April 21, 2011

Upper Arana Gulch is blooming!

I guess I've never visited Upper Arana Gulch at this time of year. I've been there in May and June to hear Swainson's Thrushes and catch glimpses of Wilson's Warblers. I've been there in fall to enjoy fruiting coffeberry, creek dogwood and hazelnut and in winter when the willows and creek dogwoods are bare. I was completely unprepared for the number of plants that were blooming here last Sunday. Masses of pale blue forget-me-nots bordered the road, beautiful in spite of the the fact that they're non-native invasives. A variety of native flowering plants, mosses, and ferns made this short walk very interesting.

Posted on April 21, 2011 04:19 AM by barbarab barbarab | 20 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

April 16, 2011

Spring at Moore Creek Preserve

I joined a Santa Cruz Bird Club field trip to Moore Creek Preserve yesterday. Although it was a birding trip, spring wildflowers, native grasses, insects and a coyote commanded a fair amount of our attention. It was nice to see so much purple needle grass there. I guess I had only hiked here in the dry season when all the grasses are brown. I had noticed a bit of Nassella pulchra along the side of the trail on previous visits, but in spring the purple seed heads and awns make swathes of this grass stand out. There is also native California oat grass and meadow barley here. There were other interesting grasses, rushes, and sedge here as well, so it would me a good place to return to with a grass book and a hand lens. I had neither, but fortunately Steve Gerow, the field trip leader, is as knowledgeable about plants as he is about birds.

Cicadas made their presence known with their clicking calls. I just read that Platypedia, the genus of cicadas I encounter locally, makes its noise by rattling its wings together. Other cicadas produce a very different sound with special abdominal organs called tymbals. Cicadas in the genus Platypedia lack tymbals,

Grasshopper Sparrows were singing their strange insect-like song, especially from the shrubs along the edge of the ravines. They have another song Steve Gerow described as tinkling. Savannah Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and Western Meadowlarks were among the other birds we saw in the grassland.

A pair of Common Ravens flew back and forth along the ravine each carrying a large russet colored mass of something. They kept this up for some time. I will have to see if I can find any description of this kind of behavior. I am curious to learn if this is typical of Raven courtship.

Posted on April 16, 2011 08:46 PM by barbarab barbarab | 25 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2011

backyard birds

Both White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows are still hanging around. House Finches, both the usual rosy colored males plus a couple of the yellow variety, are here everyday. It's good to see Mourning Doves are hanging around instead of the Eurasian Collared Doves that were here last year. I still hear and see them in the neighborhood, but they don't seem quite as numerous as last year. I heard a Bewick's Wren singing in the area for several days, but I haven't heard them for the past week. Other regulars include Lesser Goldfinch and Western Scrub Jay.

Posted on April 13, 2011 05:40 PM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 11, 2011

Double Peregrine Day

Spent the day birding along the Stevens Creek from McClellan Ranch down to Blackberry Farm golf course and the Stocklmeir orchard. The day began with a clear view of a Peregrine Falcon at the top of the redwood tree by the McClellan entrance. This is only the second time I've seen a Peregrine in this area. At the end of the day I came home to Santa Cruz and took my dog Diego for along deserved walk. Two blocks from my house I saw a Peregrine perched at the top of a cypress plucking a Mourning Dove. I see Peregrines more frequently in Santa Cruz than I do in Cupertino, but this was the first time I've heard one vocalize. It appeared the Peregrine had it feathers ruffled a bit when a crow moved in to close to its dove dinner.

Posted on April 11, 2011 05:11 AM by barbarab barbarab | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 04, 2011

Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve

I hadn't been to this site since the 2008 Martin Fire. Bush poppies have now become much more abundant in the burned area. Silver Bush Lupine and Ceanothus papillosus were blooming. Saw a couple of very interesting mosses.

We heard Pileated Woodpeckers frequently as we walked through this area, but could never get a good look at one, just a quick glance as one flew out of sight. Saw many Hairy Woodpeckers, as well as an Acorn Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker. Other bird I saw or heard include American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco,Wrentit, Orange-crowned Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Heard one intriguing song I couldn't identify.

Lots of Bombyllids of varying sizes and colors were out today. Lester got photographs of one. Failed to get good looks at the few butterflies and bees we saw. I collected at least two species of ants and I'm eager to put them under a microscope to key them out.

Posted on April 04, 2011 05:04 AM by barbarab barbarab | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 02, 2011

Schwan Lake

Out with the Santa Cruz Bird Club this morning. Highlights of the trip included Lincoln's Sparrow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, both Myrtle and Audubon's subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hutton's Vireo and Pygmy Nuthatch. Many small reddish-brown wasps with long antennae. I left early to head off to work.

Posted on April 02, 2011 06:24 AM by barbarab barbarab | 1 observation | 1 comment | Leave a comment

March 29, 2011

Lower Arana Gulch, March 28, 2011

It was sunny and almost 70 degrees today. I walked to Lower Arana Gulch today with the intention of checking the dock patches along the creek to see if dock beetles were out, however all the recent rain has left standing water in that area. I noticed quite a few monarchs butterflies flying in the area and get the impression the eucalyptus trees on the other side of the creek are a winter roost for the monarchs. I ended up walking the upper area instead of the area by the creek. Saw the same species here that I saw yesterday at Fort Ord - yellow sun cups and golden brown Bombyllids, probably Bombylius major. Purple sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida, was blooming and an Orange-crowned Warbler was singing. As I waked the path up from the yacht harbor towards Arnana Gulch I saw lots of bumblebees, some Andrenidae and maybe some other bees were foraging on the ceanothus planted there. I will have to catch a few to determine what species are in this area.

Posted on March 29, 2011 05:39 AM by barbarab barbarab | 1 comment | Leave a comment