Musings of a roaming nature nerd

A Landscape of Irony

The official start of the avian field season, and week one brings: ticks, rattlesnakes, cows, birds, weapons magazines and razor wire fences … wait- what?! Much of my upcoming field season will be spent on the Camp Pendleton Marine base and during this first week I’ve been surveying for Cactus Wrens on the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station. Two levels of security checkpoints are required for my admittance to the area. Training, regarding the hazards found in the area include recognizing and staying away from unexploded ordinance, just in case the ordinance should “function as designed, creating a mass fragmentation event.” The ground and the air occasionally shake from nearby training exercises and I instinctively flinch while attempting to stay focused on the chattery songs of my wrens. I feel a brief yet intense sense of anxiety and can only imagine what soldiers and civilians a like must experience when those same vibrations shake their world.

Yet where I survey is almost idyllic and peaceful in its beauty. Strolling across closely cow-cropped grasslands, into fragrant sage, and across rocky, cacti strewn, chaparral hills lead me to believe I could be anywhere in the western wilderness. Tiny wildflowers, pollinated by busy bees, burst forth in colorful reproductive glory. The wrens sing and call for mates atop scrubby perches and I spend my hours carefully tracking them and looking for colorful bands on their legs. The combinations of band colors indicate where and when the bird was first captured and documented.

The irony of a weapons station preserving thousands of acres of wild habitat amazes me. Within this conflict, I somehow still feel grateful that amidst the absolutely endless sprawl of southern California some relatively natural habitat still exists. And if the presence of Cactus Wrens are any indication, they too don’t seem to mind the bunkers and barbed wire; contented to have expansive habitat to forage and breed in. Although I find it difficult to rejoice at times, I realize that in an ever more urbanized world it’s important to value the small victories for conservation wherever they can be found…

2 Responses

  1. John

    Your posting convinces me that there is a positive role for the military. I would gladly trade many real estate developments for a few unexploded bombs.

    As a writer spending time in military proving grounds, you are in good company. Cactus Ed and others have written about bombing range hikes. Apparently the environment brings out interesting contrasts. I just hope that being there legally doesn’t have a negative impact.

    April 18, 2012 at 6:43 am

  2. Momchester

    Keep your chin up(and your head down!)Annie. People have always felt discouraged about the “progress” of the world – but somehow we all struggle on … there is a lot of good, beauty, and love in our lives.

    April 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm