{a weekend with a bird, bees and butterfly buffet}

This week I was reminded that it’s possible to create a friendly and hospitable habitat for all sorts of visitors–the invited and the party crashers.

Last year, at just this time, Karina and I sat in our back yard and witnessed a Black-Crowned Night-Heron swooping into our backyard pond. 

 

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This week he showed up again, presumably on a fishing expedition. I had nothing to feed him, so off he went!

I have thought about restocking the pond  many times, but  I’m ambivalent. The poor fish!

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I probably should have considered the possibility that he might return.

I recently read that wild Black-Crowned Night-Herons have been invading the Smithsonian National Zoo each summer for over 100 years. It’s the only known rookery for black-crowned night-herons in the region, and each spring the birds stop by to gobble up the zoo’s fish.

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But where do the migratory herons go in the autumn?

Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center tells how they started putting transmitters on the herons in an effort to monitor the birds’ habits. Over the past three years they’ve tracked birds as far south as the Florida Everglades, and it’s suspected they return to the Zoo because it sits on a high point, offering the birds a good view from which to forage.

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My oak tree offers a high point above the pond. If I offer him the incentive of a meal will he be back?

I recently learned the black-crowned night-heron was almost extinct at the turn of the 20th century. The long feather on its head, known as a filoplume, adorned women’s hats during the Edwardian Era and Jazz Age–makes me cringe to think of it!

They may now be plentiful in number overall, but they’re not typical inhabitants in suburban Southern California, and perhaps I have a responsibility to add to its survivability. Maybe just a few fish?

I do think that every little bit of effort to support urban wildlife potential increases my own well-being.

This weekend my focus is increasing my bee and butterfly garden potential. The bees are all over the lavender and rosemary. And I’ve had a Monarch butterfly spending a lot of time close by! This afternoon I found her on one of the new milkweed plants, but by the time I grabbed the camera she was gone.

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Despite the presence of pests and watering issues (you can see the pests in the slideshow photos) I’m  hopeful that seeing the Monarch land on the milkweed today promises eggs.  I am hoping to witness the complete lifecycle.

Butterfly chasing! The perfect level of activity after a busy week. What are your plans for a weekend “exhale?”

Whatever you do, I hope you breathe a little lighter–maybe just sit and watch for butterflies!

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Embracing May Gray and June Gloom…or maybe just accepting it

Los Angeles averages 329 days of sun per year. It’s actually quite warm and sunny most of the winter. Then sometime mid-May we shift into May Gray leading to June Gloom,  a weather phenomenon that appears this time of year in Southern California, as cyclical as spring and summer.

Most years after about two weeks of little or no sunshine I lapse into feeling like I need to hibernate. We are sunshine people and I don’t do well without consistent exposure. This is an embarrassingly hard thing to admit when I know how many of my blogging friends live for months with extremes of cold and damp, without even a spot of sun until mid-spring.

I’m not alone in my physical reaction, however.

With great interest I’ve read numerous studies linking sunshine to mood. Natural sunlight provides essential vitamin D and can protect a person from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight boosts key mood boosting hormones and wards off some forms of depression.

May and June are typically the cloudiest months of the year in coastal Southern California. The clouds are formed when the  marine layer moves in late at night and the resulting damp and gloomy pattern hangs around until late afternoon, when finally the setting sun makes a brief appearance below the clouds and there may be a couple of hours of “happy” sunshine.

A fun and informative blog post on this natural phenomenon can be read HERE, but basically all that’s required is cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California current and a high pressure formation.

There are some benefits to this moisture-laden foggy weather, however. In a mega-drought cycle it is a wonderful reminder that Mother Nature knows how to make an appearance and send a little relief. We aren’t using much outside water right now. Conservation isn’t nearly the challenge it will be in a couple of months.

May and June are somewhat unique, but in July and August the fog associated with the beach areas following hot summer days can also roll in and cool further inland.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is in the Brentwood neighborhood.  On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean, but it isn’t “at the beach” in the same sense as the Getty Malibu campus. These  photos were taken last August as friends and I visited on an afternoon and stayed into the evening.

Temperatures at my house, less than 25 miles away, had been in the 100s that day. As we strolled around the campus the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped enough that we were cold…and a little wet.

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Mother Nature knows how to cool us off and is doing her best to assist the parched environment.  So I’m doing my best to embrace the benefits of May Gray and may even be looking forward to June Gloom.

We have Hollywood Bowl tickets tomorrow night seeing Neil Diamond in concert for the first time–it’s our first time, not Neil’s. I won’t know until tomorrow if I need to plan for wet weather. No umbrellas are allowed inside the Bowl so this could be exciting.

It is a three-day weekend as we commemorate Memorial Day. Monday will be a quiet day at home, I’m anticipating, and maybe I can get caught up with some of you. I’ve not been spending much time blogging recently.

I have been very busy during the day, yes, but you see, May Gray HAS been making me want to hibernate, and my evenings have been very short! Maybe I need a sun lamp? (If you’ve just endured a long, freezing winter you have my permission to roll your eyes.)

Whatever Mother Nature delivers to your door step this weekend, I hope you have a very enjoyable one. I’ll look forward to hearing about it.

Memorizing the snapshots of a very special week

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“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?” ― Pat Conroy

I don’t know what I was thinking. I honestly thought I’d be able to move through the month of January with ordinary rhythms. I don’t know myself as well as I purport.

My son is getting married this week. He and his bride-to-be have ambitiously coordinated events to bring their parents and siblings together in joint activities that have surprised me from the very first mention. He was born with an independent nature and I somehow missed many of the clues that would have prepared me for his desire to closely meld two families.

This hasn’t been hard for me.  We have known the other half of our now larger family, although there were large gaps of time when we didn’t, for more than two decades. I have a photo of the bride and groom that dates back to high school prom night twenty years ago. Sometimes it takes awhile for stars to align.

So back to my belief that I could be fully present for this special time and also share it. I can’t. Or maybe it’s really that I don’t want to. Every now and then I think about the joy of this union and I realize it’s impossible to capture it in photos. And parents take these things in with a special lens that doesn’t translate anyway.

So I don’t know what you’ll see or hear from me this week. I have every intention of sharing details later. But for now, my only awareness is to open up to the experience and be as conscious as possible through each small moment. We don’t get them back.

The big day is Thursday. The only detail I’ll share for now is that there will be sand under our feet. I don’t think he had his mother in mind when he chose a beach wedding, but he is my son after all…he loves the ocean as much as I do.

For this one week, life will not be rushed. No “break neck circuit” for me.

Breathing lighter…Debra