22 November 2014

Observing nature on Mount Laguna

Nov 2014

Extremely dry season has continued in Southern California. Autumn colours have not shined as they did a year ago.  Oaks and maple trees have changed their colours but lots of them have just dried out.  What about other life in nature, have birds moved off to more moisture lands? Had it rained more in near by mountains and thus been able to grow as before?  Were autumn colours more striking on mountains than near the coast?

These and other unscientific thoughts in mind headed to Mount Laguna, less than hour off east from San Diego. Mount Laguna belong to Cleveland National Forest. Its meadow lies on about 1600m above sea level and offers magnificent trails for hiking, trail running and mountain biking. Have been there multiple times during last two years, previous posts here and here.

Parked along the Sunrise Highway and started to hike via usual route, Sunset Trail towards Water-of-the-Woods pond.  Weather was +5C and partly cloudy. Max temp promised +10C. Long waited rain overnight had made ground wet. Peak of autumn colours on noble trees seemed to be over, but still some striking colours were left. Eventually it was the evergreen forest which made the place so nice.

Ground squirrels had busy time, so did all little birds. Signs of deers on trail were not so common.  Once arrived at the pond, spotted a Great Blue Heron standing still near the pond. Ducks had their own ceremonies on-going and were not bothered by others.

Four different trails left from the pond. Chose to continue the Sunset Trail towards north.  Perhaps the most common sound was a warning sign from Acorn Woodpeckers, signaling to each other that a human being was disturbing their neighborhood.

The Sunset trail had its highest point about 1km after the pond.  From there the scene opened towards west. Low hanging clouds covered some valleys. Great view.

Ascended to the north side of the meadow.  Jumped into a Big Laguna Trail, back south towards Big Laguna Lake.  The meadow was so dry. Ravens yelled somewhere near.  Few mountain biker came across. Fabulous trail.

Soon noticed that the lake was out of water. Completely dry. What a disappointment. Crossed the meadow to east side.

Followed a while trail runners. It was about Mount Laguna Trail Marathon race.

Soon spotted few Red-tailed Hawks. Watched a while their gliding above the trees. Were they hunting? Majestic look when they stayed on top of the woods.

In some places on the trail it felt like there's no life at all, where as in some other places there's full of life. Birds gathered in small areas, many species. Obviously something good to eat.  Catching these birds into photos would have taken much more patience.

Crossing the meadow last time and headed back to starting point on Sunrise Highway.


Life hasn't gone anywhere despite extremely long dry season. At least not so much when observing visually.  Of course when the lake or pond is without water, waterbirds etc. need to find a new place.  Hawks and Ravens were still there. So where many Woodpeckers and Ground Squirrels.

One the best places in San Diego County.

A few snapshot


Great Blue Heron

Spotted Towhee

Mountain Chickadee

Layered Mountains

Oak Titmouse

Look at the grip!

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-Eyed Junco

Autumn Colours I

Autumn Colours II

Northern Flicker

Big Laguna Trail

California Ground Squirrel

Red-Tailed Hawk I

Red-Tailed Hawk II

Mount Laguna Trail Marathon

In Descending Order

Hanging On

Pygmy Nuthatch


Townsend's Warbler

Autumn Colours III

Western Bluebird staying still on strong head wind

May I present, a Master Himself and His Collection, Sir Acorn Woodpecker

Autumn Colours IV

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