Tag Archives: birds

Working Until Winter

And exhale! September and October are (almost) over, and it looks like I’ll finally be reclaiming my home life. It has been a busy fall semester, but the things that made it crazier than past years have all been good. However, I’ll be happy to get back some work-life balance.

Living in Wisconsin, we know that the nice weather will soon give way to snow and cold  😥 With our nice days numbered, we have been plugging along at some outdoor home-improvement projects.

First, we have been working on improving the look of our side yard. There is a hedgerow between our place and the neighbor’s that is technically planted in the neighbor’s yard. While it provides a nice screen, it isn’t maintained well, and we get to see its ugly side. So, we are trying to create our own shade garden shield.

I failed to get a pre-edger picture, but this was our beginning point. (See the bunny?)
Side Yard Project

(Ignore the birdbath nastiness) Our initial birdbath/bird feeders configuration.
Old Birdbath Configuration

And the new set-up.
Revamped Birdbath Area

A new gate and exposed trash bins required some reconfiguring…
Driveway Before

With a new screen.
Driveway After-ish

Garbage Screen

We decided to move the hostas we had along the north side of the house. They were massively huge!
Massive Hosta Plant

We replanted about two and a half of the huge plants along the edgers.
Transplanted Hostas

We also planted dwarf burning bushes along the hedgerow.
Dwarf Burning Bush

With a little mulch, we’re basically done. Jason just needs to level out the edgers.
Shade Garden, Mostly Done

The second project was a little more serious: new windows. We couldn’t afford to do all the windows at once (stupid old house requiring us to special order the awkward sizes), but we took care of our massive picture window and four regular windows on the first floor. Hopefully sometime next summer, we’ll replace the one remaining window on the first floor and the three on the second floor.

We gave new meaning to brining the outdoors inside…at least for half an hour.
Out with the Old

New Picture Window

Isn’t it just so pretty? I’m in love!
New Picture Window

Goodbye old, drafty window. You won’t be missed.
Old Window

The other windows will look even better once we get rid of the old storms.
New Side Windows

We have already noticed a difference inside with the new windows. The light coming in just looks different. I’m also happy that I will finally have clean windows inside and out. They are tilt-ins, so I will actually be able to clean the outsides. I’m very excited about it  😉

The remaining outside project is to tuck point our crumbling limestone foundation. Fingers crossed we can still make it happen before winter. If we can get it done along with the new windows (particularly the picture window), it should make a huge difference in our heating costs. I’ll keep you posted…

California Vacation 2011: Mono Lake

For our first full day in California, Jason and I made the trek over the Tioga Pass, down to the eastern side of the Sierra, to visit Mono Lake. We had seen photos, thought it looked cool, and figured it was worth a visit since we were so close.

Once we exited the park, the mountains took it to a whole new level.

We figured a good view awaited us around the bend.
Tioga Pass

We were right.
Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass

It’s amazing how quickly you can go from one environment to another. Just that morning, we woke up in 30-degree weather. By the time we made it to the Mono Basin, it felt like we had just entered the desert.

The Visitor Center at Mono Lake is really great. It’s a beautiful facility full of information about the lake and ecosystem.
Mono Lake Basin

Mono Lake

Mono Lake is a large saline lake, much like the Great Salt Lake in Utah. While no fish live in the lake, it is home to brine shrimp and alkali flies (which were just nasty). The lake also serves as an important habitat for migratory birds.

Flies lined the lakeshore. Yuck.
Mono Lake

Because of California’s arid climate, water is at a premium. Starting in the 40’s, Los Angeles diverted excess water from Mono Basin’s streams. The lake lost half of its volume and doubled in salinity. Not good.

This became an even bigger problem for the birds, particularly the California Gulls who traveled to Mono Lake to breed. Their main nesting ground was Negit Island, a black cone island in the middle of the lake. Since it was cut off from the main shoreline, predators were non-existent. That is until the water levels started dropping. A landbridge emerged and provided access to the island from the mainland. Coyotes took quick advantage, and the gulls abandoned their primary nesting ground.

Restoration efforts began in the early 90’s, and gulls returned to Negit Island in 1999.

Other than the birds – which there are A LOT of flying around – the major feature is the tufa towers (too’-fah). The tufa make the lake look lake an alien landscape. Tufa is nothing more than basic limestone. It just forms a little differently.

Underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff in your bones) mix with lakewater rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda). As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate–limestone. The calcium carbonate precipitates (settles out of solution as a solid) around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tufa tower will grow. Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to heights of over 30 feet. The reason visitors see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941. (Source: http://www.monolake.org/about/geotufa)

The greatest concentration of tufa is in the South Tufa grove.

Mono Lake

No Climbing or Collecting the Tufa
Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

While the tufas were neat to see, there weren’t nearly as many of them as we thought there would be. I quickly grew tired of the desert-like climate. Neither Jason nor I were into the smell – it was stinky  🙁  For us, we likened the visit to our Mariposa Grove side trip last summer. In that case, the unexpected heat got to us and we weren’t that impressed with the trees. (Never fear. Our feelings on giant sequoias may have changed…)

I’m still glad we went to see Mono Lake. For one, we got to seek the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, which is way cooler than the western slope. We got to see the tufas. And I learned a lot about a special environment that reminded me of the importance of preserving our country’s delicate ecosystems.

Mono Lake

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