Walking by the Miramar College Vernal Pools.

Today I walked through a small section of Mira Mesa. I was on a mission to check out a cool sculpture I’d read about that stands in front of a fire station.

As I walked west along Hillery Drive from the Miramar College Transit Station, I observed what at first glance appeared like a scrubby vacant lot behind a fence. When I came to the corner of Hillery Drive and Black Mountain Road, a sign on the fence informed me that I was looking at an area of special environmental importance–a unique nature preserve!

I was walking right next to the Miramar College Vernal Pools.

Here’s a little information provided by three signs that I read:

This plot of land was originally leased to the Navy in 1931 and called Linda Vista Mesa Field, or Hourglass Field because of its distinctive shape. It was part of Camp Kearny, which was located on the site of the current Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This field was used by the Army and Navy for dive bombing practice and emergency landings.

From 1957 to 1959, the field was used as a sports car racecourse, and from the 1970’s to 2008 what remained of the old runway was used for law enforcement training and nicknamed The Grinder.

The protected field now contains many seasonal vernal pools–a very rare type of wetland. Shallow vernal pools are wet during the rainy season–particularly in spring–then quickly turn to mud and dry out. Because of this unusual environment, a number of rare and endemic species live in vernal pool areas. In addition to teeming microscopic life and small crustaceans like the fairy shrimp, there are frogs, snakes, birds and mammals. More than 200 plant species thrive in and around vernal pools, including annual wildflowers.

One sign indicates the Miramar College Vernal Pools’ interpretive trails are open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 10:30 pm. Unfortunately, I walked by on a Saturday and had to observe this natural area from behind the surrounding fence.

If you want to read the signs, click my photos and they will enlarge.

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!

Monument to a White Deer in Presidio Park.

A little known monument stands in a remote corner of San Diego’s Presidio Park. It remembers a white deer that once lived there.

From an article in the PRESIDIO PARK RANGER REPORT, QUARTERLY: SEPTEMBER 2006-NOVEMBER 2006…

WHITE DEER

This female white fallow deer roamed the hills of Mission Valley, Mission Hills, and Presidio Park. This doe escaped from the San Diego Zoo around 1965 and wandered free in Presidio Park for the next ten years.

The deer was spotted attempting to cross the I-8 freeway, and some locals reported seeing the deer get hit by a vehicle. Tragically, in the effort to catch the deer, Animal Control used a tranquilizer dart, which ultimately led to the deer’s death in December, 1975.

This treasured deer had been something of a community mascot. This incident led to an outpouring of community grief.

As a result, a citizen’s committee was formed to promote a suitable memorial for the gravesite. In 1976, a monument was placed at the top of the hill at Inspiration Point for the most cherished White deer named “Lucy”. A free standing monument of three native stones designed by San Diego Artist Charles Faust, sits on the hill top for all to remember the White Deer.

Margaret Price (1911-) a local artist involved in converting Spanish Village in Balboa Park to an artists enclave, truly worked diligently to establish the monument for the White deer. Many community members wrote to Price, hoping to have their poem or saying put onto the monument.

A bronze plaque beside the three standing stones reads: Bliss in solitude beneath this tree, formless, silent, spirit free. A Friend

About to head up the hill from the small Inspiration Point parking lot.
About to head up the hill from the small Inspiration Point parking lot.
Heading up under shady trees.
Heading up under shady trees.
Approaching a park bench, and three vertical stones near it.
Approaching a park bench, and three vertical stones near it.
Public art in Presidio Park remembers a White Dear named Lucy that escaped from the San Diego Zoo.
Public art in Presidio Park remembers a White Dear named Lucy that escaped from the San Diego Zoo.
A monument atop a green hill honors natural things.
A monument atop a green hill honors natural things.
Deer tracks approach the sculpted water hole, among the tracks of other wild animals.
Deer tracks approach the sculpted water hole, among the tracks of other wild animals.
A plaque is nearby.
A plaque is nearby.
The white deer of Mission Hills. Bliss in solitude beneath this tree, formless, silent, spirit free. A friend
The white deer of Mission Hills. Bliss in solitude beneath this tree, formless, silent, spirit free. A friend
Monument to a White Deer in San Diego's Presidio Park.
Monument to a White Deer in San Diego’s Presidio Park.

To see this simple but very beautiful monument, turn up the steep driveway off Taylor Street, just east of Presidio Park’s main entrance. The driveway leads to the Inspiration Point parking lot.

Then walk up the nearby hill.

This monument is very close to some homes in Mission Hills, so be quiet and respectful.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

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Irritable crabs face off at Ocean Beach arena.

Some irritable crabs were facing off all around a watery square arena at the Ocean Beach tide pools yesterday.

Crabs small and smaller, feeling agitated, would lift their claws threateningly, scamper right up to a rival, show ’em who’s boss, then, seeming to forget everything, would bumble off in a different direction.

I can’t say there was too much actual grappling. Just a lot of showboating.

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!

Living Coast Discovery Center needs your help!

I just read an article on the KPBS website about how the Living Coast Discovery Center desperately needs donations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of their revenue comes from people visiting the center, which has been closed. Meanwhile, the many animals in their care–the birds, turtles, snakes, small mammals and other wild critters rescued around South Bay’s wetlands–need to eat! That requires money!

So I thought perhaps some of my San Diego readers might like to help out, too.

Have your kids taken school field trips to the Living Coast Discovery Center? Have you enjoyed a visit with your family? These deserving people really need your help!

Click here to learn more and perhaps make a donation!

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!

The beauty of nature on the coastal strand.

The coastal strand lies just above the high tide line of a beach. While its appearance might be sandy, dry and scraggly, look closely and you’ll find plenty of nature’s endless beauty.

Last Saturday I walked around Silver Strand State Beach.

Entrance station at Silver Strand State Beach.
Entrance station at Silver Strand State Beach.

The blue Pacific Ocean stretches beyond the seemingly barren western shore of the Silver Strand. Point Loma and a cruise ship can be seen in the distance.
The blue Pacific Ocean stretches beyond the seemingly barren western shore of the Silver Strand. Point Loma and a cruise ship can be seen in the distance.

The flowers of beach suncup, or evening primrose, are like bright gems on the sand.
The flowers of beach suncup, or evening primrose, are like bright gems on the sand.

The Western Snowy Plover depends on kelp and seagrass washed ashore, feeding on insects. Their young are hatched in the sand. Fences keep the feet of people away.
The Western Snowy Plover depends on kelp and seagrass washed ashore, feeding on insects. Their young are hatched in the sand. Fences keep the feet of beachgoers away.

Walking along the San Diego Bay side of the State Park.
Walking along the San Diego Bay side of the State Park.

Coastal strand plants begin to grow past the tide line. Winds and waves sculpt the sands in this dynamic, yet fragile habitat.
Coastal strand plants begin to grow past the tide line. Winds and waves sculpt the sands in this dynamic, yet fragile habitat.

San Diego black-tailed jackrabbits are frequently seen in the dry coastal sage scrub of Silver Strand State Beach.
San Diego black-tailed jackrabbits are frequently seen in the dry coastal sage scrub of Silver Strand State Beach.

How many rabbits can you see? They are well adapted to this environment.
How many rabbits can you see? They are well adapted to this environment.

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!

Mosaics on wall by Silver Strand nature trail.

Check out this cool mosaic art at Silver Strand State Beach!

The artwork covers one side of a low wall near a California State Parks bench, where two paths in the northeast section of the park intersect. In my photos you can see a nature trail made of wood planks heading off through scrubby coastal habitat toward San Diego Bay.

To appreciate this unusual mosaic you need to view it up close. Bits of broken tiles, sea shells and other objects have been arranged into triangles. The triangles frame clay forms of native wildlife and people. In places the mosaics have broken off. The entire wall has become weathered in such a way that the organic artwork appears even more earthy.

Try as I might, I’m unable to discover any information about this public art.

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!

Wildlife arrives at San Diego River Discovery Center!

Native birds and wildlife arrived today at the San Diego River Discovery Center! Or, to be more precise, banners featuring images of river critters were hung today on a construction fence that surrounds the future nature center!

Did you know something cool is being built next to the San Diego River in Mission Valley?

The San Diego River Discovery Center at Grant Park is going to be where people of all ages gather to experience and learn about the natural environment along the San Diego River!

I blogged about this project in the past here. They’ve made progress since then, as you can see in one upcoming photo.

If you want to learn about the future nature center and how you might help make this dream a reality, visit the San Diego River Discovery Center website 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!

See amazing birds of prey at Hawk Watch!

A spectacular event is held every winter in Ramona, California. On Saturdays, during January and February, the public can freely enjoy an educational program called Hawk Watch.

Those who go to Hawk Watch will see birds of prey up close and in the wild. The setting is the wide, beautiful Ramona Grasslands.

Hawk Watch is an event organized by the Wildlife Research Institute. WRI, in a cooperative effort with The Nature Conservancy and San Diego County, now protects 7,000 acres of Ramona grassland. This grassland is an important natural refuge where native wildlife can not only survive, but thrive.

Hawk Watch features live raptors and a fascinating educational talk by biologists. The owls are introduced during the talk by representatives of Project Wildlife, which provides wildlife rescue in San Diego County. The talk is followed by demonstrations by falconry experts.

Afterward, all of the ambassador raptors can be viewed by the public up close!

Today I went to Hawk Watch!

The event is held on Ramona’s private Begent Ranch, which features all sorts of cool artwork, including colorful sculptures arranged about a large dirt parking lot. After walking through a barn and looking at a variety of educational exhibits, I set up my lawn chair with other visitors at the edge of the scenic grasslands.

As we were introduced to different species of hawks, falcons and owls, and learned about their special characteristics and adaptations, we could watch wild raptors and some ravens circling in the distance above the grasslands. Birds of prey that can be spotted in the blue skies of Ramona include hawks, kites, kestrels, golden eagles, and recently bald eagles!

The event has become so beloved that visitors today came from as far away as India, China and Israel. For two hours, everyone, including many families with children, sat enchanted by all that was seen and learned. Many of the visitors had high powered photographic equipment and binoculars. I made due with my little old camera.

Here are some photos. I’m afraid they’re just adequate. I couldn’t really record the falconry demonstrations very well, which included the clever use of a drone, but they were fantastic.

I know I’ll be going to Hawk Watch again. You can learn more about this amazing event and the work of the Wildlife Research Institute at their website here.

One last thing. The photo you’re about to see is a painting of WRI Director and Wildlife Biologist, co-founder of Hawk Watch, Dave Bittner. He tragically passed away about a month ago doing something he loved: tending to a camera near a golden eagle’s high cliff nest.

I was told Hawk Watch will live on.

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!

Isn’t it Amazing art captures nature’s beauty.

Prairie Dogs on Alert, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.
Prairie Dogs on Alert, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.

Artwork depicting nature’s awesome beauty can now be enjoyed inside the Visitor Center at Mission Trails Regional Park. The exhibition is appropriately titled: Isn’t it Amazing.

Dozens of pieces by award-winning artists Pat Dispenziere, Elaine Harvey, Otto Kruse, Victoria Alexander Marquez and Jami Wright are displayed on several walls of the Visitor Center. Through the use of watercolor, mixed media and photography, the artists have framed and realized scenes of natural beauty.

This morning, after finishing an extraordinary wildlife tracking walk (which I’ll blog about shortly), I stepped into the Visitor Center to admire the artwork. I took a few photos to provide a small taste.

Are you in San Diego? Do you appreciate excellent art? All of these pieces are available for purchase!

And guess what? Take home some collectible artwork and a portion of the sale will benefit the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation!

Isn’t it Amazing is open free to the public and runs through February 14, 2020.

Colorful artwork depicting nature's beauty on display in the art gallery at the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center.
Colorful artwork depicting nature’s beauty on display in the art gallery at the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center.

High Valley, watercolor by artist Pat Dispenziere.
High Valley, watercolor by artist Pat Dispenziere.

Smith Rock, Central Oregon, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.
Smith Rock, Central Oregon, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.

Dances With Waves, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.
Dances With Waves, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.

Sycamore Sun, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.
Sycamore Sun, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.

In the Forest Deep, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.
In the Forest Deep, watercolor by artist Jami Wright.

SC12 #12, mixed media by artist Victoria Alexander Marquez.
SC12 #12, mixed media by artist Victoria Alexander Marquez.

Seldom Seen, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.
Seldom Seen, watercolor by artist Elaine Harvey.

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!