Fox Tail Agave

What appears at first glance to be a sad, droopy plant is actually a thriving life source for insects and birds. Sending up an arching, flower-covered stem after growing for ten years, the fox tail agave blooms starting in late summer through early spring.  It is a magnet for bees and birds including hummingbirds, commonContinue reading “Fox Tail Agave”

Salps

The sea salps are back!  No, that’s not a typo. Salps are small, shiny, prismatic and easy to overlook on a casual beach stroll.   Referred to by some scientists as “vacuum cleaners of the ocean”, they appeared on Zuma Beach this week. We first noticed them last winter. After a few weeks, they disappeared.  Shaped as orbs orContinue reading “Salps”

Cooper’s Hawk

A juvenile cooper’s hawk recently stepped into our birdbath.   https://youtu.be/6YXhTKHQmgk   This was the first time since the trail cameras were installed that we had a sighting on film. We had already seen one fly into the oleander hedge and swiftly emerge with something in its talons. I’d never seen a raptor in a birdbath.Continue reading “Cooper’s Hawk”

Great Horned Owls

After dusk this week, I heard great horned owls calling.  Year-round residents of the United States, they begin their days after sunset.   Turn your volume way up to hear the call of the great horned owl and a juvenile calling to a parent. The Ojai Raptor Center very kindly provided information about the second, higher pitched call.Continue reading “Great Horned Owls”

Female (Audubon’s) Yellow-rumped Warbler

Spotted on a bird-of-paradise blossom, this sparrow-sized bird is a year-round resident of Southern California. Cornell University’s All About Birds website indicates that Yellow-rumped Warblers eat insects and berries. Their stout beaks probe for insects and pick berries from stems. In fact, the species’ appetite for berries “when no insects are available enables them toContinue reading “Female (Audubon’s) Yellow-rumped Warbler”

Southern Sea Otters: A Keystone Species

Found in California’s offshore waters between Half Moon Bay and Santa Barbara, the southern sea otter is a playful animal which uses its chest both as a dining room table and a place to groom its pups.   Lolling just beyond the breaking shore waves, rafts of sea otters wrap themselves in kelp for protection from greatContinue reading “Southern Sea Otters: A Keystone Species”

Monterey Bay

Visitors to Monterey Bay quickly find their ears tuning to unusual sounds at the shore. What is that roar? Did I just hear a bark? Sea lions are easily seen under Fisherman’s Wharf, on wood platforms which appear to be custom-made for them.  When the water warms more than they’re accustomed to, they engage in jugging, andContinue reading “Monterey Bay”

Monarch Butterflies

Stopping by the Pacific Grove, CA Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary on November 9, we arrived with anticipation. On previous visits in the early 2000’s, I had seen the thousands of butterflies clinging to and wafting on the eucalyptus’ columnar branches in this park, located between Monterey and Carmel.  This year, we passed numerous trees with no visibleContinue reading “Monarch Butterflies”

White-crowned Sparrows

Winter residents in the southern two-thirds of the United States, white-crowned sparrows are easy to spot with distinct black and white stripes on the heads of the males.Here’s a male demonstrating “double-scratch” foraging  as described by John P. Dunning in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior 2001 edition (page 524).They’re spotted on theContinue reading “White-crowned Sparrows”

Spotted Towhees

A very sporty looking member of the bird world, the Spotted Towhee is easy to notice with its colorful plumage. Click here to watch a singing member of this species: https://youtu.be/tupEPvqkmGo In The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, “New World Sparrows” author John B. Dunning Jr. advises that they are seed eaters and insectContinue reading “Spotted Towhees”