December 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Thanks to Virginia Parry for this wonderful closeup of a bobcat–probably the same one that was photographed a half-mile north in my recent post http://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/wild-things-of-hollywoodland/ Keep an eye peeled, Beachwooders!
June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
During the past week, I’ve discovered both coyote and racoon footprints on the sheet that covers my outdoor chaise longue, proof that both have been inside my fenced yard. Though I frequently see coyotes outside my house, I had never seen a racoon until Monday evening, when this one passed by my back door.
I ended the week with a much tamer animal encounter, though it was just as unexpected. This afternoon three horses were hitched up outside the Beachwood Cafe, calmly waiting for their owners to finish their lunch. They had come through Griffith Park and were in Beachwood for the first time, but they seemed very much at home here.
May 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Recently I was driving through Hancock Park, my former neighborhood, when I noticed a house with a sign reading “Armed Guard on Premises.” Although break-ins are common there–I was a victim twice–this seemed an extreme measure, so I asked my niece who lives nearby about it. “They just say that,” she said. “There’s no armed guard.”
Now I live in Hollywoodland, where a steady stream of tourists headed for the Hollywood Sign passes my house each day and coyotes patrol by night. Actually, coyotes patrol by day as well, as these photos, taken on a recent midday–attest. This is the big-eared coyote that appeared in a post a few months ago, and these days I see it often. At night, I often hear coyotes hunting vermin on the hillside above my house, a circle-of-life function that goes naturally with nocturnal lurking.
February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Because all of Hollywoodland was once a ranch, there have been horses at the end of Beachwood Drive for as long as anyone can remember. In recent decades, horses have lived at Sunset Ranch, which offers boarding, lessons and trail rides to the public. But when Hollywoodland began in 1923, there was a riding club where homeowners could board their horses and learn to ride English-style, if they didn’t already know how. The allure of riding in the Hollywood Hills was a selling point for house lots, and figured prominently in radio ads for Hollywoodland:
Listen–the horses are stamping in their stalls-the sea breeze kisses the hilltops-while the birds weave melodies of happiness on the open trail. Your day in Hollywoodland-in-California begins with a song, and for a brief hour you canter on the wings of the morning–a shower-breakfast-and away for a day at the office, to return at eventide to the calmness of the hills, and there below you, watch a myriad of millions of lights twinkling in the distance.
Although I had seen the pamphlet in a larger format, I wasn’t aware it was produced in this compact size. I wasn’t planning to buy it, but in the end I did, impressed by its excellent condition and historical significance. Anyone with an interest in California history should check out John Howell’s website, which offers a variety of books and images: johnhowellforbooks.com
January 30, 2013 § 6 Comments
In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been accused of being anti-wildlife–by a neighbor whose illegal feeding of birds (to say nothing of raccoons and coyotes) brought a dawn patrol of crows to my roof each morning–and now anti-dog. Someone who calls herself Doggie mama takes issue with a post I wrote about a coyote jumping my fence and clearing the property of tree rats. http://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon/ She is further enraged by my quoting someone who called small pets lost to coyotes “nature’s nachos.”
Nature’s nachos? You guys realize that your convenient rat hunting solution up the hill means dog hunting season down the hill as soon as the rat population decreases? They come down every winter, but this year is worse than ever… a pack is hunting at 8pm tonight, and we’ve seen them around 11pm for the past two months… not safe for walking two 10-lb puppies at 8p and 11p… But thanks for calling my beloved pups a snack for these creatures that seem to be saving you a few bucks in exterminator expenses.
Despite the implications, my “convenient rat-hunting solution” was not instigated by me, nor did I start or condone the hunting of dogs by coyotes. And even if the coyotes of Beachwood Canyon somehow have learned to read, I can’t imagine their regarding this blog as an inducement to go after little dogs. Beyond these problems of logic are two larger questions: why do people who object to the presence of predatory wildlife–not only coyotes but hawks, owls and other raptors–choose to live in their habitat? And why do they walk their small dogs at night, usually on expandable leashes that allow the dogs to move ahead of them, seemingly untethered?
There’s no reason not to have a dog in Beachwood: I moved here with a beloved 95-pounder that throughout her life ruled over the neighborhood coyotes, all of which were tiny by comparison, and terrified of her. Even so, I rarely walked my dog after dusk in order to minimize the chance of meeting a coyote. In contrast, Doggie mama asserts her right to walk her ten-pound dogs at night. In a canyon where coyotes live, this is nothing short of a provocation, and provocations have their consequences.
Speaking of coyotes, I keep seeing the one photographed above. It resembles a mangy little sheep and looks nothing like any other coyote I’ve ever seen. Theories?
August 30, 2012 § 7 Comments
It didn’t take me long to realize the coyotes do Canyon residents an invaluable service by hunting tree rats (R. rattus, also known as roof rats or black rats) that make their habitat in trees, ivy and scrub. The rodents are unstoppable climbers, leapers, burrowers and swimmers, and are able to squeeze through any half-inch gap. In Beachwood, their numbers used to be kept down by foxes, but those disappeared long ago, leaving only coyotes to do the necessary culling. Without coyotes, we would certainly be overrun by pests–not only tree rats but squirrels (both ground and tree varieties) and moles.
Sadly, having a fence means unwittingly providing sanctuary for tree rats, which come in to escape the coyotes outside. Over the years, I’ve had to use bait boxes and traps to keep them from infesting the property–including, at various times, the crawl spaces of my house–but even so I’ve never been able to grow vegetables (other than arugula, which they apparently can’t stand).
In light of my travails, I’m grateful to coyotes for being nature’s exterminators. Almost nightly, I hear them hunting above my house, starting about 1am and continuing intermittently through the night. That’s what I thought was happening early Sunday morning, when I was awakened before dawn by yapping, snarling, and something that sounded like a kazoo. This strange cacophony of coyote noises sounded closer than usual, but I was too tired to investigate. It wasn’t until I finally got up and looked outside that I realized what had happened. A small, mangy coyote lay on the cushioned bench below my bedroom window, basking in the sun. He had done what I thought was impossible: scaled a six-foot chain link fence that runs along one side of my property and come inside to hunt. As surprised as I was, I immediately realized he done me the favor of clearing the garden of pests, just ahead of my calling the exterminator.
When I shouted, he took off, apparently leaving the way he came. This was a relief; I didn’t relish the idea going out there to let him out the gate like a dog. But aside from the time it took to scrub the bench and the deck (where he’d left a souvenir pile of scat), his visit cost me nothing. His hunting, on the other hand, has saved me $35 a month in exterminator fees. Now that the garden free of pests, I’ll be planting a few vegetables–and wondering when the coyote will return.
January 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
For the past 1 1/2 hours, helicopters have been circling and hovering overhead–an unusually long time for the Hollywood Hills. I soon learned why from a neighbor, who emailed me this link:
Those who hike in Bronson Canyon can attest to the ease with which they can leave the city and hit the trails. The last time I was there, on Christmas Day, my visiting sister was amazed at how quickly we reached wilderness from my house: 10 minutes by car and another 5 on foot. She remarked that it would take her more than half an hour to drive to a comparable area from her much less densely populated city on the San Francisco Peninsula.
Since moving to Beachwood Canyon, I’ve experienced two other incidents of prolonged helicopter surveillance. The first occurred around 2007, when two hikers got stuck on one of the steep trails near the quarry. One was injured, and both required rescue. The second incident, in 2010, was the tragic death of Sally Menke, best known as Quentin Tarantino’s film editor, who collapsed in Bronson Canyon while hiking in record-breaking heat.
According to the latest report, today’s emergency began when a dog discovered a human head in a bag. Leaving aside uncanny similarities to the work of Tarantino (and David Lynch), I have to wonder at this sentence from a press release I just received: The detectives are treating the case as a possible homicide. Possible?
According to breaking news on the LA Times blog, the head is believed to be that of a recently murdered Armenian man in his 40s. Police are looking for “additional body parts in the area.” Hikers–and their dogs–beware. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/01/human-head-found-in-bag-on-hike-trail.html
Update, 12:40am: The search was suspended at 8pm and will resume at sunrise on Wed., January 18th. Better hike elsewhere today.
December 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
The lights went out in Hollywoodland around 1:15am on Thursday morning, hardly a surprise given the 100 mph winds that roared through the Canyon all evening. Power outages occur a couple of times a year here, usually because of windstorms, and generally last a few hours. But this one was different: there was no electricity when we got up in the morning, and none during the day and evening that followed.
It wasn’t just Beachwood that was affected: some 300,000 households in a wide geographic area–including Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Los Feliz–lost power for an extended period of time. Some areas, such as Sierra Madre and Altadena, were without power for 48 hours or longer.
Having worked late the night before, I didn’t feel pressed to seek out a Wifi connection outside the Canyon. Instead, I decided to see how long I could be productive without electricity–and found enough to keep me busy until 2pm. By that time, I needed to escape the oppressive silence that had descended on my office, and took my dog hiking. On the way up the Canyon, I expected to be impeded by downed trees and other damage from the storm, but there was nothing more dramatic than some branches by the road and an uprooted tree at Lake Hollywood Park. Nevertheless, for the first time I can remember, there were no tourists at the Lake Hollywood lookout and the picture-taking area for the Hollywood Sign.
The Lake’s surface was like hammered silver in the afternoon sun.
At the head of the trail, a big pepper tree had shed thousands of pink berries that crunched satisfyingly underfoot.
Around the corner, the Village Coffee Shop, which had closed its doors the previous day (the space will be reincarnated as the Beachwood Cafe in March), displayed Christmas decorations in its window.
Shortly afterwards, outside my house, I ran into a neighbor who passed on the news that we might be without power for another 2-3 days. I called DWP and listened to a recorded message that stated that power would be restored by 3:30pm, but by then it was after 4, and I found no reason to be optimistic about the coming night. I arranged my flashlights and candles before going to the gym to work out and shower, and arrived home in pitch darkness.
Without electricity, night in the Canyon was hushed and premodern. The only illumination came from the radio tower and ranger station above the Hollywood Sign. Undisturbed by lights, the coyote that normally hunts on my hillside in the small hours started chasing tree rats at 6:30. My routine was no less altered: normally, I stay up late, reading, writing and watching TV. Last night, I cooked by candlelight and washed the dishes (with water boiled on the stove) before 9pm. I tried to read. Then it was flashlights out at ten.
The lights came on almost 24 hours to the minute after they had gone off. I woke up immediately and went downstairs to start the dishwasher. Later, I remembered to take the milk from the freezer and return it to the refrigerator. Sleep was impossible: suddenly everything hummed with electricity, and the previous day and night receded like an odd but compelling dream.
September 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
While doing research for my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign,” I found my way to the Los Angeles City Archives, which keeps bound volumes of the many laws enacted by Hollywood during its brief period (1903-1910) as an incorporated, self-governing city. While I was there, I also studied early 20th-century Hollywood maps, and was fascinated to see the area north of Franklin between Beachwood and Gower labeled “The Pineapple Tract.”
The name refers to the tract’s former incarnation as the farm of J.B. Rapp. (See photo below.) He began as a lemon grower but expanded into more exotic fruits–dates, avocados and pineapples, among others. Although it is likely that these fruits had their origins on local ranchos, Rapp was among the first to grow them commercially. At a time when oranges and lemons were rare delicacies for most Americans, pineapples and avocados must have caused a sensation.
Hollywood’s frost-free climate made the cultivation of these crops possible, but it took vision to grow things for which there was little apparent demand. Rapp succeeded on several levels: he grew and created a market for exotic fruits, while in the process enhancing Hollywood’s reputation–and property values–as an American Garden of Eden. Among those drawn by the promise of year-round fresh produce was the Theosophical Society, which established itself just north of the Pineapple Tract in 1911. In a letter to Annie Besant, A.P. Warrington, head of the American Branch, rhapsodized about the Canyon’s farming potential:
We can make the spot a veritable Garden of Eden, because….the region we have chosen happens to be one of those rare spots that are [sic] absolutely frostless, and so we can raise anything….
Unbeknownst to Warrington, Beachwood also boasted thin soil and an abundance of produce-devouring wildlife. This may explain the fact that the Krotona Colony’s map shows several ornamental gardens and a decided lack of farm plots. As a resident whose efforts to grow vegetables have been thwarted by squirrels and tree rats, I sympathize.
Next time: bananas!
July 13, 2011 § 7 Comments
Like a lot of other people, I moved to Beachwood for some peace–and much of the year, I get it. Birds sing, coyotes hunt, owls hoot–it’s a natural wonderland, especially at night. But not in summer. My six summers here have been noisy enough to drive me indoors during the day, while many nights have been almost sleepless, thanks to my neighbor’s 1am-6am parties.
The fact that Beachwood Village is a natural amphitheater–it was the precursor to the Hollywood Bowl–makes things exponentially worse.* Every sound is magnified. A couple of nights ago, two children and their father were calling for their dog on the street above me, but it might as well have been in my bedroom. People overhear neighbors’ bedroom intimacies, phone conversations and random comments from the Beachwood Market, whether they want to or not. The only good thing about this forced eavesdropping is that it’s often difficult to know where the noise is coming from, as sounds bounce back and forth across the Canyon. (On the other hand, the distortion makes it harder to tell the cops where to go to shut down the all-night party.)
In summer, construction-related noise makes it impossible to be outside during the day. Currently, we’re under siege because the streets are being dug up for new sewer lines. Trucks grind their way up Beachwood Drive at 7am, after which jackhammering goes on until 4:30pm, with an hour off for lunch. I work wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones, as I did during my first and second summers here. During those years, my across-the-street neighbors built a 20-foot-high retaining wall and, the following summer, had it faced with stone that was cut, deafeningly, in front of their house. They managed to go on vacation during the worst of it, leaving their neighbors to endure weeks of ear-splitting noise.
Then there are the parties. There currently are four “party houses” in the upper Canyon–houses rented to tenants who hold all-night parties. This number doesn’t include houses, like the one around the corner from me, that are owned by people who party all night. After more than two years of sleepless Saturday nights, I finally impressed upon my neighbor that I wasn’t going to lose any more sleep over her noise–which, thanks to our topography, is funneled directly into my bedroom. The next step, I promised, would be lawyers.
Since then, her party noise has died down dramatically. Perhaps this is because of my threat, but I suspect it might have something to do with my neighbor’s loud nocturnal fights with her boyfriend. These can be heard two houses away, but at least they don’t go on all night.
Next time: High season for tourists.