Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Climate Change in California

I know most people think of Southern California as having year-round warm weather. And while it is true that we don't have snow in the lower elevations, we do actually experience cooler winter temperatures with a winter rainy season.

Over the past few years I have been noting the signs of autumn: leafing out of the wild currants, ripening of the toyon berries. The winter hibernation of the western fence lizards and desert tortoises mark the seasonal change as well. While the tortoises are fast asleep, this morning I saw a young fence lizard out warming itself in the sun.

I've also been recording signs of spring: hummingbird nesting, blooming of the manroot and more.

Last year the Allen's hummingbirds in our yard started to seriously nest in January. The earliest date we have recorded. A lone chick survived from these early nests because winter storms did arrive in early February. Winds tossed youngsters out of nests and sudden cold temperatures overwhelmed young chicks. The one Allen's hummingbird chick was the earliest recorded wild bird hatchling in North America in 2010. 

This year we had some early autumn rains, cold weather and then December has had some record warm days. Last year we recorded the manroot blooming the first week in January. On Sunday, December 12th I took these photos of the manroot not only emerging from the ground, but getting ready to bloom. Will this plant survive to fruit in summer if it emerges so early from the ground?

The male hummingbirds are performing breeding displays. Will we see nesting even earlier this year? If so, will the chicks survive when winter temperatures return?

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