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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Deer Sighting in the Valley of the Bears

On the drive up to Morro Bay, on a particularly cold and wet Thursday, I stopped by Pismo Beach to check out the monarch butterfly grove.

And there were, indeed, monarchs there. I saw two individuals flying.

But the rest of them had already roosted for the night.

It was 3:30 p.m. and about 52 degrees F out. They can't really fly under 55 degrees, so they were huddling with each other for warmth, way high up in a eucalyptus tree.

When they're like that, they look like dead leaves hanging from the branches. I only knew they were there because of a fellow visitor with a laser pointer.

Disappointed, I left in defeat—but I consoled myself knowing that there were other winter nesting sites farther north in and around Morro Bay, where I'd be the rest of the weekend.

The next day was gloriously sunny—and with a couple hours of daylight left, I headed to Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos. My birdwatching guide that morning had pointed me there instead of another local monarch grove, promising both butterflies and birds.

But after spending about an hour among the eucs, I'd only seen one flying monarch and no birds (though I swear I heard an owl).

I was batting zero.

Defeated once again, I returned to my car and opened the driver's side door. When I looked up to get in, I saw something straight out of a Disney movie.



It wasn't just one black-tailed deer, nibbling on the crazily green grass. There were four of them.



I tiptoed toward them to get a better look and maybe snap some photos—and while they did notice me, they didn't seem to mind.



I kept my distance, so they trusted me enough to even turn their backs on me.



At least one of them was a juvenile, maybe two or three. Maybe they're too young to fear humans. Maybe they just knew I didn't pose a threat to them.



So they snacked and roamed, making occasional eye contact with me in between as I not-so-stealthily followed them around.



Los Osos may have been known historically as the "Valley of the Bears," but local miners killed the last bear long ago.

Maybe the town should consider renaming itself Los Ciervos.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Sea Otter Spotting in Morro Bay
Photo Essay: In Search of Tule Elk

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