Journal archives for May 2021

May 01, 2021

Morgan Territory - 4/30/2021

I returned to Morgan Territory today, to see if anything new was happening in the burn areas, and the answer was mostly... Not really... which isn't surprising since it's barely rained. But there were many flowers, the most notable of which were yellow fairy lanterns (Calochortus amabilis), and there were a lot of them! Certainly in areas that burned, but also in areas that didn't, so I don't know if the numbers are unusual or not, but they sure were delightful.

Similar to Coe, there were also quite a few large, dense patches of Collinsia, again often in areas that burned, but also areas that didn't. Open grassy fields in the northeast part of the park were dotted with hundreds of Ithuriel's spears, all very short. It's also prime time for Blow wives, tons of them and quite common. Winecup Clarkia, yarrow, blue dicks and Whiskerbrush were also often seen. Oh! And a surprise, semi-hidden patch of wind poppies!

Since it was a warm day, pollinators were out in force, so many large and small, especially on Collinsia heterophylla, and one patch of chaparral with blooming black sage, yerba santa and sticky monkeyflower (the first two being by far the favorites.) Wonderful clouds all day, including a dramatic sun ring.

Having returned the horrible Galaxy S21, I got a Pixel 5 and took it for a spin today, and while it's significantly better for this purpose than the S21, it's still not great. The color and exposure are much better, but it's hard to focus properly, I can't get as close to the subject as I can with my S8, and probably because of that have trouble getting things really sharp and detailed. Sigh. I never thought that I'd have so much trouble finding a new phone camera that is at least as good as my old one. Ain't that the way of it. But why?

Posted on May 01, 2021 05:10 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 49 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 06, 2021

Grant County Park - 5/5/2021

First time I've been to Grant this spring, and boy is it yellow! I did a loop around Halls Valley and Los Huecos, where the hills are covered in blooming Hawksbeard, zillions of them, which was awesome in a visual way, but very unfortunately I don't think they're native. It was by far the most dominant flower, but there were also a lot of yarrow, along with wine cup Clarkia, a few patches of poppies, and other usual suspects at this time of year.

While I didn't see anything particularly interesting in the burn areas, one commonality with other places I've been recently is there being lots of Chinese houses in the forested understories where it burned.

And a special treat was encountering several very healthy patches of Thermopsis, all in one particular area. They have an interesting scent to them, and such a glow in the sun. Oh! And two large turtles swimming in one of the ponds.

Where are all of the insects? I walked past a zillion Hawksbeards and yarrows (among many others) for several hours in the middle of a warm, clear day, and saw very few insects, just a butterfly here, a bumblebee there, so many fewer than I'd expect.

Posted on May 06, 2021 04:37 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 20 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 6, 2021 - North side

May 6, 2021 (Thursday), 2:20-3:40pm

4 dead newts (0 juveniles), no live newts.
Other roadkill: 2 butterflies (likely Variable Checkerspots), 1 fence lizard, 1 gray squirrel

Weather: Warm, upper 70s, clear, dry dry dry.

Traffic: 64 moving vehicles, 9 parked, 1 quarry truck, 10 bicycles, 0 pedestrians

Most of the cars today were seen around 3:15-3:30, some of them I directly saw go into the rowing club, many of the rest I surmise also did, since car after car contained one adult and one child going toward the club, and one adult going away from it.

I saw one of those cars hit a native male gray squirrel, who spasmed on the road for a minute until they died. It was horrible.

Lots of wildflowers, including yellow Calochortus, and the elderberries are full on.

Posted on May 06, 2021 23:26 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 08, 2021

Mount Hamilton - 5/7/2021

Today I returned to Mount Hamilton, didn't go all the way around Livermore this time, but did go up 130 over and a bit down Del Puerto, then back the same way. It was beautiful, lots of flowers, and an interesting variety. Last time the lower elevations were colorful, with goldfields in the valleys, but today those were brown and the higher elevations are more colorful. Thankfully not many people on the road, I drove slowly, stopped frequently, backed up down the road several times and was generally in "I brake for wildflowers" mode. Missed at least one I'd have liked to stop and see (some sort of Orobanche?), since there were no turnouts at all nearby, dammit.

Highlights included several nice patches of Thermopsis, one very satisfying area of Fairy Fans (Clarkia breweri), Whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora) with burnt chaparral, several flavors of sunflowers, and the Blazing stars are still going strong. As elsewhere, there were LOTS of Purple Chinese houses, often covering large areas under burnt oaks. This is their year.

More later, once I process photos...

Posted on May 08, 2021 05:54 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 41 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 12, 2021

May 11, 2021 - North side

May 11, 2021 (Tuesday), 2:35-3:55pm

1 dead newt (0 juveniles), no live newts.
Other roadkill: 2 butterflies (likely Variable Checkerspots), 1 lizard

Weather: On the hot side, around 90F, totally dry.

Traffic: 63 moving vehicles, 16 parked, 3 bicycles, 4 pedestrians, 0 quarry trucks

Once again, lots of traffic related to the rowing club around 3:30.

Lots of flowers blooming, including even more yellow Calochortus in one scattered spot.

This is my last day to patrol, I'm done for the season. Big hugs to everyone who participated this year!

Posted on May 12, 2021 14:13 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 3 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2021

Rancho Cañada del Oro - 5/21/2021

It's always a lovely day to be at Rancho. Today was windy and clear, with some tantalizingly dark clouds at the periphery, but not even a whiff of rain for all that wind.

It's not been a great year for flowers at Rancho, which is expected given the lack of hydration. But still, Calochortus were doing their thing. Just a light, occasional scattering of yellow lilies in the Blue Oak grasslands, not nearly as many as last year, or maybe there are more still to come. I'm appreciating their variability this year, which isn't as dramatic as clay lilies, but if you look closely... And there are quite a few clay lilies this year, again not as many as last, but a surprising number, every one with at least one resident adorned with pollen, assisting with reproduction while eating their fill and moving the cycle along. How do humans return to that fractal circle of life? Interestingly strict segregation of yellow lilies on one trail and clay lilies on the other. Both seem to grow in grasslands, but clay lilies also do just fine on the rocky side of the trail. While fairy lanterns thrive in the shadier areas in between.

So many insects! I wonder how they're adapting to fewer flowers this year. I was testing my third new phone, a Galaxy S10, plus a new Moment macro lens, and got to use them on just a few tolerant bugs. While the S10 does a better job than either the S21 or Pixel 5, it's still somewhat disappointing on sharpness (although occasionally very good), and they're still over-processing, although not as horribly as with the S21. So I'll probably use my S8 for insects going forward. Even my DSLR is letting me down, mostly not focusing well nowadays, I don't know why, it has no excuse. I'll probably be selling it too, but first find what I hope is a very capable new setup, light for hiking, excellent optics, great close up and macro, ability to get large depth of field, true color. Recommendations?

What else? A gorgeous gopher snake, more colorful than usual, warm enough to be out, and move very slowly, so I could appreciate them for a while. And an Acorn Woodpecker looking out of their nest! One of several holes carved into a big Blue Oak. I just learned that they will reuse those holes for many years, which I'm sure the Oaks are glad to hear, since they are large.

How delightful to cross paths several times with @merav and get distracted by Bee Assassins and Jewelflowers together. It's always satisfying to encounter someone who appreciates so much life around us.

Posted on May 22, 2021 02:00 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 33 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

May 29, 2021

Grant County Park - 5/28/2021

On a whim, I decided to hike a part of Grant that burned last year, and I've not really been to. Went in Twin Gates, up Cañada de Pala, around the Pala Seca loop, and back again. Most of it is very open grassland, punctuated by Oaks, including some notably large, old, and lovely ones. The most common flowers by far were yarrow (lots, including over large areas) and yellow Mariposa Lilies, as well as many patches of what I think are narrowleaf Mule's Ears, mostly past prime but occasionally with some sunny blooms. Also quite a few scattered Harvest Brodiaeas, Madia, occasional Grindelias, and a few others, including several new to me.

The best part was doing the Pala Seca loop. There were many of the same flowers as along Cañada de Pala, but more and fresher, along with some different ones. Then you come to something very different, an arroyo, much more lush and diverse, with some huge Valley Oaks, very different plants, even several nice patches of Seep Monkeyflower. As it flattens out, a large area is covered in stripes of moisture-loving plants like rushes and sedges, unfortunately combined with many invasives. So many more birds and butterflies here, it was super interesting, a relative oasis in the dry grassland, and would make a great site for restoration.

I'd definitely do the Pala Seca loop again, but would probably get there via Halls Valley and Los Huecos, to make it more loopy, and provide more diversity. It would also be interesting to do a one-way between Twin Gates and Washburn, going around Pala Seca loop in the middle.

I've got a backlog of iNat, will hopefully process photos from this hike soon.

Posted on May 29, 2021 05:20 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 57 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Baby Owl! - 5/28/2021

The Western Screech Owls made another one! I'm so happy, after so much drama last near for naught but an empty nest. One offspring, who started out tentatively looking out of the box late in the day, and has gotten significantly more active each day. Momma spends much of each day in the box hole, we're guessing to plug it up so the baby doesn't bolt or get molested by crows or squirrels.

The past couple of nights, Momma has left the nest a bit early and hung out nearby in the Oak, keeping watch on the box and occasionally calling to Junior. Other birds give her shit for a while, and after they've settled down, Momma goes off, seemingly to hunt. Tonight she returned with a lizard for Baby Owl, which bums me out, since I've been thrilled that the lizards have been thriving in the yard, more this year than last, and I hope that the owls don't eat too many. Eat rodents instead! Please! Here's a video of her with the lizard, taken in very low light.

Meanwhile, Baby Owl eventually pokes out and has a good, long look around, often while bobbing around, getting their groove on. Here's a video of that, and if you listen you'll hear Momma calling once or twice. They keep looking like they want to leave, but haven't yet, at least when I've been watching. Then of course it gets too dark to see, and I hope all is well for the night.

Posted on May 29, 2021 05:31 by newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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