Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 15

Wednesday, Remi, my wife and I returned to the Palos Verdes Peninsula to hike in the 123-acre, Deane Dana Friendship Park and Nature Center, near the town of San Pedro. The late morning weather was sunny with a temperature of 61 degrees and no wind. Leaving the parking lot, we began a steep climb north on an asphalt trail where I noticed a few blossoms and seed heads of the ubiquitous Dandelion. Nearby, I also saw blossoms of Sow Thistle. These familiar yellow flowers are often misidentified as Dandelions. We continued on the trail as it changed from asphalt to dirt while circling through fields of lush vegetation, including Cape Ivy which is California’s most invasive plant species. Looking more closely at some Ivy leaves, I spotted dozens of tiny Milk Snails feeding on them. Other leaves revealed 7-spotted Lady Bugs as well as some of their eggs. Continuing to the summit, we paused to enjoy the western vista of blue skies and Santa Catalina Island, nestled in the Pacific Ocean, 30 miles to the west. Starting our descent, I noticed what I thought was a familiar Milkweed Bug. However, after a closer look at its dorsal pattern, it turned out to be a Red Bug, a recent invasive insect spreading rapidly through southern California. Further down the hill, I spotted a newly planted clump of Milk Vetch, one of several native plants being reintroduced to the area. Just ahead, I glanced up into a conifer tree where a male, Lesser Goldfinch was perched. Near the trail end, I gazed afar at the 10,000 ft., snow capped, Mount Baldy, located 70 miles to the east in the San Gabriel Mountain Range. Finally, we found the car and headed back to Redondo Beach.

Let me
Dive as a dolphin
In the ocean deep
Swim as a seal
O’er waves I leap
Soar as a tern
In a cloudless sky
Ride the breeze
Where pelicans fly
Float as a wave
On the rolling sea
If only an hour
Wish I could be

D. DeGraaf

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 8

Wednesday, Remi, my wife and I returned to the Palos Verdes Peninsula to hike in the Vicente Bluffs Reserve next to the Interpretive Center. The mid-day weather was mostly foggy with a temperature of 64 degrees and a slight ocean breeze from the west. Leaving the parking lot, we hiked west to the edge of a steep coastal bluff and paused to take in the sights and sounds of the shoreline shrouded in a dense fog called a marine layer. This weather phenomenon develops off shore as the bottom layer of a warm air mass, cooled by the ocean water becomes trapped by the less dense warmer air above it. Fog forms in this layer where the humidity is high enough and cooling sufficient to produce condensation. As air over the warmer land surface rises, the marine layer moves ashore blanketing the coast in foggy, cool air. Fog lingers until the heat of the sun becomes strong enough to evaporate it, often lasting into the afternoon. Turning north, we followed the path along the bluff where I spotted the yellow blossoms of Bush Sunflower and the tiny pink blossoms of the invasive ground cover called Herb-Robert. Further ahead, I paused to observe a pair of Northern Mockingbirds perched on a Lemonade Berry Bush as well as a Say’s Phoebe perched on a leafless shrub. Following the circular trail inland, I stopped to observe the pale pink blossoms of Black Sage and smell the aromatic leaves of this herbal shrub. On the ground near the sandy path’s edge, I noticed a 4-inch long, Western Fence Lizard warming itself. Returning to the trailhead, we paused once more to view the rugged shoreline where the sun was beginning to penetrate the thick Marine Layer. Finally, we found the car and headed back to our winter abode.

Early February
Noon of the day
Land meets sea
Nature’s array
Breaking waves
Rumble and roar
Pounding surf
Hammering shore
Silent seconds
Momentary lull
Concert continues
Shriek of a gull

D. DeGraaf

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January 31

Tuesday, my wife, along with my sister, Bev, daughter, Allison and I joined a group of hikers on the 62,000-acre Santa Cruz Island, the largest of 5 islands in Channel Islands National Park, 30 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The late morning weather was sunny with a temperature of 58 degrees and a stiff ocean breeze from the east. From the parking lot on the mainland, we boarded a ferryboat and headed west toward the island where we observed a few Common Dolphins surfacing close by. Once on the island, it didn’t take long before I spotted an Island Fox. About the size of a housecat, this ancestor of the gray fox exists only in the Channel Islands. Also, unlike the nocturnal gray fox, this species has no natural predators and thus is active as well as visible during the day. Nearby, I paused to watch a Monarch feeding on the flower of Eucalyptus which is the preferred tree for these overwintering butterflies. We ascended the trail up a steep grade where outcrops of whitish Diatomaceous Earth were noted as well as large, exfoliating boulders. Reaching a high bluff, I gazed southwest at a scenic coastline and far below at a group of Pelicans along with Cormorants perched on a guano-covered rock formation. After examining an old lava field of Basaltic rock, we turned east and began out descent where I noticed a colorful field of Mustard blossoms swaying in the cool ocean breeze. Upon further descent, I stopped to examine a Western Fence Lizard basking on a Scoria rock. This small reptile will lighten or darken its skin to blend in with the background. Continuing the steep descent, I spotted 3 immature White-crowned sparrows on a Lemonade Berry Bush. Finally, we reached the end of our hike, hopped on the boat and headed back to the mainland.

Journey continues
Wandering west
Wonders of nature
Remain my quest
Peaks on high
Rocky beach
Cormorants dive
Dolphins breach
Pelicans soar
Higher than most
Pounding surf
Carving coast

D. DeGraaf

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 25

Wednesday, we hiked in the 30-acre, White Point Beach near San Pedro, California on the south end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The mid afternoon weather was sunny with a temperature of 58 degrees and a steady breeze off the Pacific Ocean. While my wife and Remi remained near the car, I ventured down to the shore where the ebbing tide had exposed massive rock formations as well as created small pools for exploring marine life. Walking gingerly south in the intertidal zone, I spotted one of many Sunburst Anemones clinging to the rocks. These colorful creatures feed by firing harpoon-like filaments into their prey when they touch their tentacles, injecting a paralyzing neurotoxin and guiding them into their mouths. Continuing south, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel layers in the rock below my feet and be awestruck by realizing this was the eroded end of a sedimentary formation that had been laid down millions of years ago, been uplifted and folded by tremendous geological forces and now lay exposed on this beach. Also, I could see that lots of this rock surface was covered with reddish Coralline Algae. Just off shore, a pair of perching Gulls caught my eye. Continuing to explore this unique habitat, I spotted some coral-like masses made by Honeycomb Worms. This reef-forming polychaete has a head crowned by spines and numerous feathery tentacles that are used to trap plankton. Further along, I observed a few 1-inch, encrusted Abalone shells as well as many Kelp stems with their characteristic gas bladders clinging to rocks and floating in pools. Finally, I turned around, retraced my steps to the car and paused one more time to take in this scenic landscape before heading back to Redondo Beach.

Ocean recedes
Ebb the tide
Shallow pools
Creatures reside
Tiny crabs
Clinging algae
Rocky slabs
Water returns
Tidal flow
Another cycle
Nature’s show

D. DeGraaf