February Visit (2/6/2020)

In February, I felt particularly lucky to be escorted the entirety of my hike by robins. They were busy stripping the stands of toyon of their berries, swooping here and there, calling to each other and scolding me. They would let me get close to them and stand under the bushes for a while, but then they would move away one by one down the trail to the next cluster of toyons.

StebbinsSketchbook1_2020Feb06

I was struck on this hike by how much white pitcher sage I saw in clearings, soaking up the sun. The abundance of white pitcher sage and also chaparral currant seem to me to be a sign of the growing dominance of sub-shrubs in the Stebbins habitats, as the annuals start to be shaded out and we follow the ecological stages of plant succession after the fire.

StebbinsSketchbook2_2020Feb06

I stopped for a captivating view with swaths of toyon, hairy-leaved ceanothus, and white pitcher sage. Below are some of the deposits left by mammals and a bird along that same stretch of trail.

StebbinsSketchbook3_2020Feb06

I believe the galls I spotted on the interior live oak are made by the gouty oak gall wasp (Callirhytis sp.).

StebbinsSketchbook4_2020Feb06

A clump of feathers in the grass at the side of the trail told the story of some kind of struggle, probably with a robin since they were so active and plentiful then. No sign of a body (or parts thereof), so either the bird escaped or the evidence was swallowed.

StebbinsSketchbook5_2020Feb06

As I neared the end of my hike, I noticed the unmistakable red of a robin’s chest in the brush down the hill along the side of the trail. The still form looked so peaceful – no sign of predation or struggle. It was a moving end to the drama that the robins had provided all along my journey.

StebbinsSketchbook6_2020Feb06

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