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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The wind is gusting, the air is alive with moisture, and a beautiful cold front is coming in off the ocean. What a great way to start a Saturday!

Radar shows the front roiling and churning just off the coast. The weather forecast says up to 1/2″ of rain. We’ll see — it looks like the front is moving pretty fast.

It’s interesting how the wind comes and goes. As I write this, it’s fairly quiet. But a few minutes ago, it was blowing like crazy.

Okay, Mom nature, do your stuff!

 

What a great day it’s been! Filled with interesting surprises, unexpected beauty and a few tasty encounters. Now, like the other bookend of the day, we have a sunset that’s just as outstanding as the sunrise that started the day.

All best wishes to everyone on this most auspicious evening.

Another springtime is here, and this stalwart may apple sends up a pair of shiny green leaves. This interesting plant was a gift from a friend (thanks Judy!) a few years back.

This particular may apple lives in a shady place where it gets less than 2 hours of direct sun each day. Last year it bloomed with a small yellow-white flower, but the fruit didn’t set. There is a canopy of bird netting over it to keep out juncoes, squirrels, and rats. Shaped chunks of clothes hanger wire hold the netting up.

May apple is also known as american mandrake. It’s a forest floor plant that can’t seem to tolerate a lot of competition. The fruit is edible in small quantities, but toxic if you eat too much. The juice is said to cure warts. It has gnarly, tuberous underground roots, and spreads that way. A large patch of may apple might all be one single plant.

Here is how a blooming may apple looks in its natural habitat:

Read more about may apples at Wikipedia.

mockingbirds live here

A mockingbird couple has taken up residence in this tree (see arrow), which is something like 80-100 meters from my deck. That’s the perfect distance, because I can clearly hear the amazing natural musical performance, but it isn’t loud enough to keep me awake during the bird’s most prolific late night hours.

They really are amazing. Have you listened deeply to a mockingbird? The sheer variety and creativity are astounding, and the singer’s performance is not limited to just the song.

credit: Flikr user pheanix (thanks!)The male flies to the top of a nearby tall thing like a tree or a TV antenna (they seem to like those) and perches. He begins singing quite loudly, and while he sings he periodically leaps into the air, hovers for a fraction of a second, and then lights again. His leaps are several meters high. He might leap every five to ten seconds, the whole time he is singing.

One might be tempted to conclude that he is leaping for joy.

While he leaps and lights, he sings little snips of music called songlets. Each one lasts from under a second to maybe two seconds. One night, listening as carefully as I could, I was able to identify around 45 distinct songlets before I gave up. There might be hundreds in any single bird’s reportoire.

Some songlets are very simple. The simplest one of all is a single peep, repeated twice or three times.

Others are more complicated, like a warbly rising trill followed by three separate notes in a descending minor third. Got that?

A couple of years ago a big, bold mockingbird built a nest in a tree less than ten meters from my deck. At first it was fascinating and amazing to be able to hear his incredible song so loudly and in such great detail. What a fantastic ringside seat for such a natural wonder!

I soon realized that my new neighbor was one of those troublesome ones who play loud music all through the night. What could I do? Birds do not have landlords. I suppose I could complain to God.

It might be easier to sleep through such a performance if it weren’t so darn creative. It seems like the brain’s automatic mechanism for ignoring repetitive stimuli (think of the alarm clock’s tick tock) is not easily triggered by such a varied input.

So there I lay, through spring and early summer, unable to ignore the constant trills, peeps, warbles, chirps, caws, chip-chip-chips, burbles, bleedle-bleeps, woo-woo-woos, ……

I was thinking how nice it is that this new one lives a bit farther away.

Until this morning, that is, around 4:30, when my new friend perched somewhere much closer and began his serenade.

Uh oh…

When it comes to weather radar, this is the kind of picture I love to see. Look at that nice band of yellow rain coming in off the Pacific. My house is in the center of the white circle. The system is moving to the northeast, so it looks like we are in for at least a few hours of serious rain.

Yay!

Want to check the SF Bay area weather radar for yourself? Do it here. Click on the Composite Loop for the best animation.

 

 

This raspberry bush is now in its third year, with beautiful leaves bursting from last year’s canes and also exploding up from the soil. It’s even showing flower buds already! Like most of the plants in the ecogardens, it’s a volunteer that sprouted from high-potency seeded compost.

Sadly, the berries produced by this bush so far have been disappointing. That’s probably because the bush is a hybrid, with mixed DNA from open pollination on a commercial plant. Someone (maybe me!) tossed some old rotting raspberries into the compost.

This year I’ll give the raspberry bush a good growing season by actively clearing out the sorrel and clover that also are competing in this container. Maybe the berries will have more than four or five drupelets if the bush has less competition.

UPDATE: The berries came, but they are still substandard. The bush has gotten bigger though!

UPDATE: A blast from the past and a more current photo.