VIDEO: A Nature Minute at Bodega Bay: Sights and Sounds of the California Coast

Avoiding contact with people and viruses, we spent a day in contact with nature at Bodega Bay on the California coast. It was before the crowds got the same idea and jammed the beaches over the weekend. Here are some of the sights and sounds.

Video: It Takes a Gaggle, Winter Vacation With Snow Geese

Snow Geese Sunset
Snow Geese, Merced National Wildlife Refuge – (c) 2020 Russell Johnson

Where can you still feel safe in a crowd? How about wandering a bog in Central California with thousands of birds swirling about the skies?

Our strategy on minimizing contact with germs is maximizing it with nature. We’re trying to get out on a hike every day.

My wife Pat and I just shared a winter vacation with a massive gaggle of snow geese.

A couple of weeks ago, we paid a visit to snow goose vacationland at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos, California (I understand they get a group rate from AirBird&Bird). For them, this is paradise. Like most vacationers, they mostly eat and sleep, gorging on tubers during the day and line dancing in the sky in the evening, before fluttering off to find a safe pond to sleep.

California in winter is cold and damp (that’s why the lady bird is a tramp) unless you are a snow goose for which it is an escape to the tropics, refuge from the howling winds and endless nights of the Arctic. They’re heading back in March, dodging hunters bullets, to nest on the tundra and make fuzzy birdie babies.

It Takes A Gaggle

Humans have a lot to learn from snow geese. They are intensely loyal to their partners and friends. They mate for life and will gather around an injured comrade to protect it. They also follow the philosophy It takes a gaggle. When it is time to fly north they line up politely in a V formation creating a slipstream – same as race cars – that pulls the rest of them along. For the Head Goose, this is pure hell, unselfishly flapping away, setting the pace on its own while the rest honk it along. At least it is given the opportunity to slip to the back to where it can relax and glide along while a new leader endures the torture.

Riding the Electricos (trams) Through the Hills of Lisbon – Video

Nighttime scene of a tram in LisbonPhotos and Video (c) Russell Johnson

Like Rome and San Francisco, Lisbon is built on seven hills. Unlike Rome and San Francisco, however, the only easy way to get to parts of it is on a tram, or electrico. It’s that steep. The trams date back to 1873 when they were horse drawn. They went electric in 1901. By 1959 there were 24 routes. There are now only six, but citizens and tourists alike still love’em.

The most celebrated is Electrico 24, which hits many of the historical sites of Lisbon. But we’ve found the electricos handy and charming for travel to many parts of town, especially if you buy a 24 hour pass, which will allow you to hop on and hop off.

Here is a little video we did.