Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tohono Chul

Tohono Chul, a marvelous botanical garden and gallery in Tucson, has invited me to be their Artist-of-the-Month in October. The show runs from October 1 - 31, and I do hope that any of you who are in Tucson in October will be able to see it. Their gardens, right now exploding with butterflies, are also superb to wander through.

In addition to this small, one-person show, Tohono Chul is starting a new exhibit called "Night Moves," which will run from October 7 into early January. My pen-and-ink, Dance of the Desert Night Lizards, will be included in the Night Moves show. A reception for their exhibits will be held on Thursday, October 7, from 5:30 - 7:30 PM, and all are invited. (Trader Joe's will donate refreshments!)

Dance of the Desert Night Lizards
(Pen and ink by Narca)

Do come sometime during October to enjoy the art and the gardens (not to mention the cafe and gift shop)!

If you'd like to learn more about Tohono Chul, here is their website:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sauk Mountain

Red Columbine on Sauk Mountain (Photos by Narca)

At the end of our stay in the Pacific Northwest, Alan and I join our friend Jim for a hike in the North Cascades, up Sauk Mountain. End-of-summer flowers cloak the slopes, attended by many worn butterflies. The narrow mountain trail switch-backs up the steep slope to a high pass, where Hoary Marmots lounge atop giant boulders. Clouds drift across the heights.

Drifting clouds on Sauk Mountain

When we have climbed high enough, we are rewarded with a view of lordly Mt. Baker, an active volcano which dominates the skyline, much as Rainier does further to the south.

Mt. Baker towers above the ridge

Crystal clear mountain air is always exhilarating, and each rise or bend of the trail brings immense vistas of the North Cascade range and the Skagit River far below. Closer at hand, parnassians and fritillaries flit past, and one new butterfly is fairly common: the tiny Anna's Blue.

See the subtle orange chevrons on these Anna's Blues?
Female Anna's Blues sport copper tones above.

One bird which surprises us is a Prairie Falcon that soars past, before spiraling above the high pass.

Prairie Falcon (Pen & ink by Narca)

We lunch at a high point, where the land drops away in steep ridges, with lakes tucked into the folds. As a child, living for much of the year in the flatlands of Texas, I hungered for the high country. Today all of my senses awaken.

View from the ridge of Sauk Mountain

Friday, September 3, 2010


What could be more fun than accompanying a 5-year-old on his first whale-watching trip?

Puget Sound off the coast of Washington is famous for its Orcas, or Killer Whales, and regular whale-watching daytrips run out of Port Townsend, on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. We signed up for an excursion aboard the Puget Sound Express and set out on a sunny morning, destined for Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, and the waters between. Our luck was phenomenal.

A riptide raced between Lopez and San Juan islands, and no fewer than three (!) pods of the highly-social Orcas had gathered there to feed on salmon. Our boat drifted in the sea, as whales foraged, surfaced, and spy-hopped all around us. The boat's underwater microphone picked up the whales' vocalizations, and the captain broadcasted the evocative, eerie whale calls over the PA system.

Milo spots an Orca (Photos by Narca)

Young Milo kept up a litany of "There's one! There's one! There's one! ...! There's a mommie and baby!" He also was first to spot one of the two Minke Whales which graced the morning. Minkes are the smallest of the filter-feeding baleen whales, while Orcas belong to a different lineage entirely: the toothed whales and dolphins.

We were seeing family pods of resident Orcas, those which stay in the coastal waters off the Pacific Northwest and which specialize in eating fish and some squid. Other types of Orcas include transients, which feed mainly on other marine mammals and travel in smaller pods, with weaker family bonds. A third type in the northeast Pacific Ocean is the offshore population, which feeds primarily on schooling fish far offshore. These three populations are genetically distinct and may even be separate species.

Orcas forage and spyhop around the boat.

Three types or populations have also been described for Antarctica, specializing on three foods: Minke Whales; seals; and Antarctic Cod. The genetic relationships between the various Killer Whale populations are still being worked out.

Harbor Seal at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

In addition to the whales, we enjoyed great encounters with Harbor Seals and Steller's Sea Lions. Seabirds were plentiful, especially cormorants, gulls, Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets, with a few Tufted Puffins and Red-necked Phalaropes added to the mix.

Common Murre in Puget Sound

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Two Great Travel Websites

Last week in Washington State, our friend Jim introduced us to two really good websites for traveling tricks-of-the-trade. One is a blog, View from the Wing, and the other is FlyerTalk, an on-line community of frequent flyers. Both provide a wealth of information on travel-related reward programs, with advice on how to build those frequent flyer miles––and how to use them!