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Wild Parrots of San Francisco! – M. Bruce Grosjean

May 7, 2015

It was the book and movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill that first drew my attention to the marvelous fact that San Francisco has parakeets. Those birds originated in South America.  They’re related to the now-extinct Carolina Parakeet, which was found in North America until the early 1900s, being declared extinct in 1939.

I was interested to learn, while reading a birding group, that there’s a different parrot in town. Parrots are very social birds, and they need company. Apparently, the stranger can recognize a parrot when he sees one, so the new bird is hanging out with the locals.

How wonderfully cosmopolitan is our city?

The story and photographs below are from M. Bruce Grosjean, and are published here with permission.


Back in October 2012 I reported seeing a single Rose-ring parakeet that seemed to be trying to attach itself to the larger population of our local Red-masked parakeets. Whereas the flock itself is made up of birds that are originally from Ecuador and Peru, this Rose-ringed individual comes from Asia and Africa. The fact that he recognizes they’re all family is fascinating to me.

parrots san francisco - copyright M. Bruce Grosjean

The rose-ringed parakeet, originally from Asia and Africa – (c) M Bruce Grosjean

It was predicted by some observers that the Rose-ringed would not survive all that long, so every time we saw it over a span of about a year and a half we were surprised. But then sometime around a year ago we stopped seeing it altogether and slowly began to believe that this bird indeed couldn’t survive.

Rose-ringed parakeet surround by red-masked conures - (c) M. Bruce Grosjean

Rose-ringed parakeet surround by red-masked conures – (c) M. Bruce Grosjean

So it was a complete surprise a few days ago when I spotted him feeding with a small flock of our local Red-masked birds again. By all appearances he looks quite healthy but still doesn’t seem to get along with the other birds much better than before, and yet he survives – I’m amazed!

parrots san francisco 6 - copyright M. Bruce Grosjean

Rose-ringed parakeet and red-masked parrots at a feeder – (c) M. Bruce Grosjean

[This flock was sighted near McLaren Park. “FYI,” Bruce wrote me as he sent these pictures over, “Some time ago Mark Bittner (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill) told me that he’d seen this bird on Telegraph Hill, which indicates it does get around.” Here are a few more pictures of the little flock with the outsider bird.  There are higher-resolution pictures at Bruce’s Zenfolio page, HERE.]

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More Colorful Tiled Stairs – Lincoln Park – Tony Holiday

May 2, 2015

I was delighted to learn, recently, that San Francisco now has yet another set of colorful tiled steps… its fourth. These are the Lincoln Parks stairs. It’s a marvelous way to beautify our city – and there are so many staircases to work with!

We have pictures thanks to Tony Holiday (who also reported on the previous staircase, the Arelious Walker stairs). These are republished with minor edits from his blog, Stairways are Heaven. Go there for more pictures and his full hiking route.

Clicking on any of the pictures below will show you a larger version.

Tony writes, “The Lincoln Park tiled stairway (52 steps) is now walkable. Do go see this in person. The steps are at the west dead-end of California St. at 33rd Ave. in the Outer Richmond neighborhood. They climb to the golf course and a trail that’ll take you north a couple blocks to the east trailhead for the Lands End/Coastal Trail.”

I haven’t been there yet, but it’s definitely in my plans!

West Portal Arts Fair 2015: Still Open Sunday

April 12, 2015

west portal fair poster 2015The weather for the West Portal Arts and Crafts Fair today was  sunny and cool, perfect until the wind started gusting around 4 p.m. I stopped by to revisit some of my old favorites and also to see what was new. The Zapotec rug weavers didn’t come this year, but some of the other craftspeople were back.

As usual, it was a delightful mix of wood work, fabric creations, jewelry, fine art, and also some interesting things like scented candles, fur toys, and organic skin care. There were also boxes made of books, handthrown ceramics, and more art than I could possibly really see. The poster said it was 50 artists. They were spread across the first two blocks on the North side of the street, and the middle block of the South side. Of course I didn’t get to them all, but here’s a selection of what I did manage to look at. If you like the look of it – they’re there Sunday until 5 p.m.

These beautiful mirrors are in inlaid wood marquetry frames, and even whole pictures made with special woods. They’ve come in previous years, and I always stop for a look.

wood inlay mirrors and pictures

Another old favorite is Moonlight Shenanigans – hand-carved ladles and spatulas and more. They’re graceful in their designs and lovely to touch. I said as much as I bought yet another piece from David Rully, maple-wood salad servers this time. “I spend a long time sanding each piece so it feels smooth and soft,” he said.

handmade ergonomic and tactile wooden spoonsI also couldn’t resist the wooden toys made with safe dyes. I bought blocks and a train for a little relative. There were also airplanes and trucks, some with animal shapes in them, and fire engines. And some sleek army tanks, which caught the attention of a small group of boys. Who could blame them? The tanks were really elegant and minimalist, and yet rolled perfectly.

handmade and safe wooden toysAcross the road, there were more things for little ones – adorable clothes, mostly for tiny girls. Last year, someone had a stall specializing in cute clothes for boys; looks like they’re alternating years!

One stall had handmade silk scarves and dressy over-shirts in lovely colors. Next to it was a vendor with caps and hats, mostly for women but with a few for men as well.

handmade silks scarves and overshirts - and fun hatsClose by, a stall displayed serene watercolors of landscapes and flowers in a dreamy sort of style.

serene watercolors

I stopped on the corner near the Starbucks, where there’s usually a stall with dramatic jewelry, and sure enough she was back this year. I got her card: Gayle Mayhew of Fun Girls Jewelry and a slogan, “If it’s not fun, what’s the point?” It was beautifully set up, with these strong pieces in pearls and stones and glass. A mirror hung next to it to encourage people to try things on, so I did. And then came a sudden gust of wind, and it blew down the display forms. We all scrambled to catch the necklaces before they fell, and then she rearranged her stall. None of the vertical displays were doing well so she laid them flat. But they all looked wonderful anyway.

unusual chunky jewelry - Fun Girls Jewelry

The Wooly Rascals stall of sheepskin products (shoes and slippers, dusters and stuffies) was on the first block. I bet this looks really inviting on a cold day.

wooly rascals sheepskin stuff at West PortalNext to it was a stall of fragrant candles.

scented candlesThis stall had glowing colored art glass objects, as well as some statement pieces like the pears and aubergines in the picture and some luminous glass plaques. I didn’t catch the vendors’ name, but it looked lovely.

glowing glassware
Across the street, I saw these colorful tie-dye clothes. They’re by Susan Baker, of Rad Rags of California. She has an Etsy store online. The sun-dress in front is one of her best-selling items, probably because of its graceful drape.

brilliant tie-dye clothes from Susan Baker

One unusual item: polymer bracelets in fine designs that wrap round your wrist and are light and waterproof – the FaCuff from Ava Austin. I don’t wear bracelets, or I’d have been very tempted by their delicate intricacy. If they come back with necklaces next year, I’ll pretty certainly get one.

Fa wristbands in beautiful intricate designs
Madd Love Designs is humorous art with a mission to promote awareness of the 5th World Conference on Women. It was mostly pins and magnets of little wire and yarn people and monsters – and artworks of photographs of these little characters by the Golden Gate Bridge. Quite charming.

madd love designs - pins and magnet art with a feminist missionDichroic glass looks so wonderful in the sunshine, and is so difficult to photograph well. You’ll have to take my word for it. The colors here were gorgeous: brilliant turquoises and teals and golds and magentas.

brilliant dichroic glassThis stall had a whole lot of little canvases with landscapes (more seascapes, actually) and still lifes. Just after I took this picture, another gust of wind blew down the display. I hope nothing was damaged.

tiny canvases with still lifes and sceneryJennifer Clifford’s pieces are collages often featuring San Francisco landmarks and a creative use of materials. In the picture with the orange poppies below, the windows of the Transamerica Pyramid are made of a golden lace that perfectly nails it. There’s more on her website.

jennifer clifford's art - collages and moreThese pictures, made from gears and other parts of clocks and watches, had a steam-punk sense to them. The construction was careful and clever. Unsurprisingly, the shop is called Time Craft Designs. The website has close-ups of the designs – and their titles.

time craft designs - pictures from watch partsThis selection of art prints was eye-catching. I especially liked the one with the tall old houses; there’s something about that perspective.

Art prints of san Francisco and more

The final stop for me, just before I had to leave, was a stall of handcrafted organic skincare products. Owner Erica Kriss has her website at

organic skincare

West Portal Arts Fair 2015 on April 10-12

April 8, 2015

Yesterday in West Portal I saw posters up for this year’s Arts Fair at West Portal. It’s a lovely little fair featuring artists and craftspeople. I always try to visit at least once if I can.

west portal fair poster 2015This year looks to be as interesting as in earlier years. If you haven’t been to this fair, you can get a sense of it from my reports:

2014 West Portal Fair

2013 West Portal Fair

2012 West Portal Fair

2011 West Portal Fair

Easter Egg Hunt for Little Kids – April 5th, 2015

April 1, 2015

Our favorite Inner Sunset event organizer, Barbara Oleksiw, is doing an Easter Egg Hunt for the littlest ones. She asked me to publicize this to Forest Knolls (our kids are invited, too!), and I’m happy to announce the details:

easter eggsALL children five years and younger (with parents) are invited to our (first-ever) Inner Sunset Easter-Egg Hunt in our backyard. We’ll attempt to transform our space into a suitable landscape, with hundreds of hidden (and not-so-hidden) Easter treats.

If your favorite children happen to be a bit older, and would enjoy the spirited mêlée, please invite them.

We’ll have *plenty* of supplies to refresh what’s discovered, so we plan for all to leave with a bag of success. (Easter baskets are discouraged, because we’ll give out individual bags.)

FREE Easter-Egg Hunt at Sixth & Irving
Sunday, April 5th

Staggered Entry schedule
11a.m:  Babies with Parents
11:30a.m:  2- and 3-year olds with Parents
Noon:  4- and 5-year olds, with *no* parents
1p.m: Naps for all!

Pls call Barbara (415- if you have even an hour to volunteer

Hope everyone has a splendid time!


Strangers in the Night

March 5, 2015

Around midnight, it’s usually quiet in Forest Knolls, the only sounds coming from the house itself. Outside, you might hear the wind soughing in the trees and humming in Sutro Tower. But tonight, a bird chirped tentatively in the backyard. At first I thought it was just a songbird disturbed on its perch, or responding to the bright moon.

moon from forest knolls drive san francisco
But it continued, growing louder and insistent. Opening a window to listen, I wondered if a raccoon had caught a bird. It sounded distressed. I could see nothing in the dark, my yard was in shadow.

skunk 1I ran down to turn on the garden light. And then I saw it – not a bird at all, but a skunk, right up against the back fence in a corner. When I shone the flashlight on it, it emerged from the shrubbery. And then, out came another one. Mating season!

They stuck around for a while, but annoyed by my watching them, they left through a hole under the fence. There was mildly skunky smell. Love was in the air.


PG&E in Forest Knolls

February 26, 2015
tags: ,

pics10 013Yesterday on NextDoor, someone wanted to know what was going on with so much PG&E activity in our neighborhood.

I was curious, too, and even more so because today I saw this outside my house – a fleet of PG&E trucks, complete with a porta-potty. I counted four large trucks, and an earth mover.


pics10 010The earth-mover was parked way at the back, waiting.

pics10 019There was even a truck blocking one of our garages. When we came out, the PG&E guy running the project offered to moved it if  we wanted. As it happened, we didn’t need that garage today, so we said not to bother.

pics10 020Two men were digging a hole near the house opposite.

pics10 016I asked one of the PG&E men what it was about.  They’d done a survey some time back, he said, checking for leaks. They were now fixing the ones where they’d detected a problem. He said they had already completed a couple of jobs.

After the terrible accident in San Bruno, I’m glad they’re being proactive here.

pics10 022The earthmover came down by our house. I’m not sure why it was wearing so much jewelry.

pics10 023The truck in front of my house tipped up, and the earthmover grabbed the soil. I presume they filled in the hole they’d dug.

pics10 025 Within a couple of hours, they were done and had moved on. The road was empty, the signs and traffic cones gone, and all was quiet.

pics10 017


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