2. kesäkuuta 2021

Two baby owls! - 6/1/2021

Last night, Momma Owl left the box earlier, and as usual hung out in the Oak getting yelled at by Juncos, Oak Titmice, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches and a Anna's Hummingbird. After they calmed down, she went off to hunt. Meanwhile, Baby Owl hung out at the box entrance for a while, getting their groove on. Eventually they flew out, and onto the perch! And much to my surprise, another Baby Owl peeked out - there are (at least) two in there!

I sat out watching as much as I could as it got darker and darker. What I observed was the first Baby Owl hanging out on the perch for a while, occasionally having a big wobble and flap, while the second baby looked out of the box. After it was mostly dark, the first baby started to explore the Oak, half walking, half flapping up the trunk. They got around rather well, which makes me think it's not their inaugural exit. The second baby didn't seem to leave, so they might be a few days early (or just waiting for later in the evening.)

At least one of the parents was around, brought a lizard (poor lizards! their population might get decimated at this rate! eat rodents!) and flew back off. Sometimes there were at least 3 owls in the tree making different sounds. Unfortunately, they're quiet enough and human noise pollution is a horror, so I didn't get any recordings as I'd have liked.

Here's some Baby Owl groove:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WLzXq28fq6oE22U3sAeQqtcDGztqEgQ9/view?usp=sharing

And a longer video of the two babies, lots of flapping, and a lizard delivery:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m2BldszjFpS9GI1kATyuF_4wYE-B7Qw0/view?usp=sharing

Tonight, I see that the first baby is really getting around, flew out of the Oak and to other trees in the yard, and the neighbor's. The second baby is still in the box. Must be hard to wrangle multiple baby birds!

Lähetetty 2. kesäkuuta 2021 03:47 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 1 havainto | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

29. toukokuuta 2021

Baby Owl! - 5/28/2021

The Western Screech Owls made another one! I'm so happy, after so much drama last near for naught but an empty nest. One offspring, who started out tentatively looking out of the box late in the day, and has gotten significantly more active each day. Momma spends much of each day in the box hole, we're guessing to plug it up so the baby doesn't bolt or get molested by crows or squirrels.

The past couple of nights, Momma has left the nest a bit early and hung out nearby in the Oak, keeping watch on the box and occasionally calling to Junior. Other birds give her shit for a while, and after they've settled down, Momma goes off, seemingly to hunt. Tonight she returned with a lizard for Baby Owl, which bums me out, since I've been thrilled that the lizards have been thriving in the yard, more this year than last, and I hope that the owls don't eat too many. Eat rodents instead! Please! Here's a video of her with the lizard, taken in very low light.

Meanwhile, Baby Owl eventually pokes out and has a good, long look around, often while bobbing around, getting their groove on. Here's a video of that, and if you listen you'll hear Momma calling once or twice. They keep looking like they want to leave, but haven't yet, at least when I've been watching. Then of course it gets too dark to see, and I hope all is well for the night.

Lähetetty 29. toukokuuta 2021 05:31 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

Grant County Park - 5/28/2021

On a whim, I decided to hike a part of Grant that burned last year, and I've not really been to. Went in Twin Gates, up Cañada de Pala, around the Pala Seca loop, and back again. Most of it is very open grassland, punctuated by Oaks, including some notably large, old, and lovely ones. The most common flowers by far were yarrow (lots, including over large areas) and yellow Mariposa Lilies, as well as many patches of what I think are narrowleaf Mule's Ears, mostly past prime but occasionally with some sunny blooms. Also quite a few scattered Harvest Brodiaeas, Madia, occasional Grindelias, and a few others, including several new to me.

The best part was doing the Pala Seca loop. There were many of the same flowers as along Cañada de Pala, but more and fresher, along with some different ones. Then you come to something very different, an arroyo, much more lush and diverse, with some huge Valley Oaks, very different plants, even several nice patches of Seep Monkeyflower. As it flattens out, a large area is covered in stripes of moisture-loving plants like rushes and sedges, unfortunately combined with many invasives. So many more birds and butterflies here, it was super interesting, a relative oasis in the dry grassland, and would make a great site for restoration.

I'd definitely do the Pala Seca loop again, but would probably get there via Halls Valley and Los Huecos, to make it more loopy, and provide more diversity. It would also be interesting to do a one-way between Twin Gates and Washburn, going around Pala Seca loop in the middle.

I've got a backlog of iNat, will hopefully process photos from this hike soon.

Lähetetty 29. toukokuuta 2021 05:20 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 57 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

22. toukokuuta 2021

Rancho Cañada del Oro - 5/21/2021

It's always a lovely day to be at Rancho. Today was windy and clear, with some tantalizingly dark clouds at the periphery, but not even a whiff of rain for all that wind.

It's not been a great year for flowers at Rancho, which is expected given the lack of hydration. But still, Calochortus were doing their thing. Just a light, occasional scattering of yellow lilies in the Blue Oak grasslands, not nearly as many as last year, or maybe there are more still to come. I'm appreciating their variability this year, which isn't as dramatic as clay lilies, but if you look closely... And there are quite a few clay lilies this year, again not as many as last, but a surprising number, every one with at least one resident adorned with pollen, assisting with reproduction while eating their fill and moving the cycle along. How do humans return to that fractal circle of life? Interestingly strict segregation of yellow lilies on one trail and clay lilies on the other. Both seem to grow in grasslands, but clay lilies also do just fine on the rocky side of the trail. While fairy lanterns thrive in the shadier areas in between.

So many insects! I wonder how they're adapting to fewer flowers this year. I was testing my third new phone, a Galaxy S10, plus a new Moment macro lens, and got to use them on just a few tolerant bugs. While the S10 does a better job than either the S21 or Pixel 5, it's still somewhat disappointing on sharpness (although occasionally very good), and they're still over-processing, although not as horribly as with the S21. So I'll probably use my S8 for insects going forward. Even my DSLR is letting me down, mostly not focusing well nowadays, I don't know why, it has no excuse. I'll probably be selling it too, but first find what I hope is a very capable new setup, light for hiking, excellent optics, great close up and macro, ability to get large depth of field, true color. Recommendations?

What else? A gorgeous gopher snake, more colorful than usual, warm enough to be out, and move very slowly, so I could appreciate them for a while. And an Acorn Woodpecker looking out of their nest! One of several holes carved into a big Blue Oak. I just learned that they will reuse those holes for many years, which I'm sure the Oaks are glad to hear, since they are large.

How delightful to cross paths several times with @merav and get distracted by Bee Assassins and Jewelflowers together. It's always satisfying to encounter someone who appreciates so much life around us.

Lähetetty 22. toukokuuta 2021 02:00 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 33 havaintoa | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

8. toukokuuta 2021

Mount Hamilton - 5/7/2021

Today I returned to Mount Hamilton, didn't go all the way around Livermore this time, but did go up 130 over and a bit down Del Puerto, then back the same way. It was beautiful, lots of flowers, and an interesting variety. Last time the lower elevations were colorful, with goldfields in the valleys, but today those were brown and the higher elevations are more colorful. Thankfully not many people on the road, I drove slowly, stopped frequently, backed up down the road several times and was generally in "I brake for wildflowers" mode. Missed at least one I'd have liked to stop and see (some sort of Orobanche?), since there were no turnouts at all nearby, dammit.

Highlights included several nice patches of Thermopsis, one very satisfying area of Fairy Fans (Clarkia breweri), Whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora) with burnt chaparral, several flavors of sunflowers, and the Blazing stars are still going strong. As elsewhere, there were LOTS of Purple Chinese houses, often covering large areas under burnt oaks. This is their year.

More later, once I process photos...

Lähetetty 8. toukokuuta 2021 05:54 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 41 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

6. toukokuuta 2021

Grant County Park - 5/5/2021

First time I've been to Grant this spring, and boy is it yellow! I did a loop around Halls Valley and Los Huecos, where the hills are covered in blooming Hawksbeard, zillions of them, which was awesome in a visual way, but very unfortunately I don't think they're native. It was by far the most dominant flower, but there were also a lot of yarrow, along with wine cup Clarkia, a few patches of poppies, and other usual suspects at this time of year.

While I didn't see anything particularly interesting in the burn areas, one commonality with other places I've been recently is there being lots of Chinese houses in the forested understories where it burned.

And a special treat was encountering several very healthy patches of Thermopsis, all in one particular area. They have an interesting scent to them, and such a glow in the sun. Oh! And two large turtles swimming in one of the ponds.

Where are all of the insects? I walked past a zillion Hawksbeards and yarrows (among many others) for several hours in the middle of a warm, clear day, and saw very few insects, just a butterfly here, a bumblebee there, so many fewer than I'd expect.

Lähetetty 6. toukokuuta 2021 04:37 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 20 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

1. toukokuuta 2021

Morgan Territory - 4/30/2021

I returned to Morgan Territory today, to see if anything new was happening in the burn areas, and the answer was mostly... Not really... which isn't surprising since it's barely rained. But there were many flowers, the most notable of which were yellow fairy lanterns (Calochortus amabilis), and there were a lot of them! Certainly in areas that burned, but also in areas that didn't, so I don't know if the numbers are unusual or not, but they sure were delightful.

Similar to Coe, there were also quite a few large, dense patches of Collinsia, again often in areas that burned, but also areas that didn't. Open grassy fields in the northeast part of the park were dotted with hundreds of Ithuriel's spears, all very short. It's also prime time for Blow wives, tons of them and quite common. Winecup Clarkia, yarrow, blue dicks and Whiskerbrush were also often seen. Oh! And a surprise, semi-hidden patch of wind poppies!

Since it was a warm day, pollinators were out in force, so many large and small, especially on Collinsia heterophylla, and one patch of chaparral with blooming black sage, yerba santa and sticky monkeyflower (the first two being by far the favorites.) Wonderful clouds all day, including a dramatic sun ring.

Having returned the horrible Galaxy S21, I got a Pixel 5 and took it for a spin today, and while it's significantly better for this purpose than the S21, it's still not great. The color and exposure are much better, but it's hard to focus properly, I can't get as close to the subject as I can with my S8, and probably because of that have trouble getting things really sharp and detailed. Sigh. I never thought that I'd have so much trouble finding a new phone camera that is at least as good as my old one. Ain't that the way of it. But why?

Lähetetty 1. toukokuuta 2021 05:10 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 49 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

30. huhtikuuta 2021

Henry Coe Backcountry Weekend - 4/23-26/2021

I wonder what the original name for this place is...

Henry Coe is my Happy Place, so I was thrilled to hear that they were doing the Backcountry Weekend this year, since, of course, it didn't happen last April. Much more limited in scope, which meant encountering even fewer humans, which is just fine with me. Since 2/3 of the park burned, I was really interested to investigate the burn areas, and it was fascinating. When they say that it was a "patchy" burn, they are not kidding, the landscape is a patchwork of green, brown and black everywhere you look, which seems very good for regeneration. And yet so strange... How is it that one patch of chamise was blackened, while the stand right next to it was untouched? How did half of a huge Oak burn and not the other half? And so many blue Oaks that totally burned, but now are leafing back out with the Spring. Their sap runs strong. But so many will be lost, I hope we get a wet year soon to get the next generation sprouting.

My main interest was in the plants coming up in the burn areas, and a few stood out. Whispering bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora) were starting to bloom all over the place, not in every burn patch, but in many of those that were chaparral, and I've never seen those there previously (really, hardly ever seen them anywhere before.) Then there were star lilies (Toxicoscordion fremontii), not as common as whispering bells, but scattered over some very extensive burnt chaparral areas. Unfortunately, most of them were past flowering, but a couple of patches still in flower, which were wonderful to encounter. Finally, fairy lanterns (Calochortus albus), also quite numerous in burnt areas, but more with trees, less with chaparral, and I was there just a week or so too early, since almost all of them were in bud, not bloom. Too late for most star lilies, too early for fairy lanterns, yet very cool to see both of them so very numerous. As usual, funky, highly variable Claytonia were also common in burn areas, as well as very large and lush manroots.

While there were many more flowers in general than I expected in this very dry Spring (yet less than there could have been post-burn with a wet Spring), one that really stood out were Chinese Houses. Dense, large patches of these in places I've hardly noticed them before, mainly associated with trail cuts and more wooded areas.

Otherwise, it was a fairly cool weekend, so no herps this time. And hardly any water in the creeks! I set up camp near Mississippi Creek, planning to use it for my water supply, only to then find that it's not currently a creek, but a puddle. And that puddle was teeming with pollywogs and waterskaters, I just couldn't spend all weekend drinking what little water they had left, so made sure to hike past springs on Saturday, which were flowing fine, and I wish I could have brought a bunch back to the 'wog puddle. Pacheco Creek, having several springs flowing in, was at least a series of puddles toward the top, flowing a bit as you go further and further downstream. So very dry! But also so many flowers (and species of flowers) along Pacheco Creek! A lot more than in past years, that whole North Pacheco Creek trail area burned, and that plus the creek beds being available territory made for a glorious, long walk.

My big disappointment was that my phone/main iNat camera was having an entropy wave, so I rushed out to get a new one before the Backcountry Weekend, thinking that surely the latest Galaxy (S21) would be even better than my old S8, only to find out that the S21 cameras entirely suck. Over-processed, no detail, rarely sharp, overblown color and intensity, look like watercolors, hardly any depth of field, just thoroughly horrible no matter what I tried. So I ended up spending so much time and effort documenting so many plants for 3 days, only to have pretty much every photo be very sub-standard and almost embarrassing to post, it's crushing. But dammit, I'll post them anyway after all that (once I have time to process them all), and try a different phone camera, hoping to find one that's sharp and with more realistic color, like my S8 used to be. I returned the S21 and got a Pixel 5, will be testing it out tomorrow, fingers crossed. So to anyone who might be tempted, do NOT get a Galaxy S21 for iNatting, or really any type of photography, the hype is a lie. And if anyone has suggestions for a good one, let me know. Yes, I have a DSLR, but it's big and heavy and no GPS and I'd really rather use my phone, if the damn makers would stop ruining things that work perfectly well.

Lähetetty 30. huhtikuuta 2021 05:09 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 151 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

17. huhtikuuta 2021

San Antonio Valley and Mount Hamilton - 4/16/2021

I finally spent a day driving around San Antonio Valley, and it truly was lovely. Probably not the best year for the carpets of flowers I've heard about, and I think it was a on the early side for some interesting plants. But the Oaks were glowing, and the further in I went, the more flowers. Which was interesting, since I expected more in the lower, grassy hillsides outside of Livermore in mid-April, but very few there. Instead, the higher elevations were much more floral, when I expected them to be much further behind. I saw several species in particular on the west side of Mt. Hamilton in bloom already, that were at the same stage in early May last year.

One star of the show was Buckbrush, which really went off this year in Sierra Azul, and is totally going off around Mt Hamilton now, brightly punctuating the chaparral, and intoxicatingly scenting the breeze. Some nice fields of goldfields and smaller areas of poppies in the valleys. But my main interest was checking out some of the burned area, of which there was much, hill after hill both blackened and occasionally greening, including a lot of stump sprouting. As I've seen elsewhere, one of the main plants that seem to be thriving in the burnt understory are Claytonia, and some others were present too, although many still in their infancy. Another treat was seeing more Blazing Stars than I ever have. Maybe they're always there in at least that density, or maybe they got a boost from the fires. Too bad so much of this drive is past fences, through "private property", one of the worst ideas to ever taint human relation to land.

Lähetetty 17. huhtikuuta 2021 05:04 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 12 havaintoa | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

15. huhtikuuta 2021

Sierra Azul, Woods trail - 4/14/2021

Woods trail is ramping up right now, lovely as always, with quite a few blooms and still early for most. Around the parking area were small fields of lupines, and that little strip of goldfields and Linanthus as you start on the trail. Along the way were tons of CA buttercups (which seem to be doing fabulously everywhere I've been this year) and Pacific pea, many paintbrush and two-eyed violets and more Common Star Lilies than I've seen there at once. The irises look iffy this year, with some patches having a fair number of flowers, but a majority of patches none at all. Maybe they've yet to bloom, or maybe won't bother this dry year. A very nice patch of vivid Blue Dicks, some monkeyflowers, and a surprising amount of Yerba Santa in bloom, it seems early for them. Of course there were other bloomers too, but those were most notable. The sedums haven't started yet. And of course the smelly chaparral plants are fantastic right now, pungent, potent and not yet bitter - pitcher sage, mugwort and artemesia.

Sadly, I found three squished newts on the trail. It's bad enough finding them on the road, where I can muster a small amount of sympathy for drivers not seeing them. But what's happening on the trail? Is it ranger trucks? I admire them greatly, and they have a lot of responsibilities, but perhaps they could also learn to see newts. Hikers and bikers? Surely they should be paying enough attention to the trail, and are close enough, not to step on them or run them over? Regardless, obviously it's happening even there, where they should be safe. :-(

Lähetetty 15. huhtikuuta 2021 04:51 käyttäjältä newtpatrol newtpatrol | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

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