Sunday, September 4, 2016

California : The Place I Call Home

                Within day-tripping distance to some of California's most breathtaking natural wonders, including the High Country of Yosemite National Park to the east and the rocky central coast to the west, and within a day's drive of redwood forests to the north and two distinct desert ecosystems to the south, lies the Great Central Valley.


Restored native grassland, San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge
            Living in the center of the San Joaquin Valley, we are surrounded by towns and farmland, on relatively arid land traversed by a small handful of rivers that flow through seriously reduced riparian habitat.  What once was a thriving grassland supporting vast seasonal wetlands, throngs of migrating waterfowl and herds of pronghorn antelope and Tule elk now mainly supports an enormous almond crop, interspersed with alfalfa and corn for silage.

Evidence of beaver (Castor canadensis) along the Tuolumne River
                But there is an abundance of natural beauty here, beyond the pavement of cities and careful cultivation of fields; and even within cities and farms there can be found a surprising amount of life, ready to be discovered by the curious and patient naturalist. 
Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) in riparian forest remnant along the Tuolumne River 
                Though my adventures as a naturalist have and will continue to take me to places near and far, I have a special fondness for this incredible place we call California. 

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