Sunday, March 15, 2020

Allen's Hummingbird Nest Taking Form

It isn't the prettiest nest, but this Allen's hummingbird is on day 8 of building her nest.

Allen's hummingbird nest on wisteria vine 3/15/2020
Three other Allen's females fledged their chicks between Feb. 27 and March 7th. The dry weather helped the five viable eggs all hatch and five chicks successfully flew from the nests. (Two pairs and one singleton)

This nest is part of the second round of chicks in 2020. It is nice to watch a positive bit of life happening in the yard.

So far 2020 is a much more productive year. 
The girls were challenged in 2019. 
The chicks of 2018 

Rescuing a baby hummingbird

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Living Christmas Tree With A Twist

A living tree has become a tradition for us. For the past twelve years we have pulled a potted living tree into the house for the winter holiday season.

First we had a blue spruce, which became lovely and wild looking. A California redwood came in for six years running. Then last winter we planted the redwood in the yard, where she is doing very well.

This year we couldn't find a redwood small enough for the house. A spruce or fir might be pretty, but our longer, hotter summers make it impossible to put one of these conifers into the ground successfully.

What to do?

We put on our creative hats and thought outside of the box. What could we find that would live in a pot for five or six years and then join our wildlife habitat yard?

We considered:
  • Catalina ironwood - beautiful, but it was already too big
  • Podocarpus - possible, but not native
  • cedar - lovely, but it was going get very big
  • juniper - lovely, but more bush like than tree 

 Ultimately, we decided on a juniper. The juniper will be quite pruneable and we chose a female that will provide berries for wildlife. 

A live tree is a sustainable tree. It will be planted in the yard and continue to do its job sequestering carbon, producing oxygen, and providing food and shelter for wildlife.

We have a tree in the house to bring wildness into our home. It is so much more magical when that tree (or bush) continues to be part of your life for years to come. 

This spunky juniper looks lovely in its holiday decoration. Think outside of the box and bring a living holiday plant into your life.

Other live Christmas Trees:
Stone pine

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Book Review: "The Big Ones" by Lucy Jones

Could there be a more timely book?

The Big Ones; How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Humanity (and what we can do about them) 
by Lucy Jones
Penguin Random House 2018

If you are paying attention in Southern California, you are familiar with both "The Big One" and Lucy Jones. Jones is the voice we hear following any large earthquake in Southern California. She is the former U.S. Geological Survey seismologist that can explain the complexities of an earthquake in a simple, but relevant manner to any audience. When we hear her voice, smart Californians, quiet their fears and listen.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Jones' book in a small book store in London. Despite luggage weight limits, I snatched it up and began reading.

In California, "The Big One" refers to the next expected massive earthquake on the San Andres Fault that jogs up through most of the state. When it hits, will we be ready for the shake and the aftermath? We will try to be ready, just like the people in Florida and the Bahamas attempted to be ready for hurricane Dorian. With Jones' help, Los Angeles has seriously considered how our response will play out.

What Jones adds to this discussion is historical perspective. There have been other Big Ones around the world–big earthquakes, big storms, big volcanic eruptions, even big floods that Californians have forgotten about. It behooves us to look back to these other events so we can understand how a city or community survives and successfully rebuilds. One of the necessary factors: people, public-minded people willing to make a positive difference.

There are some simple, but vitally important lessons detailed in this book. No matter the threat we must curtail corruption, put aside politics, and prepare intelligently. When catastrophe strikes, successful survival comes from making informed decisions, helping those that can be helped quickly, then recruiting those survivors to be part of the long-term solution for those who have suffered the most.

Worried about earthquakes? Read this book. You will have a better understanding of the real threat. Concerned about climate change impacts that will challenge what we know about storm response? Read this book. Looking for real world ways to approach problems? Read this book. Learn from those who succeeded and those who did not. Whatever "The Big One" is in your life. This book will give you insight and be a good read.

Other Good Books:
Survival of the Sickest

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Juvenile Cooper's Hawks Staying Cool

If you want to attract wildlife to your backyard habitat...provide water.

Especially in the west, where summer temperatures continue to rise each year, water is a vital resource for wildlife. We have a new pair of Cooper's hawks that have recently fledged. Their parents taught them to come to our backyard for water and ... keep cool. For these young birds of prey the option to stand in cool water, helps them cool down. These two have been daily visitors for the past two weeks. At first they stood and watched the house finches and lesser goldfinches on the bird feeder. Now they are beginning to understand that these smaller birds are their prey.

Sometimes they stand in the water for 10-15 minutes at a time. Their mottled feathering really helps them camouflage in the dappled shade.

We provide both still and flowing water in a fountain. We don't want to provide habitat for mosquitoes, so we change out the still water every other day and the fountain's well of water is covered. Mosquito-borne diseases can be deadly to birds and people. Keep your water clean. 

Adult Cooper's hawk in birdbath
Previous Cooper's hawk juveniles 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Epiphyllum Blooms Boldly

Sometimes a simple walk through the garden brings a new discovery. This lovely white epiphyllum is from a cutting that I bought at a flower show a few years ago. 

It is uplifting to see something beautiful that wasn't there before. It is also amazing how the moment of discovery clears your mind of everything else. For a few moments life is suspended in bliss.

No matter how challenging human life has become. Take a moment to go outside and discover what brings you joy.

More about epiphyllums or orchid cactus
Propagating  epiphyllums

Discover the rainbow of color in these tropical cactus

Monday, April 29, 2019

Peace Rose in the Garden

There is peace in the garden. 

The 'Peace' rose is associated with World War 2 and has a very dramatic and interesting story. Ludwing Taschner tells it well on

Its beautiful bloom is a spring and late summer highlight. I love how the glowing yellow is fringed with delicate pink. Peace is one of the most planted roses across the US because its large blooms are hardy in most regions.

With all of the angst in the world, from politics to civil unrest, the garden offers a place to escape and to see hope. We should all spend more time there than at our computers.

Other Backyard roses
Lady Banks rose
Hidden Gardens of LA

Monday, April 22, 2019

Second Nesting Attempts by Allen's Hummingbirds

While most birds are working on their first nests of spring, the Allen's hummingbirds in our yard are on round two.

This nest has two newly laid eggs. It isn't the best constructed nest, but it is in a shaded and protected location. The novice female hasn't been sitting on the nest as much as the more experienced moms.

The female in the front yard has been the only mother to successfully bring two chicks to fledging. See her first chicks just before they flew. Now she's back on the same nest with two new eggs. Last year her second nest was in a different location and nearly lost to the sun.

The nest on the patio successfully produced one fledgling. (The second chick died a day after our big wind storm. Amazingly the survivor lived for a week beside it's desiccated sibling. We considered trying to remove the dead chick, but the location of the nest made that difficult. The survivor was developed enough to try to escape and there was nothing, but cement, 12 ft beneath the nest. Ultimately, it was the right choice; the surviving chick is flying around the yard.)

In the canyon part of the yard, we discovered a nest with two healthy chicks just after they had hatched. The two chicks are just starting to develop their elongated hummingbird beaks. You can just see the second chick's beak at the left side of the nest. These two should be flying in a week and a half to two weeks.

So far this year all of the nests have been in our native Catalina cherry and its mainland relative the hollyleaf cherry. Only the patio nest was not in these specific plants. That is our key to having so many hummingbird nests in our yard–native shrubs. The growing pattern of the plants match the needs of the hummingbirds. Native plants also flower when the hummingbird mothers need food.

If you are keeping track, in 2019 so far, we've had :

  • 8 nests
  • one pair and three singleton Allen's hummingbird chicks successfully fledged - total of 5
  • 2 chicks currently in a nest
  • 4 eggs still being incubated 
Rescuing hummingbird chicks