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)

The days are warming up and the butterflies are out in force.  Pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor) were everywhere when I visited at the beginning of April, large dark shapes swooping across the trail.  I was excited to find a jumping spider (Phidippus sp.) on a branch of poison oak.

SpiderEtc_2017Apr01_sm

I watched a lone carpenter ant (Camponotus sp.) wandering along the mud next to a trickle of water running across the trail.  Purple sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida) is a beautiful wildflower that I didn’t see in the reserve last year.

AntEtc_2017Apr01_sm

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars were busy eating the tips of California figwort (Scrophularia californica).  It is clear that vines are taking advantage of the bare chaparral shrub branches after the fire, and this year the vines are even more abundant, especially on the hillsides.

CaterpillarsEtc_2017Apr01_sm

I had been unaware that there were yellow variants of woolly paintbrush (Castilleja foliolosa), but both colors were growing along the creek trail.

Wildflowers3_2017Apr01_sm

I didn’t spot any live grasshoppers on this visit, but did see a very flat one in the middle of the trail.

Wildflowers2_2017Apr01_sm

 

There were lovely patches of fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii) and abundant wild cucumber fruits (Marah fabaceus).

Wildflowers1_2017Apr01_sm

The prohibition of dogs in the reserve is unfortunately ineffective.  Just about every third group of hikers I saw on this busy Saturday had a dog with them.

Dog_2017Apr01_sm

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.

WildflowersEtc2_2017Feb28_sm

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):

WildflowersEtc4_2017Feb28_sm

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

WildflowersEtc3_2017Feb28_sm

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

BlueRidge_2017Feb28_sm

Cold creek is beautiful and clear.

ColdCreek_2017Feb28_sm

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.

SlumpAboveTrail_2017Feb28_sm

 

 

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.

ColdCreekRushing_2017Jan27_sm

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

Tributary_2017Jan27_sm.jpg

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

DryMulesEars_2017Jan27_sm

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.

FoxScatEtc_2017Jan27_sm

September Visit (9/29/2016) 1 of 3

At the end of September, summer was officially over, but summer weather here lasts well into fall.  Chamise regrowth was strong and healthy, and the buckeye leaves were brown and ready to fall, revealing the fruits:

chamiseandbuckeye_2016sep29_sm

The yellow hills allowed the new sprouts of the chaparral shrubs to stand out sharply:

chaparralhillside_2016sep29_sm

Two wildflowers: western goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis) along the trail, and annual willow-herb (Epilobium canum) in the dry creek bed.  Three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) was growing happily along the trail; it is a close relative of poison oak, and like that relative, grows back vigorously after fires.

wildflowers_2016sep29_sm

Until this visit, I had only seen western fence lizards in the reserve, so I was excited to spot a speedy western skink:

westernskink_2016sep29_sm

I saw far more spider webs along the sides of the trail on this visit, especially funnel webs as below:

funnelweb_2016sep29_sm

August Visit (8/25/2016)

A hot and dry August day: first I noticed that heavy stillness particular to the very hot days of California summer, and then started paying attention to all of the active insects.  Grasshoppers took off in all directions to escape as I walked along the trail and butterflies of all sizes were abundant.

One of the few flowers blooming, twiggy wreath plant (Stephanomeria virgata), attracted quite a few bees, both western honey bees (Apis mellifera) and a bumblebee, the black-tailed bumblebee (Bombus melanopygus edwardsii).

insects_2016aug25_sm

One grasshopper stayed still long enough for me to draw it.  It slowly dawned on me that there was a reason it was less willing to fly away as I approached: it was missing its right hind leg.  It was still able to fly, but taking off clearly took more effort.

grasshopper_2016aug25_sm

A daytime moon over Blue Ridge:

ridge_2016aug25_sm

I watched a Sonoma chipmunk (Tamias sonomae) working busily in the trees some distance away.  The image below was drawn from a reference photo.

sonomachipmunk_2016aug25_sm

 

July Visit (7/21/2016)

On a hot but not scorching morning, butterflies of all sizes were abundant:

butterflies_2016jul21_sm

Lots of summer yellow:

summerhillsandtrail_2016jul21_sm

A few last wildflowers and fruits:

wildflowers_2017jul21_sm

A brief sighting of a Sonoma chipmunk (Tamias sonomae):

sonomachipmunk_2016jul21_sm

Some of the new stairs that volunteers have constructed along the trail:

newstairs_2016jul21_sm

I heard, but did not see, a Nuttall’s woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii).  This drawing is based on a reference photo:

nuttallswoodpecker_2016jul21_sm