Thursday, October 29, 2015


With November around the corner, we're nearing hawk season here in the Bay Area. And for us raptor lovers, this is one of the best times of the year. Most notably, it's time for the beautiful and populous Red-tailed hawk to make its presence known. They're everyone it seems and are the hawk most likely seen in urban environments. They can look quite different depending on whether they're mature or juvenile, male or female, even depending on the season, though of course the tell-tale red tail glinting in the sun gives them away.
And as one gets further away from the city, two hawks that resemble each other may be easily spotted. The Cooper's Hawk and the Sharp-shinned hawk are expert fliers, especially in confined spaces. The Cooper's is slightly larger with rounded tail feathers while the Sharp-shinned is smaller, with a sharply squared tail. Their prey is small birds, sometimes to the consternation of city songbird lovers.
The colorful and magnificent Red-shouldered hawk likes to perch with a good view of fields or ponds, ready to pounce on mice, snakes and frogs. It has prominent rust-red shoulder patches and is slightly smaller than the Red-tailed hawk. Pairs can be quite vocal, producing loud shrieks to defend their nest.
And if one is lucky, as I have been, to spot a Golden Eagle within close proximity, well that is an awesome experience. One of the largest of all North American raptors, it is an expert hunter. Although capable of killing large prey such as cranes and domestic livestock, this raptor dines mostly on rabbits, hares and squirrels. Golden Eagles live in open and semi-open country featuring native vegetation, avoiding developed areas and uninterrupted stretches of forest. They nest on cliffs and steep escarpments in grassland, chaparral and forests.
So, here's wishing you an experience of one of these truly wild birds while hunting or at play.

And now the garden photos.

Billbergia variety. This dramatically spotted bromeliad has yet to bloom but its colors still make a splash.

Justicia fulvicoma. These flowers almost look good enough to eat! A different type of 'shrimp plant,' it nonetheless is a real beauty. An excellent hummingbird plant and a modest enough size (2') to grow in a container.

Correa 'Wyn's Wonder.' I'm "with Wyn" on this variety being a real wonder. One of the few variegated Australian Fuchsias as they're sometimes called, it sports very colorful pink flowers. As with all Correas, it's tough and adaptable, liking sun but adaptable to some shade.

Aloe deltoideodonta 'Sparkler.' This one is coping with a little more shade than was the original plan. It's a sturdy spotted variety, kind of slow growing but offering a sublime beauty.

A bit late in flowering this year, my Deppea splendens has finally sprouted its signature golden flowers from its burgundy bracts. Quite unlike any plant I've ever grown.

The open sky backdrop played havoc with my point-and-shoot camera on this shot but that's my Iochroma coccinea going bonkers in the blooming department. One of my favorite shrubs -- love the color of its flowers -- it has survived periods of dryness and is now responding to a couple deep soaks I've given it.

Blue Bear's Paw fern. One of the great common names -- not just Bear's Paw fern which is kind of cool but Blue Bear's Paw -- and a surprisingly tough fern. It does seem to like a bit of morning sun to really be happy.

Any guesses on what this plant is? Kudos to those who ID'd it as Ledebouria socialis.  This highly regarded South African bulb is mainly grown for its foliage, though it does produce sprays of very tiny white flowers.

To paraphrase that sports saying "You can't stop Salvia elegans; you can only hope to contain it!" Tweedy bird would say "So twoo, so twoo!" I have to keep hacking back my Pineapple sage but hey that's a good problem to have, right?

Yep, this a Pelargonium, in this case 'Raspberry Twizzle.'  Hey, I just report the news, I don't make these names up. Kind of aptly named, although it might have been equally named 'Raspberry Drizzle' as in the ice cream.

Hey, there's a honey bee on my Echinacea. Well, of course there is. One of the great nectar flowers of all time, my echinaceas are rarely without bee or butterfly visitors.

Early or late? I can't tell with my Rhododendron 'Sappho.' It's been doing this lately, offering a few flowers in the fall then more in the spring. No matter, they're always a welcome sight.

Speaking of welcome sights, I never tire of my Lonicera sempervirens flowers. Though this honeysuckle species doesn't have a fragrance, that color combo gives one more than enough reason to add it to one's garden.

I didn't have a good photo of my now-in-bloom Oxalis hirta so I borrowed this photo from the web. Yes, it really is this beautiful (no photoshoping needed). A winter bloomer (it goes summer dormant), it's distinctive not only for the vivid rose-pink flowers but for its smaller, denser reticulated foliage. Well behaved, it reaches only about 6" tall and spreads to about 2 feet.

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