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April 18th, 2009

It's hummer time!

I used to think hummingbirds were tropical creatures, living in hot dense rainforests.

I was wrong.

The tiny little birds live all over the Americas, and can be found everywhere from the deserts to the forests. Hummingbird feeders are a popular gadget, sold in garden centres and through the ubiquitous SkyMall catalogue, but they're usually found buzzing around flowers, supping at nectar.
Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
Even if Shakespeare hadn't seen hummingbirds, they're always Ariel to me.

They're a delight to photograph, so small and fast that they're a challenge to capture in pixels, but so bright and colourful that they quickly form the heart of a picture.

Visiting the Pulgas Water Temple, we found a small thicket of bright red flowers, and were greeted by the angry clicks of feeding hummingbirds. I had my camera with me, and started shooting...

This one had an amazing red head that lased ruby bright at certain angles.

It's Hummer time!

Here it is again, camouflaged against the green and red of the flowers.

It's Hummer time!

Another, just starting its docking manoeuvres.

It's Hummer time!

Crystal Springs, California
April 2009

In a dry land I bring you water

The San Andreas fault slashes down the San Francisco Peninsula, dividing the towns and cities of the Valley from the low rolling peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains. An unexpectedly deep valley, paralleled by the 280 freeway, it's where the Bay stores its water. Fed by the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct the Crystal Springs reservoir runs down the valley in the space between the 280 freeway and the mountains.

If you just go up and down the freeway you'll miss places like Filoli and the Pulgas Water Temple.
"I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people "
The Pulgas Water Temple is one of those uniquely Californian places, built to celebrate the end of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct that brings crystal clear water from the edge of the Sierras to San Francisco.The water used to flow through the tunnel under the Grecian temple, but the pipes have been moved elsewhere, and the deep tiled chambers are empty. Even so, the temple has recently been restored and stands among immaculate gardens.

We stopped there on the way to the airport on our last day in the Bay in April.

It's a strange place, like something from Les Bergers d'Arcadie dropped into a landscape that screams California. It's strange seeing something that should be in a Poussin painting in amongst the rolling hills of the Peninsula. With Poussin's links to the Rennes Le Chateau "mystery", I'm surprised the Water Temple hasn't turned up in a Tim Powers' novel yet.

Arcadian Splendour The Pulgas Water Temple

Well worth a visit - though it's only open on weekdays (unless you can sneak in to a weekend wedding!).

Crystal Springs, California
April 2009