Red-tailed hawk

An October visitor, Red-tailed hawk / Buteo jamaicensis, in the pine tree above my front porch. Please click on the images for a larger view.

I’m really a plant devotee, but became interested in photographing birds because of an extraordinary student at California State University San Marcos where I teach. Clarissa McCallum is a birder and phenomenal photographer. My definition of a birder is one who hears the bird before she sees it. One who is patient. Very, very patient. I went out shooting with Clarissa. She was always in place for the shot, whereas I was still looking for the bird. Where is it?

For a final project in an advanced class, Clarissa produced a book on the birds of San Diego County. It’s still available on  Check it out here: Birds I View. If you’re living in southern California, forget traveling to an exotic locale. Clarissa will convince you that San Diego is a birder’s paradise, as well as a plant person’s. Below is Clarissa’s photo of cedar waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, one of her favorite birds, resting on sycamore branches.

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Blue Nile Waterlily, Nymphaea caerulea

_D3A4538-EditThe blue Nile waterlily, Nymphaea caerula, was sacred to ancient Egyptians. When the lily rose from the abyss and the flower opened, its petals revealed a sun god sitting it its gold heart. The sun god banished the darkness, and life began. Photographed in the Adelaide Botanic Garden in Australia.

Repurposed Architecture: Valle de Gaudalupe

La Escuelita in the village of El Porvenir in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico is a non-profit and sustainable cooperative and wine school considered by many to be the spiritual center of the burgeoning wine country.

For the buildings and structures for the school, green architects Alejandro D’Acosta and Claudia Turrent repurposed materials related to winemaking: wine barrel staves, wine bottles, used irrigation hoses, grape vine stumps, used yucca mats from olive oil processing, as well as rusted box springs and miscellaneous discarded wood from construction sites. Repurposing these used materials, sometimes known as trash, is a large part of their visionary and sustainable building practices.

La Escuelita, or the “little school,” was founded by Hugo D’Acosta, Alejandro’s brother, in 2004. His goal was to help aspiring winemakers hand-craft what are now considered some of Mexico’s finest wines. The school has helped to inspire a renaissance of wine-making in the Guadalupe Valley.

Friends in the photos above are Maori scholars Tharron Bloomfield and Michelle Erai from New Zealand. They’re teaching at UCLA, and this was their first trip to the wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe. The mural is by the local artist Carlos de la Torre.

The guy on the left below is master basket weaver Abe Sanchez, great friend and familiar person on this blog, with Michelle and Tharron.


Palomar Mountain / Deer Hunting Season

If you’re planning a hike to Palomar Mountain in California this fall, give some careful consideration to your outfit. My friend Amy Rouillard and I thought about ours, and we both wore long-sleeve shirts and hats to protect ourselves from the sun.

We didn’t think about wearing blaze orange to protect ourselves from a stray arrow. We were unaware that the day we chose for our hike, Sept. 6, was also opening day for Archery deer hunting season.

We began our leisurely hike in the Fry Campgound area. First we spotted a couple of guys with what we thought were rifles but they said were BB guns. Then we saw several guys walking around wearing camo. After hiking past a camping area filled with guys hanging out, also covered in camo, we decided it was high time to turn around.

When a Fish and Wildlife truck drove by, we flagged him down. He suggested that instead of hiking in the Cleveland National Forest, where hunting is allowed, we might want to hike in Palomar Mountain State Park, where it is not.

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We discussed the possibility of rogue arrows. Amy and I both remembered the stories in the news about rogue bullets—celebrities such as our former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, who accidentally shot his friend while quail hunting. His friend ended up in the intensive care unit twice before apologizing to Cheney for getting in the way of Cheney’s wild bullet . . .

Archery season in our region, it turns out, lasts until September 28, then rifle season begins, then it’s archery season again until December 15.

blaze orange FF6700

Next time we go for a hike, Amy and I will wear our new blaze orange, aka hunter orange, shirts from Cabelas. But I think we’ll still choose to hike in Palomar Mountain State Park until hunting season is over on December 16.

All photos shot at Palomar Mountain State Park.

Pesticide Aerial Bombardment North County San Diego: August 18

Abamectin spray CU_D3A1810
Spraying of the avocado groves has been going on ALL morning. I’ve got a call into Jason Schwartze at the San Diego County Hazardous Materials Program, 858-414-0083, who is in charge of groves. It’s REALLY WINDY right now. Windy conditiions are a terrible time to be aerial spraying (actually any time is terrible) not ONLY for us, but for the birds, the bees, the bugs . . .

Abamectin spray_D3A1822
I spoke with Jason Schwartze, and he said the pesticide is abamectin. He couldn’t say if it is safe. According to the Pesticide Information Project out of Cornell, UC Davis, and others, abamectin is “highly toxic to bees,” “relatively non-toxic to birds,” and “highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.” The avocado groves are planted on hillsides next to a feeder creeks that are part of the San Luis Rey River watershed.

There were several guys working in the flower fields adjacent to the avocado groves when they were spraying this morning. Really incredible! No one was notified. 

I just found an EPA document from 2000 where they wrote: “Abamectin has extremely high toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates . . . Aerial spray application is strongly discouraged because drift to aquatic habitats or nontarget terrestrial areas would result in a likelihood of acute and chronic risk. Therefore, EFED does not concur with the proposed label that includes aerial spray application, or in general, to any use of abamectin involving aerial spray application.”

According to Jason Swartze at the SD County Hazardous Materials/Groves Program, there are two companies in SD County that do the spraying, Hummingbird and Pacific Rotor. It’s up to the companies to agree to put you on a list to contact you before spraying. It may be different with beekeepers.

Larger issues here are the toxicity of the sprays used, the fact that according to Jason there is no notification system in place for non-target but adjacent agricultural fields and workers. SD County is required to monitor the pesticide abamectiin, but Jason says he was there for only an hour to monitor and the spraying went on all morning.


The spraying according to my photo metadata began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 11:53, with an hour and 40 minute break between the two sessions. So Jason, the monitor from the county, was not present at the second aerial spraying when the wind had kicked up. Some university agricultural programs recommend no aerial spraying with winds over 8 mph. Federal guidelines are 15 mph. The company doing the spraying is the one doing their own monitoring, in this case Pacific Rotor. Not ideal. More later about a study focusing on people who use abamectin to try to commit suicide . . .

Native Plants Class: Contemporary and Traditional Uses at IdyllwildARTS 2014

IDYLLWILD 2014 SUMMER ARTS FLYEROnce again, Craig Torres, Barbara Drake, Abe Sanchez, and Leslie Mouriquand will be teaching their wonderful week-end workshop on Native Plants at IdyllwildARTS, July 5 & 6 2014. The poster above and bios below are from the IdyllwildARTS website. CRAIG TORRES (Tongva) is a member of the Traditional Council of Pimu and involved with Ti’at Society, an organization focused on the revival of the traditional maritime culture of the Southern California coastal region and Southern Channel Islands. He is an artist, as well as cultural educator, presenter and consultant to schools, culture and nature centers, museums, and city, state and government agencies acting as a consultant on the Tongva. He has also been involved with the organization Preserving Our Heritage and Chia Café, which provide cooking demos and classes with California native plants. These activities also provide education on the importance of preserv- ing native plants, habitats and landscapes for future generations. BARBARA DRAKE (Tongva) is a tribal elder and culture keeper. Her program, Preserving Our Heritage, is a food bank of native foods collected, preserved and processed for tribal elders. She is a member of the Mother Earth Clan, a group of three Southern California Native American women educators who have taught extensively in muse- ums, schools and tribal institutions. ABE SANCHEZ has been actively involved in the revival and preservation of Indigenous arts and foods. Two of his specialties are Southern California Native American Basketry and California and Southwest Native foods. He has had the opportunity to work closely with traditional Native American gatherers to learn the methods and practices of these cultural specialists. His interest in traditional foods is that many of these local ingredients are sustainable products that are readily available yet underutilized. He believes that by having the opportunity to teach about these ancient natural foods and helping people learn ways to prepare and eat them again can make a difference in both their health and our environment. DANIEL MCCARTHY received his BS and MS in anthropology from the University of California, Riverside. For the past 40 years, he has worked at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park and throughout Southern California compiling photographic inventories of rock art sites in these areas and throughout the western region. He has worked with Elders and Traditional Practitioners for over 35 years and served as the Tribal Relations Program Manager for the San Bernardino National Forest for 17 years. He is currently Director, CRM Department, at San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

california native plants, cultures, and the environment: an art and photography site


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