Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 12
Ocean Temps, Ice Plant, Ceanothus, and Hummingbirds
Ocean Water Temperatures, of late in the 50s Fahrenheit, are finally on the upswing this month as the daylight hours lengthen and the sun arcs higher overhead in the sky each day. It will take about five months of spring and summer sunshine before the local ocean’s enormous mass and large heat capacity fully responds to the input of solar energy. A maximum water temperature in the low- to mid-70s is expected by August or September.
Ice Plant is responsible for many of the carpet-like splashes of yellow, pink, red, and purple we’re beginning to see around San Diego. Popular as a ground cover for concealing and stabilizing road cuts or any other easily eroded slope, ice plant covers the shoreline bluffs at La Jolla, freeway and road enbankments all over town, and front and back yards from Point Loma to El Cajon.
Ceanothus, or wild lilac, has been springing into bloom for some time — at least in the warmer coastal areas. By early March, virtually every chaparral-covered canyon and hillside on the coastal strip may exhibit blue- or white-flowering specimens. The peak of the ceanothus bloom will work its way eastward, reaching Ramona and Alpine by late March or April, and the Palomar, Cuyamaca, and Laguna mountains by April or May. For the next few years, vigorous ceanothus growth will continue in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where the devastating 2003 Cedar wildfire incinerated nearly all of the trees and opened up opportunities for post-fire, pioneering vegetation.
Hummingbirds are swarming over San Diego County’s backyard gardens, scrub-covered coastal hillsides, and the warm Anza-Borrego Desert. Red monkey flower (which blooms best in March and April) is a favorite source of nectar near the coast, while red-blossomed chuparosa and ocotillo normally play the same role in the desert. Keep an eye out for the male hummingbird’s mating “dance,” which involves soaring ascents followed by dramatic downward dives.