The graveled road made a slight turn, and the first flock of lesser Sandhill cranes — a gorgeous waterfowl that stands 3 to 5 feet tall and weighs about 6 to 7 pounds — gathered together in a wet, golden field of marsh grasses and plants. The superstars of Merced NWR performed an opera of chortling, honking, and bugling songs in the field. Other waterfowl appeared to be their silent, floating audience.
Yes, I awoke from pleasant dreams on the highest campsite at Lopez Lake, just outside of Arroyo Grande, California. It was another near-staycation not far from home, but someplace Gilda and her drivers had yet to visit. It seemed like a good way to recoup from a nasty week of international and national news — you know spies, and Russians, and misspoken words — stuff I can’t fix.
Two months of rest, fatigue, drugs and hibernating from all things that might send the flu my way, and not to mention that my last hike at San Simeon was about 200 feet, it was time to put my hiking shoes to the dirt, strap my camera around my neck and go for it.
Ah! It was the wildlife sighting possibilities that drew me there in the first place. A year earlier, I read that owls frequent the campground. Nothing would pleasure me more than to have Oly at the ready with its 300 mm lens focused and zoomed in on an owl perched on a Joshua Tree at sunrise.