Category Archives: Outdoors
(In Lieu of any current travel here’s a tale of a trip I made July 13, 2018)
Boston to Seattle. I am sitting in the window seat. Food and beverage service comes by. “May I have the chicken plate please?” I ask.
“I’m sorry” the flight attendant says, “There was a mix-up in supplying the plane, we already ran out of meals. That woman and her daughter (pointing to the seats in front of me) got the last ones.”
My water bottle is empty. I didn’t get to fill it before boarding the plane. So I ask the flight attendant “Can you pour me some orange juice in my water bottle so I don’t have to worry about it spilling?”
“No, we’re not allowed to pour into passenger’s containers because we may spill. But I will give it to you in a paper cup so you can pinch the top and pour it into your water bottle.” Then instead of the usual low profile plastic cup, she gives me a large paper cup full to the top with orange juice. Too full to try to pour it, I set it down.
Just then I am distracted by a commotion with the passenger behind me and the very large, very full cup of juice tips over, spilling onto my laptop computer and squarely into my lap.
So now I’m trapped in the window seat, sitting in a puddle of orange juice just 1 hour into a 6-1/2 hour flight. How could this get any worse?
A minute later I feel my foot getting wet. The little girl in the seat in front of me spilled her full cup of Sprite between the seats and onto my foot and backpack. At least I already have a wad of slightly used napkins to dry it up. How could this possibly get any worse?
The girl’s mother in the middle seat turns around and apologizes and then goes into a 10-minute rant telling me how bad her flying experience has been today starting with the airline giving her trouble at the baggage check for not having water in the cage for her labra-doodle. How dare they!
She ends with “I’ve had such a bad day! This really is Friday the 13th, isn’t it?” She says.
“Yes it is.” I reply with a wry smile, “yes it is.”
Taking a diversion from the usual technology-related topic to share a bit of what most people will never see, Sunday morning, 5:30 AM, the first day of Fall, 2014. My internal alarm clock wakes me up. It is still quite dark outside. Charlie, our rooster hasn’t even woken up yet. That reminds me of something I have wanted to do for a long time: watch the large flock of birds by UW Bothell leave their roost. Would there ever be a better day to do it than today? Probably not. So I got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and headed over to the bike trail by the UW Bothell campus.
I got there by 6:00 AM. The air was mild and very calm. It was still dark enough that the dark side of the New Moon with a brighter thin crescent edge was visible to the east, looking out over the roosting area.
I set up my camera and waited. It wasn’t long before the first birds start to fly, around 6:10 AM. It started off slow at first, but very quickly the sky was full of them – A Murder of many thousands of Crows!
I was able to capture the sunrise as they left their roost in rivers of birds flying out to greet the world. I noticed that they don’t just fly out in all directions. Instead, they follow flight paths as if Air Traffic Control were giving them instructions. The stream of birds went on for over 30 minutes. Since it was early on a Sunday morning, the traffic noise from the highway was quiet. The result is a very peaceful, almost meditational video. I can imagine leaving the video playing on one of my computer monitors for a calm white-noise effect to offset the chimes of meeting reminders and email alerts while I work. It is recorded in HD, so it’s worth watching in full screen.
Don’t let the conditioning of modern television’s 5 to 20 second long clips between scene changes make you anxious after a minute or two of this. Consider finding a time when you can sit and let the video play in its entirety as if you were there yourself, filming it. If you are looking for a moment of excitement, you will have to create it yourself. Count the number of times you see a lone bird flying in the other direction. Or count the number of times a bird flaps its wings as it passes by. Or count the number of times a pair of Canada Geese fly by. Or count the number of distinct caws you hear. Or simply count the number of birds that fly by. Or just watch the rhythm of the stream of birds as the sky gradually changes color. This far north, we have long sunrises. Enjoy.
The Bothell crows make up a murder of many thousands of crows that roost every night at the 58 acre wetlands restoration site sandwiched between I-405, Hwy 522, and the University of Washington-Bothell campus.
The restoration project was started 12 years ago. This is what it looked like back then:
You can learn more about this flock of crows at the UW website.
And their Facebook page.
You can also get a better idea of just how large this murder is from this footage of them gathering again at the end of the day.
This is an open letter to King County Council and the City of Woodinville with regard to their plan to open up the Sammamish River corridor to urban development:
Dear King County Council:
I live a mile from downtown Woodinville, WA. Before living here, I lived on 3 acres in a semi-rural part of South Carolina. When I first moved to Puget Sound 12 years ago, I was immediately drawn to this spot because of the country feeling it has, yet is so close to everything in the city. My commute to work has consisted of riding the 1 mile down to the Sammamish River bike trail, then 10 miles on a quiet, scenic ride along the trail to Marymoor Park, then 1 more mile up to my office. Even in the winter, this is a pleasant ride.
On my ride in the mornings, the air smells clean and fresh. There are no roads or houses anywhere close to the trail. I see lots of wildlife: rabbits, beavers and herons are always there. But the wilderness experience goes far beyond that. I have seen a coyote catching a rabbit. I have seen an eagle catch a duck in the middle of one of the farms; I have had an owl fly along beside me as I rode home in the winter night. This place is surprisingly quiet and devoid of noise pollution. A great comfort for people and an absolute necessity for creatures like owls which depend on hearing to catch their food. This corridor is a great sanctuary for people as well as wildlife from the growth and expansion of urban life and an important reason why I choose to live here.
At night, this corridor is one of the few places not flooded with light pollution, yet open enough to see the sky. I sometimes take my daughter here to see the stars. Earlier this year we were able to go down to the bike trail near the St. Michelle winery to watch the meteor shower and another time to watch the lunar eclipse. During the day, this is one of the few places near my home where I can get an unobstructed view of Mt Rainier. Most evenings throughout the summer, a pair of hot air balloons can be seen drifting down the valley where they will land in a field. These balloons are as much the trademark of the City of Woodinville as the Space Needle is of the City of Seattle. (see the city logo in the top right corner of the City of Woodinville website)These experiences will all be gone permanently, when you open this area up to development.
I support protecting our farms, forests, and rural lands. These lands are important, not only to Woodinville’s wine and tourism industry, but to everyone who lives here or passes through. Many thousands of cyclists use this corridor daily. To quote from your own website:
“The Sammamish River Trail (SRT) runs 10.9 miles along the Sammamish River from Bothell to Marymoor Park in Redmond as part of the “Locks to Lakes Corridor.” The SRT is paved its entire length and is one of King County’s most popular regional trails. The trail offers extraordinary views of the river, the broad Sammamish River Valley, Cascade foothills and Mt. Rainier. Bicyclists, joggers, skaters, walkers, and others enjoy the trail as a regional recreation resource. The SRT is also used extensively by commuters as a nonmotorized corridor between suburban cities and Seattle.”
To develop this land will not only diminish the value of the valley itself, but also destroy the very reason many people are drawn to this area to begin with. Please protect our lands by keeping King County’s designated urban growth area right where it is.
If you support this letter, even if you don’t live here, please add your name below by simply posting a comment. You can write your own letter by visiting http://www.savewoodinvillefarms.org
Please respond quickly. Hearings are to be held on this topic September 11, 12, and 18