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).  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:

maywildflowers1_2016may6_sm

 

maywildflowers2_2016may6_sm

 

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

February Visit (2/24/2016)

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:

ridge_2016feb24_sm

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).

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Cold Creek was running higher, and the water and the sediment both look cleaner than they did on my December and January visits.

coldcreek_2016feb24_sm

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).

shootingstar_2016feb24_sm

 

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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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toyona02_2016jan8_sm

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