“Behold, my friends, the spring has come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” — Sitting Bull
The house finches are nesting on my front porch again. They don’t seem to mind my comings and goings as long as I don’t linger too long.
The female turkeys in my neighborhood are getting nesty. The males are quite spectacular, with vibrant blue coloring around the face, strutting pompously, flaring their tail feathers, oblivious to oncoming cars. That surge of springtime hormones can make one blind to the apparent hazards that everyone else can see.
Birds aren’t the only nesters in our community. Both tree squirrels (the gray ones) and ground squirrels (the brown ones) have young in the nest at this time of year. Soon we’ll see baby ground squirrels chasing each other under the boardwalks on local trails.
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The March rains have brought out the frogs and toads; evenings are filled with their piping chorus. Even the lizards are in the mood. Western fence lizards are doing pushups on stone walls and wooden walkways, dashing away just before a pedestrian’s foot lands right where they were.
Seemingly almost overnight, the hillsides have turned green and the wildflowers are blooming.
Pregnant cows give birth while the hillsides are verdant and the grasses full of nutrients. In San Simeon, leggy zebra foals are herded protectively by their stout mothers.
It’s pupping season for harbor seals, March through May. Observers of our resident group of harbor seals on Moonstone Beach may see small replicas of the adults on the rocks. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of one nursing. It’s best to avoid the stairway near their rocky haulout at this time – let them raise their young in peace.
The insects are active too. Butterflies flit among the blooming flowers, dragonflies are starting to buzz around ponds and fountains. The bees just love those blooming rosemary bushes.
The creeks broke through their sandy barriers and are flowing to the ocean, opening the gateway for steelhead to return and spawn. Maybe we’ll see fingerlings in San Simeon and Santa Rosa creeks later this summer.
In other parts of California, the snows are melting. In the Sierra, the black bears are coming out of their dens, hopefully with a cub or two in tow.
Offshore, we are seeing lots of whale blows. These are mostly gray whale mothers with calves that were born at the new year. They are taking it slow as they move stolidly northward; their travel plans have them reaching nutrient-rich Alaskan waters in June.
Migratory animals who spent their winters here on the Central Coast have moved on. Only a few Monarch butterflies remain — most have left for breeding grounds in the Sierra foothills. Pelicans, gulls and other migratory seabirds who wintered here have left for breeding areas on offshore islands to the south.
For those of us with good observation skills and a little understanding of local natural history, springtime is laden with signs of events and activities in the lives of our wild community, lending added value to every single day.