Tag Archives: birds

Scottish Games, Falconry, Camo Utilikilts


The 148th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games is a major San Francisco Bay Area annual event featuring music, dance, crafts, and sporting competitions.  I particularly enjoyed the presentation by the California Foundation for Birds of Prey. Most of their talk was about the modern hunting sport of falconry (including how breeding programs helped to bring back the endangered peregrine falcon), some was about conservation practices to protect birds, and the rest was show and tell. The presenters showed a  variety of hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and even a vulture. Four women handlers flew their Harris Hawks over the audience. The Harris Hawk is an unusually gregarious bird – family packs hunt together (compared to most raptors that hunt alone). The announcer teased the handler for the Peregrine Falcon who sported a pink mohawk hairstyle – saying that he was part cockatiel.

This is very much a family event with parents and children in Scottish costume – and others who wore their Renaissance Fair or Dickens Fair costumes regardless. There were many buff guys strutting around in plaid skirts – sometimes with bands of other men but often with little kids in their burly tattooed arms. Scottish costume ranged from historically accurate tartans with full clan accessories, to camo pattern utilikilts worn with tshirts and hiking boots.

In one of the craft halls, I discovered that my Dickinson family may be historically associated with the Paisley district tartan. I knew that some ancestors originated in Scotland but this was the first time I saw our name associated with a tartan.

See the 22 June 2014 blog post for a picture of the tartan sash I bought!






Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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Loon Lake, Wisconsin


Last week, John and I visited his Plocher family at Loon Lake, Wisconsin. We were last there in 2009 for his parents’ 50th Anniversary. We re-painted the orange and white window trim on the front of the cottage and spent much time in boats, enjoying family and the lovely peaceful surroundings. In addition to Cassie the cocker spaniel and our human family, there were animals (mostly birds and bugs) with us everywhere. The Osprey fish eagles, Bald Eagles, and Loons were the most spectacular but the variety of dragonflies was fascinating. My least favorite were the swarms of biting mosquitoes.


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Images by Katy Dickinson Copyright 2013


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Hummingbird Nest


There is a tiny Anna’s Hummingbird sitting on a nest outside of my office window. My window is about six feet off the ground (in the bay of WP668, our backyard caboose here in Willow Glen), so I can see directly into the pear tree where the bird is hiding. Such a delight!



June 14 update: two baby birds!

Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Local Animals

I was suggesting images to my artist son Paul for his current animal series of water colors and thought that a blog with pictures of some of our local Willow Glen, California denizens would be of interest. Not pictured is the horrible towhee bird who is flinging himself repeatedly at my caboose office window as I type.

My cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), Guapo and Sparky, eating a dried pepper:

Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopelmatus) in the side yard:
Last Import-5

Big garter snake (Thamnophis) in front of our house:
(picture courtesy of neighbor Jamie Lynch)

Alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea) on neighbor’s sidewalk:

American swallowtail butterfly caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) on fennel in the front yard:

Redda the dog (Canis lupus familiaris) trying for a lick through her kennel fence:

Beggar dogs hoping for a handout:

Cat (Felis catus) dominating the neighbor’s car:
Garter snake picture Copyright 2013 by James Lynch, other pictures Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Attack of the Towhee, De Quincey on Macbeth and Murder


In my 2008 blog entry Obsessed Towhee, I reported on a little brown bird attacking our car windows here in Willow Glen. What is probably that bird’s grandson has started attacking the house windows and those of WP668, our backyard caboose. The stupid California Towhee apparently sees his reflection in the glass and feels called to defend his territory against the other bird by knocking with his beak, flinging himself at the window, and smearing it with bird dirt. Sigh.

The Towhee moves from window to window knocking. I feel like I am in a performance of Macbeth:

Whence is that knocking?
How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?

The only good side is that regular knocking lead me to read the Thomas De Quincey 1823 essay “On the Knocking at the Gate, in Macbeth”, which in turn lead me to De Quincey’s black humor essays “On Murder, as Considered One of the Fine Arts” and “Second Paper on Murder”, the source of the famous quote:

If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begin upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.


Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Amtrak: Portland to San Jose

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John and I just took Amtrak home to San Jose from Portland, Oregon. One of the disadvantages of air travel is that everywhere in between looks the same: airports connected by clouds. The train takes longer but the view and experience are well worth it. Passing through snowy mountain forests and beside alpine lakes, through rural back yards and city industry zones, watching seagulls and cormorants along the shore of San Francisco Bay, seeing the Drawbridge ghost town shacks sinking into the bay mud and reeds: all are a sweet experience of how America is put together.




Images copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Camping at the Lair of the Golden Bear


Yesterday, we got back from our annual family camping trip at the U.C. Berkeley Alumni Association’s Lair of the Golden Bear near Pinecrest, California. We had 19 people in four tents, with 8 in just ours. As usual, we had an enjoyable and relaxing time. The car is unpacked and stuff is mostly put away but I am still working my way through the laundry. I have finished the towels and bedding and most of the clothes. I still need to wash the sleeping bags.

Some of the highlights of our week in the Sierras:

  • Hiking to the Natural Bridges swim-through cave. The air was so hot and the water was so cold! Carrying my camera in a zip bag to take pictures from the deep pool was tricky.
  • Seeing an eagle pulling big fish from the Pinecrest Lake right near the swimmers and boaters.  One of the Pinecrest summer residents said it was a bald eagle but it may have been an osprey (fish eagle).
  • Watching a white headed woodpecker eating his way from pine to pine.
  • Walking along the creek (Tuolumne River, North Fork), looking for wild flowers, animals, insects, and pretty stones.
  • Watching the sunset from the Trail of the Gargoyles, in the Stanislaus National Forest.  We could see Mount Diablo (a 3,864 feet or 1,178 meter peak in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the far distance.
  • Hanging out with family and friends.

This was the first time we have been camping since my father died – he loved the mountains.  We stopped at Railtown 1897 in Jamestown on the drive home yesterday to collect more caboose pictures – see my Caboose Sisters Pinterest page for the whole collection. I also put up a Camp Blue Pinterest page with more images from our camping week.







Images Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson


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