Monday, April 30, 2018



BSC, CA – With today's lexicon of letters taking the place of words, a kind of geek speak, we are used to them meaning disorders lately, ie., ADD, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, and the like. So today's question, Sports Fans, is are you RCRCD? You could be if you live along the 91 going to Orange County.

Once again my Lois Lane-Spidey Sense has landed me right in the middle of a story for my lead-up to our Mother's Day post, Why We Love Moms. You see after you read what RCRCD is, you might become infected.

By the way, the gentleman in the lead-in picture is a doctor, but not a direct reference to either story title. He is intricate to this two parter that started with an ice cream shop flyer announcement from CAP just a day after I saw Avengers Infinity War. BTW, Marvel's best!

OK, for those asking how bad can this be if it starts at an ice cream shop, the question should be, how good will this be? The answer is great, if you like to see birds in the wild. There is a difference between this,

And this.

California Scrub-Jay @ 11:55, top of branch with long tail pointed down

This past Saturday was my first ever morning of bird-watching, an event brought about by Castleview Arroyo Project [CAP] and Riverside-Corona Conservation District. Arriving fashionably late, I could see the group ahead of me.

Around this time I met the 'daisy' of the title, a mom who graciously secured me a pair of binoculars and guided into the group. She is in the blue shirt [below] with her little girl crouched down beside her. Daisy Valdovinos explained that CAP had been out last fall with about 50 people to clean the arroyo area of trash [not left by homeless, just regular folks]. A city grant had been received and with the leftover loose change, the morning bird watch resulted. The next project is a bridge from the hillside above to the dirt trail on the side of the arroyo.

The early morning group was a cross section with some recruited through flyers placed at bookstores and of course, ice cream shops.

Leading this three hour tour was the professor, Dr. Norman Ellstrand, a plant genetics professor at UCR. Plants are his day job, but birds are his hobby and passion. This showed in his discourse as he pointed out the winged neighbors by sight and by call.

Armed with his trusty field guide and an app called Merlin, which he demonstrated perfectly, it was his wit and similar attitude about bird experts [aka talking heads] that told me Prof Norm, as he was called, still has a gleam in his eye. His assistant expert was consulted on the toughies.

Also present was Diana Ruiz, Public Affairs Manager for the RCRCD.

She later joined up with that group at the end of the tour.

So what did the professor see, you might ask?


Above links cut and paste to work

Next we learn more about the RCRCD.

Be here for Part 2, Birds of a Feather.

Friday, April 27, 2018



BSC, CA – 420, this April 20thday of celebration actually started for me months ago when I spied and shot the Dab Cats picture. I couldn't believe the luck [?]. Getting permission and a guarantee to crop out identifying features, I snapped two frames. Then I forgot all about it as the rest of the pictures were on a completely different topic, hint: “for those who have eyes to see...”

When I got back up after my nightly refilling of the feeders on this 4/20, I had a loose plan for the day and the rough slant of the subject I wanted for the day's story outline. I didn't want to go over the meaning and history of “420”. In fact, I didn't want to cover any of pot's past. With the legalization of Prop 64 and Cook County's recreation vote in the coming election cycle, the future is what should concern all of us on both sides of the coin.

From small gatherings to out and out 420 parties, I have hit them all back when pot was on the down low. Now cannabis is legal, like ice cream, and that ripple is just rolling out across society. This wave isn't separated by a generation gap. For every oldster vaping like a cool stud in the shadows, another is a sufferer of MS gaining relief from its debilitating effects by juicing fresh cannabis leaves in a passive protocol. These aren't cases I read about either.

After running across the DC pic the day before while sorting shots for Bird Wars, I wrote the day's editorial piece for two different sites with minor changes, showered, and hit the street. I carried my StIIIzy though I didn't think I would run into the vendor. I only knew the day's starting point, the closest glass shop – Rodeo, east side, in the Stater Brothers lot between the market and Farmer Brothers.

Heading down to the bus stop, the crossing guards lit up just as I rounded the corner. This was odd because there wasn't a Metrolink scheduled I thought. A minute later I found that I was correct as a rare freight train passed through.

As I had waited for the train to pass, you couldn't help but notice how blue the skies were. There was absolutely no spraying and none had occurred overnight. When I did my usual WnB there was no hairball of phlegm [sorry, Sports Fans].

It was a short ride and walk to the shop which lay on the other side of a vast parking lot that used to serve a super K-Mart. Even before I got too close, I could see that there was no huge tent of vendors like last year. This year the vendors have a range of places to go. That's a change.

However, the hospitality of the shop owner or manager couldn't have been nicer. This was like a Christmas dinner feeling as he personally fixed me two street tacos of chicken, cilantro, onions, and hot sauce. Drinks and water were free, very likely the ice cream bars too, but something else caught my eye.

Though there wasn't a bevy of vendors, there was one; an attractive and savvy young woman, who with a helper set up a table just off the shop entrance. Being medical, I was able to acquire a vape cartridge made from flower the vendor had grown and processed through friends. Her collaboration with Los Angeles Refinery brought forth a hybrid named Forbidden Shoes.

Inside the shop, the place where I go for all my local smoke shop needs, I found a birthday present for my pen pal who lives up in LA. Given that she lives in LA and is at the heart of the cannabis scene, I have to wait for just the right item to appear. As I walked into the shop and looked at the displays of glass, I knew what I had in mind. Something unique. A young woman came over to help me sort but a call interrupted us and I stepped outside to take it.

When I returned the lady was busy so as I waited to catch her and apologize for the interruption, I walked down past a display case and saw exactly the item I was seeking. Artsy, colorful, simple, and useful. Feeling like it was time to move on, I paid for my find, bade my greetings and thanks, then made my way to the transfer point for the bus to my next planned stop, a dispensary not far away right along the route.

Being a Friday I saw some old cars going to meet up. I had crossed the street to get out of the sun. The breeze was cool but not so much in the direct sunlight. I also had an hour plus to wait on the bus I needed having just missed one. With some time to kill, I pulled out my other vape pen setup – a Timeless battery and an almost empty cartridge. The Timeless battery charges quick, always provides the perfect vape hit temp, and is air draw activated, meaning no buttons to push. Plus the guy who owns the company is a skateboarder with associated business interests so he is cool as hell. Unlike the StIIIzy which is unique, the Timeless has the universal coupling so it mates with all standard vape cartridges as well as its own brand.

I attached the Forbidden Shoes cartridge to the pen and took a hit. The draw was smooth and the taste different from the usual. I took a second. Long story short, I went back for a second cartridge and blew off the two hour round trip to the other dispensary. The whole thing about shopping for cannabis product is the variety. You hope to find that one stand out from the rest in terms of overall satisfaction. Usually that means a variety to be narrowed down later. Not so today. This Rad Reefer selection from Los Angeles Refinery was a winner right out of the box. With this plum, it was time for some grub. I walked to a different bus stop and was pretty much just in time for the bus to downtown and my next stop.

Gram's BBQ, a fixture of 20 years running at its present location at the end of the walk through promenade that runs parallel to Market St. Several years ago when I stopped by for some din-din, I wound up selling a copy of Memoirs of Mr. Pete & Mary Jane Greento the restaurant owner, a gentleman named Robert. After moving to Riverside about a year ago, I decided to stop in for a reminder of the soul food sold there. Though I have been there a few times and talked to his son who said his dad enjoyed the book, I always missed seeing Robert. Not so this 4/20.

Though my face seemed familiar to him, I re-acquainted myself by producing a copy of the book. The owner looked pretty dapper considering he had suffered a stroke some time after our initial meeting. Getting my leftovers together after a satisfying bite, I bade Robert and his guests ta-ta to head for my last stop of the day, after another close at hand bus ride back toward my neighborhood. Day passes are the shit.

My last stop was, of course, for dessert. Ice cream from Paleteria LaMichoacana was the order of the day, er, evening since it was almost 6:20 pm now. A double scoop cup to go and it being so lovely outside, I opted to find a spot on the parking lot curb to eat my treat there since there were no outside benches close by. The shopping center had seen better days since it was new and the recent closing of the supermarket hadn't helped much.

Even at such, the empty spot where I was sitting soon filled up with two cars, one after another, so it was back to scouting another spot until the security cop, an elderly person in a patchwork style store uniform gently said I couldn't eat there as it looked bad for business. I acknowledged the rule, how can you argue when you're eating tasty ice cream, right?

Stepping off the Rite-Aid store curb on my way to the bench-less bus stop enclosure [bench-less due to homelessness in the area], I was immediately approached by a hat-less man in an overcoat about the best place to get some crystal [meth]. I apologized for my ignorance of such knowledge and blamed it on the fact that I don't do that shit. I indeed was giving a bad image to the drugstore business eating ice cream on the curb, I thought to myself. Finishing my cup and catching the bus back a few minutes after that, I did one last bus transfer to the bus that would carry me to within a block of my spot.

As I rode the final bus back, reflecting on past 420s from quaint gatherings to discuss cosmic revelations and the government, to underground small town parties, and finally full blown catered events, this was my first fully legal 420, and the just under the radar feeling was gone. Still, since putting out a book that says cannabis is hocus pocus coming from off-planet, this day seemed very personal, as if Taylor-made just for me.

I was pondering on this very point when I saw this.

As my friend AJ would say, “What are the odds?”

By 7:40 I was zzzzzzzz.


Thursday, April 19, 2018



BSC, CA – In the 13thCentury the Catholic Church declared that animals have no soul, paving the way for the Titled to hunt any game for food or sport with a clear conscience. Because of this action many people believe animals a lower form of life to be studied or experimented on. This is an erroneous view and though my witch ex-wife brought the point home with the menagerie of animals that lived with us, it was my pen pal that got me into birds, hummingbirds, that is.

Having gotten experience with feeding hummingbirds when I lived back in Murrieta, that resume plum landed my current residence stay in Riverside. However, where before I was care-taking one feeder up on top of a windswept hill, moving to R-side tasked me with 11 feeders in the front of the house and a single feeder under a backyard trellis in a neighborhood with old trees. Now I needed a program to tell the players.

Heading into my first year with the new location's hummingbird scene has opened my eyes to the larger dynamics of birds and bird groups. Even with my sometimes travel schedule leaving the little critters high and dry sometimes, things were on an even quell until I made friends with a pine siskinin the backyard one afternoon. Accidentally, I had ushered in a regime change like an occidental tourist. Now I needed to fix the situation, if I could.

The lone feeder in the back is a 'private' feeder for just a select group of friends, those who were friends with a lone male Costa, identifiable by the iridescent fuchsia head feathers, and a shorter, more squat guy I nicknamed Buddha Bird. Both are hummingbirds with completely different body types. This feeder schedule is on a slower rotation than the front array. Also the atmosphere is more of a spot. Most birds fly in silently or buzz in with a motorboat sound while making a chatter.

The pine siskin is a more portly bodied bird just an inch or two longer than a hummingbird but the siskins are beefier, less built for speed. One on one, the siskins tend to intimidate. After I made friends with the lone siskin through imitating his cheep, he started acting like a indoor bird hanging out at the sound of your voice, Dude starts showing up with his friends.

At first it was his girlfriend, and the was cool. In fact it seemed that he got a girlfriend because he now had a cool spot to bring her to for a sweet snack. I thought that was cool, too. But then him and his buds started to hang out and they seemed like an East Coast crowd from Jersey. I explained the policy to them all over the next few days; the back was a haven for the hummingbirds, anybody new to the turf has to share with no intimidation.

Now some of you might be thinking, PT, it's close to 4-20 and that last bowl has tripped your brain. Not so, me buckos. Birds are intelligent. Remember The Birdman of Alcatraz? Once you get past that fourth wall and they know it, they will respond in kind.

Long story short, the siskins and friends understood my words and my [the common] language though I don't speak 'bird' past imitation. However, the common way to communicate is by call and response. I also explained to the hummingbirds that the siskins were on a trial basis. There was to be no intimidation on the part of the siskins and their friends.

Having read up on pine siskins said there should be no competition over the food, but as the first few days went by, the siskins became curious about the feeder and started eating out of it. OK, I said, they must have a sweet tooth.

Dish and pine siskin silhouette at 3 o'clock

I put out a dish that we were using for the orioles when they would come through later with leftover grape jelly. The dish was also on the opposite end of the trellis from the hummingbird feeder. Again this change was pointed out to both bird groups and understood to be a trial period. For a while, things seemed to be working as it was during the winter when the bird population thins down as the real 'snowbirds' fly south for the winter.

Then I noticed that the hummingbird feeders seemed to be thinning out at the solitary feeder while the pine siskins were more a common site. They would eat the grape jelly and just hang out. Then they started to land above the hummingbird feeder and just hang out. I actually witnessed and snapped a picture of a pine siskin purposely intimidating a hummingbird. Probably having so many feeders out front, the hummingbirds may have thought about being outnumbered since there was usually only a single hummer feeding while there could a few siskins around at a time.

Pine siskin in silhouette at 11 o'clock from deserted feeder
Hummingbirds are no wussies as I have seen them chase much bigger birds away. Of course this depends on the species of hummingbird too as only some are notoriously territorial. The usual 'I drink alone' types are the ones who flew south, like the Annas and Black-chins. However, as I stated at the beginning of this report, I felt like this was all my fault as an outside agent, so I decided on a course of action.

An explanation of my plan of action was explained to both groups. I told them that the situation was not working out so at the end of the rations set out for both groups, the feeding stations would be taken down. I told the hummingbirds, most of whom had now moved to the front yard and commandeered a side spot under a trellis, that they were the originals and who the backyard was setup for. After a week or so I would replace their feeder in hopes that they would return there. I myself enjoyed them out back and the spot had good Feng shui.

Buddha Bird, now out front, contemplates his options before moving to a side yard trellis
When the back feeder stations for both birds ran out, I took down the feeders and that was that. I didn't know what to expect because I'm not a bird expert by any means. The reaction I got was totally not even imagined. In the mornings I would hear the siskins do a morning ceep before they would eat, usually before I crawled out of bed. The morning the feeder disappeared there was a single bird wail that was a sad lamentation I've never heard before. The emotion expressed was one of sorrow and regret. I will never forget it. Unlike people, the birds weren't motivated by greed, money, power, religion, or ethnic rivalry. They were just being birds.

A week went by and when I put the hummingbird feeder back up freshly stocked, that was the only feeder. I told two of the regulars who were now in the front about the deal. Before long I saw a hummingbird roll through and stop in at the backyard feeder, so they remembered the station location. It had been there before I moved to Riverside. The pine siskin and bunch started keeping their distance when they would spot me coming outside.

This wasn't an end however. The hummingbirds were my main concern last season, the year I came to Riverside, but one day the landlord saw an oriole in a tree close by and set out a dish feeder and bottle with different feeder cup design for these beautiful, distinctive birds. Shortly after putting the backyard hummingbird feeder back up, a Bullock's Oriole was spotted by me in a front yard tree. The orioles have a liking also for grape jelly. I put up their dish and feeder out front; then remembering the soulful lament from the pine siskin, I put that dish back up out back.

And that's when I noticed something different from a human reaction. First, the hummingbirds were not frightened or bullied when the pine siskins returned to feed on the grape jelly. The pine siskin and bunch were no longer straying over to the hummingbird feeder, even to drink. They did remain shy of me until a few days ago this week. They don't pass up the jelly though. Now they feed at first light and wipe the dish clean, sometimes leaving a tiny turd to say thank you.

Glass dish for jelly just above center juice feeder
The feeders out front for the orioles gets their attention and I have seen some feeding, usually one at a time. The hummingbirds out front where the majority of feeders are a local crew. This includes Costas, a Rufous that I nicknamed 'Red', sometimes Budha Bird, Black-chins, Annas, and possibly a few other types. Together there is safety in numbers so even the pine siskins tread lightly as the hummers will fly around them like they are not there.

Meanwhile, our sunflowers are shooting up and the spring birds of other types have come back to chill for their half year season around here. A Wilson's Warbler and Purple Finch were spotted by me the other day and the landlord spotted a California Towhee.

The hummingbirds are still my faves though, mainly for their wit and personality. Just the other day after a lull in feeding numbers, the front yard crowd had an influx of spring arrivals. As I sat on the front porch in the mid-morning talking to the frenzy of birds zooming in and out around the feeders on the other side of the porch wrought iron railing, a Black-chin flew over and danced in front of me about 5 inches away from my face, sometimes getting even closer, then a second Black-chin joined in and the two flew back and forth changing ends alternatively.

I stayed perfectly still but continued to talk to them. Finally, since I was vaping on my StIIIzy, I slowly brought it up to face level to see if one of the birds would lite on it, but neither of them did. After a bit they broke off their dance and returned across the railing. I am not sure what any of that meant but it was cool. Hummingbirds have the largest brain to body ratio of all the birds, and the biggest hearts. Some people think they are magical. I can't disagree with that sentiment.