February Visit (2/28/2017)

Enjoying the wildflowers on a beautiful February day, I also noticed a different form of California buckeye (Aesculus californica) regrowth than I had seen last year.  Along the creek trail, some buckeyes that had not regrown in their crowns last year were sending up basal shoots.  I love the way the leaf buds look.

WildflowersEtc1_2017Feb28_sm

I was excited to see a checker-lily (Fritillaria affinis), something I did not catch last year.  Greater bee-flies (Bombylius major) were everywhere, enjoying the sun and the flowers.

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A yellowjacket (Vespula sp.) resting on purple nightshade (Solanum xanti), a western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) paused on a rock in the sun, and the first blooms on fleshy lupine (Lupinus succulentus):

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A few more blooms (canyon delphinium, blue dicks, and miner’s lettuce):

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I’m still working on capturing the grey expanses of dead tree and shrub branches against the hillsides.

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Cold creek is beautiful and clear.

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The wet winter has led to movement on the hillsides, although maybe not as much as there might have been, given how recent the fire was.  This was a slump right along the creek trail.

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January Visit (1/27/2017)

After the first very wet winter in a long time, it was deeply satisfying to see Cold Creek full of water and energy.

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Little tributaries to Cold Creek were full of water, and an early wildflower (milk maids, Cardamine californica) was abundant along the trail.

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The leaves of last spring’s foothill mule-ears (Wyethia helenoides) had dried so that only the veins were left, making a delicate lace.

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It appears that toyons (Heteromeles arbutifolia) that resprouted after the fire did not flower their first spring.  A toyon at the place where the trail crosses the creek had not burned and did produce fruit last fall.

I looked at the different patterns of regrowth in gray pine (Pinus sabiniana).

PineRegrowthEtc_2017Jan27_sm

Toyon berries were the primary food in the scat of what was likely a gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), as it was left on a rock in the middle of the trail.  It is possible that the scat was from a coyote (Canis latrans), but because gray foxes are known for finding prominent spots to mark with scat, fox is my first guess.

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Cold Fire Burns just North of Cold Canyon (8/3/2016)

Almost exactly one year from the start of the Wragg Fire, the Cold Fire burned the area just north of Cold Canyon.  It covered nearly the same area as the Monticello Fire did in 2014.  Three years now of annual fires in this area: what will 2017 bring?

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On the second day of the Cold Fire, I drove toward Winters to take a look at the smoky sky.  The setting sun was an unearthly pink.  While the smoke had not reached the country intersection where I made these drawings, the road was engulfed in smoke by the time reached the outskirts of Winters.

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June Visit (6/29/2016)

By June, Cold Creek was dry, at least in the lower part.  It is possible that water remained in pools higher up in the canyon.

coldcreekdry_2016jun29_sm

There were still a few wildflowers to find, and some Valley elderberry longhorn beetles (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) on their favorite plant:

wildflowers_2016jun29_sm

The leaves of yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) growing alongside the trail were strikingly shiny.  The yerba santa often seemed to be growing in patches of weedy thistles (star thistle, milk thistle) and dandelions, which are much more abundant post-fire with much of the shade gone.

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Brown summer hills and a vibrant cloud-free sky:

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May Visit (5/6/2016)

In May, I enjoyed new blooms, still-green hills, and the cool shade along the Homestead Trail.  Caterpillars were everywhere, a white-lined sphinx moth caterpillar (Hyles lineata) below, along with lupine seed pods and wild cucumber fruits:

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Below, some pipevine swallowtail caterpillars (Battus philenor).  I also enjoyed seeing the cord moss (Funaria hygrometrica) with red seta (the seta were still yellow-green in March).

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Many new wildflowers:

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California buckeyes (Aesculus californica) were flowering:

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Cold Creek still had clear water flowing:

coldcreek_2016may6_sm

March Visit (3/23/2016) 1 of 3

I visited on a warm, clear day in March to enjoy all the new green growth and buzzing and humming of insects everywhere.  This is the first of three posts showing what I saw.

Turkey vultures were enjoying the thermals above Blue Ridge:

turkeyvultures_2016mar23_sm

California poppies had started to adorn the hillsides in February, but were carpeting them in March, especially on the southwest facing slopes:

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Regrowth was lush at the base of the California buckeye at marker A07 (map):

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I’ve been watching the new stalks of California laurel at B03 get progressively taller:

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New, though, was this interesting growth of stalks at the base of a much larger California laurel (not at a CA Phenology Project at Stebbins marker):

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Cold Creek clear and full:

coldcreek_2016mar23_sm

Although the reserve remains closed to the public until May, there have been large numbers of trespassers.  Evidence comes in the form of paths blazed down to the creek off the main trail:

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This activity directly interferes with the reserve’s ability to fully recover from the fire by increasing erosion and damaging newly regrown plants.  Plenty of other evidence of trespass too:

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February Visit (2/24/2016)

I returned to the reserve in February excited to see how much greener it would be and whether any wildflowers were starting to appear.  This drawing of Blue Ridge shows a dramatic difference from a month and a half prior:

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All along the creek trail, I enjoyed the new greens, as seen in the new growth below in a California buckeye and the Toyon at marker A02 (markers are used by the CA Phenology Project at Stebbins; here is a map of the marker locations).

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Cold Creek was running higher, and the water and the sediment both look cleaner than they did on my December and January visits.

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And there were wildflowers!  Not all that many yet, but I did see Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), Large-leaved hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande), Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), and Wild cucumber (Marah fabaceus).

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