Tag Archives: butterflies

Your House Ain’t Property, it’s Habitat

“We can reclaim biodiversity and habitats within human landscapes.”
– Thomas Rainer

That scaly fellow swaying from our coast rosemary (Westringia) is a San Diego Alligator lizard. He was kicking it in the bush midday, most likely on the hunt for the airborne critters visiting the purple flowers that bloom winter through spring. It’s been cold here for LA, and I suspect food is tricky to come by. The sighting was a victory of sorts. One year ago, our yard was a dirt hole. Now, there’s a lot of things like that lizard creeping, crawling and flying around here. The yard is alive, and I don’t mind saying, I’m proud of that fact. Turning our property into habitat has been a dream since the day we set eyes on the place.  I feel strongly about this. In fact, if I could, I’d make it a law: Anyone lucky enough to own a home with any amount of land should be required to make 50% of that property habitat for the local flora and fauna. That’s right, a law, punishable by death…or…no internet access.

Continue reading Your House Ain’t Property, it’s Habitat

The Amazing Monarch: A Movie

Shot mostly in our backyard, here’s a little movie about the amazing Monarch Butterfly, why you should care, and what you can do save it from extinction.

Photos: Charles V Takes A Trek

Caught this late-season Monarch caterpillar as he wandered along our retaining wall,  into the brush, making his pilgrimage to his final transformation…Of course Sian named him “Charles”.

SDAT_120614-30For reasons no one really knows, Monarch caterpillars often travel fairly vast distances away from the milkweed to pupate. Charles here was about 10 feet from the milkweed plant he had been feeding and living on.

SDAT_120614-37Late season Monarch caterpillars are often darker than their summer kin. The increased width of the black bands allows them to absorb more heat as days get colder and shorter.

SDAT_120614-70This Charles survived last week’s storm and dips into the 40’s, but  his journey is just getting started. Later, Charles.

Two Killer Tweets From Thomas Rainer That Could Change The World For Better

Agriculture, Pesticide Choices, and Path Dependency

Plan Bee: New Measures to Protect Pollinators in Europe

Honeybees and other pollinating insects have been in decline for decades.  Image: BBC News.
Honeybees and other pollinating insects have been in decline for decades. Image: BBC News.

Spend 15 minutes researching global pollinator decline and the ensuing economic impact, and I think you’ll agree the Red States and Blue States are all facing a staggering economic tsunami if we don’t take a tip from the UK, fast. So, dig: Inspiring move by the British government in the BBC News today. Thanks, in no small part to the efforts of the good people at Friends of The Earth and an organization called BUGLIFE, the UK has passed a $900 million dollar, 10 year strategy to increase pollinator habitat in the UK. Interestingly, Europe is way ahead of the US on this issue, and is taking big strides to help, that’s right, bugs, knowing that pollinators are responsible for $207 billion in agriculture, world-wide, annually. That’s something our Republican majority, those protectors of the heartland, should see as a real throwdown. Let’s get ‘er done, boys and girls!

Read about it here:

Plan Bee: New Measures to Protect Pollinators

Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden

Seth Brundle: You have to leave now, and never come back here. Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I. Insects… don’t have politics. They’re very… brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect. I’d like to become the first… insect politician. Y’see, I’d like to, but… I’m afraid, uh…

Ronnie: I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Seth Brundle: I’m saying… I’m saying I – I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over… and the insect is awake.

Ronnie: No. no, Seth…

Seth Brundle: I’m saying… I’ll hurt you if you stay.

– The Fly (1986, Dir. David Cronenberg)

When we bought our house , our yard was a sloppy rectangle of dead pomegranate trees, dried earth and a riddle of busted pipes.  Sian was 6 months pregnant, so the priority was that which lay under the new roof, but my heart was focused on the yard. I was, my wife might say, obsessed. Well, I had a dream. I dreamed of creating a magical, urban jungle that my daughter could get lost in, critters would flock (or crawl) to, and friends would wander, drinks in hand,  fully inspired. I dreamed of creating a habitat that would be boldly in-sync with the great Mediterranean Chaparral ecosystem that surrounds Los Angeles, and be a model for bridging man and nature in the 21st Century. Ten months later, I’m not even close. Nature, it turns out, has no regard for my wants. Continue reading Welcome to The Jungle…Hard Lessons From a Small Garden

Sympathy For The Devil- Lady Mantis In The Garden

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Female Mantis on Mexican Honeysuckle (David Newsom Photography, All Rights Reserved)

A little while back, I wrote about the decimation of the Monarch butterfly population in my garden at the hands of a Chinese Mantis.  Well, behold the lady in question, all three inches of her. With huge spiked claws 1/3 her body length and wide-set eyes with a binocular field of vision, this non-native, invasive lady is built to kill.

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Detail- Female Mantis on Mexican Honeysuckle (David Newsom Photography, All Rights Reserved)

And so, as much as I hate her for her impact on the already struggling Monarch migration, I must admit, she’s terrifyingly cool to stare at…especially given the hair raising way she stares back.

5 Lessons The Los Angeles River Restoration Project Can Take From The High Line

Sian and Niko Check in with the Bee Population of The High Line
Sian and Niko Check in with the Bee Population of The High Line

My wife writes on a TV show that shoots in New York City. Twice a year or so, she needs to be on set for about 3 weeks. Up until Niko was born, this meant I got to wander Manhattan and Brooklyn, eat a lot of food, and meet old friends for drinks. Post-Niko, I can’t wheel around so freely. Luckily, the 26th street entrance to the High Line Park is three blocks away from where we stay, and I’ve taken to walking the length of it daily. I’m not alone. The staggering success of this post-industrial eyesore turned iconic city park is renowned world-wide, and evident from the throngs of locals and visitors alike wandering it’s 1.5 mile length, cameras pressed to faces, shooting in all directions, rain or shine.

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The High Line- Looking South from 28th Street Area

Floating above Chelsea, The High Line sublimely removes you from, and gives you a richer context for, the city you are in. It reminds me of the utopian designs imagined by Buckminster Fuller, of a city living in balance and harmony, saved by smart, conscious design. From its forested start at Gansevoort Street all the way to wild weeds of 31st Street, The High Line has a singular ability to constantly reframe Manhattan historically, architecturally and, most important from my perspective, naturally. Among all that the High Line is, an often overlooked thing is plant and animal habitat on a scale I didn’t think was possible in Manhattan. From spring into fall, the flowering plants of the High Line are vibrating with pollinators like honey bees, wasps, Monarch butterflies and Swallowtail butterflies, to name a few.

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Heading South on the High Line from 31st Street (Section #3)

This is all by design, of course. Not surprisingly, the radical re-invention of this abandoned rail line has made Chelsea one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Manhattan. And yes, for that very same reason, it has rabid detractors, but even they are a reflection of the parks huge draw. The question is, is the High Line an exportable park model, and if so, how? It’s hard not to look at this river of grass, concrete and steel and think of my adopted home, Los Angeles, and the saga of the LA River. Continue reading 5 Lessons The Los Angeles River Restoration Project Can Take From The High Line

Charles and Charles Leave Home…

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Charles and Charles flew the nest today. Both Monarchs hatched this morning, between 7 am and 10 am. We let them take a few hours to fill out their wings before releasing them. Needless to say, a pretty cool thing to watch them fly off. Aniko, in true Aniko form, expressed her delight by nearly pinching them to death, but Sian successfully intervened, and no butterflies were handicapped in the making of this post.

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So, that’s a total of three Monarch’s returned to the migration. We hope. It’s a tough journey for those critters under the best of circumstances, and these days, circumstances aren’t their best. Don’t forget, next year, plant milkweed and raise Monarch’s.  Keep the flowers flowering and the fruit fruity.

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