Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fall in the Back Bay

photo by Mozaic Studio
We took advantage of a break in the rainfall Saturday to stop by the Back Bay in Newport Beach, one of our favorite spots. The Back Bay—or more properly the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve—is an estuary and a critical winter stopover for thousands of migratory birds. The Back Bay Loop is a 10-mile trail that winds past the Newport Dunes, a couple of parks, an interpretive center, and a nature center. It’s easily accessible from Pacific Coast Highway, but feels far removed from the public beach.

On this wet fall day, we had the place to ourselves, and most of the birds apparently have not shown up yet for wintering. We did see some gulls, a hawk, and plenty of herons. Mostly we just enjoyed the cool fresh air, a walk in the rain, and the quiet.

photo by Mozaic Studio

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WildCare Selects Mozaic Photo

We first became aware of the WildCare organization in San Rafael, California when they contacted us about a photo they had seen in our blog. It was a photo of least terns that we shot for a post about Newport Beach's Back Bay, and they wanted to use it for their monthly newsletter. We were more than happy to oblige.

The newsletter focuses on estuaries, the areas where salt water meets fresh water and which are prime habitat for fish and birds.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Clean Water in the Gulf

Today is Blog Action Day, where blogs across the internet have pledged to focus on a single topic. This year's topic is clean water.

We urge you to consider clean water not only as a basic human necessity, but as a wildlife necessity as well. The pollution and destruction of our lakes, rivers and oceans affects all living things in an ever-moving cycle of cause and effect.

The America's Wetland Conservation Corps is dedicated to cleaning, rebuilding and preserving crucial wetlands in coastal Louisiana. In September they co-authored a set of recommendations to Congress on "sustaining economic and ecological assets of the Gulf region in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill." Among those recommendations was a federal Trust Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration, funded by money from BP.

For more information about the America's Wetland Foundation, or their partners, see their website.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ducks and Canucks

We went to the home opener of the Anaheim Ducks last night, although really, we're dyed-in-the-wool Los Angeles Kings fans. But the Ducks are a hometown team like the Angels or the San Diego Chargers, so we cheered them to a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Seeing the Canucks' new-ish logo live and in-person made us think of the evolution both clubs' logos have gone through over their respective histories.

NHL teams have a tendency to juggle retro or alternate logos and jerseys so often that sometimes it's hard to say what is a current logo and what is historic. It may cause confusion, but it's an easy way to sell more merchandise.

Against the Kings last week, for their first game of the team's 40th anniversary season, Vancouver players wore jerseys with their original, unimaginative hockey-stick-lying-on-the-ice logo, one of the worst pro sports logos ever created. Last night they wore their modern breaching-whale-out-of-a-C logo. The whale has a stylistic totem-pole look, and jerseys have the team's original bright blue and green colors, appropriate for the Pacific Northwest (and not unlike the Seattle Seahawks').

From left to right, the Canucks' new logo; the middle years logo; the original, 1970 logo
The whale logo is a major improvement over the hockey stick, as well as over the tepid, shooshing "Canucks" ice skate logo from a couple of years back. That's when Vancouver dumped its calm blue and green for the more aggressive black, red and yellow color scheme. But the logo only progressed from a stick to a skate, a symbol generic enough to fit any ice-skating rink in North America. If Vancouver stays with the blue-green and whale logo, it will finally have a cohesive look and feel worthy of a big-league franchise.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have only been around for 17 seasons, but they have switched logos and colors as well. The marketing brainchild of Disney, they joined the NHL at the height of Gretzky mania in Southern California, and were given the movie tie-in name Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. It was easy to hate them just for that, complete with childish logo and teal-and maroon colors. When Disney sold the team, the new owners tried to polish their image with a logo makeover and a more sophisticated gold, black and orange color scheme. They also dropped the word "mighty" from the nickname. The new logo is a  "D" stylized in the shape of a webbed foot. Better than the original, but not great.

The Ducks' current logo, left; the ugly Disney original

So the game got us to thinking about sports logos. Who has the best? Who has the worst? We'll have to think about that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spring Vacation: Baja Eco-Tour

Photo © 2010 by Mozaic Studio

WildCare, the friends of wildlife rehabilitation group located in San Rafael, California, is offering a Baja Adventure ecotour next March.

Leaving from San Diego, the tour will do some whale watching in Baja and the Sea of Cortez, and stop at islands in the Baja Peninsula for birdwatching, hiking and snorkeling.

The tour is limited to 26 people, registration first-come, first-served. Dates are March 11–22, 2011; cost is $3,575 for non-WildCare members, airfare not included.

Contact them at 800-326-7491 or at 415-441-1106.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adobe's Digital Media Museum

One of the more public feuds between companies has been Apple's dismissal of Adobe's Flash software. Flash powers a lot of animated web content, but can use a lot of a computer's resources to display it. Ever had a slow web page, or a page that never fully loads, or crashed a browser? Blame Flash. And bulky software is incompatible with the increasing demands for mobile computing.

Apple has been working on its own Flash-style software, which would have a good chance of becoming the web standard. In an attempt to tarnish Flash's reputation, and likewise drive its demand, Apple has barred Flash from the iPad and for a time had also barred apps using Flash for the iPhone.

Perhaps it's cynical of us to suspect that Adobe's new digital museum/website is really just a subtle (or not-so-subtle) marketing tool to promote Flash. We say this because when we checked into the website's launch yesterday, it took an unacceptably long time to launch. Today it's not loading at all. Blame Flash.

What we did see yesterday was very brief, taking a shorter time to play than it took to load. It was animated art that was impressive, but hardly enough to hang a "museum" on. The rest of the site is limited, and heavy on the futuristic/cyber/geek vibe.

Still, it has potential, and might be worth checking into again in a few weeks. If we remember to.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Adobe Launches Museum of Digital Media

Adobe is set to open a new "digital museum" that will explore and highlight "groundbreaking digital work," including photography. The museum/website launches on October 6th.

Guest curators will help choose the content, which will exhibit digital work as well as discuss the innovation and execution behind it.

Free membership is available by visiting the website, which Adobe promises will deliver advance exhibit viewings, seminar access and exclusive content. We'll check back on the museum when it opens on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

L.A. County Parks to Better Protect Birds Nests

Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation will try an experimental landscape maintenance program in an effort to help nesting birds at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. Officials came up with the plan in cooperation with the California Dept. of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Birders complained to the county in February after a marsh wren nest was disturbed at Legg Lake when workers removed cattails. The lake, one of Whittier Narrows’ three man-made lakes, has been declared a wildlife preserve, and its two islands have been designated as bird sanctuaries. The new maintenance schedule will restrict tree trimming and other landscaping to winter months, although efforts will be made year-round to avoid disturbing any nest.

In addition, bird-viewing stations will be installed where blue herons and cormorants build nests in the eucalyptus trees near the edge of the lake.

If the plan works, it will be extended to the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park (Puddingstone) in San Dimas, and to the Castaic Lake Recreation Area.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Cool Color Returns

Pantone has announced that turquoise—specifically Pantone 15-5519 Turquoise—is the Color of the Year for 2010. Pantone’s color selections are highly influential in what colors appear in your local store as clothing, accessories, housewares, even paint.

We suspect that 1963-era show “Mad Men” has brought back turquoise just as it has the pencil skirt and more fitted suits. Aquamarine and turquoise were prevalent colors in the early 60s, seen in everything from Cadillacs to washing machines. And we will be delighted to see the turquoise replace that tiresome apple/pea/poison green trend in stores.

Twilight Tour of the Big Cats

We attended the Twilight Tour fundraiser at the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound (self-referred to as "the Cat House") in Rosamond, out near Edwards AFB.

The fundraiser was held in the early evening so visitors could see the big cats when they are the most active. Treats were presented to the cats by staffers, ranging from goldfish (for the fisher cats) to telephone books and cardboard boxes for the large cats. The large cats love to pounce on both as if they were prey, and the telephone books were also good for ripping to shreds with teeth. One leopard, momentarily flummoxed by movement from his cardboard box, retaliated by simply sitting on it.

All of the cats were on display, including snow leopards, a cougar, jaguars, and bobcats. Caesar the tiger was a big draw, and he put on a brief show before retiring into a shady corner. A bigger tiger enclosure is being constructed, which will include a holding den and pools. The budget total is set at $125,000, with about $78,000 having already been raised and utilized. Donations for the remainder of the project are welcome.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hiking the Santa Rosa Plateau

Normally, Memorial Day weekend is a challenge when you think you might want to go somewhere or do something, because no matter what you decide on, the crowds have already beaten you to it.

With weather not yet too hot for hiking, we took a chance on going to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve, a Riverside County park near Murrieta that covers some 8,500 acres of pristine ranch land (well, technically, it's oak woodlands, or bunchgrass prarie). It's rolling hills studded with Englemann oaks, a lot of grass, chapparal and wildflowers, and a couple of rare vernal pools. There are plenty of trails of varying length to use. One of the trails will lead to the historic adobes that are the oldest remaining structures in Riverside County.

The park was once part of the original Spanish land grant given by Pio Pico in 1846 to Juan Moreno. Moreno called his 47,000-acre ranch the Santa Rosa, where he raised sheep and cattle. Eventually, the ranch passed from owner to owner until it wound up in the hands of the Vail family, who sold much of the land for development in the 1960s.

The wildflowers had peaked by Memorial Day, but there was still a lot blooming: lavender Mariposa lilies, blue and purple lupines, California golden poppies that were more of a daffoldil yellow than the neon orange we photographed in Antelope Valley. We also saw a couple of snakes, who were more startled to see us than vice-versa.

The vernal pools, so-called because they are seasonal pools formed on volcanic soil by rainwater, are unusual and worth the short hike it takes to reach them. There are wooden pathways that will allow you to walk over a pool (actually, more of a grassy marsh), where you can see fairy shrimp and many birds. A wildflower called the teethed downingia bloomed in abundance in the water.

The park is located off Clinton Keith Road near Murrieta; day use for ages 13 and over is a super-cheap $2.00.

See the Big Cats Get Active

The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in Rosamond will host a Twlight Tour fundraiser on Saturday, June 19th. Here's your chance to view the center in the evening, when the big cats are more active and you have more access to view them.

The EFBC, also known as "the Cat House," is a private, non-profit conservation and breeding compound that houses some 70 species of big cats, including tigers, leopards, jaguars and ocelots. It offers visitors an unusually close view of these stunning animals.

Tickets for the Twilight Tour are $15 per person, adults only. They can be purchased at the door at 5:30; the event lasts until dark. You can order pre-paid tickets for the September 18th Twilight Tour by phone (661-256-3793 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poppies and Other Wildflowers

This may be the peak weekend for California poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. We took a short road trip out to the High Desert and found enormous fields of electric orange blooms along the way. The area is still relatively undeveloped, and there is plenty of ranch land to see. At this time of year, the park itself may prove too crowded to tolerate. If so, park along 170th Street instead and view the poppies for free.

On the drive back from Antelope Valley, we made a detour up Interstate 5 to see wildflowers near the Grapevine. Once again, the rains of the winter have painted the hills with lush grasses and blooms.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hiking Anza-Borrego

About a week ago, we went for a hike in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The weather was still relatively cool, and things were definitely in bloom. We made a short hike to Borrego Palm Canyon, where we found water, an oasis, and yep, a couple of tall palms.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring at Crystal Cove

photo by Mozaic Studio

The weather promised to be beautiful on Saturday, so we headed down to Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach. The park, once part of the immense Irvine Ranch, covers some 2,400 acres of prime, undeveloped land available for hiking, camping and biking. There are stunning views of the water, shore and the hills from nearly every point in the park.
The current California fiscal crisis makes the day-use entrance fee a steep $15, but you'll probably forget all of that when you're walking on the pristine beach and enjoying the sun and the breeze. At low tide you can walk over rocks to tide pools, or look at one of the emerging arches in the cove rock. You can also hike or ride horses in El Moro Canyon, and in the spring view the abundant wildflowers.

Beach cottages were built in the 30s and 40s, when the cove was still in private hands. When the land was sold to California in 1997, the state began the long process of refurbishing the cottages and making them available for public use. You can make reservations for the cottages through the park's website.

But as long as the weather is good, the park is open to anyone, and it's definitely worth the trip. Park on one of the magnificent bluffs overlooking the water, then hike a short distance either down to the beach or up to the canyon.

photo by Mozaic Studio

photo by Mozaic Studio

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wildflower Season Ahead

(Death Valley wildflowers. Photo by Mozaic Studio.)

Since it's been a relatively rainy winter this year, several parks are predicting good wildflower blooms in March and April.

Poppy season officially started at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve March 1, and park reservations can be online.

The Mojave National Preserve promises a "memorable" wildflower display, and Death Valley, which received nearly 5 inches of rain this winter, predicts a more spectacular bloom than originally anticipated. Peak blooming should occur there from the end of March to mid-April—a short two- or three-week period. Trees at Joshua Tree National Park are already blooming at higher elevations, and flowers should appear in mid-March.

Meanwhile, Anza-Borrego State Park will host wildflower tours through mid-March, with each tour going to whatever area is blooming best. The cost is $5, and reservations are not necessary. See their site for dates and times.

For desert wildflower updates throughout the Southwest, go to Desert USA

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free Hwy. 395 Audio Tour CD

(Fishing in the Eastern Sierra. Photo by Mozaic Studio.)

Roadside Heritage, a collaborative project of universities, chambers of commerce and businesses trying to promote travel in the Eastern Sierra, has a free, downloadable audio tour of U.S. 395.

If you’ve never driven it, 395 is a Scenic Byway that runs parallel to the eastern Sierra Mountains from the Mojave Desert up to Reno, Nevada. It’s a stunning drive that passes through Lone Pine, Bishop, June Lake and Mammoth. It’s also the prime gateway to Death Valley.

The audio tour is a collection of MP3 files that discuss some aspect about the Eastern Sierra—the flora, fauna, the volcanic geology, its mineralogy—that can be viewed from the 395 but may not be apparent to the untrained eye.

But 395 is not the only attraction for this website. You can also download free audio files about Mono and Inyo counties, and listen to the audio files while viewing an interactive map that shows you the precise area the audio discusses. You can also view videos or link to related photos on Flickr.

You can even customize an audio tour based on specific stops or areas along 395 you plan to visit. Select the spots and the website will collate the audio files for you.

So load your iPod, get in the car, and go.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pantone Color Forecast and Free Download is offering a free color palette download (.ase file) for either Adobe or Quark applications. The Fashion Color Library is Pantone's fall fashion color palette, but it can easily be re-purposed to fill any design need for a spate of new colors.

Also, download the company's 2010 fall forecast PDF. It's always inspiring to see how design companies use color and marketing pieces to sell their services. And it's a big year for Living Coral #16-1546.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Find That Bird in a Sn-App

We don't claim to be birders, not by any stretch, but I can understand why people do it. Our experience with the bald eagle count was a good one, and it's tempting to think I could educate myself enough to embrace it as a hobby.

What's even more tempting is the idea that I could educate myself in the quickest, most passive way possible: through an iPod Touch or iPhone. Yep, there's an Audubon birder app that makes it easy to find birds by color, by region, or other characteristics. The best part is that the app includes bird songs so you can confirm what you  might be seeing by what you're hearing.

If birds are not enough, there are also Audubon guides for wildflowers, mammals and trees. And the apps can utilize the iPhone's GPS system to track where you've seen things.

The price per app is $10 for trees, wildflowers and malls; $20 for birds. All, including a free sampler app,  are available for download from iTunes.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bald Eagle Count at Silverwood

We went to Silverwood Lake yesterday to take part in a bald eagle count. The man-made lake, a California state park located east of the Cajon Pass, is part of the wintering grounds for bald eagles that migrate from Canada.

Neither one of us had ever participated in a bird count before, but it seemed like a worthwhile thing to do while spending a beautiful day in the mountains. After what has seemed like a lot of cold and rain this winter, the promise of sunny, 80 degree weather was too good to stay indoors..

We arrived at the lake around 8 a.m., met the other volunteers near the lake marina, and split up into small groups. Each group had a birder as a leader, and a designated spot to observe for birds. One spot was the nearby dam; another was Miller Canyon, and ours was Black Oak Canyon.

The bird count at Silverwood was one of several conducted simultaneously around the state. Each one started and ended at the same time to preclude double counting a bird that might fly from one watched site to another during the course of a day. The count was set from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

We arrived at Black Oak just before nine, and spotted one bald eagle immediately, sitting at the top of a tall, dead tree. He perched and waited, and eventually flew a short distance to another tree. He was far from us, but still clearly visible, given his impressive size. He was counted as an adult, and unfortunately, he was the only eagle we saw. We did see some large blue herons, and the brilliant if common blue jay.

At the end of the count, we heard there were two other eagles spotted for a total of three. We headed off to a peaceful picnic near the empty lakeshore, and soaked up the sun. There will be another eagle count in March, with the opportunity to cruise around the lake on a barge. We’re up for that.