[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
74°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 18
1957 - Newhall County Library dedicated on Ninth Street; rededicated as city of Santa Clarita's Business Incubator exactly 57 years later (2014) [story]


Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Sep 8, 2016

evelynevandersande_mugA few weeks ago, it was 103 degrees when I heard a familiar sound in the sky above my head. I looked up and saw the “V” formation of birds in flight, and I recognized the honking of Canadian geese coming home for the winter.

It was a strange experience. While I knew my body was in California, my mind was on the East Coast where I lived for 14 years. On Long Island, this was the time the birds left for the Florida coast. But here, they were coming back to spend the winter.

The sounds and sights were so mixed up that it made me feel disoriented for a moment. It does not really make sense for Canadian geese to come and spend the winter in Santa Clarita Valley, which is a high desert. But we have changed the natural environment so much with manmade lakes that “natural environment” is an unknown concept in L.A. suburbia.

Most of the trees planted in our garden and along our streets come from Australia. Many streets lined with sycamores still grace our city, but because they require a lot of maintenance, cleaning large leaves and trimming branches each year, they are slowly being replaced by smaller trees.

ev01Fall is really here, and California does not have the highly anticipated foliage display that announces the change of season as on the East Coast. However, many leaves are already starting to show shades of red and yellow – but you have to pay a little more attention to notice. Maple, cottonwoods and certainly poison oak have already turned into full red and yellow.

The Canadian geese took me by surprise, but so did the black phoebe. The black phoebe does not migrate in Southern California, but they do move their habitat a little in the spring and fall because they need a source of water. Black phoebes are rarely seen in the hot summer in my garden. Come the end of August, black phoebes can be seen every day, often perching on a sprinkler head.

I am still puzzled by that situation. The end of August was hot, and those sprinklers were also working in July. There was the same amount of water … I scratch my head trying to understand nature and the reasons behind certain behaviors.

ev02The turkey vultures that migrate are starting to gather in larger numbers on the roost. They will migrate to South America by the end of September. However, as usual in California, the situation is not clear cut, and you can see plenty of turkey vultures gliding in the sky in December. Why is that? Some turkey vultures coming from the north spend the winter in the SCV where the climate is mild enough for them. Turkey vultures along the coast have no reason to migrate, as the temperature is pleasant the whole year long.

To further complicate matters, the turkey vultures that migrate to the south in September come back in January – very early in the year because the mating season approaches. Their babies need to be born and raised on time, to be independent for the next migration.

When we think about migration, we always think about going back and forth from the north to the south, to take advantage of an abundance of food. However, there is another kind of migration where birds literally go up and down. Juncos are a good example. They tend to go to a higher elevation in the summer and down onto the plains for the winter.

ev04Along the coast, we can witness the Pacific flyway because one of the four major migratory bird routes in America extends through our area. It is an important time for the Audubon Society to gather to witness those bird migrations. It is not always easy, as most of those large groups of birds fly during the safety of the night.

Our local bats also migrate during the fall, going south for the winter. We have five different kinds of bats in Placerita Canyon, and while it might be safe to say all of them migrate, the big brown bat can be a year-round resident if it finds a safe and protected place to stay.

The monarch butterflies are going to arrive soon to spend the winter in many groves along the coast. There is a lot of traffic going back and forth. And sometimes, like it is with the Canadian geese, it is obvious that a change is happening. But most of the time, it is rather discreet.

In the springtime, it is easy to notice the bright western tanager visiting your garden. At that time, they are in their most brilliant mating plumage: yellow feathers and orange or red head shining in the sun. When they come back, they are somewhat more subdued, as their feathers are becoming duller. They are an early migrant, often seen migrating in July. The female is always duller in her plumage, but the non-breeding male won’t have the red head, either.

ev05Gray whales spend the summer months (June, July and August) in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. In the fall, the majority of the population migrates south along the west coast of Canada and the United States, ending up in the quiet lagoons of Baja California where they will mate. In March, they swim back north with their babies. That is the time to catch a whale watching boat and have a look at them. However, in the fall, they seem to be more difficult to observe and no “whale watching” trips are planned.

I have heard they swim farther away from the coast on the southward journey. In the spring, swimming with their babies, they follow the coast so closely that you can often see them from Highway 1. There again, I was told they try to prevent shark encounters that way. As usual, humans make deductions, but we have little proof.

ev03I find the migration such a time of wonder and miracles. Can you imagine hummingbirds migrating? Such a tiny body doing a long flight? But they do, and only the Anna hummingbird can be seen during the winter in the SCV. Sometimes birds migrate in stages, like the Allen hummingbirds. The males migrate first in the fall; females and babies follow a month later.

If we are lucky, we observe what is going on, we notice and we are impressed. There are many questions that remain unanswered about exactly how those migrations occur. The length of the day triggers the start of the migration. Birds often migrate at night, but some birds that are dependent on thermal currents migrate during the day; birds of prey and turkey vultures are good examples.

ev06Some birds fly during the night and the morning. They seem to use landmarks to guide them; following the coast seems to be helpful. There are many different patterns of migration. How do they find their way? They use the sun, the stars and the magnetic fields of the Earth. To me – a person who needs GPS to navigate – this is intriguing enough that it gives me pause. Many tests have been conducted where birds are placed in dark rooms with mirrors, surrounded with magnetic coils, and they still find their sense of direction. Birds are even able to cope with the reversal of polarity, which happens every few hundred thousand years. Obviously, birds must be able to make use of other means of navigation.

Fall is more than red and yellow foliage and cool nights. Migration is an incredible miracle that happens each year. I appreciate the secure feeling that we can count on this quiet event each year, at the same time of the year.

We do the same thing with the sunrise and take it for granted. While it is more obvious than the migration process, it is still a great gift each day.

 

 

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center since 1986. She lives in Newhall.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

2 Comments

  1. Hardin Rich says:

    Very interesting and educational, thanks!

  2. The geese are called Canada geese not Canadian. It’s a common mistake.

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Tuesday, Nov 14, 2017
Honoring our veterans shouldn’t be limited to one day or one weekend. We need to do more to support them for their service and sacrifice to this country we all love.
Friday, Nov 3, 2017
The Houston Texans do have a pretty clean record, considering the criminal activity, arrests and personal low-lives of many NFL players overall.
Thursday, Nov 2, 2017
A Canadian mining company plans to explore for gold at Conglomerate Mesa either by constructing roads in this otherwise roadless area or by flying in the equipment with helicopters. It is hard to imagine either thing happening in this peaceful and unmarred landscape.
Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017
In his monthly message for November, Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth previews the unveiling of the new Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on November 11.
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1957 - Newhall County Library dedicated on Ninth Street; rededicated as city of Santa Clarita's Business Incubator exactly 57 years later (2014) [story]
The WiSH Education Foundation helped students at Sierra Vista Junior High School in Canyon Country with a donation of guitars Friday.
WiSH Foundation Donates New Guitars to Sierra Vista
Rep. Steve Knight (R, CA-25), is sending this letter to constituents about H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives 227-205 Thursday.
Knight: House Tax Bill Offers ‘Unprecedented Relief’
Los Angeles County and city of Los Angeles officials have reached a key milestone in their partnership to create 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless people over the next decade.
LA City-County Partnership to Create Supportive Housing for Homeless
'SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical' officially opens at the Palace Theatre in New York on Dec. 4, but this weekend, NY-based CalArts alumni gather for a preview event.
Dec. 4: ‘SpongeBob SquarePants – The Musical’ Opens on Broadway
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, SCV Sheriff's announced the arrest of a Saugus probationer on drug and probation violation charges. Plus, a look at some more fun, holiday events happening this weekend. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, November 17, 2017
Seventy dancers from CalArts will present a massive ensemble performance outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m.
Dec. 15-16: CalArts Dancers Plan Massive ‘Impromptu’ Performance
REDCAT, CalArts’ downtown center for contemporary arts, in partnership with the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, will present the first-ever symposium on "Kandors," the last major project of renowned Los Angeles artist and CalArts alumnus Mike Kelley (Art MFA 78) on Saturday, November 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nov. 18: REDCAT Symposium on Mike Kelley’s ‘Kandors’
Back in rainy Vancouver for the NAIA Cross Country National Championships on Saturday, the TMU Mustangs men's cross country team will look for more monumental firsts.
TMU Cross Country Poised for Podium Finish
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce invites local business owners and managers to a Chancellor’s Circle Breakfast briefing on 2018 employment laws in California at College of the Canyons' University Center on Friday, December 1 at 7:30 a.m.
Dec. 1: New State Employment Laws Outlined at Chancellor’s Breakfast
As part of the city of Santa Clarita's median turf removal project, nine medians on Orchard Village Road will be refurbished from November 2017 until approximately August 2018.
Orchard Village Road Medians to be Improved
'The Republican tax cut bill was written to help the rich at the expense of the middle class,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said after Thursday's vote on HR-1 in the House of Representatives.
Feinstein: House Tax Bill Would Aid Rich at Expense of Middle Class
The city of Santa Clarita, in partnership with Parkway Motorcars, will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner at the city’s Newhall Community Center on Monday, November 20 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Nov. 20: Community Thanksgiving Dinner in Newhall
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, November 21, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Nov. 21: County Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a man at a Park and Ride lot in Newhall after finding marijuana and cash in his vehicle early Tuesday morning.
Man Arrested for Marijuana at ‘Park and Ride’ Gets Ride to Jail
The city of Santa Clarita will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the new River Village Trailhead at Bouquet Canyon Road and Newhall Ranch Road on Thursday, November 30 at 10 a.m.
Nov. 30: Ribbon-Cutting to Dedicate River Village Trailhead
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the county's first two influenza-associated deaths of the 2017-2018 flu season.
Two Flu Deaths Confirmed in LA County
Officers from the California Highway Patrol's Newhall station arrested a man in Valencia after chasing his vehicle from Bakersfield Thursday afternoon, according to authorities.
CHP Arrests Driver in SCV After Chase from Bakersfield
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Narcotics Bureau deputies arrested a Saugus probationer on drug and probation violation charges Thursday morning.
Saugus Probationer Arrested for Drug Possession
1969 - Construction begins on Magic Mountain amusement park [story]
Boeing announced its investment in Santa Clarita-basted Gamma Alloys, a leader in aluminum alloys focused on developing advanced metal-matrix composites for use in aerospace, automotive and other industries.
Boeing Invests in SC-Based Aerospace, Defense Company
CSUN Men's Basketball head coach Reggie Theus has announced the signings of transfers Jordan Bell, Josh Jefferson and Amel Kuljuhovic to national letters of intent.
Matadors Add Three Recruits During Early Signing Period
The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations (LACCHR) on Thursday released its annual account of hate crimes reported throughout Los Angeles County in 2016.
Report: Number of County Hate Crimes Remains High
Preparations are underway at the Michael Hoefflin Foundation as it gets ready for the 2017 Family Holiday Baskets.
Michael Hoefflin Foundation Requesting Donations for 2017 Family Holiday Baskets
Fifty-seven games including 15 matchups with 2017 NCAA Tournament teams highlight the 2018 CSUN Baseball schedule.
Matadors Release 2018 Baseball Schedule
The CSUN men's volleyball team wraps up a busy 17-day span this weekend, traveling to Westwood for the annual UCLA Fall Invitational.
Matadors Head to Westwood for UCLA Fall Invitational
The Williams S. Hart Museum located in Hart Park in Santa Clarita will host an Open House, “Exploring the Art at Hart,” on Sunday, November 19, 2017 from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Nov. 19: Hart Park Open House, Exploring Art at Hart
The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Friends of Castaic Lake, will be hosting the 24th Annual Castaic Lake Winter Magic and Lighted Boat Parade, Saturday, Dec. 2nd at Paradise Cove, lower lagoon.
Dec. 2: Castaic Lake Winter Magic, Lighted Boat Parade
Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth will participate in the Santa Clarita Sierra Club’s first-ever “Mayor’s Family Hike” on Sunday, Nov. 19.
Nov. 19: Inaugural “Mayor’s Family Hike”
In anticipation of the busy holiday shopping season, Princess Cruises is launching its annual Cyber Sale, with two can’t-miss offers to the more than 360 worldwide destinations the cruise line visits.
Nov. 17-29: Princess Cruises Holiday Cyber Sale
Santa Clarita Elementary School will hold a Winter Wonderland Holiday Boutique, Saturday, Dec. 2, from 9:00 a.m - Noon.
Dec. 2: Santa Clarita Elementary Winter Wonderland Holiday Boutique
Two people were killed and two more were critically injured in a Wednesday evening crash on the northbound 5 freeway just south of Vista Del Lago, officials said.
Two Killed in Late Night Crash Near Pyramid Lake
STOCKTON – In this Caltrans News Flash, you get an up-close look as Caltrans transitions from 4-inch wide stripes to 6-inch wide stripes on the state highways, providing motorists with a better view of the road in darkness or inclement weather such as rain, snow and fog.
Wider Striping Part of Senate Bill 1, Provides Motorists Better View in Darkness
1997 - "Hercules" movie, directed by CalArts grad John Musker, wins four Annie Awards (animation's top honor) [timeline]
The Santa Clarita City Council gave the green light Tuesday night to a feasibility study to determine a location for a new amphitheater in the Santa Clarita Valley.
City Council OK’s Amphitheater Study, Condos