Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Late last year we recieved a letter from the Kindergarten Teacher where our great niece was attending school in Ohio. The letter explained that she had been reading many stories to the children about gingerbread men, boys, and girls from all over the world. Included in the letter was a blank gingerbread cutout with a note stating to be as creative as you wish. Those words, creative as you wish, was all I had to read. Following is the story I developed and returned to the teacher on behalf of our great niece Ava.   



Several weeks ago I heard some tapping at our front door. When I opened the door nothing was there. I thought the wind probably made the noise. Closing the door I looked down to see a gingerbread man standing at our front door. I picked the gingerbread man up before closing the door and placed it on our kitchen table. It was just a gingerbread man cookie with no features or identification from where it came. I went back to doing what I was doing before I answered the door.

It wasn’t long before my curiosity brought me back to the gingerbread man lying on the kitchen table. I thought this gingerbread man needs some work! I began to draw a mouth on the gingerbread man and as soon as I finished, the mouth began to move. The gingerbread man said, “I can’t SEE!” Surprised, I jumped back when I heard the voice, but then, quickly returned. I said, “just a minute,” and quickly drew two eyes on the gingerbread man. The eyes blinked, and then in a clear boyish voice, the gingerbread man said, “HELLO!” I immediately responded, “Well, hello yourself!” “Where am I,” he asked. I told him that he was in Wildomar, California which is in the Temecula Valley of Southern California, in southwestern Riverside County.”

I soon realized that our guest was not a gingerbread man at all, he was really a gingerbread boy. I asked him where he was from. He told me that he snuck out of his school in Ohio to seek adventure. He wanted to go to a place he had never been. He then wanted to return to his school to share his adventures with his kindergarten friends back in Ohio. I was impressed with his adventurous spirit and told him we were more than willing to help. We also promised to get him back to his school in time to tell his friends his adventure.

“So,” I said, “you’re the Ohio Gingerbread Boy?” “Well,” he said, “I am from Ohio and I am a Gingerbread Boy, so I guess I am the Ohio Gingerbread Boy!”  I asked the Ohio Gingerbread Boy if I may call him BUCKEYE for short and he excitedly agreed. “I am a BUCKEYE,” he shouted!

Our first day with BUCKEYE was coming to an end and we had to decide where best to put him to bed. Out cat VELCRO would love to have sniffed (he wouldn’t hurt him) BUCKEYE all night long but wouldn’t give BUCKEYE much rest for his upcoming adventure. I decided to put BUCKEYE in the computer where he could rest peacefully and be safe.

The next day we awoke and BUCKEYE was already up looking out our back window. He saw me come in and shouted, “WOW, I love those mountains!” I told BUCKEYE that those were the Santa Ana Mountains and that the Pacific Ocean was just on the other side of those mountains. BUCKEYE asked if he could go to the Pacific Ocean, but I told him there probably would not be enough time. I told him that we would go up the mountain to a very special place in a few days.

I asked BUCKEYE if he would like to help me feed the hummingbirds in our backyard, he immediately agreed and told me that he wasn’t sure he had ever seen a hummingbird before. I told BUCKEYE that in Ohio usually only one kind of hummingbird is seen, but, here we see five or more different kinds. We filled the feeders and BUCKEYE got to see both an Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbird.

BUCKEYE mentioned that our weather was very dry and he didn’t see many trees. I explained to BUCKEYE that we live in a Mediterranean Climate area where there isn’t a lot of rain and the days are warm and the nights are cool. Since there isn’t a lot of rain the trees are few and smaller and only plants that don’t need a lot of water can survive.

After outfitting BUCKEYE with hiking shoes and a hat, I took BUCKEYE up to my special place on the Santa Ana Mountains. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (SRP) which is less than ten minutes from our home.  I showed BUCKEYE how to recognize animal tracks, and introduced him to the Chaparral plant community. BUCKEYE enjoyed sitting in a Scrub Oak and patches of  Lichen. On our short hike back to the car we ran into Ranger Rob. I introduced Ranger Rob to BUCKEYE and they immediately became friends. Ranger Rob showed BUCKEYE around the SRP Visitor Center. As BUCKEYE and I were heading back to the car, Ranger Rob yelled out, “BUCKEYE, you’re invited to come with Jim on his nature hike with the 3rd-graders!”  BUCKEYE immediately shouted, “YES,” and raised a gingerbread fist! I must admit, I have never seen a gingerbread fist before, it was impressive.

I told BUCKEYE that before we could go on the 3rd-graders hike that I would have to provide him with more equipment. A water bottle would be necessary since even when it is cool here the sun shines bright and you will need water. I also provided BUCKEYE with a backpack so he could keep extra water and snacks. BUCKEYE was now ready to go on his SRP hike.

BUCKEYE and I got up early so he could help me load up the car with the materials I needed for the nature hike. BUCKEYE was excited and kept asking when we were going to the SRP. I assured BUCKEYE it would be soon and explained that we should always have a good breakfast before we go on a hike. After breakfast we headed up to the SRP. We went into the SRP Visitor Center to await the school bus that would be carrying the students from the Lake Elsinore Elementary School to the SRP.

While waiting for the bus I introduced BUCKEYE to the other SRP docents who had arrived to help lead the 3rd-graders on their nature hike. One of the docents brought in two huge bags of a special fruit. BUCKEYE climbed up on the pile of fruit and said, “What are these?” I told BUCKEYE that they were California buckeyes, and everyone chuckled. BUCKEYE told us that they didn’t look like the Ohio buckeyes he knew. I confessed to BUCKEYE that I was just joking and that they were not buckeyes at all. I told BUCKEYE that they were Persimmons from a Persimmon tree, and mentioned that Persimmon trees grow very well in Mediterranean Climates. I mentioned that the fruit was delicious and people eat them before they are ripe, when they are ripe, and when they are dried out by the sun. Coyotes love them as well.

One of the docents shouted, “The bus is here,” and we all gathered up our equipment and headed out to greet the visiting students. I placed BUCKEYE on the top of my pack.

When the students were divided into smaller groups and the docents selected their group, the two hour nature hike began.

I still had BUCKEYE on the top of my pack when I took my group to a trailhead to start our hike. I introduced myself, talked about what we might see and where we would be going. I noticed that some of the students kept looking at the top of my pack and smiling and giving little waves. I knew that BUCKEYE must have been waving at the children. I finally told the students that we had a special guest for this hike and introduced them to BUCKEYE.

I told the students that BUCKEYE was from Ohio and was on an adventure, and that he had to return to Ohio soon. I asked the students if they would like to help me on the hike with BUCKEYE, and they all agreed.

I divided my group of students into four smaller groups; the Acorn Woodpeckers, Bobcats, Coyotes, and the Dangerous Deer.  This gave all the students a chance to be at front of the line as we switched groups during the hike. I then gave BUCKEYE to the Acorn Woodpeckers who would be the first group to lead the hike.

The nature hike went very well and the children enjoyed showing BUCKEYE all the things they were learning about as we passed through the Chaparral, Oak Woodland, Grassland, and Riparian plant communities.

The Bobcats, Coyotes, and Dangerous Deer also enjoyed passing BUCKEYE amongst themselves and making sure he got to see everything when their group was leading the hike. Several times when I was explaining what we were looking at I noticed that the students were holding BUCKEYE up high so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

Towards the end of our hike a little girl approached me and told me that BUCKEYE told her that he would like to stay with her. I smiled and told her that I am sure he would, but he had to return to Ohio soon so he could share his adventure with his school friends in Ohio.

The nature hike came to an end and I passed out mementos to the students to help them remember their SRP Nature Hike experience. Since BUCKEYE participated with all four of the smaller groups I gave BUCKEYE all four of the group cards.

I asked BUCKEYE if he had a good time and BUCKEYE started talking and smiling, and talking. BUCKEYE told me all the things he saw, and all the friends he made, and how he would have loved to stay with them all. BUCKEYE talked all the way to the car and during the drive down from the plateau. As we were pulling into our driveway, I wondered why the talking had stopped and I looked over at BUCKEYE who was in his seat belt, he was sound asleep. I gently carried BUCKEYE into the house and put him back in the computer for a nice long nap. I think BUCKEYE most certainly had a great time with the 3rd-graders on their nature hike.

BUCKEYE awoke a little before sunset and I asked him how he was feeling. He smiled and said, “I feel so special, I made so many new friends today, and saw so much cool nature stuff, I had a great day!” I told BUCKEYE that I knew he would like the hike and meeting new friends. I was so happy that he had such a great time.

Looking over my shoulder, out the window, I said to BUCKYE, “I think you woke up just in time.” “It looks like you will get to experience a special Southern California sunset tonight. BUCKEYE looked out the window, and said, “WOW, it’s beautiful!”

After watching the sun go down and having a nice dinner, I told BUCKEYE that tomorrow we would have to get him on his way back to Ohio. He first looked shocked, then sad, and then a BIG GRIN filled his face.

BUCKEYE told us that he knew his adventure would have to come to an end and that he would have to get back to Ohio to share his adventure with his friends , but until he heard the words he had put the thought  out of his mind. He was sad at first but the realized that he had so much to tell his kindergarten friends back in Worthington, Ohio about his adventure and that made him very happy.

We told BUCKEYE that he was always welcome and the next time he came back we would make a trip to the Pacific Ocean. BUCKEYE smiled and  crawled back in the computer to go to bed.

The next day we packed up BUCKEYE with all his mementos and souvenirs and the gear we provided him for is hike on the SRP.

As BUCKEYE left I asked him if he was sure he knew his way back to Ohio. As he jumped off our front step and headed down the walk, he turned and with a smile said, “I knew how to get here didn’t I?” BUCKEYE continued on his way back to Ohio walking proudly with his head held up high.

As he faded into the distance, we thought we heard him whistling California Here I Come and wondered whether that meant he might be back some day.



BUCKEYE returned to his school with a PHOTO ALBUM and POSTCARDS of his adventure in Southern California and the Santa Rosa Plateau. His return was received with great interest and appreciation. We are looking forward to Buckeye’s return.

copyright 2012 jl-studio – All rights reserved.

Jim Lockyer

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  Mark Twain




The California Settlers are now reasonably settled. The initial “shock and awe” experienced by settlers arriving at their new location has waned a bit and everyone has calmed down becoming more comfortable and familiar with the new surroundings.

Jim no longer takes 100’s of photos of sunsets, sunrises, clouds, plants, animals, and anything else that catches his eye in the process of exploring the new area. He is now more discriminate with his photo selections. He now concentrates on finding the better shot of what he already has and spending time cataloging the photos to see what he is missing.

Jim and Judy have become more involved with local activities. Judy continues to improve her garden and is active in the Temecula Garden Club. Jim is active with the Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) and is leading 3rd-grade students on Nature Hikes several times a week. Judy has also been volunteering at the SRP occasionally working at the SRP Visitor Center and finding it a lot of fun.

I have settled in as well. I no longer run and hide on Thursday’s when the trash trucks arrive, nor do I run and hide every time the doorbell rings. The skateboarders however still bother me somewhat. Karter my next door neighbor comes by most every day and we converse through the screen – he from the outside and me on the inside. He is a big showoff and occasionally drops off  a present at our back door demonstrating his hunting prowess.

When I am not napping, begging for food, lying stretched out absorbing the sunlight, rubbing against Jim and Judy’s legs, or stomping all over them in the middle of the night, I have been studying the geology of our new location. I learned that we are residing in a GRABEN. I suggested to Jim that we probably ought to change the name of our BLOG now that we are comfortably settled in. My suggestion was to name the BLOG to “From the Graben.” I further suggested that Jim create an illustration explaining a GRABEN (see below). Part of my rationale is that From the Graben would best describe the specific area where we now reside, not to mention that I love that sinking feeling.

GRABEN – In geology, a graben is a depressed block of land bordered by parallel faults.
Graben is German for ditch. A graben is the result of a block of land being downthrown
producing a valley with a distinct scarp on each side. Graben are produced from parallel
normal faults, where the hanging wall is downthrown and the footwall is upthrown. The
faults typically dip toward the center of the graben from both sides.

With regards,
Velcro, the CAT

“OH, it’s been a long long day . . . . . . . .”





We inherited a wishing well when we purchased our home in Wildomar, CA. It required a little work to stabilize its aging structure. I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to remove it and replace it with something more contemporary. Judy remarked that she had always wanted a wishing well and advised that it might be a better idea to let it remain.

After completing several structural stabilization projects and removing the artificial flowers from the wishing well bucket, the wishing well remains in place. It is top heavy and still leans a bit to the east despite the stabilization. More stabilization projects are warranted.

Accepting the decision to keep the wishing well prompted me to think that the wishing well might make a nice venue to decorate for holidays and special events. Last Halloween season I removed the wishing well bucket and replaced it with a plastic pumpkin. Christmas Bells and a red bow replaced the bucket for the Christmas season. Then came the approach of Easter this year and I started looking for a large egg or eggs to replace the wishing well bucket. Unable to find any suitable large eggs, I decided to get some smaller plastic eggs, glue them all together and place them in the wishing well bucket. The chore took more time than I anticipated but the project was finally completed and the decoration was presented to the neighborhood. I placed several left over plastic eggs from the project to fill the void spots. I must say it turned out to be an attractive and subtle decoration appropriate for the season.

I began noticing that neighborhood children were attracted to the decoration and the Easter eggs therein. Over time some of the single eggs were removed. On one occasion when I heard children’s voices at the wishing well and observed a little girl yelling at her brother who was chasing a plastic egg that was rolling down the street. His sister was in the wishing well quickly putting the pieces of the decoration back in the wishing well bucket continuing to yell at her brother who apparently caused the original problem.

When shopping before Easter at the local grocery store I passed the stores seasonal decoration area. A package of three plastic golden eggs caught my eye. I purchased two packages. Late on Easter eve I placed Six Golden Eggs (each containing one dollar), three on each side, at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Each egg contained a taped note on the outside stating, “Take Only One, Please.”

Late on Easter Day the Six Golden Eggs remained in place. It appears that most of our neighbors were elsewhere today and few children were seen.

A second day passed and there has been no activity on or around the Six Golden Eggs.

The only activity on the third day was wind related as the wind moved one of the eggs. There has still been no sign of children activity in the general area. It is afterall spring break so perhaps many of the neighborhood children may be elsewhere. I repositioned the Six Golden Eggs closer together to make them a little more obvious.

Perhaps tomorrow I will place the eggs in the wishing well basket to make them even more obvious.

ONE WEEK LATER – May 1, 2011

One week later the Six Golden Eggs remain undiscovered.

After not being discovered, the Six Golden Eggs were first placed in the wishing well bucket. On several occasions I thought that several had been taken only to learn that the wind had blown them out of the bucket. All six eggs were accounted for lying in the bottom of the wishing well. I have since placed the Six Golden Eggs at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Despite children traffic in the area no one has yet found the eggs or have chosen not to take one.

ONE DAY LATER – May 2, 2011

Mid-day I noticed that two of the eggs were missing. I checked the area out soon after noticing the  missing eggs – they were nowhere in sight. I then checked out one of the remaining eggs that appeared to still be taped up. The egg still had the label stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE” still attached. On opening the egg, the one dollar bill was missing. I then checked out another egg and it was also lacking a one dollar bill. The individual(s) that claimed the two eggs apparently also claimed the contents of the remaing eggs.

I suspect the recipients of the eggs were two teenaged girls that I noticed in the area late on May 1, 2011. This suspicion is based on the fact that two eggs with the attached note stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE,” were taken suggesting that two individuals took one egg each. Since the note said nothing about, “the contents of the remaining eggs not taken”, would suggest, that the recipients reading the “egg note” rationalized that they were in compliance by removing the contents of the remaining eggs and leaving the egg shells behind. Sounds like a couple of teenagers thinking a problem through that would provide them the greatest reward.

This was a fun little experiment, but will need some refinements for next year.  Stay tuned!

Jim Lockyer

“Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain


The 46th Anniversary Day Trip

South to West Panorama from Palomar Mountain-FOG over the coastal areas.


On our 46th Wedding Anniversary we decided to take a day trip to where ever the roads might lead us. We were rediscovering areas we hadn’t been to in over 35 years. Our only plan was to head towards Palomar Mountain and the observatory and then just see where the roads might take us.

After leaving 1-15 we drove through the scenic back roads of the Temecula Valley to Pala. Along the way we passed the Pechanga Indian Reservation and Casino then the Pala Indian Reservation and Casino in Pala before heading south on SR-76. We headed towards the turnoff road to Palomar Mountain passing through many orange groves, orchards, and plant nurseries. Continuing on we passed the Pauma, Rincon, and San Pasqual Indian Reservations all sporting large signs trying to entice passing travelers to drop in and gamble a while or enjoy their fine buffets. We also passed the La Jolla Indian Reservation which did not have a casino yet, but they have a plan for one. The Mesa Grande and Los Coyotes Indian Reservations were also passed during our day trip but all they had to offer were campgrounds. The last three Indian Reservations were the most isolated from population centers as you as you might have guessed. The size of the casino, largest to the smallest, was also reflected by their relative distance from population centers. Pechanga was the largest casino, Pala coming in second, and the remaining casinos diminishing in size as the distance from customers increased. The traffic also diminished as we passed the last several casinos.  By the time we reached the Palomar turnoff the traffic was light, but that was all about to change.

 Reaching the turnoff road to Palomar Mountain Judy noticed a sign indicating that Julian, CA was only 33 miles away. She stated the she would love to go to Julian recalling it as one of her favorite places. We used to camp at Anza Borrego State Park and when returning home from Anza Borrego we would occasionally travel through Julian on our way home from camping. I said we probably had time but let’s check out the mountain first. As we started up the mountain we began picking up more and more motorcycle traffic traveling in both directions. We also noticed that this road had the largest concentrated number of California Highway Patrol (CHP) units that we had seen anywhere since our arrival in SoCal. The very windy road to the top of the mountain apparently is a favorite of daredevil motorcyclists speeding up and down the mountain as fast as they can while hoping not to go over the edge or hitting something. Using the turnouts to let the daredevils pass and staying away from the daredevils descending the mountain, while slowing where the CHP was ticketing or investigating a daredevil violation or accident we made it to the top of the mountain.

Up over the ridge and heading towards the Palomar Observatory we passed Mother’s Kitchen Restaurant where 100’s of motorcyclists were enjoying food and beverage. We continued on to the observatory. It was quite warm and a long walk for Judy but she made it to the observatory. She was however disappointed that she wasn’t able to climb the stairs within the observatory to the telescope. I made a quick trip up the stairs and returned advising Judy that she didn’t miss anything. She thought there was a great view of the landscape from the observatory but I told her that all you could see was the telescope itself and that was from behind a glass barrier.

CLICK on maps for larger and complete maps. Then CLICK again when
small map appears for the full-size map

Jim and Judy at the Palomar Observatory

We left the observatory and headed back passing Mother’s Kitchen Restaurant just as a large number of bikers were about to make their run down the mountain. At the intersection we chose to head south atop the mountain rather than compete with the motorcyclists on their downhill run. So we headed south to Lake Henshaw (17 miles away) and heading towards Julian. The road not being as challenging (lacking the many tight curves and turns) for the motorcyclist’s was a pleasure as we descended down the mountain. We reached the bottom and a junction with no signage. My guess was to turn left and soon we reached a junction that pointed to Julian just 7 miles away.

We arrived in Julian (population 1650, elevation 4,230 feet), a small mountain town famous for its apple orchards and apple pies. We hadn’t yet had lunch and it was already 2 PM, but Judy mentioned Apple Pie and I listened. After finally finding a parking place we walked to the Julian Pie Company and entered. Judy remarked that we should probably have lunch before pie. I responded by explaining that there was no way that I would be able to have lunch and then a piece of pie. We both chose pie a-la-mode for lunch and we weren’t disappointed.

The Julian Pie Company - CLICK on photos for a larger image. Then
CLICK again when single image appears for the full-size image.


Judy selected the Apple Pie a-la-mode, and I selected the Apple Mountain Berry Crumb Pie a-la-mode. The large portions made for a sweet lunch meal indeed. The pies were delicious and once Judy discovered the taste of my pie her fork kept missing her own plate and landing in mine. Judy’s fork never left my plate without a morsel of my pie. She did continually offer, “Would you like to try some of mine?” Eventually running out of my own pie, I succumbed. The Apple Pie was quite good as well, especially the crust.

With our bellies full we left Julian and headed back towards home. We chose SR-79 to return home passing through Warner Hot Springs and the location of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, the largest Indian Reservation in San Diego County with more than 25,000 acres which includes Hot Spring’s Mountain (6,533 feet), the highest mountain in San Diego County. SR-79 took us rapidly through Oak Grove, population 100. A sign placed below the official highway town sign states that the community is home for 97 pleasant people, and 2 or 3 grouches. Oak Grove also has one of the few remaining Butterfield Stagecoach Line stops. The stagecoach line ran from Fort Smith, Arkansas running through the southwest and ending in San Francisco. The Butterfield Stagecoach Line operated in the late 1850’s to the early 1860’s and was an early venture of American Express and Wells Fargo. This little narrative took more than 1,000 times longer to write or read than it took to actually pass through Oak Grove.

We arrived home from our Anniversary Road Trip both fulfilled from a wonderful day and a wonderful treat at the Julian Pie Company. After resting up a little we topped off the day with a nice relaxing dinner at the Outback Steakhouse.

We have since learned that we can purchase Julian Pie Company’s pies at our local grocery store, delivered daily. But, Julian really isn’t all that far away and for some reason I think it probably would taste much better in Julian, than here . . . . . but maybe not, we will give it a test soon!

VELCRO is doing fine, but not being included in the Anniversary Day Trip he has been giving us the cold shoulder for leaving him home alone for the day.

The Adventure Continues,

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO


Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for the arrival of our son Jason and his girlfriend Rita for a visit, I looked towards the plateau and immediately called Judy to come take a look. A smoke plume had just begun to rise above the La Cresta community which is adjacent to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve. I knew it couldn’t have been a prescribed burn since the humidity was too low and the winds were substantial. The plume was rapidly becoming larger as sirens began to be heard in the distance coming from all directions. The ground fire equipment continued to  roll towards the plateau.

As the fire plume continued to grow, the first plane flew overhead from the east heading towards the fire. It apparently was the scout plane which flew high over the fire plume assessing the situation. Then a fire-retardant tanker flew overhead at a lower elevation heading towards the fire, followed shortly by another. A water-drop helicopter soon appeared on the scene as well. The scout plane, now the command plane, continued to circle the fire high overhead directing the plane drop aircraft below. The fire retardant tankers made several test approach runs before dropping down and releasing the retardant on the fire. After dropping all of  its load one of the tankers headed back east to refuel. I soon returned with a new load of retardant. The fire was under control only after an hour and a half. It consumed only 10 acres and there were no injuries or loss of structures. After the fire was completely extinguished by the ground crews the road closures were reopened within five hours.

Click on photo for larger image

I was very impressed watching the speed, efficency and effectiveness of the air support operation in addressing the emergency. This positive public servant response by the Riverside County and CALfire personnel was inspiring. In contrast this comes at a time when the world continues to watch the ineptness of  BP trying to react to an emergency for which they apparently had no viable plan to solve should it occur. BP is obivously motivated to capture as much oil as it can (=money) at any cost . . . . . . any cost . . . . any cost! On the other hand, the public servants that we entrust to protect us and our properties are motivated to just that, our protection. It was pretty obvious to me that the public servants also had a viable plan for the fire emergency and executed it successfully, as planned,  in a very short time.

Jason and Rita arrived after all the fire excitement had subsided. They had returned earlier this week from attending our niece Suzanne’s wedding in Puerto Vallarta and we were happy to see them and anxious to see their photos. They had a great time and saw some pretty cool birds. Magnificent Frigatebirds were apparently everywhere. They also saw the Great Kiskadee (I haven’t seen one) and a mystery Shroud bird of Puerto Vallarta. Jason described the funny bird as “running, strutting” across the beach with a light spot on it’s forehead. Jason captured a photograph of the bird although it was a night photograph. The enhanced photo didn’t provide much more evidence.

The only bird, one that I have not yet seen myself, that I could think it might possibly be was the Northern Jacana. I located a photo of the bird I thought it might be on Wipikedia and showed the photo to Jason, His response was, “that’s it!”

My brother Steve whose daughter Suzzane was being married, and the reason for the Puerto Vallarta gathering,  has become a birder in recent years. Steve sent me an email telling me that he had observed the Magnificent Frigatebirds as well as others. He told me that he had once seen a picture of the Great Kiskadee in a bird book and thought, “Wow, how great it would be to see a Great Kiskadee!” Well, he did!” Puerto Vallarta sounds like a travel place that perhaps we should consider.

PHOTO CREDITS:Magnificent Frigatebirds (Jason Lockyer), Northern Jacana (Wipikedia)

We had a geat visit and time with Jason and Rita before they had to head back north to LA this afternoon to fulfill other commitments.

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO  – the Adventure Continues!

While engaged in my now daily routine of opening the blinds in the living room to greet each new day, I groggily, and without glasses, noticed an animal on the other side of the culdesac. The animal was making its way towards our extended backyard (the oak woodland/chaparral greenspace adjacent to our home) while a crow flew overhead protesting the animals every movement. As I slowly began to realize what I was observing I began to panic since the animal was now moving out of view. Frantically, I tried without success to find my camera which is always at the ready – a photo opportunity lost!

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) was smaller and more slender than I had anticipated. For some reason I was expecting the bobcat to look more like the stockier Canadian Lynx (Lynx candadensis).  I was nice to see my first bobcat from our own yard. It was my bobcat training session  for bigger and better things on the Santa Rosa Plateau.

A couple hour later I was working in the office which has a view of the front yard. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something moving past the front porch. I looked up quickly and saw a bobbed tail passing by the window. I immediately jumped up and ran to the front door and quickly opened it. I wanted to see where this bob-tailed creature was heading. As the door rapidly swung open I was drawn to the front walk where four startled eyes were staring back at me. There sat two of the cutest felines I have ever seen and I was just as startled as the two bobcat cubs as I stared back at them. “Camea, camera, where’s the damn camera,” I asked myself. Turning to look for the camera, I noticed mom bobcat come back into view and with that they all disappeared. Finally locating the camera I tried to locate where the bobcats had gone without any luck – another photo opportunity lost! 

Yesterday when returning home after exploring more of our extended backyard I came to a spot below the embankment off our culdesac where several crows were agitated by something. I assumed it was a predator and spent considerable time trying to locate what was causing the crows concern. I didn’t find anything and returned home as the crows continued to scold what was below. I now think there may be a good possibility that the bobcat den is located somewhere in the that area.

The presence of the bobcats also explain some recent yard findings. I have found several quail wing(s) only on the front lawn over the past several weeks. Karter (the correct spelling of Carter our next door cat) occasionally leaves a dead woodrat or headless rabbit on our porch or lawn to show off to VELCRO. But the quail wing(s) indicate that the prey is being utilized for food and not sport, or showing-off in Karters case. There were no plucked feathers associated with the quail wing(s) which might indicate a raptor kill, so I suspect that the quail were probably taken by the bobcat. There are a lot of quail in our area.

I can’t get those wonderful little faces of bewilderment out of my head. They brought an instant smile upon observation and they absolutely define the word, cute!  Hopefully we will have more encounters with this family of bobcats. Next time I will have the camera ready to go. I may have located my bobcat blind – Our front porch in a comfortable chair with a good cup of coffee.


Yesterday, when I explored our extended backyard which I may rename Bobcat Valley, I took a more macro look at the area. I also needed another Dudleya fix and wanted to see if the Dudleya had come into flower yet. It was a nice hike with a lot of new unexpected discoveries.

The cacti are now in full bloom, the spring grasses are drying out – marking the beginning of the fire season in Southern California. It still amazes me to see so many wildflowers in bloom. I would have expected to see most of them gone by now. Of course, this is an El Nino year it’s all different I am told. They are predicting cooler weather for tomorrow with a possibility of rain and there is new snow on the San Bernardino Mountains dropping to the 4,000 foot level with the storm last week. Being a former native Californian (my sister revoked my “native” status years ago when we moved away), I must now rely on the current neo-natives to advise me with regards to the unusual SoCal weather. Somehow it sounds like the same dialog everyone uses to explain the weather.

Dudleya (The DUDE of SoCal succulents) continues to intrigue me. It’s design is abolutely beautiful and it is a great example of the  Fibonacci ratio. Not to mention that I think it would also make a great Halloween costume.

TOP ROW: Fringed Spineflower & Bee Fly, Rattlesnake Weed, Western Scrub Jay
MIDDLE ROW: Zebra-tailed Lizard, Orange-throated Whiptail Lizard
BOTTOM ROW: Dudley (The DUDE of SoCal succulents), Bee-fight in cholla cactus bloom
Click on photo for larger image


The Bobcat made its first appearance this morning almost to the minute that Judy’s uncle Bernie passed away in Ohio. Bernie was 95 years old at his passing, he has always been an inspiration to me. He lived most of his adult life in Logan County, Ohio on a small 30 acre farm living off the land and caring for his parents. He married late to a wonderful woman, Daisy who brought her wonderful family into Bernies life. Bernie and Daisy continued to live a simple life, living off the land, enjoying their beautiful surroundings, and enjoying the natural world on the 30 acres that surrounded them. Bernie left this world this morning as he lived, with great dignity and grace. Thank you Bernie for the Bobcats!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Early Mom’s Day Visit

Mom and Judy admiring mom’s backyard garden

Judy and I visited my mom (93-years young)  yesterday and took her out for an early Mother’s Day luncheon. We wanted to avoid the Sunday Mother’s Day restaurant reservation madness and we wanted to spend some quality one-on-one time with mom.

Mom is a very independent lady and she is surely the influence and source of my own independent nature. My mom is now suffering from dementia but currently still insists on living alone in her home with her cat(s). Mom has wonderful gardens, but her gardening passion has waned over the past several years as her dementia increases. Our next visit to mom’s will probably be a work visit to weed her gardens and bring them up to the standards she kept them.

My sister Joanne is a true saint and  has been the principle caregiver for mom for a number of years now. With our relocation to California we are only a 90 minute drive from mom. We are now finally at a point of our settling in process that we should be able to spend some more time visiting mom and helping out Joanne.

We took mom to Buster’s Beach House ( which has a great view of the Alamitos Bay inlet in Long Beach, CA. It’s a great place to relax and watch sailboats and yachts enter and exit the inlet to the Pacific Ocean. We had a great meal and a very nice time with mom.

Getting to and  from mom’s house is an adventure. Sixty to ninety minutes of high concentration white-knuckle driving on four different high-speed freeways with speeds ranging from 80 mph to 10 mph. Seldom can you make the trip at a steady speed. Having to be constantly alert with what is going on around you doesn’t allow for any sightseeing along the way. Driving the freeways in CA is not for the timid.

MOM’S GARDEN – Christmas in May – poinsettias, Nasturtium Alley, Pink Geranium, White Flower – – Click on photo for larger image


I spent the morning rearranging and filling the bird feeders. I was also looking for new visitors to the backyard since I added a nice backyard bird yesterday while waiting for Judy to get ready for our trip to see mom.

I was scanning the valley below and noticed a white bird flying over the fields along Murrieta Creek. Gulls and Great Egrets fly along the creek frequently and I first thought it was probably a gull. Its flight behavior however quickly ruled that out and I thought,  “it couldn’t be, could it?” I quickly located my binoculars got on the bird and exclaimed, “Yes, it is!” I continued to observe the White-tailed Kite as it worked back and forth through the area occasionally hovering as it searched for prey. I began to wonder whether there might be a pair of kites nesting in the area but then realized that the plateau was covered with a blanket of fog. I suspect that the kite probably came off the plateau to the valley below where the visability was better for hunting. I looked frequently this morning but saw no kite activity in the valley this morning. The plateau was clear this morning as well.

Today, while enjoying my coffee and catching up on the news, I noticed a pair of birds quickly land on the backyard railing checking out the feeders, and then quickly flying off. I thought damn, that was Judy’s bird and the sunflower feeder was empty. Judy had seen an interesting bird a week or so ago in the backyard and described it to me by showing me three different birds in the field guide and explained to me that the bird looked like, “part of the this one, and part of the bird looked like this one, and  the other part of the bird looked like this one – WHAT IS IT?” I just threw up my arms and said, “I don’t know, a complex-hybrid perhaps?”

Well, Judy was right, it was one of the 3 birds she had shown me, and it was the best of the three I thought. When the Black-headed Grosbeak flew in this morning for a brief stay, I said, “there’s Judy’s bird!” I told Judy that I saw the bird she had described and she has since been proudly stutting around all day.

I just went to the kitchen and look what I found was sitting in the refilled platform feeder.

Quick shots of the Black-headed Grosbeak – More Later. Click on photo for larger image

Our backyard bird list continues to grow but we still have had only the Anna’s Hummingbird at the feeders. Yesterday we saw an Allen’s Hummingbird in mom’s garden. The California Towhee that tried to erase his image from the small chrome watering can is still around now trying to eliminate his image from the stainless steel BBQ. Compulsive frustration for sure, or more likely, he is just never found a mate this season and is taking it out on himself.


Though I haven’t yet conducted a serious “birding only” Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) trip, I may have located a Spotted Dove roosting/breeding site on the plateau  in my recent ramblings. I have had several fly-overs of a dove darker and larger than a Mourning Dove and having no wing-whistle. The heavy oak/riparian woodlands site I located has a good number of doves moving around in the heavy woodlands. The calls coming from the area fit that of the Spotted Dove.  Though the Spotted Dove was an introduced species to Southern California in 1910 it has currently been extirpated in most of its introduced and expanded areas. I plan to investigate the area further.

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness – Mark Twain