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 23, 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 23, 2009 12:39 AM 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 11:38 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 09:54 AM by kueda kueda | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 03, 2009

Ok, I GUESS mammals can be kind of cute

But only a little.

Courtesy of The Affected Provincial's Almanac.

Posted on February 03, 2009 09:37 AM by kueda kueda | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Salt Point, Bone-Dry

Nate had a hankern' for some mushroom action, so we headed up to Salt Point this weekend with Lauren and Kevin. It was a beautiful day, continuing this alarming trend of clear skies and warm temperatures. Green rolling hills all through the Sonoma farm lands, but parts of the coastal hills were still brown. Highlight of the drive up was a bobcat just off the road! We were all pretty psyched about that one.

The woods weirdly dry. Usually I head up there toward the end of Feb, and it's usually pretty moist, if not sopping wet. This time we were kind of despairing of finding any mushrooms, let alone edibles. Luckily, we did find some black trumpets to take home, along with a handful of yellow feet and hedgehogs.

It actually wasn't a bad day for flowers. I've been jonesin' to see some fetid adder's tongue this winter, but I figured since they were blooming down in San Mateo county that I had missed their bloom up in Sonoma, but luckily I happened upon some! Joy! Coralroot was flowering too, but no sign of calypsos yet. Saw my first Western trillium of the year, too (along with a totally sweet dance fly, with many thanks to ap2il for the ID).

Some hawks long the road as we drove back, but frankly I was so exhausted I wasn't exactly paying too much attention. Looking forward to going back later in the month. Fingers crossed for rain!

Posted on February 03, 2009 02:16 AM by kueda kueda | 18 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment