My semiannual tradition! Here is the view from Highway 128 into the canyon, Fall 2019:
Here are the previous seven views (April 2019, October 2018, September 2017, March 2017, September 2016, March 2016 and September 2015):
Last April, I sketched the view into Stebbins from Highway 128, a tradition every 6 months. There are still plenty of dead branches in sight, but the regrowth from roots and crowns is providing much of the green that you see here. In the earlier views, a lot of the green came from vines using the bare branches as supports.
Here are the previous six views (October 2018, September 2017, March 2017, September 2016, March 2016 and September 2015):
On a hot but not scorching morning, butterflies of all sizes were abundant:
Lots of summer yellow:
A few last wildflowers and fruits:
A brief sighting of a Sonoma chipmunk (Tamias sonomae):
Some of the new stairs that volunteers have constructed along the trail:
I heard, but did not see, a Nuttall’s woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii). This drawing is based on a reference photo:
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:
Below, some pipevine swallowtail caterpillars (Battus philenor) on California pipevine leaves (Aristolochia californica). I also enjoyed seeing the cord moss (Funaria hygrometrica) with red seta (the seta were still yellow-green in March).
Many new wildflowers:
California buckeyes (Aesculus californica) were flowering:
Cold Creek still had clear water flowing:
Because the green hills will not last long, I wanted to capture the great difference in the view at the trailhead in March compared to last September. The charred trees and shrubs stand out starkly against the vibrant green new growth. Here is the view March 23:
And here is the view from last September 11:
This is the second of three posts covering my March visit to the Reserve. Wildflowers were everywhere in profusion. A selection:
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).
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:
California poppies had started to adorn the hillsides in February, but were carpeting them in March, especially on the southwest facing slopes:
Regrowth was lush at the base of the California buckeye at marker A07 (map):
I’ve been watching the new stalks of California laurel at B03 get progressively taller:
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):
Cold Creek clear and full:
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:
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:
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:
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).
Cold Creek was running higher, and the water and the sediment both look cleaner than they did on my December and January visits.
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).
Walking the creek trail in early January, I drew some of the re-sprouting shrubs. I have focused on plants that are marked for monitoring by the California Phenology Project at Stebbins Cold Canyon. Marker numbers are noted on each sketch. Shown below are California laurel (B03), Coyotebrush (A04), and Toyon (A02, with an additional closeup).
Looking up from the creek at the same spot where I focused on water quality in December and January, I drew the canyon hillsides facing west. While there was some green growth to be seen along the creek, next to nothing was green on the hillsides in this direction.
High-intensity chaparral fires cause increased erosion and sediment transport into streams, and this can be seen in the thick black sludge filling the Cold Creek channel. On my December visit, with no recent rain, the creek bed was pretty dramatically full of sludge.
December 30, 2015:
By my January visit, several small storms had contributed to small flows in the creek. As water washes the runoff from the burned hillsides through the system, ash from the fire as well as contaminants that were present on the hillsides will move through Cold Creek and into Putah Creek. This creates water quality concerns which will be addressed by future water quality monitoring to be conducted by the Solano County Water Agency.
January 8, 2016: