Mother Nature reveals her true self

On the Trail



On my morning walkabout around Seminole Lake in rural Agoura, I spied a bunch of redeared sliders in disguise.

Hauled out to sun themselves on the shore, each one of the turtles wore either a fluffy white toupee or handlebar moustache.

What was up with these guys? They don’t need camouflage; they have hardly any predators, being the main predators on the lake as they go after ducklings and juvenile fish.

In peering around I noticed just about everything was smothered in this fluffy stuff, not just the turtles.

I’d spent some time in early spring reuniting with childhood friends in Bayville, N.Y., and we’d rejoiced in the beauty of several snowstorms draping porch railings and spruce trees in glorious white garlands.

Gloria Glasser

Gloria Glasser

This fluffy stuff in rural Agoura had that same dreamy quality as snow, softly adhering to tree branches, grass, blackberry vines and the pebbly ground.

The source was the native willow trees, whose catkins had gone mad with spring fever and festooned the entire wooded lakeshore in layer upon layer of cottony fluff. Once fallen to earth, the catkins’ downy raiments began to disperse, leaving behind seedpods resembling brittle golden caterpillars.

The dog and I continued our walkabout. The lack of generous rainfall has crimped this year’s wildflower show. Yet the Seminole Lake area has always supported a variety of flowering natives even in tough years.

Trail sides were bright with yellow monkey flower, deerweed and golden yarrow, and displayed varying shades of purple represented by vetch, nightshade, phacelia, black sage and foothill penstemon.

Pale yellow blossoms of whispering bells created a charming sight beneath flowering elderberry trees and chamise shrubs. Buckwheat and wild rose brimmed with buds.

In the hills immediately above, the tall luminous flower spikes of chaparral yucca were visible.

There was a commotion as we were admiring the wildflowers. Bursting out of the lake-fringing cattails, two grackles and one redwinged blackbird attacked a great blue heron, a large wading bird. I could hear the impact of their bodies as they repeatedly struck the heron, which only dodged and gamely continued its slow slog through the shallow water.

It was a strange scene. My birding guide reveals that “older male red-winged blackbirds are dogged defenders of territory.” And that grackles “prey on the eggs and young of other birds.” The heron typically partakes of “fish, frogs, snakes and small mammals.”

Why was the heron the target in this fracas? Was this a diversionary tactic by the scheming grackle to distract the red-winged blackbird from protecting its nest and nestlings nearby?

“Come, O Brother Blackbird, let’s unite to chase off the invading heron! (Aha! Then my nefarious nest-raiding cohorts can scare away your mate and make off with those yummy eggs!)”

You really never know what a morning’s nature walk will reveal.

Glasser is a freelance writer. Reach her at