Hungry Hawk

As soon as I stepped out the door for a walk this morning, I heard a lot of crows making a huge racket down the street. They were perched on a telephone pole, flying up and swooping around like they were trying to scare off a hawk.

Of course I walked toward them to see what was going on.

A telephone pole with at least 15 crows perched on the cross piece and wires, seen from below with the wires and crosspiece forming diagonals.

By the time I reached the end of the block, the crows had given up and flown off. But I noticed people were out in their front yards looking up at a tree. It turns out the crows had been trying to scare off a hawk that had killed a pigeon and settled into the tree to eat it. At first I could only see the occasional feather raining down, until I moved to where I could see through a gap in the branches.

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Odd Geese

Two geese standing near a pond, grooming themselves, their necks at weird angles and lined up so it looks like they're one long...something.

Grooming geese: Nature’s panorama fail.

Seriously, though, I was determined to get some decent photos of these two geese because they are unusual. They’re clearly Canada Geese in terms of body shape and the pattern of markings. But every other goose of this type that I’ve seen has had white patches on the sides of the head, not brown patches, and lighter colored wings.

I uploaded the photos to iNaturalist, and since iNat’s AI didn’t have any better suggestions for species, I tagged them with the Branta genus. (Observations: one goose and another goose.) Someone who knows more about geese than I do suggested they might be hybrids, or they might be Canada Geese with a mutation.

I’ll have to keep an eye out for this pair the next time I’m there. I know a lot of the waterfowl use it as a migration stop, but I’m pretty sure some of the ducks and geese live there year-round.

Humming…birb?

A tiny green-white-and-back hummingbird perched on a twig, blue sky and other twigs in the background.

An Anna’s hummingbird perched at local park. Most of the time they don’t stay in one place long enough for me to even focus on them, never mind catch a photo. Even when they pause somewhere like this one, it’s usually just for a few moments before they fly off again.

Of course, the reason the bird was staying in one spot was that it was grooming itself, so I also had quite a few shots that looked…less impressive.

No Ducks Past the Yellow Tape!

sign saying the park is closed, caution tape, and ducks out away from the pond

Three ducks on the grass.While some cities around here have only closed playgrounds and sports facilities at their parks, Manhattan Beach has closed their parks outright. Polliwog Park has a large pond year-round that attracts ducks, geese, coots, herons and more, plus the local gulls and pigeons that wander by. But the park has been literally wrapped in caution tape for a month, and the ducks that normally stay in and around the pond have come out to the edges by the sidewalks — where people can still walk by and feed them.

On a related note: iNaturalist’s City Nature Challenge for 2020 is underway. You can join the project to photograph the wild animals, plants, fungi and other lifeforms you see around your home or neighborhood (depending on how far you can roam in your area) this weekend. I’ve already posted the ducks, as well as a finch, some phoebes, a blackbird, a wasp, and a bunch of random plants found in the yard. Well, weeds, anyway, but the whole point is to post (and later identify) the wildlife in the area.

(And yes, you can obscure the location info. When I’m at or near home, I mark a wide circle around a major intersection and choose the “obscured” option, which further hides it from anyone but project admins and curators.)

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.