Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dry Time

Last weekend, we decided to take advantage of a not-so-hot spell to go for (surprise) a bird walk. We took the red gate/bridge/upriver-on-the-west bank route although we did a variation about halfway and stuck close to the river where normally we would walk the bluff above. Harder walking but it turned out to be absolutely fascinating because of the wildflowers and various native grasses that we spent some time looking at. We also found a blackberry thicket where some of the berries were ripe - yum.

We saw 27 species of birds and 4 species of dragonflies and one of damselfly. Furry four-leggeds - we saw only the ubiquitous ground squirrel, but we did spend some time debating about some of the paw prints we saw in the dust of the road - fox perhaps?

Spent some time trying to find out what these are by looking in our Grasses of California book.  No luck there, but a friend of mine clued me in:  rattlesnake grass (Briza media), also known as great quaking grass.  I guess it wasn't in the book because it's not native.  Now that I know what it is, I've been finding it other places as well.

We feel sad that our equine friend King moved to the Great Grazing Land this last week. I hope Pelton doesn't miss him too much.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

After breakfast Sunday, I did the dishes (did them about four million times this weekend, no dish can loiter as it's ant season), did a couple of other tasks and then booted up and started on my morning walk. Got up the hill to the neighbor's gate, then back down past the site of the bones of a long-deceased horse, followed the top of Deer Ridge and dropped down past Altar Rock, then home as I was running out of water and getting hungry. Directly after lunch, I didn't feel "done" so I went back out and did a full loop around the Northwest Territory including a swing down to the river.

Early(ish) August nature report: the manzanitas are producing a good crop of berries and the coyotes are eating them, judging by the red pebbly nature of the coyote poop around. (Yeah I know sorry, but you can't help noticing.) Was able to confirm an identification of the White-belted Ringtail dragonfly as two of them held still long enough and allowed me close enough to really observe. Saw a kestrel, a red-shouldered hawk and three wood ducks. About every two hundred yards or so, I would cause another ground squirrel alarm call - a sharp chip chirrupupup. The ground squirrel population is robust as usual.

I wanted to see if the turpentine weed was growing this year, so was careful to take a look in the area where it's grown in the past and it's doing well. It's an interesting plant - not much to look at but it smells strongly like turpentine. While I was looking at those, I noticed a white something or other on a tarweed plant and went over to take a look.

The white was an egg sac of a good-sized very green spider. She was really guarding that sac - as soon as I bent over to take a look, she wrapped her legs round it and made sure it was secure. Post-walk research shows that she is a Green Lynx spider, Peucetia viridans, a fairly common spider in the southern half of the US. Evidently they are very good at pouncing on their prey, hence the "lynx" name. It was quite windy so I'm surprised any of these photos came out at all - here's a record shot of this little ol' gal:

I got back from that walk around 3, about an hour later Dino proposed that we go take another swim in the river, which sounded like a good idea. We ended up not swimming much; we found it more interesting to watch the fish. We got into one of the deeper pools (not very deep, maybe waist high to me, but if you squat a bit, you're all in). The water was clear enough for us to see the fish checking us out - there seem to be two kinds. One is some sort of split-tail minnow, although which species we haven't figured out. The other we haven't come close to identifying yet at all - these had a long dorsal fin, all fins with white edges, tail fin with an additional brownish stripe, and a dark spot behind the gills. While there at the river, we saw a large yellow and black butterfly, a speedy flier which we've identified in the past but couldn't remember. Didn't get around to looking that one up yet; it may be marked in the butterfly book. The other interesting find were several stands of pennyroyal.

I had a very difficult time yesterday morning getting myself in the proper frame of mind for going to work. I felt very wistful and found myself wishing that I could just wander around every day looking at interesting critters and plants and taking pictures.
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