Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ash-throated flycatcher

I've seen this Ash-throated flycatcher off an on for about two months. At first I wasn't sure if it was an Ash-throated flycatcher or a Brown-crested flycatcher. Today, I heard it sing, and it's definitely the Ash-throated flycatcher. He flits around the fountain, and I assume he's eating bugs, but probably not flies because there aren't a lot of flies around here.

Today I saw parent and fledgling!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birds try to escape the heat

The house finches try to escape the 108° heat by resting on the shaded patio. (It's even hotter in the sun.) They're just standing there. Some spread their wings to try to circulate the air. Others "panted." It's truly survival of the fittest. Two in my yard didn't make it today.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gray, gloomy skies

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#2 Gray, gloomy skies

Most people in southwestern PA are oblivious to the gray, gloomy skies. I've never quite understood why because I certainly complained about it all the time. It's probably because people in the area just don't venture outside much.

Visitors to Pittsburgh assume the gray skies are caused by pollution, but there hasn't been much industry in the area for 30+ years.

What isn't well known is that Pittsburgh has more cloudy days than Seattle--without the cool espresso bars and high tech buzz. It's all of the downside, and none of the upside.

And the whole "accounting" of cloudy days isn't consistent. If a sunbeam appears at any time of the day in Pittsburgh, it's counted as a "partly cloudy" day. Frequently, the mornings are clear, but by 10:00 AM a thick blanket of gloom has spread across the entire region. A "partly cloudy" day in Tucson often still leaves you with brilliant sunshine.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road kill

Things I DO NOT miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#1 Road Kill

Dead raccoons, and possums, and deer, "Oh my!" Everywhere there is road kill. Someone I know from California who was visiting the area for the first time remarked, "You have a lot of dead animals."


Lots of woods plus lots of critters plus lots of speeders plus lots of people not paying attention to anything beyond the hood of their car.

Add it all up and...


Lots of road kill.

It's sad. It's disgusting. And it's definitely something I don't miss.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#4 Rivers

Oh sure, southwesterners CLAIM to have rivers. But in order for a body of water to earn the moniker of 'river,' it should:
  1. be wide enough and deep enough to swim across, and
  2. actually HAVE water in it 365 days a year.
Here's a shot of the Ohio River flowing under the Belpre/Parkersburg Bridge in West Virgina. (All right, so technically this is not a shot of southwestern Pennsylvania, but this river flows through it.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brick cheese

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#3 Brick cheese

I can't find Brick cheese in Tucson. (Read my rant.) Sure I can live without it, but I wish I didn't have to!

And for all of those people who have never heard of "Brick cheese," here are photos to prove I'm not making this up!

Here it is in a Pittsburgh grocery store deli.

Sold by the brick.

And pre-sliced and prepackaged.

At the Super-Wal*Mart in Pittsburgh.

At the Super-Wal*Mart deli in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Merlins at the pool

I can count on seeing a Merlin around the house at least twice a week. (Read the first blog post.) Today I saw three of them lurking around the pool. One of them posed for several minutes so I was able to snap this shot with my cell phone.

Hmm, it must be a fledgling since it wasn't very camera shy. Sure enough, I spotted the nest up in the palm tree.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Colorado River toad

This evening presented another monsoon light show accompanied by actual rain. It wasn't a torrential downpour, but it did indeed rain. I didn't head out on my walk until after the storms cleared through the area.

Just up the street I encountered this guy. I snapped his mugshot with my cell phone (at night) so he's hard to see, but this Colorado River toad is as big as a small dinner plate!

He was so huge he couldn't heave his girth up onto the curb though I tried to shoo him in that direction. (I didn't want him to get smashed on the road!)

I knew not to touch him (or her?). Around here, you just never know what's poisonous. Sure enough, this guy is poisonous--enough so that its venom can kill a full grown dog.

And its venom also has hallucinogenic characteristics. Uh, huh. I don't want to BEGIN to imagine how THAT trait was discovered...(Let's smoke a toad...)

In case you're wondering, those other things in the picture are seed pods from a Velvet Mesquite tree. They're everywhere--especially after a storm!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Winding back roads

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#2 Winding back roads

It's a mistake to think that you can ride a motorcycle 12 months out of the year in Tucson. When the temperatures climb into triple digits, most bikers park their bikes. Air temperature of 103° is easily 140° in the sun. Add the heat reflected from pavement, and heat emitted from car engines and...well, let's just say it's not fun. My bike will stay parked until sometime in September.

Back in PA, I mapped out the BEST commute to the office. Unless it was treacherously icy, I always skipped the main roads opting instead for nine miles of winding back roads.

Myoma Road in Butler, PA

Myoma Road in Butler, PA

Summer was perfect for either a top-down convertible drive or a ride on my Ninja. These kind of roads are almost non-existent through much of the West. If there is a "back road," it's usually flat, straight, and the only way to get from A to B. Not very challenging to ride.

Railroad tracks

My current commute takes me right through downtown, and it's stop-and-go traffic all the way. It is what it is, but I miss my ride time on these roads.

Farmland in Butler, PA

No matter how bad the day was, I could always look forward to the drive home.

Farmland in Butler, PA

Farmland in Butler, PA

Country cemetary in Butler, PA