In The Sky & The Tops of Trees
is a popular activity for many reasons. We are attracted to the
creatures of the sky because of their beauty, their diversity of
song, and their unique characteristics.
out into the Angeles National Forest to identify birds is a real
adventure and sometimes a detective hunt. Rarely does the bird
come to you and sit idly by while you attempt to identify it by
thumbing through the pages of your field manual.
only hear the song, or perhaps you've found a feather or a nest.
The bird detective uses all these clues, including location and
season, to determine which birds are in the area.
birds are easily spotted since we already know them from our urban
areas around parks and in backyards.
house sparrows, blue jays, crows, black birds, and pigeons are
ubiquitous and are frequently regarded as pests, not friends.
Pigeons have been dubbed "rats with wings" due to their
pervasiveness and likelihood of spreading disease.
The Sword Bill humming bird.
other birds -- though not as populous -- which are wonderful to
encounter. Hummingbirds are easy to attract at home with inexpensive
hummingbird feeders. Daily I hear their electric hum outside my
kitchen window as they sip the red nectar I put out for them or
the flowers from the vines my wife has planted. I've seen hummingbirds
attracted to the feeders put out at many of the cabins scattered
throughout the forest. They are also attracted to the tubular
yellow flowers of the tree tobacco, which is why I like the plant.
are somewhat common. We may not see them, but we can often hear
their familiar "hoo, hoo" in the forest at night. I
recall camping out one night in the Arroyo Seco. We were sitting
around the fire, talking about the meaning of life, and watching
the fire. The tall trees surrounding our campsite danced with
the orange of the flames and we felt as if we were in a special
sanctuary. Then the owls began. They had completely surrounded
our camp, for we heard their hoots from all directions. I always
watch with awe as they glide off, enormous wings outstretched.
Indians regarded the owls with superstition and awe, as do both
Polynesians and Melanesians in their folklore. Owls are regarded
as protectors, and providers of omens.
hawks are frequently seen in the Angeles National Forest, as well
as certain areas throughout Southern California. I have noted
a pair that flies over my Highland Park home. On one Saturday,
my wife and I watched in amazement as seven red-tailed hawks casually
glided overhead. It was unusual to see that many at one time,
especially in the city.
see and hear woodpeckers in the forest, which are easy to identify
by the staccato of their pecking. I like hearing the woodpeckers,
not just because the sound of their picking out insects below
the surface of the bark is somehow "rustic." Their sound
is a reassuring reminder that there is still wildlife around.
The first time I ever heard a woodpecker was while camping at
Spruce Grove in the Angeles National Forest. The pecking of the
woodpecker echoed so loud in the canyon that it woke me up. I
actually believed there was a construction crew nearby!
seen eagles on a few occasions. One such occasion seemed most
portentous. I was hiking with a class in the upper Arroyo Seco
on Pasadena's west side. A jogger coming from the other direction
told us to look across the stream. "Look on the log!"
he told us excitedly. "Look at the eagle with the rattlesnake
in its mouth" and he ran off.
it was an eagle, though the snake seemed to be a gopher snake.
We couldn't tell for sure because of the distance. Then the big
bird quickly flew away as we watched. Our group was dumbfounded
for a few moments. Just an hour earlier, one of our party had
told us about Montezuma's dream. In the dream, he was told to
settle a city when he saw the symbol of the eagle with a snake
in its mouth. Montezuma continued his journey, and he saw an eagle
with a snake in its mouth in a swampy land.
That swampland became Mexico City. An eagle and snake are now
found on all of Mexico's currency.
So where can one go on a bird walk with an expert?
regularly conducts bird walks in many locations. Check your local
phone book. Bird walks are regularly conducted at Descanso Gardens,
1418 Descanso Drive in La Canada. Call (818) 790-5571 for times
of bird walks. There are also regular bird walks at the L.A. County
Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia. Call (818) 446-8251
for the schedule
is a naturalist who has conducted field trips since 1974. A newsletter
of his classes is available from School of Self-Reliance, Box
41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or on-line at www.selfreliance.com
THE FOREST A guidebook to the Angeles National Forest is
a new book by Christopher Nyerges published in 1998. Soft
cover, 150 pgs with index. A companion to John W. Robinson's
TRAILS OF THE ANGELES The news is always full of accounts
of people lost in the Angeles National Forest, or stranded,
or hurt when their car goes over the side of the road. Most
of these disasters could be averted by following the advice
in this newly-released book, ENTER THE FOREST, written by
a naturalist who has conducted survival skill and wild food
outings in and near the Angeles National Forest since 1974.ENTER
THE FOREST is full of photos and illustrations. The book is
divided into sections EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER, HISTORY, AND
SAFETY each of which contain important information to help
guide you through your visit to the Angeles Forest. A must
have if you travel in the Angeles Forest.
Enter The Forest and other great books are available in the