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.

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