Musings of a roaming nature nerd


A day at home in southern California: The 4400 acre Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve



Sitting quietly between the hills, fog waits. A young mockingbird determinedly chatters into the darkness. In response coyotes take up the call with howls and laughs… and so the morning chorus begins. Without a stage, without a spotlight, engulfed in darkness, yet with perfect timing, the world sings. Desert Cottontails dance out of the sage, into the fields, back to the sage, erratically showcasing their agility and ability to survive. As a gentle breeze swirls through the groves light appears in the east. At the sun’s command the curtain of fog slowly lifts and the earth awakens.



The hills themselves are revived under the golden glow slowly creeping down their boulder strewn slopes. Their tangle of vegetation brightens and deepens its green hues as the light shifts. Datura’s hallucinogenic and deadly blooms fade, while bright red and yellow monkey flowers open, inviting hummingbirds to feast and pollinate. Darkling beetles begin to trundle across dirt paths seeking meals of fresh decay. True to their name, fence lizards scurry up walls and fences vying for prime sunning spots. Up in the steep-sided gorge, full of rushing water and clear pools, crayfish savor the sun’s distorted reflections off the water as they hide in broad daylight from Great Blue Herons. As if delighted by the new day, life abounds in a fever of activity.






The air remains cool but the sun burns hot. Ground squirrels with mouthfuls of orange and avocado scamper from groves to burrows with their tasty treasures. Rattlesnakes bask and wait for careless squirrels. Although many local squirrels gain immunity to venom as youngsters, an unlucky baby could satiate a rattler for weeks. Red-tailed Hawks circle with vultures on thermals. Looking for a meal or just enjoying the view? Their calm demeanor seems to indicate the latter. Under increasing heat, all but the whine and rattle of grasshoppers subsides and the reserve quietly passes the day.



Baby Red-tailed Hawks



Light creeps back up the boulder laden slopes and shadows slink forth. The glow of a purple sunset escorts Black-crowned Night Herons through the canyon to their roost. A muted chorus of ravens, frogs, chirping squirrels, briefly crescendos and then gives way as Great-horned and Barn Owls announce the return of the dark and damp. Their throaty calls and shrieks are the only sounds as darkness becomes complete. Newly revealed moon and stars soon disappear behind the flowing marine layer. Again fog fills the canyons and blankets the hills. Then, sitting quietly, it waits for the encore at dawn.





One Response

  1. Dad

    This is awesome! One again, a great mix of words and pictures. Of tall the pics you’ve sent or posted, I don’t recall any expansive canyon shots like these. The ones here are gorgeous. And your “detail” pics are great. Amazing shot of the baby red tails!! :-)

    July 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm