A new-to-me waterbird at Legacy Park! I was delighted by the bright blue bill on this male ruddy duck.
I’ve read that ruddy ducks are very aggressive toward each other and toward other species, but this fellow was behaving peacefully. Apparently they will even chase rabbits feeding on the shore. During courtship, males beat their bill against their neck hard enough to create a swirl of bubbles in the water. Pretty intense!
The genus name Oxyura is derived from Ancient Greek oxus meaning “sharp”, and oura meaning “tail”. Ruddy ducks were imported into the UK in 1948 and have since spread to Europe, where they are considered invasive.
In honour of International Day for Biological Diversity, here are the birds I’ve seen at home over the past couple of days. I made an attempt at relative sizing, but I think the oriole ended up a bit small.
Striped shore crabs (Pachygrapsus crassipes) live along the west coast of North America, from Baja California, Mexico, to central Oregon. Measuring 4 – 5 cm across the carapace, they can be found in estuaries, tide pools, mussel beds, or scuttling along shoreline rocks. These, and hermit crabs, are the most common crustaceans I see at my local tide pools.
Though they feed mostly on algae and phytoplankton, they are opportunistic and will also eat animals including dead fish, limpets, snails, isopods, worms, and mussels. They will even eat recently molted specimens of their own species. They are prey for seagulls, octopuses, rats, raccoons, and humans.
Though most crabs and many shore crabs spend the majority of their time underwater, P. crassipes is an exception. They apparently spend more than half their time on land, though they typically stay close to the water’s edge.
The wetlands in Legacy Park are alive with red-winged blackbirds, great-tailed grackles, mallards, coots and egrets. I like to sit by the tules and watch the interactions. Today there were a lot more drakes (9) than ducks (2); the females were getting persistently pursued and didn’t seem too happy about it.
The garden is still chock full of winter veg, but I found spaces to squeeze in some tomato seedlings. More will be planted as we finish off the abundant goodness that’s currently filling the raised beds.
Pretty blue-eyed grass is actually an iris, not a grass. It’s putting on a good show around here right now. No Chumash uses were recorded for this plant, but the Ohlone used an infusion of the roots and leaves as a cure for indigestion and stomach pain.
The horseshoe-shaped mansion on the hill above Malibu lagoon and pier was previously owned by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, now vice-president of Equatorial Guinea. “Known for his lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption.” (source) The US Justice Department forced him to sell this property in 2016, and the sale itself is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit … but that’s another story.
This week in the PerpJo: prickly popcorn flower. I often see this little cutie while out hiking—it flowers from March to June—but I’ve never noticed it beside our driveway before. But perhaps I’m just becoming more observant.
Encelia californica is native to southern California and Baja California, where it’s a member of the coastal sage plant community. It’s a bushy, sprawling shrub reaching between one half and 1.5 meters in height. The solitary flower heads are daisy-like, and it blooms from February to June, attracting butterflies, bees, and other insects.
It’s often planted to start a native garden, and then replaced with longer-lived shrubs over time. It can help jumpstart an area to change the soil ecology to help mazanitas and ceanothus plants.
Our block is covered with bush sunflowers, and they’ve just begun to bloom. Yay! 🌻