Monday, May 21 , 2018, 7:25 pm | Fair 64º

 
 
 
 

Karen Telleen-Lawton: A Bird’s-Eye Perspective on Spring Zingers

An American kestrel enjoys the restored San Marcos Foothills Preserve. Click to view larger
An American kestrel enjoys the restored San Marcos Foothills Preserve. (David Telleen-Lawton photo)

The bird's-eye perspective this spring must be nothing short of beak-dropping. Birds are accustomed to seeing people as semi-autonomous extensions of cars, scurrying from wheeled vehicles to houses and offices and back again. But this spring we are getting out of our cars and walking around in great numbers, enjoying green trails, rushing creeks and a plethora of wildflowers. I heard on the radio that those heading to the Anza-Borrego desert should have plenty of food and a full tank of gas since gridlock could await native flower-gawkers in the state park.

One sign of spring slightly subtler than a profusion of flowers is the absence of adult Western gulls on the beach. Look around the next time you’re there: Western gulls that are still hanging around are mostly the brownish-whitish variety: juveniles. They may or may not be wondering where the old folks went, which is largely out to Anacapa Island.

Something like 7,500 or more females have reunited with their lifelong mates and are settling into digs in tight quarters on the one-square-mile island. The pairs sound pretty much like you would imagine 15,000 gulls to sound like when they’re arguing over which square yard or two will be theirs for the season.

The rain has been good for giant coreopsis, their preferred habitat. It will be interesting to see if the abundant rains induce the gulls to produce more clutches of three or even four than the usual two to three.

A surprise beneficiary of the abundant rains has been a tiny, delicate plant hitherto unknown to Santa Barbara Island. Eremalche exilis, the while mallow, is known by specimens gathered on Santa Cruz Island in 1888 and on Catalina Island in 1902. Five separate populations were found in several parts of the tiny island during the annual plant survey. The white mallow is part of the hibiscus family often found in deserts. A common mallow trait is seeds that can lie dormant for decades until the right conditions exist. They exist!

Closer to home, wild cucumber vines proliferate on our local trails. Their seeds look more like prickly tennis balls. The clematis vine’s creamy fragrant flowers are ahead of schedule. Blue dicks stems poke into the wet trail like tiny jack-in-the-boxes, and the angular fruit of ceanothus appears alongside fading white blossoms.

The winter floods destroyed some manmade habitats like the cabins at El Capitan, but were restorative for the habitat itself. The storm redesigned creek architectures at every turn. They scoured the pools in a periodic cleaning and replenished the system for stream biota like steelhead and insects. If the creeks were unimpeded by dams and such, they’d also be delivering fresh sand to the starved beaches.

In these waning weeks of the rainy season, I remembered birder Joan Lenz describing a bird fallout, when a spring storm stalls a migration. “Right alongside the creek, the trees were just dripping with warblers, flycatchers and finches,” she told me for Canyon Voices. I hurried through the rain to Rattlesnake Creek to see if I could witness the phenomenon.

What I saw and heard seemed like mostly locals, but I counted about 14 species in a little less than an hour. I did spy a bright pair of warblers — Wilson’s, I think — that may have “fallen out.” The true joy was seeing one of nature’s secrets in plain sight: a bird’s-eye perspective.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton serves seniors and pre-seniors as the principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara. You can reach her with your financial planning questions at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >