Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Pardon a little self promotion, but this fancy award showed up in the mail recently. Actually it if from 2015, but has been in the Alaska Airline Magazine offices. They tell me I won the award for Northwest Excellence in Journalism in the photography category so that sounds very cool. However, the main takeaway – the Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe is an awesome place to mountain bike!
A quick photo from my iPhone – my car is somewhere in there! 🙂 Ironic, i have been in Alaska the last couple of years for Christmas and we haven’t had any snow. This year we visited family in Southern California of all places and were treated to just over a foot of snow from an overnight storm – nice treat!
Since I don’t photograph during my workshop, I just grabbed this quick image with my phone. Along with the desert lilies, the fishhook cactus are blooming like no year I have seen! Especially on the Cactus Loop Trail near the Tamarack Campground. Ocotillos are looking great as well.
There is a lot of green in Anza-Borrego this year, but wildflowers are running late this year. If anything, good years are usually early, like they were last year and in 2005. However, there is an incredible number of Desert Lilies! Way more then I have ever seen even in 2005. Out Coyote Canyon there are hundred if not thousands! I have seen them through out the Park, but especially in Coyote. This has to be one of the most beautiful desert wildflowers.
The other plant doing really well is the Chuparosa – very bright red versions can be found in many washes. More wildflowers are on the way, next couple of weeks should be good.
Had the pleasure of watching 3 separate hummingbird nests yesterday – this Anna’s, a Costa’s and a third one in our campsite. The first two I had the benefit of a retire college professor to help with the id, but I’m not sure on the third nest.
Last Saturday we visited the Wildlife Research Institute in Ramona, California located in Eastern San Diego County. This wonderful non profit research and educational organization offers a Hawk Watch on Saturday mornings. This entertaining and informative watch is completely free, and brings a large crowd, so be there a bit before 10 a.m. for parking. Every Saturday is different, but involves a number of captive birds brought in by handlers, not to mention the numerous wild hawks flying around the large open property – I would highly recommend it if you are in the area – I know I learned a lot!
Above is a photo of a handler with a Gyrfalcon, below is another handler training a Peregrine Falcon as it tries to grab a piece of food swung in the air on a cord. These birds are amazing to watch in flight, and in the wild have been clocked at an incredible 240 miles an hour! During another point during the watch a handler had a Harris Hawk flying just feet above our heads as it came in for food.
Thanks to one of the largest El Nino’s maybe ever, I don’t think the anticipation for a big desert wildflower bloom has been bigger. I have been getting numerous emails asking about conditions so I thought I would share my observations and thoughts.
I have been visiting desert areas like Anza-Borrego since I was a child, and for the last 10 years have spent at least a month every winter in the Anza-Borrego desert. We have already arrived and spent a number of days camping in Borrego after traveling across the Southern half of Arizona. I might add, this is at least two weeks earlier then most years, so my point of reference is a bit off.
But, in general, things are looking good, especially as you move North. Many of the storms this winter have stayed north of Southern California, and have hit the Sierras very hard. Because of this, Death Valley is looking very good. In fact, there are already wildflowers showing in good numbers in Death Valley.
It was a bit early to see much when we passed through Arizona, but in areas there was green beginning to show. In other areas, there really wasn’t much showing at all. This isn’t unusual, even in a good year, some areas end up being much better than others. There were areas along Highway 8 about 100 miles from California that were incredibly lush, showing lots of potential. It is still early, but looks encouraging. It is certainly worth watching.
Unfortunately most of the storms missed this Southern Californian desert known for its wildflower blooms, that is until early January. In early January, this area received a staggering 2.5 inches of rain. The rain came over a number of days allowing for a good soaking. It was enough for the writer of the nature column in the local paper to write “We should have a marvelous – perhaps miraculous – spring bloom”. Hal the Hawk Guy, who leads a Wednesday bird walk I try to join whenever in town thought the area needed one more rain for a good year – just such a rain, he pointed out, is forecast for this weekend.
My observations? I must admit at being disappointed in the lack of plant life as we we rolled into town last weekend. However, I think that is largely because I am here a couple of weeks earlier than normal. Over the last couple of days as I have gone on a few trail runs, I have noticed a profusion of small sprouts emerging, particularly closer to the mountains. I know it is early, but I would say at this point things are looking pretty good, and another rain or two could do wonders. I might add, the TV weather people have been mentioning that Arizona and Southern California should still see plenty of rain over the next couple of months, a time frame in which these areas typically receive precipitation during an El Nino.
So stay tuned for further updates here as the season progresses.