I joined a Santa Cruz Bird Club field trip to Moore Creek Preserve yesterday. Although it was a birding trip, spring wildflowers, native grasses, insects and a coyote commanded a fair amount of our attention. It was nice to see so much purple needle grass there. I guess I had only hiked here in the dry season when all the grasses are brown. I had noticed a bit of Nassella pulchra along the side of the trail on previous visits, but in spring the purple seed heads and awns make swathes of this grass stand out. There is also native California oat grass and meadow barley here. There were other interesting grasses, rushes, and sedge here as well, so it would me a good place to return to with a grass book and a hand lens. I had neither, but fortunately Steve Gerow, the field trip leader, is as knowledgeable about plants as he is about birds.
Cicadas made their presence known with their clicking calls. I just read that Platypedia, the genus of cicadas I encounter locally, makes its noise by rattling its wings together. Other cicadas produce a very different sound with special abdominal organs called tymbals. Cicadas in the genus Platypedia lack tymbals,
Grasshopper Sparrows were singing their strange insect-like song, especially from the shrubs along the edge of the ravines. They have another song Steve Gerow described as tinkling. Savannah Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and Western Meadowlarks were among the other birds we saw in the grassland.
A pair of Common Ravens flew back and forth along the ravine each carrying a large russet colored mass of something. They kept this up for some time. I will have to see if I can find any description of this kind of behavior. I am curious to learn if this is typical of Raven courtship.