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.

Monarchs are Still Visiting the Garden

It’s getting late in the season, but we still have Monarch larvae and pupae in the garden. The GNG has been transitioning from Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) to California native Narrow-leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) over the past two seasons. It now looks like we will have only native Monarch host plants in the GNG beginning in 2018, and our wildlife will only benefit from it.

For those who have tropical milkweed still growing in their gardens, be sure to aggressively cut it back by November 1st to prevent Monarchs from laying eggs on it. Monarch larvae emerging from eggs this late in the season have very little chance of becoming an adult butterfly. 

Monarca Larva - Danaus plexippus 

Monarch Pupa

Adult Monarch

Tiny Trashline Orbweavers


Spiders are quite vulnerable while waiting in their webs, so different strategies have evolved to prevent being eaten by predators. Tiny Trashline Orbweavers can be common this time of year and their “trash” laden webs can be found all over the garden. These orbweavers rely on camouflage, which includes positioning themselves between bits of jetsam, and when sitting still, resembling bird poop.  Must be convincing camouflage as we have not seen one eaten yet…

Hiding between "trash"

Trashline Orbweaver – Cyclosa sp.

Alligator Lizard

Alligator lizards can be found in almost any habitat throughout much of California and being fairly large, they are frequently seen in yards and garages throughout our area.  As with all of our lizards, they are beneficial to a garden’s well balanced ecosystem.

Recently, Alligator Lizard eggs have been hatching in the GNG.  These hatchlings can easily be mistaken for skinks, as they are very thin and small with smooth shiny skin, making them look very different than their large, thick scaly parents. It’s hard to imagine this tiny lizard will someday be a such a fierce-looking predator.

Juvenile San Diego Alligator Lizard - Elgarian multicarinata webbi

The photo on the left is an adult Alligator Lizard who recently lost some of its tail – the new segment can be seen growing back.  On the right, the purple shading shows the range of the “San Diego” sub-species found in our area.

Bordered Mantis

This sub-adult Bordered Mantis is one of our native praying mantises.

The majority of praying mantises found in gardens around the Los Angeles area are not native to the US.  This is because nurseries and garden centers sell mostly oriental mantis egg-cases for organic insect control.  And frankly. introducing non-native praying mantises is not the best solution for insect control because they catch anything that moves, including beneficial insects.  So even when it comes to insects – we try to encourage "using" natives!! 

Bordered Mantis - Stagmomantis limbata  

Lesser Goldfinches are Back!

After months of refusing to eat Nyjer (Guizotia abyssinica) seed, Lesser Goldfinches have returned to feeders in a big way.  It’s not fully understood why goldfinches sometimes stay away from Nyjer; this time it might have had something to do with last winter’s rains producing a plentiful native seed crop.  Whatever it was, we're happy to have our LEGOs back!

Lesser Goldfinch - Spinus psaltria

Pacific Coast Tick

This Pacific Coast Tick is a three host tick which commonly feeds on rodents, especially squirrels as subadults, and on horses, deer, and humans as adults. This is one of the most widely distributed ticks in California and is found throughout most of the state.  So, for those of us who have deer or squirrels in the garden, a tick check might be a good idea after working or walking in tall grass.

Pacific Coast Tick - Dermacentor occidentalis

U.C. Davis Hummingbird Study

The U.C. Davis Hummingbird Crew (Lisa Tell and her team!) were in the yard once again, collecting data for an on-going study of California hummingbirds.  The GNG hummingbirds seemed to hold-up very nicely as they offered-up important information such as weight, measurements of beak, wings and tail and DNA for future analysis.  Once the data was complete on each bird, they were banded and released. So if you happen to notice a banded hummingbird in the LA area, please let us know. There is a good chance that it is a bird from this GNG study!

Adult male Allan's Hummingbird

How do you weigh a hummingbird?  On a tiny scale of course!  This adult male Anna's Hummingbird is being very cooperative during his weighing :-).  Click through to see a few more images from the day.

Allen's Hummingbird being released after getting banded.

Empidonax, or Empid Flycatchers – Sometimes a Real ID Challenge

When it comes to the Empidonax group of flycatchers found in Southern California, the Pacific-slope Flycatcher is the easiest to identify. Empids can be a real challenge because, for the most part, they are all small yellowish birds with with buffy wingbars. The main feature (besides its call) that set PacSlopes apart from their kin is the white eye-ring that extends back behind its eye, creating a teardrop shape.  These neotropical birds will continue to be seen and heard in the GNG until late summer when they depart for their wintering grounds in Southern Mexico.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Empidonax difficilis

Play the video below to see the really cool way Pacific-slope Flycatchers take their bath.  This bird is demonstrating some amazing skills! 

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks

A couple of months ago, biologist Dan Cooper brought to our attention that a pair of Red-tailed Hawks had nested in the canyon below the GNG.  Well, they successfully fledged two chicks and now the two siblings are spending a lot of time in the garden.  For the most part, their day consists of practicing their hunting skills (the ground squirrels have been very nervous these days) and begging their parents for food.  Hopefully they will both survive and find territories that they each can call their own.

Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis

A sibling game of chase!

Contemplating the next meal...

July Nocturnal Species Review

Summer is a great time to explore the garden at night, and as usual, our latest nocturnal species review didn’t disappoint! Standouts were the abundant spiders and moths. Eight species of spiders were observed as they busily worked their night shift.  We are still working on identifying the dozens of moth species.

Scott - Homo sapiens and Jeweled Araneus - Araneus gemma


Coolest Moth of the Night

When at rest, borer moths hold their marbled forewings in such a way as to mimic a crumpled leaf while their body resembles a stick.

Erythrina borer - Terastia meticulosalis

Most Beautiful Moth of the Night

Elder Moth larvae love elderberry leaves. Birds love elderberry berries. A win win plant for attracting beautiful creatures into your yard.

Elder Moth - Zotheca tranquilla on Salvia

Non-native Glass Snail

This small introduced snail from Europe can be found in urban gardens and nurseries throughout Southern California. This individual was found in the GNG under a rotting log. It is an omnivore and feeds on a verity of things, including living plants, dead plants, fungi, other snails and slugs and their eggs.

Glass Snail - Oxychilus spp.

Cooling-off on a Hot, Humid Day

These goldfinches know that there is no better way to beat the Summer heat than to hang out in some cool running water!

Lesser Goldfinches - Spinus psaltria