Now’s the time to see butterflies – and what’s better than a ‘puddle party’

Now’s the time to see butterflies – and what’s better than a ‘puddle party’

I was up camping in the San Bernardino Mountains this weekend and one joy was coming across a muddling area, next to the stream my friend Christine and I were camping near. It was lush with butterflies — also called a puddle party. For those who don’t know, a muddle is a mud puddle, or in this case it looked more like a couple circular areas of moist, fine gravel that were several feet across. I sat for about 45 minutes and enjoyed the parade of butterflies as they gathered nutrients the muddle provided, and buzzed each other. Butterflies weren’t the only ones. Various insects and bees alighted too, and the butterflies occasionally harassed a train of harvester ants, making them pick up their pace. (See photos below)

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What I’ve learned about GMOs

What I’ve learned about GMOs

I did a presentation on GMOs  for our local AAUW discussion group and thought ‘why waste all that reading’ – so here’s a quick overview of what I learned. I read the following books: Mendel in the Kitchen by geneticist Nina Federoff, which was ranked more anti-GMO in this helpful article by Nathanael Johnson on grist.org, and Food Inc. (2003) by journalist Peter Pringle, which was more pro-GMO. I also read [Read more...]

What’s blooming (and feeding wildlife) in our native plant yard

What’s blooming (and feeding wildlife) in our native plant yard

We have an early spring this February with our warm Southern California weather. I’ve been keeping track of what our resident hummingbird – the Anna’s Hummingbird – is taking nectar from in our reconverted lawn, now mostly California natives. The insect life is also rich – which in turn attracts the hummingbirds and other winged life. Seems photos will speak best, so here are a few from the last couple months. [Read more...]

Butterflies: Plants to attract them, and concerns

Butterflies: Plants to attract them, and concerns

It’s nearing October and I’m still seeing some butterflies around – a few Western Tiger Swallowtails although they’re much fewer, some Cabbage Whites and a variety of those little orange ones that I’ve given up identifying. I checked in with a couple butterfly aficionados on what plants were ushering in the butterflies during the late summer months. [Read more...]

California Native Plants with Summer Color

California Native Plants with Summer Color

Sure, they lower water bills and usher in more wildlife, but I admit it’s much easier to entice folks with the benefits of native plants in spring when the sages (salvias), wild lilacs (ceanothus) and many others are in full bloom. It’s a tougher argument in the hot summer through fall months when most native plants enter their dormant, survival mode.

However, with proper plant selection, you can have a colorful yard with natives during the hot months, at the same time providing important food sources to wildlife. Antonio Sanchez, production manager at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden [Read more...]

‘Tis the Season for Spiders

‘Tis the Season for Spiders

E.B. White’s Charlotte Web was my favorite childhood book, and I’ve loved spiders and pigs ever since. Luckily my husband also shares my passion for our non-human creatures. When summer comes, this means we get to roam our property at night with flashlights and especially watch the female orb weaver spiders – Charlotte was an orb spider – spin their webs and over the weeks, grow larger before laying eggs in the fall. [Read more...]

Our Welcome (and not welcome) Nature Guests

Our Welcome (and not welcome) Nature Guests

Our housesitter called when we were away to say that we hadn’t told her about our unexpected friend. At dusk she had walked out onto the back patio and discovered a 5-foot gopher snake slithering along the house. Knowing our respect for critters, she successfully whisked it away with a broom. We hope it stays around. After all, gopher snakes eat lots of rats and other rodents, which also seem to like our yard. [Read more...]