Around the neighborhood

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The geology of The Baja is interesting.

If you go back in time – way back to even before I was born – The Baja was once connected to mainland Mexico.

A giant earthquake, way beyond the proportions of those that have scarred the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas, separated this little wisp of land from the continent, leaving a narrow fingerling that dangles into the Sea of Cortes.

It must have been a heck of a jolt, creating massive depths in Bahia California, enough so that there are more than 500 species of myriad shapes and sizes that inhabit this warm, calm water that once stretched upward to the Salton Sea in the southeast corner of California. The Sea of Cortes is home to everything from delectable shrimp and clams to gigantic humpback and gray whales, with a fair sampling of other creatures in between.

On land, we also have quite a variety.

There are, of course, birds of many shapes and sizes. The seagulls and pelicans patrol the beaches, diving into the water determinably to score a meal of bait fish chased into the shallows by larger fish while sparrows hunt and scratch for seeds in the desert, sharing the landscape with the predatory birds that clean up the carrion and the migrating doves that populate the agricultural areas through the fall and winter.

The other night, Cara and I went to the rooftop patio to watch the beautiful colors as the sun set behind us and moon rose over the water.

There was still enough evening light for us to see clearly across the sprawl and as Cara was engrossed in the vibrant colors over the water, I was looking down into the brush when I noticed movement among the ocotillos.

Jackrabbits.

Big, loppy jackrabbits with huge hindquarters and a kind of rocking sort of hop that seemed almost rhythmic as they moved from place to place, seeking shelter behind the sprigs of growth. I grabbed the camera to try to capture them, but they are pretty stealthy creatures. They don’t arrive at the size of these guys without having gained a few skills in avoiding detection.

Cara’s attention then focused on the ground. Her eyes, much keener than mine, soon spotted a coyote that was also on evening patrol, moving around about 150 yards from our place.

“That is definitely not a dog…it’s a coyote,” she said. Cara would know because she lived on the Colorado prairie between stints overseas with her family as her father pursued a career in the oil fields. Besides, she has this hawk-like vision that is way better than mine, enough so that she spotted a bat darting around in the sky the other night that was searching out flying insects.

I never did catch a glimpse of the coyote because nightfall comes quickly here and the moon was rising in a brilliant orange over the water, leaving its reflection on the calm surface, shimmering in the night.

I had asked Pam, the lady from the property management company, about what kind of critters we might encounter, particularly snakes, which I admire, but only from a distance.

“Most of them were driven out by the construction,” she said. “But there still might be a few here and there. I wouldn’t advise walking around a whole lot out by the ocotillos They like to wrap themselves around the base of them.”

She said there are scorpions roaming around, especially wherever there are a lot of bugs, and that she has only seen one tarantula, “but we leave them alone because they’re good and they don’t hurt anybody anyway.”

I don’t mind scorpions because they don’t move very fast and even I can outrun one if attacked. Tarantulas also amble along at a fairly slow gait. They would be the equivalent, in sports terms, of an MLB catcher with no wheels.

Snakes?

I have a firm policy about snakes: I won’t bother them as long as they don’t bother me.

The only critters, if you can call them that, we have seen in abundance are flies. We’re told that there are a lot of them at this time of the year and that soon, as the temperatures drop just a little bit, they will, for the most part, disappear.

When we lived in San Jose a few years back, it was common to see a wide variety of animals. In our Los Cabos travels we encountered a lot of free-range cattle along the highway and, sometimes, in town. It was also not uncommon to see burros, goats, horses, coyotes and other critters roaming free on the roadside.

We haven’t encountered any of those yet, but we have only been here a few days.

We are sure to see some interesting sites, though, because this part of The Baja is home to a huge onshore and offshore wildlife preserve.

Mexico has made a lot of progress in this sense, taking some very large environmental steps.

The government realized that there is tremendous value in protecting the giant sea turtles and made it highly illegal to trade the turtle eggs, which were, for years, a delicacy. The turtles themselves are also protected and a number of groups have formed to help them with their annual spawn. In fact, when we lived in San Jose, our daughter Mariah spent a week collecting sea turtle eggs along the coast, riding a four-wheeler some 40 miles along the beach each night in search of signs where the mother turtles had nested. She and other volunteers, would then collect the eggs, move them to penned-in hatcheries, and bury them in the sand, were they would hatch and the volunteers would release them into the sea.

There are species of fish that are threatened or endangered that are completely off limits to the local fishermen, and the bag-limit restrictions are heavily enforced. The skippers in the sportfishing fleet encourage catch-and-release for the marlin and swordfish that populate the warmer waters to protect their numbers.

It all helps to preserve this delicate balance of Mother Nature’s splendid creatures.

Oh, we can also report that we had other houseguests this morning.

While sitting on the patio and looking out at the water, I caught a glimpse of movement from the corner of my eye.

It was small, fast, and furry and in the vicinity of the steps leading to the rooftop.

By the time I got up to see what it was, the little creature was gone.

“Must have been a bird,” I told Cara.

But, a few moments later, she said, “Awww…a little chipmunk,” just in time for me to see it dash off, its fuzzy little tail dancing across the sand.

And, as I was finishing this piece, a curious little hummingbird swept in from around the corner, hovered about two feet from our heads and just sort of fluttered there, checking us out.

“I guess we better add a hummingbird feeder to our list of things to get, Cara said as the bird darted away.

I guess so.

But, before we do that, I think we need to find our rental agreement and make sure it allows for our new pets, or “mascotas” as they are known here.

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