Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 20

Monday, Remi joined me to hike again at Forest Hill Nature Area and to celebrate the Vernal Equinox. The early morning weather was mostly cloudy with a temperature of 36 degrees and no wind. Leaving the parking lot, I headed west down Energy Hill to Mallard Marsh where I spotted a pair of Canada Geese that appeared to claim this area for nesting. Continuing west through Bobolink Meadow, I entered North Woods and paused at the large vernal pond that still had a layer of floating ice. Exiting the woods, I circled Succession Field and passed east through Birch Row which actually includes a mixture of Paper Birch and Quaking Aspen trees as indicated by some of the Aspen’s small fuzzy catkins littering the trail. Gazing skyward, I was drawn to the familiar call of Sand hill Cranes flying overhead. Turning south into South Woods, I came to the end of the boardwalk in Swanson Swamp where I was greeted by the sights and sounds of the opening of spring. Further down the trail, I came upon one of several Ash trees that was previously killed by the Ash Borer and recently blown over by strong winds. Walking over to examine the damage, I noticed the gallery pattern on the bark where the larvae had disrupted the vertical flow of nutrients to girdle and kill the tree. Exiting the woods, I made my way south past Sora Swale, around the south trail past Brady Cemetery and into Native Grassland where I paused to acknowledge the sun as it broke through the clouds and realized that a few hours ago it had crossed the celestial equator to begin warming our hemisphere. Next, I came to Grebe Pond where I caught a rare glimpse of a male Hooded Merganser as it rapidly swam toward the far shore. Finally, I continued north past the DeGraaf classroom building to the car and headed for home.

Orb of the heavens
Beaming bright
Sustainer of life
Grateful sight
Sun of the day
Gives us a sign
Ascending the sky
Reaching the line
Star of the earth
Warmth you bring
Crossed the equator
Welcome to spring

D. DeGraaf

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15

Tuesday, Remi and I hiked once again at Lumberjack Park near Riverdale where I’ve been working on a nature trail that should be open to the public in a year or two. The early morning weather was sunny with a frigid temperature of 10 degrees and no wind. Leaving the parking area, I was greeted by the morning sun while hiking east on a trail covered with 3 inches of new snow and marked with fresh deer tracks. Just ahead, I wasn’t surprised to come upon a large Aspen tree that had blown over due to a recent windstorm. Continuing east, I paused on a high bank of the Pine River to watch the gentle current flow west to east and listen to the distinctive call of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Further along the trail, I spotted some turkey tracks followed by a loud disturbance as half-dozen turkeys noisily flew from their roosts high overhead in the tall pines. Next, I stepped off the trail and walked to the edge of the river where I paused to notice the lovely reflection off the water of surrounding trees. Turning north, I came upon another large Pine tree that fell during the recent windstorm. Unfortunately, this one landed across the trail and will have to be cleared soon. Turning east, I came to the edge of Mud Creek where I paused to examine the bank for a place to construct a footbridge that will eventually connect the west and east sections of the trail system. After turning around to head back, Remi took the lead as we passed an old snag full of woodpecker holes. Finally, we reached the car, turned the heater on high and headed home.

Pack your bags with all the snow
Your days are numbered, need to go
Take your ice from the cattail marsh
Also winds that once blew harsh
Nature says its time to leave
Time to abate, time to relieve
Spring will be arriving soon
Its vernal sun and flower moon
Take the juncos but not the deer
Farewell winter, see you next year

D. DeGraaf

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 8

Wednesday, after a 2-month stay in California, Remi and I returned home to hike in familiar confines of Alma’s Conservation Park. The mid morning weather was partly cloudy with a temperature of 41 degrees and strong gusty winds from the west. Leaving the parking area, I headed south on a paved road, curved west past the Eyer Learning Circle and paused by the bird feeders which were being visited by a few hungry Chickadees and a curious Fox Squirrel. Continuing west, I came upon a newly fallen Ash tree weakened by disease and blown over the trail by the strong wind. Looking skyward, I watched the canopy being stirred up by winds of 30 mph and gusts of 40mph. Turning south and passing the Girl Scout cabin, I came to another wooded area where a loud gunshot-like sound startled me as a 40-foot tree snapped and fell nearby. On the ground, I spotted some fresh Club Moss. Turning north, I followed another trail through the woods where I could barely make out a deer staring at me through the underbrush. Further along, I noticed a Red Pine tree trunk had been recently shredded by a Pileated Woodpecker. Also, the surrounding leaf litter indicated proximate trees of oak. Continuing north, I reached the edge of the Pine River and paused as the strong wind created whitecaps on the surface. Finally, we returned to the car to get out of the wind and head for home.

…Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well -
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell - 
I got your Letter, and the Birds -    
The Maples never knew that you were coming –
 I declare - how Red their Faces grew -              
But March, forgive me -       
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue -           
There was no Purple suitable -      
You took it all with you…

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28

Monday, I drove about a mile from our Redondo Beach rental to hike in Hopkins Wilderness Park, an 11-acre camping and study area, established to provide a wilderness experience within an urban environment. Unfortunately, dogs were not allowed so Remi stayed back. The early afternoon weather was cloudy with a temperature 58 degrees and no wind. Leaving the parking lot, I headed north on a ½ mile perimeter trail and paused to observe a pair of large Red-Eared Sliders resting on a rock in a small pond. The surrounding landscape contained a variety of trees including: Eucalyptus, Sycamore and Allepo Pine with clusters of male pollen cones. As the path turned east, I noticed some colorful wildflowers among the meadow grasses including Yellow Wood Sorrel and Wild Radish. All parts of this radish plant are edible including leaves, flowers and of course, the roots which taste similar to a cultivated ones. Turning south, I followed the path down a steep grade to a marshy area where I could see and hear lots of birds including a Black Phoebe and a female Anna’s Hummingbird. Hummingbirds flutter their wings at a remarkable 80 times per second! Further ahead, I gazed high overhead to see a Red-Tailed Hawk perching on top of a telephone pole. Since this natural oasis in the city attracts lots of songbirds, I wasn’t surprised to see a raptor such as this one searching for prey. As the trail turned west, I noticed some of the Lemonade Berry bushes were beginning to bloom. Near the end of the trail, I spotted the white blossoms of a Wild Plum tree and paused to enjoy their sweet scent. Finally, I found the car and headed back to our rental.

…For a brief moment I held my breath
Hoping time could stand still as it was right then
A moment in time filled with peace, comfort, and warmth
As I walked, I felt the gentle breeze following me along the shore
As I bent to pick up grains of sand
I felt the breeze whisking them from my hand
Just as quickly as the sifting sand fell
And was carried back to the ocean floor
My time here at the ocean was coming to an end
And I would leave, leaving behind a part of me
That would forever remain a part of the mighty sea.

Carlotta McKnight

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 21

Tuesday, my wife and I along with my sister, Bev hiked in the Lake Poway Recreation Area, 28 miles northeast of San Diego. The mid morning weather was mostly sunny with a temperature of 64 degrees and no wind. Leaving the parking area, we started to follow an earthen trail where we paused to scan Lake Poway. Constructed in 1971, this 60-acre reservoir is a source of drinking water for people in the area as well as habitat for wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, we soon spotted a solitary White Pelican swimming near the shore. Unlike the smaller Brown Pelicans that are year around residents along the ocean, these large birds are migrants that spend most of the year living inland in freshwater habitats. Shortly thereafter, I paused to watch one of several American Coots (Mud Hens) diving for food. Continuing counterclockwise on the trail around the lake, we noticed a foot-long, basking Red-eared Slider turtle. These reptiles are quite common, as immature ones are often sold in pet stores. After a few more steps, I looked out on the lake to see a male Gadwall duck swimming and diving for food. Further around the lake, I paused to look at and listen to a waterfall where recent heavy rainwater from the surrounding hills was spilling over Granodiorite rock and draining into the reservoir. As we continued our hike, I spotted a family of Ring-necked ducks swimming offshore. While turning around to head back, I saw two colorful wildflowers. The first one was California poppy, the official state flower and the second, Purple Nightshade. Winding our way on hilly terrain, I got an eye full of color watching a small, Pacific orange tip butterfly resting on a wild pea blossom. Finally, we made it back to the car and headed to Bev’s house in San Diego for lunch.

Surface of white
Reflecting snow
Blanket of blue
Ripples show
Shrouded by ice
Muskrats sleep
Fluid and clear
Ducks dive deep
Waters of earth
Nature’s flair
Lakes of winter
Here and there

D. DeGraaf