Wild Secrets – Cherish the Life Around You; Get Back to Nature
By Richard Zembal, natural resources director for the Orange County Water District
“Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is? The bird is on the wing, now ain’t that absurd, I thought the wing was on the bird?” This anonymous Ode to Spring, comes to mind from childhood when the winter finally warms. Another that comes to mind is, “I hold my heart when the geese are flying, a wavering wedge on the high, bright blue; I tighten my lips to keep from crying, beautiful birds, let me go with you!” There is a yearning brought on by seasonal change in those of us who relish time in the outdoors.
The hunker-down weather of winter with its cold, windy, grey dreariness can give way overnight to spring with an early warm spell in California and the rejuvenation is profound. Renewed growth and reproductive activities are quite synchronized and even the secretive endangered birds I’ve studied for decades sing their amorous intentions in unison, rendering them much easier to survey than in years when winter yields slowly.
The early nesters, the raptors and hummingbirds, typically start before winter really gives way. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks diving, cavorting with talons outstretched screaming overhead while a male Anna’s Hummingbird dives through a long arc, audibly popping wind through its tail feathers at the very bottom of the arc, just over the perched female’s head. All of this while the White-crowned Sparrows are still singing in the Orange County lowlands because the mountains where they will later breed have little food to yet offer. This little nature theater was the scene from my own backyard, yesterday. When was the last time a wild scene caught your attention?
Most of us living in Southern California grew up in neighborhoods peppered with houses, people, cars, and electronic dependencies. The nearest open space now is typically an isolated park, green belt along a bike trail, or a diminutive preserve. Not too long ago, most folks were farmers or ranchers living off and near the land with a true connection to the land, the soil and living things dependent on that environment and how it was caretaken. As we get further from the land and its life, we know and care less about it. The lack of familiarity has bred a disconnect for most people and a diminished caring about it. Yet, in an era of constant change and a plethora of information that bombards us, resulting in stress, anxiety and depression, being out in nature gives us time to rest and reflect. It’s a natural doctor of sorts and should be cherished for its healthy effects on humans as much as its use as a haven for wildlife.
The Orange County Water District is offering you the opportunity to get back to nature. Join OCWD in the spring for one of its nature walks through the Prado constructed wetlands in Riverside County. This tour is great for hikers, nature lovers and birding groups—or for those who just need a natural break to rejuvenate. Out of an abundance of precaution due to the coronavirus, tours may be postponed or cancelled this year. A tour is currently scheduled for May 23. Please visit the District website to sign up and to learn about updates.