The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in 2007: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global sea level.” As I wander along our central California coast I wonder and worry about the future of the flora and fauna that so enthralls me personally and photographically.
What will become of the harbor seals, marshlands, pelicans and butterflies – just to mention a few of the splendid sights captured by my camera lens this past week?
On a typical day, pacific harbor seals spend about half their time on the sand and half in the water. They tend to forage at night, and play and sleep during the day – as on the spit at the mouth of the Russian River. With the changing of the ocean temperatures, the food sources for these adorable creatures may quickly disappear, and, with the food sources, the seals themselves.
Autumn in Santa Cruz means pumpkins, great waves for surfing and spiced lattés. But the fall tradition that tops them all is the one that goes back well before the advent of sweet flavored drinks: It’s the return of the monarch butterflies from their summer home in the Rocky Mountains. The monarchs’ 1,500-mile journey ends at the West Coast, and Santa Cruz is lucky to have a comfy grove of eucalyptus and cypress trees at Natural Bridges State Beach and another near the lighthouse, both perfect roosts for the monarchs. It is amazing how each new generation is able to make a leg of the migratory route never having lived at the beginning or end of the journey!
During Thanksgiving Week the monarch butterflies in the Santa Cruz area are counted. The population of monarchs overwintering in Santa Cruz was estimated at 120,000 in 1997 and has been declining steadily, bottoming out in the dismal 2012 season with only 500-2000 butterflies. Thankfully, there is hope for some recovery this year. For me, as for many others, it is a euphoric experience to watch them fluttering among the eucalyptus and cypress trees, adding orange and black color to the tree canopies.
When naming my reasons for being thankful this season, I am beginning with the harbor seals, the marshlands, the pelicans, the butterflies, and you, my readers/friends.