Wednesday, April 23, 2014

At the pond: Delicious Davis outdoor adventures

A hammock can provide a good vantage point for seeing what is really going on in your back yard. Or for a nap. Keep a wood stick nearby to get your rocking going. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

From page A3 | April 28, 2013 | Leave Comment

One of my easy nature experiences and delights of summer happens in my large cotton-rope hammock hung in the shade of a tree with dappled sunlight. Two pillows — one for under my head and one for under my knees plus a wooden walking stick for pushing and I’m ready for bliss.

I turn on a small water feature before getting into the hammock. I carefully center myself; give a few pushes with the stick, and all is perfect. I love looking at the various tree textures above me, the bird action in the trees and at the feeders. The sound of the circulating water soothes my monkey mind. And I observe more closely the action of critters.

Birds I scared away slowly start reappearing. Today they are the bright yellow American goldfinches. Then I hear the loud nasal yank yank of the red-breasted nuthatch. It’s a big, nasal sound for a not so big bird. Soon it appears, coming down the tree trunk headfirst. As usual, it rushes in for just one black sunflower seed and flies to the tree. This is the first year for nuthatches in my backyard. I hear Swainson’s hawks and run to get my long lens. A pair soars, never flapping their wings, moving close together in circles, farther apart, closer together. A captivating pas de deux courtship display of circling at different elevations. I hope to discover where they are nesting this year but didn’t get to see them land.

This week a new delight. I heard the whhrrrrrr of a hummingbird and looked around. There sat one on the water feature, right at the point where the water cascades off of a top spout. It was sitting in the waterfall, taking long drinks but holding on at that spot where the water rushed over half of its body; an amazing feat as it weighs less than a nickel. It wasn’t the usual Anna hummingbird that frequents our yard year-round. This was an orange-backed rufous hummingbird.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to celebrate my big 70th birthday with nine family members sailing the British Virgin Islands. We scuba dove, snorkeled, hiked islands and had a glorious time. But my hammock is a cheap, real, accessible carbon-neutral equivalent nearly as thrilling and with no guilt of plane pollution.

And now I advocate for another cheap thrill. May is bike month. Start a new habit. Though I have been doing long-distance biking for the last eight years, biking both ways across the U.S. and on weeklong tours plus regular trips to Winters, I had a bad habit of using my car for around town errands. Old habits are hard to break but I’m finally doing it.

I urge you to try using that bike at night and for shopping. Get a rack, a basket, good lights front and back. You can attach a fabric basket to the rack and take it off at other times. Wear light-colored clothes at night. It is exhilarating. You will feel like you are 13 again.

Enjoy a night at the movies … pull right up to the Varsity Theater where they have removed car parking spots and put in bike parking. I think I can get downtown to the movies faster on a bike than in a car with no problem parking and feeling good about using my body and not polluting.

Consider Leo Tolstoy’s quote. He learned to ride a bicycle at age 67 and said, “I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s self simply, like a boy.” Coincidentally, my bike buddy 85-year old Wes Yates took up road biking at age 67 in retirement to keep his ski legs strong. Thursday, I rode to Winters with him. He usually is much faster but was just back on the bike since he has been skiing all winter.

We tried the 12-mile bike loop recently. You can find a map for it at and click on Easier Rides under 25 Miles. If you go to Davis Wiki, you will find more information on it, plus it illustrates the markings on the greenbelts and streets to follow. The loop goes through sections of Davis you’ve probably not experienced — 70 percent of it is on bike paths. And you could do it with reward stops along the way. Numerous playgrounds, picnic areas, bathrooms, drinking fountains are on the route. And the path goes right near Whole Foods and restaurants in that area.

Othere things to try:

* Bike to the West Pond and enjoy the goslings and ducklings and four wood duck families. Or participate in a great volunteer project. On Sunday, April 28, you’re invited to help weed and brighten up around the butterfly and hummingbird garden from 8:30 11 a.m. It’s the garden’s sixth anniversary. Snacks, drinks and door prizes.

* The 22nd annual Pence Gallery Garden tour will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5. All seven gardens will be in El Macero, so it is very bikeable. It is their annual fundraiser. One of the houses has two owl boxes that are inhabited by western screech owls. Tickets can be purchased online, at the Pence, Redwood Barn or Newsbeat.

* Attend the spring open house at the California Raptor Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4. See one of the special presentations at 10 a.m. and noon or attend a hawk walk at 8 a.m. and bring your own binoculars. Donations are needed and gratefully accepted.

And kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her columns appear monthly. Question? Comment? Correction? Contact her at


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