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Archive for the ‘Animal Spotting’ Category

I’ve written before about how much fun our kids have on Negative Tide Day at Half Moon Bay’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve — see here — but this year we decided to do a Negative Tide Day from the ‘other end’, from Seal Cove, and it was even better.  You can still reach the whole FMR by walking along the beach at low tide but there are several advantages of starting at Seal Cove. First, parking is much easier–you’ll find plentiful space on the streets around the cove off Cypress Avenue even on the busiest morning. Second, the tide pools at Seal Cove are a little less crowded with fewer teenagers running about manhandling the sea animals. And third, the beach at Seal Cove is far nicer. The main Fitzgerald Marine Reserve beach is small and, at this time of year, partially closed for the resident seal colony (which, incidentally, is the biggest its been in years and worth checking out).  At Seal Cove you’ll find empty golden sands, a relatively small wave swell and lots of interesting rocks and sea shells. It’s perfect for toddlers, although you should note that it’s most definitely a beach to visit at low tide, there are steep steps down to the sand, and there are no restrooms or other amenities.

The view from the top

The view from the top

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Our kids enjoyed the tide pools more than ever this year partly, I think, because they knew what to expect but partly because we’d found some perfect  laminated toddler guides to Half Moon Bay’s sea life (see here if you’re interested). The boys really got a kick out identifying the various creatures they found. It was a great way for them to engage with the tide pool creatures without touching them.

Identify and catagorize

Identify and catagorize

Leaf Barnacles

Leaf Barnacles

 

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I know there are plenty of signs warning of the dangers of the wild but, when you see them every hike and never see a mountain lion or snake, it’s easy to get complacent.  This weekend we had a reminder to take those warnings seriously.  We were hiking our favourite route up to the top of Windy Hill to enjoy the sensational views on a clear, sunny, spring morning.  Part of the ascent requires some rock scrambling.  As we trod the narrow path between the rocks we were suddenly aware of a loud rattle in the bushes to our left.  We froze and peered into the undergrowth only to see two large rattle snakes, tails beating frantically, staring at us and tasting the air.  We backed slowly away down the hill and left the snakes well alone.  On one hand, as no-one was hurt, it was awesome to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.  On the other, it was a little disturbing just how close we had been to them without realising they were there.

Would you have noticed the two rattlers at the side of this trail?

Experienced local hikers tell me this is the season in which rattlesnakes are especially active as they come out of hibernation and onto the trails to bask in the spring sun.  So be careful out there!  Always watch where you’re walking and climbing.  Along with Windy Hill, I’m told one is also especially likely to encounter a rattlesnake in Arastradero Preserve and Rancho San Antonio at this time of year.  But be wary wherever you hike and don’t let little ones scramble too far ahead of you into long grass or over rocks.

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The boys really enjoyed this hike after the rain.  There were plenty of mud and puddles, and the wet really brought the wildlife out.

The exhilaration of a muddy trail

Hard to beat the views

Wet moss. It's even better than dry moss.

A little friend among the leaves

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Hidden Villa is one of our favorite local spots and this week we paid it a spring visit.  Hidden Villa is an organic farm and wilderness preserve founded by the Duvenecks in 1924 and dedicated to the cause of environmental education.  It’s a wonderful spot for toddlers.  There’s an awesome, enclosed Education Garden with rows of different plants and lots of natural playhouses, tunnels and hidden animals for kids to “discover”. My boys will play happily there for well over an hour, running in and out of the tunnels and playing ‘house.’

chasing the hens through the tunnel

Making lunch in the playhouse

More tunnels

Further down the path there are animals to visit: cows and sheep by the barn, and chickens, goats and pigs beyond that.  Both boys love going into the field with the chickens where they can often get close enough to touch the birds.

Chicken Chasing

Lambs

 

We go to Hidden Villa fairly often as it changes so much throughout the year. Last time we were there over Christmas, four piglets had just been born. This trip we were able to see how much these babies had grown. The boys remembered the piglets and how they had acted last time and were able to make comparisons with their behaviour this visit.  Plus, the farm had just welcomed a bunch of lambs, some in the last two weeks, and the boys were delighted to watch these little “baas” (as The Puppy Dog calls them) frolicking in the muddy field.  I love having a place like this close by to visit where the kids can see the cycles of nature in action and note the changing seasons.  It’s a great value day trip – Hidden Villa just asks for a $5 donation per car.

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Amazing little guy

This little chap has been visiting us almost daily. The boys love watching for him. Finally caught him on camera.

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