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Show me what you got, nature!
July 5, 2012 4:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for all awe-inspiring annual/seasonal/migratory natural phenomena within a 4 hour drive of Los Angeles. Help me fill my yearly calendar with sights to see!

I'm specifically looking for seasonal "events" that occur on a regular basis that I can put in my calendar and look forward to. Animals, plants, whatever--anything that "happens" and is amazing and unforgettable once you lay eyes on it. The more interactive and hands-on the experience, the better!

Examples of what I'm looking for: the annual grunion run (I actually went to this last year and it was awesome!), poppy season in Antelope Valley and the annual Monarch Butterfly migration.

What I'm not looking for: cool rocks in Joshua Tree National Park or beautiful views from Point Dume in Malibu. It's gotta be something that only happens during a specific time frame and makes you regret not going if that time frame passes you by!
posted by dede to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you gone snorkeling with the leopard sharks at La Jolla Shores Beach north of San Diego? I have been told they're a late-summer phenomenon.

(They were so abundant when I was there five years ago in August that stumbling into 4 feet of water with a mask and snorkel revealed quite a few. Also, my rodent brain was quite clear that I should get away from the sharks ASAP, even though I knew full well they were harmless.)
posted by purpleclover at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gray whales migrate south past the coast of Southern California in January, and again in April when they migrate northward.

Traditionally a flock of American Cliff Swallows depart en masse from Mission San Jaun Capistrano in March and return in October (although you may have missed your chance to see this, as the last time I recall seeing a significant number of birds arriving or leaving at once at San Juan was more than 20 years ago) .
posted by RichardP at 6:22 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens has a corpse flower.

There are lots of great places in LA to go watch the annual meteor showers.

The wildflowers in the Mojave are pretty spectacular when they bloom all at once.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:35 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came to suggest Gray Whale migration. A friend and I spent an awesome day driving up the PCH, taking pictures of light houses and watching pods of whales off shore.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:07 AM on July 6, 2012


Follow Hidden Los Angeles on Facebook - they are always popping up with great info about stuff like this.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:28 AM on July 6, 2012


I'm probably not supposed to make so many answers as "best", but they're all great!!
posted by dede at 8:40 AM on July 6, 2012


This is about an hour past your four-hour limit from LA, but late summer is the time to see blue whales in Monterey Bay, and this seems to be an extraordinary year for them.

The abundance of food off the NorCal coast may also bode well for the white shark season of the Farallon Islands. (I highly recommend the book The Devil's Teeth for more about the sharks. The memoirish parts are kind of hilariously bad, but the nature is fascinating.)

Thinking more about your question:
-Mushrooms are seasonal; in California, they spring up after winter rains start. Hook up with the Los Angels Mycological Society and go on a forage. (Note: I love nature nerds, but mushroom people, in my experience, are even more intense than birders. This is good and bad.)
- This isn't strictly "natural" -- more horticultural -- but the lilacs at Descanso Garden in La Canada Flintridge are exceptionally nice. They typically bloom in April.
- Lotusland in Santa Barbara. The lotuses are in bloom July-August-September. (It is lovely all year, though.)
- This does not happen annually, but you should keep an eye out for corpse flower bloomings (aka, Amorphophallus titanum; titan aram). They have happened a few times at the Huntington in summer. I've never managed to catch one in bloom, but even before they open, the plant is spectacular. The Huntington in general is full of great plants, which are of course seasonal. It's worth a look to figure out what you'd like to see and planning a trip accordingly. (Oh, ApathyGirl mentioned corpse flowers, but I'm on a phone so NO EDITING.)
- Oh, man, you should go to the Channel Islands. I've never been myself, so I can't recommend anything personally, but here's the National Park Service's list of seasonal happenings.
- Finally, elephant seals at Piedras Blancas near San Simeon.
posted by purpleclover at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2012


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