Hiking the Holler~

The Holler is surrounded by thousands of empty acres.

It has many oak groves, and permanent and seasonal creeks running through it.

900 of these acres are set aside as a permanent nature preserve, and many more 1000’s of acres are still free from human development.

There are no hiking trails or public access, but we live adjacent to the preserve and hike it several times a week.

The Holler was first settled in the 1890’s and consisted of 2,700 acres. It was a working ranch for much of its history. Crumbling fences and old ranch dirt roads remain. We hike the dirt roads, and game trails, which are everywhere.

This is the lower pasture below our house, and this is where we access the preserve.

Since people are not here, The Holler is full of wildlife and has an entirely different feel from hiking in parks that people frequent. This natural ecosystem is unique for over-developed Southern California.

We see oodles of tracks, coyotes, bobcat, cougar, raccoon, but no deer. There are no deer because there are too many predators for them to survive. There are lots of kill sites and bones scattered around, but I will spare you photos of these, even though I have them.

And of course there are hundreds of birds! Cheers to you from the still wild Holler~

Enraptured~

Elusive raptors,

rarely let you near.

When they do,

you are enraptured.

Melanistic red tail hawks have more melanin or pigment in their feathers than other hawks making them distinctive. It used to be thought these morphological distinctions were an isolated variant, but now scientists are noticing behavioral differences associated with the changes in feather color.

Melanistic hawks typically let me get much closer than other hawks and I wonder if this might be due to behavioral differences associated with their color variance. After all, it is often true, those who are different, are also braver!

Cheers to you from the brave and different hawks~

Wilder Ranch~

I wish I could travel back in time to the mid-1800’s and live at Wilder Ranch. You are looking at the original ranch buildings which are now a museum.

The Wilder’s bought the property as a dairy farm in the late 1800’s.

The ranch covers 7000 acres of pristine coastal and marine habitat in Northern California’s Santa Cruz County.

The good news is, the Wilder family sold the property to the state in the 1960’s and it is now a protected marine and wildlife sanctuary and state park.

As you can see, it is a rich habitat, home to 1000’s of birds. I was amazed by the number of bird species I saw and photographed here.

The ranch has some 34 miles of hiking trails, all with stunning views of the coast and coastal valleys.

It is also a diverse marine environment with otters, seals and whales. Even Blue Whales are here, attracted by the mile deep Monterey Trench, the deepest marine canyon off the west coast of North America.

Camping is prohibited to protect the wildlife, but you can spend as many days as you like exploring the ranch on foot. I recommend visiting in winter when the whales are swimming by!

Cheers to you from stunning Wilder Ranch~

Romance & Fine Dining~

Spending the holidays with family in Santa Cruz California,

and spied this young egret on Christmas Day.

He had romance on his mind,

but his timing was all wrong.

He expected affection,

prior to,

fine dining!

Live and learn.

He got the dinner,

but not the date!

Cheers to you from sunny Santa Cruz~

Bluebirds of Happiness~

Western Bluebirds live at The Holler, but basically never visit The Holler Spa.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when these beauties showed up in force!

I am convinced they came,

as bluebirds of happiness,


to wish you a very Merry Christmas and even Happier New Year!

To you and yours this season,

and into the New Year,

Cheers from The Holler~

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluebird_of_happiness

Herbert!

You may remember Herbert, the feral kitten we adopted about seven months ago from the wonderful organization, “Love Your Feral Felines.”

 Here he is all ‘growed’ up, and definitely a most important member of the family! 

If it weren’t for ‘Love Your Feral Felines,’ Herbert would have been euthanized. He is such an amazing, social and loving cat, and he always looks you straight in the eye! We are very grateful to have him.

Herbert enjoys being my secretary cat, but has difficulty following directions. (This reminds me of all my report cards from elementary school, and I still, proudly, have this problem).

Herbert goes through kleenex like nobody’s business. (Now my husband will know why he is buying me so many boxes of kleenex. He thought it was my allergies.) You can’t keep secrets when you blog…….

Here he is being “King of the Fountain,” in his own private courtyard!

Cheers to you from ever vigilant Herbert, the no longer feral cat~

Waders~

Wading Birds like this oystercatcher are fascinating to watch. I photographed this American Oystercatcher in South America.

This Black Oystercatcher, near The Holler, was a rare sighting.


California has about 668 species of birds. The Holler, and nearby environs alone, account for approximately 500 of them, including a variety of waders. Little Blue Herons can be found near the coast, and are seen less often, closer to The Holler.

Majestic Great Blue Herons are common.

They sometimes show up at our front door!

Sandhill Cranes stand over four feet tall and are further afield.

They winter at The Salton Sea.

Snowy Egrets are everywhere. This guy was near the coast.

His green crab lunch was a bit crabby and hard to swallow!

Cheers to you from The Holler’s wonderful waders~