October Visit (10/31/2016)

On a cool gray day, I thought that a scrub jay (Aphelocoma californica) in a gray pine (Pinus sabiniana) made a beautiful silhouette against the sky.

graypine_2016oct31_sm

A  number of spotted towhees (Pipilo maculatus) were foraging in the smaller trees along the trail.  I caught one on a perch next to some stairs, and then drew a close-up from a photo.

spottedtowhee_2016oct31_sm

All over the canyon, poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) in its fall colors glowed vividly against the green and gray of the day.

poisonoak_2016oct31_sm

Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides) resprouting.  I love the shape of their leaves.

mountainmahogany_2016oct31_sm

Female coyotebrush (Baccharis pilularis) flowers, and a view of coyotebrush resprouting.

coyotebrush_2016oct31_sm

September Visit (9/29/2016) 2 of 3

It’s oak gall season!  I spotted the leaf below right in the middle of the trail, with galls from two different wasps.  The urchin gall wasp (Antron quercusechinus) makes the spiny pink galls and the crystalline gall wasp (Andricus crystallinus) makes the furry pink galls.  These wasps, in the family Cynipidae, lay their eggs in oak leaves (in this case a blue oak), and the eggs secrete plant hormone mimics which cause the leave to form the spectacular gall.  The larvae grow and feed in the gall for weeks to years, depending on environmental conditions, and then pupate within the gall and emerge as adults.

oakgalls_2016sep29_sm

Continuing the oak theme, I looked carefully at oak regrowth along Cold Creek.  Interior live oak, an evergreen oak, is generally a more vigorous basal sprouter, as observed below:

liveoakgrowth_2016sep29_sm

Blue oaks, which are deciduous, generally do not resprout from their bases, but show regrowth in their crowns:

blueoakgrowth_2016sep29_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:

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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

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.

newgrowth2_2016jun29_sm

Brown summer hills and a vibrant cloud-free sky:

summerhills_2016jun29_sm

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:

lupinecucumber_2016may6_sm

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).

MossBeetleCaterpillar_2016May6_sm

Many new wildflowers:

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maywildflowers3_2015may6_sm

California buckeyes (Aesculus californica) were flowering:

cabuckeye_2016may6_sm

Cold Creek still had clear water flowing:

coldcreek_2016may6_sm

March Visit (3/23/2016) 3 of 3

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:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2016mar23_sm

And here is the view from last September 11:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2015sep11_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:

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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).

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:

capoppyhillside_2016mar23_sm

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

cabuckeyea07_2016mar23_sm

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

calaurelb03_2016mar23_sm

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):

calaurel_2016mar23_sm

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:

offtrailpath_2016mar23_sm

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:

graffiti_2016mar23_sm

January Visit (1/8/2016)

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).

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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.

ridge3_2016jan8_sm

Water Quality (12/30/2015 & 1/8/2016)

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:

coldcreek_30dec2015_sm

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:

coldcreek_8jan2016_sm