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

February 22, 2009

Diablo Foothills Regional Park

I thought I'd check out somewhere new this weekend, and I had a hankerin' for some greenery, so I headed east to Diablo Foothills Regional Park, a fine little park right next to Mt. Diablo with lovely oak savanna, rolling green hills, and some cool rock formations.

The Livorna trail head is in a somewhat distasteful suburban development (absurdly large homes, insane pools, gates, etc.), but you quickly leave that behind for the beautiful rolling green hills. Flowers were just starting to get rolling with mustard and fiddleneck blooming in profusion. Some of the oaky areas were fairly birdy. Didn't see a Red-breasted Sapsucker, which is one of my favorite birds in that kind of habitat, but saw plenty of other regulars. Possibly the weirdest sighting of the day was what appeared to be a CA Red-legged frog in amplexus with a bullfrog in a small cattail-filled pond (which was also full of singing Pacific Chorus Frogs). Odd.

Tons and tons of ground squirrels all over the place. Saw three coyotes loping across the n, and though I heard a bunch of alarm calls from the ground squirrels, but I'm not 100% sure it was them.

Buckeye Ravine, which leads down to the base of Castle Rock, was a great, fern-lined little spot, chock full of the eponymous buckeyes and some oaks (and plenty of poison oak, ugh). Saw a bunch of turret spider turrets there, adding to my growing collection of turret observations.

Castle Rock was a beautiful sight, but I didn't ascend due to the presence of noisy peace-spoiling hooligans atop, and the fact that I missed the small trail to the top. Maybe next time.

Overall, there weren't a lot of opportunities to search under cover, but I did manage to find a nice little rock field that yielded an absolutely stunning Calisoga longitarsis, a less-hairy, somewhat smaller relative of the tarantulas that lives around here. This one was the first female I've ever found, so I was quite pleased. She, however, was not.

I think the portion of the Briones-Diablo road that lead back to the trail head would be a remarkable spot for some sunset landscape shots. Lots of west-facing dinosaur-spine rocky outcrops to catch the light. One more reason for a return trip.

Posted on February 22, 2009 11:39 PM by kueda kueda | 20 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 15, 2009

Muir Woods in Bloom

I had planned going mushrooming up at Salt Point with Mickey & Caner, but with the rain and the distance and the uncertainty of mushrooms in general, we decided to just explore a little closer to home and headed to Muir Woods. I'm glad we did, because we caught the beginning of the spring wildflower season! Plenty of early bloomers were out and flowering, including many milkmaids and, amazingly, TONS of fetid adderstongue! Pretty much the entire trailside from Panoramic Highway down Redwood Creek into Muir Woods had a couple, and some spots were practically carpeted with the little flower. Most had already done their thing, but there were plenty still in bloom.

Other welcome sights were my first Indian Warrior of the year, in the higher areas, and Common Star Lily (Toxicoscordion fremontii), one of my favorite flowers to photograph. Toxicoscodion is a relatively change in genus I hadn't known about, and I have to admit I will miss being able to say "Zigadenus." Then again, "Toxicoscordion" sounds kind of like it's describing a poisonous accordion, so that's almost as fun.

Weather was cool and damp throughout, though no outright rain. Pretty much zero in the way of birds. Didn't do too much herp searching (and found nothing for my minimal efforts). Coolest animal by far was the one little Timema Mickey had on her shirt. Timema is a very weird genus of stick insects, always fun to see.

Posted on February 15, 2009 10:38 PM by kueda kueda | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 09, 2009

The Annelids and the Horde

Headed to Pillar Point on Saturday with plans to meet up with some friends of friends, but I got their early to check out the docks. The docks were a blast, with an overwhelming array of weird creatures (still not slugs that I could spot, though; was kind of hoping for Eubranchus, Catriona, or Elysia). In particular we found some neat polychaete worms, including the dorvilleid I observed the last time I was there, and what I think was something in the family Phyllodocidae. The latter was living in this possibly mucosal tube attached to some algae, and when I coaxed it out, it had the most incredible head, with huge tentacle like protrusions. An insane animal. I also saw this clump of purple-plumed sabellid worms that I think was Myxicola infundibulum. Quite beautiful, if a little mysterious.

Lots of the usual giant barnacles and skeleton shrimp at the dock. Also saw a very cool isopod that I'm pretty sure is in the family Sphaeromatidae, though I think I need to bone up a bit on isopod anatomy to get past there. It was just hanging out on a piece of kelp attached to a boat.

When we left the dock and started walking toward the point, we realized the beach was packed. TONS of people walking, clamming, checking stuff out. We inspected the pilings under the pier but found only an ochre star and some Obelia and other hydroids (still, slug food...). The reef was not less crowded, more people that I've ever seen. Surf was high, and hot spots like the pool of plenty were mostly covered. Managed to find a few slugs, including Flabellina trilineata, which was on a piece of hydroid that also had a tiny Doto amyra. Tiny. Other slugs included Doris montereyensis and Triopha maculata, and one more F. trilineata.

Non-sluggy action was pretty conventional: ochre, sunflower, knobbly, and giant pink sea stars, the usual array of anemones, sculpins etc. Only actually met up with the friends of friends at the very end, b/c it was impossible to find anyone in the crowds.

Posted on February 09, 2009 08:54 AM by kueda kueda | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment