Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…

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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.

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iphone Photo Friday…

Earlier this week I rushed to play with the iphone before Terry took off for work and confiscated it from me. I started layering images on top of each other in DXP in this order: a shot up into my backyard umbrella that is a persimmon color (but I toned down the color with PSMobile app), a shot of the decorative iron grille above the door of the Hearst Building in San Francisco, the script from the 1908 graduation certificate of my great Aunt Ethel from University of Rochester, and a fish from a Dover book of copyright free images. All the images were taken with the iphone. It began to dawn on me that the structure of the umbrella was making the fish look like it was up for obliteration and I recalled in the LoMob app there is a filter called 6×9 emulsion which has a dark area at the top that represents the track of emulsion, but that morning it reminded me of an oil slick. I realized I was starting to channel my despair over current events, so I titled the image “The Evening News”.
Rather than put more iphone images here, I am going to list links to organizations that help wildlife. It hurts my heart.

I am a California native, having been born in Southern California, and I still remember the tragedy of the oil spill off Santa Barbara just as I was finishing my teaching credential in San Luis Obispo in 1969. San Luis is two hours away from Santa Barbara. I had to drive through the city to get home to Pasadena and was acutely aware of the tragedy. The experience formed my opinion of off-shore oil drilling, which has not wavered since that time.

A corner of our backyard contains a 10 x 30 aviary that houses raptors and owls between the time when they leave the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital and they are ready to be released back to where they were found. Sometimes they are recovering from injuries and sometimes they are babies that have left their nests too early. Current residents are four Western Screech owls. (I apologize for this picture, it is extremely dark in the aviary, the owls are very shy, the owls are very small, and the owls like to camouflage themselves scrunching up their faces trying to look like pieces of wood. I used the iphone and tried to lighten things up with one of the apps, but no flash. Three are there, on top of the nest box.)

During the season, Terry also works with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory to band migrating raptors in order to help collect data on their migration patterns. From August to December he makes a weekly trip to the Marin Headlands to band the birds.

When the Cosco Busan tanker hit a bridge tower in San Francisco Bay in 2007 causing an oil spill, Terry took weeks of vacation and drove to Cordelia daily to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in order to wash sea birds covered with oil. Please remember that Dawn dishwashing liquid is used because of its effectiveness to wash crude oil from birds and if you buy a bottle you can register it (the bottle contains a number) and the manufacturer will donate $1.00 to non-profit organizations that are washing oiled birds. Here is Anderson Cooper.

In January we can be found in Morro Bay for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. This highlights an area that is a major stop on the Pacific flyway. I shudder at the impact of an oil spill on that area of the central coast.

We are avid watchers of the nest cam on top of the PGE building in San Francisco. It is amazing to watch the process of hatching and raising young, especially since it is 33 floors above the streets of a major city. In our lifetime, Peregrines have been brought back from close to extinction. What if caring people had not been mobilized to work in that effort. We even heard this year that there were two nesting pairs on Morro Rock with six fledglings, three in each nest. The juvenile birds in Morro Bay do not have to worry about becoming masters of flying amongst high-rise buildings with reflective glass.

Last year at Thanksgiving, I captured this shot of pelicans in Morro Bay.

One of my first attempts at layers in Photoshop Elements was taken last January during our trip to the Bird Festival:

My niece, Katura Reynolds, created this image using a lino block. (www.pinkmonkeyflower.etsy.com).

copyright: Katura Reynolds

Katura’s sketchblog is here: http://www.katura-art.com

Katura lives near the Cascades Raptor Center. They recently posted this on Facebook

“CRC is sending help to Gulf oiled wildlife response efforts. Assistant Director, Laurin Huse, will be providing her wildlife rehabilitation skills for a month at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. We are seeking community support to hire interim staff replacements while Laurin is gone. If you would like to help, please visit CRC’s website eRaptors.org and click on Donate Now.”

Please help wildlife…

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In the canyon…

Saturday morning we were drawn to the area around the PGE building in San Francisco in hopes of peregrine falcon sightings. To be honest, if we had seen some aerial acrobatics, neither the iphone or our Canon would have caught them on camera, but we went over to the city with happy hearts because the fledglings seem to be doing so much better this year than they did last. On Saturday, only one was left to fledge (she finally did it Monday evening about 6:45. Here is the You Tube. It is about five minutes into the clip) and one had been returned to the nest box because she had landed on the ground. All we really saw was the tips of wings flapping on the thirty-third floor ledge and one parent perched at about the same level on a building a few blocks down. Just a dot even with the binocs. There I was looking up, and my interest quickly turned to the geometric shapes of the buildings, and the iphone came out of my pocket.

The canyon:

We walked around blocks looking for where the juvies might be perched. The parents will still be making sure they are fed over the next few weeks. So Terry kept his eye open for falcons and, typically, I started looking for art.

I liked this triangular-shaped building and the reflections of clouds in the buildings around it.

As we kept walking around blocks, we passed the Rincon Building. It is one of my favorite buildings in San Francisco. Historic preservation/adaptive reuse at its finest. We haven’t been to Yank Sing for dim sum in ten years, but at one time it was one of our favorite places to go with our kids for special occasions. It is an old post office building with the original WPA murals (frescos) depicting California history. Attached, now, is commercial space with many restaurants. The frescos:



Intercontinental railroad

And as we walked out the other side of the building, I found a mosaic in the shape of a spire.

I can prove that I was successful in finding art,

Store window

and leaving my heart…

(Chicago has its cows, New Mexico its ponies, and S.F. its hearts…) All the walking made us hungry just as we got near to the Ferry Building and the farmer’s market. This called for a break.

Ferry Building Plaza

Ferry Building

The place was packed. Long lines for Blue Bottle Coffee and restrooms. Could hardly see the wares at Heath Ceramics and The Gardener, so we grabbed a quick take out at Out The Door (the fast grab for The Slanted Door, a restaurant well worth the trip if you are ever in S.F.) We found a bench on the outside of the building and shared our cartons (chicken salad and pork buns/ arguably the best ever) with this as our view, looking toward Oakland.

It can’t get much better than that…

On his way to work Monday morning, Terry got off BART a couple of stops early to walk through the canyon again. From his email to me:

“I stopped by the PG&E building and saw the juvenile males on the roof of the PG&E building and two adults flying near the building. I did not connect with any fledge watchers but did talk to a guy who works in the building across the street from the PG&E building. He told me a story about going out on the roof of that building and standing within a few feet of one of the adult peregrines before beating a hasty retreat.” Peregrine watch is fun, and might be better than Facebook for social interaction, eh, eh…

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Falcons?…we got falcons…

I have occasionally posted links on my facebook page to a nest camera trained on the peregrine falcons that nest on top of the PGE building in downtown San Francisco. This is the link to the camera for real-time viewing. Here is a feeding of the four chicks (eyas) on YouTube. In addition this very fine photographer takes still pictures as the falcons interact in the sky.

The parents are dubbed Dapper Dan and Diamond Lil and they take turns with nest duties. In approximately six weeks their offspring will be ready to fledge off the ledge of the building. Some years, breeding pairs have made their nests on the Oakland Bay Bridge, but when that happens the eggs are removed and incubated by humans and then released. The chances of survival are about zero if the birds are left on the bridge since the only places to land are in traffic or in the water. High winds can also blow the young birds off the span.

When the nests are on the PGE building the chances are slightly higher, but it is still a dangerous proposition. If something happens on the first flights, the human watchers can be of assistance. Last year, the first bird off the ledge was the male. Unfortunately on his first flight, he ran into a building and broke his neck. A few days later the females started with their flights. The humans watch because one of the birds ended up on the ground. She was checked by a vet and the next day replaced on the ledge so she could get more strength and then try again. The second female was found on the ground with a broken clavicle. She was taken for rehabilitation, but, unfortunately, a month later died suddenly from a clot that probably occurred with the impact that broke her clavicle.

In the days last year that they were searching for the birds, Terry walked over from the State Court building on his lunch hour to lend his eyes to the search. Lots of people with binocs and cameras around. Terry took these pictures of the environment so you can see how treacherous it is around the financial district.

PGE Building, San Francisco

At the top of the building there are large rectangles and the peregrine nest is on the ledge below that.

nest is on this ledge

louvered area of building

The "Hood"

If you look three rows of windows up in the picture above you can see the female peregrine clinging to the building.

This year the next big thing will be a biologist donning a hard hat, crawling out on the ledge to band the birds and determine their sex. The bands are put on when their legs have gotten as large as they will grow since the bands do not expand. The group that watches them will give them names. Then the wait for fledging will begin. I found it is wise not to attribute human emotions to the birds. They are cute and fuzzy, but the events cannot be manipulated much even though it is on camera. It is sad if they do not make it through the fledging, but at least there is an attempt to help and it is truly an educational experience to watch them grow. Hope you enjoy it!