Wild things rejoice with spring’s return
Ilove all the times of year in our Land of Four Seasons, but the sweetest, most attractive season has just begun: Spring!
If the seasons were Mother Nature’s four children, Summer would be the first-born: focused, productive, a hard-working achiever. He is a leader who is accustomed to the spotlight, sociable and well-known. Summer is sunny, popular and often a favorite. Summer inspires work, play and the natural world to its full potential.
Autumn is quieter and more philosophical, she is cooler than Summer, steadily providing harvests and helping with preparations for the coming cold months. At times melancholy, but also cozy and kind, Autumn is often nostalgic and family-oriented. Autumn often brings out the best in weather, agriculture, wildlife and humans.
Winter is more no-nonsense, and not as friendly.
He does what needs to get done, and is invaluable, though can also be harsh on occasion. Winter is stormy, but brings the precious water everything requires, and gives plants the chilling hours many of them need. With magic of his own, like snow and ice, Winter is special and people greet him with affection and anticipation, yet are also glad to see Winter leave.
Then there’s Spring — oh, that youngest child. Wild and unpredictable at times, Spring is tousled, beautiful, playful, loving. . . Spring laughs often and brings her mother flowers. She renews and transforms the landscape with fresh grass, new leaves and blossoms. Plants and animals adore her, and she is the gentle dreamer who surrounds herself with blue skies, white clouds, green hillsides and valleys, splashing them here and there with colorful bursts of wildflowers.
And that’s the season we find ourselves in now in the Tehachapi Mountains. A blessedly wet winter finally eased a drought that was years in the making, and now the sights and sounds of an abundant spring are returning to the landscape for the first time in several years.
On warmer evenings, you can hear the echoing calls of male Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) as they seek to entice females to join them in a pond, pool or puddle. This is the only frog species found in the Tehachapi Mountains at this time. There are other amphibians, but the only frog species is this one.
These very vocal, familiar little frogs are officially known by a newer name, the Baja California Treefrog, but the older name seems more accurate and preferable to me. For one thing, we are clearly in Alta California, not Baja California, and this frog also spends most of its time on or near the ground, or in low vegetation — not in trees.
These amphibians are also extremely well-known for their nightly chorus, in late winter, spring and early summer. It’s one of their most notable characteristics, and recordings of male Pacific Chorus Frogs doing their mating vocalizations have been used for countless movies and television shows, regardless of what part of the world is actually being depicted.
Pseudacris regilla frogs are the ones found in Southern California, the birthplace and main home of the film industry, so they are the species that sound engineers have recorded for use whenever the script or screenplay notes called for “Frog sounds at night.”
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) name for Pacific Chorus Frogs is wogit, pronounced waah-git, an imitation of the call that fills the night air around small bodies of water.
Frogs are happy now, and so are plants. The dozen atmospheric rivers of precipitation that have come ashore over California this water year have already been producing wildflowers at lower elevations. The San Joaquin Valley and lower foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains have both Pygmy-leafed and Grape Soda Lupines, California Poppies, Popcorn Flower, Bristly Fiddleneck, Lacy Phacelia, Baby Blue Eyes and more. Later wildflowers are still coming.
The Mojave Desert is also starting to bloom, and a drive in that direction is a good idea for an outing. Damion Laughlin, the head ranger at Red Rock Canyon State Park, said on Saturday that there were more wildflowers appearing each week in the park, and that he’d just seen his first Apricot Mallow blooming that day. Red Rock is an amazingly different and compelling place to visit. It’s only about a 40-minute drive from Tehachapi, and the temperatures are very pleasant this time of year.
Life is busy and it can be hard to find the time and energy to go exploring the springtime landscapes in and around the Tehachapi Mountains, but it can be very good for your outlook, and for your mental health, to do just that.
A spring that begins with abundant water has been a rarity over the past 20 years, and is likely to continue being a rarity in the next 20, 30, or more years as well. So treat yourself to a wildflower drive, hike or picnic, and visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, Tomo Kahni State Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Wind Wolves Preserve, or simply drive through the back roads around Arvin, Caliente and other areas in the coming weeks.
With your family, your friends, your dog or by yourself, go explore and see first-hand what joyful Spring is doing now that she’s returned to our part of the Earth. The Tehachapi Mountains and California in general respond visibly and enthusiastically to Spring. We should too.
Have a good week.