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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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, 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.”
So 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:
- 10,001 Titillating Tidbits of Avian Trivia, $19.95
- 50 Common Birds of the Southwest, $11.99
- Backyard Birding for Kids, $9.99
- Birds of San Diego County $24.99 Softcover, $39.95 Hardcover
- California Birds: their Status and Distribution, $39.95
- Chasing A Dream in the Galapagos: A Personal Evolution, $14.95
- Dazzle of Hummingbirds, $7.95
- Easy Field Guide to Desert Birds, $1.99
- Frequently Asked Questions About Hummingbirds, $7.99
- Birds of North America, $18.99
- Local Birds: Northern California, $8.95
- Mac’s Field Guide to Southwest Park and Garden Birds, $5.95
- National Geographic Birds of Western North America, $19.95
- Peterson’s Field Guide: Color In Birds, $8.95
- Pocket Naturalist: Southwest Desert Birds
- San Diego County Bird Atlas, $49.95
- Sibley’s Field Guide to Western Birds, $19.95
According to author Mark Jorgensen, “Desert bighorn sheep are well adapted for extreme temperatures. Studies have revealed that rams and ewes can withstand dehydration rates of over 20% of their body weight. By comparison, a human will usually lose consciousness at a water loss of 5-7% of body weight.”
The sheep also lose heat to the air. “If the air temperature on a sunny day were 103 degrees Fahrenheit and a bighorn temperature were 105 degrees Fahrenheit, body heat would be released from the sheep into the air, rather than be absorbed from the air as it would be in a human.”
Nevertheless, the summer heat ties the sheep to permanent water resources. “In the long run, reliable surface water is needed to maintain a healthy population of desert bighorn in a mountain range.”
Learn more in Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon.
From Outdoor Writers Association of California P.O. Box 50136, Oxnard, California 93031
May 3, 2017–
Founded in 1986, OWAC is a non-profit organization of more than 150 professional outdoor communicators from California and surrounding western states, including newspaper and magazine staffers, freelance writers, book authors, radio and television broadcasters, video producers, editors, photographers and artists.
Each year members of the organization meet to honor their finest professional work. At a banquet, held April 26, 2017 in Bishop, California, the OWAC Board of Directors presented awards to individuals whose work has been judged “Superior”.
OWAC’s 2017 Craft Awards Media Competition judging determined the work to be a premier example of professionalism and talented execution. By its superior form and creative style the entry was selected from among all submissions in its category and has been awarded First Place in the Best Outdoor Guidebook category.
Judges felt that the design and visual appeal of the entry, “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors” was “Inspiring, intriguing and compelling.”
By Marissa Cabrera, Maureen Cavanaugh
Some say politics is an art.
So it might make sense that if a politician had a hobby, they might give traditional art, like painting, a try.
That is exactly how longtime Chinese-American leader Tom Hom has been spending his time.
In celebration of his 90th birthday, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is unveiling paintings and drawings by Hom about the Chinese-American experience.
In 1963, Hom became the first minorit
y elected to the San Diego City Council. He later became the second Asian-American elected to the state legislature.
Hom and Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres, executive director of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, discuss the exhibit “Unseen Portraint: The Art of Tom Hom,” Tuesday on Midday Edition.
By Peter Rowe
To Iris Engstrand, a neglected hillside plot above San Diego’s Mission Valley is the Jamestown of the Pacific.
Presidio Park is dominated by the Serra Museum, dedicated to missionary Junípero Serra. Plaques note that this is the site of the first permanent European settlement on the West Coast.
The park has seen lots of history.
It’s also seen better days.
“Look at the paint!” Engstrand said, gesturing at the museum’s flaking walls.
“You see the mold?” she pointed to black streaks on the museum’s white tower.
“That clump of trees?” she waved at a cluster of shaggy palms. “It blocks the view, it’s ugly and it’s half dead.”
These are not the ravings of a cranky tourist. Engstrand has a doctorate in history (University of Southern California, 1962) and has taught at the University of San Diego and its predecessor for 48 years. She literally wrote the book on local history — “San Diego: California’s Cornerstone” — and is cherished by a network of scholars as colleague, mentor and friend.
“She’s a real dynamo,” said M. Wayne Donaldson, chair of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “She’s probably one of the most influential people in my entire life.”
“Iris Engstrand,” said William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, “is a scholarly treasure.”
Now 82, Engstrand will teach her last class Tuesday. Don’t expect her to fade away. She’s helping design a virtual reality tour of the Presidio. Campaigning to win UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for El Camino Real. Co-editing The Journal of San Diego History. And insisting the Presidio gets the respect it deserves.
“San Diego,” she said, “just needs to get a little social consciousness about its past.”
Starting, perhaps, with a simple road sign noting the birthplace of California.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Engstrand said. “Here we are in San Diego, the second largest city in California, the eighth largest in the United States, and we can’t even have a sign here.”
Soaked in salt water
When questions arise about Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Kate Sessions, Alonzo Horton or any other notable from San Diego’s past, Engstrand is the go-to source.
Not bad for an accidental historian.
Growing up in Laguna Beach, Iris Higbie loved to surf and swim. Her passion for the sea led her to enroll at the University of Southern California as a marine biology major. Even her love life was soaked in salt water. While still an undergraduate, she married Larry Wilson, an albacore fisherman.
For the next six years, she’d bunk aboard fishing boats. Life at sea was an adventure, but marriage also meant new financial pressures. Her parents stopped paying her tuition, so the undergraduate landed a job as a legal secretary.
Her work hours, though, conflicted with the marine biology lab schedule.
A professor noted that Iris had gobs of history units. Why not make that her major, marine biology her minor?
She did, becoming so immersed in this field that she pursued it for a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate, all at USC.
Fascinated by Southern California’s Iberian roots, she also won a fellowship that sent her to Spain. In Madrid, she spent two years researching Spanish scientists who had explored the New World.
Her own expedition had touches of glamour, thanks to a roommate’s ties to the crew filming Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren in “El Cid.” The women roamed the Spanish capital in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, borrowed from a studio executive.
Young and bilingual, Engstrand was invited to parties at the U.S. embassy, mingling with actors and visiting dignitaries, including Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York.
Back in the U.S., the freshly minted Ph.D. taught at USC and Long Beach City College. In 1968, she joined the faculty at the San Diego College for Men.
Soon, this L.A. native was synonymous with San Diego history.
Despite her devotion to USC, Iris Wilson was happy to leave Los Angeles. Her marriage had fizzled out. Moreover, she was impressed by Old Town and other efforts to preserve San Diego’s heritage.
On paper, though, she looked like a bad fit at her new school. The College for Men was a private Catholic institution that in 1972 would merge with the College for Women, becoming the University of San Diego.
“I was not only not Catholic, I was divorced,” Engstrand said, “and at the College for Men. But they didn’t care.”
She shook up a small school’s little History Department.
“In many ways, it is her department,” said Colin Fisher, USD’s current History Department chairman. “She created it. She played a role in hiring every faculty member.”
In the classroom, she had a talent for resuscitating the past. Instead of memorizing dates, she urged students to examine the raw materials of life — food, fashion, music, relationships, tragedies, triumphs.
For instance, a lecture on Spanish royalty includes a vivid account of the hidden political and cultural messages in the canvases of Francisco Goya.
“She always stresses the ‘lived experience’ of the people and societies we study,” said Andres Meza, a senior in Engstrand’s course on the history of Spain.
Donaldson, an architect, worked on historic preservation campaigns in the Gaslamp Quarter. Engstrand urged him to investigate the people who built and inhabited those buildings.
“Where did they come from? Why did they come to what was to become the Gaslamp Quarter? What were their families like?” Donaldson said.
“She’s the one who turned me on to really look at the people and their character, and not just to rewrite old history.”
Right place, right time
Credit this rich, multi-disciplinary style to a rich, multi-faceted life. Engstrand’s interest in Spanish scientists, surveying a strange land’s flora and fauna, never faded. In 1999, she wrote “Inspired by Nature,” a history of the San Diego Natural History Museum.
A fascination with the region’s arid climate led her to the San Diego Water Authority’s lawyer, Paul Engstrand. They were married 45 years, until his death in 2015.
An aunt who was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ office manager led to a friendship with the team’s general manager, Buzzie Bavasi. After he became the San Diego Padres’ president in 1968, Bavasi often called on his fellow L.A. transplant.
“My life,” Engstrand said, “has been a series of unusual coincidences, of being in the right place at the right time.”
Coincidence may have been one factor behind Engstrand’s success. Others see a rigorous work ethic and ever-expanding social network.
About 11 years ago, The Journal of San Diego History had lost its editor. Engstrand agreed to become co-editor with another USD history professor, Molly McClain.
“It’s an enormous amount of work but incredibly interesting,” said McClain. “Iris makes everything really fun.”
Wendy Kramer agreed. A historian who lives in Toronto, Kramer found documents proving Cabrillo was born in Spain — unwelcome news to San Diego’s Portuguese community, which long had claimed the 16th century explorer as one of their own.
When Kramer flew here in 2015 to meet local historians, she was uncertain about the reception she’d receive.
Her fears quickly vanished. Engstrand picked her up at the airport, took her out to restaurants, put her up in a bayside condo.
“One of the most lovely things about finding those documents,” Kramer said, “was meeting people like Iris.”
The University of San Diego has never been without an Engstrand, and even after this month’s retirement, the Engstrand Era will continue. Iris’ daughter, Kristin Moran, is an associate dean; a grandson, Tanner Engstrand, is the football team’s assistant head coach.
While leaving a university, she’s not leaving scholarship. She may have another book or five in her — Engstrand estimates she’s already penned 25 volumes — and a course to team-teach (with Derrick Cartwright) on art and architecture.
She’ll also have more time to devote to a bedraggled park.
“She’s particularly keen on the Presidio project,” McClain said. “To see the Plymouth Rock of California being neglected, she is very keen to set that to rights.”
On July 16, a plaque will be unveiled in the park. The inscription honors “the soldiers, missionaries and natives of the Portola Expedition that founded San Diego de Alcalá and gave birth to Spanish Alta California.”
Engstrand was one of the plaque’s backers. Just like she’s pushing for fresh paint, signs, pruned trees and a new banner to join the flags waving outside the Serra Museum.
“The Kumeyaay flag should be first,” she said, “then the Spanish, the Mexican and the United States, if you are going in chronological order.”
History, like a certain historian, never rests.
San Diego County’s beloved teacher from the “Nature Adventures!” program at Mission Trails Regional Park brings her songs and extensive knowledge to young readers countywide.
San Diego, CA–She’s not originally from around here, but New York transplant and lifelong educator, Linda Gallo Hawley, can school most San Diegans on the region’s native flora, fauna and even cultural history. In fact, she’s made 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, pointing out unique and interesting plants and signs of wildlife along the way, all while singing catchy tunes like “The Ecosystem Song” and the “Big Brown Bats Song” (with lyrics self-written and set to popular tunes like “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” and “This Old Man.”)
Now with the publication of Nature Adventures! children of all ages can enjoy her extensive knowledge of San Diego’s biodiverse region. The book includes facts about the habitats and wildlife of this region—featuring animals big and small from spiders to shrews, flying bats to big cats, and even smelly skunks. What do they eat? Where do they live? Who are their predators? And what do their tracks and scat look like? Hawley explains it all in this fun text complete with delightful illustrations from artist and former fellow trail guide, Linda Gilbreath.
Originally called “Ant-Sized Adventures” for the preschoolers she initially taught (hence the “marching ants” illustration on the cover and throughout), Hawley decided to make the book appealing to nature lovers of all ages, by adding information pertinent to more advanced learners, including scientific terms, their meanings, and track-size measurements. Hawley is confident that children young and old, as well as parents and teachers, will have fun singing her songs about local wildlife.
“My granddaughter and I attended Linda Hawley’s “Nature Adventures!” program at Mission Trails Regional Park,” says former San Diego Mayor and current Mission Trails Regional Park board member, Dick Murphy. “Her classes and trail walks were a perfect introduction to the flora, fauna, and habitats in this park. Those lessons are now in her book for all.”
In addition to her already packed schedule of imparting a love for nature at the park and neighborhood libraries, Hawley now plans to make appearances throughout San Diego County to help promote her new book. If kids and parents react to the new release the same way they do her nature programs, it’s safe to say the book will be irresistible.
Most Californians are unaware of the natural beauty that exists just south of the Mexican border. Just how remote, untouched, and wild is Baja California?
San Diego, CA—Shark biologist Daniel Cartamil, PhD, of Scripps Institute of Oceanography, hopes to take some of the bite out of encroaching human threats to the untamed Pacific Coast region of Baja California by showcasing the region’s beauty in a stunning new work of photography called Baja’s Wild Side. The book, published by Sunbelt Publications, releases this summer in conjunction with an exhibit by the same name featuring Cartamil’s photography at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Cartamil began visiting and working in many of the small coastal fishing villages that still exist in this area while researching ways to protect sharks that migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Mexico’s Baja California coast. The raw landscapes and untouched beauty of the region inspired the avid photographer to document the wild and vulnerable peninsula. His relationships with academics, locals, and artisanal fisherman resulted in unparalleled access to remote and spectacular areas. For more than a decade, he ventured off the beaten path and captured what he saw for others, from ancient rock art and mystical boojum trees to the endangered condors of the high sierra.
Now Cartamil continues his conservation work professionally, as well as through lectures, photography, and guided tours of Baja California, Mexico. For more information visit bajaswildside.com.
San Diego, CA—In the world of independent publishing, spring is the start of award season as finalists are announced in anticipation of summer book fairs. Two of the most reputable independent publishing award programs announced finalists this week and, once again, works by Sunbelt Publications feature prominently, with Coast to Cactus, Gulf of California Coastal Ecology, and Virginia City collectively advancing in five categories.
The Independent Book Publisher Association’s (IPBA’s) Benjamin Franklin Book Awards have been administered since 1985 and are some of the most well respected awards in the industry. Only 3-4 books make the finalist round in any given category in this nation-wide competition, and while only one book ultimately takes the gold, all finalists are awarded silver medals. This year’s finalist is the best-selling Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors written by San Diego’s own Canyoneer trail guides from the San Diego Natural History Museum. The book is being recognized for its outstanding interior design with the final verdict announced on April 7, 2017, in Portland, OR, as part of IBPA’s Publishing University conference.
The INDIES Book of the Year Awards proctored by Foreword Reviews, the go-to resource for librarians, booksellers, industry professionals, and book lovers, is similarly competitive. In a deeply appreciated gesture of recognition, the reviewers at Foreword advanced Sunbelt Publications’ entries to the finals for all four categories submitted. Coast to Cactus reigns again as a finalist in both the “Nature” and “Regional” categories, while Gulf of California Coastal Ecology: Insights from the Present and Patterns from the Past and Virginia City: To Dance with the Devil made the final round in the categories of “Science” and “Regional” respectively (that’s right—two Sunbelt titles vying for the gold in regional!).
In a press release from Foreword Reviews, publisher Victoria Sutherland commented, “Choosing finalists for the INDIES is always the highlight of our year, but the choice was more difficult this time around due to the high quality of submissions.”
The INDIES Book of the Year winners will be announced in Chicago during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference on June 24, 2017.