September 29, 2009

Sun Spiders, Goatsuckers, Snake Lunges, Oh My!

Went for another night hike in Briones this past Sunday, and it might have been the best one yet. The Briones Valley Rd. trailhead off Alhambra isn't the best for sunsets, but it's got a nice stretch of oak / chaparral before you get out into the grasslands more typical of the park as a whole, where I've seen interesting flowers and the like during wetter months. Not much happening as I headed out, but as darkness really settled I started seeing lots of interesting things. Some YOY gopher snakes, gigantic wolf spiders, even a Common Poorwill! I saw some more dead gopher snakes on the drive back, they're all exactly the same size, about 30-40 cm long. Was talking with a friend about it today and we both agreed we'd never seen gopher snakes that were any smaller. Wonder how big they are when they hatch...

Highlight of the evening were sun spiders in the scrubby bit on the way back (very closely followed by the poorwill, mind you). Haven't seen solifugids in ages, and never outside a trap! Was quite delighted, esp. at their tendency to scoot backward trailing their pedipalps when alarmed. Sarah later taught me that the weird dangling structures on the last pair of legs are called "racket organs," but that no one knows what they do. Mysterious!

Overall a pretty awesome night.

Posted on September 29, 2009 11:12 PM by kueda kueda | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 26, 2009

Night Driving Bear Creek & Alhambra Valley

Went night driving in search of snakes this evening along Bear Creek and Alhambra Valley roads. Found 1 little gopher snake, saw a bunch of deer, heard some GH owls, but that was about it. Kind of a bust, and just driving slowly seeing nothing is kind of dull. Much prefer walking slowly and seeing nothing.

Posted on September 26, 2009 12:39 AM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 22, 2009

More Tarantulas

Went back to Mt. D for a quick spider jaunt with Lisa and Robb and their friends. Got into the park right at sunset, and the ranger had already left the gate, but it was still open, and we paid 'cuz we're good Californians and love our state parks. Found spiders pretty low down on North Gate, and didn't go all the way up b/c we found plenty (and, uh, darkness). Someone apparently saw a barn owl, though I missed it. Some bats flapping around too.

Posted on September 22, 2009 11:21 PM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 21, 2009

Evening in Briones

Californian Fall

I want to starting keeping a more regular journal, even when I don't see anything in particular, so let this be a new start. Went to Briones last night. Got to the Bear Creek entrance around 6pm and soaked up the gorgeous evening light as I climbed the Briones Crest Trail. This is the hour and the season to appreciate our Mediterranean grasslands, when the hillsides shine fiery gold, contrasting wonderfully with the worn, deep green of the oaks and bays lining crevasses and dry stream beds. All the oaks were laden with acorns, which seems to have been the case last weekend in Las Trampas too. I wonder if this is a mast year, or if I've just never noticed them before.

Very little in the way of life, some acorn woodpeckers heard in the distance, a pulsing chorus of crickets among the trees when the sun set. There were owls aplenty though. I saw at least 4 individual Great-horned Owls, and heard at least 2 more. At one point I cam across an injured juvenile gopher snake, and was snapping pics when I heard a screech from a nearby tree. I saw the owl looking down at me, and wondered if I was photographing its dinner, so I departed. The snake was still alive, though nearly severed. Felt bad about not euthanizing it, but its cuteness got the better of me.

Weirdest part of the evening was seeing a little camper in the middle of nowhere, and a guy within talking on the phone within, looking like a bust in a small piece of amber. I wondered what the hell he was doing out there, but remembered the grazing goats I had seen earlier and figured he was the goatherd. Then I shone my headlamp around the camper and saw about 1000 pairs of glowing goat eyes looking right at me. Eerie.

Beautiful stars, with Jupiter still shining bright to the southeast. Dead raccoon on the road back, as well as a buck and a coyote. No snakes on the road, sadly. Need to find a time and place to night drive for herps...

Posted on September 21, 2009 08:27 AM by kueda kueda | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 03, 2009

Writing things down in Redwood

Went for a walk around Redwood Regional Park again this past weekend. With Spring close to done, there aren't a lot of new things to photograph, so I decided that in lieu of madly photographing every cool flower and bug I came across, I'd just try writing things down for once. The trail down from Skyline to the creek was actually pretty hoppin' with birds and some flowers, including my first fringecups, which definitely merited some pics. The Pac-slope Flycatcher by the creek was a beautiful little sighting too. I hiked back along the eastern ridge in the park (not sure if it has a name), which I was surprised to find almost entirely devoid of life, at least in the scrub. Very dry. I kind of wonder if gets even less moisture than other areas due to being the lee of the ridge to its west. The northern part of this ridge near the Skyline parking lot actually seemed like it might make for good birding. Lots of widely spaced pines and sparse mid-level canopy. Might be worth an early-morning trip.

Posted on June 03, 2009 08:09 AM by kueda kueda | 31 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 15, 2009

Las Trampas in Spring

Went for a wonderful hike around the eastern portion of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness last Sunday, up through scrub, oak woodland, and batches of grassland, stuff blooming throughout. In addition to all the cool things I found (including my first White Fairy Lanterns!), I was surprised to find so much black oak and blue oak in the hills. Kinda cool.

Posted on May 15, 2009 11:21 PM by kueda kueda | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 28, 2009

Botanizing Mt. Diablo

I hit the peak of Mt. Diablo with some real botanists on Sunday. The mountain was seriously brown, but there was still plenty of floral action happening, along with some cool butterflies and birds. Saw all manner of new things, including a new Clarkia, and some gilia-like things I'm still not sure of. We saw some Mt. Diablo Jewelflower that was big and green and almost nothing like the little red guys I saw on Eagle Peak a month ago. Also, the endemic Mt. Diablo Phacelia! Good day all around.

Posted on April 28, 2009 11:38 PM by kueda kueda | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 22, 2009

Mitchell Canyon, 2009

For the past few years I've been going to Mitchell Canyon in the spring to look for wildflowers. It's a fantastic spot: you get a wonderful variety of woodland and grassland flowers as you hike up along the stream, and as you get higher you start getting scrub species, and at the top along the Eagle Peak trail you get a bunch of odd, semi-alpine species. Fun stuff.

This year I think I was a little earlier than usual. No Mt. Diablo fairy lanterns blooming, no pipestem (and sadly no Orobanche), but so many other wonderful things were out in force. I think the highlight of the day for me was the Mt. Diablo jewelflower, a tiny, scrappy little flower found only on Mt. Diablo. I'd seen it a few years back, but this time I found lots of them. Very cool.

Weather was overcast, occasionally rainy, and real windy. Forecast for Sunday was t-storms (which have not come to pass, damn you wunderground), so I figured clouds were better than getting zapped. Still, some weather made it feel like an adventure.

I might head back in a few weeks to see some of the later stuff. So many things to see there.

Posted on March 22, 2009 03:25 PM by kueda kueda | 27 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 15, 2009

Joshua Tree 2009

I went down to Joshua Tree National Park last weekend to catch the desert bloom. I've been going to the desert in the spring for the past two years in search of flowers with little luck, but this time I think I managed to catch the beginning of a pretty good bloom. Saw tons of flowers and other things that I'm still sorting through.

I set off very early Friday morning, and enjoyed watching the ghostly white flowering fruit trees off I-5 brighten into glimmering orchards in the morning sun. Green rolling hills most of the way down to the transverse ranges, then snow-topped mountains. Skirted LA and headed to the dry lands, arriving at the southern end of the park around 3ish. Scouted around for wildflowers off the road there until the evening, and camped at Cottonwood Springs. Did a little night searching for spiders, which turned up some fun stuff, not all of which I could ID but whatever. Spiders are kind of tricky without a microscope.

Spent most of the next day hiking to Lost Palms Oasis. The trail isn't tough or anything (nor was it devoid of people), but there were way too many biological distractions. That part of the park is largely Sonoran, so ocotillo were everywhere (thought not blooming too much). Many cool flowers, ubiquitous side-spotted lizards, lots of Phainopepla, Anna's, etc.

When I got back to the trailhead, I drove north toward the Boy Scout trailhead. Found lots of cool flowers along the roadside until I got a bit higher and entered the Mojave, where Joshua trees rule. Lots and lots of beautiful Joshua trees. Hiked in about a mile along the Boy Scout trail and camped at the base of an outcrop, as advised by a friend. Great site, lots of good, flat camping spots, and nice vantages for sunrise and set. Saw some cool birds in the morning, including Cactus Wrens and shrikes.

Hiked back out Sunday morning, and drove on north, this time along the north side of the transverses with hopes of hitting Antelope Valley. Did so (eventually), but the poppies weren't even close to peaking. Oh well, still a pretty drive.

Thus ended a very cool (if solitary) trip. Kind of a ton of driving, but I did see tons of cool stuff.

Posted on March 15, 2009 04:37 PM by kueda kueda | 31 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Birding the Bulb

Went birding at the Albany Bulb with Sarah this morning. It was raining, but not hard, and there were actually plenty of birds about. Tide looked way out, and the waders were wading, ducks were diving and dabbling, humans were out with their dogs. Highlights were the big flock of beautiful Green-winged Teal, hilariously waddling about the mud flats (definitely not birds built for land), the Pelagic Cormorant and Oystercatchers out at the point, and oh yeah, A NEW SLUG FOR ME! I was sort of just perusing the pools at the point, not really hoping for much, when I cam across what I knew to be an opisthobranch I hadn't seen. Of course, I didn't have a camera with me, it being rainy and me wanting to focus on simply seeing stuff, instead of taking pictures. Looking it up now, I'm pretty certain it was in the genus Haminoea, but it's hard to say which one without a pic. Sigh.

Now I kind of want to go back and look for intertidal critters. Maybe next tide.

Posted on March 15, 2009 04:26 PM by kueda kueda | 35 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment