Saturday, March 31, 2012
On our short hike near Oakland Camp, we saw the first flowers to bloom in that area, a few Filaree and a few large patches of Milkmaids. Milkmaids are of the same genus as Toothwort, Cardamine, so one has to remember the types of leaves for quick field identification. The top photo here is of Toothwort, Cardamine pachystigma, taken last spring near Keddie Cascades. The second photo is of Milkmaids, Cardamine californica, taken yesterday by Oakland Camp. A bit blurry, similar flowers, but a significantly different type of leaves. The most delightful surprise on yesterday's hike was the young California Toad, Bufo boreas. I found it under a piece of shale in our path. We took a few blurry pictures then placed him back under his protective rock. I can imagine him out there now peering out at snow about 10 times as deep as his height. I hope he makes it through the spring.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
So, from the top, here's what I saw: First, in the canyon below Phantom Falls, about a quarter mile to the West, there's a great little meadow with a patch of Manroot, a member of the gourd family. Next is a piece of basal containing a plant fossil. [Correction: A fellow naturalist friend noticed that this is not a fossil, but a dendrite, a kind of crystal formation.] Third, one of my favorite members of the Saxifrage family, Woodland Starflower. Fourth is Volcanic Onion. There were quite a few of these blooming wherever we walked. It's one of those items that I can't seem to photograph often enough. I keep thinking I'm going to get my best shot ever. Next, a white member of the Forget-Me-Not family, Boraginaceae, locally known as Popcorn Flower. Similar species in other places are often known as Stickseed. Then we have a Puffball, an intriguing fungus, that my friends say is edible. I didn't try it. (That was my disclaimer.) Next, a cairn built by one of my hiking companions. I've been fascinated by these ever since I first discovered them above the tree line in New Hampshire's White Mountains. There they were for navigation during dense fog or snowstorms. The harsh weather, especially on Mt. Washington, can reduce visibility to near zero. In places, the large cairns are only 10 to 12 feet apart, yet sometimes one cannot see from one to the next. My brother and I used to have one of us stay by a cairn while the other searched for the next one, staying in voice contact all the while. Even with that precaution, we sometimes got rather frightened. The howling wind could make voice contact impossible beyond 10 feet or so. Next to last photo - a Buttercup, Ranunculaceae. And last, a Buckeye Seed. These always remind me of the Horse Chestnuts I used to gather at the road sides on my way to school. They'd fall out of my pockets in class, and I'd be made to throw them away. I'd just collect more on the way home.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Monday afternoon: I'm back with additional photos of the colorful Table Mountain flora and some notes about names. Starting at the top, we have the Foothill Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa. When hiking around in the Nature Preserve on Table Mountain, it's apparent that there are two kinds of poppies, this one and the smaller-blossomed Frying Pan Poppy. Along the paved road and in many people's yards there is also the California Poppy, E. californica. It seems inevitable that there will be or has been some mixing. In fact, we believe we saw some California Poppies in the Preserve.
The second photo is White-tipped Clover, Trifolium variegatum. It's easy to confuse these true clovers with Owl Clover, which is not a clover but a variety of Paintbrush.
The third photo is Delphinium nudicaule, known locally on Table Mountain as Canyon Delphinium but over most of the Sierra is better known as Red Larkspur.
Next, we have Table Mountain Meadow Foam, Limnanthes douglasii, known elsewhere as Douglas's Meadow Foam.
Next is the Mountain Jewel Flower, Streptanthus tortuosus. These off-white blossoms are easy to miss when one is surrounded by brighter-colored flowers of many kinds. They are quite beautiful, however, and deserving of a closer-up look.
Next is Kellogg's Monkey Flower, Mimulus kelloggii. This flower is so bright that it usually confuses both digital sensors and film. I did my best, but you can still see a bit of what we digital photographers call "noise."
Next, Phantom Falls again. A friend and I have been discussing what is the optimum shutter speed for photographing waterfalls. It's an interesting dilemma because is we're trying to preserve the best memory of what we saw, it can't really be done with a still photograph. So, we're stuck with deciding just what degree of blurriness best suggests the amount of motion we remember seeing. Opinions will vary. Then again, if we're trying for a particular aesthetic response, the jury is out. Some prefer the extremely blurry effect, that is, slow shutter speed. Others prefer a very fast shutter speed that can freeze the waterfall down to the individual drops.
Next, we have the tremendous Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, that tells you you're in the right place to enter the Preserve, namely, the public parking lot, usually equipped with portable potties, and surrounded by lots of wildflowers within a short walk.
Last, a photo of one of the butterflies in a group known as Blues feeding on a Phacelia bush. I'm guessing this one is Rock Phacelia, P. egena, as that is the most common species on the mountain.
Before I could get started on sifting through the photos and writing my text, my wife coaxed me into taking another drive in search of things to draw. We went up to Williams Loop, 11 miles east of Quincy. Still pretty brown around that area except for the very colorful graffiti in the underpass. Also saw some dippers frolicking in Greenhorn Creek. We planned to hike around for a longer while, but were stopped in our tracks, so to speak, by the footprints shown in the two photos above. We've read a lot recently about human encounters with mountain lions in our county, and decided we didn't want to be written about. So, I took a couple of photos while imagining something large sneaking up on me from behind, then headed home. Now I'm going to get back to writing about "potential."