Journal archives for April 2021

April 07, 2021

April 6, 2021 - North side

April 6, 2021 (Tuesday), 2:30-3:50pm

27 dead newts (0 juveniles), no live newts.
2 dead fence lizards, one of which may be juvenile; 1 dead (ground?) squirrel

Weather: Warm, mid 70s, clear, has been dry for way too long.

Traffic: 43 moving vehicles, 11 parked, 1 quarry truck, 8 bicycles, 0 pedestrians

Two cyclists passed twice. The first time, one shouted "newts for lunch!", the second time he shouted "Newt Gingrich!"

And I see that HTH's setups are gone.

Posted on April 07, 2021 03:37 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 08, 2021

Morgan Territory - 4/7/2021

Thought I'd check out the burned area at Morgan Territory today. Going along the outer eastern trails (Miwok, Manzanita, Valley View...) takes you through quite a bit, and I'm glad they've opened it to the public.

Some areas look like they burned more intensely, like on rocky hills, other areas seem to have had a lighter burn in the understory, where many oaks are burned on the bottom, but leafing out otherwise. Some areas of burned understory are pretty green, with a lot of non-native grasses, miner's lettuce, Plectritis and white Nemophila, as well as some blue dicks and several types of clover, and others in smaller numbers.

One of the very bare, rocky hills was interesting, where there were quite a few death camas (Toxicoscordion) brightening up the scorched earth. Otherwise, I didn't see any notably interesting fire-followers, like I had hoped.

Outside of the burned areas, there was a lot of green, with enough patches of flowers to keep it interesting. Plectritis still was a dominant plant, along with white Nemophila. There were some nice small swaths of Triphysaria, goldfields and Plantago erecta in open grassy areas, and CA buttercups in shadier places. There was significantly less Triphysaria and goldfields than several years ago when I was here very early April. Could just be later this year, or of course the lack of rain.

Oaks were mostly leafing out, with that electric green that I love. Very windy on the side facing Mt Diablo.

I'd like to go back in a couple of weeks.

Posted on April 08, 2021 02:39 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Pacheco State Park - 3/20 and 4/2/2021

Pacheco got off to a slow start this year. On March 20 (Equinox!) I went for the first time this year. Only a small portion of the wonderful, gnarly Oaks there were leafing out, when I expected them to be further along, and it was on the early side for flowers. It seemed to be a poor year for shooting stars there, not many at all, even in one spot where they often cover a large hillside. Interestingly, several species that are normally taller were pretty notably short this year - blue dicks and fiddlenecks - I'm guessing from lack of rain. But there were a satisfying number of both. Some poppies, but they were closed since it was chilly and very windy. A fairly large field of buttercups around ugly Pig Pond too. How I wish they'd manage those ponds for all of the wildlife other than the damn cows that rule the place. There should be herds of elk there, not cows.

Since it had rained a little the day before, mosses and lichens were still enlivened, forming such a wonderful skin over the oaks and stones. They don't seem to harm the trees, but I wonder if they provide any benefit? Dramatic clouds moved in, looked like it would rain again, but just a very brief sprinkle.

When I returned on 4/2, most of the Oaks were finally waking up, and there were a lot more flowers. The few shooting stars were mostly gone, and blue dicks fading, but there were a lot more poppies, and open this time, as well as large swaths of popcorn flowers and violets. There were patches of a very soft and relatively large lupine that I'm not familiar with, not quite yet blooming. Several other species not quite yet blooming too. It's not a year for dense carpets of flowers, but more scattered, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who blooms at all this year.

Posted on April 08, 2021 02:59 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 10, 2021

Rancho Cañada del Oro Bald Peaks - 4/9/2021

Ah yes, this is the right time to do a loop that includes Bald Peaks. Last year I was up there on 4/10, and both then and now the peaks were in full bloom. Mainly poppies, goldfields and popcorn flower, some miniature lupine, checkerblooms, and way too much Vicia villosa. As with other places this year, the flowers weren't dense, but there were still a lot of them, very satisfying with a backdrop of bright green leafing Oaks.

This time, I didn't do Mayfair Ranch, just went in on Longwall Canyon, and that was great, since you still get to go past the serpentine spot. The upper part of Longwall Canyon is so lovely, you'd hardly realize you were going uphill for 2 miles. Somewhere along the way was a wonderful patch of Buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) in full bloom, and of course there was a lot else to encounter along the way.

Very few humans, which was lovely, but also far fewer butterflies than expected, given all those flowers. It was on the cool side, and windy up there, maybe that kept them hunkered down, or elsewhere.

Posted on April 10, 2021 02:45 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 14, 2021

April 13, 2021 - North side

April 13, 2021 (Tuesday), 2:30-4:15pm (including a short detour up Priest Rock)

36 dead newts (0 juveniles), no live newts.
5 dead fence lizards, two of which may be juvenile

Weather: Warm, mid 70s, clear, has been dry for WAY too long.

Traffic: 76 moving vehicles, 14 parked, 0 quarry trucks, 3 bicycles, 7 pedestrians

Most of the newts were very dry, yet several notably fresher.

Not sure what was up with all the traffic today, there was a lot more than usual on a weekday. At least some of it seemed to be related to the rowing club, maybe they've got Tuesday classes on now?

And now for something gory and sad. I encountered what seemed to be a very freshly-killed fence lizard, still in 3d, whose tail was twitching, although I'm pretty sure (hope) the lizard was actually dead. It was creepy enough that for some reason I had to take a quick video before the next vehicle came - here it is (I don't blame you at all for not watching it): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-XmZiiHVbqc4Nw5_R3h024DIdWYdcaxN/view?usp=sharing. And indeed, the next vehicle came soon and put the lizard fully out of its misery.

Posted on April 14, 2021 05:08 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 4 comments | Leave a comment

April 15, 2021

Calero San Vicente loop - 4/11/2021

What a lovely day, perfect temperature, gorgeous clouds and excellent company. We did the loop from the San Vicente entrance to Calero, along the reservoir and back down the serpentine. Newly-awoken Oaks were glowing and many birds were seen and heard, including a variety in the reservoir. A satisfying number and variety of flowers too, although still on the early side, I'd like to do the loop again in a couple of weeks.

I walked in the serpentine areas of Lisa Killough trail 2 weeks previous, and was surprised to see that not much had progressed in those two weeks, either in species blooming or number of bloomers, except a few more poppies and the appearance of a few woollythreads. While it has been a very dry and crazy year for (lack of) weather, so many other places I've been have been blooming relatively well and progressing over time, including next door at Rancho Cañada del Oro. There was, however, a lovely large patch of poppies on the smaller loop trail.

And as usual, way too many bikes. We were lucky to have a whole minute of quiet to listen to and record bird sounds. That's the one big downside of walking there.

Posted on April 15, 2021 04:38 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 22 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Sierra Azul, Woods trail - 4/14/2021

Woods trail is ramping up right now, lovely as always, with quite a few blooms and still early for most. Around the parking area were small fields of lupines, and that little strip of goldfields and Linanthus as you start on the trail. Along the way were tons of CA buttercups (which seem to be doing fabulously everywhere I've been this year) and Pacific pea, many paintbrush and two-eyed violets and more Common Star Lilies than I've seen there at once. The irises look iffy this year, with some patches having a fair number of flowers, but a majority of patches none at all. Maybe they've yet to bloom, or maybe won't bother this dry year. A very nice patch of vivid Blue Dicks, some monkeyflowers, and a surprising amount of Yerba Santa in bloom, it seems early for them. Of course there were other bloomers too, but those were most notable. The sedums haven't started yet. And of course the smelly chaparral plants are fantastic right now, pungent, potent and not yet bitter - pitcher sage, mugwort and artemesia.

Sadly, I found three squished newts on the trail. It's bad enough finding them on the road, where I can muster a small amount of sympathy for drivers not seeing them. But what's happening on the trail? Is it ranger trucks? I admire them greatly, and they have a lot of responsibilities, but perhaps they could also learn to see newts. Hikers and bikers? Surely they should be paying enough attention to the trail, and are close enough, not to step on them or run them over? Regardless, obviously it's happening even there, where they should be safe. :-(

Posted on April 15, 2021 04:51 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 17, 2021

San Antonio Valley and Mount Hamilton - 4/16/2021

I finally spent a day driving around San Antonio Valley, and it truly was lovely. Probably not the best year for the carpets of flowers I've heard about, and I think it was a on the early side for some interesting plants. But the Oaks were glowing, and the further in I went, the more flowers. Which was interesting, since I expected more in the lower, grassy hillsides outside of Livermore in mid-April, but very few there. Instead, the higher elevations were much more floral, when I expected them to be much further behind. I saw several species in particular on the west side of Mt. Hamilton in bloom already, that were at the same stage in early May last year.

One star of the show was Buckbrush, which really went off this year in Sierra Azul, and is totally going off around Mt Hamilton now, brightly punctuating the chaparral, and intoxicatingly scenting the breeze. Some nice fields of goldfields and smaller areas of poppies in the valleys. But my main interest was checking out some of the burned area, of which there was much, hill after hill both blackened and occasionally greening, including a lot of stump sprouting. As I've seen elsewhere, one of the main plants that seem to be thriving in the burnt understory are Claytonia, and some others were present too, although many still in their infancy. Another treat was seeing more Blazing Stars than I ever have. Maybe they're always there in at least that density, or maybe they got a boost from the fires. Too bad so much of this drive is past fences, through "private property", one of the worst ideas to ever taint human relation to land.

Posted on April 17, 2021 05:04 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 12 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021 - North side

April 27, 2021 (Tuesday), 2:15-3:45pm

31 dead newts (0 juveniles), no live newts.
No other dead critters

Weather: Warm, mid 70s, clear, had a light sprinkle on Sunday.

Traffic: 52 moving vehicles, 16 parked, 1 quarry truck, 8 bicycles, 0 pedestrians

All newts were very dry, some very hard to remove from the asphalt. Not much else to report.

Posted on April 27, 2021 23:15 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 30, 2021

Henry Coe Backcountry Weekend - 4/23-26/2021

I wonder what the original name for this place is...

Henry Coe is my Happy Place, so I was thrilled to hear that they were doing the Backcountry Weekend this year, since, of course, it didn't happen last April. Much more limited in scope, which meant encountering even fewer humans, which is just fine with me. Since 2/3 of the park burned, I was really interested to investigate the burn areas, and it was fascinating. When they say that it was a "patchy" burn, they are not kidding, the landscape is a patchwork of green, brown and black everywhere you look, which seems very good for regeneration. And yet so strange... How is it that one patch of chamise was blackened, while the stand right next to it was untouched? How did half of a huge Oak burn and not the other half? And so many blue Oaks that totally burned, but now are leafing back out with the Spring. Their sap runs strong. But so many will be lost, I hope we get a wet year soon to get the next generation sprouting.

My main interest was in the plants coming up in the burn areas, and a few stood out. Whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora) were starting to bloom all over the place, not in every burn patch, but in many of those that were chaparral, and I've never seen those there previously (really, hardly ever seen them anywhere before.) Then there were star lilies (Toxicoscordion fremontii), not as common as whispering bells, but scattered over some very extensive burnt chaparral areas. Unfortunately, most of them were past flowering, but a couple of patches still in flower, which were wonderful to encounter. Finally, fairy lanterns (Calochortus albus), also quite numerous in burnt areas, but more with trees, less with chaparral, and I was there just a week or so too early, since almost all of them were in bud, not bloom. Too late for most star lilies, too early for fairy lanterns, yet very cool to see both of them so very numerous. As usual, funky, highly variable Claytonia were also common in burn areas, as well as very large and lush manroots.

While there were many more flowers in general than I expected in this very dry Spring (yet less than there could have been post-burn with a wet Spring), one that really stood out were Chinese Houses. Dense, large patches of these in places I've hardly noticed them before, mainly associated with trail cuts and more wooded areas.

Otherwise, it was a fairly cool weekend, so no herps this time. And hardly any water in the creeks! I set up camp near Mississippi Creek, planning to use it for my water supply, only to then find that it's not currently a creek, but a puddle. And that puddle was teeming with pollywogs and waterskaters, I just couldn't spend all weekend drinking what little water they had left, so made sure to hike past springs on Saturday, which were flowing fine, and I wish I could have brought a bunch back to the 'wog puddle. Pacheco Creek, having several springs flowing in, was at least a series of puddles toward the top, flowing a bit as you go further and further downstream. So very dry! But also so many flowers (and species of flowers) along Pacheco Creek! A lot more than in past years, that whole North Pacheco Creek trail area burned, and that plus the creek beds being available territory made for a glorious, long walk.

My big disappointment was that my phone/main iNat camera was having an entropy wave, so I rushed out to get a new one before the Backcountry Weekend, thinking that surely the latest Galaxy (S21) would be even better than my old S8, only to find out that the S21 cameras entirely suck. Over-processed, no detail, rarely sharp, overblown color and intensity, look like watercolors, hardly any depth of field, just thoroughly horrible no matter what I tried. So I ended up spending so much time and effort documenting so many plants for 3 days, only to have pretty much every photo be very sub-standard and almost embarrassing to post, it's crushing. But dammit, I'll post them anyway after all that (once I have time to process them all), and try a different phone camera, hoping to find one that's sharp and with more realistic color, like my S8 used to be. I returned the S21 and got a Pixel 5, will be testing it out tomorrow, fingers crossed. So to anyone who might be tempted, do NOT get a Galaxy S21 for iNatting, or really any type of photography, the hype is a lie. And if anyone has suggestions for a good one, let me know. Yes, I have a DSLR, but it's big and heavy and no GPS and I'd really rather use my phone, if the damn makers would stop ruining things that work perfectly well.

Posted on April 30, 2021 05:09 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 151 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Archives