The first thing you notice when you step out of your car in the dusty parking lot is that your cell phone has no reception. The second thing you notice is the silence. Or rather, you notice that the city—cars, traffic, concrete—has been replaced with wilderness. It’s Nature with a big N: trees, brush, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, and all manner of bird, bug, and beast. Not a Starbucks in sight.

Malibu’s Solstice Canyon is just a half hour’s drive up the Pacific Coast Highway past Gladstone’s, but is worlds away from our more civilized hiking spots, like Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park. Hiking here, it’s easy to forget that Los Angeles is home to some 4 million people and 2.5 million cars. I was wandering through the canyon’s trails recently with my friend Michelle, when I came face-to-beak with the unexpected awareness that I was a stranger in my own backyard.

I'm an animal behavior expert and I've lived in Los Angeles all my life. Why don't I know the birds that, like me, call Southern California home? In my latest piece, at Zocalo Public Square, I argue that I should know who my wildlife neighbors are, and that understanding our natural world can create a better human community, too.

Head on over to read it: Angelenos, Meet Your Wildlife Neighbors

Photo via Flickr/gurdonark.