Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bring Your Scary Story to Ghosts of the Internet

Have you had an encounter with a strange creature in the wee hours of the morning? Maybe you’ve heard the wail of an unsettled spirit or your dog has pointed out a ghost.

Eclipse-1 Media is presenting its 4th annual Ghosts of the Internet live web-cast radio show this Saturday. Members of the public are invited to participate at:

The Platt Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library
in the Community Room
Saturday, October 30
2:00 PM sign- ups; 2:30 PM Go Live

For more information on story length and ideas on classic spooky tales you can read, as well as directions, visit:

You can also hear past Ghosts of the Internet productions, including my true story last year of animal esp.

Spooky comes in all ages! Original music, jokes, poetry and stories bring families together to put the Treat back in Halloween. 

Come get your spooky on.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Trapdoor Spider Came In From The Rain

With streaks of lightning and claps of thunder an October storm brought well-needed rain to Southern California. While the rest of the country is preparing for the white blanket of winter, our native plants are waking up from a dormancy that helps them survive the hot dry breath of summer.

In the rain the mallow rejoiced and unfurled new blooms.

The katydid rode out the storm on her rose perch. While the days are growing cooler, she still has a month or so to enjoy the new growth.

One hillside resident, however, did not welcome the rain. Damp and homeless, she wandered in under the kitchen door seeking shelter. She stumbled into the web of a cobweb spider and was stuck there about an inch off the ground.

I was startled at first by the size of this visitor. Including her legs, she is about the size of a quarter. At first I thought she might be a young tarantula, but upon closer inspection she has the glossy brown cephlothorax of a trapdoor spider. While a relative of the tarantula, this spider has a softer, more vulnerable appearance. She’s kind of like that geeky cousin with the pale skin that seemed allergic to the sun.

The trapdoor spider colony on our hillside has included 17 locatable and occupied borrows. I haven’t counted in resent months, but it’s usually easy to spot 4 or 5 at any given time. While chance encounters have occurred when underground burrows were mistakenly dug up, I have never seen one of these homebody spiders out walking around.

I’ve seen them holed up with a brood of offspring. Baby trapdoor spiders.

And last spring, heavy rains caused one poorly placed burrow to be damaged. Damaged trapdoor spider burrow.

Did this young female trapdoor spider loose her home in the rain? There doesn’t seem to be any major mud flow areas in the yard.

Was she uprooted by the gopher that has been tunneling on the hillside and relocating dirt where no one wants it? It could be. But if she came from this far section of the yard, she walked at least 50 yards to get to the back door.

Maybe she lost her home to a foraging skunk some time ago and had yet to find a suitable hole when the rain came? Yet, she seems plump and healthy, not a spider on the edge of survival.

A female trapdoor spider spends her whole life in the protective confines of a tunnel. Walking around, she is vulnerable to the California towhees hunting in the leaf litter, skunks prowling at night, and even the wolf spider that seems to have devoured all of the cobweb spiders in the chicken house. While a male might go out looking for a mate, the large rounded abdomen and small pedipaps between her front legs and fangs tell us she is indeed a female.

What is this shy young girl doing wandering about in the big wet world? I don’t know.

While it is fascinating to see out of her tunnel, the yard needs her as a predator and she needs a natural location where she can build a comfortable tunnel burrow. When the rain stops and night falls, I’ll return her to the hillside where she belongs.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


In the long sigh of the afternoon the hot wind reaches through the trees and sends the first leaves of fall tumbling to the ground. There is much on the Internet and in the media about the significance of this date. Couples have chosen today as an auspicious date to marry. I image that there will be an abnormally high number of induced births today as well.

But if you take a moment to listen to the quiet and watch the sun filtering through a spider web, you’ll realize that the natural world knows no alignment of man-made dates. Eons have come and gone, oak trees have watched the California grizzly go from the most formidable creature beneath their limbs to just a distant memory.

 Today the western swallowtail has an urgency because the season is changing. Eggs must be laid soon or its caterpillar-children won’t have time to reach chrysalis stage in time to overwinter. The earth’s creatures have no interest in our human preoccupation with our own created numbers.

The western fence lizard on the wall is missing her tail. Her life-changing date was several days ago. For the pied-billed grebe at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area this morning, her special day still looms in the distance. No matter how she tries, her chick won’t be ready to go off on its own for at least another week. For the desert tortoise who closed a grumpy eye last week and settled in for a winter sleep, what we humans do for the next six months is of little interest.

The only trouble is we humans tend to see the world only through our own eyes. We modify the landscape, from the highest levels of the Earth’s atmosphere to deep within the planet’s crust, without considering our neighbors or even our children.

Today I did the most important thing I could think of to do, I walked an area of local wild lands with three young minds. Three young souls, wide-eyed and excited to experience their wild neighbors. We watched an osprey dive and catch a fish, spotted a great blue heron standing motionless at the water’s edge and learned to recognize a black phoebe. The spider webs between the trees were Halloween perfect, beautiful, not scary. If the next generation doesn’t cherish this planet more than we do, all of the calendars and auspicious dates will amount to nothing.

We have made such a negative impact on our world. How many oil spills and toxic chemical spills will we accept?

May we all step forward and lead the next generation to value a healthy world over personal wants, comforts and desires. 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Identifying Local So. California Birds

What's That Bird?

Tonight Thursday, October 7th, 7:30 PM
Del Air Rockhound General Meeting
Northridge United Methodist Church
9650 Reseda Blvd., Northridge CA 91324 

Learning to identify local birds is easy if you start with the basics. I'll be doing a basic class on how to identify local species, tonight at the General Meeting of the Del Air Rockhounds. The meeting is open to the general public and everyone is welcome.

Mourning doves, like the one pictured above, have become one of the most common birds seen across the country. In fact one of the families that attending one of my birding classes was able to identify that the bird nesting on their front porch was a mourning dove.

Come join me at the
Northridge United Methodist Church tonight for a FREE program and discover the birds in your backyard.