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).

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September Visit (9/8/2017): View from the Trailhead

Just over two years after the fire, here is the view from the old trailhead.  Trees and hillsides are looking considerably greener, even at the end of summer.  Some of this is due to the wetter winter last year, but shrub and tree regrowth is also responsible.  Vines of wild cucumber and wild grape are taking advantage of the shrub skeletons that remain bare – many vines are visible in the middle distance in this painting – but shrub resprouting and reseeding is also widely in evidence throughout the reserve.

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The view in April 2017:

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The view in September 2016:

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The view in March 2016:

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The view in September 2015:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I had been unaware that there were yellow variants of woolly paintbrush (Castilleja foliolosa), but both colors were growing along the creek trail.

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I didn’t spot any live grasshoppers on this visit, but did see a very flat one in the middle of the trail.

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There were lovely patches of fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii) and abundant wild cucumber fruits (Marah fabaceus).

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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.

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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:

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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).

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Many new wildflowers:

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California buckeyes (Aesculus californica) were flowering:

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Cold Creek still had clear water flowing:

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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:

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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.

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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).

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