Good Advice from a Raven

My life philosophy summed up…on a bookmark.

I was in Death Valley National Park in February for the second year in a row. I spent about a week exploring some of the less visited parts of the park, including Ibex Dunes and the Racetrack. I’m really loving having a truck camper for my winter travels rather than the big fifth wheel I used to haul around. It really makes it easier to explore and to camp comfortably in remote places while waiting for changes in weather or light for photography.

I did spend a little time at Furnace Creek, which is the center of tourism in the park. In addition to having two meals at the Inn at Furnace Creek‘s excellent restaurant, I visited the Ranger Station. I had some questions about roads and camping and there’s nothing better than asking a ranger. While I was in there, I took a look at some of the gift shop items. I’m always on the lookout for small educational items for my neighbor’s autistic grandson — I got him some neat science exploration items at the North Cascades National Park last year — and odds and ends to help me remember the trip.

I was feeling more spendy than usual that day, mostly because rumors were flying about the Trump administration cutting budgets for National Parks and selling off public land for private use. I wanted to support the parks beyond buying my annual pass every year. I picked out a t-shirt and a refrigerator magnet and a book about night photography. And then I saw the “Advice” bookmarks.

I need to point out that I very seldom read printed books these days. I’ve come to prefer ebooks and have been making use of the ebook loans available from the two libraries I’m a member of. So a bookmark is a very silly thing for me to buy.

But what captured my attention on the bookmarks was the bullet point pieces of “advice.” I looked at a few of them and agreed that many of the points were things I believed and would share with friends as advice. But each of them also shared a few points that I didn’t necessarily agree with. For example, “Advice from a Tree” suggested “Sink your roots into the Earth.” Anyone who knows me can verify that I never do that. Indeed, I get bored wherever I am after about 10 years. “Advice from a Bat” included “Enjoy the nightlife.” Again, anyone who really knows me knows that I’m a morning person and seldom indulge in late night activities.

bookmark.jpg“Advice from a Raven” was different, though. Each of its seven points rang true with me:

  • Be curious. I am always asking questions and trying to learn new things.
  • Use your wits. I enjoy solving problems — stay tuned for the upcoming blog post on how I recently solved my water problem — and thinking things through.
  • Don’t be a picky eater. Do I even need to explain this? I’ll try anything at least once.
  • Take time to play. Half a year should be enough time, eh?
  • Be adaptable. When life serves me lemons, I make lemonade. I’ve been served a lot of lemons over the past ten to fifteen years and have reinvented myself as necessary to move forward.
  • Make your voice heard. I think I’ve taken this one too seriously at times; voicing my opinion has occasionally gotten me in trouble. But if you don’t speak up, how are people to know what you really think? Honesty is the best policy.
  • Don’t let life ruffle your feathers. This one took some learning, but I got some pretty good lessons about five years ago, continuing until recently. I used to get angry, but now I don’t. This actually reminds me of another quote I saw somewhere: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

It was worth $3 to remind me not only of this good advice for anyone, but of my 2017 Death Valley adventure. So I bought it.

I’ve always liked ravens. They are one of the most intelligent animals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat quietly in a remote, off-trail location at the Grand Canyon, just watching them fly or interact with each other. And how many times I’ve heard the sound of the wind in their wings in the utter silence of my old northern Arizona vacation cabin.

I don’t often see ravens here. We have magpies instead. They’re prettier but don’t seem to have the same personality.

If you’re interested in seeing other bookmarks and souvenir items in this series, check out the shop at Your True Nature website.

Snowbirding 2017 Postcards: Salton Sea Birds

A few photos from my visit to the Salton Sea.

While I was traveling around Arizona and California this winter, I had more than a few opportunities to do some photography. At the Salton Sea in California, which I visited in mid January, I spent much of a day photographing the birds along the salty water or walking on the barnacle beach. For most shots, I used a 70-300mm Nikkor lens on my Nikon D7100 DSLR. I thought I’d share the best of them in a quick “postcards” blog post here.

I suppose I should say a few things about the Salton Sea. It’s a strangely beautiful, highly saline lake in the middle of the desert in southern California. It’s surface is roughly 235 feet below sea level. It was formed years ago when the Colorado River flooded and jumped its banks, pouring water into the low-lying desert for about 16 months. There are no outlets; the lake is fed by irrigation runoff and kept level by evaporation. The salt level rises steadily. The beaches are not sand; they’re barnacles. The place is home to more than 300 species of birds, many of which are migratory. The visitor center has a lot of good information with friendly, knowledgeable staff. I would definitely visit again. You can learn more on Wikipedia and the Salton Sea Authority website.

Here are the bird photos. One of these days, I might get back into this blog entry to add captions with the names of the birds. If you know any that aren’t named here, please comment to let me know and I’ll add a caption.

Salton Sea Birds

Salton Sea Birds

Seagull at Salton Sea
Seagull at the Salton Sea.

Salton Sea Birds

White Heron at the Salton Sea
White Heron at the Salton Sea.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans at the Salton Sea.

Salton Sea Birds

Salton Sea Birds

Seagull at Salton Sea
Seagull at the Salton Sea.

Salton Sea Sunrise
Birds flying at sunrise over the Salton Sea.

Drone Pilots: Beware of Bird Strikes!

Just a quick warning, with photos.

Last week, I did a few photo missions with my Mavic Pro flying camera. For two of the msisions, I launched from an open area at the far east side of the Tyson Wells complex in Quartzsite, just south of Keuhn Road.

I’m in the habit of using the Return-to-Home feature of my Mavic to get it back to its launch point quickly and efficiently. In all honesty, I’m awed by its ability to land exactly on its takeoff spot nearly every single time. I like to watch, with my finger poised over the pause button on the control (just in case), as it comes to the right coordinates far overhead, turns to the direction in which it took off, and descends to the spot.

On one of the three missions I flew from that spot, a small flock of pigeons flew right past the Mavic. I watched in shock and a bit of horror as the five or six birds swooped around my fragile aircraft. I felt relief as the Mavic continued its descent unharmed, but the whole thing repeated itself when another flock — or the same flock? — swooped past. Again, the Mavic was unharmed.

I happened to have the video camera going when this was happening. Here are two screen grabs, one from each flight, that show the closest encounter. The first one was definitely closer.

Near Miss
This reminds me of a scene from The Birds.

Near Miss
The bird is a bit farther off in this one. Can you see it?

Of course, the camera can’t capture action in a direction it isn’t pointing. For all I know they could have come closer behind the camera.

While this is all kind of cool in a weird sort of way, it wouldn’t have been so cool if one of those birds clipped a rotor. The Mavic has four independently powered rotors. If any one of them was destroyed, I’d have to think the whole thing would immediately go out of balance and crash. This is one good reason why we don’t fly drones over crowds of people. Even though the Mavic weighs in at less than 2 pounds, having one crash onto your head from 150 feet would definitely cause some injuries.

Honestly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened yet. A matter of time?