By Audrey F. Baker
In speaking of birds, Sir David Attenborough, who has been described as “the face and voice of natural history documentaries,” once asked, “What wild creature is more assessable to our eyes and ears…?” To that I add, “and soul.” While we humans communicate principally in words, our winged brethren’s song equally speaks to us with meaningful expression. Their music is a source of inspiration and the path to a full experience in nature.
Fellow Trail Guide and birder Wendy Esterly recently captured an exuberant White-Crowned Sparrow in full song. He sang with abandon in the fresh, post-rain air as flecks of sunshine sparkled about the bountiful foliage of his lemonade berry perch.
Clocking up to 300 miles a night, Alaskan-born White-Crowned Sparrows migrate 2,600 miles to winter in San Diego’s chaparral communities.
We invite you to share the nature experience. Take a moment to connect with its voice. Reflect on beauteous scenes. Glimpse the essence of life that not only brings positive psychological effects, expelling anxiety, but also brings a sense of physical connection to the world around us.
A bird’s song is a vivid reminder of the joy and appreciation that stems from time spent in nature.
Our MTRP Trail Guide walks are an opportunity to learn more about natural Southern California, with its unique landscapes, habitats, local history, plant and animal life. The walks are free, interesting, fact-filled, and geared to all ages and interests. Grab sturdy shoes, that comfortable hat, water bottle and sunscreen and hit the trail!
Morning walks are offered every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. You’ll start from the park’s Visitor and Interpretive Center, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Carlos. The walk beginning from the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Entry Station, 2 Father Junipero Serra Trail, at the San Carlos-Santee border, gives a different perspective of the park and its diverse habitats. These walks are offered from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and take in historic Old Mission Dam. We meet by the flagpoles.
Wildlife Tracking explores the world of tracks, scat, bedlays and other critter evidence that indicate the presence of secretive animals inhabiting the park. It’s “dirt-time” fun, so wear long pants for close-up observation. Join us at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 6 in front of the Visitor Center for a two-hour tracking adventure.
Star Party Marvels invites you to explore February skies with MTRP’s resident stargazer, George Varga. He’ll scope in the Orion Nebula; Little Bee Hive in Canis Major; Open Clusters M36, 37 and 38 in Auriga; and more! We observe from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6. (Rain/cloud cover cancels.) Meet us at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground Day Use Parking Lot.
Discovery Table: Critter Camouflage examines the forms of camouflage animals use to survive in nature. MTRP Trail Guides will familiarize you with local “Masters of Disguise” that populate the park and help you improve your powers of observation. See you Saturday, Feb. 13 between 10 a.m.-1:00 p.m. inside the Visitor Center.
La Mesa Walk ‘n Talk features an engaging lakeshore stroll and brief nature talk. This month, your MTRP Trail Guide gives insights into Lake Murray’s geologic history and landscapes. Join us on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 9-10:30 a.m. Enter the park from Murray Park Drive at Belle Glade Avenue, La Mesa.
Bird Oak Grove Loop with MTRP birders Jeanne Raimond and Millie Basden and enjoy the double-benefit of winter birding (the opportunity to observe migratory species along with local resident birds). Binoculars and bird book recommended. See you on Saturday, Feb. 20, 8-10 a.m. in front of the Visitor Center.
Birding Basics enhances your nature experience by identifying birds “at a glance!” MTRP’s Bird Guide Winona Sollock explains five simple techniques and offers tips on bird field guide use. (Bringing one is optional.) We meet on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 1-2:30 p.m. in Classroom A inside the Visitor Center.
Family Discovery Walk is our essential family fun on the trail outing. Your little ones will learn fundamental nature concepts that enrich their outdoor experience. Our winter program focuses on how rain awakens plants from the dormant stage and brings early flowerings. Meet inside the Visitor Center on Sunday, Feb. 28; 3-4:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, come on out and enjoy the park! Visit mtrp.org for more information and our events calendar, or call 619-668-3281. Special walks can be arranged for any club, group, business or school by contacting Ranger Chris Axtmann at 619-668-2746 or at email@example.com.
–Audrey F. Baker is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.