Do you ever wonder why kids don’t explore nature like they did years ago? I do! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s. Most of my free time was spent outside playing with my sister and friends. We had toys but didn’t always need them because we used our imagination to think of fun things to do.
One time we found some tunnels in an open field that others had dug out. So we gathered up tumbleweeds to hide the tunnels, since much of it had caved in and was open. When we moved a mile away, we didn’t have the tunnel fort, so we made one entirely of tumbleweeds stacked on top of each other. We even had different rooms. It was so fun!
As kids, we would also go exploring, running through the corn field and walking along dirt roads between fields to investigate an isolated grove of trees. We were always looking for new adventures and things to discover. Sometimes we’d find cool frogs, bugs, or mushrooms, but other times, nothing. Either way, it was the excitement of the possibilities that made it fun.
My sister and I would stay outside until the sun went down, 'cause we knew we needed to be home for dinner before it got dark. But that was okay, because we had the freedom to go explore nature and see what we could find.
Today, most kids spend their time staring at a screen playing video games or watching shows or movies. Some keep busy by participating in sports. But I wonder how many have actually gone on an adventure to explore nature. If you have kids, or even grandkids, don’t you wish they’d spend more time enjoying the magic of nature? I hope so, because I feel it’s so important that kids discover nature and learn to love it. If they don’t, then who will protect our planet when we’re gone?
I’ve always loved Baba Dioum’s quote. Its sums up my belief about nature, which is probably why I’ve been sharing nature with adults and children since the early 90s!
For in the end, we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.
Baba Dioum, Sengalese Conservationist
Do your kids or grandkids explore the outdoors? If so, let me know what they’re into.
It was a long weekend, and so was my to do list. But I did manage to get some birding in for the GBBC. Some of it was even done from the car while driving home from work and the next few days while running errands! You don’t have to have boots on the ground and binoculars around your neck to bird.
As I turned onto the heading home after work Friday, I immediately saw some bird activity in a tree, and then caught sight of a Cassin’s Kingbird as it flew to another tree where I heard it calling. My first countable bird! By the time I had driven the 30-40 yards to my house, I’d also got Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a whole bunch of Crows (they head northeast in the evening where they gather in huge numbers to roost and then head southwest again in the morning). The next morning, while driving home after running errands, I caught sight of two separate Red-tailed Hawks trying to find breakfast.
Mornings are an excellent time to bird, so while walking the dog Sunday morning, I added Phainopepla, Scrub Jay, Mockingbird, White Crowned Sparrow, and Lesser Goldfinch. The female Phainopepla, with her grayish brown color and crest, was singing and calling. I tried to get close enough to see her red eye, but without my binoculars, that didn’t happen.
My back yard feeder and fountain also attract birds, so over the four-day event, I added House Finch, California Towhee, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Rufous Crowned Sparrow, and Eurasian Collard Dove.
Since Monday was President’s Day, I decided to grab the dog and take her to the high school where she could wander around off-leash. Since I live on a canyon, off-leash is not a good idea at any parks close by, or even on the street leading to my house. But at the high school, she wandered and sniffed while I added additional species of Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Western Bluebird, European Starlings, and a few Western Gulls flying by and hanging out in the mall parking lot. I also saw two Anna’s Hummingbirds. I only saw one at first but knew there was a female close by because the male was doing his territorial/mating display. He climbs way up, then swoops down close to the female, fanning the tail feathers to make a loud popping sound, then climbs back up to do it again and again. Its fun to watch, and once you know what’s going on, you can usually find the female. I’ve also seen this display done to scare a California Towhee off the fence and out of a male’s territory, or so he thought!
All in all, I had a fun time birding during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. I think 23 confirmed species is a good number for just fitting it in where I could.
Been thinkin' about hiking, but don’t know what you need or where to go? Well, I can help with that!
You’ll need a lunch, or at least snacks, and plenty of water. Hats and sunscreen are a must during the summer. Dress in layers in case the weather changes, and always wear comfortable shoes. Hiking boots aren’t required if you’re on a level surface, but if you’ll be walking over rough terrain, you may want boots. And if insects think you’re a tasty morsel, carry a non-toxic bug repellant with ya. Have binoculars, bring em. Field guides for birds, bugs, and butterflies might come in handy, too. To be safe, have friend or two with you.
Don’t know where to go? Your choices are limitless. In San Diego County, there are countless free hiking trails at open spaces like Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway, Marian Bear Memorial Park in San Diego, and Ramona Grasslands Reserve in Ramona, to name just a few.
Some areas charge a day use fee, and offer hiking trails with unbelievable views, such as Cabrillo National Monument in Pt. Loma, Torrey Pines State Park north of La Jolla, William Heise County Park in Julian, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near Borrego Springs.
It’s hard to believe, but many people love hiking in the desert. You might catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep. Depending on the season and in which part of California’s largest state park you find yourself, you may discover colorful wildflowers, a sidewinder, or mud caves to explore. The mud caves are really cool!
There are great places north of San Diego, too. Enjoy a guided nature walk among oak woodlands or canyons at Caspers Wilderness Park in Orange County. If you prefer cooler breezes along the coast, check out Orange County’s Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Farther inland, you can explore the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County. When the conditions are right, you’ll have amazing discoveries at the vernal pools at SRP.
Don’t live in San Diego, check the internet for places to visit. Or you can use the old-fashioned method and find a book that list walks and hikes in your area. Just find a place and get out in nature. You won’t regret it.