Crested Ducks

life

My children and I always enjoyed seeing the same two ducks at the lake. We could spot them a mile away due to the pouf of feathers on top of their heads. Were they just having a bad feather day every day? No, they were born like that. They are what is known as crested ducks.

Crested Duck

In crested ducks, the crested gene is a genetic defect. According to backyardchickens.com, the crest (or what I call the pouf) is actually fatty tissue covering a gap in the skull. Oh my! Breeding crested ducks is considered cruel by many as the chance is greater that the chicks will die in the shell due to this genetic defect. If bred, the chicks have a better chance at survival if one parent does not have the defect.

I never knew this before. Sometimes it is worth the while to look up things one is curious about. It could lead to a new appreciation or understanding of a subject. Defect and all, these crested ducks will always have a place in my heart.

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Chrysalis Crisis

gardening

Last week, I published the happy, exciting news of caterpillar sightings in our garden. I even found a chrysalis on the side of our house. I had never spotted a chrysalis before. How exciting!

The very next morning, I checked on the chrysalis. Everything looked the same. I was intending to check the chrysalis frequently, as I did not want to miss out on the butterfly as it was developing and breaking free to fly away. My son and I left the house for a few hours and when we returned I decided I should take a picture of the chrysalis. This I decided to do every day so that I would have a record of the butterflies emergence.

As I went outside, I noticed first the side of the house had been splattered with something. Then I looked at the chrysalis. Only the top part of it remained. At first, I thought it hatched while we were out. Then I realized it should have changed first to a dark color and then to a clear encasement. It was too soon in the process to have fully developed. Something had gone wrong. Had something gotten a hold of the chrysalis before the caterpillar had time to complete the process?

We will never know exactly what happened to the chrysalis. Unfortunately, things like this happen in nature all the time. It is hard for animals to survive in the wild. Predators, weather, lack of food, all sorts of things put animals at risk. My poor little Monarch.

There are still caterpillars on our plants. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find another chrysalis in the yard and hope to see that one turn into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. I wish them all good luck.

Visiting Joshua Tree

Travel

Somehow, when picturing Joshua Tree National Park, I always thought of one lone Joshua tree. After all, if there were a lot of trees the tree would be plural, right? Oh how wrong I was. Joshua Tree National Park has more than one tree and is a vast desert.

One thing that overtook me about Joshua Tree (roughly 45 miles from Palm Springs, California) was how large it was. It seemed the desert could go on forever. It is actually made up of two deserts coming together to form the park. Below 3000 feet makes up the Colorado Desert or Eastern part of the park. The higher elevation makes up the Mojave Desert where the Joshua trees can be seen.

Skull Rock

When planning a trip to Joshua Tree, keep in mind the temperatures. We took our trip in December, which was a perfect time to go for pleasant hiking. Temperatures are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in December, dipping down cooler at night to somewhere in the 30’s. Spring is the most popular time of year at Joshua Tree due to the desert flowers in bloom. Summer would be the least desirable time to visit as it is a desert and the temperatures can get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit warm to be hiking.

Joshua Tree has a lot of hiking trails and is a beautiful place to visit. At night the stars are plainly visible without any light pollution. If you want to see the stars at night pack a jacket, as it does get cold at night. There is nowhere to purchase food in the park, so pack a picnic and plenty of water. Be sure to pack a camera to capture this remarkable park. Happy Traveling!

Nesting Grebes at Lake Hodges

Travel

Are you interested in birds? If so, you may want to check out Lake Hodges located in Southern California. Right now is the perfect time to take a short hike to see the Grebes nesting on the lake.

Grebes build large nests at water level on the sticks and branches that are protruding from the water. It is quite a sight to see. In-between the sticks there are lots of nesting birds. My son and I were lucky enough to see one of the birds take a break from the nest and go for a swim, exposing a couple of yellow eggs. Of course the mommy did not go far from the nest and kept swimming close to check on the eggs.

It is an easy walk from the gravel parking lot to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge where you can view the Grebes nesting. Once on the bridge just look west (away from the freeway) and you will see the nests. I highly recommended that you bring binoculars to view the birds. You can also see them by zooming in with your camera. Without binoculars or a camera you will not be able to see the birds in detail. Also, be sure to bring water. Even though it is a short walk, Escondido gets very hot depending on the time of day you are there.

Besides viewing the Grebes, Lake Hodges offers other activities as well. You can bring your mountain bikes or hike on the many trails around the lake. If you walk to the end of the bridge and turn left, there is a nice hike to a stream and then back around past the lake. A drive to the other side of the lake would also allow you to rent kayaks, which my family and I did one year.

To get to the Pedestrian Suspension Bridge to view the Grebes, take exit 26 W. Bernardo Drive/Pomerado Road off I-15 in San Diego, CA. Head left (West), pass the bridge, and park in the gravel lot on your right off West Bernardo Drive. There is a pathed bike/walking path from the lot to the bridge.