Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

Was your week wet or dry?

We have had a wet and stormy week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the United States have endured worse — floods or even tornadoes. This late spring/early summer weather can be violent.

So, my mind is traveling back to last week in the dry high-altitude desert. We had cacti all around us in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Joshua trees themselves are as numerous as they are unique. This one, uniquely shaped, seemed to point toward the setting moon in the west.

Old Joshua Tree points toward the moon as it sets behind the mountains in Joshua Tree National Park, soon after sunrise in late May 2019. We were thankful for a clear day to enjoy some hiking.

Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

The (Almost) Perfect Proposal in Point Loma

The stunning coastline in Point Loma, California would be an amazing setting for a marriage proposal. That was the plan. Engagement ring in his pocket, our future son-in-law was poised to pop the question to our daughter as we took a morning walk along the coast, admiring the cliffs and the surf. It was pretty special that he waited until we, her parents, could be there to share the joy of the moment. Only problem was that we innocently messed up the plan.

I was busy taking photos. Well, that’s what I do when you take me for a walk in a beautiful natural setting like this with my Sony camera around my neck. My husband was concerned the restaurant would give away our table, and turned around to wait for our table at the Little Lion Cafe. We didn’t know about the plan!

But not to worry, Cameron had a back-up plan, and before the sun set that day, our daughter Erin had a diamond ring on her finger and a smile as big as the sun in Southern California.

Point Loma near San Diego features some amazing cliffs along its Pacific coastline, seen here in the morning light, May 18, 2019.

Born White, Turning Blue

The Little Blue Heron is born as a stark white bird, and it gradually develops those vibrant slate blue feathers as it matures. If you were not aware of that color change, you might wonder about the identity of this unique bird when you see it in the Everglades.

This juvenile Little Blue Heron shows some blue feathers coming in around the neck. The bill is taking on its blue hue as well. The white branches underline its ghostly visage in the swamp. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

Standing on one leg, the heron rests the other while silently watching the water for fish. “Little” is a relative term, as it can grow to 29″ and have a wingspan of 41 inches. It is only “little” when compared to the tall “Great Blue Heron,” that can stand 4.5 feet high.

Is Blue Your Color?

The Great Blue Heron stands out in the marsh with its blue feathers, long and sharp beak and distinct yellow eyes. I love to bike in the Everglades to get a close look at these elegant birds.

Examine the delicate neck feathers of this Great Blue Heron. The yellow eye and beak stand out with their complimentary color. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

This Great Blue Heron (below) shows his breeding plumage. The male bird wears the eye catching “dress” to attract a mate.

In profile, this Great Blue Heron shows his crown feather and delicate neck plumage. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

From Florida to Pennsylvania…

I’m delighted to spot the Red-Winged Blackbird. I learned about this beautiful bird on early morning bird tours on the Royal Poinciana Golf Club. Then, I recognized the same beautiful species in flight three times this month in Western Pennsylvania.

This red-winged blackbird sings a morning song in Naples, Florida. I have also spotted this distinctive bird near Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

Bird watching in Pennsylvania is especially challenging when the leaves are out on the trees. In the morning, you can hear numerous birds singing, but when you look for them, all you can see are hundreds of leaves in the trees.

I’m not complaining, for all this greenery is gorgeous! With the April and May showers, the lawns are as green as the west coast of Ireland and the trees are bushy with fresh green leaves. As I write today, the azaleas are in full bloom, and the rhododendron are up next. Happy Spring!