October 23, 2009

Huckleberry in Fall

Went up to Huckleberry for a quick stroll last weekend. Was kind of hoping for some mushrooms, but saw almost zero fungal activity, save a nice big chicken of the woods growing on a eucalyptus stump along Claremont. That was ok, though, as it gave me a chance to focus on perennial plants. Many things were fruiting, including the huckleberries and honeysuckles. I learned a new tree: the golden chinquapin, a pretty common small tree with nuts like a chestnut and beautiful, thick, willow-like leaves with golden undersides. I need to learn more of my western trees. It's very comforting to walk through the woods at any time of year and and silently recite the name of each tree.

Posted on October 23, 2009 01:29 AM by kueda kueda | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 12, 2009

Whale Watching at the Farallons

Went for a second try at an Oceanic Society whale watching trip to the Farallons and had pretty much the best whale watching experience of my life to date. Whales. Lots and lots of whales, doing crazy things.

This was my second attempt to go whale watching with the Oceanic Society, the first being thwarted by high seas. The first also ended unhappily because no one from the Society showed up at the launch site to let us know about the cancellation. There was a number we were supposed to call to check the status, but my crew and about 8 other people didn't notice this little addendum to our receipts. I was very sour.

This time the ocean was flat, we called the number, and everything was good to go. Launched from Sausalito, picked up the rest in SF, then headed out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Harbor porpoise and tons of grebes around the Gate, and we started seeing murres just outside.

The humpbacks were very active around the islands. The first group we found were breaching like no one's business, and the last swam right up to the boat and played with us for about an hour. Pretty amazing stuff.

Saw some new-for-me sea birds too. The shearwaters were especially hard to pick out from a distance. They look a lot like gulls, and IDing them was sort of a process of elimination based on range, amount of whiteness on the underside, and beak color.

Posted on October 12, 2009 03:57 PM by kueda kueda | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 06, 2009

Not a whole lot at Duxbury

Hadn't been to the coast in forever, so I went out to Duxbury Reef to catch a moderate minus tide on Sunday. Lots of wind made for poor viewing conditions (too much turbulence), murky waters, and probably higher water than one might expect on a calmer day. So the usual crew of egrets and oystercatchers, purple shore crabs, porcelain crabs, gunnels, anemones, not too much out of the ordinary. Only slug was a single Triopha catalinae stranded on a rock out of water.

Posted on October 06, 2009 03:14 PM by kueda kueda | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Tilden on Saturday

Went for an uneventful walk in Tilden on Sunday, starting at Big Spring, up to the ridge trail, and back down again (can't remember the name of the trail down). Was kind of hoping for owls, but got skunked, and not in the good way that involves actual skunks. Oh well.

Posted on October 06, 2009 03:11 PM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 30, 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 30, 2009 04:12 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 05:39 PM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 23, 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 23, 2009 04:21 PM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 22, 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 22, 2009 01:27 AM by kueda kueda | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 04, 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 04, 2009 01:09 AM by kueda kueda | 31 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 16, 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 16, 2009 04:21 PM by kueda kueda | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment
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