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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Calaveras Reservoir

Here is another picture from my panoramic series. I had posted the earlier one here

Seen below is the Calaveras Reservoir, located in the Santa Clara County. The reservoir has a capacity of 100,000 acre-feet (123,000,000 m³). Calaveras Dam, which creates the reservoir, used to be the largest earth fill dam in the world. It is 210 feet (64 m) tall and was completed in 1925. The city and county of San Francisco owns the dam and reservoir. This region is a geologically active area with the Calaveras Fault running below it. A lot of mini quakes are reported everyday in and around this area.

Click picture to open in panoramic mode.

The Calaveras Valley is rich and diverse in wildlife. Some of the most common animals include deer, coyotes, squirrels, turkeys, vultures, red-winged blackbirds, yellow-billed magpies, red-tailed hawks, brewer's blackbirds, purple martins, barn swallows, bullock's orioles, and warblers. It is also abundant with farms having horses and cows.

I will post more of this series later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Margie had posted a Mechanical Contrivium on her blog. I tried it and the result predicted that my intelligence is a little more than that of a porpoise. So i decided that i will post some pictures and information concerning Dolphins, the superior cousins of the Porpoise. Featured in this blog are Bottle Nosed Dolphins i took pictures of in Six Flags Marine World and Sea World in San Diego.

Dolphins are some of the most highly intelligent creatures on earth. These warm-blooded mammals belong to a group of mammals called Cetaceans which also encompass all whales. They have lungs and breath through a single blowhole on the top of their head and can hold their breath for about 10 minutes under water.

The original content and images from this post are now available on the new website. Click here or on image to be re-directed to the new site

The original content and images from this post are now available on the new website. Click here or on image to be re-directed to the new site

Dolphins come in many colors and there are a total of 67 species known. Their senses are very highly developed, with acute hearing superior to that of humans, acute eyesight and sense of touch but have a limited sense of smell. Little is known about a dolphin's sense of taste, although they do have taste buds and show strong preferences for certain types of food fishes.

Dolphins are social animals, living in "pods" of up to a dozen. In places with a high abundance of food, pods can join temporarily, forming an aggregation called a superpod; such groupings may exceed 1000 dolphins. They demonstrate extraordinary team work when they go hunting. The pods surround schools of fish preventing them from escaping. The dolphins then take turns jumping into the trapped schools grabbing a mouthful and thus starts the feeding frenzy. Sharks often get excited when dolphins are around and join the food party too. Now who would pass a free meal?

More than just being a fascinating sea creature and fellow mammals, dolphins and humans have a history of positive interaction with one another. Dolphins routinely interact with swimmers and divers in a very playful fashion, swimming closely, nosing around and even offering a lift when a person gently grabs onto the dorsal fin.

Because of their high capacity for learning, dolphins have been employed by humans for any number of purposes. Dolphins trained to perform in front of an audience have become a favorite attraction all over the world. Their intelligence combined with their ability to travel at speeds of ~20 MPH and dive deep, they are used by the US Navy Marines to perform tasks such as ship and harbour protection, mine detection and clearance, and equipment recovery. They are also used as sentries to protect harbor installations against unauthorized human swimmers.

A quick fact before i end this post. Did you know that Dolphins are the only mammals besides human beings that mate for pleasure?? ;)

Take care and thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Floral Fantasy II

Flowers, everyone's favorite subject. Used in every occasion. It is so amazing that color, fragrance, shape and beauty comes bundled in one package. Here are some from my collection for you to enjoy...

The original content and images from this post are now available on the new website. Click here or on image to be re-directed to the new site

The original content and images from this post are now available on the new website. Click here or on image to be re-directed to the new site

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend :-) Adios

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wilson Pickett

Margie, This post is dedicated to you.

You asked for one song, i give you the whole album :)
Dance away... :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 7 - Grand Finale

Week 7 : 14 Aug - 20 Aug 2006

14 Aug 2006
Feeding frenzies still go on. Parents still fly in with food. Notice how Elvira digs into the parent's beak for food. Carlos watches by.

Food fight! May the strongest bird win...

15 Aug 2006
"Mom look... i can fly!".
Elvira showing off her newly acquired talent and long feathers. They are still not confident of flying. They practice one small flight at a time not lasting for over 2 seconds.

16 Aug 2006
Week 7 and they already look like adults. Notice their feet, claws and their feathers.

See the baby fuzz on Carlos's feathers? Elvira doesnt have any, Carlos might lose them in the next two days.

17 Aug 2006
Standing tall in their new house. Their flight duration has increased a bit. They can flap up to a height of 6 feet and fly back down. This means they could fly to the balcony ledge and see a new whole world from there. (And no. They dont start singing "A whole new world" from Aladdin)

No more baby fuzz.. woohoo!!

Aww.. I love you too, little fella :)

18 Aug 2006
This was the best part. The mom and kiddos were lined up on the balcony. It was interesting to watch the parent give flight lessons to juniors. Mom shoots out instructions and Elvira repeats. Carlos seems disinterested and distracted. He is not paying attention to the class.

After explaining a couple of flight tips and tricks, mom flies over to the neigbour's balcony to give them a demo. Elvira follows, screws up with the landing, panics and returns back to our balcony. She succeeds the second time she tries. After a successful landing, she hops over to the mother and delivers a kiss on her cheek as if telling her.. "I made it mom, I made it!! mwwaahh... i love you!!!"

Carlos on the other side has still not made up his mind. He looks down from the third floor balcony; he is not afraid of heights. He just doesnt remember the take-off instructions, because he wasnt paying attention when mom was giving a demo. After a couple of pondering moments, he decides to take the plunge and surprisingly, he makes it to the other side on the first attempt! They go back and forth, back and forth for a couple of times before they retire for the night.

Carlos tired from all the flying and flapping calls it a day and goes to sleep.

19 Aug 2006
Carlos and Elvira flew away for a couple of hours and came back in the night to sleep. I think it was their day out which included flying lessons, socializing and introduction to other pigeon families, making friends, food hunting and learning to stay away from their predators.

20 Aug 2006
They are gone. They did not return for the night. We felt so lonely once we realized that they were gone for good and we might not see them again. We miss those flappy buggers. They were the center of our attraction for the last 7 weeks and kept us busy and occupied. We let them stay, fed them, gave them cute names, provided them protection and shelter, cleaned up their mess, took pictures, made them a celebrity on this blog, avoided using the a/c as long as they were around.... and now they fly away without a word of thanks. Well, actually Sal said that they came to the big balcony glass door and knocked on it with their beaks and tried to look inside. Maybe they wanted to thank us, i dont know, i wasnt there.

This brings an end to the wonderful learning experience up close and personal. Got some nice pictures. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and nice words; I wouldnt have completed it without you. I hope you enjoyed the series as much as we did.

Though the series has officially concluded, i might post a random picture or two if i see them again. I have a lot of cleaning to do in the balcony.


Monday, August 21, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 6

I know this story is getting boring with each post. Nothing interesting happening and i'm sure y'all are losing interest. If you feel like yawning, please go ahead, I understand :). To those interested, one more week left and i am done with this story :)

Week 6 : 7 Aug - 13 Aug 2006

8 Aug 2006
More development. They have shed most of their baby fuzz and are constantly gaining weight. Their feathers are looking prettier and fuller each day. They are still pampered by the parent who comes in with food.

9 Aug 2006
Parent keeps a watchful eye. Elvira and Carlos have grown almost as big as their parents.The only way i can differentiate the parent from the kids is by the color of their eyes.

10 Aug 2006
I come home from work and peep into the balcony from behind the blinds. Oh my goodness. It looks like a poop yard. The "Little Explorers" have ventured out fearlessly and have pooped all over the place as if they were celebrating their new found freedom. They dont sit on their poop filled tick infested nest anymore which by the way is all dried up and hardened like a cement block. It has grown small for the two of them and they need their own space. They now use the chairs in the balcony as their house.

They still hang around together. Thats what i like about them. Whenever i go close to them, Elvira starts screaming, starts to panic and hyperventilate. Carlos sits where he is, calmly looks at me in the eye and doesnt move a bit. He thinks he is Don Corleone, but when i reach out my hand to see if they get scared, they both dart for the nearest hiding spot. I find that really cute and funny.

11 Aug 2006
Receding hairlines, hair loss, bald heads, they dont seem to care.

12 Aug 2006
This was taken before i cleaned the balcony and wrecked their nest. It was such a mess. I covered my hair, put on my face mask, gloves, armed myself with a broom and a scrubber and started cleaning. Took me over an hour to clean while Elvira and Carlos sat in a corner and watched me do the dirty work. I will hose down the balcony and disinfect it once they fly away.

Watch this space for updates...
Week 7 Coming soon...

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 5

Week 5 : 31 July - 6 Aug 2006

31 July 2006
The squabs now look for alternate places and stay away from the nest when they can. I found this one hiding under the hose that connects the compressor with the air flow unit.

3 Aug 2006
Finally. They have started looking a bit presentable and less gross. Elvira on the right and Carlos on the left. Being elder by only two days, she is bigger than Carlos. The white patch in their feathers means absence of pigmentation and nothing else. It is not a design or pattern significance.

4 Aug 2006
Nothing much to write here. They go about their business, lay there and chill as if they are on the beach, scream like a banshee when the parent comes in with food and then merrily poop all over the place. I am losing interest in taking pictures because of their living standards and horrible conditions in the balcony, but still go ahead and click a couple because i want to get over with this story.

5 Aug 2006
Looking at their funky hairstyles, dyed hair color and jazzy colors on their body, you can pretty much tell that they are in their adolescence stages. They havent started gelling or spiking their hair, but i guess that will come soon. You think they'd go gothic?

Here is an interesting tidbit. Pigeon population and breeding depends on how much food and shelter is available. More food means more pigeons. They rely on garbage, insects, food thrown by passersby and visitors. If you want to reduce the pigeon population, DONT eradicate them. Instead, reduce the food available to them and they would automatically control their population and breeding. Decreasing pigeon population by eliminating them would mean the increase in the quantity of food available. This would in turn promote more breeding and the vicious cycle would never end.

6 Aug 2006
The squabs are rapidly gaining body mass, growing out feathers, developing iridiscence and losing the yellow baby fuzz. They dont venture out too far from the nest, but going by the traces of where i find their poop, i can tell that each day, they venture out a little more than the previous day. They love playing "Little Explorers".

Compare their progess now to the begininning of this week. It is amazing that they can grow so rapidly and look like two totally different birds. I wish humans could grow up this fast. The average growth cycle of a pigeon from the time they hatch out to the time they start flying out and look like adult pigeons is approximately 6-7 weeks. Pigeons can attain sexual maturity when they are 8 months old. They dont have the concept of family planning and breed like crazy depending on availability of food and shelter as i explained a little while ago.

Watch this space for updates
Week 6 Coming soon....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 4

Week 3 24 July - 30 July 2006

24 July 2006
It is still frickin hot, but we stop ourselves from flicking the switch of the air conditioner. Nights seem to be a bit better. Energy Alert and rolling blackouts happening in California, thankfully we weren't affected by the blackouts. Meanwhile, the nest gets dirtier and filthier and the chicks are getting chubbier. Have to keep the balcony door closed all times to prevent bugs from the nest from getting inside the house. The chicks seem to love the heat and the parents dont sit on them any longer. The pins have started growing out tiny feathers and they have increased in size a bit.

25 July 2006
Elvira makes an attempt to stand up. Today, she took her first steps and moved around a bit. Carlos just looked on for a while and went back to continue his noon nap. He obviously wasnt as excited as i was that his sister could walk. Parents dont roost in the nest anymore and the chicks are left unattended. I dont think that is a felony according to bird law, but if it was, im sure there would have been a nanny-bird looking after the chicks while the parents were away :)

26 July 2006
Okay, Elvira (sitting on the left side) has started growing out her feathers. The parents still come around to feed the chicks regularly (I dont know how many times, but the chicks are well fed everytime i go see them). The chicks are left alone and the parents are busy elsewhere. Are they trying to setup another nest and lay eggs? hmm.. i wonder

27 July 2006
The wings start growing out. More feathers start covering their bodies. They still continue to live in the filth they created. The nest looks and smells horrible. I have to use a face mask to go near them and hold my breath to take pictures.

30 July 2006
Juvenile pigeons are called squabs. They have started growing out full feathers and the yellow fuzz is shedding away. Not a lot of those ugly pins on their body though. They have started to speak (or must i say scream). They don't sound like a pigeon at all. They sound more like loud squeaking sparrows. They remain quiet most of the time, except when the parent brings in food. They create so much noise to attract the parent's attention and fight with their sibling to get more food. Sibling rivalry is very common with pigeons and the stronger squab always wins. For the unlucky and weaker squab, death by hunger or an "accidental fall" from the balcony is imminent. Thankfully, Elvira and Carlos stick together and take care of each other.

The parents still keep a watchful eye on the nest from a distance. The nest has become small for three birds. The parents dont come often and the squabs have outgrown the nest. They have started venturing areas out of the nest. They find a new place everyday and spend the night there.

Dont get any ideas here. They are just birds and are probably sharing their stir-fried worms with spicy garlic bug sauce ;)

Watch this space for updates...
Week 5 coming Soon...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 3

Week 3 17 July - 23 July 2006

18 July 2006
The chicks grow at a rapid rate. As you can see, Carlos and Elvira have started getting defined features, gaining weight and growing pin feathers. They are still weak and need constant supervision from parents. This week marks the beginning of filth and ugliness. The nest starts getting dirty with poop as you can see in the pictures.

19 July 2006
Some more pin feathers grow out. The chicks are well fed at all times. If you see a big bulging chest, it means the chicks have been fed and are full.

20 July 2006
They finally learn to pose for the camera. The nest starts getting dirtier and filthier. It starts attracting ticks, mites and lice and other insects who come for the poop. Ever wonder why you dont see pigeons with their chicks? This is the reason. The pigeons are embarassed to be seen in public with scary looking little fuzzballs with pins sticking out. That's the reason they go the extra mile taking care of them till they grow up and start looking like real pigeons.

21 July 2006
Nest and surroundings continue getting more dirtier. Parents still take turns looking after the kids. Both parents and kids are oblivious to the dirty living standards.

23 July 2006
Carlos in front and Elvira in back. Elvira being the elder one is more developed. She has grown more pins than Carlos and looks bigger.

This was the weekend when the nasty heat wave hit California. It was blazing three digit temperatures outside and since the nest was right next to the a/c exhaust, we did not have the heart to turn on the cooler and scare them away. Portable fans did not help a bit. So we patiently sweated out through 94 degrees inside the house. Nights were hot as well.

Watch this space for updates...
Coming soon... Week 4

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 2

Week 2 10 July - 16 July 2006

10 July 2006
The parents patiently incubate the eggs waiting for them to hatch. The parent sitting on the eggs does not eat or drink anything till the shift is over. I leave them water and grains which they happily eat and fly away.

11 July 2006
I see a broken shell. The first egg hatches. By the time i could go grab the camera, the parent covers the new born chick and the unhatched egg. See the yellow fluff under the parent? That is their first born. We decided to name her Elvira. (guessing it is a female).

The chick has to fight and struggle its way out of the egg shell. The parent cannot and will not help in any way. This is nature's way of strengthening the bones of the chick. This is similar to the transformation of a butterfly.

12 July 2006
Sometime in the next 48 hours, the second egg hatches and out comes the chick. We decided to name him Carlos. (As per my research, the eggs hatch out to become one male and one female). The parents still take turns watching and protecting the new borns who are weak, fragile, hungry and err... ugly. After the chicks hatch out, the parents are even more protective and sometimes aggressive too.

15 July 2006
Here they are. My first glimpse of the chicks, 3 days after the first chick was born. They wish they were baby Shiloh, but these yellow little fuzzballs were happy to settle down for just one photographer.. lol

Chicks are hungry and need to be fed as soon as they are born. They depend on crop milk for the first couple of weeks. Crop milk, also known as pigeon's milk, is a specially produced secretion that both parents produce from the lining of the crop (a sac-like food storage chamber that projects outward from the bottom of the esophagus). Eventually seeds replace the crop milk. Both male and female adult birds produce crop milk and share in the feeding and care of the young.

16 July 2006
Carlos and Elvira dont have feathers and they lose body heat rapidly. They need to be kept warm and dry all the time till they grow their own feathers. The parents continues to sit on them, give them warmth, food and protection for the next two weeks.

The parents still continue with their shift and the chicks need to be fed a couple of times each day. They are still weak and can barely move. They haven't started screaming yet. Thank god!

Pigeons usually fly away at the slightest noise they hear. But parents, once they lay eggs or after the chicks hatch out, stay back and protect their nest. They dont fly away like they usually do. I have noticed that they remain absolutely still as long as i am in their sight, watching every movement of mine carefully. If the parents get scared or sense danger (Most of the time, this is caused by loud noises or super-curious humans) to themselves or the chicks, they abandon the nest. This situation often leads to the death of the chicks (as they cannot survive without the crop milk) unless someone decides to hand feed them (which is a very tedious process requiring requiring commitment and dedication).

Watch this space for updates...
Week 3 coming soon...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Tale of Two Pigeons - Week 1

This is an old saying in the birdie world... "If you are born a bird, then count yourself lucky if your parents are Pigeons or Doves".They are the most doting and protective parents who take care of the little ones till they start flying.

A study of fossils indicate that Pigeons and Doves have been around for a long time before the humans and are thought to have originated in Asia over several million years ago. Pigeons are adorable, some people love them, some call them nasty and dirty. Though they are peaceful birds, they are considered a menace to the environement and are solely responsible for the corrosion and damage to many architectural monuments, thanks to their acidic droppings. Pigeons are believed to carry germs and disease, their droppings are harmful and can cause brain and lung infections, hence many countries eradicate pigeons or deploy pigeon repellant programs.

Raising pigeons as a hobby can be fun, but when a pigeon makes your balcony its roosting quarters, it might be a difficult task to adjust with the pigeon if you want it to stay and rear the chicks.

Here is our story. A gray pigeon couple (i dont know what kind, but after some research, i am led to believe that it is the "Colombia Livia" or commonly known as the Rock Dove) built a nest and laid eggs in our balcony. I have been monitoring their progress for the last 7 weeks and taking pictures at every stage of their growth and development. For convenience sake, i have decided to split the whole story into several posts where each post represents one week of their progress.

Here is a report for the first week: 03 July - 09 July

03 July 2006:
Pigeon caught sneaking in with twigs to build a nest. I was ready to chase away the pigeon before i saw the eggs, but i quickly changed my mind thinking of the life i can help create by letting the pigeon stay. I dont know how many days it has been since the eggs were laid.

A pigeon's nest is usually constructed with small twigs and dried leaves and is located on covered building ledges that resemble cliffs, a Rock Dove's natural habitat. The male brings the nesting material to the female, one piece at a time and she builds the nest, usually well-hidden and hard to find. This one was built in a hard to reach corner right behind the central air conditioner's exhaust vent. A very tight spot, but just enough space for the pigeon to build a nest. Believe me, i had a very tough time trying to take pictures.

Once a pigeon couple mates, they remain loyal to their partners for the rest of their lives. They reproduce throughout the year, even during winter, and can raise four or five broods annually. The female usually lays two white eggs (in a span of 48 hours). Both parents take turns protecting the eggs and keeping them warm (the eggs need to be around 80F and dry all the time). The incubation period is usually for 15-18 days before the chicks hatch out. Males usually stay on the nest during the day; females at night.

As per my observation, they had the same schedule for rest of the week. The male arrives exactly at 10 AM each day and the female takes off for a break. She then gets back at exactly 6 PM to take over. I dont know if there is a midnight shift, but i think unfair labor practices are being used here; the male takes a 16 hour break and the female takes off only for 8 hours???. I wonder where the Women's Rights group is...

I assume this is the male with the big body and the shiny iridescence around the neck. I may be wrong, but there is a lot of inconsitent information on the internet regarding pigeons. It is sad but true that pigeons are the most common birds found everywhere in the world, but little has been researched on this subject.

Pigeons can hear sounds at much lower frequencies than humans can, such as wind blowing across buildings and mountains, distant thunderstorms and even far-away volcanoes. Sensitive hearing may explain why pigeons sometimes fly away for no apparent reason. They probably heard something you didnt and they are very alert all the time.

Adult pigeons have orange or red-orange eyes. Their pupils enlarge when they are alert and sense danger. Pigeons have a very acute sense of vision. They can see all colors and even ultraviolet light which humans cannot see.

Nothing much to report for the rest of the week. The only action was incubation and parents taking turns to sit on the eggs. Watch this space for updates. Week 2 coming soon....

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