April Visit #1 (4/19/2019)

On a clear and peaceful day in April, I brought my son with me to Stebbins and we both sketched our way along the trail. The lizards were plentiful, which was not surprising, but we were surprised at how close many of them let us come. Especially surprising was the western skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus) – I have found these to be particularly shy in the past.

The canyon and hillsides are still much more open due to the fire three and a half years ago, with many spring wildflowers taking advantage of the light.

My son pointed out a chaparral camel cricket (Gammarotettix genitalis) sheltering in the curl of a California tea (Rupertia physodes).

StebbinsSketchbook1_2019Apr19 sm

StebbinsSketchbook2_2019Apr19 sm

StebbinsSketchbook3_2019Apr19 sm

StebbinsSketchbook4_2019Apr19 sm

March Visit (3/19/2019)

I had two goals on this visit to the Reserve: to conduct my usual observations and to finalize the locations where I planned to have my field sketching workshop participants stop for our six drawing exercises. I didn’t get to the Reserve until around noon, when everything had warmed up into the sixties. With the bright sun, there were butterflies absolutely everywhere! Plenty of wildflowers, too, including California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), which I had not managed to find in bloom in previous years.

StebbinsSketchbook_2019Mar19_sm

 

StebbinsSketchbook2_2019Mar19_sm

 

StebbinsSketchbook3_2019Mar19_sm

 

StebbinsSketchbook4_2019Mar19_sm

January Visit (1/30/2019)

A winter visit to Stebbins at the end of January was the perfect time to look for lichen and other things less easy to spot in more abundant foliage. Curious about how quickly lichens have begun to colonize new substrate, I looked closely at one of the large rocks split open during the fire. A few lichens have begun to grow on the newly exposed faces of the rock, though not nearly as many as on the older outside faces of the same rock.

Sketchbook1_2019Jan30_sm

Along the trail more lichen, sprouting California buckeyes (Aesculus californica), and flowering chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum), California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica), and California toothwort (Cardamine californica). Lupines (Lupinus succulentus) and soap plants (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) have emerged, but are not yet flowering.

Sketchbook2_2019Jan30_sm

More lichens, yellow fieldcap mushrooms (Bolbitius titubans), a water strider in the clear, rushing creek, and the background songs of wrentits (Chamaea fasciata) and Pacific treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla).

Sketchbook3_2019Jan30_sm

On examining a pitcher sage (Lepechinia calycina) resprouting from its base, I noticed at least three different fungi at work on the dead, burned branches.

Sketchbook4_2019Jan30_sm

Three ferns grow close together on a shaded hillside: wood fern (Dryopteris arguta), goldenback fern (Pentagramma triangularis), and California maidenhair fern (Adiantum jordanii).  I found a whiskered jelly lichen (Leptochidium albociliatum) on a moss-covered rock, and particularly liked its intricate structure, with black lobed thallus, reddish-brown apothecia, and white hairs underneath the lobes (hence “whiskered”).

Sketchbook5_2019Jan30_sm

I always look for dried mule-ears leaves (Wyethia helenioides) in the winter, with the lack of canopy after the fire, these are often found in open areas where they catch the sunlight and glow.

Sketchbook6_2019Jan30_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

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

March Visit (3/23/2016) 2 of 3

This is the second of three posts covering my March visit to the Reserve.  Wildflowers were everywhere in profusion.  A selection:

marchwildflowers1_2016mar23_sm

 

marchwildflowers2_2016mar23_sm

 

marchwildflowers3_2016mar23_sm

The day was warm and sunny.  I saw at least six kinds of butterfly, only three of which I was able to identify: Pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor, especially abundant in the patches of blue dicks, as above), Orangetips (Anthocharis, drawn below), and Buckeyes (Junonia coenia).  I also enjoyed watching a Greater bee fly (Bombylius major) visiting the numerous Red-stem filaree flowers along the path (Erodium cicutarium, a common weed in disturbed areas).