Forest Knolls Neighborhood – Staying connected on the Internet

computerBy request, I am reprising this post that lets everyone know how to stay connected with our neighborhood on the Internet. It’s been slightly edited and updated.

There are several ways to connect to what’s happening in our neighborhood.

1. NextDoor Forest Knolls

Right now, Nextdoor is probably the most active platform (which I wrote about HERE). It’s different from the Yahoo Group in that you need to give your actual name and address (and NextDoor will verify the address). It’s the opposite of anonymity. The idea is to facilitate the building of community and trust. There are group leaders who can act if someone seems to be violating community norms. I’m one for Forest Knolls. So far, there’ve been no problems.

It’s relatively private, in that only others on NextDoor will see it. It won’t show up on a Google Search, for instance. But I’d warn that it’s private, not confidential. There’s no way of knowing who might copy or forward your post to someone else. Also, over time people who move away might not bother to change the details on their Nextdoor account unless they want to set up a new account where they’ve moved.

If you use the “Nearby Neighborhoods” feature, it gives access to neighborhood-housesNextdoor in 10 other neighborhoods. That means when you post something on Nextdoor, you can decide whether to post it just to Forest Knolls, or to the whole bunch of neighborhoods. (If you post to all the nearby neighborhoods as well, around 4800 people could see your post.)

You can turn off some of the neighborhoods if they are not really of interest. People have been using it for things like recommendations for contractors, baby-sitters, household stuff for sale, announcements of neighborhood or commercial events – and warnings about crime and other safety issues. It’s a good way to meet up with others who have similar interests, say, for instance, small kids.

If you’d like to join, that link is HERE

2. This website and blog, www.ForestKnolls.info (not dot com or dot org ! dot INFO)

This runs stuff of general interest, occasional pictures and articles, and announcements. It’s a good place for laying out or updating any neighborhood issues. It’s completely public – anyone anywhere with internet access can read it (should they want to).

It’s got a Pets page, so if you’d like to add a picture of any Forest Knolls pet to it, send it in to fk94131@yahoo.com – with the name of the animal if you want it included. So far, we only have dogs and cats, but I’m completely open to pictures of iguanas or macaws or even the odd tarantula. Send them in!

If you want to stay updated whenever there’s a new post, you can subscribe to the site for emails. (Go HERE and enter your email address in the box on the right side.) Your email does not become public, but the Webmaster can see it.

3. The Forest_Knolls_Neighborhood Yahoo Group.

Anyone can join, though it’s really of interest to people within the Forest Knolls neighborhood. It’s managed by Mary Allen. You can give your actual name or not as you prefer. Your email address will be visible. It’s also public, but people are unlikely to search it out. They could if they wanted, though.

Here’s what I wrote about it with instructions for joining:

“This is a free group. Anyone can join, though of course its greatest value is to people in the neighborhood. And, as groups go, it’s civilized. I’ve seen groups where participants forget they’re in a public space, and start flame-wars or post overly personal information. This is not that kind of group.”

If you’d like to join that, the link is HERE. Look for the button that says “Join This Group!”

4. Forest Knolls Group on Facebook

Anyone who’s on Facebook can join, but you have to ask the administrator (right now, that would be me). I’d love for more people to join and post stuff. It’s a good place to share pictures or anything you like. It’s public to anyone on Facebook.

Here’s the link:

Join us on Facebook

WHAT SHOULD I JOIN?

What you decide to join really depends on how you want to use it.

  • The ForestKnolls.info website is intended to keep you informed, but it’s really dependent on the Webmaster. Stuff can slip by me. If there’s something you think the neighborhood should know, email me.  It’s pretty easy reading. It also has neighborhood information.
  • Nextdoor is good if it’s important to know who you’re talking to. Real names, real addresses. I think it’s pretty practical for the kind of thing you’d like to do in person. As of now, it’s got about 230 neighbors in Forest Knolls, and around 4,800 including the 10 nearby neighborhoods.
  • The Yahoo Group has around 100 members, though all of them may not be from the neighborhood. (There’s no requirement they should be.) It’s relatively quiet now; I think many of the functions it served have been overtaken by Nextdoor. But it does exist and is functioning.
  • Facebook is neat if you tend to go there anyway. It has the advantage that anyone in the group can post there – pictures, issues, just comments – it’s all welcome.

For myself – I’m on all of them. It’s neat that our neighborhood can be connected on the web. I hope more people join in – spread the word!

The Halloween “Loop” for 2015

It’s that time of the year again, and our neighbors (Thank you, Laura and FKNO!) are organizing the Halloween Loop in Forest Knolls. Neighbors with candy will have a pumpkin decoration up.

If anyone wants to send pictures of themselves or their kids in costume for this site, please email them to FK94131 at yahoo.com, and we’ll post them after Halloween!

Here’s the flyer:

halloween flyer

The same flyer as a printable PDF is here: Forest Knolls Halloween 2015

The Tranquility of Forest Knolls

Recently, Danh Tran of  the web-based real estate company Trulia (acquired earlier this year by Zillow) reached out to me with an interesting map. It showed noise complaints across San Francisco for 2010-2013 as an animation. Would I care to share it with our readers?

San Francisco noise complaints map dec 2013

This is a screenshot for December 2013, the latest data they have. What this shows is where people call the police to complain about noise. The color coding is self-evident – green shades to yellow shades to red as the density of noise complaints rises.

The animation is available at this link on the Trulia website. It starts with Feb 2010 and cycles to December 2013 and back.

San Francisco’s noise complaint levels vary a lot: Here’s a screen-shot from October 2013. There’s a lot more red in this one!

San Francisco noise complaints map oct 2013

Trulia’s Peter Black has made a similar analysis of several cities, including New York and Seattle. But the methodology he’s used for San Francisco is slightly different.

Why does San Francisco only have data through 2013? I asked.  Simply – it looks like no one is compiling the data any more. Or if they are, it’s not easily available.

In regards to the date, the reason for that is Peter couldn’t find any data for SF from the normal, open sources (311 calls) like he did for NYC and Seattle. Instead, he pulled it from our (Trulia) crime database. Unfortunately, and for no known explained reason, the noise complaints simply disappear from the data in 2014.”

Regardless, the data clearly show what we know already: We live in a tranquil neighborhood. Here’s the [December 2013] noise complaints map for Forest Knolls (thanks, Danh Tran). Not a spot of red in sight.

 

forest knolls noise complaints map

 

What’s Happening with the Coyotes?

coyote looking at dog, San Francisco
Coyote looking at dog, San Francisco, Aug 2011

A couple of days ago, neighbor Greg Flowers posted this on our Nextdoor site. (It’s reproduced here with permission.)

COYOTE SCARE

“After my experience last night, I plan to behave much differently when I am met by a coyote (or two) on the Sutro trails or on our neighborhood sidewalks. My usual MO is to respect its space and maybe snap a few photos of it as past encounters have been limited to in the woods of Mt. Sutro, and they usually run away.

“I took my dog out last night for a walk around the neighborhood around 10:45p following Christopher Dr east. As we were passing 15 Christopher, there was a rustle in the bushes and my dog lunged into the darkness. I pulled him back and we continued a few steps and then I saw it was indeed a coyote. It crossed the street into the woods and we made it to Clarendon before I turned and saw there were now two coyotes stalking us.

“Now I’m concerned and my dog is very interested in playing or giving chase. I tried to make myself look big and menacing, yelled a bit and made like I was going to charge them but they continued toward us so I then made the mistake of turning and continuing down Clarendon to get to Oak Park, looking over my shoulder constantly. No cars or people were out at this time and the fog + blood moon combo + coyotes stalking me really affected my nerves. The coyote in front crossed Clarendon as if it was planning to circle around to surround us and so when I got to Oak Park we turned the corner and sprinted all the way back to Christopher and Oak Park til we got home. That wasn’t the smartest choice but they didn’t follow me back into the neighborhood which was a huge relief.

“I’m posting this as a learning experience for myself and hoping it will help raise the awareness about the coyote presence around these parts. The closest I let them get to us was about 20 yards and my dog is 60lbs and these coyotes appeared larger than him. Because they were unaffected by my dog’s size and my scare tactic, I looked online and found this explanation of how to ‘haze’ coyotes so that they will fear humans again: Coyote Hazing: Guidelines for Discouraging Neighborhood Coyotes

“Hopefully we can make a neighborhood effort toward keeping coyotes, all our pets, and ourselves safe and that starts with coyotes maintaining a healthy fear of humans.”

A COYOTE WATCHER’S OBSERVATIONS

As readers of this site know, I’m a believer in coyote coexistence. This report was concerning, especially in the context of recent reports in which coyotes attacked dogs (one fatally) at Pine Lake (behind Stern Grove), a popular dog-play area.  So I reached out to Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes. She’s been studying our coyotes for years, and maintains a great blog, CoyoteYipps.com where she puts up her observations. Why were we suddenly getting this bold behavior?

“There seems to be a change in their behavior going on, but I’m told that it’s not due to habituation, it’s due to the drought. All urban coyotes are habituated by definition, yet they still keep a healthy distance (can’t use habituated and wary at the same time). For dogs, it’s a different story — and it’s going to be the same story whether a coyote is habituated to humans or not. Habituation to humans has nothing to do with coyotes approaching dogs — especially when they are curious about them.

“[Greg] did the right thing by moving away from the coyote — that’s how you diffuse a situation and maintain control — you are simply not going to engage. If a coyote follows… he’s just checking out your dog, gauging whether it’s a threat to be worried about, and making sure it is a safe distance away.

“We’re seeing more coyotes because of the drought. Because of the drought, there are fewer gophers and voles in the coyotes’ home range, so they are expanding that range as they hunt for their favorite foods. However, as they hunt in new areas, they will opportunistically take free roaming cats.”

This is also a concern; I know some people in Forest Knolls do have outdoor or indoor-outdoor cats. I think it’s also important for people with small dogs to be especially careful. Coyotes may see them as rivals or as prey, and they’re much more vulnerable. Humane Society guidelines recommend keeping cats indoors, and not letting small dogs off-leash in the backyard at night. Here’s their article: Coyotes, Pets and Community Cats.

From Janet Kessler: “And, yes, coyotes have been approaching dogs, much more than we’ve seen before. Walk away always, and keep walking (never run) away from the coyote, even if he follows.

There’s more useful information on the CoyoteYipps website, here: CoyoteYipps.com

It also has some great photographs and observations of coyote behavior.

Seeking the Supermoon Eclipse

Like people everywhere in the city, in fact, across the world, I went looking for the supermoon eclipse last evening. The moon was going to rise, red and already eclipsed, around 7 p.m. – a “blood moon.”  Totality would be7.47 p.m.

I thought the best place to watch would be Twin Peaks, and at 6.45 pm, that’s where I headed from the Portola Avenue side. But I got there to find a line of cars jammed all the way up Twin Peaks Boulevard. I did a U-turn, carefully avoiding a skunk. (It got safely across the road. All the cars in both directions waited for it.)

Time to go to Plan B: leave my car at home, and walk up to Tank Hill.

pics31 001 tank hill 7.35 pmClearly, a lot of people had the same thought. I’d never seen it so crowded, not on the 4th of July, not during the Blue Angels performance. Many had come much better prepared than I, with telephoto lenses as long as my forearm, rugs, chairs, and reflective clothing.

pics31 005 tank hill 7.37 pmWe were all a little worried. The fog was prowling around the western side of the city, and knowing San Francisco, could blow in any minute.

pics31 008 fog rolling in from the west 7.38 pmEveryone watched the eastern sky intently. “Did we get the wrong night,” I heard someone joke. “Maybe we should have read the science pages instead of the news.”

I was unsure how much we’d actually see, whether the haze low on the horizon would turn into a vision-blocking fog.

Waiting for the supermoon eclipse 7.39 pmSomeone raised a shout, and everyone looked for the moon. No sign of it. “Just a bunch of people trying to get a buzz going,” commented one of the would-be spectators.

Quite suddenly at 7.47 p.m. there it was, a dull red disk visible through the trees. Just in time for the peak of the totality.

supermoon eclipse 7.47 pmPeople gazed at it. Some took pictures, including me.

supermoon eclipse 7.51 pm

Next to me, a man holding a dog said, “I hope you have a telephoto on that.” I didn’t, but I would get some pictures anyway, I said. They won’t be great, not like the real photographers photos, but they’ll record the event. We chatted briefly about eclipses past.

watching the supermoon eclipseThe crowd thinned out. Parents with small children left quickly. The kids had seen the moon, understood the color was different, and they were ready to play or go. So did a lot of people who’d driven in. They wanted to leave before more traffic jams started up.

still watching supermoon eclipseHere’s how it looked at one minute past 8 p.m. (still through the trees).

supermoon eclipse 8.01 pmI left, too, a little later. From the foot of the Tank Hill steps, I got a clear view of the moon. This was a picture at 8.22 pm.

eclipsed supermoon 8.22 pmAn hour later, I went for a walk. The fog had started blowing in, but the moon was visible. It looked like a traditional eclipse now, a crescent that could be mistaken for a waning moon.

And even later than that, the eclipse was over and the fog was crawling over Twin Peaks.

fog over twin peaks 27 sept 2015It was beginning to drift down to the Bay.

fog by the bay sept 27 2015Overhead, the full supermoon was back to normal.

full supermoon 11.55 sept 27 2015

Sutro Tower Night and Day

The moon was rising beside Sutro Tower, behind the eucalyptus forest. I tried for some pictures. I love that digital cameras can actually get something under these conditions! It’s not the best picture, but it’s something. Of course it was much more dramatic and beautiful than this.

sutro tower with rising moon

The picture below is from a year ago (June 2014, actually). It makes a nice contrast to the night view. I love the way the trees soften the base and contrast with the tower.

sutro tower in mist

Free Days at Cal Academy of Sciences – Sept 25-27, 2015!

Cal Academy of Sciences has free admission days by zip code, and ours is coming up this weekend.

CalAcademy entrance

From their website:

“Free admission is available for San Francisco residents of each zip code during the designated dates listed below. Visiting adults are limited to six children for free entry. Proof of residency* is required.

Neighborhoods: Bernal Heights, Castro, Cole Valley, Glen Park, Haight, Lake Merced, Mission, Noe Valley, St. Francis Wood [Huh, they missed us. But we are in 94131, so we should be good.]
Zip codes: 94110, 94114, 94117, 94127, 94131, 94132
Fall 2015 Free Days: Sep. 25, 26, 27
Spring 2016 Free Days: Feb. 19, 20, 21″

It’s normally like $35 for adults and $25-30 for kids (unless you’re a member). So this could be a big saving.

Forest Knolls Skunk

Sometimes, I cruise around the neighborhood at night in hopes of seeing our resident or visiting wildlife. It’s easier from a car; they get spooked by people walking.  Last night, I was rewarded with a skunk.

It was grubbing in the mulch along Christopher, the mulch that’s still there from the tree-cutting operation a couple of years ago. Grass is beginning to grow through it, but it’s a great place for beetles and grubs.

skunk in forest knolls 1

The skunk looked small, perhaps a kit that’s just gone out on its own. It wasn’t the least bothered by the headlights. I got a couple of iPhone pictures, not good ones but definitely a skunk!

little skunk in Forest KnollsI never got to see its face. When I rolled down the window, it realized I was looking at it, and it decided to move along. In a minute, it scrambled up the hillside into Sutro Forest, and all that was left was a sound of scrabbling in the bushes.

Feeling Guilty About Loving Bermuda Buttercups?

I love these yellow flowers that appear in spring in San Francisco and vanish a couple of weeks later. Many others do, too, but consider it a guilty pleasure because they think they’re bad for bees and birds and animals. Since we often have them around Forest Knolls, I’m re-publishing a shortened version of a post about oxalis from SFForest.org (with permission).

The oxalis season is over, and the perky yellow flowers have vanished for another year. These Bermuda buttercups will be back next year to herald the spring, bringing joy to those who love them, irritation to those who hate them, and Tier I herbicides targeted at them in San Francisco’s so-called “Natural” Areas.

oxalis in glen canyon feb 2011These flowers are so visible in spring that Bay Nature magazine did an article about them in March 2015: A Natural History of the Little Yellow Flower that’s Everywhere Right Now.

THOSE WHO HATE OXALIS AND WANT TO POISON IT WITH GARLON

The article quoted Jake Sigg, the retired SF Recreation and Parks gardener who is considered the doyen of San Francisco’s native plant movement. He hates oxalis pes caprae, which he considers extremely invasive. The article quotes him as saying that, without intervention, “in X many years Twin Peaks would just be one solid mass of yellow, and there wouldn’t be any other plants there…” The article suggested that an oxalis-dominated landscape “drives away coyotes, hawks and owls that feed on grassland foragers, and the situation is especially dire for endangered Mission blue butterflies, which depend heavily on native wildflowers.” Most of those ‘facts’ about oxalis are mistaken as we’ll explain below.

Mr Sigg’s theories align with those of the Natural Areas Program (NAP) of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD), which uses the herbicide, Garlon (triclopyr) to battle oxalis despite its dubious efficacy for the purpose. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment San Francisco’s Department of the Environment classifies Garlon 4 Ultra as Tier I: Most Hazardous. It’s listed as HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE (their caps). Since oxalis is the main reason NAP uses Garlon, the alternative we propose is – don’t use Garlon or anything else on oxalis.

First, a little about the actual natural history of oxalis. This plant doesn’t set seed in California, and spreads entirely by sending out roots and forming little bulbils (like tiny potatoes) underground. It’s usually found where the soil has been disturbed by activities such as road-building, gardening, or trail-building. In some cases, the disturbance come from landslides or something similar. It can’t stand frost. If we do nothing, it would tend to die down rather than spreading uncontrollably.

In disturbed landscapes, it can spread fast. For this reason it can be a nuisance in gardens. People don’t want to leave their gardens alone for years to let nature take its course with the oxalis, and not every garden design includes brilliant yellow as the dominant color for a few weeks. The only way to eradicate it in the short term is to dig it out carefully every time you see it, and make sure you get most of the bulbils. Or use strong herbicides, which may not work.

In a natural landscape, though, it’s a different story and here’s why.

1) OXALIS IS GOOD FOR BEES AND BUTTERFLIES

Oxalis is actually an excellent plant for bees and butterflies. When blooming, it provides “copious nectar.” In fact, it generously gives away its nectar. Since it doesn’t set seed, it doesn’t benefit from pollinators – but it’s a food source for honey bees, bumblebees and butterflies.

In fact, a recent 2014 study shows that plant communities with exotic plants had more plant species as well as more pollinators, that pollinators didn’t prefer native plants, and that even some specialist pollinators depended on introduced plant species.

It’s true the Mission Blue butterfly needs (native) lupine as its nursery plant. (It doesn’t depend on any other native wildflowers – only three varieties of lupine. Incidentally, one of the key nectar sources for the Mission Blue butterfly is an invasive non-native Italian thistle: Carduus pycnocephalus).

Lupine has been planted on Twin Peaks as NAP attempts to reintroduce the Mission Blue butterfly there. But lupine is also a plant of disturbed areas, which means that NAP must maintain it or it will die out as the area stabilizes. An SFRPD report on the reintroduction project said “unmanaged habitat deteriorates quickly.” Presumably, they don’t use Garlon near the lupine patches, since it would likely kill that too. Despite what the Bay Nature article implies, it’s not oxalis that’s the issue. The real problem is another native plant, the coyote bush which takes over grasslands in a natural succession.

2) OXALIS IS GOOD FOR WILDLIFE

Oxalis bulbils are a food source for wildlife. Gophers and other rodents eat them. In fact, the Bay Nature article says, “Their spread is abetted by pocket gophers and scrub jays, which have been spotted carrying the bulbs and caching them in the ground—effectively planting them in new areas.”

Since gophers are a foundation species in the food web, being dinner for predators from hawks to coyotes to great blue herons, these plants actually provide habitat benefits whether or not they’re flowering, because the bulbils are there all year.

gopher-twin-peaksWhere there are gophers, the predators follow. Like the coyotes in these pictures, which clearly haven’t been driven away by a landscape dominated by oxalis.

coyote pouncing in oxalis field - copyright Janet Kessler
coyote pouncing in oxalis field – copyright Janet Kessler
coyote in oxalis field - copyright Janet Kessler
coyote in oxalis field – copyright Janet Kessler

3) OXALIS DOESN’T LEAVE THE GROUND BARE

The article says that oxalis leaves “bare ground during the six months of the year oxalis doesn’t flower.” That’s not true either.

oxalis interspersed with grasses and other plants

oxalis in glen canyon feb 2011The spectacular yellow bloom of the oxalis – valuable because it the mass of color attracts honey bees and bumblebees – gives the impression that it’s the only plant there. But though it visually takes over the landscape when it’s in bloom, it naturally grows interspersed with grasses and other plants. Like in the picture above.

In fact, oxalis tends to enrich the soil with phosphorus, which is good for grass.

So when it finishes blooming, as it has by now – you don’t get bare ground. The picture below shows the same area as the first picture in this article – but it’s after the oxalis bloom is over. It’s a grassland.

glen canyon after the oxalis season

4) OXALIS HAS LITTLE IMPACT ON “NATIVE” PLANTS

One argument – related to the ‘bare ground’ argument – is that oxalis takes over grasslands and destroys them, particularly the native grasses. However, grasslands in most of California including San Francisco are dominated non-native grasses. The change occurred over 100 years ago, when these grasses were planted for pasture. So the grassland that NAP is defending with herbicides are primarily non-native anyway.

oxalis and california poppies sm But anyway, what’s the evidence that oxalis is actually damaging native plants?

It’s true some European studies do suggest that an increase in oxalis is associated with a decrease in native plants diversity -though whether it’s a cause is unclear. It may just be benefiting from human activities that disrupt the landscape. Another study put oxalis head-to-head with a native annual grass, lolium rigidum. The native grass tended to dominate. Their conclusion: “Oxalis is a poor competitor. This is consistent with the preferential distribution of Oxalis in disturbed areas such as ruderal habitats, and might explain its low influence on the cover of native species in invaded sites.

The California Invasive Plant Council rates its invasiveness as “moderate,” considering it as somewhat invasive in sand dunes and less so in coastal bluff areas.

In San Francisco, every place where oxalis grows is already a disturbed environment, a mix of non-native grasses and plants with native plants (some of which have been artificially planted). Here, oxalis appears to grow happily with other plants – including, for instance, the native California poppy in the picture above.

5) KIDS LOVE IT AND IT’S EDIBLE

Children love oxalis, both for its pretty flower and for the sour taste of its edible stems. Even small children love gathering posies of Bermuda buttercups (though picking flowers is technically prohibited in Natural Areas). The flowers are surprisingly hardy for wildflowers, and in a glass of water last quite well as cut-flowers.

The plant is edible, and its tart leaves make a nice addition to salad. People enjoy snacking on its sour stems. Besides Bermuda buttercup, it’s also called ‘sourgrass’ and ‘soursob.’ It does contain oxalic acid (as does spinach, for instance), and so you probably wouldn’t want to make a meal of it. Though in South Africa it’s made into soup.

Adding Garlon to it is probably a bad thing.

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons - Flickr)
Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons – Flickr)

From our current evidence, there’s no sign that oxalis has a negative impact on wildlife, and plenty of evidence it’s already part of the ecological food web of our city. The evidence also suggests it’s not having a negative effect on other plants in San Francisco either. Lots of people find this flower attractive; one writer described it as the city smiling with Bermuda buttercups.

[Webmaster: The original article goes on to argue that the city should not use Garlon to attack oxalis – it’s expensive, toxic, and pointless.]

 

Wild Parrots of San Francisco! – M. Bruce Grosjean

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.

AN INTERLOPER SURVIVAL STORY – M. BRUCE GROSJEAN

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

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

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 ElkaHerbals.com

organic skincare

West Portal Arts Fair 2015 on April 10-12

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

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- 2.46.47.48) if you have even an hour to volunteer

Hope everyone has a splendid time!

 

Strangers in the Night

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

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

Bite and Run

Alfie dog
Alfie, who got bitten

Alfie dog with biteRecently, a neighbor out walking her dog encountered a large unfriendly dog that bit her dog so badly it required stitches.  In the public interest, she would like this dog to be identified and asked me to put it here.

She writes:

Alfie was attacked by a grey Great Dane on January 24. His owner could not control him. When he finally got his dog off Alfie he left the scene showing no concern for my small dog.

alfie - stitchesIf you know where the dog lives, please let me know – it will remain confidential. Animal Care and Control consider this a “bite and run.” We do not want it to happen to another dog, cat, child or adult.

 

If you respond in comments, we can pass it on to the neighbor.

great-dane-md

Hearing Postponed on Sutro Tower – Antennae and Trees

sutro towerIf you were thinking of going to tomorrow’s hearing about Sutro Tower (adding 50 antennae, removing an unspecified number of trees) – the hearing has been RESCHEDULED TO MARCH 19:

“The Zoning Administrator determined that further review of the existing site is needed with respect to the applicable Conditional Use Authorization. Therefore, we are continuing the Mandatory Discretionary Review hearing to March 19, 2015.”

UCSF Free Dental Clinic for Kids

gkasflyer2015-400pxI just got an email from Christine Gasparac, the Community Relations officer at UCSF saying they’re offering a free dental clinic for kids on Feb 21, 2015. I’m sharing it here in case any parents among you are interested.

Dear Neighbors:

Students and faculty from the UCSF School of Dentistry will be offering free dental services – screenings, sealants, and fluoride treatments – for kids 4-17 on Saturday, February 21 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The screening satisfies the K-1 school oral assessment requirement.

What:  Give Kids A Smile Day (ages 4-17)
When: Saturday, February 21, 2015 (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM)
Where: UCSF School of Dentistry, 707 Parnassus Avenue @ 4th Avenue (served by MUNI lines 6, 43, 66, N-Judah)
Questions: mailto: CPHAN@UCSF@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/ucsfCPHAN

Flyer in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese attached and at this link
http://bit.ly/smileUCSF2015.

 

A Neighbor’s Beautiful Farewell to Forest Knolls

copyright erika burke - fog in forest knolls

Neighbor Erika Burke is a copywriter, editor and website designer,  and loves to write for herself and her clients. Here’s her website: scribe415.com

And she’s moving. Not far, happily, just across Clarendon Avenue – but away from Forest Knolls neighborhood. In farewell,  she wrote a poem and sent some photographs.  (All photographs in this page are hers, and used with permission.)

erika burke 1

The glittering lights sparkle like myriad lives lived in the distance spackling the hillsides from my perch high atop San Francisco’s Wuthering Heights.
After the sun has split the sky into breathtaking colors that only imagination can conjure.
The sea so far in the distance is mine in its perfect horizon.
I bid it farewell this view that makes whole my inside with natures varying perfection.
Sweeping, fortuitous, the dear fog, the swooping birds, the implacable hills, the bitty boxes, the impossible clouds, the silence.
It has been mine, in my sight.
I am expanded forever.

Farewell, Erika and enjoy your new place!

erika burke sunset 2