Newts, Birds, and Dipper Ranch

newt

One of my all time favorite nature site is the Dipper Ranch blog. There is a lovely series of articles there about red-bellied newts. The latest post is about another of my other favorite things, birds. Check it out.

California Newt by Kay

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Foggy, Windy, Point Reyes National Seashore

4 lighthouse Point Reyes
Point Reyes Lighthouse, view from one of the 300+ steps leading down, down down
Point Reyes National Seashore

Here is a wild, windy, foggy side of California. The lighthouse at Point Reyes is closed when it gets too windy. This part of California is said to be the windiest, foggiest area in all of the Pacific. It is also a great place to whale watch. When I visited several days ago, I saw grey whales (in the waters below the lighthouse), elephant seals (at Drake’s Beach and Chimney Rock), birds (everywhere!), native wildflowers (along the Chimney Rock Trail) and tule elk (down by Drake’s Beach and out by Tomales Bay). What a trip!

5 light house point reyes #2
Finally, an upright photo of the lighthouse. Still foggy though.
 Jamaican Connection

An old name from my Jamaican history books surfaced here; it is that of the old English buccaneer (pirate), Francis Drake. Drakes’ Beach, where I saw elephant seals, and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the main thoroughfare leading into Point Reyes, are named for him. I wonder, do they know here in California, that he was an old pirate and slave trader and not simply, “the English explorer who landed off the Point Reyes coast and claimed California for the Queen?”

EARLY COAST GUARD HISTORY

Check out the Chimney Rock section of Point Reyes Seashore to learn about America’s early Coast Guard program. You can also see elephant seals here. If it is a nice enough day and the fog lifts, you can see the Farallon Islands from the tip of the Chimney Rock Trail. (You will also see a lot of birds and wildflowers here.)

2 boat house pont reyes
Historic Life Boat Station at Chimney Rock

 

 

1-boat dock at Point Reyes, looking towards Drake's Beach #2
Boat dock at Chimney Rock, looking towards Drakes’ Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tule elk2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw several tule elk down near Drake’s Beach and an entire herd crossing over the hills by Tomales Bay near sunset. (This sunset crossing may end up being translated into a painting!) You can learn about tule elk by watching this short video. Something I learned is that the tule elks’ mating behavior is very much like that of the elephant seals’. Who knew?

 

Welcome Back to the Bay!

5bWe are ten years into a 50-year restoration project along the San Francisco Bay — Salt flats are being returned to their natural state (0r as natural as we can make them). Wetland restoration continues on an area the size of Manhattan island. All of this is in the middle of Silicon Valley. There are three areas, Eden Landing, Ravenswood, and Alviso, on the South Bay, two of which I’ve visited. Here are some photos from yesterday’s visit to Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge (in Alviso) where I saw numerous birds including several phalaropes.

 

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Follow this link for some really good photographs of Drawbridge.

One June Day By the Bay

Bicycling by the Bay
Bicycling by the Bay (the Santa Cruz Mountains are in the distance)
along sf bay trail2
End of the road!
Who's going to tell the birds and other wildlife this water's unfit?
Who’s going to tell the birds and  the rest of the wildlife that this water’s unfit for contact?
An estuary of the estuary, the San Francisco Bay
Close up
Close up of house in marsh with salt pond (or flat) in background

All of these photos were taken along The Bay Trail, on the east side of the San Mateo Bridge. Tomorrow I will post more pictures and tell you about the marshes that were turned to salt ponds and are now returning to their  former state. Oh, the Bay, she is a changing, again.

After the Celestial Axe

After the Celestial Axe - detail
photo credit: drue.net

Photographs and a short video of After the Celestial Axe (see my April 2013 article, “New Sculpture at Djerassi“), are now available at the artist’s site, drue.net. My own personal encounter with the sculpture won’t be until the end of summer, when I lead an outdoor art hike at Djerassi.

After the Celestial Axe is beautiful and changes constantly, as is to be expected of mirrors placed outdoors. They capture the changing landscape, from moving clouds and shaking tree limbs to light and dark. The nature lover in me is concerned about the potential hazard to wildlife, particularly birds. You can hear them chirping in the video. I cannot imagine what the blinding light does to them when the sun hits the piece. (There are 27 parts to this sculpture!) And how do the other animals fare with this glare? There are deer and bobcat, for example, in this area. What is the effect on them?

Jasper Ridge!

After nearly a year, I finally got onto a docent-led hike at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Preserve in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Stanford has several studies going on at Jasper Ridge. In fact, the place has been used for scientific studies since the inception of  the university. The preserve is the site of discoveries that are important to both the scientific community and to society. Professor Paul Ehrlich’s discoveries about Bay checkerspot butterflies, for example, demonstrated the unique value of long-term research in ecology, and led to federal programs to fund such studies.

Dirca and Indian Warrior
Indian Warrior
Indian Warrior
indian warrior -closeup
close-up of Indian Warrior

It was a nice sunny day when I visited the preserve. Many flowers and trees were in bloom. The woods echoed with bird calls. The loudest of them all was the blue and white California scrub jay. It and the ravens were out in full force as were the hummingbirds.

The ubiquitous Indian Warrior plant filled in the spaces beneath the oak trees, doing what it does, living off its host. This hemiparasiste survives in areas with hot dry summers probably because it knows to stay in the shade of trees like manzanitas and oaks. Our guide told us that a name change is afoot as Indian Warrior is a politically incorrect name. What will this plant end up being called, I wonder?

A definite treasure at Jasper Ridge is the dirca plant, several of which can be found along the edges of the chaparral. Dirca or western leatherwood are known to grow only in the Bay Area. They are rare and endangered California natives that do extremely well at Jasper Ridge. Their lemon yellow flowers are practically iridescent in the sunlight. It is more than likely that butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are drawn to this plant.

Searsville Lake and Dam

lake -hillside viewOne of the most picturesque spots at Jasper Ridge is Searsville Lake which owes its genesis to the creation of the 120-year old Searsville Dam. The dam, built by the Spring Valley Water Company 1n 1892, was eventually acquired by Stanford University. Today it is part of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

Like the Hetch Hetchy Dam, Searsville has been a source of contention: environmentalists want both dams removed and the land restored to its original state. Unlike the water source(s) of the Hetch Hetchy, that of the Searsville Dam is not potable, and so, is severely limited in its use. Stanford is now trying to figure out what to do with the dam and consequently, the lake.

dam 1
Searsville dam
dam -lower view
Dam, lower view

There is no disputing that Jasper Ridge is a special place for wildlife, flora and fauna alike. While there I was treated to the spectacle of hole-ridden trees where acorn woodpeckers had hidden their loot. I came across an emerald green hummingbird with a flash of red, an Anna’s Hummingbird. There was no point looking for the orange and black Bay Checkerspot butterfly that once made this place its home. Endemic to the Bay Area, the Bay Checkerspot was last spotted at Jasper Ridge in 1998.

To learn more about Jasper Ridge and also about the Bay Area’s voracious appetite for water, visit:

To learn about the green, sustainable field station at Jasper Ridge, visit: http://jrbp.stanford.edu/fieldstation.php. If you ever visit Jasper Ridge Preserve, remember to look for the hole-ridden tree that is adjacent to the the field station. It is but one of many such caches on the preserve.

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