Tag Archives: nature

The Shrinking Outdoors

Last weekend, a lot of people in the Los Angeles area tried to go hiking, or to the beach, or otherwise outdoors…to the same places. Which ended up creating the crowds that the shutdown was supposed to prevent, just in different places. 🤦‍♂️

So over the last few days, various cities, counties and the state have closed a bunch more parks, beaches, hiking trails and bike paths. It’s still OK to walk in your neighborhood as long as you keep your distance from people, but destination-based going outdoors is mostly off the table now.

Meanwhile the coronavirus continues to spread, and cases continue to climb, driven by people who were exposed before “social distancing” became a thing as they start developing symptoms. And in some cases succumb to them.

It’s been almost three weeks since I last went for a photo walk or a hike in anything resembling more nature than a patch of weeds in someone’s lawn. It feels like a year ago. And they just closed that beach and the paths along the bluffs.

Though I’ve got to say: in retrospect I’m relieved that I couldn’t find parking closer to the pier because of the kite festival, and ended up at a less crowded part of the beach. I could have gotten exposed to Covid-19 the same day the flu hit me, which would’ve been a really fun one-two punch. As it is, the whole household has been mostly isolated since then, and not only have we avoided picking up Covid-19 as near as we can tell, but I managed to not give anyone else the flu. So that’s good.

Back to the outdoors, though. Over the last year or so I’ve realized that getting outside really helps me de-stress. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a search for songbirds, a hike through nature (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), or heck, a search for Pokémon, spending at least some time outside with sky and sunlight makes a difference.

It’s probably going to be mostly walks around the block for a while. Most of the open nature spaces in the area are either closed outright (Madrona Marsh, for instance), or are open but with their parking lots closed (like Hahn Park). Even the bike path where I’ve spotted hawks and scrub jays and a wide variety of plants (not just puncture vine) is closed. The South Coast Botanic Garden is still open for now, but they’ve instituted an appointment system to limit the number of people inside at a time. I’m debating trying to go this weekend. While it’s still possible.

Though to be honest, if the process of getting there and back induces too much anxiety, it’ll pretty much defeat the purpose.

Last Walk Along the Coast Before the Virus (No, Not That One)

Sailboats in the distance, ocean spray in the foreground.

Last weekend, before the flu hit me, I tried to de-stress by going somewhere for a photo-and-nature walk. I ended up at the actual Redondo Beach, south of the pier. Partly because there was nowhere to park near the pier due to the Kite Festival, which now that I think of it may have been one of the last big gatherings in the area before everything was canceled for pandemic control.

Parking along the top of the bluffs was still pretty full, but the actual beach was only sparsely populated. Mostly people were using the walking and bike paths at the top and bottom of the bluff. I imagine I wasn’t the only one already trying to avoid crowds while still getting out.

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Hawkspotting

I’ve been seeing hawks lately when I’m out walking, which is new. I know partly it’s that I’m actively looking for suburban wildlife, but I’ve been doing that since last June when I started participating in iNaturalist. I started noticing how many squirrels and sparrows and phoebes and finches were around (in addition to the crows and pigeons and seagulls) right away. Maybe it’s seasonal? Maybe it’s the time of day I’ve been looking?

Whatever the reason, I’ve logged four observations over the last month or so. First, two red-shouldered hawks I spotted while hiking.

A hawk with brown feathers surrounded by mostly-bare leaves.

This is the best photo I managed to get of any of them, because it was perched in a relatively short tree at Madrona Marsh Preserve. Maybe only ten feet off the ground, just off the trail and not too far ahead of where I was standing. When I saw it, I stopped and took about five photos. It looked around, no doubt trying to spot some of the zillion tiny frogs I could hear (but not see), and then flew up to a higher tree, presumably for a better view.

A brown hawk perched on the end of a long, bare branch, a few twisted branches nearby, but mostly empty gray sky.

This one’s not as detailed, but I like the way it came out. I saw it from a few hundred feet away in a tall tree at the South Coast Botanic Garden. Yay for zoom lenses! (Though I still cropped the heck out of this shot.) It stayed there for a while, but I decided not to try to get a closer view and just continue hiking.

And then on two occasions I’ve spotted red-tailed hawks up in the same electrical transmission tower while walking along a bike path. In both cases I spotted them from a distance, perched up in the metal struts, not sure what kind of bird I was looking at until I could get closer.

Winter Birds of Madrona Marsh

I went hiking at the marsh preserve this weekend and was astonished at just how many different types of birds I saw. Five species of ducks alone (it is winter, after all) — not just the more common mallards, but shovelers, teals, wigeons, and one I hadn’t heard of before called redheads (for obvious reasons). The usual coots, egrets and Canada geese. Red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, a heron that was standing so still I started to wonder if it was a statue, and a very patient hawk that sat in a tree completely ignoring me and my camera until I was finished and it flew off to another tree.

I also heard frogs all over the place, but couldn’t actually see any of them. I asked about them at the visitor center and apparently the pacific tree frog can be very small, about the size of a quarter, but they can still be very loud when singing in a chorus. Next time I’m there, if the frogs are still in season, I need to at least record the audio.