Last night I was awakened by the very strong scent of skunk wafting in through my bedroom window. Strong and lingering, the odor hung in the air and I could not go back to sleep. I live on the second floor of an apartment complex in the flats and very near the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd., the main intersection in the commercial part of Studio City — not an area one would expect to smell skunk. Since I couldn’t sleep, I began wondering where the skunks hide out during the day. The nearest park is several blocks away and there is the canal but there’s not much brush or places to hide.
My daughter in Silver Lake gets not only skunks at night but coyotes as well. A few times I have come face to face with them as I walk to my car after baby-sitting the grandchildren. It’s a little disconcerting and they don’t back away but just stare me down (the coyotes, I mean, not my grandchildren). So, if it’s a stand-off and they are between me and my car, I’m the one to back away. There is also a “friendly” coyote who regularly visits one of my favorite haunts in Griffith Park. People don’t seem concerned that he’s wandering among the families and occasionally they throw a goodie for him to chow down, which is probably why he keeps coming back and also, perhaps, why there are laws against this.
My sleepless brain began remembering that two other forms of wild life periodically descend on my neighborhood. There is a pair of mallards that inhabit our swimming pool for two days every Fall; this year was their third year in a row. I can’t be sure they are the same ones each year but it would seem even stranger if they weren’t. It would make one imagine this conversation: “Hey guys, when you fly south this year there’s a really cool rest stop in Studio City, Daffy and I had a great time there last autumn. There’s this pool, nice and clean and extra large. Take a break there, you won’t regret it.” So these two mallards, mates I suspect, float around, hop out to do their business, and then jump back in and splash around some more. So far I’ve resisted the urge to feed them since I don’t want to upset their stomachs. They’ve never stayed more than the usual two days and it’s probably a good thing since they do make quite a mess even in a short time. Everyone in the apartment complex is puzzled by their visits and wonder why only two of them come to the pool. Where’s the the rest of the flock, covey, gaggle?
One morning, a few years ago, I was leaving my apartment and saw two beautiful green birds with red heads sitting on the fence around the pool. I thought they were someone’s pets that had escaped. I went all over the neighborhood inquiring if anyone had lost two small green parrots. Finally a woman told me that they were wild parrots and came to the neighborhood a few months every year. It was true. In the following days there were lots of parrots squawking in the trees around our complex and soaring low in groups of 5 to 10. They’ve been appearing every year since I spotted the first two. It’s exciting to watch them and wonder if they are connected to the wild parrots of San Francisco about which the book was written– The Wild Parrotts of Telegraph Hill – A Love Story… With Wings by Mark Bittner.
L.A. must have something that attracts all these critters because in the twenty years I lived in San Francisco and all over the bay area I never personally experienced any wild life up close, even when I lived near parks and hills. What is it about L.A. that attracts skunks, coyotes, parrots and mallards? Perhaps word got around that L.A. is a very hospitable city with great weather, and an active, wild night life.