Help Us Produce The Next Color & Learn Book

The next book in the Color & Learn series, Coloring Southern California Butterflies and Caterpillars, is currently in production. During this pandemic, we need your help producing this book that will support the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM). Your donations would help assure that this book will be published this year.  Donations of $50 or more will be rewarded with a signed copy of the book.

Educator Bill Howell, author of this new book, has trained hundreds of SDNHM Canyoneers and Mission Trails Regional Park Trail Guides so that they can better interpret the natural world to the general public. His fondness for butterflies and their kin is apparent in this new book. Bill is donating all of his author royalties to the SDNHM. We need your help to produce this book. Donations may be mailed directly to Sunbelt Publications, indicating that the funds are to be used to publish the latest in the Color & Learn series. Our address is 1250 Fayette Street, El Cajon, CA 92020.

Cover for Coloring Southern California Butterflies and Caterpillars

To show our gratitude to our fans, please enjoy a free coloring page from this upcoming title and the interpretive text that accompanies the image. This page features the Anise Swallowtail, a commonly seen resident of southern California backyards. Have you seen them visiting your neighborhood?

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

The Anise Swallowtail butterfly may be the most extensively seen swallowtail in southern California. It extends into southern Canada and is common in the western United States, except in desert areas. Like most (but, not all) swallowtail butterflies it has a swallow-like tail on each hindwing. The naked caterpillar has no hairs or filaments and has bands of green and black stripes with pale yellow spots. All swallowtail caterpillars, if disturbed, extend a stinky, orange bifurcated protrusion from the back of their head to allegedly deter predators. The forked projection is called an osmeterium. The food plant for the caterpillar includes members of the carrot family with fennel being a favorite. The chrysalis is held upright with a necklace of silk and ranges in color from bark-brown to leaf-green and suggests a camouflage strategy.

“Kumeyaay Ethnobotany” Q&A with Michael Wilken-Robertson

To celebrate the release of the Spanish edition of award-winning Kumeyaay Ethnobotany, enjoy the following question and answer with author Michael Wilken-Robertson.

Q: I thought the Kumeyaay Indians lived in San Diego County area. Are there also Kumeyaay in Mexico?

A: Yes, long before the US and Mexico existed, the Kumeyaay territory extended throughout the areas known today as San Diego County and northern Baja California, Mexico. Only recently in their history, a border has divided their territory into two different countries.

Q: What kind of language do the Kumeyaay speak?

A: The Kumeyaay language belongs to a larger family of languages that is found in southern California, Arizona, and northern Baja California. These are ancient Native American languages that have ancient roots in this land, going back thousands of years. Today there are only around 70 fluent speakers of the Kumeyaay language in Baja California. And of course, the Kumeyaay living in Mexico also speak Spanish while those in the US speak English.

Q: Many of the Kumeyaay consultants that you worked with live in remote ranches in the hills of Baja California, Mexico. How can their knowledge be relevant to people living in California?

A: Although the Baja Kumeyaay might seem to live far from California, many of the native plants they use will be familiar to people of southern California because they are part of the same bioregion. Anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast or fan of native plants will recognize most of the same plants used by the Kumeyaay. Also, many of the ways that native people have used the plants are very similar from Santa Barbara to northern Baja California, making them into foods, medicines, tools, construction materials, and ceremonial items.

Norma Meza Calles of Nejí sifts acorn meal. Photo by Deborah Small

Q: Many of the elders that you have worked with over the years have passed away. What is happening with the transmission of this knowledge?

A: Some of the younger people continue to learn and use this knowledge. But many leave their communities to seek work in the cities. It is my hope that this book will inspire current generations to feel pride in their culture and help to preserve some small part of the vast indigenous plant knowledge for future generations.

Q: In the past, Kumeyaay people were hunters, gatherers, and fishers. How do they make a living today?

A: The Kumeyaay have adapted to the many changes in their lives since the arrival of non-Indians to these shores. Today the Kumeyaay villages have diverse economies where people might make a living as cowboys, maintaining rural roads or other governmental programs, through agriculture, or working in nearby cities. Some very talented artists also have found that using the skills passed on from their ancestors, such as basketry and pottery, can be useful ways of making a living. Many Kumeyaay supplement their income by gathering acorns and other plants for food and using plant medicines, which helps keep ethnobotanical knowledge alive.

Q: How do the Kumeyaay from different sides of the border interact?

A: It has been increasingly difficult for them to do so since the border was created. In the past they would often travel north or south to attend tribal gatherings, funerals, and traditional games and other cultural events. Today the traditional artisans and cultural specialists are often invited to teach their skills at US reservations, at museums, universities, and special events, but they require special border crossing permits.

Q: You describe the uses of 47 different native plants in the book. What were some of the most surprising things you learned about the ways they have been used by the Kumeyaay?

A: The most surprising thing to learn was just how vibrant the knowledge was among some of the Kumeyaay I worked with and how profound their knowledge of their environment continues to be. Some specific things I learned were how to make drops to remove a tick from your ear, how to gather and cook caterpillars for eating, how to make an effective stomach medicine from what many might consider a common weed (California Buckwheat), and how plants can be gathered in ways that actually help the plants flourish.

Author Michael Wilken-Robertson with IBPA Award. Photo by Sunbelt Publications

Q: How did you end up spending so many years of your life working with the Kumeyaay and other tribes of Baja California?

A: As a boy growing up in southern California, I always wanted to know more about the native people who had lived for thousands of years in this land. I was very lucky that my grandfather was from Mexico and was good friends with many native Baja Californians; he introduced me to them from the time I was a kid. I eventually developed my own relationships with them over the years, based on activism and advocacy that I was able to do along with my research. This helped build trust, and I have been honored to have many friendships and adventures over the years. As a person of Mexican heritage myself, I hope that I have been able to make some kind of contribution to the history, culture, and people of our beautiful land.

Q: Why did you feel it was important to publish a Spanish edition of your book Kumeyaay Ethnobotany?

A: Most of my fieldwork was done in Baja California, Mexico, where many Kumeyaay people still use the plants described in the book in their daily lives. The consultants who generously shared their knowledge with me asked me to help preserve it for their descendants and future generations to learn from. Although many of them are now gone, I hope that with this book I can fulfill that request. I also believe that the more people of Baja California learn about their original native peoples, the more they will recognize the importance of their ongoing place in the history, culture, and present life of the region. The more they learn about our native plants and the ways that humans have interacted with them for thousands of years, the more they will be committed to conserve them, as well as the incredible habitats in which they grow. I am hoping the book will be used to educate Baja Californians in schools, libraries, and of course in the indigenous communities themselves.

Ko’alh speaker Teresa Castro Albañez makes fiber skirts from Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera). Photo by Deborah Small

Q: How does this book benefit the Kumeyaay?

A: In many ways. It can serve as a manual that links younger Kumeyaay with the knowledge of their relatives and ancestors, some of whom have now passed on, but many of them still very much alive. It helps to reinforce the recognition of the amazing indigenous cultures that have been developed and passed on for thousands of years in the region. Hopefully, this will help reduce discrimination based on ignorance, which unfortunately continue to affect indigenous peoples of the region. I also hope it will inspire younger generations of Kumeyaay to continue the work of cultural documentation in their own ways, in their own communities. Finally, we will be donating copies of the book to members of the native communities who participated in the study, as well as to local libraries, schools, and museums.

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany explores the remarkable interdependence between native peoples and native plants of the Californias through in-depth descriptions of 47 native plants and their uses, lively narratives, and hundreds of vivid photographs. It connects the archaeological and historical record with living cultures and native plant specialists who share their ever-relevant wisdom for future generations. Winner of the 2019 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal in the Regional category and Silver Medal in the Multicultural category.

Free Recipe! Batter Fried Shrimp Mazatlán Style

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with this fried shrimp recipe from Cooking with Baja Magic Dos, part of our current cookbook sale.

Batter Fried Shrimp Mazatlán Style

Mazatlán is a busy seaport and industrial city on the west coast of mainland Mexico just south of the tip of Baja. It was one of Mexico’s first beach resorts back in the early ‘60s and is still a major stop on all Mexican Riviera cruises. We spent a few Easter vacations in Mazatlán when I was a kid, enjoying the sunny weather, warm water, and friendly ambiance.

The last time I was there, every night the tourists converged en masse on one of the town’s premier eateries, the Shrimp Bucket. My father swears it has the best fried shrimp served anywhere. They sell it everywhere in Baja now. This is Nina’s version of the dish, which she and my Mom and Dad made up together. Don’t forget the cerveza! Serves six.

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 1/2 cups Italian breadcrumbs

1 1/2 cups corn or canola oil

1-2 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp seasoned salt

In a small bowl, mix eggs, lemon juice, and cilantro. Dip each shrimp into the egg mixture and dredge in breadcrumbs combined with garlic powder and seasoned salt. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Fry each shrimp about two to three minutes, or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and place on platter in oven on warm until ready to serve.

Covid-19 Update from Sunbelt and Cookbook Sale

We are hoping everyone is staying healthy and safe. Sunbelt is still filling orders on our website during this difficult time. We can also take orders via email at or by phone at (619) 258-4911. Orders can be shipped or prepared for curbside pickup. The Sunbelt warehouse is open for scheduled visits only during the COVID-19 stay at home order to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. Please call or email for appointments. We appreciate your support of our publishing business during this pandemic.

While you are safe at home, you might be interested in trying out new interesting recipes. A selection of our cookbooks are available for 30% off for some indoor fun. Please enjoy the following recipe from Cooking with Baja Magic Dos by Ann Hazard. The book leads you through four generations of historic Baja adventures and features 250 recipes representative of Baja’s unique and continuously evolving cuisine.

This recipe for Zesty Relleno Bites is an employee favorite for group gatherings.

Zesty Relleno Bites from Cooking with Baja Magic Dos

Serves four to eight

  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (set aside ½ cup for topping)
  • 4 cups shredded Chihuahua or Jack cheese (set aside ½ cup for topping)
  • 2 lb fresh pasilla or ancho chiles (spicy) or 2 lb fresh Anaheim chiles (milder), blistered
  • or 6 – 7 oz cans diced green chiles (mild)
  • 6 eggs, well beaten
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1 eight ounce can evaporated milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups (or 2 – 7.5 oz cans) salsa verde
  • queso fresca or feta cheese as garnish

To blister chiles, wash, pat dry and cook over a gas burner, turning constantly until they’re evenly charred and stop making popping sounds. Wrap each chile in a moist paper towel to steam. After a few minutes peel skin off each chile. Remove seeds and dice. If using canned chiles, simply spread on a paper towel and pat dry.

Grease a 9 x 14 inch pan. Layer 1/3 of the chiles and 1/3 of cheese, repeat twice, for a total of three layers. Add flour and milk to eggs, blend well, pour over chiles and cheese. At this point, the dish can be refrigerated up to 24 hours. Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, top with salsa verde and remaining cheeses and bake an additional 15 min. Cool until warm, cut into one inch squares, serve and watch them disappear!

“La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea” in the news

“Part photo book, part history book, La Jolla native Ann Collins’ premiere book, “La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea,” is a tribute to the place Collins calls home. To launch the book, she will be at Warwick’s Books, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7812 Girard Ave.

And the venue could not be more appropriate.

Born and raised in La Jolla, Collins got the idea to make a photo-book through her connections at Warwick’s.

“My photographic interest is nature, landscapes and seascapes. I started taking pictures and making them into cards to sell at Warwick’s. A book seller there suggested I do a La Jolla photo-book,” she said.”

Read the rest of the article at

La Jolla: Jewel by the Sea was also featured on La Jolla Lifestyle‘s website.

May 5th, 1918 Drowning Memorial Tribute and “HELP!” Book Launch

On May 23rd, 2018, the City of San Diego Lifeguard Service and The Lifeguard History Project of the San Diego Lifesaving Association hosted a memorial tribute for the 13 victims of the May 5th, 1918 drowning.  The event of 100 years ago spurred the growth of the lifeguard service in San Diego.  The new book HELP! San Diego Lifeguards to the Rescue: A History of Their Service – Volume 1 1868-1941 by Michael Martino details the tragedy.

The first two copies of the book were presented to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council Member Lorie Zapf as part of the ceremony.  Ten years in the making, HELP! is a comprehensive look at the early history of San Diego’s lifeguard service.

As part of the ceremony, 13 lifeguards, including Sgt. Rick Strobel, participated in a remembrance swim out.  Each victims’ name was read out and a bell was rung.  A lifeguard ran out into the cold waves.

Michael Martino, a former lifeguard himself, signed books at a reception held at Wonderland Ocean Pub after the ceremony.

For more photos from the event, take a look at the album on Facebook.

Podcast “You Can’t Eat the Sunshine” Features Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Visit the link below to listen online or download a copy of the podcast to your computer.  An interview with ABDSP interpreter LuAnn Thompson starts at the 56:35 minute mark.  She highly recommends exploring the park with the Anza-Borrego Desert Region guidebook.

Episode #126: From Show Caves to Palm Canyons: Treasures of Southern California’s Desert State Park System

“Join us this month as we get an education from two devoted parks interpreters: LuAnn Thompson shares her favorite things about the landscape and creatures found in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Andy Fitzpatrick introduces us to the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, including the Route 66 roadside attraction turned State Parks resource, the astonishing Mitchell Caverns.”

“We must never underestimate children; challenge them instead.” -Q&A with author Linda Gallo Hawley

Linda Gallo Hawley, author of Nature Adventures!
Hawley signs books during an event at Grossmont College

Author Linda Gallo Hawley is a former elementary classroom teacher and adjunct college professor. In 2004, she completed trail guide training at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego, CA and later created and taught her “wildly popular” nature classes at the park for nearly 10 years. Busy with the recent publication of the new book based on these outdoor courses, Nature Adventures!, she continues to volunteer as a trail guide, and offers presentations in other San Diego parks, schools, libraries, and senior centers.

Thrilled with the opportunity to publish this celebration of San Diego County’s natural wonders, staff at Sunbelt Publications chatted with the author and adventurer about her journey thus far. 

Q: Tell us the story of how you became involved with teaching at Mission Trails Regional Park and how that led to writing Nature Adventures?

A: My husband and I relocated from upstate NY to San Diego in 2001, after having lived and worked on the east coast all our lives. Back east I had been a teacher of elementary, middle school, and community college more than 20 years; now I was ready for a new adventure.

I loved gardening back east, and needed to learn what to do with the very different plants in my San Diego yard, not to mention the animals. The first lizard I grabbed, its tail broke off; I thought I’d killed it! (Now I know better.)

Hawley teaches young students about the grinding activities of native Kumeyaay Indians.

In Dec 2003, I saw an advertisement for trail guide training classes at Mission Trails Regional Park; I registered for the program, figuring I’d learn about the flora and fauna. March 2004, I completed the training, became a volunteer trail guide and found my favorite job was teaching and leading young children on the trails. MTRP already had a wonderful, ranger-led education program in place for K-6 students. I saw a need for a preschool program, so I wrote a curriculum, made up some songs about the animals, and my Nature Adventures! program was born.

My boss, Jay Wilson, Executive Director, says I’ve introduced thousands of people to the park.  Teaching has been such fun for me all these years! Parents continually begged me to write a book with all my songs in it, so the family could sing them at home. I took a 2-year sabbatical from teaching to refine my writing, approached Sunbelt Publications, Inc., and now I have a book for San Diego families.

Nature Adventures!
“Nature Advenutres: A Guidebook of Nature Facts, Songs, and Hikes in San Diego County” (Sunbelt Publications, 2017) ISBN: 978-1-941384-28-2, Retail: $12.95

Nature Adventures! is very popular with teachers, especially those involved with STEM and STEAM. Homeschooling parents love it because it encompasses science, art, music and vocabulary-building. My talented illustrator, Linda Gilbreath, used pen and ink so that children can color the animals. She also provided musical scores for budding musicians to play on piano or violin, as they sing my lyrics to well-known children’s songs.


Q: You’ve taught these songs to children for years. Do you ever hear about them singing the songs even after they’ve left your classes? Are there any new compositions on the horizon?

A: Oh, yes! Years later I hear from moms who tell me that their children break into song on the trails, or while coloring a picture of an animal. They also remember all the little details I’ve taught them about the animals and their habitats. The songs are teaching tools that help children remember the facts.

Many “graduates” of my program are buying my book for their now middle and high school-aged children! It’s a wonderful compliment, and a joy to see them show up at signing events. I always have new compositions popping into my head, whether walking alone or on the trails with my students.


Coyote Song
A glimpse inside of Hawley’s “Nature Adventures!”

Q: The children you typically teach are quite young, the promotional materials specifying ages four and up. How do the younger kids handle some of the advanced vocabulary taught in your book and songs? For example, we’re trying to imagine a first grader pronouncing the scientific name for American white pelican, Pelecanus arthrohynchos.

A: This is what makes my book unique! The songs appeal to the younger set, and the factual material to the older students and adults, and the music and illustrations to all.

However, you’d be AMAZED by the retention and usage of new vocabulary of the very youngest children! Especially if the words are used in a catchy tune, or a funny puppet “talking” to them, they learn and remember metamorphosis, camouflage, echolocation and more.

For example, when we sing the “Spider’s Anatomy Song,” we all stand and move our hands on our body parts, demonstrating where the cephalothorax & abdomen are found on a spider. Pronunciation of difficult scientific names is not a priority; I included them for the students and adults who wish to explore further online or in books. The proper scientific name is important when researching, as there are many subspecies of similar animals that are not found in San Diego.

Everyone finds it interesting to learn why insects need to be categorized differently, depending on the type of wings they have, and that the suffix, “-ptera”—as in Coleoptera and Hemiptera—means “wing”. (You’ll need to read my book to find out what “coleo” & “hemi” mean.)

And, isn’t it interesting that the bats’ order is Chiroptera; how is it related to chiropractor? This is a fun way to learn word etymology, too. Yet, we’ve all heard children pronounce hippopotamus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, right? We must never underestimate children; challenge them instead.


North Fortuna Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park
The view from Mission Trails Regional Park’s North Fortuna Trail. (Photo from “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors” Sunbelt Publications, 2016)

Q: The native flora in San Diego County is much drier than in the natural areas you would have known in your native New York. How did this western landscape capture your heart?

A: I have come to love and appreciate the western plants—their simplicity, their smaller, delicate flowers, and incredible ability to adapt to dry conditions, by shrinking or curling their leaves, going dormant, and by depending on animals to help disperse seeds, pollinate and grow anew. Even the pungent aromas of the native salvias, sagebrush, laurel sumac, and mulefat have captured my heart!


Q: Obviously you’ve found a way to translate that appreciation to children. What excites them the most on the trails and what do you do to develop their awareness and observation skills in nature?

A: Most exciting for children on the trails is discovery and observation through sensory awareness. We all rely on sight, and finding scats, tracks and habitats is always a huge thrill for them. But to teach them to use their sense of smell, or to touch the variety of leaves experiencing what the flora have to offer, to STOP talking and listen to the voices of birds, or of lizards rustling leaves, or of a rattlesnake rattling its tail before we spot it—these are special moments for all of us.

Mission Trails Regional Park
Hawley leads the way in one of her “Nature Adventures” classes at Mission Trails Regional Park.

I ask them to examine carefully and identify the signs of animal life, rather than tell them immediately; I love to make them think and analyze before speaking, and they DO! Before heading out on the trails they’ve first had a lesson in the classroom. Teaching with puppets, pelts, replicated tracks, scats, skulls, and specimens makes the class more interesting, and holds their attention. Then they are prepared to observe, and each class builds on the next.

By the end of the year they can recall nearly every detail taught! They learn to appreciate the gift they have here in San Diego’s nature, and to be good stewards of the land. Children soak up knowledge, and I LOVE teaching them about their big backyard!

What Makes the California Condor a Vulnerable Species?


A recent Desert USA article on Cathartes aura, more commonly known as the turkey vulture, made us wonder: Why is it that the noble turkey vulture is so ubiquitous tin North America and especially the southwest deserts, while the iconic California condor (Gymnogyps californicus) has struggled against extinction? Both bird species are Falconiformes, or diurnal birds of prey, and are members of the Cathartidae family of New World vultures and condors. Both breed in the caves and cavities of cliff faces. Both scavenge carcasses.

California Birds: Their Status and Distribution by Arnold SmallUnfortunately, while turkey vultures remain a relatively common sight in California skies, the California condor has experienced population decline such that it even went extinct in the wild in 1987, with a captive population of only 27 adults and eight captive-bred chicks. According to Arnold Small’s California Birds: Their Status and Distribution, “These 35 condors were housed at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park, as part of the condor recovery program’s captive breeding program, which would eventually result in the releasing of condors back into the wild.”


As a result of those efforts, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports a total wild population of 231 individuals as of 2012, which is certainly a success worth celebrating. Nevertheless, the species remains on the list of “critically endangered” species—just a single ranking up from “extinct in the wild.” In fact, their position is so tenuous that in Birds of Prey of the West Field Guide, author Stan Tekiela recommends checking for  a colored wing tag to distinguish between California condors and turkey vultures because, “Every California condor is marked with a numbered, colored wing tag on each wing.”

As with many cases of species decline, the reason behind one species faring more poorly than the other is likely a multifaceted one. For instance, the fact that the turkey vulture inhabits a much wider range than the California condor would be one factor in favor of its survival. While contemporary sources list the California condor as inhabiting only limited areas of the central California Coast and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona and Utah, even their historic range was primarily in the coastal mountains from southern Biritsh Columbia to northern Baja California, compared turkey vulture whose range spans North America.

Factors attributed to the decline of the California condor cited by Small include shooting, lead poisoning from ingested fragments of bullets in scavenged carcasses, habitat encroachment and disturbance, the consumption of baited poison meant for rodents and coyotes, and egg shell thinning from DDT exposure. But according to the “All About Birds” blog at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, DDT exposure and lead poisoning have similarly affected turkey vultures, and it’s likely the other factors would have, as well.  Yet, the blog goes on to say, “Migrating [turkey vulture] flocks can number in the thousands.”

Source: is a smaller range the primary distinction between the success rates of these species?  According to the Ventana Wildlife Society, no. Their website details the way a long life-cycle with a slow reproductive rate is a major factor distinguishing the vulnerability of the California condor. “Condors, like any species with this reproductive strategy, cannot withstand persistent high mortality rates.” In fact, in the 1980’s when concern about the species was mounting, mortality rates were so high that the birds were not living long enough to begin their reproductive stage and their lifespan was mis-gauged by more than forty years.

And turkey vultures? They begin to breed at a much younger age and have multiple chicks per nest, compared to the single-chick strategy of condors. Therefore, what we’re looking at is not necessarily lower mortality rates amongst condors, so much as significantly higher reproductive rates amongst vultures.

For more information about condors, vultures, and other North American and southwest birds, visit or call Sunbelt Publications in El Cajon, CA.  We publish, distribute, wholesale, and retail a plethora of guides and texts about Californian and North American Birds, including: