November Visit (11/23/2017)

On an overcast day that was comfortably cool, I tried to see as many different areas in the reserve as I could.  I headed up the trail towards Blue Ridge first and watched an oak titmouse (Baelophus inornatus) poking around in the dirt at the edge of the trail.  There were still bunches of nearly dry California cudweed (Pseudognaphalium californicum), along with the last blooms of coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis).

CudweedAndTitmouse_2017Nov23_sm

Tuleyome and the Friends of Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve have been continuing to stabilize the trail, shoring up the steep sections while the shrubs that ordinarily hold the hillsides in place are regrowing.

BuckeyeAndScat_2017Nov23_sm

The sky was filled with dramatic swaths of clouds, so I took a moment to capture the view back along Highway 128.

ViewsAndOaks_2017Nov23_sm

Many of the toyons (Heteromeles arbutifolia) that started regrowing immediately after the fire did not produce flowers and berries until this year.

ToyonAndOaks_2017Nov23_sm

In the overall grey of the day, the fall colors at the reserve stood out sharply:

FallColor_2017Nov23_sm

Because there had been a small amount of rainfall already this fall, the creekbed was damp and there were a few pools in places; enough moisture for mosses to have begun to rehydrate.  The view through the culverts that are now the official access route into the canyon is striking and I finally stopped to capture it on this visit.StreamAndCulvert_2017Nov23_sm

Here are a few shots of the sketches in progress:

September Visit (9/8/2017): View from the Trailhead

Just over two years after the fire, here is the view from the old trailhead.  Trees and hillsides are looking considerably greener, even at the end of summer.  Some of this is due to the wetter winter last year, but shrub and tree regrowth is also responsible.  Vines of wild cucumber and wild grape are taking advantage of the shrub skeletons that remain bare – many vines are visible in the middle distance in this painting – but shrub resprouting and reseeding is also widely in evidence throughout the reserve.

TrailheadView_2017Sep08_sm

The view in April 2017:

TrailheadView2_2017Apr01_sm

The view in September 2016:

closedtrailhead2_2016sep29_sm

The view in March 2016:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2016mar23_sm

The view in September 2015:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2015sep11_sm

September Visit (9/8/2017)

Early September brought strong winds, which proved too much for some of the oaks in the reserve that had been weakened by fire.  The one below was on the trail just before the actual entrance to the reserve, very near where the new trail access meets the original trailhead at Highway 128.

FallenOak_2017Sep08_sm

Although weakened, this oak had been alive before it fell.  This is post-fire regrowth:

CloseupFallenOak_2017Sep08_sm

July Visit (7/26/2017)

In the morning when the temperature was approaching 90 degrees F, a fairly short walk through the reserve revealed a number of plants I had not seen in previous visits, including green cudweed (Gnaphalium californicum) and narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), below.  I also observed galls on poison oak, which are made by a gall mite, Aculops rhois.

Wildflowers1_2017Jul26_sm

California fuschia (Epilobium canum) is abundant in the reserve in the summer, but I saw a new Epilobium in the creekbed this visit, denseflower willowherb (Epilobium densiflorum).  The puffy, plume-like fruits of pipestem clematis (Clematis lasiantha) were abundant in several places along the creek trail.

Wildflowers2_2017Jul26_sm

Thanks to the wetter winter, there was still water in the creekbed this July, and plenty of plants and animals taking advantage.  Red rock skimmers (Paltothemis lineatipes) buzzed me as I stood on rocks above the water, peering into the creek to see freshwater snails that are harder to spot when the water is higher.  I fished the head of a Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus sp.) out of the water; I’m sure the rest of its body had been a juicy treat for something.

StreamLife_2017Jul26_sm

Winters Fire (July 6-8, 2017)

Near the beginning of what is likely to be an intense fire season, the area north of Cold Canyon that has burned twice before over the past four years was in flames again.  A total of 2,269 acres burned north of Highway 128 near Winters over three days in early July:

WintersFire_2017Jul8_sm

This map shows all of the fires in the area between 2014 and 2016:

threefiresmap3_2016sep12_sm

While fire is a necessary component of a healthy ecosystem, when the same area burns repeatedly with only short intervals between fires, seed banks are destroyed and trees that might have survived a single fire are unable to recover enough to withstand the next fire.  We still have a couple of months or more of hot dry weather, and plenty of extra fuel this year as a result of the wet winter.  I will be surprised if there are not more fires in this area this year.

AfterWintersFire2_2017Jul9_sm

May Visit (5/29/2017)

Meandering down the trail in May, stopping every few steps to draw something else, I tried to find differences between last May and this.  As I’d noticed before, there were more vines this year, including western morning glory (Calystegia occidentalis).  There were abundant pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor) both years, and this visit I spotted a mating pair and was able to get close to sketch them.

Wildflowers3_2017May29_sm

It seemed to me that there were many more Clarkias along the creek trail, including Clarkia unguiculata (elegant Clarkia) and Clarkia purpurea (four-spot).

Wildflowers1_2017May29_sm

Bumblebees were busy in the Klamathweed (St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum) and I watched a Chalcedon checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona) on poison oak.  A few gray pines (Pinus sabiniana) that seemed to still be growing after the fire now have so few green needles left that it seems they may not make it after all.

Wildflowers2_2017May29_sm

A couple of my usual views: Cold Creek and Blue Ridge.  I’ve been trying to capture them each time I visit, for an ongoing record of seasonal changes as well as changes over the years.

CreekAndRidge_2017May29_sm

 

 

I hadn’t yet spotted an alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata; I wrote an older synonym on the sketch) in the reserve, so I was glad to finally spy one darting across the trail in front of me.  They are zippy and more shy than fence lizards.

I started to draw the coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and then noticed a lady beetle (Coccinellidae) larva on one leaf.

AlligatorLizard_2017May29_2_sm

April Visit (4/1/2017): View from the Trailhead

Approximately a year and six months after the fire, it is apparent that the crowns of many of the trees near the trailhead have filled in considerably.  There is also a lot more vegetation on the ground than there was in March a year ago.  Chaparral shrubs are resprouting from their bases, but I have noticed this winter and spring that vines (wild cucumber, wild grape) are responsible for a lot of the newest greenery on the hillsides, growing up the trunks of the burned shrubs.

TrailheadView2_2017Apr01_sm

The view September 2016:

closedtrailhead2_2016sep29_sm

March 2016:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2016mar23_sm

September 2015:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2015sep11_sm