Journal archives for December 2020

December 01, 2020

December themes, if any...

I just came back from Paramount Ranch north, which just a month ago, when Laura and I explored it to celebrate her birthday, was quite lush by comparison to now. And it was already dry then. Now even the Valley Oaks have dropped their leaves, the beautiful sunflowers at the lowest, moistest elevation are dead, and even the Crows have left. A mountain biker in the far distance must have stirred up some dust that rose into the air like a smoke plume. We need rain so badly, but will get another Santa Ana event Wednesday evening through at least Saturday, red-flagged because of the extreme fire danger. My go-bag is still packed from the last one that wasn't all that bad, so here's hoping for the best.

Hiking up and down the mountain trails, with little to document that would give me joy (much needed joy, considering all that's going on around us), I felt I should (a) bite the bullet and drive longer distances, and (b) focus on the shore. So, anyplace king tide would be a major highlight of the month for me and something I really look forward to. Also something I really REALLY want to do is exploring docks, poop covered and all, as suggested by Susan. So possibly, marine life?

I had a blast exploring various San Fernando Valley lakes and ponds in the last few days. Laura got me to Los Encinos Historical Park, and I also walked around Lake Balboa, Lake Reseda (highlight fighting Coots,, and of course the lake in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve which I make a point of visiting once a month or so. I also really love the Los Angeles River @ Burbank Blvd. Bette Davis Picnic Area is on my list for the next few days, another great spot in the Los Angeles River. Any other suggestions? City Wildlife might be a theme too.

By the way, Laura and I are both "streaking," that means posting at least one observation every day, rain or shine. shows the stats. Laura is at 425 (!!) consecutive days, I'm at 348, with a streak that started December 19 last year and has kept me sane through all of 2020. And gave me an opportunity to really see seasons change, organisms come and go, especially since my radius has been so very limited. No trip to Germany and France to see my folks, no overnighter at all this year... (I so miss it.) But what I miss most in this limited radius of the mountains here right now... insects. Just hanging out at whatever flowers and observe... The highlight today was a lone Western Honey Bee on a near dry California Aster...

I hope you and your loved ones are all doing ok, and staying safe.

Big hugs, much love!!

Posted on December 01, 2020 11:46 PM by andreacala andreacala | 1 comment | Leave a comment

December 19, 2020

The Streak

Today marks the one year anniversary of a consecutive observation days “streak” I started on December 19th, 2019. I had been looking for something that would help me fight my iNat winter blues, the time of the year when observing wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains becomes challenging, as it seems to be hibernating, waiting for rain to arrive. What I was missing above all was observing insects, after an excellent spring and summer especially for butterflies and bees that made every outing so interesting and rewarding.

Inspired by, and @jmaughn’s amazing streak of to date 2,823 consecutive observation days (starting in 2013), this was the personal challenge I was looking for, to help me hang in there and dig deep: Lichens, fungi, mosses, galls, the earliest flower buds… Observations while waiting for an appointment, while shopping… Stopping to take pictures of roadkill… Adding sound recordings, feathers and tracks/signs to my tools …

When Covid-19 arrived, and our lives radically changed more or less from one day to the next, keeping the streak going helped me fight so much more than winter blues. Forcing myself out of the house to observe wildlife on roadsides (when the trails and beaches were closed), in my backyard and immediate neighborhood, no matter how depressed, scared, tired, stressed or angry I felt, became my daily sanity routine. And connecting to the iNat community made me miss friends, family, and travel so much less.

I think iNatters are mostly quite rational people, interested or immersed in science, in reality, both feet on the ground. iNatters tend to be interested in research, in evidence. In a year full of conspiracy theories, political agendas, denials, in a year where one plus one didn’t add up to two for about half of the United States, iNat was my home, my sanctuary.

I participated in a few Socially Distant Bioblitzes ( and my first team competition (, made new friends, and saw so much wildlife that it often featured in my dreams.

The bulk of my 8,490 observations to date is from that year of streaking: 6,119, on average around 500 per month, with 1,355 species observed, in a really limited radius of no more than 10-20 miles around my house, with the exception of one memorable excursion to Long Beach (60 miles) and a handful of trips to Oxnard (40 miles). Mostly I went to the same (safe, unpopulated) places over and over and over again, saw organisms come and go, followed the progress of breeding birds, of bees and their underground nest sites, of plants from flower bud to fruit…

My plan is to keep the streak going for a bit longer, possibly much longer, depending on so many things that may or may not happen. Who can really make plans right now?


I wanted to add a few highlights of the year, as curated / faved by fellow iNatters:

I faved these:

Posted on December 19, 2020 04:42 PM by andreacala andreacala | 14 comments | Leave a comment