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Plant Studying At the Silver Spur Ranch, 04-16-19

Up at 5:30 am, so I could leave before 6:30 and head out to Woodland to the Tuleyome office.  It was overcast and drizzling when I left the house, but by mid-morning the clouds had broken up, letting the sun in, so it was a beautiful day.

My coworker, Nate, had set aside this day to take me out to Tuleyome’s Silver Spur Ranch property where we’re doing the wildlife study paid for in part by a grant from the Sacramento Zoo. We weren’t servicing the field cameras today, instead we were doing a plant and wildlife photo outing.  And volunteer Roxanne came with us.  It’s about a 90-minute drive to the property, but we were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, so traffic was never an issue. The roads are all dirt, and some of them were pretty scarred up by illegal OVH users and the recent hard rains, but Nate knew the path well, so we didn’t have any issues with that either.

The last time I’d seen the Silver Spur property was after the Pawnee Wildfire in 2018, and everything was dirt and blackened trees. Now it’s all bursting with new life and new growth. Green grasses, fields and hillsides covered in wildflowers, water in the seasonal pond and streams, critters in the water… I’m so glad I got see it!  ((So, Nate, once again: thank you, thank you, thank you, ad infinitum…)

Nate was also awesome on the trip. He helped me over uneven ground, pulled me out of a divot when I accidentally sat down in it at lunchtime (D’OH!), he pulled me back up onto my feet… and he did the “pack-mule” thing for me, carrying all of my bag, on the way out of the property.

And how great that Roxanne got to go with us! My sister Melissa jokingly says, “You can’t go out with Roxanne anymore, you never get home.” Hah! ((I’d spent a whole day out with Roxanne when he did the wildflower outing together, and then again today.  Two long days.  This one was actually longer. I didn’t get back to the house until almost 7:00 pm!))

When we got to the property, Nate ran off to the south-camera to see if he could find the pouch associated with it that fell off of Bill’s motor scooter on their trip out to service the cameras there last Thursday.  He couldn’t find the pouch, but on the way back to meet up with Roxanne and I, he did find some wildflowers that we didn’t get to see – and even laid down in a field of them and took a selfie.

So. Many. Flowers. In some areas, they lined the dirt road, in other areas they covered whole fields and hillsides. It seemed like the farther we walked in, the more spectacular they got.  We saw a lot of stuff that Roxanne and I had seen on our wildflower excursion (as many of the wildflowers are common and natives) but there were some new ones (for us), like Golden Violets, Mosquito Bill Shooting Stars (also called Henderson’s Shoot Stars), California Indian Pink (which is sub-species of the Cardinal Catchfly), Long-Spurred Seablush (that kind of looks like double-decker clover), what we think might have been Gambleweed (Pacific Sanicle), and some wicked-looking thistle with twisting purple-blue, thorn-rimmed leaves.

I insisted on getting myself to the seasonal pond on the property, so it was a long walk. The dirt road into the property is too damaged by erosion to get a car in there, so Nate parked at the gate and we walked in. Going in, it’s all downhill, so coming back (obviously) it’s all uphill which can be especially trying when you’re already tired from the rest of the day’s walk. I think I covered about 4 kilometers altogether.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We picnicked in the shade of a big oak by the seasonal pond before heading back to the car, stopping every now and then to take more photos, and more photos, and more photos.  We got to the point where we’d seen so many Painted Native butterflies sipping nectar from wildflowers that we pretty much ignored them on the way out. Hah!

At the pond, Nate dipped a dish and net in to see if we could find anyone interesting: Water Boatmen, Water Striders, some insect larva… I was hoping to see some of the California Newt eggs or some of their tadpoles, but there was just the “jelly” left from the eggs and all of the babies (except one or two newborns) had apparently ridden the streams out to more permanent water structures.  In the puddle, though, I did get some video of what I think were crab shrimp and some mosquito larvae.  By the pond, where the water-striders were I also saw some small crustacean-looking things that I’ll need to work on identifying. The mosquito larvae were in a turgid-looking puddle and when my shadow passed over the puddle, they all dove down from the surface, only to rise, very slowly again later. Eeew! Hah!

When Nate, Roxanne and I were eating lunch, there Red-Winged Blackbirds tending to their nests and courtship rituals in the tules at the far end of the pond.  I watched while one of the males flew out to the side of the stream that fed the pond, and then started rolling rocks over so he could eat what he found underneath them. I had never seen that behavior before, so that was cool to see!

We didn’t see much wildlife, so I only got a few photos of birds, but we could ear more birds than we could see… and at one point saw a large crow fly over our heads with a beak full of nesting material.  We tried to see where it landed, but it disappeared over the crest of a hill.  There was also a Mourning Dove nest near the front gate, but it was unoccupied.

The trip was totally exhausting, but totally fun.

Species List:

1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
2. Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
5. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
6. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
8. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
9. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
10. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
12. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa,
13. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Johnny Tuck, Triphysaria eriantha,
14. California Burclover, Medicago polymorpha,
15. California Clam Shrimp, Cyzicus californicus,
16. California Geranium, Geranium californicum,
17. California Golden Violet, Viola pedunculata,
18. California Indian Pink, Silene laciniata ssp. californica, (as subspecies of the Cardinal Catchfly),
19. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii,
20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
21. California Newt, Taricha torosa
22. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
23. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
24. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum,
25. Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla,
26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
27. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
31. Common Woodland Star, Lithophragma affine,
32. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
33. Damselfly, Vivid Dancer Damselfly, Argia vivida (note the arrow-markings on the abdomen),
34. Damselfly, Western Forktail, Ischnura perpava (note the mostly black abdomen),
35. Dwarf Sack Clover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
36. Fragrant sumac, Rhus aromatica,
37. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
38. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
39. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule,
40. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis,
41. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
42. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
43. Hawksbeard, Crepis sp.,
44. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
45. Houndstongue, Pacific Houndstongue, Cynoglossum grande,
46. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
47. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
48. Jeweled Onion, Allium serra,
49. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
50. Lichen, Rock Firedot Lichen, Caloplaca Saxicola,
51. Lomatium, Lomatium sp.,
52. Long-Spurred Seablush, Plectritis ciliosa,
53. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
54. Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp.,
55. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
56. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
57. Mosquito, family Culicidae,
58. Mosquito Bill Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii,
59. Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum,
60. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
61. Narrow Leaf Collinsia, Collinsia linearis
62. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
63. Oregon Grape, Mountain Grape, Berberis aquifolium,
64. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
65. Pacific Peavine, Canyon Sweet Pea, Lathyrus vestitus,
66. Pacific Sanicle, Gambleweed Sanicula crassicaulis,
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
69. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
70. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
71. Plectritis ciliosa, Long spurred plectritis,
72. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys chorisianus,
73. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida,
74. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
75. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliate,
76. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
77. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis,
78. Shrubby Butterweed, Bush Groundsel, Senecio flaccidus,
79. Spinster’s Blue-Eyed Mary, Few Flowered Collinsia, Collinsia sparsiflora,
80. Tomcat Clover, Trifolium willdenovii,
81. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia,
82. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
83. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
84. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
85. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
86. Variable-leaf Nemophila, Canyon Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla,
87. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
88. Water Strider, Aquarius remigis
89. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
90. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
91. White Seablush, Plectritis macrocera,
92. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. varia,

Wildflowers on Bear Valley Road, 04-13-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning, planning on going out on a wildflower tour with my coworker Nate and volunteer Roxanne.

Nate sent me an email, however, saying that his folks were in town and when they heard what he was doing today, they wanted to go with him – so there went Roxanne’s and my seat in his car.

I texted Roxanne and asked if she’d like to go with me, and she offered to drive. So, around 8:00 am we headed out to Highways 16 and 20 and Bear Valley Road (in Colusa County) – about an hour ahead of Nate and his group.  Because we were following almost the same route as Nate, though, our paths crossed a few times. He caught up with us at two spots where we had stopped to look at and photograph the wildflowers, and we passed him a couple of times.

Unlike the last time I went out looking for the wildflowers, today’s excursion was incredible, and Roxanne and I ended up spending the whole day outdoors.  I saw some insects and plants I’d never seen before, and the fresh air, exercise and views of flower-painted landscapes was exhilarating. It’s so nice to go on an excursion like this with someone who moves at a browsing pace like I do, and who gets excited by bugs and flowers and the sight of ducks in the river. Hah!

There were soooooo many photos, I broke them down into two albums.

CLICK HERE for album #1.

CLICK HERE for album #2.

Roxanne and I didn’t get home until around 6:00 pm. It was a long but fun and nature-filled day. I took over 1200 photos, so it’s going to take me a while to get through all of them.

Species Identification List:

1. “Apples” on Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp,
2. Annual Yellow Sweetclover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
3. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
4. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus,
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
7. Blue Blossom Ceanothus, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ssp.,
8. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus,
10. Broad-Leaf Lupine, Lupinus latifolius,
11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
12. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa
13. Bush Lupine, Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
14. Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus,
15. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Johnny Tuck, Triphysaria eriantha,
16. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
17. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii,
18. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
19. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
20. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
21. California Plantain, Plantago erecta
22. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
23. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose,
24. Caterpillar Flower, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
25. Chia Sage, Salvia columbariae,
26. Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla,
27. Coast Range Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii,
28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
31. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
32. Common Woodland Star, Lithophragma affine,
33. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
34. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
35. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus.
36. Cucumber Beetle, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata,
37. Digger Bee, Diadasia sp.,
38. Dwarf Sack Clover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
39. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
40. Fairy Longhorn Moth, Adela eldorada,
41. Field Poppy, Eschscholzia sp.,
42. Fireless Firefly, Pyropyga nigricans,
43. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
44. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
45. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis,
46. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis,
47. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
48. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
49. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
50. Hawkweed, Hieracium argutum
51. Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus,
52. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
53. Holstein Cattle, Bos taurus,
54. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
55. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa,
56. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
57. Lichen, Porpidia contraponenda
58. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
59. Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
60. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
61. Milk Vetch, unidentified
62. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
63. Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum,
64. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
65. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
66. Pacific Peavine, Canyon Sweet Pea, Lathyrus vestitus,
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
69. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
70. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
71. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys chorisianus
72. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida,
73. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
74. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliate,
75. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
76. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia tinctina,
77. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
78. Sidewalk Fire Dot Lichen, Caloplaca feracissima,
79. Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
80. Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus
81. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata,
82. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
83. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer, (super-long front legs)
84. Tamarisk, Salt Cedar, Tamarix parviflora,
85. Texas Longhorn, Bos taurus,
86. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii,
87. Tidy Tips, Smooth Tidy Tips, Layia chrysanthemoides,
88. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia,
89. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
90. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
91. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
92. Variable-leaf Nemophila, Canyon Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla,
93. Virgin’s Bower, Old Man’s Beard, Clematis pauciflora,
94. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
95. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
96. Western Hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis,
97. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
98. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
99. Whiskerbrush, Leptosiphon ciliates,
100. Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Daucus carota,
101. Wild Onion, unidentified
102. Wildoats, Oat, Avena fatua,
103. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. varia,
104. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Photo Tour #1 with the Naturalist Class Graduates

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door a little after 7:00 to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I’m leading a photography walk with some of my naturalist class graduates today. From the Nona Way house, it takes about 45 minutes to get there. From the Hollygrove house today, it still took 45 minutes because Friday morning traffic on Watt was horrible.  It took me 10 minutes just to get through one intersection. Yikes!

The weather was beyond gorgeous today: sunny, breezy and in the low 70’s. Lissa remarked that it could stay like this for the rest of the year if it wanted too. That wouldn’t make for much plant and animal diversity, but sure would be nice for us humans. Hah!

When I got to the preserve, three of the graduates were there and two more joined us later so that was nice.  There was a lot to see out there today, but we needed to finish by noon, so we didn’t get very far through the preserve.  Even with the abbreviated route, we saw lots of wildflowers, deer, insects, birds and even some raccoon tracks in the mud around a small pond.

While we walked, I showed the group how change the lighting to get better shots, how to use a macro lens to focus on the small stuff – and how to get the automatic cameras to focus on what YOU want it to focus on, and how to frame the subject(s) in a photo BEFORE you take it so you don’t have to crop it so much afterwards.  The stars of the day, as far as subject matter goes, were the insects. We found some really unusual-looking guys including a species of long-horned beetle, a pink and white moth, and a semi-iridescent beetle we couldn’t readily identify. Because there are literally millions of insects, getting a proper ID is a daunting task even for the experts.

We also got to watch a pair of Black Phoebes bring insects to their nest full of fledglings. Mom and dad took turns flying back and forth to feed the kids. I saw one of the parents m with a large hoverfly, and another one with a large bright green worm. Those kids get fed well!  Because we were standing near the where the next was, the parents would stop and sit for a little while before transporting the food directly to the kids. This gave us the opportunity to gets some good close-ups and still shots of them.  We could also see the babies in the nest – almost fully fledged already, they looked too big to still be hand-fed by their folks. This particular pair of Phoebes have been nesting under the eaves of the nature center at the preserve for years. They come back season after season.  Their nests are mud cups filled with grasses and other soft plant fibers.

We found the Red-Shouldered Hawk’s nest on the Pond Trail. We could hear mama calling from the nest but couldn’t get an angle on the structure that allowed us to see her. she must be sitting eggs at the moment.  And we found several tree cavity nests of wrens, Starlings, and Acorn Woodpeckers (some of them in or near the same tree).

We also got to see some Ash-throated Flycatchers. Besides being pretty birds, these guys are kind of special because they don’t drink water. They get what fluid they need from the stuff they eat.

Among the deer we saw, I believe one of them was very pregnant and may have been experiencing some early contractions. She’d walk along and life her tail like she wanted to defecate, but nothing came out.  Might be seeing some fawns in the next month or so!

On our way out of the preserve, one of the graduates and I loitered around the small pond again and tried to get photos of the Bullfrog tadpoles and crawfish under the water.  Getting the camera to focus past the surface of the water is always an interesting trial… and I can never really tell if I got the shots I want until after I get the photos home and download them, so I can see them better.

We finished up our walk around noon. #CalNat

Wildflower Hunting, 04-15-17

On saturday I was up at 6:15 am and out the door by 6:30.  The weather was gorgeous today; sunny and cool (49º when I headed out for my hillside trek and 68º when I got back home.)  I headed out looking for wildflower displays today, taking I5 to the spot where Highways 20 and 16 meet.  There are a lot of ranches around there, as well as some protected areas, and there are usually pretty displays.

Tuleyome had led a wildflower tour last weekend, but pickings were slim, and they couldn’t get down Bear Valley Road to Wilbur Springs because that road is all dirt – and with the recent rains it was basically a 15-mile mud hole.  I didn’t go down there today, and instead stuck to the highways and the turnouts along them.  As I went along, it occurred to me that I actually think we’re still too early for the full wildflower bloom. I think the rain and cooler temperatures have kept the wildflowers from showing off.  The poppies and most of the lupine aren’t awake yet, the onions aren’t opened up yet, and the Blow Wives are just now starting to “blow”.

CLICK HERE to see the entire album of photos.

CLICK HERE if you’d like directions to a self-guided wildflower tour along Bear Valley Road. Before you head out, though, check to make sure the road isn’t really muddy.

Still, I did get to see quite a few different species – about 3o or so – including Tidy Tips, Pepperweed, different kinds of lupine, tiny Owl’s Clover, that super-interesting looking Sack Clover, Big-Headed Clover, Navarretia, Soft Blow Wives, Silverpuffs, Blue Dicks, Bush Mallow, Death Camas, Ithuriel’s Spears, some tiny Blue-Eyed Mary, California Poppies, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, Buck Brush, Larkspur, Bush Monkey Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Tule Peas, Chinese Houses, and Old Men’s Bear (a kind of clematis).

Driving along Highway 16 was a little bit scary. There had been huge mud and rock slides there, and the road was opened again just recently. As you drive along, you can see massive bald spots where the faces of the hillsides became too saturated during the heavy rains and just slide off.  There  were three places where I could see that the highway had been recently patched and in other places there were huge piles of boulders and mud that had been bulldozed off the road.  But my drive was unimpeded, and nothing fell on my car in the “falling rocks” areas.

Because it was so sunny, I had to contend with stark shadows and sun-glare when I was taking pictures.  If I was able to, I blocked the flowers with my body and took the pictures, but that wasn’t always an option. It’s easier to take photos when it’s a little overcast…

The Tamarisk trees were in bloom all along the waterways.  They’re gorgeous, but they’re totally invasive. Also called “salt cedars” they dump tons of salt into the rivers and streams and kill off a lot of native plant and animals species that can’t tolerate the high salt content. Red-Winged Blackbirds were using some of them as display stages, sitting in the top branches, singing away.

At one spot along Highway 20 and Bear Valley Road, there’s a bridge that goes over Bear Creek, and under the bride were swarms of Cliff Swallows building and tending to their mud nests.  I was surprised to see birds sitting in the unfinished nests – seemingly saving their spot — as their mates flew back and forth with daubs of mud to complete them.  I got some photos and video snippets of that process.

I also saw quite a few Western Fence Lizards, a male Lesser Goldfinch hunkered down in the flowers eating seeds, some katydid nymphs, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Boxelder Beetles, and… eew… ticks.  There were ticks everywhere.  As I was heading back home, I found three of them crawling around the car, and one tiny one on my neck.  Eew, eew, eew!

Because the weather was so lovely, I actually drove around with the car windows open.  It made for a nice weekend drive. I was back home around 2:00 pm.

Vacation Day 3: Wildflowers Along Bear Creek Road

Sergeant Margie and Tidy Tips. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Sergeant Margie and Tidy Tips. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day Three.  I got up at 6:30 this morning, and then the dog and I went on another day trip.  During his lecture on Thursday, Andrew had told everyone about a ranch along Bear Creek Road that allows people to come onto their property to look at the wildflowers there.  So, today I went out to see if I could find the ranch.  I had to drive up to Highway 20 and then take that to where the 20 intersects with Highway 16.  Bear Creek Road is a dirt road that parallels Highway for a short  while and then head off into the foothills.

When I got to Highway 20 and started heading toward the foothills, I was surprised to encounter VERY heavy fog, but as I headed up a little bit in elevation I left the fog behind me.  I’d never been on Bear Creek Road before, and was a little worried about how well the Sebring would do on a dirt track, but it was a  surprisingly easy ride.  For most of the way the road is two cars wide (it only narrowed in a few places and over one short bridge) and it looked like it had been recently scraped, so there weren’t any potholes or trenches to maneuver the car around.  From the head of the road to where the ranch was it was about 12 or 13 miles, but you could only drive at 15 miles per hour, so it seemed like a long 12 miles.  All along the way, though, I stopped off here and there, and took photos of the flowers, so that added more time.

Along the way, I caught glimpses of an otter running along the side of Bear Creek, Meadowlarks and Kingbirds, a pair of Belted Kingfishers, a Killdeer, some Yellow-Billed Magpies, Song Sparrows, and lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds.  I got a few photos of some of them, but not all of them… here were a lot of cattle in the fields, and some of them came right up to the fences, were browsing or resting in the wildflowers, or had calves they were watching.  So, I incorporated them into some of my photos, too.  And I also came across a horse in a pasture near the road.

All along the way down the road there was a light smattering of wildflowers, but in other places, the flowers blanketed entire hillsides and fields.  Soooo many, and soooo pretty!  Yellow, pink, blue, purple, white… I found Yarrow, Blow wives, Fiddleneck, Mustard, Pineapple Weed, Tidy Tips, Indian Paint Brush, Owl’s Clover, Chinese Houses, Redbud, Larkspur, Blue dicks, Wallflowers, Poppies, Ithurial’s Spears, Bird’s Eye, Goldfields, Pepper Grass, several different varieties of Lupine (including yellow Butter Lupine), Sweetclover, Popcorn Flowers, Cream Cups, Indian Clover, Star Lilies, Slender Centuary, and more.  I took over 800 photos!

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As I was heading back out toward Highway 20, I passed a couple who had parked their pick-up on the side of the road and the wife was setting up an easel to paint the wildflowers.  I stopped an let her know that just another five minutes up the road, she could go onto the ranch to paint, if she wanted to, rather than looking over the fence at the flowers.  She was so excited and thanked me profusely for letting her know about the access.  Then she looked at her husband who was settling into a chair.  “You’re already set up,” he said to his wife, and she looked torn: to stay there or to go up the road?  I left them to it… I stopped off at the rest stop in Dunnigan and shared  sandwich and some grapes with the dog before continuing on home…