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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winter Birding Descanso Gardens, California

Walking through Descanso Gardens on a late December morning we saw nearly 2 dozen different species of birds.
It's a beautiful walk through classic gardens and native plants.
Here are a few of birds we got on camera!

Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus 

Allen's Hummingbird  Selasphorus sasin

White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys

Great Egret Ardea alba


Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr, 

La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011, USA

 For more videos of gardens near Los Angeles, visit us at

Hidden Gardens of Los Angeles

#1 - Visit Orcutt Ranch Park
#2 - Visit Malibu Legacy Park
#3 - Visit Pierce College Botanical Garden
#4 - Visit Conejo Valley Botanical Garden 
#5 - Visit a Kelp Forest at CA Science Center  

 Happy New Year, 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Winter's Walk at Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe sits astride the borders of California and Nevada well over a mile high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

We went for an end of the year snowshoe and stroll in the brisk, quiet air.
Join us for a Winter's walk at Lake Tahoe, California!

Look for the white-headed woodpecker! 

We stayed on the California side in South Lake Tahoe. 
Breath deeply!   The Lake level is about 6,224 feet!

The lakeside has fascinating pebble and boulders - and miniature ice sculptures from the melting and re-freezing of the wet ground.
For More trips in California, Visit us at


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Find Your Earth Minute - Stop in One Place

The Earth Minute is all about taking a moment to connect with the world around you. Linger in one place for a few minutes and be amazed at the life around you.


Looking for just a few minutes at one spot at Sepulveda Wildlife Basin we spotted:
  • American coots
  • song sparrow
  • double-crested cormorant
  • mosquito fish
  • a true bug

You can find an Earth Minute anywhere, just stop and focus outside of yourself.

Green ant
More Earth Minutes with...
The tiny: Green Ants; Valley Carpenter Bee, Illinois Butterflies

The shy: Bewick’s wrens, Great Horned Owl Taking Shelter

The common: Western Fence Lizards, Los Angeles River
The unusual: Strange Art on an Australian Beach, Wind Across Mongolia, Encounter with a Lace Monitor, Trees Dreaming

Another Moment in One Place
More of Sepulveda Basin and the Los Angeles River 

Go Find Your Earth Minute

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stroll Under Glass in Historic Kew Gardens Palm House

30 minutes from central London, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has fantastic lawns and pathways to explore. 
In the middle is a wonder of early Victorian iron and glass, and a wonder of subtropical plants ; the Palm House.
 Walk in with us!


16,000 panes of glass vault their way into the sky keeping hundreds of specimens happy even in the dead of winter.

musa lasiocarpa
Chinese dwarf banana or golden lotus banana
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, 
Surrey, TW9 3AB 

For a map of the entire gardens, visit:

For More Earth Minutes from Far away:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Discover The L.A. River at Sepulveda Basin

Los Angeles River west of Balboa Blvd.
As the Los Angeles River heads to the ocean, this is the first section that has a “soft” or natural bottom. Most of the concrete disappears and the River is allowed to strive for wildness.


You can easily walk this section along a dirt road/path from Lake Balboa to the Sepulveda Dam. The flow of the river slows and vegetation provides habitat. We were surprised to find wetlands between one of the golf courses and the River. 

American wigeons and mallards
Birds abound here; we saw 42 species including the Canada geese, red-tailed hawk, American coots, American wigeons, mallards, snowy egrets, and a great blue heron highlighted in the video.

The fish in the river with flashy silver sides were counted by agency biologists on December 1, 2015 and found to be introduced tilapia. While the tilapia provide food for native birds, they are not a native species. Biologists are hoping the potential El Niño will wash these rapidly increasing non-native fishes out of the river. See the article in the L.A. Times.

Native fish species were decimated when the River was cemented in the 1930s. Restoring the River means helping native fish reestablish populations. Wouldn’t it be a major success to have steelhead and salmon return to spawn in the Los Angeles River?

My favorite stretch of the River, just above the Sepulveda Dam
Discover more of the Los Angeles River:
L.A River Headwaters
Walking the L.A. River - San Fernando Valley

Up-close with a snowy egret
Sepulveda Wildlife Reserve

Visit weekly  
Celebrate a positive moment with the planet.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Take a Stroll Under the Oaks - November in Rocky Oaks Park

We took an early stroll the day before Thanksgiving, 2015 in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area through a little 200 acre gem of a park.

Rocky Oaks Park is a short drive away from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.


 Sunlight in the early morning plays through the oaks, pines, and rocks of the park.

Rocky Oaks Park is located in the 31500 block of Mulholland Highway west of the Kanan Road intersection. The entrance is on the north side of Mulholland Highway.

Take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Kanan Road. South on Kanan Road to Mulholland Highway. Turn west (right) on Mulholland Highway and right again into the parking lot.

GPS Coordinates: N 34.0967 W -118.8141

Nice, well maintained trails.
Dogs allowed on leash.
Water available.
Meeting circle, ranger area under the oaks. 
See More in California!  Subscribe to
See these posts and Videos! 
Visit Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park (endangered Channel Island fox)  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Band-tailed Pigeons take over Feederwatch!

Band-tailed pigeons (Patagioenas fasciata) are some of the larger  native birds we find in our backyard. 

Flocks of over 35 at a time have come to jostle each other and eat in shifts from our feeder.


They usually eat acorns, nuts and small fruit that grows wild in the neighborhood.
But they LOVE the shelled peanuts in the bottom of the feeder tray!!

Visit us at!  

And view more in Southern California:

Honey Bees in a Lemon Tree 

This Morning In a Habitat Yard 

Backyard Breakfast Buddies - Reptile Style 

Ring-necked Snake in the Garden

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Desert Tortoise Hibernation

One of our California desert tortoises is having a hard time settling down for the winter.


The weather has been cool and windy. The others are fast asleep, but this old female is still up and about.

What causes desert tortoises to enter winter torpor? The science is still out, but it seems to me that it is not one thing. Yes, cool weather is part of it, but it's been in the low 40 degrees F at night for nearly a week. The days have been windy and typically in the low 60s. Still she slowly wanders out to find a place in the sun.

Low angle sunlight, shortening daylight, cold winds, all of these play a role. Yet, this old girl hasn't settled in. 

This is her first winter with us and she just hasn't decided to let down her guard and go to sleep. Despite her grumpiness it is calming to spend time with her. She's probably close to 90 years old. She's a wise one, she'll find a place to sleep away the winter.

Other Earth Minutes with Turtles, Lizards and Snakes
Backyard Breakfast Buddies (desert tortoise and western fence lizard)
Tortoises in Turkey
Hidden Garden - Pierce College Botanical Garden (red-eared slider)
Ring-necked Snake in the Garden
Hike Limekiln Canyon (lizards)
Watching Lizards in Southern California 
Spotting a Lace Monitor in the Wild 

for a weekly Natural Moment 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Walking the L.A. River - West San Fernando Valley

Bridge at Tampa, decorated with river related wildlife
Yes, there is a Los Angeles River.

I started walking the river from its Headwaters in Canoga Park and some friends became interested. 

Walk along with us from Winnetka to the bridge at Tampa and the end of the Bike Trail at the Vanalden footbridge.


Each bridge and section has its own artistic style. Here there were decorative leaf patterns.

We saw 13 species of birds, including a pair of killdeer, American crows, white-crowned sparrows, lesser goldfinches and the group of least sandpipers that I saw further up the river.

We had a great walk. Native plants in the landscaping were blooming, including wild roses, desert morning glory, and more. For more photos of the flowers check out my friend Douglas Welch's blog.

We're almost to the area where the creeks from the Chatsworth area join the river. Hike Limekiln Canyon Park, CA (Pacific tree frog, western fence lizard)

Visit weekly for a new 1-minute escape.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Santana Winds Come to Los Angeles October 29, 2015

The Santana Winds have come to Los Angeles.
 October 29, 2015

The term "Santana winds" is said to have originated in Spanish California when the hot, dry winds were called "devil winds."

Maybe you've heard of them as "SANTA ANA WINDS"? 

At the turn of the last century, an Associated Press correspondent mistakenly identified Santana winds as "Santa Ana" winds in a 1901 dispatch.

Raymond Chandler wrote a 1938 short story about them called 
 "Red Wind"
"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks.
Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

View a video from our yard as the winds parch the drought stressed plants early the  morning....
 And view more in Southern California : at
View more videos!
 (CA towhee, band-tailed pigeons, ruby-crowned kinglet, Bewick's wren, CA desert tortoise) 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Discover the Headwaters of the Los Angeles River

Do you know the L.A. River? Really?

Discover the River walkway from the Headwaters to DeSoto Ave.


They say the river begins where Bell Creek and the Calabasas Arroyo combine. Since the 1940s that location has been fixed just north of the intersection of Owensmouth and Vanowen in Canoga Park. (Just a skip away from the Topanga Mall.)

The sculpted 'V' of the waters coming together forms a jut of land that is topped with the Canoga Park High School sports field. From Owensmouth east, a foot path has been added along the River. Native plants provide habitat for butterflies and birds, while thin riffles of water flow over narrow sandbars on a cement stream bed. 

It's quite beautiful really: the lines of the bridges, sweeping fins of concrete, heron-themed gateways.  

During a walk from Owensmouth to DeSoto and back, I saw a variety of bird species, including yellow-rumped warblers, a pair of white-crowned sparrows, and a black phoebe. 

small group of migrating least sandpipers
 Least sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) were stopping to feed on watery insects. While, American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) played 'catch the stone' mid-air over the water.

There were views of the Santa Susana and Santa Monica Mountains, where the water originates.

Benches built along the pathway offer respite for a thoughtful moment. Trash cans and dog waste stations are plentiful. Walk the north side of the River and the path will take you under Canoga Ave.

I'm excited to embrace the L.A. River as a place to visit, but this ideal is fragile. Neglect and trash can quickly mar the opportunity. Let's take ownership of our river. Use the plentiful trash cans and dog stations. We have a chance to recreate something soulful and living. Let's not allow apathy and ignorance to destroy this chance for a Walk by the River.

Discover more walks with wildlife around Los Angeles
Hidden Gardens of L.A.

Other Rivers and Streams:
Hike Limekiln Canyon Park, CA (Pacific tree frog, western fence lizard) 
Malibu Creek - Feel the Cool in Malibu Creek State Park, CA 
Arroyo Seco - Angeles National Forest
Discover Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA  
The Voices of a River - (Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada)
Floating the Outlet Stream - Squanga Lake, Yukon, Canada (arctic grayling)
Take a Cruise on the Yellow Water, Kakadu, Australia (birds & saltwater crocodile)


Thursday, October 15, 2015

How Tall Is a Redwood Tree?

It can be hard to understand the true size of a California coast redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) until you measure it out. 


That is exactly what school children from the Santa Barbara Charter School have done at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden as part of a temporary fiber arts installation. 

See more of the fiber arts in the garden.

Walk the length of the world's tallest tree: "Hyperion" a 379 ft California coast redwood tree.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's redwoods are only 79-90 years old. They are still babies.

More Earth Minutes with:
California native plants
Morning in a Habitat Garden
Redwoods State & National Parks
Sequoia National Park - More than big trees 
Yucca Blooms on Angeles Crest Hwy

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Do Trees Dream?

In vivid color.

Take a walk through the dreams of trees and plants as envisioned at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Look for the "rain catcher."


fiber sculpture California poppy
"Dormant Dreams" is a temporary fiber arts installation by Yarn Blaster Babes and their collaborators at the Santa Barbara Fiber Arts Guild and students from Santa Barbara Charter School.

Especially in the quiet rain, you could hear the trees dreaming.

More Earth Minutes with CA native plants:

CA Native Plants with Leaves to Fight Drought

Morning in a Habitat Garden

CA Locations for Hiking

More Earth Minutes with Art:
Malibu Legacy Park
Walk to the Getty Center 
Temple of Aphrodite

Visit Weekly for a new Earth Minute

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Leaves on CA Native Plants Fight Drought

San Nicolas Island buckwheat
Despite the drought, you can still have green landscaping in California if you go native. Take a minute and appreciate the variety of leaves among our native plants.


These natives are green and healthy even at the end of a dry summer. 
CA coast redwood

How do they do it?  Adaptations to their leaves help them avoid moisture loss. 

Some leaves are fuzzy with tiny filaments that help break of the sun's pounding rays. A velvety leaf also reduces air movement across the surface, thereby reducing transpiration of moisture.

Waxy leaves help seal in moisture, also reducing transpiration. 

San Nicolas Island chamise
Narrow leaves reduce surface area exposed to the sun. Some plants like the fairy duster (Calliandra) respond to direct sunlight by closing up their leaves to further reduce exposure. When the sun is less severe, the narrow leaves unfurl and open wide.

sword fern
Many California native plants have evolved with combinations of these adaptations making them successful drought survivors and good choices for planting in yards.

Here is a list of the plants as they appear in the video:
  • hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia ilicifolia) more on CA native cherry
  • ceanothus (Ceanothus variety of species) flowers in the spring
  • white sage (Salvia apiana)
  • San Nicolas Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande timorum)
  • manzanita (Arctostaphylos variety of species)
  • hollyleaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia ilicifolia
  • coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)
  • toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) more on toyon
  • lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia)
  • penstemon (Penstemon variety of species)
  • prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica)
  • San Nicolas Island chamise (Adenostoma fasciculaton 'Nicolas') See more of San Nicolas Island
  • pink fairduster (Calliandra eriophylla)
  • sword fern (Polystichium munitum)
  • CA coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
  • giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
  • Santa Rosa Island torrey pine (Pinus torreyana insularis)
  • western sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
  • mallow (Sphaeralcea variety of species)

See how native plants create habitat in a backyard

For more California Native plants see:
Visit Malibu Legacy Park - Hidden Gardens of L.A. #2
Visit Pierce College Botanical Garden - Hidden Gardens of L.A. #3
Visit Conejo Valley Botanical Garden - Hidden Gardens of L.A. #4

for weekly 1-minute videos of the natural world. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Great Horned Owl Takes Shelter

Jarrett Prairie Reserve, Byron Illinois
Wind thunders across the North American prairie. During the night, tornado warnings kept everyone on edge. The next morning the wind still had a strong hand, but it was a fraction of what it had been. The perfect time to go for a walk and experience an Earth Minute.


Can you spot the camouflaged owl in the tree?
I came across a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) sheltering from the stormy weather.

It had its back to me the whole time.

The North American tall grass prairie is a vanishing habitat. Jarrett Prairie Reserve offers a wonderful opportunity to experience tall grass prairie, even the butterflies of Illinois.

Find other natural areas to experience wildlife in California and around the world.

Where will you find your Earth Minute? 
Visit weekly for a new minute of discovery.