Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…

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October Bird Walk…

First Saturday in October we were on a bird walk for Terry’s master birding class. As luck would have it, the trip was to his old stomping grounds, Fort Chronkite and Hawk Hill in the Golden Gate National Seashore. Because of his involvement with the banding of hawks with GGRO we have been to this area many times and I have posted pictures from here often over the years. The difference this day was that it was 90° and crystal clear…no fabled San Francisco Fog to be seen. The first time I had seen this landscape with this bright light…



The birders got to work…


Some birds were particularly cooperative…

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After investigating Rodeo Lagoon and the headquarters buildings we ventured up to Hawk Hill…


The blue patch on the right is Rodeo Lagoon from above…


and we could see out to Lands End (I have posted pictures of those same rocks from a different angle here…)


There was a lot of boat activity this day…

and raptor activity…


I, however, started looking for shady spots to get out of the sun…no lack of antique battlements here…


and no lack of killer views of the Golden Gate…


This is possibly the best picnic spot in the Bay Area…or maybe the best picnic…I saw the food they brought in as they passed me on the path…


The money shot…Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Yerba Buena Island with the Bay Bridge and Oakland behind it all…! On a clear day you really can see forever…




I ran across pictures from two small towns that we visited last October in Umbria. Not far from Trevi and not very far apart, they could be visited on the same day. Lunch in the first one, Montefalco, and gelato in the second, Bevagna. Montefalco with red wine and peregrine falcons, may have been TM’s favorite small town we visited. He came home, anyway, with two posters for his cave (I do not know how he did it…not a single wrinkle). The posters celebrate the yearly wine festival.

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Peregrines were everywhere…the center of the town square, sewer covers, backs of chairs and benches, and shutters…

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Shots of the town on a beautiful, drizzly day, (we didn’t actually spot any real falcons)…

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The beautiful San Francesco church with its frescos from the 1450’s is the town’s museum…

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In the restaurant where we ate lunch the cook created the “mixed grill” right in front of us…I can still conjure up the aroma…


The next post will be Bevagna with its Roman mosaics.


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June Bird Walk…


Lands End

From Leah Garchik’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle this week: “The season of summer vacations is upon us. Laurie Ustruck was at the western edge of the city looking at the ruins of Sutro Baths, alongside a mom who seemed to be visiting her daughter. Said the mother, “I thought you were bringing me to a Lands’ End outlet store.”

Definitely not one of your outlets, we found…


The building on the left is the Cliff House Restaurant (more about that later)…


We gathered with the group of birdwatchers from TM’s class. Early morning last Saturday. Actually, we were there by 8:00 a.m. which meant we left home at 7:00 and, much to my surprise, where we live was blistering hot, the beautiful coast stayed cool and foggy all morning as we walked. This National Park has stunning views and lots of history behind it. We parked above the Sutro Baths and walked the path that was where the steam train and later the electric street car delivered San Franciscans to the Baths. No outlet has that kind of history behind it!


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We were surrounded by yellows on the trek (and a little red, orange and pink) what with all the lupine in bloom…

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of course, monkeyflower…


I finally identified what this is (and it came in many shades)…it is wild radish and is quite tasty!

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Caught our first glimpse of the Golden Gate (but was not golden in this light…couldn’t even see the tops)…

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A plethora of cormorants and gulls…Gulps of cormorants, rookery, sunning, swimming…

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and thickets where if we spent some time we would probably see many species…


We circled up behind the Palace of Fine Arts where we had been the week before visiting the “Intimate Impressionism” show. I did not know there was a nice dome on the back…but the redtails were circling…

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We went down and around the golf course (watching our heads for errant golf balls)…

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and in these trees saw juvenile redtails learning stuff that birds learn when they fledge out of their nests…


Once we came around the golf course we walked down the trail the way we had come…

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Harbor seals were up on the rock (definitely not “sunning” themselves).


Oyster catchers (almost bright enough to see their flame scarlet bill with its orange yellow tip).

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Back to the parking lot and down the hill to the Cliff House for (wait for it…) Popovers and this view…

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As we walked back up the hill to our car we saw a redtail motionless on a draft having a good ride before he bore down on an unsuspecting rodent…

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The graffiti on the sidewalk said it all…



Eagles, Red-tails, and Bobcats…

April’s birding field trip was close to home. Kind of happy not to have to get up at the crack of dawn to travel for an hour to get to the location. Saturday we just had to go 5 minutes to the Valle Vista Staging Area of the San Leandro Reservoir. Typical California rolling hills, covered with green because we have had some rain the last couple of weeks. The Reservoir is still very low, however.


We took off from the parking lot…this is a tree swallow…


This area needs a permit from EBMUD for entry but they are easy to get online if you want to take this trail. It goes off into some woods.


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Then it meets up with a bridge over a river…



As I always say, the mark of a good bridge is its rust and lichen…

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For the group I was with, the mark of a good bridge was the Wood Ducks in the water…but I missed them…got the flowers, though…

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We continued walking toward the reservoir…


We came to the water and its Great Blue Herons as well as Cormorants and ducks…


and then the best sighting of the day happened…


and he soared…an immature Bald Eagle…


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Lots of Bluebird boxes around…(a swallow on top of this one)…


A sad note on the way back down the trail…near the horse facility on the edge of the trail there was a very ill bobcat. It just lay there, still twitching his ears and tail. Once he raised his head a little. As we watched, making phone call after phone call to the EBMUD and the Animal Control only to find message machines because it was a Saturday morning, he eventually got up and walked slowly toward the barn. (One of the people involved with the horses eventually drove up and when we told her about it she said that the day before the Animal Control had come out but when they got there the Bobcat had disappeared.)

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The only time I have actually seen a Bobcat in the wild. Its being so ill is the only reason. When TM got to the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital for his Sunday morning shift he found that Animal Control had brought it into the hospital Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, it did not survive the day. As we were making all our phone calls we did get to observe “Red-tails in Love”…this time of year, pairs circling, foot drooping…a lovely sight on top of the sad one…


It was great weather for this hike and a nice morning…

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Bird field trip, two…

Coyote Hills Regional Park

Our March bird field trip was an hours distance from home to a regional park with a marsh and rolling hills. The bird-life was abundant and it was an especially good raptor day.  We saw White-tailed Kites, a Merlin, Northern Harriers, a Sharpshinned, and a Cooper’s Hawk. Bright, shiny, and gorgeous, we walked the trails and were rewarded with a great variety of birds. They were difficult to take photos of because of their fast movement. I ended up with many shots of blank skies where a Kite or a Harrier had been. My photos were of the scenery, interesting in its amber and brown-green colors. The marsh is low in water (draught California)  complicated by the fact that the marshes had always been humanly supplemented with pumps until they broke last year and the decision was made that it is too expensive to fix them. They have found that there are fewer birds but not fewer species frequenting the area.

First view of the rolling hills…


Monarchs on a eucalyptus in the parking lot…


The birders begin their walk…IMG_0027 IMG_0036

The parched California landscape…IMG_0030

Some water in the canals of the marsh…IMG_0064 IMG_0063 IMG_0057 IMG_0050 IMG_0045 IMG_0039


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A few California poppies were in evidence…IMG_0184 IMG_0183

In places it looked a little like Sedona…IMG_0177 IMG_0174

There is the Cooper’s Hawk…IMG_0189


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The early morning walk of Easter morning just after a night of rain. The sky and reflections cleaned and glistening. A song from long ago leaping from a recess of my mind and whispering across my lips as I walked. Of course, the version in my head is sung by Cat Stevens…did I skip?  Well, just a little…

Morning Has Brokenby Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day


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iPhone Photo Friday…

Before I start, there is good news from the PG&E Building in San Francisco. The peregrine falcons, Diamond Lil and Dapper Dan, have four eggs that have been laid in the last few days. In approximately 34 days these eggs will hatch. On camera here you can watch mom and dad incubate the eggs and after hatching there will be weeks of watching their growth progress until they fledge around the end of May. (Fledging is a nail-biting, anxiety ridden time for viewers due to the dangers of glass fronted high rises in the city.) Then, if you live close to San Francisco you can bring your binocs in and walk the streets trying to catch a glimpse of the family— mom and dad helping babes adjust to life in the big city. Great fun and beats Angry Birds on your iPhone!

Speaking of the iPhone, I accomplished something from my bucket list last Saturday as we drove to Healdsburg. Since I have had my iPhone, I have noticed that sitting in the passenger seat of the car leads me to take lots and lots of pictures of cloudy skies experimenting with every app and all sorts of filters. (The above mentioned Angry Birds game can only entertain me so long on a car trip—I know, I know, but my brain is so old I can remember life without computers.) I also have pondered if it would be possible to take a picture of any of the raptors I see perched on the side of the road on fences, signs or poles. I have tried over and over to no avail, could not coordinate the lookout for the bird, having the camera primed and pointed, and anticipating the speed of the car so I could click the shutter at the right point for it to catch the bird in the frame. Worth a lot of miles though as entertainment value and easy to erase those shots when it did not work. The area between here and San Luis Obispo, especially below San Jose, is primo for spotting hawks. (In fact on our most recent trip back from SLO a bald eagle flew across the freeway and back toward us near Atascadero. Great excitement for birders and fans of raptors to have that happen.) On highway 37 last weekend I began to realize that I had seen multiple redtails perched on speed signs along the marshy area that goes for about 10 miles. Was it the time of day? The fact that it is spring? First sunny day after rain? I thought there had to be a fifth bird before we hit highway 101 to go north toward Santa Rosa, so I got the iPhone ready and then there it was.

Originally taken with Hipstamatic, chunky lens and Kodot film, this shot was cropped and then processed in Photo Studio to add a new frame. So now I do not have to keep trying to get a picture of a hawk from the car—back to Angry Birds and cloud pictures.

And, here are some clouds from the car:

Hipstamatic app, chunky lens, cano cafenol film.

These clouds are not from the car, but stationary:

Healdsburg mustard fields and a snow-capped mountain processed with Photo Studio app.

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Impressions of the Sunol Wilderness

A tall oak, a bridge, and old wagon wheels

streams and screaming red-tails in love

wandering ridge lines, through shaded rivulets

toyon and white-tailed kites pestering the red-tails

mismatched in the wide-open spaces

with only a cow

and two humans to see

iPhone 4 with Backgroundz app and Pic Grunger app

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The cycle of life…

The Winter Garden

I usually think of the garden in winter as calming down and going dormant. This year, however, the activity has really been bumped up and the area has exciting things going on all the time. Things scurrying everywhere.

In the aviary is a great horned owl. You can tell by this picture that it has a problem with one eye (it even had surgery at UC Davis). It is recuperating here for assessment if it can still hunt well enough for release.

At the beginning of November two nest boxes of squirrels were brought over by the Lindsay Museum so that ten adolescents that had come in last spring as hairless day-old babies could have a protected place until next spring. We are crazy nut-buying people now.

This, at the same time, increases the numbers of birds that visit.

In addition, the wild turkeys have figured out how to fly over the fence and graze on the grain that falls on the ground.

In turn, Katie’s life is very exciting dashing out to keep order and see if there are crumbs.

Cliff, on the other hand, can’t be bothered. Since there is no sun out there, he does not stray from the wool upholstered chair that he now frequents.

Lots of excitement! I guess this is the cycle of life. Already seeing the beginnings of buds on willows and this week will try a meyer lemon off the tree to see if it is time to harvest (my harvest will amount to about 10! The fruit size is larger than last year, though). My spirits got lifted last Sunday when I found blood oranges in the farmer’s market.  I applauded the vendor, he thought I was nuts. You know you have made a transition in your life when you are served your plate at Bo’s Barbeque and you discover a sweet potato. When you are more excited to see it than you would be if it had been a chocolate bar it means that you have crossed some kind of threshold. I would almost say, I hope Santa brings me this tool for my kitchen:

A scoiattolo (squirrel in Italian) nutcracker (the kind of squirrel Cliff likes to read about in La Cucina Italiana.)

Terry, the man counting his twelve days left as a full-time employee before retirement, is responsible for some of these photos on our Canon (to prove we do include him sometimes). The rest I took with the iPhone (birds-not so good, but I hope you get the idea.)

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iPhone Photo Friday…


Terry has a reputation that is for the birds. Contributing to this concept is that he currently rehabilitates raptors to help the Lindsay Wildlife hospital in Walnut Creek. On top of that, when I first met him forty years ago, he had just returned from two years in the Peace Corps where he raised chickens as part of poultry cooperative development. Over the years I wondered if he would ever return to those “roots” and, in fact, we contemplated a few years ago whether we should get chickens to eat the pests in our native plant garden. We went so far as to find out that chickens can be shipped by mail for pick up at your local post office and that some college kids redesigned the concept of a coop into a one piece with a canopy and a fence easy to clean concept. Oh so tempted!

For two weeks Terry has been asked to take care of a hack box at a house about a mile away. There are two types of releases of raptors, one being hard where they are let go usually back at the location where they were found. The other is a soft release out of a hack box where young birds are acclimated to living on their own by being provided food for a while until they can take care of themselves. In the hack box in our neighborhood are two white tailed kites that are fed each morning. Eventually the door will be propped open and they will come and go as they please.

The cool thing is that at the house where the hack box is, the backyard also has about forty chickens and four Eglus (see here. The link is for the Omlet Company home page.) This morning I went along and got to meet some of the chickens, see the eglus, and ponder the benefits of having your own eggs. The owner shared a dozen eggs in beautiful sizes and colors with Terry when she was showing him the procedure for feeding the kites. Could we have chickens in our future?



Ruler of the Roost



Photos were taken with an iPhone 4, CameraBag app, 1972 filter.