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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on June 24th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 15 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 15

Nature by night

Cachuma Lake's Neal Taylor Nature Center offers some nocturnal activities during the summer

BY JOE PAYNE

Cachuma Lake’s Neal Taylor Nature Center is a hub of information, technology, and skilled people who help locals understand the complex ecosystem at Cachuma Lake, which borders the stunning and expansive Los Padres National Forest.

The nature center is central to the activities going on at the lake during the day, including multiple day hikes, wildlife boat excursions, or fishing classes and derbies. But when summer comes around and the nights are warmer, the center and the naturalists employed there offer special nocturnal events called the “Evening Fireside Programs.”


Cachuma after dark
The Neal Taylor Nature Center at Cachuma Lake is offering many family-friendly activities as part of its Evening Fireside Programs.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTINE

Set for Friday and Saturday nights, the events can be informative, lively, or leisurely. From nature lectures to live music, the “Fireside Programs” are sizzling with fun.

“There’s a lot of daytime activities at Cachuma so it’s fun to have something to do at night,” said Rosey Bishop, a park naturalist. “They are really geared towards families.”

Events such as the movie screening are meant to be fun family activities. Instead of a nature documentary, the docents usually program a more traditional family movie that is exciting to watch under the stars.

“We try to keep it light-hearted,” Bishop said, “not too heavy on the science.”

That is not to say that some of the Fireside programs won’t be informative—quite the contrary. A few Fireside programs will be lectures on natural subjects. Though the themes aren’t announced yet, Bishop already has an idea of what she will cover.

“I will be doing one on reptiles, especially the snakes of Santa Barbara,” she said. “I will bring different snakes and offer some information on snakes from here and around the world.”

Under the blanket of nightfall, certain so-called “scary” topics might come up, such as the snakes’ ability to unhinge their jaws to eat things larger than their own heads.

“Snakes are a really valuable part of our ecosystem,” Bishop said. “There will be a lot of cool facts and debunking a lot of the myths around them and highlighting some of their brilliant adaptations and behaviors.”

After the programs examining the plethora of life on the ground, it’s time to cast your eyes to the heavens with the help of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, which hosts the Fireside stargazing parties.

“The star parties include a lot of fun visuals and make it interactive for the kids,” Bishop said. “Those people who came up from the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit really know their astronomy.”

The volunteers with SBAU facilitate stargazing with telescopes they bring themselves. But much of the program includes high-quality slides of phenomena that people don’t notice.

“We have a screen at the amphitheatre,” Bishop said, “and they really have some of the best footage and photos of stars and space.”

No matter what the program—whether designed to be informative or just fun—community members and families are encouraged to come out and enjoy the natural wonders of Cachuma.

“As naturalists, our job is to interpret nature,” Bishop said. “We go somewhere no one has ever been and pay attention to the little details, the little things that are going on around you that normal people might not necessarily see.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne always looks to the stars. Contact him at jpayne@santamariasun.com.