Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Odd Behavior

A mysterious birdie goes swimming and diving for foodstuffs in the McKenzie River valley’s Clear Lake, Oregon. This isn’t going to seem like particularly odd behavior for a water bird, but it is if it’s what we think this UFD is. I won’t say much so as not to give anything away. You can judge yourselves from the pictures and video.

Image shows a dark gray water bird swimming with its wings slightly raised. It has a rather short, thin beak, so we know it's not a duck.


It was just a wee silhouette on the shadier side of the lake at first, and we watched it do the typical water birdy things without knowing what it might be, other than it definitely wasn’t a duck.

Image shows the dark silhouette of the water bird. It has jumped up on a log that crosses the lake there, and it walking about amongst the vegetation growing on the old wood.


Now we could see its shape a bit better, but keep in mind, it was pretty far off and we didn’t have the same zoomed-in view this photo has.

The water bird, still in silhouette, has a foot up and is plucking a bit of something from it.


It seems to be plucking a bit of plant from between its toes, there.

The water bird is now walking along the log.


In the above photo, we can now clearly see it hasn’t got webbed feet, but looks to have distinct, narrow little toeses. Rather odd for a paddling bird, innit? Yet when you watch the video, you’ll see it swimming and diving like a pro.

The bird is perched on one end of the log, looking in to the gap where the log has rotted away and water is flowing.


Finally, it’s moved to a sunnier area, and we can see it’s a charcoal gray, not black. Not the most colorful bird ever, but if it’s what Lockwood and I think it is, this is a pretty exciting sighting.

The bird is leaning over the side of the log, getting ready to pluck something from the water.


You can see the feet pretty well in this shot, and it definitely looks like there’s no webbing.

I don’t really have an excuse for including this next photo. I just think it’s cute.

The bird seems to be scratching its chest with its beak.


And here you can see some faint markings on the wings, like little white stripes, possibly, but very subtle.

The water bird is in partial profile and looks like it's gazing toward the camera.


I know what this little delight looks like, and when you watch the video, it’s behavior may have you exclaiming, “Is that a -?!” much like Lockwood did. Truth is, I dunno. So it’s down to you, my darlings. Watch its feeding behavior in the video, check out the photos, and decide if it’s acting just a smidge out of character for what it is, or if we mistook it for something else that’s acting perfectly normal.


The Wit and Wisdom of Ed Brayton, Guru Edition

I will probably never stop loving this bit of dry wit aimed at people who just cannot come to grips with reality. Ed Brayton on the death of a guru, my darlings.

The richest guru in India died of a heart attack in January. Doctors have declared him dead. But his followers insist that he isn’t dead, he’s just in an incredibly deep state of meditation. So deep that he has no heartbeat or brain activity and has to be kept in a freezer.

Image shows an orange and white cat standing with its front paws clenched in front of its face and its mouth gaping. Caption says, "It's alive!!!! Alive, I tell you!!!!"

Sometimes, all you can do is point and laugh without laughing. Thank you, people who invented deadpan humor.

Guess Who’s an Ordained Minister!

Yes, indeedy. You’re looking at Minister Dana Hunter now:

Image shows me wearing a sifter (which I use as a pasta strainer, which is holy headgear), holding my Letter of Good Standing from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Minister Dana Hunter, at your service.

I’m delighted. My ordination certificate should be here in a couple of weeks, and I’ll have a proper photo with me wearing the holy pirate garments for ya.

I’ve loved the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for some time now. Gotta respect a bunch who stand up against Intelligent Design and creationist nonsense, and challenge Christian hegemony with humor and panache. So when I needed to become an ordained minister in something (so as to make our schist holy), and I discovered it was quite easy to become ordained as a Pastafarian, I didn’t hesitate. (Procrastinated, yes. I do that.)

Becoming an ordained minister means I could also look in to things like officiating at weddings, should any of you wish to have me do that. I’d be honored to do the honors, as long as your state will recognize my authoritay.

And yes, I’m still an atheist. Of course I chose a church that will respect my philosophical stance!

Fundamentals of Fungi: Fly Agaric Spectacular

This fall has been very, very kind to fungi. It’s been warmer on average most days this last October, but also good and damp. I’ve seen lots of very nice shrooms during our walks, but the fly agaric seems really enthusiastic. I don’t remember seeing ones this big in the past.

Image shows a round red fly agaric cap, with a few pale ones beginning to push through the dead oak leaves. My black-sneakered foot is in the photo for scale.

Look at the size of these things!

For reference, my feet are kinda huge. I wear a women’s size 10. Dat one big shroom.

Image shows a side view of the same fly agaric mushroom. There's a Blistex tube leaning against it, and a baby fly agaric shroom beside it.

Big shroom plus bebbe shroom.

The Blistex® tube is just under 2¾ inches. Ja. Big shroom.

Most fly agaric seem to come in red round there, but there are a few blondies. Here’s a little blonde baby shroom:

Image shows a small fly agaric mushroom with a couple of holes chewed into the cap and stem.

Young blonde fly agaric.

Those little holes something’s eaten into them makes me think of gnome homes. These are the best mushrooms for gnomic living. I think this is the formosa variation, which seem rather common around here.

Here’s a pretty awesome grown-up specimen of the classic variety, which looks like a jaunty tilted sombrero or sedge hat.

Image shows a red-orange fly agaric whose flaring conical cap is tilted on its stem. The Blistex tube is leaning against the stem for scale.

A jaunty shroom.

When you look at it from above, it kinda looks like a big pizza.

View of previous shroom from above. The peak isn't visible. There's a slash in the cap, looking like something either damaged it or that it split as it was growing.

Big shroom cap.

They’re really adorable when they’re little. They’re sorta like golfballs on thick tees, pushing up through the ground and leaf litter.

Image shows a very young shroom. The white warts are very close together, with just narrow streaks of red filling in where they're pulling apart.

Wee baby red fly agaric.

If I’m understanding the article on fly agaric correctly, these little white warts are remnants of something called a “universal veil,” which the fetal shroom is wrapped up in before it bursts out and morphs into a mushroom.

Image is a cropped version of the previous, focusing on the warts. They look sort of like little popcorn polygons, with a white fibrous fuzz clinging to the red parts around their edges.

Closeup of the warts, for your detail-viewing pleasure.

Don’t ask me why I find all these textures fascinating. I just do.

One of them had been pulled out of the ground, so I was able to have a close-up look.

Image shows me holding a fly agaric by the stem. The cap is a sphere; it hasn't opened up yet.

Cut off in the prime of its youth. Sigh.

This is what it might have become, had it not been so very rudely removed from the ground, and as long as the lawn mowers don’t come through soon.

Image shows two maturing fly agaric. They're still rounded, not having opened all the way yet.

Yes, they look like lollipops. No, you shouldn’t lick them.

And here’s a lovely little family.

Image shows one fully opened fly agaric to the right, with many others in various phases of growth in the center and left of the photo.

A sweet family of fly agaric.

Further down the way, someone else had decided to pull up a few shrooms, which gives us a great chance to see the gills.

Image shows a fully-opened fly agaric shroom lying on its cap, showing the underside with its lovely white gills. Beside it is a younger, not-opened fly agaric, showing the rounded bottom of the stem that would have been underground.

Looks like it was staged for curious folk like us, don’t it just?

I’m kind of a horrible scientist, because I can’t bear to rip them up like this. I’ve seen other people stop by to enjoy them, and don’t want to ruin their fun. Unlike the people who destroyed these. But even though a few are pulled up every year, a lot stay standing, which means that the people around here are actually considerate about their wanton destruction. Odd, that.

That’ll probably be about it for fly agaric this year. Weren’t they magnificent?

Dalek Family Robinson

Ordinarily, I roll my eyes at those “I have a spouse anna baby anna dog and and and LOOKIT MY FAMILY DAMN IT!” decals. Fair warning to friends: if you come over to show those off, be ready for my patented Southern charm-school “thaaat’s niiice” response. But I promise to squeal like an overly-excited geek if you drive over with something like this:

Image shows a set of Daleks standing for a dad, mom, and three kids. Females have a little pink bow atop their armor. K-9 stands for their dog.

Meet the Daleks

I don’t know this family, but I love them. I might even babysit their children, as long as there’s classic Doctor Who involved.

All Up in Our Bidness

B and I got together tonight to start making fun things with rocks, which will stock our future emporium (in time for holiday shopping, even!). Of course, when your factory is also your apartment, you have to contend with a certain kind of oversight.

Misha is lying on the cardboard we've set on the floor, looking toward the brushes, acrylic, and package of paint pots we've set out.

Misha is prepared to make sure we don’t fuck this up.

You’ll be happy to know that all of our work will be thoroughly inspected by our feline forewoman, beginning with the materials we use to make the rocks shiny.

Misha is still on the cardboard, sniffing the brushes in the cup.

These brushes had better be up to code, young humans.

We got quite a few rock magnets made. I’ll have photos for you once the glue’s cured. These are a bunch of different beach rocks from the Rosario Head area, some of which I can even identify. There’s a couple of ribbon chert, and a divine little serpentinite one, among others which are more difficult to pin down. All of them are quite pretty, though, hand-chosen for interesting patterns and lovely colors. We put a coat of acrylic gloss on them to make them look like they’ve just gotten wet in the waves, which brings out all the nuance. So they’ll basically look like a bit of beach freshly picked up.

We’ll be doing others, too. I’ve got some orthogneiss, and a few other interesting beach rocks (including some gorgeous little basalt cobbles), and serpentinite that’s never seen a beach, and garnet mica schist that I will probably make into holy schist as soon as I get my ordination certificate from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Holy schist magnets, people. Tell me someone’s gonna want those!

I should have the Etsy store set up soonish. We’ll have limited stock, at first, but with luck, there’ll be a good response, and it will grow. We’ll also be setting up with a place like Zazzle so we can do cards and bags and shirts, that sort of thing. If there are any particular photos you see around the site that you want made available on items, please do let me know.

And for those who are allergic to cats, I promise to keep the cat hair off of the homemade merchandise. Despite her best efforts.

Happy Leaf

My wetware is still mostly non-functional, but should be coming back online soon. I’ve been capable of actual thought for whole minutes at a time. This could increase to as much as an hour now that the 8 liters of IV fluid have mostly been processed, and I have room in my body for things like food. Wow, right? My plans for the next few days include eating, with occasional naps. If all goes well, there will be writing, as well, but no promises just yet. I may be too busy shoveling nutrition in. Happily, I can do this while reading, so I’ll have some book reviews for you soon. You’ll love the one about all the flat earth people.

In the meantime, I’ve had just enough energy and focus to start going through photos we took before I got walloped by this infection. Here’s a very happy leaf we found at St. Edwards.

Image shows a green leaf on the ground. It has holes that look like eyes and a mouth. There's a small yellow leaf on top that looks like a lock of hair.

Happy leaf.

With luck, I’ll have some really spectacular fly agaric for you soon, too. They’re popping out all over the place right now. Seems to be a good year for fungi.

Fall Fishies in a Lost and Found Spring

Just down the road a bit from Proxy Falls, there’s a meadow where people can pull in to camp. Behind that meadow is a spring, which Anne Jefferson showed us in July of 2013. Anne knows all of the best places in the McKenzie River watershed! Lockwood, B, and I went back on our last visit to the area. This time, we found more than serene and lovely water – we found fishies!

Image shows a bit of blue-green water with a log fallen over it. Fishes are swimming in the clear, shallow, still water.

Fishies in the spring I

Many many fishies!

Same view, with a few more fishies in it.

Fishies in the spring II

Are they trout? I wanna say trout. But I know very little about fish. We used to go fishing at Lake Powell, but the only fish I ever caught were the wee little sunfish that would flock to the boat, knowing I’d give them a salmon egg feast if they’d just bite the hook and tolerate me hauling them up and releasing them. I’m told fish don’t feel a lot of pain. I certainly hope that’s true. Regardless, the little dudes were never deterred, and they’d flock around me for as long as the salmon eggs held out. I think I might have caught a perch or two once, out by Glen Canyon Dam, and maybe something else as a wee youngster, but I’m obviously not an inveterate lover of all things fish and fishing. I can’t identify them for carp. But I do enjoy encountering them, especially when I don’t have to fish for them.

The same scene. Many fish have gathered in the center of the shot.

Fishies in the spring III

You have no idea how long I stood there squeeing and filming. I tried several photos, which as you can see are not the bestest. We always manage to get there near sundown, and the trees block a lot of the light. I decided to try a video instead. I think it turned out rather well, all things considered.

Alas, it’s a bit unstable, but it got a bit blurred when I tried to stabilize, so I suppose we can live with shaky-cam. Hopefully, all of the above are adequate for identification purposes. What kind of fishies do you think our fall fishes in the spring are?

One Courageous Cormorant

There’s a cormorant in this picture. I swear to you. Yes, I know there are very violent waves going on, but there’s a little seabird floating in the midst of all that chaos. Can you see it?

Image shows a portion of Devils Churn. There are steep, black basalt walls, with waves pounding against them. In the center of the photo, against the far wall, there's a cormorant swimming serenely in water that looks rather murderous.

Cormorants have no fear of fishing in the Devils Churn.

Here, this may help. The cormorant was where the big wave is now:

Image was taken a second or two after the previous. There is a rather hefty wave where the cormorant was.

The cormorant has dived below.

No? Well, let’s zoom in:

Image is cropped from the first image to show the tiny head of the cormorant floating in the churning sea.

Can you see the cormorant now?

This is something I hadn’t experienced at Devils Churn before: a seabird unconcernedly fishing in surf roiling in and slamming off the stone walls of a narrow chasm. I mean, imagine trying to grab dinner in a ginormous washing machine on the agitation cycle. With a bull ramming it every few seconds. And sharp, unforgiving rocks plastered on the sides. If a human fell into the Churn, it would go very hard for them. But this little bird fished as happily as if it had been on the serenest of seas.

I have a gif for you, showing the little bugger riding the waves:

Image is a serious of photos showing the cormorant floating atop churning waves.

Our enterprising little cormorant doesn’t appear to suffer seasickness.

Both the original photos and the cropped images are here, if you want to take a more leisurely look. They’ll give you an idea of just how wild the waves were. Of course, you can also watch the video:

I love the fact that nature has supplied remarkable creatures to go with the astounding geology. I hope to discuss all of that soon, but for the moment, I must away to scream thoroughly into a pillow regarding the continuing idiocy in atheism, followed by a nice calming session of rock magnet production with B later this afternoon. B is getting your newest Christianist miseducation post typed up, so you have that to look forward to. Right?

Yet Moar Greetings from Oregon

Home now. Very tired. Gonna go take the rest of the evening off after I post this, which will probably involve chocolate, kitty cuddles, a warm bath, nearly-mindless reading, and SO MUCH SLEEP. But I couldn’t do those things without grabbing you all some pretty photos from the last day of the trip.

We stopped along the Siuslaw River a bit outside of Florence, OR. There’s a wee little park where, during the first trip we ever took, Lockwood took us for a view of the river and the turbedites that are such a huge component of the Coast Range there. I couldn’t resist the tug of nostalgia. And the calm river reflecting the autumn colors was magic. I’ll show you all that when I put together the autumn extravaganza posts I plan. For now, have some (probable) turbedite chunks reflecting in the river.

Image shows the far river bank, where a pyramid-shaped gray boulder and a smaller dark-gray one shaped a bit like a helmet are reflected in the river.

Rocks reflect.

We’ll be talking lots about turbedites one of these days. Hopefully, you’ll end up loving them as much as I do.

After lunch at a little tea room in Florence, we dropped by the Darlingtonia Wayside to show B carnivorous plants, and then decided to splurge on Sea Lion Caves. We’d never done that before, because you have to buy tickets for everyone, and the expense for a few minutes of seeing lots of sea lions plastered all over a sea cave just never seemed attractive compared to all of the other things we could be doing, many of which are free if you have a Northwest Forest Pass or go to a county park. But Lockwood’s been talking about it for a long time, and decided that we’re doing it this time. This turned out to be an awesome deal, because the sea lions are currently out to sea feeding up for the winter. This means the cave’s sans sea lions, the tickets are discounted, and you can use the same ticket to come back for free when the sea lions return. If you’re local, it’s a bargain. And the cave really is bloody amazing. I was able to shoot it without sea lions all in the way of the geology, which thrilled me to bits. We’ll be doing a post on that someday, hopefully soonish, but here’s a taste:

Image shows waves rolling in through a cleft in the basalt, with a diffuse glow from the sunlight at the far end of the cave.

Waves slipping through the tunnel.

This cave is huge, and there are channels to other bits of it, and the open sea beyond, and it’s enchanting. Especially when it isn’t obscured by biological entities. Don’t despair, seal fans! I will go back when the sea lions are there, and get you plenty of those, too. I’m just glad I got to see it without first.

That’s looking roughly south. On the other side, you basically walk up a set of stairs with a wooden canopy over them that keeps you from getting soaked by the water drip-dripping from the roof, and get this magnificent view at the end:

Image shows Heceta Head lighthouse and a swath of rocky shoreline. Foreground is framed by the dark walls of the cave.

Heceta Head Lighthouse from Sea Lion Caves.

How lovely is that?

After we got done admiring great coastal cave geology, we headed on up to Devils Churn, which I haven’t been to since our first trip. The whole Cape Perpetua area is incredible, and one I could happily spend many days at, but we only had a few hours. It was enough, at least, to shoot a great old tree:

Image shows the thick trunk and a huge lower branch of a spruce. The ocean is visible, framed by the curving tree limb.

Gnarly old tree.

We didn’t get a chance to play in the tide pools, because although this trip was meant to take advantage of low tides, we never did get to the coast when the tide was low. Silly us. I didn’t care a bit. There was a storm out to sea, which meant great waves.

Image shows rugged basalt, with a pool of water in the foreground, and the sea in the background. On the left, a wave has hit the basalt, looking like an eruption of water.

Wave breaking against the basalt.

And all I could do was stand there and stare in awe at everything.

Image shows me standing on the basalt, looking out to sea, with the mouth of the Churn in front of me. Waves are breaking against the rocks.

Moi at Devils Churn

It’s nice to be back home, with my kitty sleeping peacefully beside me, but I do wish I could be back on that coast, watching the waves break. Twas glorious.

Thanks, as always, to Lockwood, for making sure we get to see all the awesome things!