River is full from snow melt, so it is a raging torrent.

Merced River

In the distance, we would occasionally catch a glimpse of some distant waterfall, whose water would eventually join the Merced River.

Distant Waterfall

When we finally caught a glimpse of Vernal Falls, we felt like we were nearing the end of our hike. We were wrong - the adventure was just getting started.

Looking Towards Vernal Falls

As you approach Vernal Falls on Mist Trail, the trail turns into a staircase - steps carved out of granite. And the trail name comes from the fact that you will get a shower on the way up from all the mist. We wore raincoats to keep ourselves and our cameras dry.

Mist Trail near Vernal Falls

Mist Trail near Vernal Falls

Near the very top, you get a nice sideways view of the falls.

Vernal Falls

And then you get to conquer the last few steps. Heights stress me out, so my trip up the mist drenched granite steps to this point was mostly staring at the steps in front of me, and putting one foot in front of the other. I would occasionally stop to check on Tammy, convince myself yet again that I was not going to slip over the edge, catch my breath, and then resume the trek up. The last few steps to the top required a little extra mental preparation. Here is a photo looking back on those steps.

The Last Few Steps

Here is a view from the top, showing the raging river, and distant section of the trail. If you look closely at the top of this next photo, you will see an even more distant portion of the trail, where it crosses the river via a bridge.

Looking Back from Vernal Falls

Beyond Vernal Falls, the trail continues up towards another set of falls - Nevada Falls. We took another trail that led us back to the valley floor (different from the route up) instead of climbing all the way to the top of Nevada Falls, but got a couple good views of those falls. And then one last look back towards Yosemite Valley before we descended.

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

Looking Towards Yosemite Valley

Sentinel Dome

A mere four weeks after my trip to Corpus Christi, I am on yet another trip. This trip is to Yosemite National Park, and is a week's vacation wrapped around a very important occasion: a marriage ceremony. To be more specific: last fall, Tammy and I decided to tie the knot, and we thought it would be cool to get married in Yosemite. We officially get married on Wednesday, but in the mean time, we are both really enjoying the astounding vistas that are to be found here.

One of the first places we decided to visit within the park is Sentinel Dome. A short trail gets you on top of what is literally a dome shaped chunk of rock, 8122 feet above sea level, with 360 degree views all around. You can peer down into Yosemite valley and see famous Yosemite sights such as El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. My fear of heights kept me from the edge (and the associated very long drop), but even from the "center" of the dome, there was no really shortage of photos to be taken. Here are a few from the bunch.

First, here are a couple of photos of distant Yosemite falls. They were on the other side of the valley, and you could still hear their dull roar.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

This view includes El Capitan - the large vertical face of rock on the right.

El Capitan

The final view shows snow capped mountains in the distance, and Half Dome in the foreground (towards the right).

View from Sentinel Dome

Least Grebe

Over the past couple of weeks I have been slowly working my way through all of the photos that I took in Corpus Christi. I took just over 2000 photos on that trip, but based on past experience, most of those will never see the light of a public Flickr page or blog post. The process I follow, however, is slowly starting to generate public photos. Kind of like making coffee...the happy results are starting to drip through the filter.

Strangely, I have not taken a linear approach when considering all the pictures I took. Instead, it appears that I am taking a path of least resistance. I took pictures of a Reddish Egret on multiple days, so there are a lot more candidate photos to consider, and those will come out later. The Least Grebe, however, was in my sights only for a brief time on just one day. Consequently, there are proportionately fewer photos of the Least Grebe, and public worthy pair of photos are effectively the first drops of goodness to fall through my filter.

Least Grebe was a life bird for me. And they are cute beyond measure. Tiny, energetic, noisy things, they were pairing up in anticipation of nesting and all things spring. There must have been a dozen pairs at the fantastic Pollywog Ponds (CTC77 on the Corpus Christi Bay Loop of the Central Texas Coast Wildlife Trail). The morning light was dim, and they were actively diving for food, but I still managed to get these two shots from a not-very-short distance, shooting through the tall grass that lined the edge of the ponds.

Least Grebe

Least Grebe

Close Encounters of the Critter Kind

I came home from work today as usual - the end of the work week, thinking about plans for this weekend. I entered the house with the day's mail in one hand, and my backpack in the other, said hello to the cat waiting just inside, and proceeded into my kitchen. The mail had just been placed onto my kitchen table when I noticed something odd. There was definitely something different, and it only took me a few seconds to realize that I was the victim of a crime: breaking and entering.

My kitchen table is right next to a pair of windows, and while the windows were locked, they were also open a couple of inches. My windows have tabs you can extend on the inside that will prevent them from being opened any more than those few inches, and there is a screen on the outside to keep insects out. I stepped outside to inspect the screen, and found clear evidence of forced entry.

Breaking and Entering

I also noted that the screen was folded towards the interior of the house. Something went through the screen, from outside to inside. Did it exit the same way?

Inside the house, the evidence mounted. On my kitchen table is a fruit bowl, with an apple and two bananas. Tempting fare, it appears, because one of the bananas was showing obvious signs of tampering.

Scene of the Crime

This is where the trail went cold. I poked around the house a bit, looking for more evidence, but found none. The cat was his typical dopey self, following me about as if he was waiting for me to settle down into some pose suitable for him to use as a bed. Or maybe, now that I think about it, he was gloating. To us humans, dopey cats look the same as gloating cats, so I will never really know.

With the thought that the perpetrator might still be lurking somewhere, I set about to clean things up. Fast forward about an hour, and Tammy has arrived. She is on the couch in front of the TV, and I am in the kitchen, when I hear her say (with a slightly worried tone) "Um...Todd? The cat just looked under the TV stand in a weird way."

I crouched down and looked under the TV is dark under there...gads, look at the cat hair...need to vacuum...whoa, something moved! I had found my critter criminal - an Eastern Gray Squirrel. Tammy and I quickly put a plan in action: remove one cat, add two large pieces of fabric, mix in one wide open front door, and then let the hunt begin. Just a bit of coaxing later, the criminal bolted from under the TV stand, running away from my large piece of fabric, veering right to avoid Tammy's large piece of fabric, skidding across the tile in front of the door, and leaping to freedom.

Here is a photo, hastily taken after the successful hunt, to give you an idea of the setup. Tammy seems to be enjoying herself.

The Getaway


When I attend ABA events, I get to bird with people who far surpass my birding skills. These are opportunities for me to learn even more about one of my favorite hobbies, and I happily take advantage of them. I make plenty of mistakes with bird identification, so hearing others explain identifications is a great way to reduce the number of times where I jump to the wrong conclusion, or am just not sure.

One thing, however, that I learned early on was that I was absolutely not going to be able to identify every bird I saw or heard. In fact, resisting the urge to identify and move on, keeps me learning and keeps me out of "trouble". Picking up a camera and learning how to use it while birding reinforces that discipline. Now, when I am not sure about a bird, I try to take photographs of it so that I can attempt to identify it from the comfort of my home (where I have access to so many more resources than my little brain could ever hold). Even then, I may not be entirely sure.

Such was the case today. I was birding alone at Corpus Christi Wildlife Sanctuary (which, oddly, is not in Corpus Christi), when I encountered this vireo. I have a couple of ideas for which vireo it might be, but one of those two would be a life bird for me. I am not quite confident enough to just claim it is a species that I have never seen before (but I am really close to being that confident). Since I had my camera, here are a couple of pictures. Neither show the complete bird, but I think they show enough for an identification (says I sit on the fence avoiding a decision). If you have an opinion, share it. Maybe I will get a life bird out of this.

Update: It is a Philadelphia Vireo - a life bird for me.

Which Vireo is this?

Which Vireo is this?

A Few Odds and Ends

The 2009 ABA Convention started in earnest this evening, but I have birded on my own most of the past two days, with Port Aransas as my target. I have seen lots of good birds, and have managed to take some good photographs as well. While I will take a "serious" look at my growing collection of photos once I return, here are a few that I thought would share "as is" - only resized for posting to the blog.

First up, from a visit to Port Aransas Birding Center, is a Reddish Egret caught in "mid-dance". This species of bird is very active in its pursuit of food, holding its wings out for balance, leaping, lunging and generally taking a no-holds-barred approach. Quite different from the stealthy stalking of a Great Blue Heron.

Reddish Egret

This shot of a Painted Bunting was the best I could manage. I saw him at a tiny little gem called Paradise Pond. I went there two days in a row. The Painted Bunting dropped into this patch of foliage, and all I could see was his pretty face through that window in the leaves.

Painted Bunting

While trying to get a better shot of the Painted Bunting, I managed to discover some type of amphibian in the same foliage. Only this critter was on the opposite side of a leaf from me. I spied his body, silhouetted against the leaf, and took this photo.


ABA 209 - Corpus Christi

I am off to Corpus Christi tomorrow for a week of fun, including the 2009 ABA Convention. I hope to see a ton of birds, hopefully some new life birds, and take lots of photos.

Northern Mockingbird

A bit like the Eastern Bluebird featured in my previous post, I find myself this week looking at three photographs of Northern Mockingbird. All three photos come from trips to DGCA in the month of March, but I think they might all be of the same bird. When you drive to the visitor center parking lot, there is always a Northern Mockingbird there to greet (scold?) you. He won't let you get too close, but when he perches he sits fairly still (when compared to something like a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher).

I think my neighborhood Northern Mockingbird is nesting in a bush on the edge of my front yard. I was surprised that this post is my first to include photos of a Northern Mockingbird (if you can trust that this blog's tags are accurate...big leap, I fear). Maybe I will get an opportunity or two to snap some photos of young Mockingbirds this spring. I am already thinking of how to prepare for overly defensive parents.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Eastern Bluebird

As I reviewed the pictures I took during the month of March, I noticed several of Eastern Bluebird. The earliest fringe of spring is a good time to see them start to claim nesting locations, and to hear their soft warble of a song. Even before Tree Swallows have returned, the singing of an Eastern Bluebird tells me that warmer weather is on the way.

These three photos represent a triple delight of good timing, good focus and good subject.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Snow Day

Back at the beginning of March, a winter storm whipped through Virginia and deposited enough snow to cause things to close. Most of Virginia panics at the mere mention of snow, so even a few inches is enough to close schools, businesses and bring out the "best" drivers ever!

I stayed home on snow day and worked, but it was hard not looking outside the window at the snow. And occasionally, I would see something outside my window that was simple, yet too precious to pass up.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Red-bellied Woodpecker