Thursday, December 29, 2016

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

So cool to see this Merlin on our property since the last sighting was seven years ago in 2009!

 12/28/16 On the Engelmann Oak above the orchard.

12/18/16

11/10/09 on the same Engelmann Oak as above.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs aren't common here on our property and the few times I'd seen them over the past 10 years, I was never able to actually get a good shot of them. But lo and behold, this beauty came flitting by and then landed on the butterfly bush off of our front portico last weekend and, SNAP! Here it is, in its full unblurry glory!
 

11/13/16 On the Lavender Butterly Bush (Buddleia davidii) off of our front portico.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

California Myotis Bat (Myotis californicus)

This tiny and actually very cute (as far as bats go) native vesper bat flew into our master bedroom through the open sliding doors of the balcony at around 12:45am. I was brushing my teeth just before turning in and saw this thing fluttering around and thought it was a giant moth until it landed on the curtains. OMG! I scrambled downstairs to get the camera and our iPhones and Gil and I started snapping away but, since it was pretty dark, most of the shots didn't turn out very well. Shortly thereafter, using a bucket and a piece of cardboard, I gently coaxed it off of the curtains into the bucket and released it back to the outdoors. Of course, over the next few days, Gil kept asking me in a rather smirky fashion if I had any unusual aversion to water. Yeah, right, Gil - I know our pooches are vaccinated for rabies, but I'm not. Rabies notwithstanding, it was an awesome experience!

 8/22/16 


Emerald Geometer Moth (Dichorda illustraria)

According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Geometer moths "make up one of our largest moth families, with more than 1,400 species in the U.S. and Canada." Larval hosts include Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina), Skunkbush (Rhus trilobata) and gooseberries (Ribes sp.) 

 6/26/16
A cool-looking green moth that I almost dismissed as an errant leaf that blew into our master bedroom from the balcony. 



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Granite Spiny Lizard

Thanks to Gary Nafis at www.californiaherps.com, I was able to ID this guy as a Granite Spiny Lizard. He (not Gary) was basking on the redwood deck in our back patio - I guess a good alternative to hanging out on large granite outcroppings - go figure. 


4/24/16 Granite Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus orcutti).

4/24/16 

4/24/16


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jerusalem Cricket

I had been watering the herb garden like crazy last weekend (which has been on the dry side due to our very disappointing, basically ersatz Godzilla El Nino this past winter here in SoCal) and I think I may have disturbed this guy out of his semi-subterranean abode with the unexpected H2O deluge. 

Anyhoo, Gil saw it ascending the stuccoed wall and was seriously perturbed, gesticulating and shouting at both me and the ostensibly alien bug-like critter-thing. I reassured him that it was just a harmless Jerusalem Cricket - nothing to get his panties in a twist about. That is, until I read this description of it in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin (disregarding the fact we're not in LA): "The large size of the Jerusalem Cricket...and their amber-colored humanoid heads caused them to be the object of superstition and fear by some Southwestern and Mexican Indians. The Navajo thought them deadly poisonous and called them "wo see ts inii" which means "skull insect" or "bone neck beetle."
Although their strong jaws can bite with considerable force, Jerusalem Crickets are not poisonous."

Cold comfort if they actually bite you.




4/30/16 Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopelmatus species) crawling up the wall in the herb garden


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mourning Cloak

My first sighting of a Mourning Cloak was many moons ago at the LA County Arboretum in Arcadia. Yesterday was the first time I'd ever seen this beauty here in La Cresta, flitting around my herb garden and also on the Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) in the planter on the north side of the house. 

4/22/16 Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) on my herb garden gate. 

4/22/16 


 5/1/16 on the butterfly bush outside our front portico.

5/1/16

Ringed Turtle Dove

Mourning Doves are very common here on our property, so I was surprised to see this unusual-looking dove in the mix along with House Finches, Scrub Jays, California Towhees, bunnies and squirrels, all feeding on the birdseed that I had tossed out for the ground feeders. It was larger and paler than the Mourning Doves and also had a distinctive half collar around its neck.  All IDs pointed to Ringed Turtle Dove, which is very similar to (and even interbreeds with) the Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), but has white, not gray, undertail coverts and wing tips. A cool sighting and also lifer for me. 



4/22/16 Ringed Turtle Dove (Streptopelia risoria) eating birdseed under one of our bird feeders.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Western Black Widow

The reddish hourglass mark on the underside of the abdomen tells you that this one is a female. Black widows are common in Southern California and typically found in wood piles, under houses, and in generally cool, dry places. This grande dame formed her rather haphazard web behind the fountain in my herb garden.


8/17/14 Western Black Widow (Latrodectus hesperus).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Northern Mockingbird

A noisier and less melodic (at least IMHO) version of its also resident cousin, the California Thrasher, the Northern Mockingbird is a common denizen of urban areas, woodlands, and farms. Per the Kaufman Focus Guide, "Often seen running on lawns, stopping to spread its wings abruptly. Eats mostly insects in summer, also many berries in winter. May sing all night on moonlit nights...Repeats a short phrase over and over, then switches to a different phrase, on and on, often including imitations of birds or other sounds. Sometimes leaps into the air and flutters back down while singing." Well, even though I really do love these guys, all that so-called singing could drive you batty and ape shit after a couple of nonstop hours. Just sayin. Thank God for double-paned windows.

1/26/15 Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottes), ruffling its feathers after bathing on the waterfall ledge of the pond.