Hiking Fish Canyon

2014dec05-9524The water flowing after the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.Fish Canyon is open, and the waterfalls are flowing.
I want to write that first line in all BOLD CAPS.
Because that hasn’t been said in 30 years.

Fish Canyon, in the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa and Duarte, used to be humming with people. Cabins were scattered along the trail and hikers posed next to the stunning triple waterfalls.

But the cabins were destroyed in one of the many fires that flash along the mountains, and then the mining company who owns the canyon, closed the entrance to the public.

But in a deal with the city of Duarte, in June of 2014 the Vulcan Materials Company opened access to the valley for the first time since it was closed in the mid-1980’s. I went on this hike in June when it first opened, and it was hot and dry, the only water standing lonely in sad dirty little pools. At the peak of the hike, where the waterfall should be, was just a towering cliff face standing bleak and empty of water in the summer sun.
But now the rains have come and the valley has come alive with the sounds and sights of tumbling, churning, splashing and falling water.

The trail up on the hillside of Fish Canyon in June of 2014.Remnants of the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.In the summer, when everything was hot and dry, this canyon did not feel so special, but now with the falling water, it’s easy to see why it was once a haven.

It is a wonderful little river valley, with standing oaks, sticky cactus, a gurgling stream and the occasional birdcall.

But the real treat is the waterfall. It falls in three sections…. Continue reading “Hiking Fish Canyon”

When A Coyote Calls

Snapped with what amounts to a really old and really low-tech motion-sensor triggered webcam that I set up after our Silver Lake house got hit by taggers last October, I was amazed to find the following stills archived from last month of an entirely brazen coyote stopping by at the decidedly uncoyote-like hour of  11 a.m. for any potential bites in the form of our cats, which would have been far more readily available had they not been inside and staying out of what had been a cold and rainy morning that day (click the the thumbnails to enlargify).

Whoa. I mean, it’s not often you see what amounts to our city’s alpha predator (and even rarer in broad daylight), much less capture images of them acting like its their home, not yours.

Water Feature: Hummingbird At The Fountain

I swear I wasn’t going to post another dang hummingbird video, but I hope you don’t mind since that oath was affirmed before yesterday morning when I set up my cam in front of my tabletop fountain and it ended up recording this rare and candid capture of a our backyard momma hummingbird first chasing off a thirsty yellow-rumped warbler so she could then take a break from her ever-demanding babies to get all up in the adorable with a bath:

 

 

Sometimes The Smallest Creatures Can Instill the Biggest Sense Of Awe

If ever this time of year comes and goes without a hummingbird nest in our backyard I’ll know the world is coming to an end. So as you can see in the clip below, we’re safe for 2012 no matter what the Mayans said.

But as regular as the tiny birds may be around my place, they still never fail to make me go wide-eyed with wonder — especially when I see stuff such as this momma feeding her chick, hatched about a week (give or take a couple days) ago from an egg little bigger than a black-eyed pea:

 

Urban Wildlife: Awesum ‘Possum

On our dog walk this very early morning Susan, Ranger and I close-encountered this young opposum — a remarkable member of our urban animal kingdom that I adore and will protect and defend vociferously — after it scaled the front gate of a house we were passing on LaFayette Park Place in Silver Lake. Its entire lack of fear of us humans and our excited canine in such immediate proximity led me to wonder if the creature was ill, but it seemed — at least outwardly — to be in good health.

PS. Yeah, I’m the kind of animal geek who gets excited by prehensile tails — semi or otherwise — in action.

Humma Time!

Hummingbird

As far as the roughed-up hummingbird on my kitchen floor before the paws of our cat Jiggy was concerned, I couldn’t have picked a better time to come get a drink. No doubt had a few more Tuesday afternoon minutes (or even moments) passed alone with the looming feline they would have been its last, but instead of grabbing a Coke Zero I put my thirst on hold and got a hold of the tiny creature.

Was it a chick fresh out of the nest that hadn’t yet found flight? Or was it an adult that Jig — a masterful hunter, with a five-foot vertical leap — had managed to snatch, perhaps straight out of the air? But none of the that mattered so much as it looked OK. Seriously ruffled, yes, but uninjured — at least externally. And seemingly fully relaxed in the palm of my hand, in no hurry to leave.

I have to tell you, there is nothing quite as contradictory as holding what looks to be an exhausted hummingbird looking ready either to die or take a nap, yet feeling its heart beating against the palm of your hand. “Beating” doesn’t do the sensation justice, because even at rest (or perhaps in this case: in relief) this bird’s heartrate doesn’t go lower than 250 beats a minute; maximum somewhere around 1,200 per. This one’s was somewhere between that. It was like the world’s smallest drummer was playing his fastest snare drum roll against the base of my index finger.

After a few minutes of us hanging out like that, we paid a visit to the backyard, where I hoped I might find its frantic momma out there clicking and peeping. There were hummingbirds out there but none showed an interest in this one as their chick, leaving me understanding that I faced the daunting task of caring for this one, or finding an organization better equipped and informed and willing to do so.

Then at that instant, almost as if we were on the same wavelength, the little bird perked up, shook itself fully alert and lifted off from my hand flying strongly up over the blooming bouganvillea, around the nearest palm tree trunk, and beyond it over the giant bird of paradises, lifting my sagging spirits up with it out of sight.

 

 

 

Dog Owners Beware: Foxtail Season is Here

If you live in Southern California and have dogs, you are probably aware of foxtails. But, in case you are new to the area, have a new pet or are walking or hiking in a different area, I’d like to share a little information. This occurred to me over the past week when I noticed the nasty weeds popping up in my own back yard. Spring has sprung, indeed.

Foxtails are a feature of many grasses that grow locally. The distribution in my yard is fairly sporadic, but it’s common to see areas along sidewalks that get overrun. I snapped the above photo on Alvarado near Sunset in Echo Park earlier this evening.

The plant becomes problematic when it dries out (see photo below) and the seeds break off.

The danger of foxtail seeds is that they are barbed, so when they get stuck in a dog’s coat, they work their way in and get stuck. Paws, ears and nostrils are particularly vulnerable. They can embed under the skin and have been known to get under eyelids, in throats, etc. The bottom line is these nasty things can cause pain, bleeding, infection and rather substantial vet bills. If you have foxtails on your property or walk your dog(s) in area where they grow, inspect the paws, ears and fur daily. They are difficult to eradicate, especially if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals. During the spring, summer and fall, I pull the plants out of the ground by hand on a daily basis. Even with my vigilance, my dogs have had a couple of instances of needing some minor vet attention due to a foxtail lodged in a paw or an ear.

P.S. I read that outdoor cats are also at risk, it is much lower due to their grooming habits.

It Caught My Ear: A Different Kind Of Thanksgiving Day Bird

From inside while trying to man-up against the brisk temps and go for my ritual Thanksgiving Day morning bike ride, from somewhere outside and above me came the telltale shrill call that told me all I needed to know: a northern flicker was here.

Being the type that gets excited by stuff like this, I rushed out the front door with cam in one hand and binoculars in the other to find this beauty of a female in the neighbor’s camphor laurel, feasting on the tree’s berries. Pushing the cam’s lens against one of the ‘nocular’s eyepieces while sighting through the other I caught the bird in a moment of repose (click to enlargify):

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

L.A. River Reading

Los Angeles River_cover_PAfter reading Zach Behrens’ post on LAist last week about the man seen fishing in the L.A. River, I began to consider how little I know about the often hidden natural habitat of our city. Living in such urban surroundings, dwarfed by skyscrapers and barricaded by strip malls, it’s easy to forget that the City of Los Angeles is also a thriving and abundant ecosystem with actual wildlife and everything.

In an effort to learn more, I decided to check out the following books, “The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Re-birth” by Blake Gumprecht and “Down by the Los Angeles River: Friends of the Los Angeles River’s Official Guide” by Joe Linton. Both are available on Amazon, but I’m first going to see if our brand new Silver Lake Library has them.

I’m certain that there are also many blogs dedicated to this subject, so if you have a particular one that you recommend, please leave a comment here and let me know. I’d love to check it out.

Montecito Heights Photoblogging: “Above the City”

There’s no info readily available on the author of this blog, but this photoblog of the Montecito Heights area–the surprisingly-sylvan rolling hills and dipping canyons to the west of the Arroyo Seco and northeast of Lincoln Heights–is a pleasant surprise to stumble upon: http://montyheights.blogspot.com.

Consider recent posts such as one contrasting a plein-air painting with a real-life vista from the Heights, or a bit down the page (sorry, no links on the post titles) the post titled “Suit and Tie”, showing a “desk” composed of cinderblocks & a plank of wood overlooking the vista of Downtown from a grassy, overgrown hillside–they leave one with the sense that Montecito Heights regards the wilderness in a companionable manner, and that the feeling is mutual; and the other images on the blog paint the picture of a scrappy, resourceful and close-knit community.

The author’s contrasts of the seasonal changes in the landscape (titled “Two Tone” and a bit down the page) are amazing and show some serious dedication.

Cheers to you, anonymous Montecito Heights chronicler. You’re putting a face to a name I’ve heard for years but have only driven confusedly through maybe twice. Now I actively want to go back and explore.

Getting Back To Nature In Franklin Canyon Park

With the break from the rain we got this past weekend, it was the perfect time to get back out on the hiking trails. Admittedly, I’ve been going through a lazy spell for too long and haven’t been hitting the dirt as often as I’d like. Hoping to jump start a change, I headed over to Franklin Canyon Park this past Sunday with a group of friends and our dogs. Surprisingly, I only recently discovered the oasis that is nestled between Studio City and Beverly Hills. Since I’ve only been there twice now, and took the same route both times, I have much of the 605 acres to explore.

The abundance and accessibility of nature in Los Angeles is one of my very favorite things about living here. Like so many of L.A.’s outdoor havens, Franklin Canyon Park lets you “get away from it all” without going very far from home. Aside from the occasional helicopter or plane, you really don’t hear other city noises. It’s very green and there is even water, which dates back to the early 1900’s when William Mullholland was bringing water to L.A. Two reservoirs and a duck pond are only a couple of the park’s unique features.

Read on for more info and a few photos

Central Arroyo Stream Restoration & Watershed Programs Halted: Hooray for CA Budget Crisis

So in case you didn’t know (I shoulda told y’all when I found out, a while back, but I was stupid busy), the Arroyo Seco–which runs from Devil’s Gate Dam, south thru Pasadena and parallel to the 110 freeway into South Pas & Highland Park, was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places (although I can’t find it in that crappy database of theirs, maybe you can). It’s also a valuable habitat for the rare and wee Arroyo Chub, a leeetle beeeety fish that dwells solely in some SoCal streams, and which is valuable not only for adding its own little fishy topping to the biodiversity pizza pie, but ‘cuz it eats mosquito larvae: hooray for the Chub!

The nice people who did all the work theyre not getting paid for.
Just a few of the nice people who did all the work they're not getting paid for.

Of course the little Chub was pretty much on its way out, along with a lot of the Arroyo Seco–edged out by pollution, junk and Avenues graffitti–until recent rehabilitation grants came in the form of The Arroyo Seco Watershed Coordination Program ($35,000) and The Central Arroyo Stream Restoration Program ($251,000). The grants were awarded to the Arroyo Seco Foundation, and they got to work asap to fix up the river. Hence the Chub-comeback. And the river’s lookin’ mighty nice, too. And some folks got some fine work out of it during a tough economic time. Until now.

Just a few days ago the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Conservation sent out orders (here & here) to cease activity on Arroyo Seco watershed management projects and–here’s the clincher–notified the river-rehabbers (who are not state employees) that the Arroyo Seco Foundation will not be paid for work already completed. WTF?!

Your tax dollars at work, ladies & gents, paying these fine folk in BallSacramento (heh) big fancy salaries to come to an agreement on the state budget. Yay!

So now how will the Arroyo Seco Foundation, a nonprofit organization, pay its workers and contractors and suppliers, who have already rendered services?

And–looking beyond the money issue–what will happen to the great progress that was being made in the Arroyo? Will the cease-and-desist-and-we’re-gonna-stop-paying-you order cause a big enough hiccup in the state & the Foundation’s paperwork & processes that the Foundation can no longer secure grants, or perhaps loses its current grants?

The full information is here at the Arroyo Seco Foundation’s site.

It Caught My Eye: Cactus Flower Bees

It’s that time of year again, when the neighbor’s tall cactus busts out with its gorgeous night-blooming flowers, and this morning I was drawn to the activity going on at one of the blossoms as a group of bees tried to frantically score some last-minute pollen before the bloom called “Last call!” and closed up shop for the day. I was just amazed at how the bees just wallowed around in there, gettin’ some.

UPDATE (8:10 a.m.): Well, after dozens of minutes and thousands of braincells wasted trying to get the @#$%&&*[email protected] YouScrude embed link to go from FAIL to function, there’s a still from the clip above and you can take your pick from  the YouTube link and  the Quicktime vidlink.

PS. You might recall this timelapse I compiled of one of the flower’s last year sloooowly opening across an evening.