Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking with Violet...

I have often written about how I love to walk with my camera, not only in the country but also round the streets of Santa Monica- always seeing something new and- to me!- stimulating.

Now that I am staying with my daughter's family in Los Angeles, when she has meetings to go to I often help her by looking after my baby Granddaughter, Violet. This entails driving with them both to the location of the meeting and then Violet and me exploring the back streets, which are always rewarding. Needless to say, like any baby, she is not ALWAYS peacefully sleeping or lying contentedly in her stroller- yes, sometimes she is SCREAMING and needing to be danced and sung to, which can be frustrating when one is trying to hold a steady camera...but the advantage is that I am constantly been fed with new experiences, apart from the joy of bonding with Violet!

So here are some of the images that caught my eye on a recent walk:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back to Malibu Lagoon and Country Mart

On Saturday I felt compelled to return to Malibu to see if there was any sign of new life in the Egret's nests in the Ficus tree in the Malibu Country Mart, which I have already written about very recently.

All was quiet; the three nests were still occupied with sitting egrets but no sign of their partners so obviously no nestlings to feed. I stood there for several hours, enchanted as ever by these mad birds cavorting about, from time to time, with their abundant, crazy plumage. My continuing obsession with them has therefore got to be transferred to this blog:

There were long gaps between these spasmodic activities, when I gazed about at my surroundings, noticing among other things first, the very harshly cut roots of the Ficus tree and then all the egret's droppings on the paving stones below the tree:

Eventually I decided to see if any of the errant Egret partners were on the Lagoon with the Pelicans. Sure enough, there were several of them standing motionless in the shallow water, waiting for fish...rows of Pelicans were also there, reminding me as always of the birds in the first Barbar books, having councils of war...

Once more I was in Heaven, surrounded by so many of my favourite birds:

Finally, I decided it was time to leave so set off back towards the Country Mart. As I crossed the car park, I automatically checked out the top of the Egret's Ficus tree which you can see rising above the buildings. To my delight- just as there had been on my previous visit- there again was the grey shape of the Great Blue Heron - yet another of my very favourite birds! So I hurried to the tree to get some more photos of this ever exciting bird:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Growing Chairs and Tree Celebrations

I was fascinated recently to read Stone Art Blog's post for Ireland's National Tree Week. He tells us how to grow our own, living tree chairs:

This art has apparently been practiced since at least 1516:

But you must read his great article yourself: click here

Apart from anything else, it is interesting to know that Ireland holds a whole week for trees. Here in the US we just have one day- Arbor Day, generally celebrated on the last Friday of April in all the US States. It was initially created by Julius Sterling Morton in 1872 in Nebraska. He understood the value of trees for the state's landscape and economy, and grew orchards, shade trees and windbreaks himself. Becoming a member of Nebraska's state board of agriculture, he instigated a special day being set aside to plant trees and increase awareness of their importance. On Nebraska's first Arbor Day at least a million trees were planted!
Julius Sterling Morton
Santa Monica has been one of the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Cities USA for 28 years, one of the criteria being that an Arbor Day must be held every year. Santa Monica Treesavers were concerned that this did not always happen- but it certainly took place last year and this year will be celebrated by a tree planting on April 22nd, combining Earth Day with Arbor Day- more about that later...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Malibu Egrets Again...

In my last post I wrote about how I went again to the Malibu Country Mart to check out the Great Egret's nests there, but I concentrated on the visiting Great Blue Heron. This time I'm going to be obsessive again about the Egrets- they so enchant me with every movement and every display of their fantastic plumage.

However, I am going to start with some close-ups of the Ficus tree they are nesting in. While I was awaiting some action from the birds I was transfixed by the shapes of the trees' limbs- or rather, by the beautiful blue sky shapes between the limbs:

And now for some Egret obsession:

That day there was little sign of the three sitting birds' partners, but here are a couple of shots of one who came for a fleeting visit:

Again referring to my last post, I wrote about the sea mist that suddenly engulfed the area and how I decided to leave the Egrets and visit the Pelicans on the Malibu Lagoon, on other side of PCH. So here are some of the slightly sinister misty Pelicans:

When I first wrote of the Egrets, I mentioned how they were nesting in a very heavily pruned Ficus tree. Although it was to MY advantage, giving me clear views of the birds, it certainly does not help them- leaving them very vulnerable to predators and making it difficult for other smaller birds to find anywhere to nest. While I was waiting for movement from the Egrets (for long periods all you see is three white lumps on the three nests!) I was very shocked to see the drastic over-pruning on other trees in the Mart, which were totally bereft of any foliage, in the Spring nesting season of all times. Apart from the environmental problems this causes, what is the point of it? The trees' branches are not interfering with shoppers and in fact it has been proved by research by Kathleen Wolf in Washington University that shoppers prefer shady environments and will travel further and pay higher prices to shop there...

Here are some of the criminally treated trees:

Eucalyptus and Coral Trees

Eucalyptus Tree

London Plane Tree

Great Blue Heron among Egrets

Ever since I was a child in Scotland I have had a particular love of Herons- in this case, the Grey Herons, which I used to call "Gong-Sticks" owing to the fact that when they flew their long legs were stretched out behind them, their feet forming a knob similar to that on the stick used on my grandfather's gong to summon us to meals!

Here in Southern California we have the Great Blue Heron, an enormous bird, nearly 4' in length and with a 6' wing span. Although they are not rare I always get a shock of pleasure when I see one. This happened last Sunday when I revisited the Malibu Country Mart to check out on the progress of the Great Egret's nests there. I waited under the Egret's Ficus tree for several hours, but there was not a lot of action. The birds are still patiently sitting on the three nests but there is no sign of nestlings yet. Their partners were not much in evidence, although a couple of birds received fleeting visits, with offerings of sticks. I will show more of the Egret images in another post.

The day had started out hot and sunny but later a sea mist blew in so I decided to visit the Pelicans on the Malibu Lagoon, on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was quite spooky seeing them swathed in fog.

From the Lagoon you can see the top of the Egret's Ficus tree and on my return I automatically examined it to see what the Egrets were doing. To my surprize, perched on top of the tree between the Egret's nests was a tall, grey shape. Happily this proved to be a Great Blue Heron- which is of the same family. He (or she) was having an enjoyable time, preening himself endlessly, standing on one leg or two, and exercising his neck! Having taken countless photos of him from a distance, I went back to my Egret post beneath the tree, where I managed to get some good views of the Heron. Strangely, just when I had a great photo opportunity, passers by would call out "Mam, you'll get a much better view from HERE"!...but they were trying to be helpful...