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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Take a Trip out of Victoria Harbour - in A Zodiac - to visit local residents: ORCA

On a beautiful, sunny July afternoon, we donned orange cold weather suits.

To take a zodiac trip across choppy waters to visit some special local residents.

Whale watching for  Orcinus orca (killer whales)!
 These resident orcas are fish eaters – They are salmon specialists. About 80% of their diet is Chinook salmon. 

The orcas that visit the waters surrounding San Juan Island are known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
The males like this one,
are much bigger than the females, 
and have a larger and more developed dorsal fin.
For more water adventures:
 visit us at 

Catch a View and Catch a Pike, Squanga Lake, Yukon, Canada 

Birds and Marine Mammals of CA Channel Islands (long & short-beaked common dolphin, blue & fin whale) 
Sea Birds on Great Barrier Reef, Michaelmas Cay, Queensland, Australia
Plunge into a California Tide Pool (sea stars, swell shark, sea cucumber, garibaldi fish)  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Earthly Take on Food

Take a minute to enjoy a colorful plate directly from the garden.


This wonderful kaleidoscope of salads was created by our friend Peter for a gathering of friends.

Bring the Earth to your table with fresh veggies and savor a tasty Earth Minute. 

More Earth Minutes with a human touch:

Walk to The Getty Center 
Visit Southern California Flower Show 
How Do Trees Dream (fiber art) 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wait! It's a Jerusalem Cricket

While planting in the yard, I dug this up ....


male Jerusalem cricket has a smaller abdomen
The Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus sp.) is also known as a potato bug or an earth baby, nino de la terra. It is not poisonous or dangerous in any way. It can pinch, but that's all. It lives in the soil and is active at night.

This large insect is an important decomposer. Just like earthworms, the Jerusalem cricket eats decaying leaf litter and turns it back into the soil. Don't be afraid of this big bug. She can't hop, doesn't see well, and just wants to get away from scary giant humans. Look for her thread-thin antennae that help her find her way.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful for creatures like the Jerusalem cricket. I think she's beautiful. She has a job to do and she stands up for herself. 

Go J. cricket!

Planting CA Native Plants

More Earth Minutes with insects
Butterflies in Illinois
Night Sounds - Massacre Rocks State Park, ID
Graybird Grasshopper
Insect and Animal Close-ups

Spend a minute with the natural world each week 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

You Need a Romp at the Beach

Nothing more to say. We all need to find our Happy Place again so we can move forward.

Take a minute for a Romp on the Beach!


Leo Carrillo State Beach just north of Malibu has a beach area north of the 3rd Life Guard station were dogs are welcome. Stay on-leash and pick-up after your four-legged pal so we can keep this beach open for dog folks.

Dog Friendly Beaches in Los Angeles

More Earth Minutes to Replenish the Spirit

Discover Fern Canyon, Redwoods State Park
Bodie Meets Bison in Yellowstone
Common Dolphins and Pelicans Fishing
Hiking Limekiln Canyon
Orcutt Ranch - Hidden Garden #1
Dawn on the Illinois Prairie
Mountain Wildflowers in Wyoming
Wildlife Cruise on the Yellow Water, Kakadu Australia

All of these places and creatures have a stake in the future too. 

Channel Island fox
Today on The Earth

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Autumn in Los Angeles

Yes, southern California has seasons! They are just different from the expected and therefore are typically discounted.


Summer is a time of dormancy for our plants, not winter. Winter is our time of growth and renewal. With recent Fall rain, bulbs are appearing. 

It is also time to plant. Native plants are more likely to be successful if planted in the Autumn. This gives them all winter to establish themselves before the harsh realities of a dry hot summer. We're planting natives that we picked up at the CA Native Plant Society plant sale last weekend.

desert sunflower
Sages have been successful for us and they provide nectar for Valley carpenter bees and hummingbirds. We're trying a new Salvia leucophylla. This desert sunflower, Encelia farinosa, is a new species for us. Hopefully its flowers will provide nectar for bees and butterflies (Name this Butterfly). 

Some CA creatures are preparing for a long winter sleep. See more Earth Minutes with desert tortoises:
Tortoises in spring 
Sleepy Tortoise 
Tortoise and Lizard Buddies

Creating habitat is a year-round effort, but Autumn in Los Angeles is the time to start something new. Native plants attract wild creatures and bring Earth Minutes to you. More on native plants and native plant gardens.

Visit each week for a new Earth Minute

Monday, October 17, 2016

Private Lives of Cooper's Hawk and Raven

Cooper's hawk in bird bath
Nature sometimes lets us in on the private lives of animals. Share a private moment with a Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) and a common raven (Corvus corax). 

While we have song birds in and out of the bird bath all the time. Occasionally, birds of prey come down to the bath as well. This immature Cooper's hawk was most likely hatched in our neighborhood this spring.
female common raven

The raven pair have been neighbors for several years. The recent batch of youngsters are finally out of the nest and off on their own. The pair are back to romancing and renewing their pair bond. The female has this strange clucking/gurgling sound that she calls to the male. He was flying overhead between the trees.

Our bird neighbors frequently open up their personal lives, we just need to take a moment to observe.

More Earth Minutes with Ravens and Birds of Prey

Ravens with 2016 offspring
Identifying a Young Raven
Harrier Hawk with Prey on Frozen Big Bear Lake 
Red-tailed hawk on the L.A. River
Great Horned Owl Takes Shelter 
Osprey at Malibu Beach 
Bald Eagle in Alaska
White-bellied Sea Eagle - Australia 

More Earth Minutes with Birds and Wildlife

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Alligator Lizard Hunting the Yard

After a week of indoor work, an Earth Minute can seem elusive. But all it takes is a few moments outside and an Earth Minute finds you.

This adult southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is living under one of the native California lilac, or ceanothus, in the front yard. She is probably the mother of the juvenile we rescued from the garage.


If you look closely you can see where she has lost her original tail and regrown the current tail. The coloring is less complex and doesn't quite match her body. Alligator lizards can let their tail break off in order to startle and redirect a predator. It is an amazing evolutionary adaptation. The breakage occurs through a vertebra; kind of like the perforations between saltine crackers. The musculature comes apart at these breakage sites as well. There is little blood loss and nerves in the tail will continue to make it twitch for several minutes. The continued movement of the tail tricks the predator into thinking it's caught the whole lizard. 

The tail grows back, but the bone is not replaced. The replacement tail can break again if needed. Science has yet to figure out exactly how this tail replication takes place. 

This alligator lizard is one of our yard's natural predators and the benefit of a yard that provides habitat.

What does a baby alligator lizard look like? Rescuing an Alligator

More Earth Minutes with Reptiles 

This week on The Earth Minute 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rescuing An Alligator

A garage can be a dangerous place when you're a young reptile. What looks cool, quiet and safe, can be a food desert.


This juvenile southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is an effective hunter of insects and other arthropods in the yard, but the garage was nearly its doom. It just took a moment to scoop it up and move it outside where it belonged.

A few weeks later we had a minute with an adult alligator lizard that is probably this little guy's mother.

Lizards are great backyard wildlife. They interact with each other:
Watching Lizards in Southern CA

And with other species in the yard:
Backyard Buddies ... Reptile Style

Though small right now, this alligator lizard will grow up to prey on the western fence lizards. (When an alligator lizard hunts its neighbors.) It's a jungle in our suburban yard.

More Earth Minutes with lizards:
Spotting a Lace Monitor in the Wild

There's always something new to discover at

Friday, September 23, 2016

Walk Among The Oaks on the Autumnal Equinox

To walk among valley oaks (Quercus lobata) and coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) is to travel back in time. 


These trees are hundreds of years old. Some of them watched the first Spanish explorers and gave limbs for the construction of Mission San Fernando.

These oak trees are not just beautiful, their shade is a cool oasis on hot days. Resident acorn woodpeckers tap on their limbs. Squirrels frolic and butterflies soar. Migrating birds seek out this ancient oak woodland for food and rest. Wilson's warblers, lark sparrows, western wood-peewees, and a Pacific wren were all visiting among the trees. 

valley oak acorn
Orcutt Ranch Park preserves this slice of ancient California. Walk among the oaks, hold an acorn in your hand, and realize experience the community of life dependent upon these trees. 

For more on Orcutt Ranch Park - one of Los Angeles' Hidden Gardens

More Earth Minutes where you can discover oak trees.
Visit Conejo Valley Botanical Garden 
Hiking Los Virgenes Open Space, CA  
Stroll Rocky Oaks Park
Oaks Involved in Calabasas Fire 2016 
Ancient Oak in Red Bluff, CA 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Take a Seaplane from Vancouver to Victoria in British Columbia

Unusual winds and choppy seas cancelled our early morning boat ride from Vancouver to Victoria in British Columbia.

We quickly booked a seaplane for an airborne adventure!

 The flight was great! And the view superb!

This is a quick shot of the cockpit warning bar.
For more adventures, visit us at

Train Crossing in Illinois - Listen to August 
Listen to the Rocky Surf - Glacier Bay, Southeast Alaska
Mongolia - Wind Across the Gobi (Mongolian lizards, snake, and human culture)
Catch a View and Catch a Pike, Squanga Lake, Yukon, Canada

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Swim Up a Salmon Ladder! Coho at Capilano Salmon Hatchery, Vancouver, BC

Swim Up a Salmon Ladder!

Coho salmon swim up the salmon ladder back to the gravel beds  where they hatched.
The Capilano River in North Vancouver, British Columbia was dammed in 1954.  
Cleveland Dam blocks Capilano Lake for hydro power and fresh drinking water. This blocked the spawning ground stream beds for the native salmon.
Below is the first small dam to divert the salmon to the ladder.
It's really cool to see the salmon as they make their way upstream!
See the {above} "ladder step" to the left?

Capilano River Salmon Hatchery, 4500 Capilano Road, North Vancouver, B.C. Canada V7R 4L3
 For more fish Stories:
 Visit us and Subscribe to

 (parrot fish, zebra fish, giant clams, coral

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Crater Lake National Park Walk to Phantom Ship viewpoint

Crater Lake was formed in Oregon only 7,700 years ago by the  eruption and collapse of a volcano, Mount Mazama.
The cinder cone near the western edge of the lake is known as Wizard Island. It's in the center of the picture.

I took a walk to Sun Notch and the Phantom Ship viewpoint and found a few friends on the trail


Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels Callospermophilus lateralis are adorable! Visit them with me! 

The water in the lake is only from rain and snow melt. Climate change concerns are being felt, as less precipitation is falling in the Oregon Cascades mountain range.

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, but the water level has been steadily dropping in the last decade.
For more weekly hikes and nature, visit us at
Winter Walk at Lake Tahoe, CA (white-headed woodpecker) 
Winter Walk at Big Bear Lake, CA (pygmy nuthatch, Steller's jay)
Stroll Kew Gardens, London (European robin)

Hiking Los Virgenes Open Space, CA (coyote)
L.A. River Thru Atwater Village (black-necked stilt, Canada geese, coyote)
Walking to Ft. Tryon and the Cloisters, New York City (black morph fox squirrel) 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ravens Complain on the Power Pole

Common ravens Corvus corax have become more common in Southern California.

One very hot afternoon we heard incessant throaty calling outside the window.
These three were sitting on the power pole across the street.
106 degrees Fahrenheit
41 degrees Celsius

Check out the "Hot Dog" in the video.... 
 For more ravens and birds check out
Visit Homes High Above Palm Springs (woodpecker nests)
Walking the L.A. River - Glendale Narrows (black-necked stilt, American wigeon)
Band-tailed Pigeons Take over FeederWatch

 Experience Mamukala Wetlands at Dusk (magpie geese, pied heron, royal spoonbill, great egret, whistling kite, plumed whistling duck, bush hen)