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Skip’s the Man

Skip Frye is an icon in the surf world and a world-class boardmaker (“I Finally Got Skip Frye to Make Me a Surfboard,” Cover Story, October 14). He keeps his own schedule and chooses his projects. He is gracious to his friends; however, when I asked him to make boards for first my grandson and later my granddaughter, he obliged without reservation. I am so pleased to say that I know a man like Skip, who values friendship (even childhood friendships like my husband’s and his) and makes himself and his talent available to those friends. He is a remarkable craftsman and, more importantly, an amazing friend. Time is irrelevant when it comes to Skip’s work. I’d wait forever for his combination of talent and mindfulness. It shows in his work, his relationships, and the very spirit of the man in the water or the workshop.

Name Withheld by Request
via email

Bravo For The Birds

Cool essay on our feathered friends in Lakeside (“Wild Birds of Lakeside,” Feature Story, October 14), and worthy of a prize! Kudos to the author(ess), even if she did use a field guide. The essay was educational, yet naturally refreshing to read.

Most San Diegans can readily identify a snowy egret or a red-tailed hawk, but many of the smaller species go unrecognized, although they do humankind a great favor by reducing the insect population.

Reading this essay brought back vivid memories of sitting on the beautiful second-story deck of my brother’s house in Taos, Missouri, field guide in one hand and cup of coffee or cold beer in the other, marveling at the number of wild birds visible along the Central Flyway. My brother kept three large seed feeders and three hummingbird feeders stocked, and the number of avian visitors to his yard was astronomical. Wild birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors, let alone amusing habits, would drop in to hit the feeders.

I’ve always been a hummingbird man, but the colorful cardinals and comical blue jays were my welcome companions at coffee time or beer-thirty. Every so often, a new arrival sporting a “trick paint job” (vibrant plumage) would lead me to consult the guide in an effort to identify the newcomer.

The backyard sloped downward toward a woodline 100 feet away, and it was there in that woodline that I first glimpsed the majestic pileated woodpecker, cousin to the fabled ivory-billed woodpecker, the presumed-to-be-extinct-but-quite-possibly-still-living Holy Grail of all birdwatchers. When the pileated woodpecker hammers away at a tree in the forest, it sounds like a machine gun firing in the distance — an awesome bird, much larger than woodpeckers found in this area. Just hearing a pileated woodpecker was enough to remind me of my infantry days, and I was fortunate to spy two in the woodline during my stay.

Of course, hummingbirds have always been my favorite birds, and there was no shortage of them along the Central Flyway. I keep a broad HummZinger feeder here in our yard in Coronado, and it brings in the birds, but nowhere near as many as I saw in Taos, Missouri. Mornings, when I stepped out on the deck to have a cup of coffee, each hummingbird feeder was literally surrounded by eight or ten birds, all gracefully swirling around in an aerial ballet — an aerial ballet in triplicate, since there were three feeders evenly spaced amid the seed feeders. An unreal sight, those hummingbirds, mere feet away at eye level, since all the feeders were suspended from a long tree limb that ran above and roughly parallel to the handrail of the deck. Many times my spirits were lifted by stepping out to greet my little feathered friends in that beautiful environment, not counting the extensive woods below.

My brother had an oak, a cedar, and a hickory in his yard, so every songbird had a refuge nearby in case a predator (i.e., raptor) appeared on the scene. I once looked out the sliding glass doors leading to the deck and saw various songbirds cowering inside the wooden handrail, gripping its posts and looking skyward. Stepping out, I saw a small but fierce pigeon hawk (falcon) perched above in the hickory tree, eyeing the cowering birds below with a baleful glare. I like raptors, but I didn’t feel like watching winged death swoop down on that glorious morning, so I hollered and tossed a pebble or two in his general direction until he flew away. Then I looked him up in the field guide, which was always near at hand. A smaller raptor, but nevertheless an efficient killing machine. The cowering songbirds breathed a collective sigh of relief as their unwelcome visitor moved on, and I returned to whatever I was doing before I was distracted by the commotion.

Yes, one can learn much by observing wild birds, and ever since my visit to Taos, I’ve been keenly interested in this pastime. I have a thin folding laminated field guide (Local Birds, Inc.) depicting wild birds of San Diego County — songbirds, raptors, seabirds, the entire lot. The guide weighs about two ounces and is easy to carry by hand or in a backpack, and I often take it with me while hiking or camping. Every now and then, when I see a wild bird that I don’t recognize, I’ll break out the guide and search for my latest feathered friend and visitor.

My thanks again to your contest winner for a very enjoyable essay. At the end, I found myself wishing the piece were longer, which is not always the case with some of your featured writers.

P.N. Gwynne
via email

Perfect Pie

Nice butter roundup (“Best Buys,” October 14). How ’bout you send Eve and Patrick (and me) on a mission to find the best cherry pie in town?

Bill Conway
via email

Birthday Bash

I read with interest your “T.G.I.F.” about Halloween, written by John Brizzolara (October 14), and I wanted to commend him for his research on the subject. In his article, he mentioned that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not observe Halloween celebrations, and his research confirms their scriptural reasons for so doing. He mentioned also that they do not celebrate birthdays; he might enjoy reading the following information.

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