September 2, 2012

One Man’s Treasure Is Another Boy’s Cash

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:51 am

Good morning and greetings, Labor Day fans. Yes, there’s nothing like a three-day weekend to help keep my Dixie cup half-filled with that much needed positive perspective.

Having three days off from the regular work routine gives one time to relax and do things like working in the garden, going for walks on the beach, or gathering the kids around the TV to watch the “Law and Order SVU” marathon on USA network. Nothing like 13 hours of watching Detectives Stabler and Benson trying to solve crimes ripped from the headlines to bring a family together. And for you trivia nuts keeping score at home, Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson, is the daughter of Jayne Mansfield, who was known as the “Working Man’s Marilyn Monroe.”

But I digress. I love to stroll along the sand, as I am a semi-avid shell collector, being that at this stage of my life, I’m just a shell of my former self. I love to see what the ocean washes up along shoreline, whether it be shells, sea glass, or oil blotches from a Chevron tanker. Or as the sticker says, “I love poetry, long walks on the beach and poking dead things with a stick.” Which begs the question, “What if the hokey pokey is what it’s all about?”

Well, last week, on the southern coast of England, 8-year-old Charlie Naysmith was taking a nature walk along the beach with this parents when he came upon a yellowish-brownish rock. As it turns out, this wasn’t just any old rock, but a solidified piece of whale vomit called ambergris, which is a very expensive perfume ingredient that prolongs the scent. In the words of C. Joybell C., “You are never fully dressed without perfume!”

Well, young Charles in Charge started to do some research, and after consulting with the It’s My Lucky Day Institute, it was determined that this whale of a find could be worth somewhere between $15,850 and $63,350. Holy Moby Dick. And I thought I was lucky when I spotted up a quarter on the ground at a gas station last week.

Our friend Ambergris is formed in the intestinal tract of sperm whales and often vomited or secreted into the ocean. It’s a waxy, bile-lile substance that’s as soft as a baby’s bottom, and when fresh has an aroma similar to a bad batch of sweet and pungent shrimp. It’s use is to help navigate the travel of material such as squid beaks and tiger prawns through a whale’s digestive tract, but what do I know, I’m no stool pigeon. This rock of ages had probably been floating in the ocean since the early days of the Beatles, just bobbing along and trying to avoid getting caught up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The scent of ambergris, not to be confused with Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman,” is what makes it so damn valuable. It has been used as incense, peppermints, the color of thyme, fragrance, flavoring, remedies and as an aphrodisiac, going back to ancient Egypt, China and the set of “Free Willy.”

Today, many perfume makers have switched to synthetic versions of ambergris because of it’s association with whaling and the sperm whale, which much like elderly children, pregnant women and Warrior fans, is a vulnerable species. It was banned from use in the U.S. in the 1970′s, along with my idea for a clothing line featuring asbestos shorts and t-shirts.

The ancient Chinese called the substance “dragon’s spittle fragrance” or moo goo gai pan. Ambergris is used in Egypt today for scenting cigarettes and adding a fresh, clean fragrance to counteract the smell of camels double parked in Tahrir Square.

It was punk rocker Iggy Pop who once declared,” I never believed that U2 wanted to save the whales. I don’t believe the Beastie Boys are ready to lay it down for Tibet.” Bottom line, who knew that something whales pooped could be so valuable? We’ll end with this thought. If swimming is such a good way to stay in shape, explain whales?

For this week’s photo array, we are going back to August and featuring the only sunset I subscribed to this summer. The date was August 17 and the clouds looked like they were going to put on a little show that night, so I grabbed my camera and a nectarine and headed up the coast to Davenport.

The aerial display didn’t turn out to be as colorful as I had hoped, but the cormorants keep flying up and landing in the Monterey Cypress tree that lined the cliff. There this group of sleek sea birds spent their time fighting and squawking while the sky performed its final act of the day. It was a great way to watch the curtain go down.

On to some late night. “Did you all watch the Republican convention last night? It’s good to see scripted television finally making a comeback. Ann Romney spoke last night. I thought she was quite eloquent. Analysts say her role was to show that Mitt has a tender side. And then the Romney family dog gave the rebuttal. Hurricane Isaac turned out to be not much of a threat to the Republican convention. But to their credit, the Republicans had a contingency plan. If the hurricane did hit hard, delegates were instructed to evacuate to Mitt Romney’s tax shelter.” –Jay Leno

“Donald Trump was bumped from speaking at the Republican convention because of Hurricane Isaac. See, nobody ever talks about the good things hurricanes do.
“According to a poll released last week, Mitt Romney has zero percent of the black vote. In fact, if it weren’t for John Boehner, Romney wouldn’t have any support from people of color at all.” –Jay Leno “John McCain was at the convention. He just wandered out on stage in his bathrobe.” –David Letterman

“Some of the Republicans, I think, are over-reacting to Hurricane Isaac — like today Rick Santorum was seen gathering up two of every animal. “Herman Cain was in Tampa. When a reporter asked him if Isaac reminded him of Katrina, he said, ‘I never even met the woman.’ A hurricane is scheduled to hit Tampa during the Republican Convention. These winds are so strong they could actually blow some of Mitt Romney’s money back in the United States.” –Jay Leno

“According to a new poll, Mitt Romney is at zero percent among African Americans. Here’s the sad part: That’s up 5 percent from last week.” –Jay Leno “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had a campaign event at an apple orchard… There was one awkward moment when they told the granny smiths they were considering cutting their Medicare.” –Jimmy Fallon “The winds in Tampa are so strong today, they blew the dog off the top of Romney’s car. This year the theme of the Republican convention is ’50 Shades of White.’” –David Letterman

So that’s our first blast for September 2012. Back in 1966, the Happenings sang, “See you in September, when the summer’s through.” Well, that’s not necessarily true here on the central coast, as I’m hoping Indian Summer and a Yankee winning streak are just around the corner.

So get ready for Wednesday’s kickoff of the the 2012-13 NFL season, with a matchup featuring the Super Bowl champion New York Giants against the Cowboys. We’ll catch you being not only the former no. 1-ranked player in the world and winning the U.S Open in 2003, but also being the lucky spouse of Brooklyn Decker. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andy Roddick fans.

May 27, 2012

It’s Just A Click Away

Good morning and greetings, season finale fans. As some of my followers in cyber space may have picked up on, every once in a while I have to force myself to relax, which inevitably leads to some TV research. I try to limit myself to under 50 shows a week, which includes sports, sitcoms, dramas, late night, national news, fake news, and any news magazine program involving true crime. It’s a tireless, daunting task, but as I’ve asked myself many times as I zip through the commercials, “If not me, then who?” It’s like being on a mission from Neilson gods.

So when I read this story last week, it hit me like a ton of Philadelphia cream cheese bricks. In a article written by Carla K .Johnson for the Associated Press, Eugene Polly, who is credited with perhaps the world’s greatest invention besides the Slinky, died last Sunday in Chicago at the age of 96. His invention, the first wireless TV remote control, began as a luxury, but with the introduction of hundreds of channels, it became a necessity, much like my Ultra Plush electrically heated toilet seat.

Back in the black and white days in 1955, if you wanted to switch channels from the Phil Silvers show to The Honeymooners, you had to do what the early pioneers and Donner party did. You had to get up off the couch stroll across the room and turn a knob. For the youth of today, this would be considered prehistoric. It would be like living with a modern stone age family like the Flintstones, except there was no yabba dabba doo time.

But then came Eugene Polley’s miracle invention. Thanks to Geno, you could purchase a new Zenith television with a wireless remote control called the Flash-Matic. It was a green, ray gun-shaped contraption with a red trigger that was very temperamental, requiring precise angling to work successfully. It was a huge advancement from Zenith’s first TV remote, a device called the “Lazy Bones,” which was connected to the TV set by a wire cord. With the Flash-Matic, it was channel surfing city.

The advertising at the time promised “TV miracles.” Zenith and the Parent Televison Council claimed the “flash tuner” was “Absolutely harmless to humans!” And most intriguing of all: “You can even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen.” Gadzooks and great balls of fire, this man was a genuis. Now if he had just invented something that could help me find my remote, I’d be in TiVo heaven.

Polley’s Flash-Matic pointed a beam of light at photo cells in the corners of the television screen. Each corner activated a different function, turning the picture and sound off and on, and changing the channels. This is beyond my realm of understanding, as I still don’t know how the TV picture gets inside the screen. Or how cell phones can work so quickly or computers come up with searches instantaneously. Or as George Orwell once told me, “He who controls the present, controls the past. And he who controls the past, remote controls the future.”

To wrap this up, here’s a thought from David Lazarus at “Gush all you want about Facebook, Twitter and other recent tech innovations. I’d stack Eugene Polley and his TV remote against all of them. After all, which would you be more willing to give up — Facebook or your remote? … Thought so.” Dave, I couldn’t have tweeted that better myself.

Moving along, last Wednesday, as I walked along West Cliff on a low tide morning, I spotted two great blue herons standing in the sea grass. I looked on in amazement, as over a period of 27 years, I could count on three fingers the numbers of herons I had actually spotted in the ocean. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I returned to one of the locations the next day and there it was (photo #1.) I’ve included three other photos of some great blues from over the years to keep this great bird company.

In other aviary news, the comorants have set up shop and built their nests at the end of West Cliff Drive (photos 5 & 6,) just outside of Natural Bridges State Beach. The females will lay their eggs, the babies will hatch and their will be new life along the cliff. It’s a reassuring sight to see on a daily basis, and I’ll keep you updated as to when the storks arrive.

On to some late night. “Here’s an election update. Today Mitt Romney met with a group of wealthy Latino business owners. Or as Romney calls them, ‘the Juan percent.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Mitt Romney and his family have a big two-day weekend plan. They’re going to hike to the top of his money.” –David Letterman

“I know why you’re happy. Facebook went public and you’re all billionaires now. It is worth one hundred and four billion dollars. There has got to be a cheaper way to find out if your ex-girlfriend got fat. For the first time in our history, more minority children were born in America than white children. And today the Octomom said, ‘I’m on it.’” –Bill Maher

“Mark Zuckerberg got married a couple of days ago. At their wedding, Zuckerberg’s wife wore a dress that cost nearly $5,000. That is until the dress went public. Now it’s worth $2,000.” –Conan O’Brien “There has been another new development in the Secret Service prostitution scandal… (Some agents) say this kind of thing is so common that internally they refer to it as the Secret Circus. Which explains why they were trying to pay the hookers peanuts.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our last blast for May 2012. Birthday wishes go out today to my lovely sister-in-law Wendi, who turns the big 50. She is the queen of comments here at Sunrise Santa Cruz and someone who really gets it. Who doesn’t love a woman whose wedding invitations were made out of chocolate?

And our Thursday, my snow boarding brother Brad’s favorite son Miles becomes a teenager. Congratulations and follow your shot.

So spend a moment today thinking what Memorial Day is all about and the sacrifices our military families make. We’ll catch you having your knee drained and then taking it to the hoop like a madman. Aloha, mahalo and later, Dwyane Wade fans.

May 22, 2011

Okay, Who’s Nest?

Good morning and greetings, nature fans. State park officials recently announced that because of budget cuts, seventy state parks across California will close starting in September. Holy Rosa Parks, that’s a 25% slice and dice. We’re talking beaches, redwood forests and parks with historical and cultural significance with rest rooms that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned in years. You would think at a time when vacation money is tight that the parks would be a natural place that would stay open, but this is not the case.

Governor Jerry Brown had to slash the budget and state public services got carved up like a honey-baked ham. Personally, I blame Arnold Swarzenegger for not being able to keep it in his pants.

Fortunately, one California State Park that escaped unscathed was Natural Bridges State Beach. So this is where our journey begins today as we are featuring that sleek, black sea bird that swims like Michael Phelps, the cormorant. Last week I saw a couple of huge flocks flying low to the water, furiously flapping their wings in a v-formation, as they were either on their way to feeding grounds or late for birds-only retreat.

So every weekday morning, after summoning up the courage to get out of bed, I knock back a couple of organic Pop Tarts and drop my kids off at school. I then head over to West Cliff Drive before settling outside the entrance to Natural Bridges, where my wife and I start our four mile, er two miles, er mile and a half stroll along our favorite street in Santa Cruz.

I am always excited in April when the cormorants return to this nesting spot on the edge of the cliff (photo #1) to build their nests, lay their eggs and discuss their hopes and dreams. I’m not sure if this is where they’ll actually mate, but who wouldn’t feel love in the air in a spot where the tides flow in and out, waves crash below you 24 hours a day and you can double date with pelicans.

Last year, a colony of these colonial nesters showed up at the usual time, built their custom homes but then halfway through the party abandoned this prime shelf of real estate. Local birders informed me in hushed tones that word on the street was that there wasn’t enough food and they were starving and forced to move on. It was very disturbing to have them leave so suddenly, but it was nature’s way of telling me something was wrong.

So at this point in late May, the females are sitting on the nests while their mates gather fish n’ chips and talk sports. Actually, both parents take part in building the nest and incubating the eggs, but the males get credit as the general contractor. I shot photo #3 last week so you can see what stage we are at with these sea birds. But just in case we don’t make it to the birth announcement stage, I threw in photos 5 & 6 from a few years back so you could see what these spanking new toddlers look like at birth.

Much like my time at Woodstock, the newly hatched cormorants are blind for their first three days on earth as well as buck naked. For the next five to seven weeks their mothers will sit on them, protecting their newborns from the wind, rain and natural predators like the nature photographer. And like my daughter’s worst nightmare, the babies are fed through regurgitation until they grow big and strong enough to fly off to join larger flocks or enroll in the Peace Corps.

It’s a west side treat to watch this magical event along the edge of the continent, from the flying in of the grasses, seaweed and dry wall for the nests to the lamaze births of the babies, all done out in the open in Pacific Ocean time. If you want to check it out, just park in the upper lot at Natural Bridges and walk outside the entrance and voila, you’re at cormorant nesting central. If things go according to plans, the chicks will hatch and then they’ll hang around through the summer with day trips to the Boardwalk, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Phil’s Fish House. For us locals, it’s like watching Animal Planet on the big screen of life.

On to the late night. “They found so much porn at Bin Laden’s compound that they’re investigating whether the porn was used to send coded messages. So remember guys, from now on when your lady catches you, you’re not looking at porn, you’re analyzing coded messages. ‘Honey, I wasn’t looking at porn. I’m in Al Qaeda.’” –Conan O’Brien “They have found Osama bin Laden’s diary. Some entries: ‘Very unhappy with TV reception. Death to Time-Warner.’ ‘Three wives, one bathroom, you do the math.’ The final entry: ‘Dear Diary, can’t talk now. Someone’s at the door. Hope it’s the Domino’s guy.’” -David Letterman

“President Obama’s approval rating, which got a bump after killing bin Laden, has slipped again. Which is really bad news — not for the president, for Moammar Gadhafi. President Obama suggested that Israel should go back to the pre-1967 borders. Native Americans said, “Why stop there? Let’s go back to the pre-1492 borders.”–Jay Leno

“I’m Conan O’Brien, or as I can now publicly call myself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jr. Schwarzenegger secretly fathered a child outside of his marriage 10 years ago. He told his wife at the time but it took 10 years for her to figure out what he was saying.”—Conan O’Brien “There have been rumors going around for years now about a half Austrian, half Mexican baby who could bench-press a Ford Expedition.” -Jimmy Kimmel

“Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a lovechild back in 2003. He’s been taking care of the child financially, providing healthcare and education — the same stuff he took from every other child while he was governor of California. “I guess ‘love child’ is a nicer term than ‘OK-Maria’s-asleep child.’ The woman was an employee. I’m not sure what she did, but I think she worked on Arnold’s staff.” -Craig Ferguson “Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff. He kept this secret for more than 10 years. You know how he did it? He moved the woman and child into an apartment right down the street from the Pakistani military academy.” -Jay Leno

“Mitt Romney raised over $10 million in eight hours. That’s a dollar for every position he’s had on healthcare.” -Jay Leno “Ron Paul announced that he will run for president, and he supports the legalization of prostitution and heroin. If he does win, it will be one heck of a victory party.” -Conan O’Brien “Al-Qaida has a new leader. It’s quite a success story. He worked his way up all the way from the mail bomb room.” -David Letterman

So that’s our pre-Memorial Day weekend blast. Birthday wishes go out on Wednesday to my life-partner, soul mate and sports-loving wife Allison, who as you can imagine, has put up with plenty from yours truly over the years. And on Saturday, it’s that special day for my Marin-based sister-in-law Wendi, a faithful reader of this blog who lives life like every day is summer camp. So enjoy the singing cicadas, NBA conference finals and we’ll catch you in overtime. Aloha, mahalo and later, Maria Shriver fans.

April 11, 2011

If You’re Interrupting Me, It Better Be Davenportant

Good morning and greetings, west coast fans. There’s an old idiom, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Or was that “elect Bush once, shame on him. Elect Bush twice, shame on America?” Anyway, welcome to my world of unseized moments that comes surrounded with mounds of chocolate remorse and a soft, chewy caramel center.

Last week I wrote of a missed beautiful March sunrise due to technical difficulties somewhere inside my cranial sac. Well, much like the spring tornadoes and hail stones the size of baseballs raining down in the midwest, these things happen. So in keeping with present form and in the tradition of the Masters, this week I went to the sunset card, which teed off Tuesday night in the western sky.

After walking out of the gymnasium following my son’s volleyball game, I observed what had once been a cloudless sky now featured a cloud front coming in from the north. But due to circumstances that were not beyond my control, I ignored this oncoming mass of cumulus configuration and instead opted to make dinner and watch a rerun of “The Office” that I had seen sixteen times.

When I popped my head outside to take a look, I saw the sky was in full living color, so I grabbed my camera and headed west. When I arrived at the overlook, I knew at that moment that I should have been situated atop the bluffs in Davenport taking in this April treat, as it was a full-on spring show over the Pacific. I did take some shots, but they did not do truth, justice or the American way to the moment.

So what to do. I knew there was but one solution, as a do over wasn’t possible and my time machine was in the shop. It was my forever safety valve, a place for me to go for missed moments and traces of love, long ago, that didn’t work out right. That would be my archives, deep inside the fallout shelter of my mind.

When the sun moves across the sky in March, I head up the coast to the cliffs above Davenport for the sunset cruise. The Monterey cypress trees (photo #1) that line the cliffs (photo #2) are just exquisite, and in early evening cormorants gather in these trees to squawk and take in the epic sights. It’s an awesome location to shoot from, so to make up for my latest faux pas, I’ve featured two April nights from the past to give you a little taste of the Davenport experience.

Now here’s a little history of the community that sits nine miles up the coast from Santa Cruz. After the Civil War, Captain John Davenport, a whaler from Tiverton, Rhode Island, decided that he needed to move to a state bigger than Gary Coleman, so he set sail for the west coast and landed in Monterey. Among his claims to fame was that he lived in the first brick house in California. It later housed the funk/soul band, the Commodores, which inspired “Brick House”, “Easy” like Sunday morning and my personal favorite, “Once, Twice, Three Times A Laker.”

When the good captain sailed into the San Francisco Bay in 1851, he passed by a school of whales and triathletes swimming not far from shore. Believing that they would be easy to capture, process for oil and look good in Speedos, he dreamed of creating a whaling business.

He started the first coastal whaling business in California in Monterey, but decided to move it closer to San Francisco because he loved Willie Mays and the Giants. In the late 1860′s, Captain Davenport built a pier in the town of Davenport as travelers along the north coast discovered this scenic coastal oasis with its beautiful shoreline, magnificent weather and fantastic carne asada burritos.

Captain Davenport built a 450 foot long wharf along with a gas station and car wash. This was not a fun time for the hundreds of whales cruising up the coast, who were savagely harpooned for their meat, oil, and whalebone. But despite the blubber melting pots, whale watching tours and a free super wash with a gas fill-up, the whaling business was not a profitable venture and lasted only a decade. The Davenport Landing wharf was abandoned in 1880 and Captain Davenport moved to Santa Cruz where he opened up a massage and meditation Center before he died at the age of 74 while boogie boarding at the Boardwalk.

For almost 50 years, the town of Davenport prospered with hotels, surf shops and the first In-N-Out Burger joint. Then in 1915, a fire destroyed nearly everything except for Blockbuster Video and a Little Caesar’s Pizza. At the time, some believed it was the spirit of the whales seeking revenge that brought on this disaster. Sometimes karma can really be a bitch.

On to the late night. “The rebel army in Libya is just like 1,000 guys in Toyota trucks. The world is asking the question; can 1000 anti-government guys in pick-up trucks with small arms, take over a country of millions? To which I say, ask the Teabaggers.” –Bill Maher “Republican Congressman Tom Marino, who is on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: ‘If we go into Libya, where does it stop? Do we go into Africa next?’ So, you see why he’s not on the Intelligence Committee. Authorities in Mali arrested four people after an aircraft loaded with 10 tons of cocaine crashed. Charlie Sheen called it “the worst air disaster in history.”–Jay Leno

“Fox is adding several new Spanish-language shows to its programming schedule to appeal to the growing Latino population. My favorite one is about that doctor with a cane who plays by his own rules — you know, “Casa.” Many gamers are asking for refunds on the new Nintendo 3DS because it causes headaches and dizziness. It was pretty scary — some gamers became so disoriented, they accidentally wandered outside. Southwest Airlines canceled 600 flights because of a plane that suddenly got a 5-foot hole in the roof. You know American wouldn’t have canceled all those flights. They’d have just started charging a $50 sunroof fee.” –Jimmy Fallon

“There’s a $376 million semi-secret construction project happening at the White House, and it’s rumored that a tunnel is being built underneath. That’s a lot of work for President Obama to get away from his mother-in-law. Let the man have a cigarette. I think he Obama is building an underground Kenya. A new subterranean land so he can Africanize us from below. I heard that on Fox News.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama said he plans on running for re-election against the Republicans. After the tax cuts for the rich, the bailouts for Wall Street, and the bombing in Libya, I already thought he was the Republican candidate. President Obama said today that Americans are just going to have to get used to higher gas prices. To which Dick Cheney said, “That’s change I can believe in. I like this Obama guy.”–Jay Leno “President Obama revealed that up until a few years ago, he was still paying off his student loans. In response, China was like, “Oh, so you do know how to repay loans.”–Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama announced his re-election campaign. As far as I’m concerned, the election starts with the first attack ad, which should appear in about 20 minutes. I think elections should be quick. If I have an election that lasts longer than four hours, I call the doctor. Experts say this Presidential campaign will be the most expensive in history. A far cry from the very first re-election campaign back in 1792. When George Washington ran against a young Senator named John McCain.” –Craig Ferguson

“Donald Trump is doing well in the polls. He’s in second place among Republican voters. Among tea partyers, he’s in first place. Although to be fair, in the tea party poll, Chuck Norris is in second place and third place is an AK-47.”–Jimmy Kimmel “If Donald Trump loves America so much, why does he keep outsourcing the job of his wife?” –Seth Meyers “Southwest Airlines has a new slogan: “We love the sky — and it shows.”–Jay Leno

“Former first lady Laura Bush said in an interview that she and George W. Bush do everything together. Then she said she had to go because “SpongeBob” was on. Officials at BP have filed for permits to drill for oil again in the Gulf of Mexico. They say the oil is easier to find than ever because it’s mostly on top of the water.”–Conan O’Brien “A man in Ohio received a cable bill for $16 million. When he called customer service, they told him that for another $8, he could get the NFL package.”–Jay Leno

Special birthday wishes go out to my father, Daniel Gilbert, who turns 94 years old tomorrow. Yes, you might say we’ve got some strong genes and cargo shorts that run in our family. My Dad, who lives here in Santa Cruz, spends a good part of his day sleeping, but while awake is working on writing the pilot episode for a new sitcom, “Father Knows Rest,” where he plays the starring role. To have both my parents alive and questioning every move I make at age 58 is a true blessing, and as my mother always says to me, “if we can’t live Hawaii, lucky we live Santa Cruz.” And “could you check and see if there’s any mail?”

So that’s a wrap. I’m just glad that we’re done with Libya, things are going well with the nuclear reactors in Japan and the Pentagon says we’ve had enough time in Afghanistan. It seems worldwide that everything is just peachy and that Donald Trump really isn’t the moron he is pretending to be. And God bless the Republicans and Planned Parenthood.

So enjoy our wild weather we’ll catch you at the start of the NBA playoffs. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derrick Rose fans.

May 9, 2010

Are You Through Cormoranting And Raving?

Good morning and greetings, Dwight Shrute fans. That’s right, my son Jason’s favorite TV show, “The Office,” is starting to grow on me, and the beet farming Mr. Schrute is quite the character. Throw in Jim, the insane Michael Scott and the rest of the gang, and this show is the “Seinfeld” for the texting generation. Because of my hand modeling career and my undercover work for NASA, I don’t get to watch it as often as I like, but when I do it rarely disappoints, unlike the road to Hana, last season’s New York Giants or my senior prom.

Last Thursday was an interesting day, as I like my stress served medium rare. The Dow Jones plummeted 1,000 points in 15 minutes, due to either a high speed trading glitch, the Greek credit crisis or the Raider’s cutting ties with quarterback JaMarcus Russell. This free falling of the market cost investors and Bernie Madoff’s son’s billions. But it’s only money, and in the words of billionaire Paul McCartney, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” Yes, that may be true, but it really does buy everything else. Well, except for peace of mind, which, American Express says, is ‘priceless.”

But some good things happened on Thursday. As I headed out onto my walk along West Cliff Drive, I noticed the cormorants had returned to the shelf along the cliff (photo #1) just outside of Natural Bridges. They had been gone for close to a year, or about the last time I shaved. They’re here to build nests (photo #2,) talk sports and go on Facebook.

They had been nesting in this spot last summer, until one day when they just vanished. They had seemingly destroyed their nests and hightailed it out of there faster than you could say, “Steve Carell.” I soon learned that there wasn’t enough food in the area and they were starving, so they flew the coop and rented condos in Tahoe for the summer. It missed seeing the eggs hatch and the babies being born, but fortunately, the “Sons of Anarchy” returned to FX that week, and nothing nourishes and replenishes the soul like the adventures of an outlaw motorcycle gang.

So I shot away like Annie Liebowitz in bankruptcy court on this beautiful spring day along the Pacific coast. A gull joined the action and squawked away (photo #4,) making a sound I hadn’t heard since my wedding night.

Two years ago, when I was shooting the cormorants in this same spot, gulls starting attacking me as I waded in along the ice plants. I thought to myself, wow, how interesting, here’s one species of birds protecting another. Somebody get me National Geographic on the phone. Well, it turns out my theory of birds of a feather sticking together was incorrect, as I was walking too close to the sea gulls nests and they felt threatened. I hadn’t seen that kind of aviary anger since Larry Bird choked Dr. J in the eastern conference finals back in the 80′s.

While I was snapping away, another group of birds flew into the picture. At first, I thought they were cornish game hens and immediately starting boiling some wild rice. Then I realized these grayish winged objects were pigeons as one landed on a stool nearby. Many of us think of pigeons as dirty little birds that don’t do much good for society, like the Republican party. But this little squab, who landed on the fence nearby and I named Walter, seemed different and conjured up my thoughts on KFP, who proudly proclaim, “we do pigeon right.”

The final shot was taken as I was walking down near the lighthouse and came upon this pelican, who was just a few feet off the path. Since he allowed me to get within a few feet of him, I immediately thought that he was either sick or a fan of the blog . He was an absolutely beautiful bird and his feathers gleamed in the sun, much like my hair does after using my daughter’s tropical coconut shampoo.

Pelicans along the west coast have had health problems in the recent past and this fella looked hungry, so I put a $20 bill in his bill and pointed him in the direction of the Crow’s Nest. There he ordered an ice tea, the calamari appetizer and a fish taco, and then flew out of there without leaving a tip. So now we know he must have been sick, because in the bird world, pelicans are known as very good tippers.

Let’s move on to the late night, “Something very suspicious happened over the weekend. A car parked at, like, 45th and Broadway, very suspicious. And I’ll tell you the most suspicious thing about the whole episode was that the guy found a parking place. Thank God the car bombing was thwarted by an alert carjacker.” –David Letterman “The bomber’s name is Faisal Shahzad. What, is Snoop Dogg naming terrorists now? They’re still looking for his brother, Fo Shizzle. They don’t know where he is.” –Jay Leno

“Anyway, police raided this guy’s house. I guess it’s in Bridgeport, Conn. Some of the neighbors say the suspect told them he worked on Wall Street, so they were relieved to find out he was just a terrorist.” –Jay Leno “Authorities say Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, went to terrorist camp in Pakistan. Honestly, who are these parents that are sending their kids to terrorist camp?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Yeah, they plucked a guy off a plane. They say he was a moody loner. Last year, he vacationed in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Well, no red flags there.” –David Letterman

“Speaking of terrorism, two new videos from the Pakistani Taliban seem to show that their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is alive, even though the U.S. thought he was killed. So, either our intelligence is wrong or they’re just shooting the new movie, ‘Weekend at Hakimullah’s.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The Iranian dictator, Ahmadinejad, is in town. He has got a busy schedule. Today it is the U.N. And then tomorrow, he’s going to be on ‘The Rachael Ray Show,’ filleting a camel.” –David Letterman “It’s Cinco de Mayo, or as they call it in Arizona: May 5th.” –Jimmy Fallon

“On Monday, British Petroleum promised to pay all necessary cleanup costs for this oil spill. And they said they will do it, no matter how much they have to raise gas prices.” –Jay Leno “British petroleum, these boobs running this operation, they said: ‘O.K., now wait a minute. It’s just going to be a P.R. nightmare. What can we do? We’ll give everybody a free tank of gas. All you have to do is drive your car right down next to the Gulf of Mexico.’ They say the oil spill has the potential to kill more wildlife than a Sarah Palin hunting trip.” –David Letterman “Well, scientists are predicting that the oil from the BP spill will eventually reach the shores of Florida. So if you hated visiting your grandparents before, wait until you’re hosing down their oily bodies after a long day at the beach.” –Jimmy Fallon

One more environmental note. There’s bad news for Crimson Tide fans, as thick blobs of tar have begun washing up on the shores of sweet home Alabama. These BP boys were about as prepared for this spill as I was for changing for my first diaper.

I spent Friday afternoon at a track meet in lovely Pebble Beach, and then triple jumped home and shot a cute sunset that evening. So with my camera as healthy as LeBron James’ elbow, we’ll continue to photograph life as we know here in this cold water paradise. I hope Sunday was a good day for all you mothers out there. We’ll catch you at the free throw line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Rajon Rondo fans.

October 18, 2009

Typhoon Goes To The Runner

Good morning and greetings, heavy rainfall fans. The biggest October storm to hit the central coast since 1962 blew into town last Tuesday and pounded Santa Cruz with torrential rains, howling winds and enormous waves. The storm also brought flooding, downed trees, mudslides and umbrella salesmen, along with closed roads, minds and beaches.

The storm came to us courtesy of Typhoon Melor, which orginated in the north Pacific and then slammed into Japan and parts of northern New Jersey. Which brings to mind the Woody Allen line from “Take The Money and Run,” when his wife, played by the lovely Janet Margolin says, “For Christmas, I’m giving you a baby.” Replied Woody, “All I wanted was a tie.”

Along with the remnants of the typhoon came furious rain. According to the National Weather Service, who provides up to the minute forecasts along with helpful baking tips, we had record rainfall as Santa Cruz received 3.16 inches, breaking the record for the day set back in 1899. Parts of the Santa Cruz mountains were deluged with over 10 inches of rain. Considering the average rainfall for Santa Cruz for the month of October is 1.4 inches, this storm was a doozy. I hadn’t felt that kind of moisture since I sweated out my draft lottery number back in the early 70′s.

So being that I like to bring to the table the best of what I see during the week, I knew what my mission was. I also knew I had to photograph this storm. So I put on my Al Roker raincoat, grabbed my camera, choked down the last few bites of a vegan meatball sandwich and headed for the coast.

Now I must apologize for the lack of clarity and some haziness in these photos. When I took these shots the rain was coming down harder than the Republicans on President Obama’s health care package. Before you could say, “Annie Liebowitz,” my lense was covered with moisture. And as all you Ansel Adams fans know, water is really good for a camera, in the same way the disgruntled Stephen Jackson will be a positive influence on the Warriors this season.

The first image is from the cliffs above Natural Bridges State Beach. As you can see from the foam, white water and hot cocoa, the ocean was pumping full throttle and generating tremendous energy that ended up flooding the beach. The next day, where there had once been dry sand, the beach was now a watery playground for seagulls, kelp sculptures and an abandoned Russian submarine.

We then move south along West Cliff Drive to view more of the slamming of the coastline. This is one of my favorite spots to shoot during a storm because of the constant fury of white water being sprayed up onto the sidewalks of West Cliff. To once again quote Woody Allen, this time from “Play It Again, Sam,” “I love the rain. It washes the memories off the sidewalk of life.”

The next two shots are from Bird Rock and Lighthouse Point. The coastline was being battered all day much like Joe Frazier was in the “Thrilla from Manila.” Or in the words of Muhammad Ali, who did the damage to Smokin’ Joe that day, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” And speaking of butterflies, this storm was tougher on the monarchs nesting at Natural Bridges then the English section was on my son on Saturday’s PSAT exam.

I always look forward to buffets and the day after a storm. Leaves, tree branches and insurance salesmen were scattered everywhere as I headed over to Natural Bridges to take a postgame look. I spotted these cormorants on the rock, huddled closer together than the Olsen twins on “Family Feud.”. And as you can see in the background on this shot, the waves were still pumping to the tune of a lovely shade of brown rust. And as Neil Young has told us, “Rust never sleeps.”

All in all, it was an interesting week, as on Thursday I shot my first sunrise of the season. Then on Saturday night, a gorgeous sunset filled the western sky. Unfortunately, due to my devotion to New York Yankee baseball, I wasn’t aware of what was happening in the sky until it was too late, so I can only blame myself, Yankee starter AJ Burnett and the entire cast of the “Today” show for not capturing this Saturday night special. Rest assured, sports fans, I’m still kicking myself for missing out on this amazingly colorful Kodak moment that would have appeared on these blog pages next week.

Anyway, on to the late night news of the day. “In a surprise decision, President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Friday. In other premature awards this week: high school football player Billy Reynolds has been named this year’s Heisman Trophy winner; fifth grader Amber Collins has been named Miss America; and nine-year-old Dylan Holt has been named People’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’” –Seth Meyers “The Nobel Prize for lack of chemistry went to John McCain and Sarah Palin.”–David Letterman “Hey, did you see what happened today? President Obama won another Nobel prize today, this time in medicine, for pretending to give up smoking.” –Jay Leno “Last night, the White House hosted a tribute to Latin music. President Obama wiggled his hips a little on the dance floor at which point a committee in Sweden immediately awarded him a Latin Grammy.” –Conan O’Brien

“This weekend, President Obama plans to appoint his Administration’s first openly gay ambassador, David Huebner. Huebner will serve as the U.S. ambassador to Barbra Streisand.” –Conan O’Brien “Yesterday morning, Pope Benedict named five new saints to the Catholic Church, though some are questioning whether Obama really deserved it.” –Jimmy Fallon “And tonight, Obama hosted a basketball game at the White House for several members of Congress. He didn’t even want to play, he just wanted to see Congress pass something.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Colorado will become the first state ever to lower its minimum wage by 3 cents an hour, from $7.28 to $7.25. As a compromise, Colorado workers will be allowed to leave work 9 seconds earlier.” –Jimmy Fallon “Scientists are very excited about the possibility of ice on the moon. Not as excited as personal injury attorneys, but almost as excited.” –Jay Leno “Sarah Palin’s memoir will be out next month. Revelations in the memoir. “They say that during her debate with Joe Biden — the vice presidential debate — she got confused and at one point actually said, ‘I’m ready to solve the puzzle, Pat.’” –David Letterman

So that’s it for another week from the western front. Glad to have you new readers along for the ride. Enjoy the fall days as the clouds have returned to the Monterey Bay skies which can only means the NBA regular season is rapidly approaching. We’ll catch you in dead center field. Aloha, mahalo and later, Alex Rodriquez fans.

July 5, 2009

Don’t Count Your Cormorants Before They Hatch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 8:42 pm

Good morning and greetings, sports fans. Well, summer is in full swing as the dreaded June gloom is history. We now cruise into the fruits of July, which I believe are honeydew melon and the extra sweet tuscan cantaloupe. I usually like to start out the changing of the calendar with some spectacular color, but today we are going a different route, you might say, the road once taken. This is not to be confused with Bobby Frost’s the road not taken, which includes law school, medical school and traffic school. In the words of former Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, “When you arrive at the fork in the road, take it.”

I was going to blog out these sleek-bodied, sea birds nesting along West Cliff Drive back in June, but I realized that I had posted something very similar last year at around this time and the Hemingway in me said, “been there, done that.” I wanted something “fresh, exciting, so inviting to me” to kick off the July fireworks but then fate intervened.

I had taken a week off from my oceanfront activities to work on my doctorate and when I returned last week, I was in for a shock. Where there had once been over a couple dozen cormorants sitting on nests along with their mates, now there were none. The edge of the cliff was as deserted as a South Carolina Governor’s Award dinner. This was a eerie site, and I’m not talking Pennsylvania, as I had seen no eggs and certainly no young ones. I first thought that perhaps some unruly hooligans had come and scared them off. Either way, in the words of the group Spirit, “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong.”

Soon after making this unsettling discovery and ran into the most rabid of PCS basketball fans, Janet Burton, who informed me that last week she saw the cormorants “shredding and tearing up their nests.” My first thought was, was Janet hearing those voices again or were these Brandt’s cormorants not getting enough food and had to move on? Or perhaps it was the city’s upcoming budget cuts, the new revelations about the dangers of red meat or the mass confusion involving Michael Jackson’s estate. In the King of Pop’s words, “ABC, it’s easy as 123, doe re mi, that’s how easy wills can be.”

Just across the way that there were still cormorants sitting on nests, enjoying the incredible ocean view, which made this situation even more confusing. It was really quite disturbing, even more so than when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. Coincidentally, before they departed, the cormorants claimed they could also see Russia from their perch.

So let’s take a look at what we’ve got photo wise. As you see in the first shot, these black beauties have selected an gorgeous spot to raise their young. The male cormorant chooses the nest site, puts down first and last month’s rent and then attracts a female to it. Once paired in e-bird harmony, they build a circular nest on the ground made of seaweed, algae, grass, meth, sticks and stones along with names that will never hurt me. The male gathers the nest material, the female then builds the nest as the male then goes off to drink beer and watch “Baseball Tonight.”

Both the male and female incubate the eggs and both regurgitate food for their young, which is something I never got used to my parents doing. When the babies are born they are naked and helpless, which could also describe how a took my driver’s test and my years spent in the Peace Corps.

Over 3/4 of the world’s Brandt Cormorants reside in California, with most having second homes in either Tahoe or Plam Springs. Despite the high cost of housing, the largest numbers are found here on the central coast. June and July are usually the times when the reptilian-looking babies are born, so the fact that they are cleared out faster than supporters of Elliot Spitzer makes this even more of a mystery. I checked back a couple of mornings ago and the cliff was as empty as the stands at a Pittsburgh Pirate’s game. I vow to you, my cyber readers, that I will continue to search for the answers, and will not rest until I have uncovered the truth. Either that, or I will just make something up. That is my promise.

The late night boys are in reruns this week so we’ll go with a joke for a humor segment. Two ropes walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Get out of here. We don’t serve ropes in here.” The ropes go outside and one says to the other, “I have an idea.” He ties himself up, messes up his hair and goes back in. The bartender says, “Hey. No ropes.” The rope says, “I’m not a rope.” The bartender says, “You’re not a rope?” “Nope. I’m a frayed knot.”

You might want to worry, because there’s a lot more where that came from. Reports from Costa Rica tell me that Aimee’s camera broke on her second day but I’m sure she’ll come up with something for the guest blog. She’s an excellent sketcher. And Jason says he is speaking more Spanish than you’d hear at a Pau Gasol family reunion. Sources tell me they may try to squeeze in a few days in Honduras. That would be a real coup.

So that’s our report from the edge of the continent. Hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend and took a moment to think about what we were celebrating-that’s right, the invention of the barbecue. Which I believe was done soon after they signed the Declaration of Fireworks. We’ll catch you at center court at Wimbledon. Aloha, mahalo and later, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick fans.

July 15, 2008

Franks For The Memories


Good morning and greetings, baseball fans. In the two previous blogs we’ve gone back to my days of shooting with film at 11. Today we will return there for one final time, but instead of viewing the horizontal highlights, we’ll be exploring the vertical vortexes of my photographic mind.

We start off along West Cliff Drive at Swift Street with some double rainbow action before moving down to Lighthouse Point for a shot I took in the late 70′s of the white water smashing up against the cliff. These were the days before fences, surf museums and the internet. Next it’s another West Cliff classic as on this morning I somehow mistimed the sunset but caught the sun rising up with these glorious clouds in the sky.

Next it’s out to Palm Desert for another sunrise delight and then it’s back to Lighthouse Point. This is actually an early digital shot but I liked the reflection and the verticality for this montage. We then head to Stockton Avenue for the sunset cruise as the group of cormorants flew by on their way to Happy Hour at the Crow’s Nest. You know what they say, birds will be birds.

I’ve written about the war in Iraq and our escalating and deadly conflict in Afghanistan. Well, there’s another battle going on with much at steak. America’s two largest hot dog makers are waging a wiener war, hoping to win over customers and secure the No. 1 spot atop the stagnating frankfurter market. The latest round in the long-running feud comes as Kraft Foods Inc.’s Oscar Mayer brand gives its signature hot dog a perm and a makeover aimed at stealing momentum from Sara Lee Corporation’s Ball Park Franks. To quote Laker Coach Phil Jackson from this year’s NBA Finals, “Momentum is a strange girl.”

Kraft hopes its reformulation, a massive promotional campaign and free relish will attract new customers with a zestier, meatier recipe for its all-beef dog. “Consumers are continuing to look for higher flavors, beefier, juicier hot dogs and we saw that as an opportunity to grow that portion of our business,” said Sean Marks, the top dog in the marketing department for Oscar Mayer. Both suburban Chicago food manufacturers claim the designation as the nation’s top hot dog brand, based on separate readings of market research, sales data and mustard connoiseurs. Hot dog consumption, at least among adults and pro athletes, has hit its lowest level since the mid-1980s. What a bunner.

About 956 million packages of hot dogs were sold to U.S. retailers in the past year. That’s on top of the estimated 30 million hot dogs that Major League Baseball fans down each season at the nation’s ballparks along with droves of garlic fries. And with grocery sales of about $2 billion last year hot dogs are far from being discounted. And here’s a number for you stat fans. 48 percent of American children aged 18 and under will eat at least one hot dog in the next two weeks. A few might even open a book.

Kraft, the world’s second-largest food company, is also spending the summer promoting its line of snack-sized hot dogs by sending its new “Mini Weinermobile” on a nationwide marketing tour along side the full-scale model. Funny, my salivary glands did not react to that last sentence. Meanwhile, Sara Lee is touting its angus beef franks, turkey franks, whole-grain buns and fluffy pound cake that it announced back in May. As I’ve sung in the shower many a time, “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.” But in reality, “Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener. That is what I truly like to be. ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer weiner. Everyone would be in love with me.”

Now that we’ve knocked off the main course, here’s some desert news. Americans last year spent $12.4 billion on ice cream, frozen yogurt, creamsicles, fudgicles, flying saucers, push-up pops and similar products in 2007. Though it may sound like a lot, the ice cream market is barely growing as sales rose just 1.8 percent between 2006 and 2007. What growth the industry is seeing comes from two contradictory trends. Increased demand for “decadent” products like ice cream with candy or other goodies mixed in and also for the healthier ice cream like the lower-fat slow churned kind. Yeah, you’ve got to love that slow churned double fudge brownie. Toss in a box of chocolate chocolate Haagen Daz bars and I’m climbing the stairway to sugar heaven.

That’s our Wednesday edition of Food for Thought. I hope you a caught a little bit of the all-star game last night from Yankee Stadium. My childhood home in New Jersey was just 20 minutes from “The House that Ruth Built” in the Bronx and going to the stadium was always a thrill. Bucky Dent, ‘Louisiana Lighting” Ron Guidry, Goose Goosage, Mickey Rivers, going to Yankee games was always a religious experience. Sort of like a bar mitzvah followed by a Hells Angels’ brunch. So enjoy the vertical colors, these summer days and we’ll catch you on Friday. Aloha, Derek Jeter fans.

June 26, 2008

A Snip In Time Saves Nine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 9:33 pm


Good morning and greetings from the Pacific coast. Last week we took a look at a group of cormorants nesting on a shelf along West Cliff Drive. When I went to check them out later in the week I immediately noticed the females were sitting differently on the nests. That meant one of two things. Either there was a breakout of hemorrhoids or the eggs had hatched. Sure enough, it was baby cormorant central as most nests seemed to hold three youngsters. What made it challenging were the angry western gulls who were strafing my tender scalp in an effort to protect their black-coated friends. Fortunately I was wearing my “Mission Accomplished” safari hat which protected me from the attack.

I thought to myself, what an interesting place (photo #1) to raise a family. Right on the magical edge of the continent with waves crashing downstairs 24 hours a day. Great view and the rent is cheap. But as you can see from the final shot, not all of the cormorants are in the family way. You might say some are a still a little nervous, like they’re sitting on egg shells. These little ones will hang out until August when they’ll receive a map and their flight assignments.

Let’s move from birds to mammals. Scientists and gossip columnists at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo have revealed they reversed a vasectomy on an endangered horse to allow it to reproduce naturally – the first-known operation of its kind on an endangered species. Immediately this question comes to mind? Why were they doing the scissors kick on this pony in the first place? Couldn’t they have told him to just stop horsing around or at the very least supplied this sacred stallion with a case of some extra large protection?

Veterinarians and racing fans said that the surgery was performed in October on a Przewalski horse named Minnesota. Luis Padilla, the zoo veterinarian who performed the reversal surgery with a spin move on the baseline, said the procedure was a first for this species and likely for any endangered species. The horses are native to China and Mongolia and were declared extinct in the wild in 1970. Since then several hundred have been bred and reintroduced to the wild in Asia along with enjoying the pleasures of a Mongolian barbecue.

“This is kind of interesting turnaround,” said Dr. Sherman Silber, a St. Louis urologist who pioneered reversible vasectomies in 13,000 humans and helped with the horse surgery. If I were in this guy’s office, the first thing I would do is turn around. “We’ve made so much progress because the human really is the perfect model.” I don’t know if you’ve been to a stable recently but I’m not sure if I agree with that visual assessment.

A similar surgery was successfully performed while Padilla was a resident at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2003 on South American bush dogs, which resemble Chihuahuas and former U.S. Presidents. They are classified as vulnerable but not endangered unlike our Commander-in-Chief, who would be classified as clueless and dangerous. By the way, this is my last shot at the administration for a while as I return to my kinder, gentler self.

The “temporary vasectomy” could have a significant effect on how animals are managed in captivity by giving zookeepers a new way to control the animal’s offspring without having to neuter them or use contraceptives that can change an animal’s behavior. How about just telling them to knock it off?

Minnesota, the 20-year-old horse, had a vasectomy in 1999 at his previous home at the Minnesota Zoo. Boy, they really gave a lot of thought into naming this stud puppet. A vasectomy may be performed on an endangered animal because of space constraints, the size of species or if an animal has already produced many offspring and its genes are overrepresented in the population, says Budhan Pukazhenthi, a reproductive scientist at the National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. I’m not that impressed by this scientist’s theory but I would love to use his last name in my next Scrabble conquest.

Scientists later realized Minnesota was one of the most genetically valuable horses in the North American breeding program based on his ancestry. Do you think a little research before might have be prudent so they wouldn’t have had to play snip to my lou. Zookeepers hope to find a suitable female for Minnesota in July. So far they’ve contacted, and Yonkers Raceway.

Cheryl Asa, director of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Wildlife Contraception Center, said the reversible vasectomy could be useful in isolated cases but probably won’t be adopted broadly. That good news for members of the animal kingdom. As for myself, when I’m thinking reversible, I’ve thinking jackets or maybe a practice jersey. As you can see, I’m more into sniping than snipping.

So there goes another week of blogging with the stars. I hope you are enjoying our summer program here on Monterey Bay. So enjoy the baby cormorants, have a fabulous weekend and we’ll catch you on the last day of June. Aloha, sports fans.

June 8, 2008

The Nest And The Brightest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:00 pm


Good morning, bird lovers. If you live on the central coast and you spend time at the magical place known as the edge of the continent, then birds are part of your daily vision. Whether strolling, running and recycling along West Cliff Drive, there is non-stop bird action. It could be chains of pelicans gliding in and out of the fog, gulls circling in the wind or large groups of cormorants flying in a straight line formation. That last group is the aviary organization we’re going to peruse today.

As I was walking along the cliff last week I noticed the cormorants hanging on their usual shelf just south of Natural Bridges. A observant friend pointed out that they were nesting and I was immediately intrigued. As I watched the females dust and clean around the nests I noticed the white objects they were sitting on. Eggs, glorious eggs. So I ran home, had a piece of toast, did a few push ups and then grabbed my camera and starting jump shooting away.

I see Brandt’s Cormorants every day and it got me to wondering, what is their story? What turns them on, what makes them tick, what are their names and on what streets do they live? So here’s the scoop. They are a medium sized bird who, like myself, have a sleek black body. This group is not to be confused with the double crested cormorant, because as we know, 4 out of 5 dentists recommend the double crested for their patients who chew gum.

Brandt’s Cormorants are common in California; over 3/4 of the world’s population resides here and have second homes in Palm Springs. Despite the high cost of living, the largest numbers are in central California. The bird is named after J. F. Brandt, a Russian naturalist who first described the bird in 1838 and first spelled it correctly in 1839.

Along the central coast hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants are often seen flying in long lines near the water’s surface as they furiously flock to their feeding ground and doctor’s appointments. A group of cormorants has many collective nouns, including “a flight of cormorants”, “gulp of cormorants”, ” rookery of cormorants”, “sunning of cormorants”, a “swim of cormorants” and my personal favorite, a “sh**load of cormorants.”

Brandt’s Cormorants are colonial nesters, not to be confused with Eliot Nesters. A breeding adult has bright blue skin under its bill which is gray in nonbreeding season because gray goes with everything. The male Brandt’s Cormorant chooses the nest site, puts down a deposit and attracts the female to it. Once paired, they build a circular nest on the ground of seaweed, algae, grass, hash, moss, weeds, seaweed, sticks, rubbish and leggos. The male gathers the nest material and the female builds the nest while the male then watches sports on TV. Pairs may reuse the nest, adding more material and perhaps a second level or a deck in the following years. Both the male and female incubate the eggs, and both regurgitate food for the young, which is something I never understood my parents doing. When the babies are born, they are like I was most of my freshman year at Syracuse, naked and helpless.

Under breeding conditions, the adult Brandt’s Cormorant is very impressive with white plumes on the head and an exotic display of a colorful blue throat pouch. Here on the central coast of California, the displays and the NCAA tournament are underway in March-April, eggs are laid in during the NBA playoffs in April-May, youngsters are in the nest as baseball takes center stage in June-July and battles for custody and visitation rights get underway in August. When the eggs hatch, the youngsters look almost reptilian. It will take six weeks for them to grow to full size before they fully mature and start playing one parent against another.

So that’s it for part one of the Brandt Cormorant Family Saga. I will be watching those nests along West Cliff as closely as voting officials in Florida for when those youngsters hatch. I’ve seen photos of the babies and they are stranger looking than a Jerry Springer all-star team. So enjoy the nesting action and we’ll catch you on Wednesday. And remember to extend your hands on defense for deflections. Later, aloha and I’m out.

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