Adorable Oak Titmouse

I just love the oak titmouse. They sing and chirp throughout the day, and bathe in the bird bath, but are more elusive than the other birds that visit our garden. I consider it quite an accomplishment when I do capture their images. This is a particularly sweet pose in this "volunteer" tree growing between our neighbor and our garden.

Siskiyou Woolly Sunflowers like sunshine

Oh my goodness! The Siskiyou Woolly Sunflowers Eriophyllum lanatum are slowly but surely starting to bloom, and the color of these blossoms is such a bright yellow, they are almost look fluorescent. The flower heads seem to hover above their gray green foliage. This native California plant is a larval host plant for the painted lady butterfly.

Lovely California natives in the late afternoon light

How lovely these blossoms looked as they swayed in the breeze. The Verbena de la Mina, in the foreground, has grown to almost four times its original size in height and width. There seems to have been enough winter rain to give the plant just the right boost. Behind the verbena are Orange Chiffon California poppies that have already grown very tall. The shade of orange is very striking, and the blossoms themselves seem stronger than the other California poppies in our garden.

A Digger Bee, Anthrophora curta, new resident in the garden

I finally figured out what kind of digger bee this little one is, an Anthrophora curta. Until now I only observed Ivory Banded Digger Bees Anthophora californica. So this is a very exciting discovery for me. Digger bees are solitary and nest in the soil. Their preferred flowers are lavender, as this one is demonstrating, and salvia. But these particular digger bees often can be found on asters, coreopsis and daisies. The distinguishing characteristics of the Anthophora curta are the thick hairy hind legs and thick whitish bands on the abdomen.

First Western monarch sighting in the garden

Welcome back! With their population drastically diminishing, anytime I see a Western monarch I find it such an uplifting experience. And it is extra special when they visit our garden. This male monarch decided to rest on a dried California Delta sunflower, absorbing the warmth of the sun. It first flitted around in large circles before it landed here. Although the sunflower plant is very dry, standing in place for two years, it provides a great resting spot for butterflies and birds.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Green Couscous

I LOVE this salad for its amazing flavor and textures. Try this recipe and it will become your favorite! I've altered it a little bit from the original, which includes chopped cilantro and a fresh green chile. For 4 servings: 1 cup couscous 3/4 cup boiling water 1 small onion, such as a cippollini, sliced very thin 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon salt Herb paste: 1/2 cup chopped parsley 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon 2 tablespoons chopped mint 2 tablespoons chopped dill 6 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped 2 green onions, finely sliced 2 cups arugula leaves, chopped Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the

Yellow faced bumble bee in a California poppy

Ah, my first observation of the year of a Yellow-faced bumble bee Bombus vosnesenskii in a California poppy in the garden. I rarely see other bees in the California poppies. The Yellow-faced bumble bees visit them often throughout the day. I'm so glad to see these poppies reseeding themselves throughout the garden, providing so much pollen for these bumble bees.

Cedar Waxwings are back

Oh how I love the cedar waxwings! I look forward to their arrival every spring, and here they are. This morning was the first time this year that I observed them and heard their distinctive high, thin chirps. Every morning and late afternoon they perch high up in our neighbor's redwood tree. When the sun first peeks through the clouds in the morning, there they sit, warming up in those first rays. Sometimes only a trained eye will notice the waxwings in a tree. And look how many there are in this part of the redwood tree, at least seven.

California Bumble Bee on the Island Alum Root

Yesterday I wrote a post about the blossoming Island Alum Root Heuchera maxima plant. Well look who was visiting all of the blossoms early this morning, a California bumble bee Bombus californicus. Who could resist all that wonderful softness... What a busy little bumble bee. It already has some pollen in its baskets. Hovering between the alum and a monkeyflower plant.

Woolly Angelica and Island Alum Root blooming

Early Spring brings such unexpected surprises in the garden. The Woolly Angelica Angelica tomentosa plant in one of our plant beds, for example. I planted the seedling two years ago, and it seemed like a promising start. But the plant seemed to just barely survive. The two stalks of leaves, which were both a few inches long, dried up. Then the plant seemed to just disappear. And now, after two years, there are three stalks of leaves and they are taller, at least twice as long. I really hope that this California native starts to thrive, because it is a host plant for the anise swallowtail butterfly larva. In the same plant bed, near the Woolly Angelica, the Island Alum Root Heuchera maxima is

California Bumble Bee and Silver Bush Lupine Blossom

The Silver Bush Lupines Lupinus albifrons are starting to bloom and I'm seeing more bees in the garden. All day long bees are visiting the blossoms. Here a California bumble bee Bombus californicus is landing on one of the blossom. It is building up the pollen in its basket. And hugging another blossom on the same flower stalk. Landing on a blossom from another side of the stalk.

bees in the bay breeze
 

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

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