Happy New Year!

Here is a lovely illustration by one of my favorite children's book author and illustrator, Elsa Beskow. I wish you a very happy and bright new year! Let's keep on creating pesticide-free native garden habitats for pollinators and other wildlife, using organic compost and soil.

Sparrows foraging in the garden

During a break between light rain showers, a group of sparrows and a California towhee descended on the front yard. I observed the activity through a window, and also took these photos through the window because I didn't want to disturb the birds by any kind of movement. The birds were very busy, seemingly very excited and moving with quick hops and taking short flights, on a quest for food. And I still can't figure out what they were eating, insects or plant matter. They were certainly finding something to eat in the ground, on the Berzerkley salvia shrub, and around the lambs ears. Here are a white crowned and a gold crowned sparrow engrossed in their feeding frenzy.

Golden Crowned Sparrows in the Mist

Rain and mist creates so much atmosphere. These are silhouettes of golden crowned sparrows perched high up on dried blackberry vines. Birds seem to really enjoy the weather, as long as the rain showers aren't heavy and gusty winds are absent. Another golden crowned sparrow, also perched on a dried blackberry vine.

Winter Sunset

I love sunsets, but winter sunsets are especially gorgeous. This view is from our front porch looking toward the Marin headlands. There is so much going on here with the clouds, and the rays of the sun spreading vertically behind the clouds.

Gulf Fritillary enjoying the sun

After a week of misty, rainy weather, we enjoyed a weekend of sunshine. The plants were starting to get soggy, blossoms moldy. We love the winter rain, but it's nice to have a sunny day now and then, when the plants can dry out just a little bit, and pollinators emerge. We were surprised to spot this beautiful orange gulf fritillary in the garden. It obviously enjoyed the warmth of the sun. Visiting the Berzerkeley salvia shrub, it spent a long time at each blossom, sipping nectar. Resting on damp grass, spreading its wings to absorb to the warmth of the sun.

Bewick's wren and a dandelion plant

Every day I am reminded by local wildlife why it's important not to remove every single "weed" from the patio and garden. I took these photos of a Bewick's wren through a glass sliding door, while it inspected a dandelion plant for insects. The wren spent a few minutes with the plant, so I suspect it did find some insects for a snack. A messy patio or garden will provide insects necessary for a bird's diet, especially in the winter. Bewick wrens will also occasionally eat fruit, berries, and plant matter in the winter.

It's the season of sprouting doormats

Our outdoor welcome mats are made of sisal. And in the winter rain all seeds that have blown onto the mats throughout the year germinate. Here we go again! Sprouting mats.

Lovely rain

Some plants seem transformed by our winter rain. The leaves of this Baja fairy duster Calliandra californica are beaded with raindrops. This drought tolerant evergreen is native to Baja California, and produces scarlet red tufted flowers nearly all year round. It provides larval food for Lycaenid Butterflies such as the Acmon Blue, Western Pygmy Blue and Gray Hairstreak. We have this one planted in a large container on the patio. When it bloomed last year, it was frequently visited by Anna's hummingbirds. It has yet to bloom this year, but seems to be thriving in the cooler, wet weather.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet visiting

These days, we just never know who we'll see around the backyard. This is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a small olive greenish songbird with a white wingbar with a blackish bar adjacent on the wing. The faint white eye ring makes it seem to have very large eyes. When the adult males get excited they flash a brilliant red crown. In the summer, these little birds are commonly found in spruce-fir forests across the Northwestern United States and throughout Canada, and nest high in trees. In the winter and during migration they are common in thickets throughout North America. If there is food in your backyard, these quick moving birds may come. They eat spiders, insects, ants, wasps, seeds and fruit.

Ooh, it's a Northern Flicker

This was a surprise. Usually I can hear the northern flickers calling, up in the redwood tree. Or now and then I can hear one drumming against a tree, somewhere in the neighborhood. But I only rarely see them. This one appeared in our backyard in the drizzly weather. I first heard it call while it was sitting on the bird bath platform. Then it flew to the crab apple tree and sat on a branch, observing its surroundings. I was surprised that it sat there for a good ten minutes, as the wind ruffled its feathers now and then. These birds have such beautiful patterns on their feathers and wings. You can see the distinctive red color on several of the bird's flight feather shafts.

Anna's hummingbird in the drizzle

It's been raining non-stop for several days now. During the heavy showers the birds are hunkering down in the trees. But when the rain is light, the birds venture out. This afternoon I observed this Anna's hummingbird visit the Chiapas salvia shrub for nectar. The Chiapas salvia is a beautiful year-round bloomer here in coastal Northern California. As long as the stems are cut when the blossoms are dried up, the plant will keep producing more lovely magenta colored blooms. The hummer's bottom looks so soft and fluffy. Considering the wet weather it seems like a miracle that birds can stay dry.

bees in the bay breeze

For years I have been sharing ideas, gardening tips and recipes  with family, friends and colleagues.

And now I'd like to share them with you!


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