While we were out yesterday, I saw a sign about a bird walk in Walnut Creek, and made a deal with myself. If the festering crisis at work stayed under control, and I didn't have to stay up overnight to re-paint the stage floor, I would get up at 6am, and go hiking. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not a morning person. I love nothing better than sleeping late on the weekends. Bizarrely, this hike caught my fancy, and I was out the door shockingly early.
The walk was in Lime Ridge Open Space, a wonderful undeveloped parcel of land in Contra Costa County. This is a view out of Lime Ridge, and into the soon-to-be-open-to-the-public Mangini Ranch, which will (almost) create a corridor of undeveloped land between Lime Ridge and Mount Diablo. As it is, Mountain Lions from Mount Diablo are known to mosey over to Lime Ridge and snack on the local deer populations.
The signs posted about the local wildlife made me really happy. They warned human visitors that this open space is known to be inhabited by Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Coyotes and Rattlesnakes, and furthermore said that people should respect this fact. These animals, the signs said, belong here, in fact they have nowhere else to go. This protected space is their home. While on the hike, I learned that the reason that dogs are not permitted in certain ares of the open space is because the smell of their poop establishes a territory marker, and dissuades bobcats from sticking around. The bobcats, in this instance take priority.
The photo above is a view out of Lime Ridge and into the Mangini Ranch. Mount Diablo can be clearly seen in the distance. This photo was taken today, April 20th. While much of the United States is enjoying the daffodil season, our wild grasses have already gone to seed. The golden haze in the foreground is tall, mature grasses.
While the hike was ostensibly a bird hike, I opted to leave my spotting scope at home. Bird watching etiquette requires that anyone who brings a scope to a group walk must allow everyone else to look through the scope. I love this idea, but wasn't sure what the etiquette would be if I wanted to use the scope as a camera-mount instead. In any case, I really didn't want to schlep a scope and a tripod along on a four-hour hike. My camera and binoculars are heavy enough! Because of this, I took very few decent bird photographs.
Normally, this would be too much of a "Bigfoot Photo" to share. However, since I had Nuthatch pictures yesterday, I'm going to make you look at a slightly blurry picture of a Nuthatch, going into the hole in a Live Oak tree that surely holds a nest. How charming is that?
Bird photos may have been poor (although the actual bird watching was superlative), but the wildflowers were very obliging, and posed for loads of pictures. No doubt, my companions on the hike were amused by the sight of me, practically face down in the dirt, photographing posies.
This yellow flower is the extremely rare Mount Diablo Fairy Lantern, a flower found only on and immediately around (where else?) Mount Diablo. I had been moping a bit yesterday when Robb and I failed to see any. On today's hike, we saw two groups of this unique beauty. Awesome!
I saw lots of bird "firsts" today, like the Lawrence's Goldfinches that were munching on Common Fiddlenecks. (Sorry, the birds were just too far away to photograph.)
There were flowers that I'd never seen before, like these Blow-Wives.
If you keep your eyes open, you can see all sorts of cool stuff, like this grasshoppery dude (yes, that's its scientific name) on a Sticky Monkey Flower.
Or the pupa of a Ladybug climbing the stem of a tiny Long Billed Storksbill.
There were Purple Owl's Clover.
And a single grazing cow.
And when I got home, Robb made me a big cup of coffee, and we headed out for another set of adventures.