Along the Path — Nature Close to Home: Entertaining and Enlightening

Story and Photos By Susan Rothrock Deo

Greetings from the depths of our “Corona Spring.” None of us can predict what things will look like by the time you read this newsletter. We can only practice our best social distancing and hope for the best. One thing we DO know: most of us would rather be out and about: hiking a favorite trail nearby or embarking on a grand adventure to parts unknown. But here we are, at home.

Don’t be dismayed.

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There is adventure in your backyard and neighborhood too. From observing a lizard sunning himself on a rock to raindrops glistening on a fallen leaf, to counting Painted Lady butterflies on their journey north. Keep your eyes and mind open to new discoveries!

A mockingbird serenades us from the top of an umbrella shaped tree almost every morning as we walk our dogs. I wonder, does he ever sing the same thing twice? A pair of courting crows struts down the middle of our deserted street, displaying puffed out neck feathers and stiffly splayed wings. Two orioles dance their ritual in our lemon tree, flashing orange, black and white. Are they Hooded (most likely) or Bullock’s? We are too fascinated to stop watching and grab our field guide.

And what better time of year to explore our neighborhoods with so many plants in bloom? Have you ever studied how a rose unfurls? Or marveled at the variety of color in California poppies? Or struggled to trace the source of a floral perfume wafting through the air? One day I looked down and discovered a tiny orange flower I’d never seen before.

We enjoy the antics of house finches, lesser goldfinches, California towhees, mourning doves, and the occasional scrub jay at our bird feeder. Today a black headed grosbeak with his beautiful orange, white and black feathers perched there! And of course, we have a squirrel. Entertaining – and a challenge to sidetrack her! On the other side of the house the hummingbirds visit the honeysuckle and sometimes take a rest on the fence.

Twice we have joined our granddaughter on the east coast in doing a day’s bird census. We each make a tally of species seen and number of each. We acknowledge we’re counting some of the same birds over again, but it’s fun to see the bar graphs she makes. I think the house finches won.

Sometimes I need more observations to answer my questions, other times I need more information. This especially happens with the family of bunnies in our yard. They probably nest under our California lilac bushes. I think they are brush rabbits, which have smaller ears than the desert cottontail (I looked them up). Did you know rabbits take dust baths? I was curious after seeing them do it—helps them get rid of parasites. The young rabbits play puppy games like crouch and pounce, with a rabbit leap for flourish. Did you know rabbits don’t come out on windy days because they can’t hear their predators as well? One more reward for keeping watch: I’ve seen a baby bunny several times now.

I hope you’re discovering new things about nature too—let the local adventures continue! Stay safe.


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