Walking with Wildlife

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Rugged with a capital ‘R”

At times, I complain about our rugged American walking life. We have trails, not walking paths. We walk in rustic, remote national parks, not through our cities. I have even – a time or two – been driven away from a walk by nature itself. But today, I am offering a tribute to walking with wildlife all around. It can be a remarkable and reviving experience of renewal. Isn’t that exactly why we walk?

I take a daily stroll around my central California coastal neighborhood. After four years living here, it still is refreshingly new. It is also more rugged than refined. The first thing I do is cross the famous Pacific Coast Highway, State Route One, always on the list for the world’s most beautiful and dangerous highways. The second thing I do is head for my usual path to the beach, filled with sand and stickers and the changeable route through the dunes.

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just another rustic path?

Today, the third thing I did on this walk was stop in the middle of the path for this:

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S/he’s a beauty.

S/he didn’t move, and I worried. Should I just step around? Should I be concerned for its health? It wasn’t a rattlesnake, so I wasn’t afraid. It – a gopher snake? – looked to me like it had just eaten something quite big,

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there’s a big lump right there

so I knew it might just be in that after-glow of a good meal. Snakes don’t loosen their belts, they lull.

I retreated, and took a different path through the dunes.

Horses have accompanied me on every single walk I have ever taken on this beach. One or two or sometimes three ride along together. Today, a herd was there.

Look closely, some were riding bareback. They frolicked and circled and raced and the riders hooted and laughed. When there are twenty horses and twenty people involved in this amount of hoop-la, it’s noticeable, even above the thunder of the surf. And then the horses and riders actually did surf. Or very nearly.

My usual walks also include a lot of this

and that

And if I am lucky, I can climb the steps up the bluff at the turn-around point of my walk, sit for awhile and watch nature’s show. Today, the show was spectacular.

As I sat, I laughed at the antics of the dolphins: dance routines, couple jumps, splashes that looked like pure fun. I admired the skill of the pelicans: their patient search and precise spray as they entered the water for the catch.

I stared into the horizon, hoping to see evidence of those enormous creatures that inhabit our coastline in the summer. I know they are there. But sometimes, I have to be satisfied with that knowledge, and not the sight of the blue and humpback whales.

This summer, I have seen a lot of them. They have been almost too close to the shore at times, almost dangerously close. Today they stayed in the hazy distance, treating me with occasional evidence of their seasonal trip. Like the human vacationers who come in droves, the whales come also each summer.

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look at the very left hand side for the last bit of spray from the whale’s spout (and the whale, of course)
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These two are so, so much larger than the photo shows!

While I sat, a three-ring circus entertained me, including a pod of dolphins, fishing pelicans and whales in the distance. On the way back home, I checked on the overly-full snake, but found it wasn’t blocking the path any longer. Today’s walk was filled with the wildlife I have seen all my life. Not a city-life walk, but a walk peopled with creatures that have been my walking companions for a long, long time.

 

 

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Walking with Pelicans

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The return of the pelicans

To my knowledge, pelicans don’t walk much. But I love to walk alongside them as they fly, out above the waves. These sergeant-majors of the seas patrol our area, and they come out in force during springtime and stay all summer. I welcome their return with my walk today, and was fortunate that they were in a mood to entertain.

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On patrol

How can people say they are not beauties? Their over-sized beaks and broad wings reward them with a beautiful catch, over and over.

Watch for the splashes. My camera and I do not agree about push and click. By the time I pushed, the pelican was probably already diving, and by the time the camera took the shot, there was only splash. Two different times, with two competent pelicans. They tried to make it easy for me.

The second one stalled to let me gather my failing photographic skills. He is the one lifting off again after a successful catch, ready to scout the area for more.

Watch this magnificent dive. I love the way they search, spot and then set-up their dive. The final upside-down reverse puts them head first into the water. Amazing creatures.

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As I walk, I see some tag-a-longs. The gulls must have noticed the school of fish. They follow the skillful pelicans, landing nearby for a chance at left-overs.

The pelican entertainment today makes my walk a bit longer in time, not distance. But who can resist stopping and looking at these spectacular birds, to say nothing of the other sights along the way. Hope you have a great walk today.

 

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Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

Walking the Neighborhood

IMG_0414When you live where you can walk along a beautiful path every day, you are a lucky sort. I am a lucky sort – these views never get old. Many places in world are beautiful, and the Central California coastline where I live is one.

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I leave my shoes by the dunes, and fight with the dry sand to get to the water’s edge. Barefoot walking, in and out of the tide, soothes my feet. The sea birds let me pass, but don’t give up their feeding grounds unless I get very close. It’s a tricky business, trying to guess the correct distance from each bird. The tall blue herons are in a large group today and may feel bolder than usual. The tiny snowy plovers have moved away from the surf. The curlews are so ever-present they hardly glance at my passing. I thread my steps back and forth, closer to the waves and then farther away, depending on what I guess is a polite distance from the wildlife. I guess wrong. The great blue herons are nervous – or maybe I made some unintentional noise. Away they fly.

The great blues are here in force today. It’s springtime, and the bird families are teaching their young to fish. Watch this one as s/he catches, swallows and catches again. See the lump in the long, long neck?

The night herons are back after a winter’s absence. For the first time, I notice how long their necks are stretched out full-length. More often I see them in a group, hunched down, facing the cold wind together. I watch their antics for a while, and wonder if these are a different kind of heron than I think they are. Newcomers?

Along my neighborhood walk, there is a majestic icon. Morro Rock, the stunning volcanic plug that anchors the 3-mile long beach, sits ready for a photograph every day. Sometimes the sun shines on the irregular surfaces, sometimes mist plays around the rock. Either way, it’s a fitting touchstone, and I use this as my turn-around point.

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End of the walk

I work my way back to my shoes, feel my thighs worry with the effort of walking through the dunes to the beach entrance. I think I’ll stop for a bit at the bench near the dunes, if the black bird will share it.

It’s springtime. Flowers have blossomed, the dunes-side bushes bloomed. But if you remember the colors of a month ago, you can see the fade already beginning. The surrounding hillsides have already changed from a full-mountain satin-ny green to a soft yellow. Wherever you are, I wish you peaceful neighborhood walks.