Rare butter-ball-fly-ball in Normal Heights!

During my walk in Normal Heights today, I spotted a very rare “butter-ball-fly-ball” butterfly. The strange insect was clinging to an electrical box next to the Adams Recreation Center!

This fun butterfly street art is just a few steps from the baseball field at Adams Community Park.

You mean it’s a make-believe species?

And I spotted other nearby butterflies! These boxes were painted in 2021, thanks to Normal Heights Urban Arts.

Several other electrical boxes along the sidewalk near the Adams Recreation Center were painted with butterflies back in 2020. I documented those during a past walk here!

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I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Eating the flesh of a Sumatran tiger skull!

Why was there a Sumatran tiger skull outside in Balboa Park today?

Because the skull’s flesh had been devoured by a mass of skin beetles. And those beetles (and their very hungry larvae) would be a nuisance if they escaped indoors!

Scientists from the nearby San Diego Natural History Museum were carefully preparing the Sumatran tiger skull for their collection!

The museum’s Birds and Mammals Department already contains tens of thousands of specimens. I was told preserved specimens, including this tiger skull, are very useful when it comes to comparative anatomy.

I’ve learned that Birds and Mammals Department curator Philip Unitt is the author of The Birds of San Diego County, which happens to be on my bookshelf! (It should be on yours, too.)

I noticed another critter in a nearby container waiting for the skin beetle (Dermestidae) treatment. A gray fox that was road kill in La Jolla would provide dinner for the beetles next!

Funny. I was visiting Balboa Park to check out the ongoing preparations for December Nights. Which just goes to show–you never know what you’ll discover when walking through this amazing park!

The San Diego Natural History Museum, like many other Balboa Park museums, will be open free to the public during December Nights!

Here’s the beetles’ next meal: a gray fox…

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Planting rare trees at Torrey Pines State Reserve.

An important reforestation effort is underway at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

In recent years the critically endangered Torrey pine population has been reduced significantly by bark beetles, particularly in the park’s North Grove. So over 450 Torrey pine seedlings and 581 native shrubs grown in the nursery at the San Diego Safari Park are being planted in different locations around the Reserve.

You can read more about the project, an effort of California State Parks, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and the U.S. Forest Service, by clicking here.

I walked the loop of the Guy Fleming Trail yesterday, where visitors can see many of the dead Torrey pines. Among dead trees, clustered close to the ground, stand strange blue tubes. These plastic protectors shield growing trees and other plants from animals and drying winds.

Native shrubs that have also been planted, mostly above the west-facing bluffs facing the Pacific Ocean, include sea dahlia, jojoba, lanceleaf liveforever, fingertips (San Diego dudleya), lemonade berry, coast lilac, and San Diego mountain mahogany.

As I walked along, observing all those blue tubes, I paused to read signs that explain how bark beetles kill the rare and beautiful Torrey pine. This tree’s natural protection against beetle infestation is sap. During drought trees produce less sap than usual and become especially vulnerable.

Without sufficient water, trees cannot produce enough oleoresin, an oozy sap-substance, and one type of chemical defense that can flush beetles from trees…

Bark Beetle Trapping and Observation in Progress.

The Five-Spined Engraver Beetle is a native insect that survives by burrowing in the Torrey pine tree. During normal conditions, the pines will excrete sap to prevent beetles from laying eggs within the tree. The sap simultaneously protects the damaged bark from fungus and disease…

…The stacked black funnels that are seen on a dead Torrey pine contain a specialized chemical pheromone to attract and trap beetles…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Giant ants interact with curious kids!

Three enormous ants interacted with excited children today in San Diego.

The strange human-size ants were first spotted carrying large bread crumbs about the green lawn of Liberty Station’s North Promenade.

The onlooking kids quickly understood the silent, methodical ants had a plan. They were carrying the crumbs and dropping them on the grass to form lines!

Lots of kids promptly assisted them!

Ants was the name of this very unique, super fun interactive outdoor performance, a part of La Jolla Playhouse’s 2022 Without Walls Festival at Liberty Station.

The three giant ants came from Polyglot Theatre in Australia!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Mutt’Tipi–People of the Earth mural in IB.

Today I enjoyed long walks in both San Ysidro and Imperial Beach. I captured many photos, which I’ll share in the next few days!

First up, I discovered this amazing mural in Imperial Beach at the corner of Palm Avenue and 2nd Street, on the side of a 7-Eleven. It was painted in 2018 and I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed it previously. It’s titled Mutt’Tipi–People of the Earth. The artist is Marissa Quinn.

MuttTipi is the name that some Native American Kumeyaay in our region have called themselves, and it translates to People of the Earth.

The mural’s spiritual and environmental message includes a variety of symbols, including the sacred sun and moon, once-endangered brown pelicans and healing honeybees. The pelicans have human legs, connecting them to past ancestors.

The mural itself has an earthy look, which appears to be by design. It is also the result of wind, soil, rain and sunshine, and time’s passage.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Huge wire insects swarm on park fence!

Dozens of very large insects have swarmed onto the chain link fence at Adams Community Park in Normal Heights! They seem to be attracted to the nearby Adams Recreation Center!

The insects, made of twisted metal wire, include butterflies, beetles, praying mantises, flies, ants, spiders, damselflies, ladybugs, moths, ticks, bees, dragonflies…and bug-eyed species that seem to defy classification!

Does anyone know who created this very cool wire artwork? Was it a project of school kids? Were these fashioned at the recreation center? Please leave a comment if you know anything!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Finding tracks, signs of wildlife at Mission Trails!

A guided group walks through Mission Trails Regional Park looking for signs of wildlife.
A guided group walks through Mission Trails Regional Park looking for signs of wildlife.

This morning I went on a truly extraordinary guided walk. Two expert trackers took a small group on an easy hike in Mission Trails Regional Park to search for tracks and other signs of often elusive wildlife!

The immense, mountainous Mission Trails Regional Park, located within the City of San Diego, is home to abundant wildlife. But it can be hard to spot animals in the wild during a visit to the park. Many species are nocturnal. Many tend to hide in the scrubby vegetation to avoid predators, to watch for a passing meal, or protect a nest.

This morning I and others met at the Visitor Center to set out on this special walk. While we didn’t see anything very dramatic, we did observe how the living world around us is engaged in a perpetual dance. We learned that humans with open eyes and curious minds might find signs left by rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, deer, and even (but rarely) mountain lions!

We saw several spots where a skunk dug for grubs. We saw several wood rat’s nests. We leaned down to the ground to peer at the secret trap door of a spider. We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud, rabbit tracks in some green grass, and coyote scat. We learned what differently pressed tracks might indicate about an animal passing that way. Were they stealthily hunting? Leaning to one side? In a big hurry to avoid a predator?

We watched birds flitting through shrubs and trees and soaring in the blue sky high above, and we learned a whole lot about crows and ravens and red-tailed hawks. We learned why coyotes howl. We saw a hummingbird. We watched a fence lizard pump itself up and down. We discovered a small, perfectly circular hole dug by a digger bee.

We learned how scent is a critically important sense for both predator and prey, and how animals in the wild are all acutely aware of each other at any given moment. And how they are confused by oddly unpredictable human behavior. We learned far too much to mention everything in this blog!

Our two super knowledgeable guides have been leading these wildlife tracking walks, which are held the first Saturday of every month, for about 11 years.

Bob MacDonald and Mike Gibbs belong to the San Diego Tracking Team, an organization of experts and enthusiasts who track wildlife in our region. They advocate for good stewardship of the natural environment and provide researchers with data from about 20 sites around San Diego County, as far away as the Anza Borrego desert.

According to their website: “San Diego County has the most biodiversity of any County in North America… Many of the plants and animals that call our region home are found nowhere else in the world… The San Diego Tracking Team (SDTT) is dedicated to preserving the wildlife habitat in the San Diego region through citizen-based wildlife monitoring and environmental education programs…”

Both Bob and Mike were super interesting and personable, and even the young kids in our group never lost interest as we learned about the endlessly amazing dance of life all around us.

I learned that Mike Gibbs was an Army Green Beret with extensive wilderness survival knowledge. He has worked in law enforcement and search and rescue as an educator and as a human and animal tracker. I’m anxious to read his book Spirit Wolf, a novel that takes place on the High Plains. (Which, by pure coincidence, is where I once lived and is the setting for a short story I’m now working on!)

But enough of that for now! On to a few photographs!

One of two experienced animal trackers addresses our group near the Mission Trails Visitor Center before we begin our adventure.
Mike Gibbs, one of two highly experienced animal trackers, addresses our group near the Mission Trails Visitor Center before we begin our adventure.

Our short but super fascinating wildlife tracking walk took us up the Oak Grove Inner Trail.
Our short but super fascinating wildlife tracking walk took us up the Oak Grove Inner Trail.

A hiking stick has been laid down to show where a skunk has dug small holes in the soil looking for grubs.
A hiking stick has been laid down to show where a skunk has dug small holes in the soil looking for grubs.

As the skunk moved forward, nose to the ground, it dug a series of additional holes.
As the skunk moved forward, nose to the ground, it dug a series of additional holes.

Walking again along the trail, searching for more signs of local wildlife.
Walking again along the trail, searching for more signs of local San Diego wildlife.

One of our guides points to the lair of a trapdoor spider! They pop out to catch prey, and lay their eggs inside their smooth burrow for safety. Yes, spiders can dig!
One of our guides points to the lair of a trapdoor spider! They pop out to catch prey, and lay their eggs inside their smooth burrow for safety. Yes, spiders can dig!

We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud. The heavy front pads indicate a breed with a forward center of gravity. Coyotes have much neater, straighter tracks.
We saw lots of dog tracks in dried mud. The heavy front pads indicate a heavy breed with a forward center of gravity. Coyotes have distinctive, much straighter tracks.

Way up there on that distant tree we spot a hummingbird!
Way up there on top of that distant tree we spot a tiny hummingbird!

Rabbits made these tracks in the bent grass as they moved forward eating. We saw a couple calm rabbits feeding in the distance, seemingly unconcerned about predators.
Rabbits made these tracks in the bent grass as they moved forward leaving a U-shaped trail. We saw a couple of calm rabbits feeding in the distance, seemingly unconcerned about predators.

A gopher hole in the trail, long abandoned. The hole was subsequently widened by curious dogs poking in their noses, excited by an old scent.
A pocket gopher’s hole in the trail, long abandoned. The hole was subsequently widened by curious dogs poking in their noses, excited by an old scent.

Fresh moist coyote scat. These droppings seemed to show a recent vegetable diet.
Fresh moist coyote scat. These droppings seemed to show a recent vegetable diet.

But nearby, other dried, ropy coyote droppings contain rabbit fur.
But nearby, other dried, ropy coyote droppings contain rabbit fur.

This small perfectly circular hole was dug by a digger bee. Yes, bees can dig, too! It seems a lot of critters dig. Snakes don't. They like to digest their food in the safety of Wood Rat's nests.
This small perfectly circular hole was dug by a digger bee. Yes, bees can dig, too! It seems a lot of critters dig. Snakes don’t. They like to digest their food in the safety of a wood rat’s sturdy stick nest.

What will we discover next? Life continues its dance, and the natural world is ever changing.
What will we discover next? Life continues its dance and the natural world is ever changing.

Wildlife Tracking Walks are held at Mission Trails Regional Park the first Saturday of every month, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. To learn more about the park’s different guided walks, click here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Natural beauty near the Sikes Adobe.

Early this morning, before the summer sun could make hiking very hot, I enjoyed a slow, quiet walk near the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead in Escondido.

I followed the Coast to Crest Trail for a bit, passed over Kit Carson Creek, and gazed off toward the willows and sycamores that line the edge of Lake Hodges and the San Dieguito River.

I lifted my camera when my eyes happened to perceive another instance of natural beauty.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Create a cool beehouse for your garden!

Anyone can create a cool beehouse for their garden. All you really need is a drill!
Anyone can create a beehouse for their garden. All you really need is a drill!

Before my hike through the Sweetwater Marsh on Saturday, I took a stroll through the Native Pollinator Garden just outside the Living Coast Discovery Center. After reading a variety of informative signs, I paused in the garden to look at some very cool beehouses!

As I read about the beehouses, it occurred to me these would be extremely easy to make.

I took photographs just in case anyone reading this blog would like to make a beehouse for their own garden! Read the captions to learn more about the habits of ground-dwelling solitary bees and the materials you can use to make them a beehouse!

The Native Pollinator Garden at the Living Coast Discovery Center includes some very cool beehouses!
The Native Pollinator Garden just outside the Living Coast Discovery Center includes a couple of very cool beehouses!

Bees are extremely important. More than two thirds of the world's crop species rely on pollinators.
Bees are extremely important. More than two thirds of the world’s crop species rely on pollinators.

A large Feed a Bee Pollinator Habitat in the native garden provides shelter for solitary bees and information for the curious.
A large Feed a Bee Pollinator Habitat in the native garden provides shelter for solitary bees and information for the curious.

The rear of this bee condo! Holes have been drilled in a variety of materials, including logs, lumber and bricks.
The rear of this bee condo! Holes have been drilled in a variety of materials, including logs, lumber and bricks.

Solitary bees don't live in colonies. They often seek out hollows of fallen logs, bark and branches. They make up a majority of the 4000 bee species in the United States.
Solitary bees don’t live in colonies. They often seek out hollows of fallen logs, bark and branches. They make up a majority of the 4000 bee species in the United States.

A close look at the fun beehouse. I think even I could make one of these.
A close look at the fun beehouse. I think even I could make one of these.

Creating various hiding places attracts solitary bees, which can be as small as an eighth of an inch.
Creating various hiding places attracts solitary bees, which can be as small as an eighth of an inch.

Feeling inspired? Handy with a hammer and nails? Make your beehouse into a cool work of art!
Feeling inspired? Handy with a hammer and nails? Fashion your beehouse into a unique work of art!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Beautiful bougainvillea in Mission Valley.

I took these four photographs of bougainvillea several days ago while walking near the Hazard Center trolley station in Mission Valley. The sun had broken through the morning clouds and was shining on clusters of beautiful red bracts and white flowers. Upon examining these images, I noticed I’d captured some tiny insects!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you enjoy beautiful things? Visit my other photography blog which I call A Small World Full of Beauty.