Little Petroglyph Canyon contains many petroglyphs of animals which is appropriate I suppose since it was likely a hunting camp in the fall. The canyon was an ideal site since the infrequent rain storms flood the canyon leaving water in concave bedrock pools covered by the loose sand and gravel of the canyon floor. Deer, antelope, and desert or mountain bighorn sheep were hunted with spears, bow and arrows. Rabbit was the most common game. Other small animals such as marmots, ground squirrels, and porcupines were also caught using noose snares and nets. Birds such as grouse, ducks, and other waterfowl were hunted by the Northern Paiute, who also collected duck eggs for eating. The Owens Valley Paiute did not do as much bird hunting. This is a remarkable collection of Native American art, encapsulating centuries of knowledge into simple drawings. Northern Paiute people call those writings on the rock etsatubono, which means, literally, “Coyote writings.” But this suggests not so much that the people believe that Coyote wrote them, as it is reference to their age. In Paiute traditions and legends, the animal people were put into this world before human beings. So the reference to Coyote writings is intended to suggest that those writings and images are ancient, and were made by the first creation. Like all great art, they are approachable in terms of content but each image is intertwined with myths, stories and culture extending back for millennia. There is no simple answer to what they mean, only endless variations on the names and stories.
This past spring I traveled to Arcata California for some birdwatching in the Pacific Northwest. In Arcata, they have a bird festival in April called Godwit Days that I could not attend. Nonetheless, I thought it might be an interesting time and place for birding. The local Audubon Society says birding is at its best from winter through early May. You’ll find songbirds in spring through fall, shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl in the cooler months of October through April, and raptors year round. As predicted, April was not a particularly good time for water birds, although there were songbirds and plenty of spring flowers. Nearly 500 species of birds have been found in Humboldt County; many of these species are unique to Humboldt County. Fortunately I was able to secure Rob Fowler as a guide to the birding areas around Arcata. He knew when and where to look and made most of the following pictures possible. I suspect I will return in a different season to see a different set of birds and of course to see the beautiful scenery in a different light.
This past spring I decided to visit Arcata California a week after their annual Godwit Festival in April since I could not make the sanctuary festival.. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the City of Arcata’s innovative wastewater treatment facility. The sanctuary is 307 acres, including freshwater marshes, salt marsh, tidal sloughs, grassy uplands, mudflats, brackish marsh, approximately 5 miles of walking and biking paths and an Interpretive Center. Located at the north end of Humboldt Bay, the sanctuary is situated along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route for thousands of birds that breed in the far north and winter in California, Mexico and Central and South America. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is touted as the highest bird populated coastal site between Bodega Harbor and Washington. While I had visions of masses of migrating birds the reality was somewhat more quiet. I did find a collection of Godwits, and some local ducks, egrets and shorebirds.
This past spring I visited Arcata California for a little bird photography. Whenever I am out photographing birds, I always take a second camera with a macro lens attached for photographing wildflowers and plants. Some days I get more pictures of birds while other days are predominantly flowers. Because of the cloudy Pacific Northwest climate, there are many interesting plants and beautiful flowers to be seen in the area. Also because of the climate there are many fewer people that both live here and visit, compared to the areas south, making it a good place to see wildflowers and birds. Again because of the climate, there are a fair number of unusual local plants and wildflowers that can be seen nowhere else. There are also a large number of non-native plants that while beautiful, affect the delicate balance of nature in this area. These “immigrant plants” should be a reminder that introducing non-native elements into an ecosystem can have unintended consequences. In any case, I came away with some photos of beautiful blossoms which I thought I would share.
When I was in Arcata this spring to do some bird photography, I drove down to Humboldt Bay and stumbled upon the lovely Humboldt Botanical Garden. The Humboldt Botanical Gardens are at the southern edge of Eureka, California. The Gardens are near the South Bay portion of Humboldt Bay on the north side of College of the Redwoods. The Garden was organized by a small group of volunteers in 1991. The goal was to create an educational botanical garden in for the Northern California region. The garden opened in 2006, with more development completed by 2008. Its Lost Coast Brewery Native Plant Garden has an emphasis on the Humboldt region, but includes plants in the geographic area from the Rogue River to the north shore of San Francisco Bay, and inland to a north-south line running from Vacaville through Williams, Redding, Yreka, Medford, and along the Rogue River to its mouth. The Gardens are particularly interested in maintaining complete native conifer, Iris and Lilium occidentale (western lily) collections. They had a beautiful display of spring flowers which I thought I would share.
I happen to love woodpeckers, they are colorful, noisy and just fun to look at. Their cheerful tapping always calls to me to take a look. There are about 200 known varieties, many of which are threatened or endangered. The plumage of woodpeckers varies from drab to conspicuous. The colors of many species are based on olive and brown and some are pied, suggesting a need for camouflage; others are boldly patterned in black, white and red, and many have a crest or tufted feathers on the crown. Woodpeckers tend to be sexually dimorphic, but differences between the sexes are generally small, usually involving the head. I thought it would be nice to present these all together so that you could see and compare the various forms and colors that woodpeckers exhibit in different places. I have some beautiful woodpeckers from Africa, Costa Rica, Colorado and Arizona. Sapsuckers are also part of the Woodpecker family and I have a beautiful Red-Breasted Sapsucker from Humbolt county in California.
The process of creating useful and visually pleasing petroglyphs is one of the more difficult art forms, related more to creating a stone statue than painting. Unlike cave paintings that are added to the rock, petroglyphs involve removing material, in particular the desert varnish or patina that covers rocks in the desert. Today this would be difficult and take time, even with our modern steel tools, back then they only had stone tools making the process long and laborious. To cut a hard stone you would need a harder stone, preferably with some kind of point to focus the energy. Aside from the technical difficulties, there is the matter of artistic depiction of various animals, experiences and ideas. To communicate even relatively simple things, given the relatively crude stone canvas, the essence of the item being depicted must be communicated unambiguously, to translate to even strangers speaking a different language. While this discussion is directed primarily at Little Petroglyph Canyon, the principles are applicable to most petroglyphs.
Since this was a wet spring in California, we decided to visit the poppy reserve in Antelope Valley. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a state-protected reserve of California, USA, harboring the most consistent blooms of California poppies, the state flower. The reserve is located in the rural westside of Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County, 15 miles (24 km) west of Lancaster and about 35 miles from Santa Clarita. The reserve is at an elevation ranging from 2,600 to 3,000 feet (790 to 910 m) above sea level in the Mojave Desert climate zone. The intense blooming season for the California poppy falls usually within late winter to early spring, during the months of mid-February through mid-May. Blooming seasons are dependent on the amount of rainfall during the winter to early spring seasons. Within the reserve, there are 7 miles (11 km) of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access, which traverse through the poppy fields.
Since we were in Santa Clarita for the past two weeks, caring for our grandson, we decided to visit the Angeles National Forest to see the wildflowers. The Angeles National Forest (ANF) of the U.S. Forest Service is located in the San Gabriel Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains, primarily within Los Angeles County in southern California. The ANF manages a majority of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The San Gabriel Forest Reserve was established on December 20, 1892, the San Bernardino Forest Reserve on February 25, 1893, and the Santa Barbara Forest Reserve on December 22, 1903. They became National Forests on March 4, 1907, and they were combined on July 1, 1908, with all of the San Bernardino forest and portions of San Gabriel forest and Santa Barbara forest composing the new Angeles National Forest. On September 30, 1925, portions of the Angeles National Forest and the Cleveland National Forest were detached to re-establish the San Bernardino National Forest. Angeles National Forest is registered as California Historical Landmark, for being the first National Forest in the state.
A series of storms have dumped feet of snow and rain in some parts of Northern California. And Southern California had its wettest December in several years. Southern California’s deserts and hillsides are ablaze with color after a wet winter spurred what scientists say is the biggest wildflower bloom in years. Golden California poppies, the state’s flower, blanket hillsides along busy high-desert roads and freeways around Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, the desert blooms with purple Canterbury Bells, red Monkey Flower, white Desert Lily and more poppies. Since we visit California every few weeks to visit my grandson, we have had the privilege to see the “greening” of Southern California in person albeit in Santa Clarita.