Sunday, April 26, 2015


I posted this extraordinary story a few years ago but think of it often and thought I should repost.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's a chick!

Yesterday was for the birds. Quick pack and turnaround, ready to hit the road again. When I left the valley in the morning I noticed that we had a new resident, a baby red tailed hawk.

I left work early and went back to the hawk nest with the long lens, just back from the shop. Still, unfortunately, not long enough.

The mother was gone but I noticed the father hanging around, now missing a feather. A vulture swooped too close to the nest and daddy shooed it off.

I was talking to the neighbors later and Steph asked me if there might not be two, last year we only saw one as well in the beginning. Looking at the photos this morning, she was right. Two maybe three eyass, or hawk babies.

I am glad that there are multiple babies. Always more fun growing up when you have somebody to play with.

I plan on renting a 600mm upon my return and getting better pictures of these little guys this year. I want to try out the Tamron 150-600 and the Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm anyway and this will give me an excuse. Will keep you posted.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u

Jerry Santos

The Spades

Last Roundup

I am busy, a bit scattered, largely unable to write. I did want to take note of a couple things before they completely fall away from memory.

My favorite moment of the year involved one Dr. Patrick Moore, the gadfly, climate change denier and apologist for Roundup™ who said that the stuff was actually so safe that you could drink it. At which point, the interviewer said, "Well drink it"and the guy stormed off, saying that he wasn't an idiot...

I just read an interview with Roger Ailes that was pretty good. I loathe Fox News but the piece does humanize and flesh him out a bit. I hate Fox News the same way I hate MSNBC. Both news organizations serve a population too ignorant to sort the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions.

I am so glad that I was brought up in the age of newscasters like Huntley/Brinkley, Cronkite and Sevareid. Journalists that mostly called things right down the middle.

Now we merely pick the news source that most easily reinforces our saintly preconceptions and the other side are of course damnable and evil. The days of the middle of the road tableau, e.g. Newsweek and Time are over, have no place in the brave new world, now supplanted by slanted rags like Townhall and the Daily Kos. I, for one, think it is a shame.

Sort of funny that master tactician and West Point graduate Mike Krzyzewski is challenging Barack Obama's strategy and tactics in dealing with terrorism. Coach K, an Army Captain, said Obama's statement about not putting boots on the ground against ISIS was a bad strategy in a game theory sense.
“I know it’s upsetting to many of you when you hear ‘no boots on the ground.’ It upsets me too, because that’s like saying I’m not going to play two of my best players,” he said in his speech accepting the 2014 George Catlett Marshall Award, AUSA’s highest honor. “Because that’s what you are trained to do. And for decades and decades, the fact that we are a free country and we don’t play home games here is a result of having boots on the ground. That’s the problem.”
After a round of applause, Krzyzewski explained why Obama’s public announcement that he won’t use ground troops against ISIS was just bad coaching – because it allows the other team to stop preparing for it and gives them added confidence.
“It’s about letting your opponent know we are going to use our best players. And whether we use them or not, that’s up to the coach. You never tell your opponent you are not going to use [them], like I’m not going to play Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, -Christian] Laettner,” he said, rattling off the names of some of his biggest stars at Duke.
The former Olympic coach then turned the metaphor to international play, comparing Obama’s words to saying, “‘Hey Spain, I’m not going to start Lebron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] tonight.’ I don’t think you do that. Now how much I play them? Let the guy try to figure out how much I’m going to play them.”
Hard to argue with the coach.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Soul Kitchen

More feathered friends

I have this strange affinity for blue herons, don't ask me why. I hadn't yet looked at all of my shots from Santee Lakes, missed a few of these and they aren't all bad.

This of course is Buddy, a resident of East County, orphaned last year when his father Billy was strangled in left over fishing line that a careless person had probably discarded on the shore.

If you look closely, Buddy is now dragging his own bundle of monofilament. What a shame.

Take care, Buddy!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Watch this space

I'm driving home on our high and narrow, dusty and bumpy, canyon road and I stop at the red tailed hawk's nest in the tall sycamore yesterday afternoon.

Expectant mama is sitting on her clutch, nothing much is happening, no baby heads pop up or anything and next thing I know she swoops, takes off out of the nest.

I snap a few shots, miss her while panning but after a second to adjust I see that she has landed on a telephone pole nearby with something in her sharp talons.

I have the 70-300mm nikkor zoom on my Nikon D7200, the longest lens in the quiver at present while the 50-500mm Bigma is in the shop. It had better be up to the job.

I think that it is a rabbit or squirrel, normal meals that I often see these raptors eat but it's a sort of weird shape. Oh shit, she has a huge snake. She has the head pinned with a talon and she is eating it alive while it coils up and changes shape.

At first I think its a rattlesnake but later realize it isn't when I start processing the pictures this morning. You will have to forgive me, I was an approximate football field away.

I was shooting on a monopod, moving very quietly, very carefully and cautiously and taking it all in.

Of course the mother is now used to me, I have been taking her picture daily for over two months and I am no longer a major threat.

Been shooting a combination of RAW and jpeg fine while I wait for Adobe to catch up with Nikon.

The RAW images should be much better and I will be able to hopefully fix a few minor errors after the NEF processing.

Extraordinary. never seen anything like it. Eating huge strips of live snake flesh. Mama hawk is ripping this poor snake to shreds.

I take pictures from several angles, walk right under the pole and continue to shoot for what I estimate is over 45 minutes.

I am bracketing and changing crop modes as well as iso, taking my time and trying to get it right. At some point the snake loses its head.

Not sure how sharp this particular lens is at the distance, not a professional piece of glass, we will see.

The experience was amazing, you could hear the snake bang repeatedly against the crossbeam from 100 yards away.

I think she is going to fly away with it but I don't get to see that this time. I love seeing birds flying with snakes and it has been a while. Feel like I am trapped in the Mexican flag when that happens.

Out of the corner of my eye I see that we now have a visitor. Another hawk shows up out of nowhere.

The new bird seizes the snake, mother gets pissed and puts on a large wing display in order to intimidate the intruder.

They get into a little tangle and the interloper ultimately backs off. Mother takes possession. Hawk number two soon flies into the safety of a nearby tree.

Mother chases it out of the area. "And stay out."
Don't mess with a mother to be.

I shot a whole card worth of pictures, had to dump some to make room for more shots. Got the new hawk flying, very excited to see how these shots turn out.

I watched as mother sailed back to her eggs, very pleased with myself and ready to pack it up, a rather amazing afternoon of photography and witnessing animal behavior.

About fifty yards further there is a very mature but diminutive rattler in the middle of the road. all very cool. I took a lot of pictures yesterday, many that I am very happy with. So many that it is hard to figure out which ones to post.

You Don't Miss Your Water

Gene Clark - I'm Your Toy


I keep finding more pictures. Many readers probably don't know that I have lived on one ranch or another for the last 35 years. This is a very special horse to me, my late arabian gelding Jasper. I bought Jasper at an auction as a yearling and raised him for 27 years. He bolted free across the back of the auction hall and people were scared that he was a nutcase and I picked him up at the time for a song. He was a nutcase but that was okay, I was too.

Galan led by Margaret Rich
Abu Farwa at the Kellogg Ranch
Jasper was from Green Acres Arabians in Temecula, the son of their stud Galan and grandson of the great Polish arab sire Abu Farwa who was much acclaimed and won a lot of horse races in Europe.

Out of the Crabbet line, Jasper was a chestnut and had a great butt, a quarter horse behind on an arab and a very beautiful head. Very intelligent. Too intelligent and he could hold a grudge for years.

Buzz on Darius
I had Jasper's brother Darius for a while, a gray and we would take some serious trail rides. These horses don't start getting started until about the seven mile mark and there were few that could keep up with these particular equines in terms of endurance.

He died from colic, sand and stones in the gut. Liked to pull his hay out of the feeder and eat it on the ground. What are you going to do?

Jasper was broke and trained by an old Minnesotan in Valley Center named Hugo Mueller. Sort of a Monte Foreman devotee. Old school, the original horse whisperer. The horse threw me once and Hugo angrily said he never wanted to see that happen again. It didn't, although he once landed on my calf crossing a creek in Elfin Forest, blew up like a watermelon.

The saddle was made by the late Gary McClintock, a legend in these parts. Very lightweight, 14 lb. Visalia stock saddle style, high cantle, suede seat. My dad was an amateur leather smith as a young man and helped me and Gary design the zuni pattern on the saddle. It was gorgeous, sold it to my ex wife when I was broke. Stupidest thing I ever did.

I favored an english bridle. Used a double twisted wire bit at first to get his attention, reduced to a egg butt or d ring snaffle when things got cool. Used to be able to ride all over out here. Places people would never dream of today.

He was a good horse, too smart but a good horse. Liked to get scratched behind his ears. A wonderful canter and gallup. Fingertip, you couldn't see anything move when it was all working. But you have to ride several days a week for that kind of relationship and if you have to go back to work, everything goes to hell and they become expensive lawn furniture.

Jasper, he was a good horse. I miss blowing into his nose, I miss his smell. Sucks not having a horse.

Safari Man

It is hard for me to think of my late father and not to reminisce about the incredible trip we took to Africa together with our wives, a trip of a lifetime for me. The only time I ever really went first class all the way.

After all of this time and even with my good memory, certain parts and events are blurry. But there are also images that are still so fresh in my mind they could have happened yesterday and I would like to recount and expand a bit, with your permission and forbearance of course.

I must tell you that the great majority of my photographs from the trip are missing at this point but there are a few still extant that will help me paint a crude picture. Honestly, I can't find many of the very best pictures I have ever taken, which were shot during this trip, and it grieves me a little.

The year was 1989. We had just completed a very large subdivision that we had built as a partnership, a very successful one I might add. It was time to celebrate.

We flew into Nairobi and soon made our way to the Serengeti. If you go to visit nature in the wild one should not be squeamish. We saw many kills, some quite gruesome.

We watched hyenas chase thousands of wildebeest. Hyenas, an unfortunate one of god's creations with the highest mandibular jaw locking strength in the world per square inch but offset by a chronically failing back end and dysplasia.

We saw so much in Africa, lions, cheetah, fierce cape buffalo, herds of zebra beyond count. Drove all over Kenya and finally made our way to Treetops, Lord Baden Powell's treehouse overlooking a watering hole in the Aberdare National Forest. I can honestly say that the night at Treetops counts as one of the most incredible nights of my life, a parade of animals came to drink hourly, elephants and buffalo, countless others.

We were led to the five story primitive facility by a man with a 508 caliber rifle, the largest cartridge I have ever seen. It seems that a year before a lion had picked off the last guy in line, who coincidentally on this trip, happened to be me!

I was wrapped in a blanket, shivering, and stared at the cavalcade of animal guests in amazement through an oblong stone "flintstones" style window. Stayed up all night.

I believe that I was shooting Konica 3200 speed high speed film in near total darkness with my Konica FT -2 electronic camera. Really didn't have much of a clue what I was doing, as you can see.

It was an absolutely unbelievable night. The next day I made a significant error in judgement, one that ostracized the rest of the tour to some degree from then on. We hired a guide in an open jeep to drive us around the Serengeti and decided to bring a bunch of children along, we being my wife at the time, Diann and I.

The jeep had a canvas top and as luck would have it, it started to rain. And the jeep got stuck. In a mud hole in the middle of the largest lion pride I have ever seen, I remember counting 28 lions lounging around laughing at our predicament. And there was only thing I could do at the time and that was to step out of the jeep with the driver and push.

By this time the parents of our young wards had become worried about their progeny and rented their own jeep to come find us. I will never forget the wide looks on their faces watching me get out of the jeep and push it out of the mudhole while surrounded by this army of wild felines. I summoned up a lot of adrenaline and we were on our way.

People count themselves lucky if they see two or three of Africa's big five, we saw all five animals. We once saw a leopard drag a zebra up a tree, an unbelievable feat when you consider the leopard's relatively small size. We saw maribou storks and tufted eagles. gerunuks and ostrich. Nearly charged by an overprotective Elephant mother. Hippos beyond count. Lucky enough to catch some rhino as well.

Our favorite spot was Samburu in the north, the place that makes you feel like you are in a Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan set it is so lush. Sat a few feet away from a giant croc, who lay motionless until another croc came down the river and what ensued was the most ferocious battle I have ever witnessed, like two primordial dinosaurs going at it.

One of the cool things we did was take a hot air balloon, I believe from Serengeti to Masai Mara. We landed in a field of zebra and wildebeest and enjoyed a sumptuous brunch while the scout teams raced out to find us. I have often wondered what I would have done if something had jumped out of the bushes. Beyond crap myself.

Masai Mara was a wonderful place. We had a small hut out on the fringe with a plate glass sliding door. That night we were woken up by a quiet voice saying leopard. A leopard had scurried through our camp and was now engorging himself on a gazelle or impala that had been hung from a tree as bait.

In the morning our green front lawn was covered with zebras. I was startled to find out that a few months back, the tenant of my room had a lion crash through the glass door chasing a zebra. The terrified man hid in the bathroom while the lion had a leisurely breakfast in his bed.

Tanzania was a difficult trek in those days, a rich and verdant country beset with a corrupt communist government. The five hours to the crater were on the worst and bumpiest road I have ever traveled and I have traveled many. But the trip was wonderful as was the trip to Olduvai.

I think that I am done remembering for the day. There are many more experiences but no time to recount. I hope that I can return to Africa with Leslie one day.