woodrats

Something I learned in MCSP Docent School this week: our native woodrats build large dens in coast live oak trees; dens can reach five feet in height and eight feet in diameter. They have separate rooms for sleeping (lined with chewed up bay leaves to keep away insects), food storage, nurseries, and protection. Woodrats live in a matriarchal social system where females choose mates, and boot out the males after mating. They are similar in appearance to the common rat species Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus, but with larger ears and eyes, softer coats, and furred tails (i.e., they are cuter!)

close encounter

I was minding my own business, sketching the riparian plants in a secluded spot by Malibu Creek, when I was suddenly aware that I was not alone. In fact, a Large Creature was right at my back. I was so startled—and then immediately relieved that it was not a mountain lion* or a crazy human. It took a second for my adrenaline to calm down and for me to start sketching the friendly doe, who slowly (silently!) wandered off. I aspire to be so quiet in the wilds.

* A pet dog was taken by a lion a couple of days ago, a few miles from here.

liberty creek

Today I found a lovely sit spot under a big oak beside Liberty Creek, in a less-visited part of Malibu Creek State Park. Sadly, even here there was styrofoam litter, which I duly collected. On my way back to the car I thought I saw a bunch of tennis balls nestled among the mustard, and reached in to add them to my bag ‘o trash. But they were ripe calabazillas or stinking gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima). The vine had completely died back, leaving just the fruit. Tricked me!