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I wanted to share a few more tidbits from my notebook that didn’t make it into my story about the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge today.

  • As I stood atop San Miguel Mountain east of San Diego, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Martin lamented the disappearance of the golden eagle from the refuge. A nesting pair had left as development pushed closer, Martin said.

Martin hadn’t seen an eagle pass through since late 2006.

The fall bird migration is in full swing. As I talked to Martin, he’d periodically call out a passing raptor. Ferruginous hawk, he’d say. Red-tailed hawk.

While we looked out across the refuge, a bird flying past unleashed a piercing squawk. To the south, three birds were swirling over a nearby valley. Two were red-tailed hawks. Martin quickly identified the third, larger bird. Golden eagle, he said.

Martin sneaked off up the mountain to get a closer look.

  • The refuge is home to an estimated 22 threatened and endangered species. Among them: the California gnatcatcher, the least Bell’s vireo, the Quino checkerspot butterfly and the San Diego horned lizard. Several endangered vernal pool species — such as San Diego mesa mint — can also be found within the refuge’s targeted acquisition boundary. (A vernal pool is a depression in the ground with a hard rock surface beneath it that prevents rainwater from seeping out. They fill and teem with life only during the rainy season.)
  • So by now you’re saying: Wow, this refuge sounds amazing, I’m going to check it out this weekend. Not so fast, pal. The refuge hasn’t officially been opened for public use, though a few activities are allowed, including wildlife photography and hiking. The refuge has been drafting a plan outlining future public uses. That process began last year and is scheduled to be completed in 2008. If you’re curious to learn more, check out the refuge’s website.
ROB DAVIS

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