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13 September 2013

King Uke Talks to the Animals

I don't just talk to the animals... I talk to the birds and the bees too! and the trees! and all the pretty little flowers!

Welcome to one more installment in my series of photos from my recent holiday to Lake Tahoe. In this post I'm going to show you some of the local flora and fauna. It's at times like this that I really would have benefitted from a beefy macro lens. There are things that I just couldn't capture on my iPhone that I would have loved to have shared with you. Don't worry, I've still got loads to show you...

"Chapter 13: A Bloodsucker Lake Leech"

This would be my worst nightmare. I never made it out as far as Bloodsucker Lake and quite frankly, knowing how the lake gets its name, I'm really not that bothered that I missed it. Prior to going on this holiday, my son was worrying about all the wildlife that could bite/sting/eat him. Actually, there was nothing to worry about. It certainly didn't stop us from doing anything.

"I love all the bees"

This was my comment when I posted a couple of bee pictures on my travels. I love these pictures. You can see that the Tahoe bees have a different colouring to the ones we get in the UK. Fortunately they're just as slow and methodical in their foraging as their British brothers and sisters. This is exactly what a photographer like me needs in order to capture a photo or two. ;-)

If I'm going to get a picture, I need to be able to get quite close and for whatever I'm photographing to stay still. The Tahoe bees obliged. Thank you my honey-loving friends!

Looking at the size of this Blue Jay and how common they are in Tahoe, you might be surprised to discover that it was almost impossible for me to get a photo of one. This is the best of only two or three pictures I managed to get. They're surprisingly timid and skittish. This was taken at a tourist spot called Vikingsholm. The Jays down there are a lot tamer than I found elsewhere. They look great, but boy do they make a racket!

This year I seem to have developed a bit of a thing for butterflies and moths. I'm not sure where this new passion has come from.

I really did hope that I could get you some photos of butterflies whilst I was away, but for a long time I was failing miserably. Every time I lined up a shot, the buggers would fly off! Ha ha. I refused to give up. Here are some of the ones I eventually captured.

Here's another for you...

I'm not sure I would ever be enticed to buy one of these, but check out the strange array of wildlife that was on sale in a couple of shops in Virginia City. The sign says "Critters in Lucite". I take it that lucite is some form of acrylic, but I'm not 100% sure. I can maybe understand the insects, but I can't imagine anyone in their right mind wanting a plastic block containing a mummified bat!

Look at the size of that bloody spider!

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of my quest for the Golden Scarab. Look what I found below. They're like bloody buses... you don't see any and then two of them turn up!

Isn't this picture brilliant! I could live here! This is a shot of someone's garden near to where we were staying. I don't know what you call these flowers, but you see them all over the place. To my eyes they look like over-sized daisies and come in all sorts of colours. I can't tell you what the colours are, but that's another story entirely.

While I'm on flowers, I'll share a snap of some tiny flowers peeping through the pine needles. It's not a perfectly framed picture by any stretch, but I love that the petals are a similar shape to the pine needles. Harmony in nature! How cool is that!

The ants made a big impression on me the last time I visited the area, and this time was no different. I'm no expert, but there seemed to be at least a couple of different varieties rooting around the undergrowth.

It fascinates me to watch ants in full flow. In D L Bliss National Park I watched a similar scene to the one above where some sort of wasp or hornet was trying to get into the hole. The ants rallied and the wasp was willfully evicted. WAR! :-S

If you think that's impressive... how about the big fellow below? This guy was a giant! You'd think that ants this big would be slow. Not at all! I only managed to steal a picture when this one decided to take a rest. He was probably luring me in so that his colleagues could jump me! :-S

This is a picture of a grasshopper/locust creature I found right at the top of Squaw Valley. They were noisy little blighters. I can't tell you the number of times I jumped out of my skin as I stumbled across one of them. Rather than to hop, these guys would fly like miniature birds. Wasn't expecting that! 

Here's a reminder of how hot it gets in Lake Tahoe in the summer. This is a lizard resting on a rock. I have no idea what these guys do in the winter. Anyone know?

I'm not a fan of stuffed animals - I'd much rather see them alive than dead. The sign on this display said that these all died naturally or were the result of road-kill. Actually for the average holidayer, this is probably the only way that you're going to see a lot of the rarer animals that live around Lake Tahoe. These are lynx which I didn't even realise could be found here.

Also, if you peer really hard at this picture, you see at least one snake. I had never seen a snake in the wild... until this holiday!

My son J-Uke was the one to spot it as we were cycling through the forest up towards Fallen Leaf Lake. We'd stopped for a breather when I heard: "Dad! There's a snake!" I was over like a flash to find this little yellow and black snake coiled up in the path. I tried to get a snap, chasing it into the undergrowth where it gave me the slip. Ooo... what if I'd been bitten! I didn't know at the time, but I reckon it was a common Garter Snake and I kept my distance believe me! ;-)

Me and the boy still talk about our great snake adventure! YES!

Peaks and Paws - Squaw Valley - 24-25 August 2013

Being a new dog-owner, I'm starting to become aware of the limitations in the places you can take the mutt. It struck me that Lake Tahoe is great for dog-owners. You see loads of dogs about, and check this out; I snapped a picture of this poster whilst on a day-trip to Squaw Valley.

Listen to your favourite music with your favourite pooch at your side! How cool is that!

I love the smell of pine trees. Lake Tahoe is up in the mountains surrounded by all manner of conifer. I won't pretend that I know their names, but they engulf everything. It's great. In a lot of places, you can see that the houses have been built in between the towering giants.

Here are a couple of shots of some bark. I can't pass one of these trees without copping a feel ;-)

See the cones above. I passed a shop selling these for $1.50 a cone. And when you walk outside...

"Protect your den from nosy bears with our system"

You get bears around Lake Tahoe. There are signs on certain roads warning you about them, but unfortunately the warnings were as close as I got to seeing one.

"Know your rodents!"

On a number of the walks I did it seemed that everywhere I looked there were furry little creatures scurrying about. Two that often get confused are the chipmunk and the golden-mantled ground squirrel. The picture below gives you the low-down on how to tell them apart, but actually once you've seen the two, it's easy to tell them apart; The chipmunks are smaller and have this odd habit of jerking their tails up and down as if they're trying to hold their balance.

I gave the kids strict instructions not to touch any of the cute animals we came across on our travels. Some are very tame and this tameness can be a tell-tale sign that all is not well. The sign above warns of rodents carrying Plague! I'm not sure what type of plague it's referring to, but let's face it, there's no such thing as a good plague!

Here's one of those tame squirrels I was telling you about... Don't you just want to tickle it under the chin...

"Where the Wild Things are"

I love this caption from a magazine I was reading. I saw many hawks and eagles while in Lake Tahoe and every time, I peered at them circling in the sky as if it was the first time. It really is something to see these birds in real life doing what they do. There are a number of different types dotted around different parts. I'm pretty certain that the ones I saw up at Squaw Valley were Golden Eagles but I'm not great at identifying them, even with a photo to refer to. Look at the one below that spent the day flying over the marshes at Tahoe Keys. What do you think this is?

Could it be an Osprey? The picture below tells us to look for "M" shaped wings. I don't know, but they all looked like they had M-shaped wings at one point or another!

I bet you're sat there thinking "he can't have any more bloody pictures... When are the ukulele posts going restart?" Well actually, I have got more pictures to share. You're just going to have to wait a while before I return to ukulele. Do you want some scenic shots of Lake Tahoe?


  1. I did a bush walk in Oz once and got a leech in my boot,but didn't know about it until I got home and took off my boot to see blood all over my sock and a big thick Leech stuck to my foot.
    It didn't seem to much like the salt I poured over it,either.-)

  2. Did you know Blue Jays were part of the Corvid family of birds (Crows) ?

    And there are some crows right now outside my window crowing to me.

  3. Nice talk to the animals too,Dr Ukelittle.-)

  4. That's a great article on Corvids. No, I didn't know that Blue Jays are corvids Daz. But, having read that article, I'm not surprised. The Jays I saw were very social (at least with other Jays). Unlike crows though, I found them to be self-absorbed - they didn't pay much attention to people, other than to keep out of our way. They appeared clever - so perhaps it's all an act?