House Finch Invasion

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and looked out at an amazing sight. There were literally dozens of chirpy birds invading my garden, SO MANY I couldn’t even count them all.

They’re easy to identify as House Finches.

According to AllAboutBirds.org,  If House Finches discover your feeders, they might bring flocks of fifty or more birds with them. They did!

I no longer have feeders because of my arch nemeses, RATS, so what they’re feasting on here is actually an invasive species, a Brazilian Pepper tree that somehow sprouted into the neighbor’s yard and they didn’t get rid of it like we did.

The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii). Males boast cheerful red breasts and their distinctive long, twittering song.

The House Finch was originally a bird of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (“Hollywood finches”). They quickly started breeding and spread across almost all of the eastern United States and southern Canada within the next fifty years.

There’s no way I could capture as many as there are, but I’d say definitely more than fifty of these lovely red breasted birds are visiting Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male.

This makes sense because they’re eating red berries from the pepper tree.

They stayed for about an hour, saturating my world with their most delightful song and chirpy calls to friends and family. Every tree in the garden is full of these guys as well the rosemary and lavender bushes.

I’ve never seen anything like this. For me, It’s as exciting as spotting a pod of whales or dolphin. I’m grateful they chose my garden to visit. Pure joy!

Sticks on Fire

On an early morning walk before the rain started (yes, we’re getting more sky water!), I spied this colorfully striking succulent.

Sticks on Fire, sometimes called Firesticks (Euphorbia tirucalli), is a shrubby succulent with bright red, pink, orange, or yellow stems.

The more sun it gets, the more ‘fiery’ it appears. The sap of this plant is sticky/milky and may cause irritation to skin as there are mild toxins.  

Many succulents in the euphorbia genus, such as the pencil cactus and crown of thorns, are also poisonous to both cats and dogs. Symptoms of poisoning from ingesting this succulent range from gastrointestinal upset to skin and eye irritation.

I made it home just in time! That’s not a speck on your screen, it’s an airplane heading to our local airport.

Crows, Crows, and MORE Crows!


Kids really do listen to everything we say, that’s absolutely true.

One time I looked up as a crow flew by and said, “Hello, cousin!”

Angel Girl asked me why I said that, and I told her that crows are very smart and that I feel they’re like family to me.

The next time we saw crows fly by, she pointed and said, “There goes one of your cousins, Grandma!”

Mom asked her why she said that, and Angel Girl told her all the crows in the whole world are Grandma’s cousins, which is a great thing to her because she loves her own cousins.

The best part of the story is that it makes perfect sense to her that animals are family. I like that a lot.

Besides a murder of crows, there are other collective nouns for crows: a horde, a hover, a mob, a parcel, a parliament, and a storytelling.

As for a storytelling of crows? This is a bit of an unknown but crows do tend to gather in large flocks and are known for their loud ‘caw’.  Perhaps someone observed this and decided that they weren’t so much plotting a murder but were telling stories to each other, https://www.birdspot.co.uk/

This photo from late yesterday afternoon must tell quite the story; I’ve never seen so many crows on the school field.

Seeing crows at sundown is a common occurrence around here, but not on this grand scale. Everyone driving by slowed down to gawk and neighbors came out to record it like I did.

On the roof, on the fence, on the fields — all my cousins!

Update: I sent the photo to my original Angel Boy and received a video text from his almost seven-year-old clone, AB 2.0 — “Hey Grandma, that’s a lot of cousins!”

My happiness grew exponentially.

Sparkle Sunday

After the rain, the hills are technicolor green and the lagoon is full of shiny sparkles.

I think the line in the water is from the tidal flow, but I’m not 100% sure…

Monster Waves at Cortes Bank

I’ve lived in Southern California since high school and never heard about this mythical surf spot at Cortes Bank, about one hundred miles west of San Diego.

We’ve all heard of the giant waves at Mavericks in Northern California which sadly claimed the life of Mark Foo in 1994, but this location was brand new to me — not that I’ll ever see it or surf there, considering I don’t surf at all, but I love all things ocean-related.

Apparently, about ten thousand years ago, an island used to exist in that spot called Kinkipar by native Americans, the ancestors of the Tongva or Chumash Tribes.

Presently, it’s entirely submerged, the top rising to within three to six feet of the surface with nearby shoals catching the largest swells on the planet from the North Pacific.

Monster swells that generate waves moving at incredibly high speeds as they move from the deep ocean, over a mile deep at the base of the bank, into a series of shallow reefs made of sandstone and volcanic basalt.

These photos of Nic von Rupp (amazing professional big wave surfer) were taken last week at Cortes Bank.

Because of its location, estimates are that the waves move fifty percent faster than comparable waves along Oahu’s north shore.

They are arguably the largest and fastest waves on Earth. As Bill Sharp remarked after the first time it was surfed in 1990 “It was like something out of Waterworld.”
https://briantissot.com/2016/01/26/cortes-bank-the-largest-wave-on-the-planet/

From Nic von Rupp’s Facebook page; photo credit to @sharpxxl & @100footwave @mcnamara_s @mamaunearthed @joelewis @vincentkardasik,

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Sunset Artistry + Friday the 13th

The camera picked up exactly what the sky looked like last night at sundown, more expressionism than hyperrealism, in my opinion.

My favorite part is the bit of sparkle as the setting sun kissed the Pacific ocean.

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If you’re under the outdated and superstitious belief that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, I’ve learned something new.

Before patriarchal times, Friday the 13th was considered the Day of the Goddess. It was considered a day to honor the divine feminine that lives in us all and to honor the cycles of creation and death and rebirth.

Friday the 13th was considered a very powerful day to manifest, honor creativity, and to celebrate beauty, wisdom, and nourishment of the soul.

Friday is Venus Day, named for Frigga, the goddess of love and tansformation. She rules the spiritual aspects of people as they manifest on the physical.

Venus is the epitome of feminine energy. Her energy joins us at the end of the week to honor the days gone by and to remind us that it is important to rest, relax, and play.

Not unlucky at all, this is a day to celebrate the power and energy of being female.

No mansplaining or misogyny allowed.

In The Garden: Cape Honeysuckle

After a few very rainy days, it’s dry for a while until the next storm appears. I see a bit of blue sky as the contrasting backdrop to my Cape Honeysuckle trained to climb over an arbor.

The sweet nectar of its orange-red flowers attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

The Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) produces long, thin elongated fruit capsules that contain numerous seeds easily dispersed by the wind. 

It’s easy to propagate from a cutting, so I have lots of them growing in different parts of the garden.

Yup, there’s a lot going on in this photo; a path leading to a pond, the arbor of Cape Honeysuckle and Peppermint-Striped Climbing Roses, and a giant Bird of Paradise.

Everything needs some major work, but it’s a labor of love.

#WordlessWednesday

First Full Moon of 2023 and BIG Surf!

Tonight, this full wolf moon occurs with the sun in Capricorn opposite the moon in Cancer. The full moon is a time of culmination and the promise of fulfilling intentions set during the new moon.

The Pineapple Express, atmospheric river rain event here in California is over for now, although more wet weather is forecasted for next week.

There was talk of waves of up to sixteen feet for today, so I went down to the beach but here in Carlsbad, they were only about six to eight feet.

This morning:

A lifeguard told me there had been no rescues here, but further south in Cardiff, waves were definitely in the twelve foot range, with high surf expected again next week with the next storm.

It was super crowded; lots of people not only with cameras for pics and video, but to take advantage of the healing power of a little vitamin sea and abundant sunshine!

A Royal High Tide

Last week’s King Tides created the unusual sight of flooded marsh and wetlands.

Here at Agua Hedionda, freshwater creeks drain into a low-lying area meeting the sea. The ocean pushes tides and sands against the land as the creek drains its fresh water and sediment into the sea. This mix of fresh and salt water forms a brackish environment. The salinity varies with the seasonal influence of rain and storms.

Sometimes the tide is so low, we can walk all the way around to the south side where there’s a sweet little beach, but not that day!

With all of this recent rain we’ve had (and more on the way), freshwater basins appear and fill the normally dry land surrounding the lagoon.

After all these years, this is still one of my favorite views. We see the lagoon, freeway, train tracks, and Pacific ocean.

A Stormy Start to 2023

SoCal didn’t receive as much rain as they did up north, but we still had an impressive amount of sky water during our recent storm.

Northern California saw a historic nearly six inches of rain while we had two inches over the weekend with more forecasted this week. That’s a LOT in a short period of time, due to a phenomenon called an atmospheric river.

An atmospheric river is a narrow corridor or filament of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere. Other names for this phenomenon are tropical plume, tropical connection, moisture plume, water vapor surge, and cloud band. Wikipedia

During a brief dry period, we checked out the big windy waves. Fresh air feels so purifying and cleansing. A walk on the beach is a great way to start a new year!

Sand, sun, clouds, waves, even some blue sky.

And just like that, it began to rain again.

Check out this video…it was super windy, too!