The Gottlieb Native Garden

a california love story

The Gottlieb Native Garden is a flourishing ecosystem belonging to Susan and Dan Gottlieb, friends of flora and fauna and devoted environmental philanthropists. With more than 100 hand-selected plant species and hundreds of animal species, the backyard is a National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and a Xerces Society-designated Pollinator Habitat.

National Geographic Films in the Garden!

Red Rock Films was in the GNG for a couple of days this week, filming hummingbirds for an up-coming National Geographic special on California.  Using regular and extremely high-speed video cameras, they were able to capture stunning footage of hummingbirds feeding and interacting in the garden.

Hummingbirds were the focus of the day, but a quick thinking cinematographer was able to capture this Hooded Oriole taking off from its perch.  Keep in mind that this slow motion clip represents about one second in human time – thank you for sharing the footage Owen!

Hooded Oriole

Hummingbird and Manzanita

Hummingbird feeders have always been a conspicuous part of the GNG, occasionally feeding over a hundred birds at a time! Wild birds are happy to exploit an easy meal, but that doesn’t mean they stop feeding on native food sources. Here an Anna’s Hummingbird dines on nectar from flowers only a few feet from a group of feeders.

Anna’s Hummingbird feeding from Arctostaphylos bakeri flowers.


This was a very exciting remote camera-capture, as we have had no evidence of Bobcats being in the GNG for more than four years now.  Not the best photo ever, but documented nevertheless!  We really hope this big cat wasn’t just passing through and will stick around the garden for a while.

Bobcat - Lynx rufus

Animals Leave Clues…

…and a feather is a good one.  We found this down feather blowing in the breeze recently.  The color scheme of faint brownish stripes against pale-yellow on this large down feather points to Great Horned Owl.  We’ll keep alert for other signs that this raptor is in the area.

White-lined Sphinx Moths

During a nocturnal GNG species review a few weeks ago, we were surprised at how many White-lined Sphinx moths were seen during the evening. Over two-dozens of these large, beautiful moths were attracted to our UV light sheets.  Seeing all of these adults was a sign that the garden would soon be filled with sphinx moth larvae. 

White-lined Sphinx Moth Adult

As expected, primrose leaves are now beginning to vanish as the sphinx moth larvae eat away, and nothing could make us happier.

White-lined Sphinx Moth Larvae eating primrose flower-bud.

Yikes – So Many Crane Flies!

With all of the rain that we had this past winter came crane flies (their larvae, for the most part, feed on moist dead plant matter).  Seems that anywhere you look, there they are. Crane flies are in the family Tipulidae, one of the largest fly groups in the world consisting of over 15,000 species. Under the right conditions their populations can explode, which has happened in the GNG.

In the cropped-in photo below, you can see a pair of small club-like appendages just behind where the wing connects to the thorax. These important organs are called halters.  Halters can be found on all flies and are used to collect important information relating the individual's flight. 

Fortunately for us (not for them), many animals like to eat these large fling insects and are now taking advantage of the bounty. 

House Wren with crane fly - organic “pest” control at its best!

Voice of the Chaparral

The Wrentit is long-lived, year-round resident of coastal scrub and chaparral throughout the western US. Wrentits hold the distinction as being the most sedentary species of birds in North America, with an average territory of a couple hundred square yards. Pairs are exceedingly faithful to each other, forming a tight bond which normally lasts their lifetimes as they defend their territory for up to a dozen years. We know of 2 pairs of these interesting birds in the GNG, and the photo below is of one of the “southeast garden territory” birds.

Interesting fact:  it is not known how this species of bird made it to North America and to this day it perplexes scientist as to the family it belongs. It is neither a wren nor a tit, and is currently recognized as the sole North American representative of the family Old World babblers. 

Wrentit - Chamaea fasciata

Happy to see a Snake in the Garden

Gopher snakes, as with most snakes, should be a welcome sight to any homeowner. Gopher snakes are active almost any time of day or night during warm periods. They make their living on mostly small mammals, especially pocket gophers, rats, moles and mice. Gopher snakes are constrictors, killing their prey by suffocation in their powerful body coils.

It is true that gopher snakes can be intimating; with the possibility of reaching  9’, it makes them the largest snakes in the Los Angeles area (most are in the 5’ to 6’ range, as was this one). They can also elevate and inflate their body, hiss loudly, and quickly shake their tail to make a buzzing sound similar to a rattlesnake.  But they have no actual rattles nor a diamond-shaped head as our Southern Pacific Rattlesnake does, so with a little study you can tell the two apart.

So give our snakes their space as they help us by keeping a garden’s rodent population under control!

San Diego Gopher Snake - Pituophis catenifer annectens



On close inspection, this snake had an injured right eye (we noticed this because it could be approached without disturbing it from one side). It seemed to be an old wound, and judging by the snake’s size, it is getting by just fine.  A testament of just how resilient wildlife is.

Scaredy Cat!

In the last few weeks, one of our trail cams (positioned in the lower back garden) has been capturing a neighbor’s cat.  This cat enjoys exploring nocturnally – a risky business when you live in an area with many large predators and in the clip below something clearly spooks it.  We don’t know what it was, but telltale eye-shine is briefly visible.  

Felis catus and something lurking in the dark.

Felis catus and something lurking in the dark.