Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Raven Art and Monarch Butterflies

There were two additional high points of our trip to Shell Beach, other than our special visitors that came to see us.  Best friends, second cousins from Illinois and Lexy and Karen with granddaughter Malia all enjoyed the beach and the wonderful weather.
The two high points:  On a trip to Solvang, a Dutch village that I had not visited since I was 10 years of age, I found a lovely piece of RAVEN art!  What a find!  There are so many gift shops in Solvang that if it is manufactured in the world it is found here.  And since RAVEN art is manufactured somewhere in the world, it was here!  The piece is a platter in black and white with the raven with a red berry in its mouth.  If I ever get with it and learn how to post pictures on this blog.....  I got a new camera to do this chore but the darn thing shows shadows on the edges, boo.  So I have to try and return it and then maybe I can be au current and post pictures!
The other piece of art came from The Ephraim Pottery West in Cambria, CA.  Cambria is a lovely little village along the coast.  It also has gift shops but not like Solvang!  The piece of art is a vase called the "Messenger".  It is olive in color and has the RAVEN wrapped around it.  The seller told me to keep the paperwork with the vase as it will be discontinued soon and the price will go up.  I am not concerned about this but she did say it may prevent someone in the family from taking it to the Goodwill should I die any time soon!! 
Ephraim Pottery has several wonderful raven pieces but alas and alack I could only afford one.
While we were in the Pismo area the Monarch butterfly grove was opening.  This a grove of trees where the Monarch butterflies come every year to over winter.  We saw Monarchs fluttering around on their way to the preserve.  In 2011 I bought some milkweed seeds at the preserve to plant in my garden in Napa.  This is the plant that is necessary for the Monarch's survival.  I planted the seeds and every year I had a big milkweed patch but alas no butterflies.  When we arrived home after our recent trip to the Pismo area- HARK!!!.... all the leaves on the milkweed had been completely stripped.  The Monarchs had found the milkweed!!  It made me so happy to see this and to know I had contributed a tiny bit to the survival of the Monarchs. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Crows of Shell Beach

We are vacationing in a two story house in Shell Beach which is a little community  near Pismo Beach, CA.  The house is located three doors from the Pacific Ocean and has a lovely view of the ocean, the pelicans, sea otters, seals, dolfins, whales, oyster catchers and a peregrine falcon in a yucca tree!  But corbies are not left out!  Every time we visit two crows show up and sit on the second story rail of the deck.  As soon as we arrived, they arrived.  Now this is most peculiar.  We have stayed here over the years and I always feed the crows peanuts.  But do they remember me?  Of course they DO!  Corbies are very smart and know a good thing when they see it.  I had brought along a bag of unsalted peanuts in the shell.  I went out of the balcony and distributed them on the railing.  
The crows did the usual corbie thing, approach that nut, jump back, examine it, did it move?  Get up courage and grab one, then try and stuff another one is their bill.  Since crows are not as big as ravens they cannot stuff as many in their bill as the ravens can.
We brought along our black and white cat Jack.  Now Jack is an indoor/outdoor cat at home.  But he has to stay inside here. It is his own fault!  I bought him a collar with a name tag with our cell phone number and the address.  He got that thing off in a New York minute.  Now he has to stay inside and does not like it much.  His entertainment is watching the crows walking along the deck railing and doing their crow antics.  He likes that fine.
So crows, car and people are doing fine in Shell Beach.  The weather is beautiful, too beautiful.  It is October the rains should come.  Every day is beautiful and we are enjoying the sunshine and sparkling sea.  However I could go for a rainstorm to moisten the earth.  Meanwhile we will enjoy the sun, sea and crows!

Monday, September 7, 2015

All Things Raven

I have been having a very Raven month.  I have had the fortune to spend time up on Mt. Veeder at a cabin behind my former house.  This allows me to visit with my raven pair, Bold and Shy.  What is amazing to me is that remember me and my EGGS!!!!  And my Peanuts!!   As soon as I arrive up at the cabin, I set up my project for the day at a table on the deck.  I am usually painting a watercolor card for my three old grand daughter.. who appreciates my art!  As soon as I am all set up, I yell RAVEN at the top of my lungs. After a short while, here come the ravens.  They are probably thinking, who is this fool and what does she have for us today?  This past visit I played with the ravens by placing the peanuts on the road which is quite steep.  The ravens would peck the peanut shell to get the nut out.  They would do this by putting one foot on the peanut shell and banging on the peanut with their bill.  Once the peanut was free of the shell it would start rolling down the steep hill.  Then the fun began!!!  Ravens hop hop hopping trying to catch up with errant peanut, jumping up and down until they got it!!! Since I would not be back for some days for another visit... they received six eggs over the span of my visit.  They were very satisfied with this arrangement.

This morning I am enjoying a cup of Black Raven tea, a darkly delicious blackcurrant tea.  This was a gift from my friend Ruth.  It is so nice that my friends indulge my obsession with the big black birds!  It is from, the Eastern Shore Tea Company and I can recommend it.

Another person who indulges my raven obsession is my daughter Alexis.  She recently attended the Gravenstine Apple Fair.  She found there a great Raven card for me.  It is drawing of the Twin Peaks in San Francisco with a raven sitting atop each peak.  I have visited Twin Peaks several times to commune with the resident ravens there.  They are a hardy happy lot from all appearances and they rule the peaks.

We recently revisited Anchor Bay.  It is on the northern coast of California where the redwoods come down to the ocean.  It is a lovely spot and oh how many ravens there are there!  There are ravens in the trees and on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  They are constantly flying all around.  They are used to people and come looking for treats.  If you do not produce a treat within a reasonable time- they squawk and fly off- disgusted!  Alas I had no eggs or peanuts with me.

 There was a HORD of acorn woodpeckers living in a telephone pole near our lodgings.  I could not believe it.  They had hollowed out the pole to a great degree.  At nightfall there was a woodpecker head sticking out of every hole up and down the tree.  A number of the birds were also inside the pole which they accessed from the top of the hollowed out pole.  It was a pole FULL of woodpeckers!  The lodging also had a water tank that had been painted with a flying raven- what a great place to stay.  It was truly a great visit to the north coast.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Back to Mt. Veeder with Bold and Shy Ravens

I am happy to report that I am spending the month of August up on Mt. Veeder with Bold and Shy, my raven friends.  The cabin that I am staying in is very close to our former residence on Mt. Veeder  and thus the cabin is in Bold and Shy's territory.
My first day there I set up my table on the deck with my drawing materials, then I set out an egg and some peanuts in the shell onto the deck railing.   Within 15 minutes I heard a little soft raven sound coming from the tree over my head.  I looked up and there was a big beautiful raven.  He was letting me know-- HEY- I am here!!!  Let the feeding begin!!!
I checked out Raven for awhile, then decided to put the egg over by some logs.  Raven flew over to a tree branch and sat just above the egg.  Then he did the usual raven inspection, jump down, hop toward the egg,  jump back in case it attacked......finally got brave enough to grab it and fly off with it!  After awhile both ravens turned up and we did the egg at the log again.  Bold raven got that egg.  Then we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting.  When I left for the day I put out more peanuts and another egg on the deck railing. As I drove off the birds were already down on the railing to have a snack.  It is no wonder these birds know and remember me!!!  The EGG lady.
On a sad note, the beautiful view was obscured by all the smoke from the fires burning up in Lake County.  It is so dry and the fire danger is severe up on Mt. Veeder.  There has not been a forest fire up there since the 1940's and the dry wood burden on the ground is very significant. There has been a wood chipping program up there for the last 8 years to help alleviate the fire danger.  This encourages people to trim trees and brush and gather dead wood on their property.  The county then chips it for them.  This however does not help with all the dead wood up high on the mountain.  We are really hoping that there is no fire up there this fire season.  It would be very bad for the residents and the wildlife, bobcats, cougars, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, squirrels and ravens of course.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Friday, May 1st,  marks the beginning of summer in the Celtic tradition of BELTANE.  This is an
auspicious time when the veil between the fairy world and human kind is thin and magic abounds.  And so it was that a noisy boisterous pair of ravens showed up in my yard after five years of waiting! Perhaps it is because the garden is so beautiful this year.  The sweet peas are fabulous this year.  Grown from seed acquired from Kew Garden- these Sicilian variety of sweet peas have taken to the
California soil and climate. 
Here came the raven pair, soaring, twisting in flight, loud and raucous.  They settled in the redwood trees to talk.  They chased away the resident crows. They hung around most of the day, flying here and there and visiting the Redwood Creek next door.  It was so wonderful to hear their chatter and to see them flying about over the roof and trees.  Why did they come???? Was it Beltane that brought them? Did my recent trip to Ireland to the land of the fairies have any effect??  I thought- this is a one time thing and I better enjoy it and I certainly did.
Yesterday they were back!  They spent most of the day in the redwood trees and flying about.  Chuck put a raw chicken egg out on the ground under the redwood trees.  The raven picked it up- wow!  I put out some peanuts in the shell.  The blue jays were there in a New York minute but I did not see the raven pick any of them up.  Ravens are very suspicious of new foods and will check those peanuts out for awhile before they will approach them.  We put several more eggs out on the ground before we left to go up to Mt Veeder to visit our former neighbors and Bold and Shy ravens.  When we came home the eggs were still there.  We hope that the raven pair will visit again today!  Having them here for two days was raven magic.  I so enjoyed listening to their chatter, hoots and calls.  It was truly music to my ears!

Friday, March 13, 2015


Ravens are definitely all around but still not a frequent visitor to my small yard.  I cannot blame them.  There is so much lovely open space across the street in the vineyards.  But they do come now and then to pick up an egg.  Unfortunately I am never looking at the platform feeder when they arrive, boo hoo.  Not to worry I have had many fun raven viewings in the last few months!

Bodega Bay- I am happy to report on our recent visit to the Bodega Bay Headlands... the distressed raven who lost their mate has found a new one.  We parked our vehicle up on the headlands and here came the raven pair.  They perched right  in front of us.  I had saved some sour dough bread from the Tides Restaurant and threw it out for the ravens.  They liked that.  I had to be sneaky about it to avoid alerting the seagulls.  It was wonderful to see the raven pair flying and diving and rolling in the sky.

Twin Peaks in San Francisco- We were down in San Francisco at the San Francisco Historical Society show at the Old Mint.  I had never been in the Old Mint building before, very interesting and lots of great displays. Emperor Norton was wandering the halls, calling out to all his subjects and  contra dancing was being taught in a large room, but I digress. After our visit to the Mint, our friend George drove us up to Twin Peaks for the view.  It was a beautiful clear day and San Francisco lay
sparkling at our feet.  But hark- what is that up on the Twin Peaks tower??  Why it is a lovely pair of ravens!  They were patrolling the area, flying from tower to tower.  But hark- what was that?? A large hawk had the audacity to land on one of the towers! The raven pair fly over and sat on either side of the hawk.  It was a stare down.  The hawk finally gave up and flew away.  I had observed this behavior many times up on Mt. Veeder.  The ravens do not try to attack the hawk- they just sit and look at it until it becomes so uncomfortable that it flies away.  Could humans use this strategy??

I have seen many ravens pairs around the town of Napa. It is so frustrating, why don't they come to my yard where they would be treated so well??  I know it is the size of the yard and the closed in nature of a small suburban garden that they do not favor, but POOR ME- I am bereft!!  I was in a Mexican restaurant and there was a pair of ravens in a small tree right in front of me!!!  Then yesterday and this beats all... I was at an ARCO gas station waiting to pick up my friend who needed a ride home.  A sassy crow landed right in front of me in a redwood tree.  He wanted something to eat of course.  I had a granola bar in the glovebox.  I got it out and broke it up and threw it out on the ground.  The crow flew to the top of telephone pole to check it out.  Ha- he who waits... loses.  A raven threw down to the ground and started stuffing as many pieces of granola bar into his beak as possible.  Wow- now that was something!

Update on Bold and Shy on Mt. Veeder.  The raven pair are alive and well and flying all around their territory.  Peggy over near Lokoya Lodge told me this week that they are hanging around there.  Last week I took a bag of frozen chicken fat up to my former next door neighbor on Mt. Veeder.   No it
wasn't for my neighbor to eat, but an offering for Bold and Shy.  Russ told me that the ravens loved it! I knew they would.  It was one of their preferred foods when I did my raven food preference tests.  Dead little mousies come in right there with chicken fat.  Oh and dead rattle snake was a favorite too!

I was recently in Ireland for a week with my daughter.  I was looking for birds as we traveled around.  I saw many birds that were new to me but not one raven.  I thought for sure we would see one as we rode through the open countryside.  I really wanted to see an Irish raven, but no luck!

I think it is time to go put an egg out into the platform feeder and some peanuts too.  Hope springs eternal... perhaps it is my day to see a raven in my garden!!!