Falco sparverius

The American kestrel (Falco sparverius), also called the sparrow hawk, is the smallest and most common falcon in North America. They usually hunt by perching and scanning the ground for prey to ambush – that’s what I saw this one doing –though they also hunt from the air. Diet typically consists of grasshoppers and other insects, lizards, mice, and small birds (e.g. sparrows). American kestrels occupy habitats ranging from deserts and grasslands to alpine meadows.

Happy to have spotted my first one today!

tropical terrace

Tucked up in the box end of Solstice Canyon are the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House, “Tropical Terrace”, designed by renowned architect Paul R. Williams in the 1950s. Although it was specifically designed to survive a wildfire, the pumps, pipes and pools were not maintained after the owners’ deaths, and the home burned down in 1982. Extensive paving, brickwork and chimneys remain, along with many non-native plants and trees. It’s now National Park Service property.

rainy day

Sinkholes! Burst river banks! Mudslides! The state, including our county, is getting it bad.

No damage here on our hill so far — we’re sitting high and snug in our little cabin, receiving much less rain than most other places, but still enough to make the garden happy.

griffith park

I ventured to the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains for today’s hike. I consider Griffith Park to be a bit of a crown jewel in the metropolis of Los Angeles. With over 4210 acres (1703 ha) of both natural terrain and landscaped parkland, it’s one of the largest municipal parks with urban wilderness areas in the United States.

Most of the land was purchased in 1882 by Griffith J. Griffith, who made his fortune in gold mine speculation. In 1896, he bequeathed it as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles to be used as parkland.

“It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people,” Griffith said on that occasion. “I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered.”

So noble, right? But Griffith Griffith was not exactly an all-round good guy. He shot his wife in the head in a Santa Monica hotel room (she survived) and at the trial it was revealed that he was not, in fact, a teetotaller but a secret drunk with paranoid delusions. He was deemed to be suffering from “alcoholic insanity” and so served less than two years in jail. He went on to die of liver disease in 1919.

Be that as it may … as a member of “the rank and file, the plain people”, I am very grateful for Griffith Park. While I would never describe LA as a happy, clean or fine city, I have to say that the Park tilts things a little more in that direction.

Griffith J. Griffith, San Quentin State Prison. Public Domain.

wolf moon dinner party

We have a bit of a tradition of hosting a small dinner party on or near the full moon. We have sunset/moonrise views here that are worth contemplating with a special beverage in hand. It doesn’t happen every month. Some years it doesn’t happen at all (I’m looking at you, Covid). But it was good to kick off 2023 with a little gathering of friends.