11 de abril de 2024

Spring 2024 Wildflowers -- What's going on??

Today I was hiking in Annadel State Park with two friends. We met two acquaintances who asked about the wildflowers this season: what's going on? After such a wild and wet winter we often expect to see "super blooms."

My casual observations right now suggest several things are happening. I will be the first to say that around Sonoma County we don't really have "super blooms" in the sense of what media coverage often exclaims about (those huge solid-color meadows crowded by lookie-loos stomping the flowers to get the best selfies). Here we typically have large patches of flowers, and when you get down to it -- literally -- they are more of a bouquet of wildflowers than one single species. I digress.

Right now, second week of April 2024, it appears that some of the typical wildflowers are rather late getting going, perhaps because it's been dark and gloomy and wet. Others appear to be choked-out by the lush annual grasses growing fast and tall. Another observation is that following the catastrophic 2017-2019-2020 wildfires we saw an abundance of fire followers. Now several years out, there is more tree canopy shading some of those species that enjoyed more sunlight, some true fire-followers have recessed till the next fire, the nutrients from ash and fire debris has diluted the farther we get from the actual event, and we need to adjust our expectations. We won't be seeing the Whispering Bells like we did immediately following the fires. Some bulb species (Fremont's Star Lily, Checker Lily, Golden Fairy Lanterns) might not be getting as much sunlight as the first two years following the fires, and now being more shaded again are quietly retreating.

However I do notice some wildflower species seem to be having a "mast" year (that's what we call it when referring to tree species, what do we call it with wildflower?). Today we noticed huge patches of Western Blue-eyed Grass -- massive masses of them, huge expansive single plants reaching many feet in diameter and just covered with blossoms and buds. California Goldfields are blanketing meadow areas we don't remember in years past, while in some meadow areas they are already dried out and done blooming (remember a couple of weeks ago we had warm dry wind).

Something I hear people say is "where is the big/super bloom?" Well, for one thing, stop talking, pause and look down! How many different flowers do you see? There is a complete rainbow bouquet if you just stop and look. Don't be constricted by looking for a huge field of orange poppies. Engage the child within and look at all the little flowers -- use binoculars if you can't physically get down to the ground. Start noticing all the shapes and colors and types. I counted 53 species on a hike today, and that isn't all that is blooming in Annadel right now! That was only a small portion of the 5,500 acre park.

You know what is super cool about Sonoma County? We have such a diversity of habitats and soil conditions that every park and trail offers a different mosaic of vegetation and flower species. Some flowers have evolved with a certain soil type over millions of years, and you will only see those flowers in those places (serpentine is a perfect example -- Hood Mountain, Sugarloaf, Lake Sonoma, The Cedars if you get the chance).

So, go out and explore different places to see different flowers. Don't forget the coast! Kortum Trail is always a good bet and another example of a specific habitat -- salty, cool, moist, coastal prairie. And remember that whatever the weather patterns give us between now and then, there is always next Spring to look forward to -- what is blooming where and when?

Publicado el abril 11, 2024 01:25 MAÑANA por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de junio de 2023

Watching Activity of Fellow Naturalists

Every day I am greeted with an email from iNaturalist. Some days I see what others have confirmed on my most recent observations. I hope they have enjoyed my journey in nature vicariously with me.

Some days I see a group of entries that a fellow naturalist has recorded, someone I "follow." I like to see where my friends have been, what they have seen, what's happening where. Wherever that friend is -- local or traveling. It's my own little vicarious virtual journey.

Then there are the times I scroll through and notice that someone somewhere has taken an interest in a species that I have documented. Cool! What is this person studying? Where? Why? How can I help? These are questions I look into by searching the person on iNaturalist, at times personal-messaging to ask questions or offer further information. At the least, I get to celebrate the joy in participatory science -- some of my observations might help make a difference in a study, a project little or large, formal scientific research, global initiative, someone's personal nature-nerding, or a park bio blitz.

I love learning from anyone who responds on my observations -- whether to "simply" confirm an ID, to correct me if I am mistaken, provide subspecies detail, answer my questions about how I decipher what I am observing, what details to include next time I see this species/individual, and what their project is.

This week, I was curious to see that someone confirmed ID's on all the Bigleaf Maples I had recorded. Huh. Several months ago I saw someone had been including my observations on his project documenting plants in serpentine habitats in WA, OR and CA. I have been able to help expand his mapping of serpentine in my local area, and contribute to the species lists and observations. A few days ago a university entomologist professor confirmed ID on a beetle I saw: I first met him via iNaturalist about 6 years ago when we documented a particular beetle in the park I worked at, and he flew down the next day to come see it. I hadn't seen his name pop up in several years -- it was like seeing an old friend.

Every day I learn something new about nature. The past three years that I have been expanding my observations on iNaturalist by tens of thousands of entries, my brain has grown over and over and over with new information and new discoveries in our local environs. I thought I knew this place where I have lived since 1967. I am still only scratching the surface of knowing Nature.

Even here, with a sense of place.

Publicado el junio 24, 2023 04:24 MAÑANA por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

15 de junio de 2023

Hood Mountain: re-visiting post 2017 wildfires

June 13, 2023
Hood Mountain Regional Park, Santa Rosa
The weather was perfect: fog, about 57 degrees at the start. About 65 and blue skies by mid-way. My two hiking buddies were perfect. The lingering wildflowers were amazing, especially the Orange-bush Monkeyflower!
Route from Pythian Road Day-use: Lower Johnson Ridge--Pond to Merganser Pond--Valley View--Pond to Blue Heron Pond for lunch--Orchard Meadow--back down Lower Johnson Ridge. Great conditioning hike. You can't beat going out to parks on weekdays! We are so fortunate we can. I haven't been up Valley View and Orchard Meadow since about 2013, way before the 2017 Nun's Fire. Another park I know so very well from many many hours on these trails.
Saw lots of butterflies but didn't take the time to try to get photos. Also saw and heard more birds than ever before the fires. At Blue Heron Pond, watched multiple Western Tanager feeding in the conifers.

Sarah Reid
California Naturalist & SCRP Trail Patrol

Publicado el junio 15, 2023 02:31 TARDE por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 26 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Sonoma Baylands with SLV

June 14, 2023
Back out on trails again today. This was a much easier day for me compared to the 1,300+foot elevation gain of Hood Mtn yesterday. And equally fulfilling. It continues to amaze me how fortunate we are to live here, "the chosen spot of all this earth" (Luther Burbank, 1875 referring to Sonoma County). Yesterday I was in a forest and scenes indicative of Tahoe National Forest. Today I was walking along the very edges of San Francisco Bay -- really, within inches of the high tide line!
I love guiding this wonderful amazing group of women from Spring Lake Village. They have been hiking together for many years, usually a total group of 10 (no more, only two car-loads) and over the course of this long wet winter they only missed two Wednesdays due to the weather! I think they are all over 83, two are 90 years old. They are all very determined and strong hikers, and they all love being out on trails and in nature. They are inspiration to us all, to continue moving, being outdoors, supporting nature.
This is the third outing I have guided them on so far. They appreciate finding new places to explore (a difficult task because they have hiked almost everything there is in Sonoma County, at least twice). Only two of them had been to Sonoma Baylands before, and it had been many years. So this was a grand adventure for us all!
We made it all the way out Dickson Ranch Trail to where the levee was breached in 2015 -- a celebration two of us had been to. We enthusiastically talked about this project of returning tidal marshland to what has been drained ag land for many years. We gloried in the renewed habitats and the tremendous views.
When we arrived at the free parking area, the fog was just lifting off Mt Tam, we could barely see the bridges. By the time we took this group-photo out on the levee, we could clearly see the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, the Bay Bridge over to Treasure Island, the Carquinaz Bridge in the East Bay, Mt Diablo, Sacramento River Delta, Cougar Mountain, Petaluma River and more! We met a team from Point Blue doing restoration work -- pulling wild radish to uncover native plantings they had provided earlier this year.
Thanks to Sonoma Land Trust and all the partners that created this wonderful restoration project and allow public access. To learn more about Sonoma Baylands, https://sonomalandtrust.org/.../anchor.../sears-point-ranch/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnqxkRrqUa4 In this YouTube webinar, join Peter Baye as he explains this project and why it is important to you and me. There are wonderful interpretive panels along the trails.

Publicado el junio 15, 2023 02:26 TARDE por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 8 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de junio de 2023

Theme of the day yesterday: Yellow Mariposa Lily

Theme of the day yesterday: Yellow Mariposa Lily
(Calochortus luteus)

I call this a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious bloom. I have been traversing Annadel since the mid-1970's and have never seen such a display of Gold Nuggets! They are everywhere! A particularly nice display and view is at the top of North Burma Trail among the medium boulders looking down over Coyote Meadow AKA The Serengeti, towards Lake Ilsanjo below and dead-center.

In years past, I recall enjoying Gold Nuggets here and there, a few stalks at a time, generally ooohing-and-ahhhing over single plants. They remind me of California poppies, only with a touch of flamboyance in the dots and spots and bi-colored edges. Bright flashes of sunshine in otherwise golden grasses.
Also known as Golden Orb, this California endemic is a perennial herb grown from a bulb, but available from native plant nurseries in seed form. It requires good drainage where it is mostly dry all summer. The plant is a host to the White-lined Sphinx and Orange Tortrix Moth. Goldenrod Crab Spiders use the blossom as a hiding place to catch unwary prey. The plant and bulb were traditional food for Indigenous Peoples

Want to see this display while it lasts? Visit Annadel State Park and hike up from the North Burma Trailhead on Channel Drive ($7 day-use fee or use your California State Park pass). At the junction with Live Oak Trail, stay left on North Burma and continue to the top where you burst out of mixed woodland and manzanitas to open grasslands looking over meadows towards Bennett Mountain to the south. When you continue on North Burma back into the forest cover, keep watch on both sides of the trail for other treasures such as Golden Fairy Lantern, Pink Honeysuckle, Rein Orchid, Cliffbrake Fern, Chamise blossoms masquerading as Leather Oak, Orange-bush Monkeyflower, Wood Rat Condos to the left of the trail and about 20-feet out on the forest floor, St. John's Wort, and more!

The piles of basalt rock chips are left-over from the quarrying era of about 1875-1913-ish. Italian laborers chipped quarried basalt blocks into large "bricks" or paving blocks in a prescribed size. It is said that each man averaged 500 blocks a day, chipping away with hand-tools, and leaving these huge piles of "tailings." The blocks were hauled down to Annadel (AKA Melita) Station and taken by train to Hayfork Landing in Petaluma, then transported over to the ever-growing city of San Francisco. The blocks paved the streets here, Sacramento, and shipped to Paris as ballast in ships and to pave the streets there. When automobiles came on the scene, the paving blocks were too rough, and someone discovered macadam (or asphalt) which made for a smooth ride. So ended the quarrying era in Annadel.

Author Sarah Reid, California Naturalist and Annadel Addict
June 6, 2023

Publicado el junio 9, 2023 02:52 TARDE por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 11 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de mayo de 2023

Pacific Poison Oak in Many Forms

Pacific Poison Oak. Just the mere mention or thought can make many of us itch and twitch. Some of us dare to breathe as we carefully avoid it's reaching branches on trails. Prior to the 2017 Nun's Fire, a fellow park employee and I joked that if a wildfire ever roared through Annadel State Park, everyone in Sonoma County would break out in poison oak from the oily smoke. We were rather surprised to hear nothing of the sort after all the fires of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 around our richly carpeted poison oaky woodlands. Especially after 63% of Annadel burned in the Nun's Fire. My grandmother got poison oak rash from burn piles in the Sacramento Valley after they moved there.

For years, I had assumed that poison oak foliage all looked the same. I knew that the plant grows in a multitude of different forms: small bush, large bush, tree-like, groundcover-like, huge thick vines curling up tall trees to reach sunlight, from rootstock, from seeds spread by birds and critters, branches arching out over trails, branches reaching like spears up out of blackberry brambles. It loves to coexist with blackberry brambles. But the leaves all seemed to look similar: generally like oak leaves, mediumly lobed, smooth edged in between the lobes, of course in the pattern of "leaves-of-three," medium green till summer when they begin to turn to typical Autumn colors, flowing in the breeze so soft-looking (though I never meant to touch them to feel that).

Till I started noticing differences, about 10 years ago. While doing volunteer trail maintenance with Sonoma County Trails Council (SCTC), along North Burma Trail in Annadel State Park, I noticed oblong leaves with very shallow lobes, some without lobes at all. The individual leaves were very large, almost the size of my entire hand. "Huh," I thought. "The plant is evolving right before my eyes." For a few years, members of SCTC had been discussing how it seems as if poison oak likes the gradual climate change, increasing temperatures, is becoming more widely spread in more areas in thicker concentrations. It was not just our imagination.

So I started to notice the shapes of leaves. As I began to participate more and more on iNaturalist, I began to purposefully take observation photos of differently shaped poison oak leaves. Now, I recall having seen a lot of variety. Last Monday at Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve as I was doing the dodge-and-swerve around low-reaching branches of PO, I suddenly saw short plants along the ground with very large, very smooth-edged oval leaves -- each leaf as big as my foot! I actually got a perspective photo of my foot near one of these over-size leaves, without touching it of course. These plants are in full shade, up the embankment from a spring fed creek, each plant up to 2-feet tall and richly foliaged.

Yesterday was extraordinary: May 21, 2023 at Calabazas Creek RP & OSP, I noticed the most deeply lobed poison oak leaves ever. The lobes extended into the leaves by a full inch or so, on very large leaves (after 12 atmospheric rivers this past winter, everything is lush). These leaves were each about 7" long and about 4" wide. And oddly shaped. Then, another extraordinary observation a little farther down the trail: Pacific poison oak with deep lobes AND serrated edges. Even more oddly shaped overall. Whaaat?!

I am just a casual observer Nature-nerd. Who avoids getting poison oak rash very carefully. I am not seriously studying PO specifically, but noticing it as I nerd-out on all things nature around me. This spring, I feel like it's too bad the plant is so ... well, evil for most of us. Because especially after 12 atmospheric rivers, it sure does make a lovely lush green flowy groundcover plant.

Quite a few people I know who virtually live outdoors and have participated in trailwork for years never got poison oak, and rather bragged about it. Till they did. Once they got it the first time, there seemed to be no going back to "before." It seems that our bodies might even react worse with each exposure. Indeed, my husband never used to get it. Then once after a trailwork event, he broke out in PO rash on day 7 after exposure. The next time it was day 6, then the next day 5, and so on. Now, he begins rashing within hours of exposure, even after having carefully avoided the plants, washing with Technu before getting in the car, washing with Technu again in the shower at home. We always have a variety of treatment strategies on hand: Benedryl stick, Fluocinonide prescription steroid cream, lavender essential oil, 4X4 gauze pads for the really weepy spots if it gets that bad. Then there is always the hot-HOT water shower treatment for itch-gasms. Fortunately, neither of us has had to go so far as Prednisone, though some of our friends just don't even pause to think about that option, but just call their doctor before their eyes swell shut.

Publicado el mayo 22, 2023 04:00 TARDE por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de mayo de 2023

The poaching of Dudleya Plants: Why to obscure your observations

Why or why not obscure or make private your observations of Dudleya species in California.

Personally I think it is more important than ever to document the species wherever they are, and accurately ID them. There has been a very high demand for these species in China as houseplants (and perhaps for supposed medicinal purposes?). Poachers have come to California and literally stripped our coastal bluffs of the plants by rappelling down the cliff faces, filling van-loads, shipping them from any local post office, and working their way down the coast. Fortunately, some wardens have caught some of them, but not before our bluffs were stripped.

Inland areas are also in danger of the same activity with local species.

So, documenting what is left and where is important for researchers as well as CDFW to follow how the plants survive and recover. That said, obscure the observations or make them PRIVATE every single time -- at this time, iNat app does not do that automatically like it does for endangered or threatened species. This way, we can help protect these plants and at the same time help document where they continue to thrive.

Check out this YouTube documenting the poaching activities "Plant Heist": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qidgwbCPhNA

We met this warden a couple of weeks ago when he was patrolling the Mendocino Headlands on foot, just interacting with visitors and regulars, telling his story, petting the dogs (he recently lost his K9 partner to old age and misses her terribly -- she could sniff out and alert him to a huge number of items including dudleya, ammunition/spent ammo casings, marijuana, abalone, and more).

I have witnessed the decimation of local dudleya on some back-roads where there had been hundreds of dudleya just two years ago, and during the pandemic poachers stripped the entire embankments of everything. Those were "Canyon Liveforever." So when I am out hiking in our local parks and lands, I do document the plants, properly identify the species and obscure the location. While I am doing this, I educate anyone who is with me -- a guided hike, a park preview day, a hiking buddy.

Ask me anything!!

Publicado el mayo 6, 2023 03:49 TARDE por wildmare64 wildmare64 | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario