It’s the week before Christmas 2008 and the weather has been downright nippy. We had some very gentle rain showers last night and throughout the day today. Earlier this week, there was snow all over Mount Manuel up in the valley; and we had snow on the higher elevations in the back of the Reserve. Winter has arrived.
The Gold Crowned Sparrows are so busy every morning, eating the last bits of cracked corn left over from the night before. In the early morning light, it is almost impossible to see them as they scurry around looking for that last grain of corn. The quail were a little late for breakfast this morning. They have changed their roost to a new location, a little farther from the house. This throws off the owls and hawks and keeps everyone guessing as to where they will be next. As we were waiting to see where the quail would appear from, we noticed they were coming out of the coyote bushes, one by one. They looked like ants coming out of an anthill. Each one would step out of the bushes and follow the leader down to breakfast. They make this great pilgrimage every morning and every evening to get their meal. The only trouble with winter is that the ground is too wet for dust baths!
We have heard the Great Horned Owls almost every night. We are fairly certain they are the same pair that has been nesting here for several years. When the quail roost in the bay tree on the north side of the cabin, the owls come and sit down on the branches just above them. It has to drive the quail crazy to know the “bad guys” are so close. But the owls keep busy all night, catching all kinds of rodents that venture out, also in search of that last bit of corn.
We haven’t seen our little buck for some time now. What we HAVE seen is lots of evidence of mountain lions. Just several weeks ago, we were quite fortunate to catch a mother and her cub in our headlights, running along the main road. We had the high beams on, and the cats stayed on the road for just a few seconds, long enough for us to get a good look at them. We understand everyone has to eat, we just hope the little buck survives long enough to reproduce. Speaking of reproducing…..
The tree frogs have started to move up to the pond out front from the spring down in the canyon. It is so amazing how these tiny guys make their way over such rough terrain; risking getting caught by a hawk or snake to come and mate in the pond. The guys sing their song to attract the females. When the girl comes along, the guy hangs onto her and mixes his sperm with her eggs. Once fertilized, the eggs turn into tadpoles for the next generation. The guy with the loudest song gets the most girls.
Now, here’s the funny story. All summer long, we’ve had a tree frog living in the toilet. At first, he insisted on hanging out at the water line in the bowl. It was very inconvenient to fish him out of there in the middle of the night when “nature called” (pun intended). He learned to stay inside the tank, perched on the top of the mechanism. Now, all of a sudden, he is gone. And we are sure he is out front, in the pond, singing the loudest song of all!
Reflecting on 2008, it has truly been a year of growth. Our Reserve team grew as we worked together to defend the structures on the Reserve from the fires. Our contact with researchers grew as we welcomed projects on geology, dispersion of SOD and sea otters. We look forward to our continued research on steelhead, condors, fruit flies, intertidal life, control of invasive species and more. But especially, we look forward to 2009, and the growth of friendships within our community, Big Sur. Happy New Year!
Terry Hallock and Feynner Arias