Canis latrans

#1 question asked at the Visitor Center (usually preceded by “WHOA!”): “Is it real?”

#2 and #3 questions: “How do you get to the M*A*S*H site / Rock Pool?”

Occasionally I don’t know the answer to a question, which sends me off to do research. Right now I’m learning about trapdoor spiders because of a visitor query. More on that to come …

horse anatomy

I was not one of those kids who could draw horses. Ilona Pochwyt in Grade 2, on the other hand, drew them obsessively. It was while watching her effortlessly sketch a ‘colt’ (I had never even heard the word before, they were all horsies to me) that I decided that drawing was a talent, and I definitely didn’t have it. I wonder if my life’s trajectory would have been different if, instead of shutting down the artist within at age 7, I’d asked Ilona to teach me how to draw a horse.

Fast forward several decades and I finally understood that drawing is a skill, not a talent. But I still, until today, had never drawn a horse. My thanks go to John Muir Laws for the equine anatomy lesson, and to Danny Gregory for the prompt. A hurdle has been leapt, a monster vanquished. I see many more sketched horses in my future.

cercopithecus mona

The mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona) is native to the lowland forests of eastern Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and western Cameroon. Its natural forest habitat has been impacted by widespread clearing, and it suffers from being hunted for food. However, it’s an adaptable species and the population does not seem to be declining significantly. It is generally the commonest monkey near rivers in the region.

r.i.p. p-54

Reposted from June 2018

One night four years ago, a young mountain lion paid us a visit. She and I locked eyes through the living room window, before she stalked off into the night. We contacted the wildlife people next day, who checked the tracking and let us know it was P-54, an 18 month old female. We felt extremely honoured by her visit.

Last Friday morning, P-54 was struck and killed near Malibu Creek State Park. She was the 29th mountain lion to be killed by a vehicle in the NPS study area since 2002.

I know there are a lot of tragic things happening in the world right now, but this one particularly hurts.


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!)