I love being outside during the short, cool days of fall and winter. The cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking. In wooded areas it's much darker than usual but the soft light brings out all the layers and textures of the leaves. I like to grab a latte and a headlamp (just in case) on my way out. And it's especially nice to come home to a big bowl of soup and a glass of wine. The winter hiking season is just starting out and I can't wait for many more long days spent in the woods. These photos are from the woods near the Bear Valley Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Exposed Mudflats at Low Tide, Tomales Bay
Coyote in Coastal Scrub, Tomales Point
Surf and Clouds, Point Reyes Beach North
Cotton-ball Shaped Surf, Point Reyes Beach North
Five Bull Tule Elk and Dramatic Clouds, Near Point Reyes Beach South
Every year in the Bay Area, there is a garden tour, where people who grow California native plants open up their gardens to the public. Since I’m always on the lookout for new native plant gardens to photograph, that's how I came across this garden, which belongs to Steve and Judy Lipson. The wild look of the garden perfectly compliments the modern geometric structure of their home. It’s on a large shaded lot full of trees and walking down the garden pathways feels more like walking on a nature trail than being in a garden. When I asked Steve why they chose to grow a California native garden he told me that after they came across Judith Larner Lowry’s Garden in Bolinas they immediately fell in love with it. They knew they wanted a garden with an informal look where something interesting is happening all the time. So they hired Judith to design their garden. Her design is exactly what they hoped, a wild garden with something interesting happening everywhere you look. Steve graciously set me free for a few hours to explore and take pictures at my own pace.
Steve and Judy's garden, with their home in background. The wild garden compliments the modern structure of the home.
Garden bench surrounded by greenery
Pentagramma triangularis, Goldback Fern
Monardella villosa, Coyote Mint
Sedum stenopetalum Crassulaceae, Worm Leaf Stonecrop, next to a sheet of 4x5 "polaroid" film (Fuji peel-apart instant film)
Polypodium Californicum, California Polypody
Heteromeles arbutifolia, Toyon
Symphoricarpos mollis, Snowberry
Symphoricarpos mollis, Snowberry
This park, which is now a public open space, is located at the site of the once impressive California Nursery Company. The nursery played a significant role the evolution of nurseries in California. They were known for growing trees and grew specimens that were exhibited at both the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the 1939-1940 Golden Gate Park International Exposition on Treasure Island. The site is still home to nine of the city of Fremont's landmark trees. Some of their specimen trees grown in boxes also still remain.
Yarrow flower stem (left) and Ironwood leaf (right)
Heart-shaped leaves on a Western Redbud
I can't believe it has been one year since my very first Growing Wild post! It's has been a truly amazing year. I have had so much fun exploring the Bay Area's wild places, meeting new people (who are as passionate about wild things as I am), searching high and low for plants and wildlife, and even making photo prints for ACCI Gallery. To my readers: thank you so much for riding along! Words cannot express how grateful I am for all of your comments and encouragement with this project over the past year. I am very much looking forward to finding out what year two will bring!
I recently happened to walk through the Edible Schoolyard Project garden at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley for the first time. The one-acre garden and adjacent kitchen classroom serves the students at the middle school and is also a nation-wide edible education demonstration site. I was blown away by the beauty of it. I was truly impressed that a space that's primary purpose is to grow food, is also a beautiful natural oasis in the middle of a very urban area. For this post I wanted to photograph the garden from that perspective: that it is possible to create a habitat for bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and people while at the same time growing healthy food.
I am excited to finally share this long-overdue post about Keith Hansen, a Wildlife Artist who focuses on birds. The first time I visited Keith's sunny Bolinas Wildlife Art Studio, long before the Growing Wild project began, I remember being in awe of two things: First, Keith held the record for the most different species of birds seen from one room (his studio window). As it turns out Bolinas lagoon is a major thoroughfare for migrating birds. Second, Keith draws the birds he sees from his studio window with the most perfect attention to detail and knowledge of his subjects. Easels and paint and pencils and drawings covered every surface of the small space. As various birds would flit in and out of his courtyard he would immediately identify them and describe their distinguishing features with a photographic memory of each bird. One of my goals for the growing wild blog is to feature people who have a close connection to wildlife so I was beyond thrilled when Keith agreed to be photographed. Where did you grow up? How did you end up opening your gallery in Bolinas?
My parents are from Fresno but my dad was a military pilot so we moved to a lot of places while I was growing up including to Hawaii and Maryland. It was in the woods in Maryland that I saw my first Cedar Wax Wing. It was the summer I was in sixth grade. It was so beautiful. That's when I was drawn in. About a month later we ended up moving back to Fresno. That's when my brother Rob began volunteering at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, now called Point Blue. They do major research on bird conservation issues. Rob got his bird banding license and began banding birds on the Farallon Islands. I helped him and that's when I really started to get a feel for birds, their shape, their weight. That understanding helps me tremendously with the drawing process. I really consider myself a birder first and an artist second.
What is a bird banding license?
You learn a specific safe technique for capturing and banding birds so you can study them. To capture them you use a very fine net called a mist net. Mist nets are so fine that you wouldn't even be able to see one if it was hanging up in this courtyard.
I understand that you have been documenting all the birds that you have seen from your studio window. What is your current species count? What is the most recent species you added to the list?
Yes! We have the records for the most number of bird species seen from any single room in North America. The last one added to the list was a House Wren in September 2013 bringing the total to 224. My wife and I also record the birds we see from our home. We have the record there for the most birds seen from one building.
I noticed that you have a lot of Hummingbird feeders in your courtyard. Do you worry these birds will become dependent on you?
No, I used to worry about that so I conducted an experiment. I used a video monitor to record all the birds that visit the feeder and then identified ones with unique markings. I found that the same bird will not visit more than twice in one day, usually just once. Because hummingbirds must feed so often, this assures me they are finding plenty of food sources elsewhere.
What was your last big project?
I illustrated a book called Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status and Distribution. It contains detailed illustrations of over 160 rare species as well as information on their habits and ranges.
It's been really great learning about all this species diversity at your Bolinas studio. But how much can people in more urban areas see? Are there any particular birds you would recommend looking for?
Absolutely! You can see all sorts if you take the time to look. I recommend starting with Peregrine Falcons because they are easy to identify.
Thank you Keith and keep up the great work!
Hummingbird and feeders in the courtyard
Keith's drawings of Hummingbirds (left) and Studio Entrance (right)
Keith holding one of his drawings
A commissioned drawing that also depicts a dramatic background (left) and the posted list documenting the variety of bird species seen from the studio window (right)
Note the bird viewing scope in the right part of the photo. The scope is attached to a monitor to allow easy bird viewing.
DESERT CANTERBURY BELLS, Phacelia
MINOR PHACELIA, Phacelia minor (Left) and PHACELIA, Phacelia Sp. (Right), from Annie's Annuals
DESERT CANTERBURY BELLS, Phacelia