Habitats

It’s World Habitat Day. Don’t you love these “recognition” days, helping us remember and think about important stuff? Well, maybe some aren’t so monumental, but Habitat/habitat, regardless of where and how you live, is the biggest issue we’ve got. It covers everything.

Physical habitats: National Geographic lists 7 Earth habitats: Valleys, Caves, Oceans, Grasslands, Rainforests, Deserts, and Tundra. I’d add an 8th, the Atmosphere.

Each habitat is affected by what we – individually and collectively – are or are not doing to recognize and live with and within them. 

This “Day” got me thinking about the habitats I live in and around. My house, garden, the trails and streets I walk, the roads I drive, the businesses I frequent, and more.  I’m just one person, but the depth of my range reaches further than I can see or know. Below are a few of my most intimate habitats. The ones that get my time and attention. Add the “habitat” of my relationships with others, and these are what cradle my heart. 

Grasslands

I live next to a state park full of fodder grasses from cattle grazing that ended decades ago. It smothers most, but not all, of the native plant species that used to grow happily in our coastal scrub. Some natives survive and I cheer their yearly fight to keep a tiny foothold. Sometimes I weed out a space around them so they catch more light and breeze, stand out to pollinators and insects, and have a clear place to drop their seeds, adding one more generation to the eons of existence that came before.

The rains this winter pushed all the plants forward, bringing up more natives like this one, Elymus glaucus,(Blue Wild Rye), in the park and in my yard. I’ll be collecting my seeds to spread the wealth around the yard even further. 

The native blackberries are ripening, a boon for the birds and mammals. As flowers they feed bees, and this year the bees need all the help they can get. I’m trying to be more patient with these rose family members as they romp across the ground, work their way through shrubs, and slip under fences.

Oceans

The kelp forest below hasn’t looked like this for a while. Sea urchin populations have exploded, devastating these key plants in the process. The system is out-of-balance, but the shift has started. Local dive teams are removing excess urchins to reduce populations and, for this and other reasons, kelp populations are increasing. 

Grey whale migration (winter to spring) is always an exciting and anxious time. They’re thinner this year and many more have died and washed up on beaches. Necropsies indicate they starved.

Postcards show up almost every year, soliciting comments about planned military sonar testing. What else can I do but say, “NO!,” and leave the “why” blanks (aside from that it’s obscene and unsustainable for us to keep wanting to kill each other and taking wildlife with us) for the scientists to fill in.

Spring is pupping time for the Harbor seals that hang out around the rocks at nearby Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park. Always good for an “ahhhh” and a smile.

Forests (Redwood fog, not rain)

Nothing like a walk in one of our redwood forests. 

Osprey nesting on a snag. They fish in the river below and small bay beyond. Their calls fly across the open fields they traverse during courting, fishing, and teaching their young how to navigate the skies.

Talk about habitats! The fungi world is at the “root” of so much we depend on. We’re just beginning to appreciate and understand its power and importance.

I’ve read there’s not a ton for bees and butterflies in forests because there’s not a lot for them to eat. Labrador tea plants like this one (with native bee) provide a lot of nourishment. I’ve also seen bees foraging on forest rhododendron, manzanita, huckleberries, blackberries, salmon and thimbleberries, wild rose, dandelions…did I say there’s not much to eat? Then there’s all that buzzing in spring as bees circle around, telling us we’re in their territory, maybe even near a nest. After about 5 passes they’re on their way and so are we. 

Love (or war?) upon the moss. My husband carefully moves these lovelies off the trail so bikers and the missteps of other walkers don’t send them to banana slug heaven. Really. There must be such a place. 

Then there’s the forest’s sense of humor. The tree people.

So, a very small sample of the physical habitats I am lucky to see almost daily. Ones I’m working to better understand and support.

What are your habitats? How does the word habitat roll around in your mind and experience? Can you expand habitat to mean more? 

Peace, and thanks for doing whatever you do to make this a kinder, gentler, more sustainable world.

 

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