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Kumeyaay Knowledge and Use of Native Plants Still Vibrant in Remote Baja California

In his new book, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany, anthropologist Michael Wilken-Robertson explores the ancient and ongoing story of Native Baja Californians and the plants they use to make food, medicine, and traditional arts

Traditional Kumeyaay food processing

San Diego, CA—Divided now by a political border that separates north from south, the indigenous Kumeyaay people of San Diego County and northern Baja California have long made their homes in the diverse landscapes of the region, interacting with native plants and continuously refining their botanical knowledge over thousands of years. Anthropologist Michael Wilken-Robertson has spent decades developing friendships and learning from the elders that carry on these traditions in the far-flung ranches of Baja California, working closely with the Kumeyaay in the revitalization of their cultural heritage. The October 2017 release of Kumeyaay Ethnobotany: Shared Heritage of the Californias, which brings together many generations of Kumeyaay traditional wisdom and decades of research by Wilken, begins with a kickoff at the San Diego Natural History Museum on October 17.

Called, “a work of surpassing beauty that meets the highest standards of research scholarship,” by Chumash Ethnobotany author Jan Timbrook, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany provides in-depth descriptions of forty-seven California native plants and their uses. It also includes lively narratives and hundreds of vivid photographs from artist and professor, Deborah Small. The book connects the archaeological and historical record with living cultures and native plant specialists who share their ever-relevant wisdom for future generations.

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany: Shared Heritage of the Americas
Kumeyaay Ethnobotany: Shared Heritage of the Americas (978-1-941384-30-5, $29.95)

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany provides an enduring work that is a gift of history,” says Former Chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Anthony Pico. “Future Kumeyaay generations will look back and know this scientific contribution was very instrumental on our journey toward cultural revitalization. We Kumeyaay are most grateful to Michael Wilken-Robertson’s lifetime work.”

A series of lectures on the work begin with the October 17 “NATtalk” at the San Diego Natural History Museum, which will be followed by a book signing in the museum store. Other public lectures are scheduled at:

  • California State University, San Marcos, Tuesday, November 14, 2017
  • Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, Friday, November 24, 2017
  • Autry Museum of the American West, Saturday, December 9, 2017

Capital-Dwellers to Delight in the “Arrested Decay” of California’s Most Famous Ghost Town

Photographer Will Furman presents his unique “Inside-Out” photography from the new book Bodie: Good Times and Bad by Nicholas Clapp

Bodie: Good Times and Bad (Sunbelt Publications, 2017)

San Diego, CA— Fine Art Photographer Will Furman presents a photo-illustrated discussion on the newly published book, Bodie: Good Times and Bad on Wednesday, September 13 at 6:00 PM in the California State Library’s Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building. During the Night at the State Library event, Furman will discuss the unique history of what has become America’s most popular ghost town, as well as how he used a technique he’s dubbed “Inside-Out” photography to capture the haunted feeling of the town.

 

Bodie: Good Times and Bad (2017, Sunbelt Publications) by Nicholas Clapp with photography by Will Furman examines Bodie’s dual nature. The mining town of Bodie was called both a “fearfully and wonderfully bad place” in the 1870’s—a town of hard-working pioneers. Mark Twain remarked of the town that vice versus virtue made for exciting times.

 

To capture that Bodie of yesterday in the ghostly remains of today, Furman developed the technique he describes as “Inside-Out.” This entails a single image technique that utilizes both the reflectivity and translucency of windows to create a single image with multiple planes. The result conjures a Bodie that is haunting and evocative. Furman developed his photographic finesse during his career as a commercial photographer, during which he produced scores of marketing and educational films for Apple, Black & Decker, and many other companies. Now a fine art photographer, his work can be viewed at http://willfurmanphotography.com.

 

A Night at the State Library is a free program made possible by a generous donation from the California State Library Foundation. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP at Eventbrite.

 

California State Library

For more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-night-at-the-state-library-presents-bodie-inside-out-tickets-37258009710

Celebrate the One-Year Anniversary of the Coast To Cactus Guidebook with San Diego Natural History Museum Canyoneers

Museum store celebrates first year in print with book signing September 9, 2017

San Diego Natural History Museum Canyoneers

San Diego, CA—This September marks two big events for the Canyoneer trails guides at the San Diego Natural History Museum. First, their hiking season picks up again after a summer hiatus, making available to the public free tours of San Diego’s hiking trails with these highly trained citizen science naturalists. Second, they’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary of the publication of their wildly popular book, Coast to Cactus, which puts all their collective knowledge about San Diego County outdoors into a single 636-page guide. The date will be marked with a celebration at the San Diego Natural History Museum Store on Saturday, September 9th from 1-4 pm, where Canyoneers, including the book’s three editors, will be on hand to answer questions about hiking and sign books.

Canyoneers are citizen scientists and volunteers who have had comprehensive training by Museum scientists and local experts on the natural history of the region. Founded in 1973 by Helen Chamlee Witham, Canyoneers lead weekend hikes at 70 locations from September through late June. Friday Guides also lead elementary school groups on shorter hikes in local canyons during the school year.

When you hike with a Canyoneer you are encouraged to stop, look, listen, touch, smell, and examine—to understand that everything is linked together. Canyoneers provide a unique opportunity to explore the wild places of San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties, highlighting the rich biodiversity of the region.

Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors (2016) 9781941384206, $29.95

Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors was released in September of 2016 with much ado, including a launch party at the corresponding “Coast to Cactus in Southern California” exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. The book was initially conceived by Canyoneer leadership in 2002, though it wouldn’t be until 2012 that the writing would begin hike-by-hike, as Canyoneers resumed the late Jerry Schad’s popular “Roam-O-Rama” column in the San Diego Reader. Like the Canyoneer program, the book introduces readers to San Diego County’s unique natural wonders, providing readers with a “virtual Canyoneer,” that allows them to enjoy an experience akin to a Canyoneer-led foray into nature. The Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) awarded Coast to Cactus the honor of “Best Outdoor Guidebook” in their 2017 Craft Awards.

The celebration at the museum store will allow Canyoneers to answer questions about hikes featured in the book and to explain the book’s many features including a list of habitats encountered in each hike and 525 different species of plant and animal described in full detail. Additionally, the 2017-2018 Canyoneer hike schedule will be available.

 

San Diego’s Own Indie Press Signs On For Inaugural Book Festival

El Cajon-based independent publisher to showcase more than 30 years’ worth of regional titles at the San Diego Festival of Books on the 26th

San Diego, CA—In a warehouse east of San Diego, scorched in valley sunshine and amid the dissonant soundtrack of El Cajon’s industrial district, resides an unlikely enterprise. Sunbelt Publications has been producing regional works of (mostly) non-fiction in San Diego’s East County since the mid-eighties, and continues to release exciting and elaborate new books each year, including outdoor guides, natural and cultural histories, and books that celebrate the land and its people in California, Baja California, and the southwest deserts. Now, the publisher sighs with relief as “book fever” piques in the sun-kissed region with an inaugural festival books hosted by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sunbelt Publications in El Cajon, CA

“I was so pleased when a U-T rep stopped by our warehouse and asked us to be part of the festival,” says Sunbelt’s President, Diana Lindsay. “People are always thrilled when they discover who we are and what we do. It’s going to be great to experience that on a huge scale with local and visiting book lovers.”

Sunbelt Publications provides a variety of services to readers, writers, and intellectually curious members of the community. In addition to publishing niche regional books, the company offers custom publishing services for self-publishers and corporations, discounted shopping for local readers, specially-catered wholesale fulfillment for a variety of specialty retailers throughout the region, and distribution services for other small publishers. They also arrange speaking engagements for the authors of the books they publish, providing informative talks at museums, retail stores, and various community service and political organizations.

“I feel like San Diego’s Kevin Bacon sometimes,” says Lindsay. “No matter where I go I seem to meet the author of a book, an organization we book speakers for, a retailer, an advertising or news liaison, or someone who’s involved with a community group whose cause we’ve furthered through a publication. It’s great. It makes me realize how immersed we are in the community and how we provide an important service that helps to enhance its culture and history.”

Diana Lindsay, President of Sunbelt Publications

Just this year, Sunbelt Publications has published five tiles, including Bodie: Good Times and Bad by Nicholas Clapp, Color Me Fit by Nick North, Who-o-o’s Awake in the Desert by Jenny Holt, Baja’s Wild Side by Daniel Cartamil, and Nature Adventures by Linda Gallo Hawley.  In October, the publisher looks forward to its next big release, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany by Michael Wilken-Robertson, and of course, they’re still riding the huge success of their 2016 release, Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors.

The publisher will participate in the festival as a vendor, with authors scheduled to sign books at their booth every hour. Two authors of their published children’s books are scheduled to read in the reading area: Linda Gallo Hawley at 11:30 am and Nick North at 12:15 pm.  Company staff look forward to meeting San Diego’s most bookish folk.

For festival information, visit sdfestivalofbooks.com.

Local publishes unique guidebook for children

Source: Mission Time Courier,  July 21st, 2017

by Margie M. Palmer

Mission Valley resident Linda Gallo Hawley may not be a San Diego native, but the New York transplant and lifelong educator can school most San Diegans on the region’s native flora, fauna and even cultural history.

(l to r) Trail guide and author Linda Hawley at work at Mission Trails Regional Park; the cover of Hawley’s book

In addition to making her own mark on the culture of the region through her monthly “Nature Adventures!” programs at Mission Trails Regional Park, where she guides primary school children through the park’s many trails, she’s also the proud author of a recently published, child-centric guidebook by the same name.

Nature Adventures!,” the book, Hawley said, is one that children of all ages can enjoy; it includes facts about the habitats and wildlife of this region and features animals big and small from spiders to shrews, bats to big cats, and even smelly skunks.

“When I moved to San Diego in 2001, I knew nothing about the plants in my backyard and I wanted to learn about them,” she said. “I signed up to be a volunteer trail guide because to me, it sounded like a wonderful way to learn about the flora and fauna and animals of San Diego.”

Hawley admits she was quick to fall in love with the experience.

“After I completed the trail guide training, I immediately signed up for most of the children’s tours. I’m an elementary teacher by training and it was easy to love taking children out on the trails.”

She eventually began working with a program geared toward preschoolers, called Ant-Sized Adventures. Hawley said there was so much interest in the preschool program that she decided to write a curriculum.

It was so successful, she said, that the volunteer work eventually turned into a paid position.

“I changed the name of the program from Ant-Sized Adventures to Nature Adventures! and I sketched a rough copy of a [guide] book and took it to Kinkos to make copies. The parents and kids loved it so much that the parents kept asking when I was going to make it available ,” Hawley said.

In 2015, she decided to take a two-year hiatus to finish the self-published rough draft in hopes of signing with a publisher.

Hawley eventually signed on with El Cajon-based Sunbelt Publications, which works with authors who write books that celebrate California and Baja Mexico through natural science, outdoor guides, cultural histories, and regional references.

“Sunbelt encompassed everything that my book was about,” she said. “After I approached them, they took a look at it and said yes.”

Sunbelt Publications has been publishing outdoor guidebooks and books that celebrate the natural and cultural histories of the Californias and southwest deserts since 1984.

“When the opportunity arose to publish a book using songs to engage young children and educate them about the natural world, we were thrilled, especially because it was coming from a writer so dedicated to teaching youth outdoor appreciation,” said Sunbelt marketing coordinator Kara Murphy. “Linda has a gift for drawing children in to the topics she teaches about.”

In 2016, Sunbelt released Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors, which Murphy said introduced adults to San Diego’s natural wonders.

“And now we’re happy to do the same for children. Few San Diegans are aware that they live in a region recognized as one of the most biodiverse in the world, and we’re happy to help spread the word.”

Nature Adventures! went into print in April of this year; it’s currently available for purchase for $12.95 at Mission Trails Park, the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Amazon.com.

“What’s nice about the book is that each page gives information about a specific animal or topic. It has illustrations, which were drawn by another tour guide, of the animal and their tracks so children can identify them on the hikes,” Hawley said. “On the facing page is a song I wrote about the animal. All my songs are set to nursery rhymes, so you get the animal facts, a black-and-white drawing of the animal, their tracks and their scat and a song about the animal. It gives children factual information in a fun way.”

And since the drawings are done in black and white, children can color the artwork themselves.

“It’s an encompassing book. It’s a wonderful guidebook for teachers who want to teach about San Diego’s animals, flora and fauna. It’s something for everyone,” Hawley said.

Those who are interested in signing their children up for one of Hawley’s hikes are in luck — she will resume teaching a monthly, two-hour class at Mission Trails Park later this year. The program will run from September through May; the hikes will take place on Tuesday mornings between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and will include a lesson, an easy trail walk and a take-home craft.

Class size is limited, she said. Those who are interested in registering can access registration forms at bit.ly/2sGC7oo. Children must be accompanied by an adult; with advance registration and pre-payment the cost per class for ages 4 and up is $10 per child or $80 for all nine classes.

“I love working with children and the reason I created this program is because there is no other like it in San Diego.” Hawley said. “I’m grandma age but I’m not a grandma yet, so the children are my grandma fix. They’re the reason why I wrote this book.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of publications for over a decade. Reach her at margiep@alumni.pitt.edu.

“We must never underestimate children; challenge them instead.” -Q&A with author Linda Gallo Hawley

Linda Gallo Hawley, author of Nature Adventures!
Hawley signs books during an event at Grossmont College

Author Linda Gallo Hawley is a former elementary classroom teacher and adjunct college professor. In 2004, she completed trail guide training at Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego, CA and later created and taught her “wildly popular” nature classes at the park for nearly 10 years. Busy with the recent publication of the new book based on these outdoor courses, Nature Adventures!, she continues to volunteer as a trail guide, and offers presentations in other San Diego parks, schools, libraries, and senior centers.

Thrilled with the opportunity to publish this celebration of San Diego County’s natural wonders, staff at Sunbelt Publications chatted with the author and adventurer about her journey thus far. 

Q: Tell us the story of how you became involved with teaching at Mission Trails Regional Park and how that led to writing Nature Adventures?

A: My husband and I relocated from upstate NY to San Diego in 2001, after having lived and worked on the east coast all our lives. Back east I had been a teacher of elementary, middle school, and community college more than 20 years; now I was ready for a new adventure.

I loved gardening back east, and needed to learn what to do with the very different plants in my San Diego yard, not to mention the animals. The first lizard I grabbed, its tail broke off; I thought I’d killed it! (Now I know better.)

Hawley teaches young students about the grinding activities of native Kumeyaay Indians.

In Dec 2003, I saw an advertisement for trail guide training classes at Mission Trails Regional Park; I registered for the program, figuring I’d learn about the flora and fauna. March 2004, I completed the training, became a volunteer trail guide and found my favorite job was teaching and leading young children on the trails. MTRP already had a wonderful, ranger-led education program in place for K-6 students. I saw a need for a preschool program, so I wrote a curriculum, made up some songs about the animals, and my Nature Adventures! program was born.

My boss, Jay Wilson, Executive Director, says I’ve introduced thousands of people to the park.  Teaching has been such fun for me all these years! Parents continually begged me to write a book with all my songs in it, so the family could sing them at home. I took a 2-year sabbatical from teaching to refine my writing, approached Sunbelt Publications, Inc., and now I have a book for San Diego families.

Nature Adventures!
“Nature Advenutres: A Guidebook of Nature Facts, Songs, and Hikes in San Diego County” (Sunbelt Publications, 2017) ISBN: 978-1-941384-28-2, Retail: $12.95

Nature Adventures! is very popular with teachers, especially those involved with STEM and STEAM. Homeschooling parents love it because it encompasses science, art, music and vocabulary-building. My talented illustrator, Linda Gilbreath, used pen and ink so that children can color the animals. She also provided musical scores for budding musicians to play on piano or violin, as they sing my lyrics to well-known children’s songs.

 

Q: You’ve taught these songs to children for years. Do you ever hear about them singing the songs even after they’ve left your classes? Are there any new compositions on the horizon?

A: Oh, yes! Years later I hear from moms who tell me that their children break into song on the trails, or while coloring a picture of an animal. They also remember all the little details I’ve taught them about the animals and their habitats. The songs are teaching tools that help children remember the facts.

Many “graduates” of my program are buying my book for their now middle and high school-aged children! It’s a wonderful compliment, and a joy to see them show up at signing events. I always have new compositions popping into my head, whether walking alone or on the trails with my students.

 

Coyote Song
A glimpse inside of Hawley’s “Nature Adventures!”

Q: The children you typically teach are quite young, the promotional materials specifying ages four and up. How do the younger kids handle some of the advanced vocabulary taught in your book and songs? For example, we’re trying to imagine a first grader pronouncing the scientific name for American white pelican, Pelecanus arthrohynchos.

A: This is what makes my book unique! The songs appeal to the younger set, and the factual material to the older students and adults, and the music and illustrations to all.

However, you’d be AMAZED by the retention and usage of new vocabulary of the very youngest children! Especially if the words are used in a catchy tune, or a funny puppet “talking” to them, they learn and remember metamorphosis, camouflage, echolocation and more.

For example, when we sing the “Spider’s Anatomy Song,” we all stand and move our hands on our body parts, demonstrating where the cephalothorax & abdomen are found on a spider. Pronunciation of difficult scientific names is not a priority; I included them for the students and adults who wish to explore further online or in books. The proper scientific name is important when researching, as there are many subspecies of similar animals that are not found in San Diego.

Everyone finds it interesting to learn why insects need to be categorized differently, depending on the type of wings they have, and that the suffix, “-ptera”—as in Coleoptera and Hemiptera—means “wing”. (You’ll need to read my book to find out what “coleo” & “hemi” mean.)

And, isn’t it interesting that the bats’ order is Chiroptera; how is it related to chiropractor? This is a fun way to learn word etymology, too. Yet, we’ve all heard children pronounce hippopotamus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, right? We must never underestimate children; challenge them instead.

 

North Fortuna Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park
The view from Mission Trails Regional Park’s North Fortuna Trail. (Photo from “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors” Sunbelt Publications, 2016)

Q: The native flora in San Diego County is much drier than in the natural areas you would have known in your native New York. How did this western landscape capture your heart?

A: I have come to love and appreciate the western plants—their simplicity, their smaller, delicate flowers, and incredible ability to adapt to dry conditions, by shrinking or curling their leaves, going dormant, and by depending on animals to help disperse seeds, pollinate and grow anew. Even the pungent aromas of the native salvias, sagebrush, laurel sumac, and mulefat have captured my heart!

 

Q: Obviously you’ve found a way to translate that appreciation to children. What excites them the most on the trails and what do you do to develop their awareness and observation skills in nature?

A: Most exciting for children on the trails is discovery and observation through sensory awareness. We all rely on sight, and finding scats, tracks and habitats is always a huge thrill for them. But to teach them to use their sense of smell, or to touch the variety of leaves experiencing what the flora have to offer, to STOP talking and listen to the voices of birds, or of lizards rustling leaves, or of a rattlesnake rattling its tail before we spot it—these are special moments for all of us.

Mission Trails Regional Park
Hawley leads the way in one of her “Nature Adventures” classes at Mission Trails Regional Park.

I ask them to examine carefully and identify the signs of animal life, rather than tell them immediately; I love to make them think and analyze before speaking, and they DO! Before heading out on the trails they’ve first had a lesson in the classroom. Teaching with puppets, pelts, replicated tracks, scats, skulls, and specimens makes the class more interesting, and holds their attention. Then they are prepared to observe, and each class builds on the next.

By the end of the year they can recall nearly every detail taught! They learn to appreciate the gift they have here in San Diego’s nature, and to be good stewards of the land. Children soak up knowledge, and I LOVE teaching them about their big backyard!

June Prime Picks: Diane Donovan Reviews Two California History Titles from Sunbelt Publications

Source: Donovan’s Bookshelf: June Prime Picks, June 2017

Max Kurillo’s California’s El Camino Real and Its Historic Bells [2nd Edition] (9781532318948, $22.95) is, surprisingly, the first book to cover the history and preservation of one of the state’s major transit routes. The “King’s Highway” extends some 2,000 miles and was long the major transportation artery in the state, but today it’s marked only with historic bells whose origins are rarely known by the many who still travel the remaining sections of this route.

From the roadway’s development and the evolution of these bell markers which were designed to celebrate its course to maps, vintage black and white photos, and information on the roadway’s evolution, this is a powerful history that should be in any California library. It thoroughly documents the road’s influences on different regions throughout the state and the methods by which it came to be celebrated and remembered.

Nicholas Clapp’s Bodie: Good Times & Bad (9781941384268, $22.95) enjoys fine photos by Will Furman as it brings the abandoned desert mining town to life and covers its history and the people who saw their hopes and dreams come alive, only to be buried in Bodie.

Bodie is unique among old frontier towns because it remains nearly complete in its physical buildings, even as it’s now empty of residents.

Gorgeous full-page color photos capture the town and its surroundings, while accompanying history documents the rise and fall of Bodie and considers its attraction and uniqueness to modern California history buffs who can visit it today as a rare relic indicative of the state’s tumultuous mining towns.

Baja’s Wild Side Exposed

Source: Gary Graham’s Blog on WONews.com, Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rumors of an impending book, Baja’s Wild Side, reached my desk recently and I was eager to learn all I could about it. I immediately called an Outdoor Writer (OWAC) buddy, Diana Lindsey, owner of [Sunbelt [Publications] and publisher of Baja’s Wild Side, to get the scoop on the impending publication.

She was as eager to talk about as I was to hear about it. While I had never met the writer, PhD shark biologist, Daniel Cartamil of Scripps Institute of Oceanography personally, his reputation preceded him.

Baja's Wild Side by Daniel Cartamil, PhD
BAJA’S WILD SIDE”, with its 100 spectacular photographs of remote landscapes, wildlife, and cultural treasures, along with observations and stories, reminds us there is an unexplored area of Baja’s Pacific coastline all begging to be explored.

An enthusiastic photographer and passionate conservationist, Cartamil’s research brought him to one of the wildest and most remote pieces of Baja California’s Pacific coast regions, one seldom visited by many tourists. There he developed a unique relationship with a local fisherman providing him unparalleled access to natural places still untouched by the progress of many parts of Baja.

On a personal note, on my very first drive down Mex 1, shortly after the road was completed with a couple of buddies and after a longer-than-it-should-have-been lunch at Mama Espinosa’s restaurant in El Rosario, on the recommendation of Mama Espinosa, herself, (post on Mama Espinosa) we ventured west on a marginal dirt road toward Punta Baja to camp overnight near a local fish camp. Arriving at dusk we turned southward and camped on a deserted beach.

Baja or not, the early morning was overcast and chilly … not exactly what we expected. However, we did warm up to the view featured on the Baja’s Wild Side website as well as page 49 of the book, Baja’s Wild Side, before we resumed our Baja adventure south on Mex 1 in search of the Baja sun we had been promised.

Like many others, then and now, good fishing and sunny days were the nirvana sought; like horses headed for the barn with blinders on, so it was pedal to the metal until we found it! In our case, Loreto and Nopolo Cove satisfied our blended expectations that first trip.

Sure, there were a few side trips, here and there … Laguna Manuela for one, plus Magdalena Bay.

Next it was Cabo San Lucas (Santa Maria Cove) and camping on the beach when it was still pristine, long before it was developed. We ended up leaving my 23-foot Blackman skiff in Cabo for several years and flew back and forth to enjoy Baja.

That was, until we settled in the Buena Vista area and ultimately at Rancho Deluxe at East Cape in the late eighties. Still speeding to our destination and ignoring the many side trips other than Magdalena Bay.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Rancho Deluxe was purchased by a developer and we purchased the Roadtrek. At last, we began slowing down and exploring interesting side trips off the familiar beaten path of Mex 1.

Cartamil’s Baja’s Wild Side,with its 100 spectacular photographs of remote landscapes, wildlife, and cultural treasures, along with observations and stories, reminds us there is an unexplored area of Baja’s Pacific coastline, from the high sierra, to the ancient cave paintings hidden deep in the desert, to the surf-pounded Pacific, all begging to be explored.

For those of you who are still in a rush to get to your favorite spot at every opportunity, I get it. I’ve been there, done that … and would do it all over again if I had the opportunity. But I recommend you pick up a copy of Cartamil’s Baja’s Wild Side for your coffee table for future reference when you slow down a tad.

This is a “show and tell” book that will remind you that you are missing out on a very unique part of Baja to the west as you zoom by El Rosario, seeking more of the Baja you’ve learned to love.

Regardless of your personal favorite, one thing is certain; it has changed dramatically since you first discovered it. Don’t miss the opportunity to view some of the Baja coastline although threatened, still remains pristine by comparison: Perhaps, first by picking up a copy of Daniel Cartamil’s magnificent contribution about a relatively small, seldom-visited part of Baja’s west coast.

What Makes the California Condor a Vulnerable Species?

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39422575@N02/14838390698/in/photolist-oBdCAo-obYEhT-x4U7RM-Vj7dre-ovbZ7Y-otTi94-otFvK9-cP9Zr3-osN1xA-otAcUM-otTw6r-wLDwB1-x4V48H-otTiep-ownRWa-otThtg-oum6UY-otgZiz-ou45BM-Vj6gnr-otFind-ow3FYD-ov8NuT-ovaBPa-otStZb-otkAUp-odoAK6-osN1mo-orSitN-owpeEg-otkK88-ov3Mie-ormAeS-otgVYu-otSvFv-ouzQ1G-otxfMh-vdDWpo-ornCaJ-otjPz6-owaUry-otUsCT-otTsgH-otReTY-otb4XW-ouNmLW-UHRVQq-wSpxv8-oteJ99-ovc2WB

A recent Desert USA article on Cathartes aura, more commonly known as the turkey vulture, made us wonder: Why is it that the noble turkey vulture is so ubiquitous tin North America and especially the southwest deserts, while the iconic California condor (Gymnogyps californicus) has struggled against extinction? Both bird species are Falconiformes, or diurnal birds of prey, and are members of the Cathartidae family of New World vultures and condors. Both breed in the caves and cavities of cliff faces. Both scavenge carcasses.

California Birds: Their Status and Distribution by Arnold SmallUnfortunately, while turkey vultures remain a relatively common sight in California skies, the California condor has experienced population decline such that it even went extinct in the wild in 1987, with a captive population of only 27 adults and eight captive-bred chicks. According to Arnold Small’s California Birds: Their Status and Distribution, “These 35 condors were housed at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park, as part of the condor recovery program’s captive breeding program, which would eventually result in the releasing of condors back into the wild.”

 

As a result of those efforts, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports a total wild population of 231 individuals as of 2012, which is certainly a success worth celebrating. Nevertheless, the species remains on the list of “critically endangered” species—just a single ranking up from “extinct in the wild.” In fact, their position is so tenuous that in Birds of Prey of the West Field Guide, author Stan Tekiela recommends checking for  a colored wing tag to distinguish between California condors and turkey vultures because, “Every California condor is marked with a numbered, colored wing tag on each wing.”

As with many cases of species decline, the reason behind one species faring more poorly than the other is likely a multifaceted one. For instance, the fact that the turkey vulture inhabits a much wider range than the California condor would be one factor in favor of its survival. While contemporary sources list the California condor as inhabiting only limited areas of the central California Coast and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona and Utah, even their historic range was primarily in the coastal mountains from southern Biritsh Columbia to northern Baja California, compared turkey vulture whose range spans North America.

Factors attributed to the decline of the California condor cited by Small include shooting, lead poisoning from ingested fragments of bullets in scavenged carcasses, habitat encroachment and disturbance, the consumption of baited poison meant for rodents and coyotes, and egg shell thinning from DDT exposure. But according to the “All About Birds” blog at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, DDT exposure and lead poisoning have similarly affected turkey vultures, and it’s likely the other factors would have, as well.  Yet, the blog goes on to say, “Migrating [turkey vulture] flocks can number in the thousands.”

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/19177546380/in/photolist-vdDWpo-ornCaJ-otjPz6-owaUry-otUsCT-otTsgH-otReTY-otb4XW-ouNmLW-UHRVQq-wSpxv8-oteJ99-ovc2WB-obWGFK-otFuV3-otCbdX-ouScZb-oTH3y8-orys7q-ouRQdo-otF897-orA58b-otAmGv-tAKyW7-otwZf5-otrvjt-x4mc92-otCani-ovCq4c-ovdPgH-ovcM5k-x4Vsst-odpP5K-V4D4C7-wLLg5A-ovDmfZ-otAY7W-GiPZsL-otpu7x-RQVMX9-GiQkBo-otSPhQ-ovDqmz-V7ryyZ-V4DMZm-x3ALuA-otro8w-x4VnCi-otogkb-orpp8YSo is a smaller range the primary distinction between the success rates of these species?  According to the Ventana Wildlife Society, no. Their website details the way a long life-cycle with a slow reproductive rate is a major factor distinguishing the vulnerability of the California condor. “Condors, like any species with this reproductive strategy, cannot withstand persistent high mortality rates.” In fact, in the 1980’s when concern about the species was mounting, mortality rates were so high that the birds were not living long enough to begin their reproductive stage and their lifespan was mis-gauged by more than forty years.

And turkey vultures? They begin to breed at a much younger age and have multiple chicks per nest, compared to the single-chick strategy of condors. Therefore, what we’re looking at is not necessarily lower mortality rates amongst condors, so much as significantly higher reproductive rates amongst vultures.

For more information about condors, vultures, and other North American and southwest birds, visit or call Sunbelt Publications in El Cajon, CA.  We publish, distribute, wholesale, and retail a plethora of guides and texts about Californian and North American Birds, including: