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Urban Raptor

One of our artists lives by the Los Angeles River. This week some wildlife (unrestrained by quarantine travel restrictions) came to visit. Here is her account of the Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that lives on her street.


A few weeks ago I was FaceTiming with friends while walking to the mailbox, when something big and silent flew right over my head. My jaw dropped. It had a long narrow tail like a falcon– I knew it wasn’t a Red Tailed Hawk. I decided to do some Birding from Home and see if I could catch sight of this elusive newcomer again.

In the morning, I sat on the porch with my coffee and kept a keen eye out. I noticed a huge crowd of little birds. Aside from a noisy pair of mockingbirds, there are Cedar Waxwings, mourning doves, fighty little hummingbirds, bright yellow Western Tanagers, phoebes, sparrows, and even blackbirds. I kept coming back at 7:45, but no hawk.

One morning, I slept in a little bit, and came outside to an eerily quiet street. Aside from the constantly noisy mockingbirds, the other little birds were being veryyyyy quiet. Interesting. Someone must be hunting… I took a seat and waited.

..and finally spotted a Cooper’s Hawk!

Over the next few weeks I kept coming out to check on my new neighbor, but she was too good at social distancing!

Finally I got my chance.

I couldn’t believe she was perched so close by.

Then I tried to get closer by taking pictures *through* the binoculars, with interesting results!

Looks like I shot it with a Holga! 

Here you can see how the head shape is so different from a Buteo (Red tails and Red-shouldered). Tiny little beak! Long, narrow tail. Amazing flat top hair style!

These pictures don’t do justice to her deep amber eyes, which have a fierce red gleam in the sunlight.

Accipiters are known for their agile hunting style. Unlike Red Tails who drop down suddenly on their prey from above, Accipiters often hunt in wooded areas, turning tightly around trees to pursue small birds.

My neighbor was perched with one foot lifted, looking around and listening carefully. Suddenly she launched herself from the branch and wheeled around to silently dispatch some unlucky squawking thing in the next tree over, which sadly I couldn’t see!

Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating neighbor. And remember–be like the Cooper’s Hawk and practice social distancing!

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Resin Art With Ancient Earth Pigments

Our friend, Heather, makes beautiful resin art, usually with acrylic inks and mica powders. We’ve asked her to create a painting with her choice of Ancient Earth Pigments, to highlight applications of our products. Enjoy her slide show of her process!

Resin Art requires many layers, so the artist needs to be patient and plan ahead for drying time between transparent and translucent layers. The artist must develop a strong sense of design, a very good understanding of values (light to dark), and excellent grasp of color. The artist may choose complimentary colors, a triad of colors, analogous colors, or to neutralize, tint (lighten) or shade (darken) for the best outcome.

The finished piece, “Sea of Dreams”.
All images this page copyright C. Heather Liu, 2020

We at AEP thank Heather for sharing her process with us and her great photos with you. Visit Heather’s Instagram page, where she shows other examples of the art she is doing.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Dog, New Tricks

Our ten year old miniature Aussie, (known here as The Disreputable Dog), is as puzzled by the effects of the pandemic as are the people. He is having a hard time with this weekend that never ends. All his people are home, but the Saturday / Sunday routine is not being followed! This is causing anxiety! And the mail and delivery people are constantly around the neighborhood and must be barked at. Clearly he needs some new activities. A canine Pandemic Project!

Of course he is of herding dog heritage, so one of the things we thought of first was agility competition! In agility competitions, dogs run through an obstacle course with poles to weave through, gates to jump over, ramps to climb, etc. There is specialized equipment you need – however, there are things that you can build. We had a number of PVC bits and pieces left over from a previous plumbing project, so building some new agility course structures was a simple matter of doing some research on the Internet, one trip to the hardware store, and some quality time with the tabletop circular saw.

We decided to build a two-level gate, out of 1 1/4″ PVC pipe, and a pole-weaving course out of 3/4″ pipe. We just stuck the pipe segments into the fittings without gluing them, to make it easy to disassemble and store or transport the gadgets. For the pole course, we will probably drill some holes through the fittings into the pipes and put some machine screws in there to keep the poles straight up and down, but for the most part this isn’t necessary. And, if we have an irrigation emergency that requires PVC fittings … they’re already here! Just kidding. Mostly. Finally, we had a folding ramp that we use to get the dog in and out of tall truck beds: with a support under the hinge it becomes a ^ shaped ramp.

Then of course we had to introduce the Disreputable Dog to his new toys. He immediately assumed that they were obstacles to be cirumnavigated, which he did, at speed. Well done. But no. Some training is necessary.

With considerable nudging from knee and lead, he made it through the weave course. Frankly, we don’t think he quite understands how that is supposed to work just yet. Maybe we’ll get him to watch some videos on Youtube.

The jump was a bit easier. We started him off on the low setting for now, should be a piece of cake. We’ll set it to the higher height later. First try? Around! No, wait, try again … over! Excellent form.

The ramp, however, he already knew what to do: after completing the jump, run at full speed to the ramp, then up to the peak, turn right and leap off into the air! Once again, Dog, your ability to make up new rules for the game is impressive. Most impressive.

Second time was more the charm, but he still is jumping off early. He considers it inefficient. It will take him longer to return to the starting point if he runs all the way down! Who would do that?

After a few more runthroughs of this short course, it’s time to take a break. Can’t have all the fun at once!

Did you say … TREAT?

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Tomato Times!

We love a good organic tomato; preferring a home-grown and heirloom variety or from the Farmer’s Market. Growing your own food is a great activity with kids, a satisfying way to teach organic gardening and the value of feeding the soil.

Do a little research to find out which plants do best in your climate. Our incredible propagating (plant growing) friends at “Island Seed and Feed” in Goleta, help us to figure out which tomato plants did well last year and what might be better this year. Of course, the amount of rain may be too much (fungus problems) or too little. We use a drip system linked up to a controller for reliable watering even if we’re busy or away.

Ask a few local irrigation companies if you’d like recommendations for setting up a drip-irrigation system with a controller. There are many ways to do-it-yourself and with help.

We use a good organic _potting_ soil in 15 gallon pots because the gophers will destroy our tomatoes if we plant in-ground. (Don’t reuse last year’s potted tomato soil to avoid transferring diseases; use that old soil with other non-tomato plants.) Be very cautious not to use contaminated soil or pesticides on your food plants.

Dr. N stirs in a few handfuls of organic plant food.

Then, hand waters with a B vitamin liquid + water to prevent “transplant shock.”

He leaves enough room at the top for an occasional deep watering by hand, and a sturdy tomato cage. He always puts the plant tag in the pot so we’ll remember which ones did well at the end of the harvest.

Just planted.
The original four tomato plants at 3 weeks and a new one on the right, at 2 weeks! Happy growing times.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!