Sunday, April 20, 2008

Out Without Robb


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.

Purple Salsify.

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.


Ron Sullivan said...

Ladybug larva, snipes The Editrix.

Lawrence's goldfinch! Lucky you! Those little boogers are nomadic as all hell. Sometimes we see them out where Mines Road meets Del Puerto Canyon Road, in the ravinelet by The Junction bar. Sometimes. Meaning: some years.

That's a great bird-n-posy trip, btw, but/and it's all car, almost no footwork involved, because most of the land along it is private. We haven't done it yet this year, holy cow, how'd that happen?

Blow wives, like the local clematis, are showier in seed than in flower, and I'm not knocking the flowers. And: Did you touch the calochortus? Leaf, stem and all, it feels cool and oddly sexy.

Haven't done Lime Ridge either, ever, IIRC. Seemed rather beyond my athletic level lately. We went out to Sunol (speaking of calochortus) Friday and, yeah, the grass is browning off already. Yikes.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Weird....The nice folks over at What's That Bug say pupa.

What the heck do I know?

I didn't touch the crazily rare endangered flower. Not with twenty nature lovers nearby. Someone would surely have beaten me with their trekking pole.

I keep reading about Mines Road, but haven't looked it up on a map.

Lime Ridge didn't seem so hard, until I got home and got sucked in by the big electromagnet we installed in our couch. I had a very hard time getting moving after that hike.


Ingrid said...

Great photos. I loved the macro on my now defunct camera (still moping because the replacement hasn't arrived yet). I love the fact that the big predators come FIRST.

Anonymous said...

I hear that both Bigfoot AND the Bobcats like to claim that territory as their own personal corridor, so be careful out there! Perhaps you could persuade Bigfoot to look through the camera lens if you two end up meeting on the pathway, I'm sure he/she/it would be enchanted by the birdies and flowers as well.

We sheared Alpacas at our neighbors farm last weekend (we did 10 out of a herd of 30) and I have some fleece to send to you so the local birdies in your urban garden have lining for thier springtime nests!


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a fantastic day...and I thought that Zebra and I had a great day! We saw, what looked like a bobcat (really I think it was a pet cat that looked like a small bobcat catching its prey and running off with it)...however we didn't take any pictures. But at lunch we talked about yours and then today I log on and there are more beautiful pictures again. And I am responding to tell you how much we appreciate your blogging.
jane (patroln)

Anonymous said...

Blow-wives and Sticky Monkey Flowers? Aw, come on. . . you're making this up!

Yours in flora ignorance

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I was so entertained when I learned that Mimulus = Sticky Monkey Flower!

Maureen said...

hey Lisa -- wonderful long post about your hike, the flyers and flora on Lime Ridge. I haven't ever been to Mount Diablo, so I have never seen the Fairy Lantern -- what a beautiful fragile flower! I like all the fringes on the edges of the petals. Great photos of all the flowers -- and even the nuthatch pic, though a bit blurry as you said, is fine -- way better than I could have done. I have never gotten excited about making photos of birds I think because my lens is woefully inadequate to the task. (my eyes too)

so, eh, you say the rest of the country is enjoying daffodil weather? Not up here in Montana -- our daffs are barely barely up and we have snow. Sunday is supposed to be warmer. heh!

In some ways you are lucky to have the season so advanced already, though I wonder what that means for the upcoming summer -- a longer wildfire season? meh.

I admire you for getting up so earlly for the hike in spite of wanting to sleep in. Early morning is a fantastic time to be in nature -- and -- to take photos. :)

(I agree with Ron the Editrix -- it's a larvae -- hasn't become a pupa yet. The larvae are voracious aphid devourers)


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