ERNIE COWAN Outdoors
BEST TIMES OF YEAR TO EXPLORE COUNTY’S OFFERINGS
Some people are just drawn to the outdoors.
I’m one of them.
Being outdoors— hunting, fishing, bird-watching, hiking or enjoying nature and wildlife photography— is when I am the happiest.
Some people have social calendars, or work schedules they compile at the start of each year. For me, that exercise involves creating my outdoor calendar.
Here is a list of a few of the things I try to schedule each year in the outdoors.
January is peak migration season for birds at Salton Sea. Less than 100 miles to the east is a vast inland sea that provides winter hospitality for huge flocks of visiting birds, including several varieties of ducks, geese, swans, sandhill cranes and American whit! e pelicans. How thrilling to be startled by the explosive rising of 10,000 or more geese lifting into the air, creating a sound like a jetliner taking off.
Resident species such as hawks, dove, quail and burrowing owls are also easily found around Salton Sea.
February is desert season. A great time to explore the wilderness trails of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, hike to remote waterfalls and palm groves, or encounter bighorn sheep, a curious roadrunner or study the unique geology of the curdled landscape.
Desert landscape photography is also more dramatic during the winter with crisp, clear air, and lower sun angles that dramatize the terrain shadows.
March this year could be a spectacular wildflower season in San Diego’s deserts. Ample winte! r rains can mean a carpet of color along with hidden gardens f! or hikers exploring the vast desert expanse. A good wildflower season will extend into April and then climb to mountain elevations for May and June with fields of lupines, poppies, goldfields and wild lilac carpeting hillsides and meadows of Laguna, Cuyamaca and Palomar Mountain.
March is also when migrating hooded orioles return to San Diego from their winter home in Mexico, bringing color and comedy to backyard gardens. Dust off those nectar feeders and have them hung by the end of February for the early arrivals. Hummingbirds will use the same feeders. Hunters first head to the field in March with the opening of wild turkey season, and the Eastern Sierra trout season opens in April. I never miss that.
If you are captivated by the night sky, May marks the first appearance of the summer Milky Way. Dark sky week! ends will often find sky gazers, amateur astronomers or photographers in remote places such as Mount Laguna, Palomar or the open spaces of Anza-Borrego to observe or record the celestial beauty.
Don’t forget the meteor showers that will ignite the night sky several times during the year. The bestshowers being the Quadrantids on the night of Jan. 3-4, the Perseids on Aug. 12-13, and the Geminids on Dec. 13-14.
Spring is the start of offshore sportfishing in San Diego, with peak season arriving in July-September when tuna, Dorado, yellowtail and bass are activelybiting. The summer months are vacation time when I generally try to escape for a week or two to the Eastern Sierra. My passion is fly-fishing and hi! king. I can get lost for a day wandering along a small stream, catching! and releasing one or two trout in each hole and moving on to the next spot. I think flyfishing is just a good excuse to hike. The warm days of summer mean night catfishing at several local lakes. There’s a kind of magic to relaxing in a boat or along the shore of a local lake, the soft glow of a lantern your only light, and the warmth of a summer night surrounding you as you wait for that big whiskerfish to bite.
September brings hunters back to the field with opening of dove season, followed by deer season in October and fall turkey season in November. September is also the start of tarantula breeding season when the big, hairy spiders can be found wandering in native grass at places like Daley Ranch Reserve in Escondido. Evenings are prime time to find them, and the cooler temperatures make hiking ideal late in the day. September is often thunderstorm season in San Diego when tropical monsoons boil up from Mexico bringing massive thunderheads and occasional lightning storms and flash floods. Outdoors lovers often follow the storms on weather radar and chase them. I’m guilty.
Fall usually brings another journey north to the Eastern Sierra for hiking, good trout fishing and the spectacular show of fall color as aspen groves ignite in brilliant autumn displays.
December is sunset season, when gentle clouds fill the sky, providing a canvas for the display of spectacular colors.
For the San Diego outdoors lover, there’s an endless list of things to do throughout the year.