On a morning hike after a much needed rain the other day, I came across some strange “prints” on the trail.
Were these tree roots exposed by recent rain having washed away soil? Was it a result of moss colonies that had dehydrated and died in the long drought during June and July? I really had no idea why these formations were here in the middle of this part of the trail. But in the first photo, you can see ferns on both sides of the trail, making me wonder if there was some connection between the density of ferns in this particular location and the strange “footprints”. So I kept looking…
I’m guessing these formations might be fern rhizomes exposed by recent rain. Do any of my readers know if this is correct?
Black and white Warblers are bark specialists, moving up and down or around the trunks and major branches of trees as they look for spiders, insect larvae and bark-inhabiting insects of all kinds. In their search, they often resemble Nuthatches that may travel upside down along tree trunks and branches.
At last finally getting a cell signal and an update on the growing Caldor fire southwest of Lake Tahoe, we decided to cut the hike short and head for our exit trailhead. And we were treated to one more clear, beautiful day, just to remind us of how this area usually looked in non-smoky years.
Nine miles and a lot of downhill steps on broken rock later, we exited the Glen Alpine trailhead at the end of what will be an ever memorable 2021 Sierra backpack hike with all limbs intact!
Day 2 of the Apocalypse of the Caldor fire near Lake Tahoe featured a fallout of white ash and black soot. The landscape looked like it was bathed in dense fog, not of moist air but of dry, choking smoke that even KN95 masks couldn’t keep out of your airways.
We didn’t intend to get such an up close look at the latest Caldor fire in California but it actually exploded behind the mountain peak where we were camped in the Desolation Wilderness area of the Sierras.
The day dawned brilliantly clear after an equally sparkling night of stars and views of the Milky Way. The previous two days had been overcast with smoky haze from the Dixie fire northeast of Lake Tahoe.
Later we learned that the Caldor fire had started about 90 minutes drive south of Lake Tahoe and had gained momentum due to high winds burning 60,000 acres in the El Dorado Forest in about 48 hours with zero containment. Conditions change quickly in the Sierras in the summer!
I watched a lone Caspian Tern hunt for fish in one of the small percolation ponds near Los Gatos creek in San Jose, CA, and was impressed with its success in grabbing small fish from the shallow water, as it hovered over a patch of still water and then suddenly dove head first into it.
Los Gatos creek is an oasis in a sea of yelllow and russet-brown vegetation. The California landscape is dry, dry, dry, except where there is a little water, and there it is lush and verdant green —making a sharp line of demarcation.
There is always lots to see along the Campbell Trail in San Jose, one of my favorite places for a morning walk.
I’ve rarely gotten so close to a Great Blue Heron, especially as it took off right in front of me. I think this might have been a juvenile heron, one a little less leery of human presence. There were three of them chasing each other around a settlement pond at Campbell Park in San Jose CA the other day, and the heron’s reflection in the shallow water seemed very artsy.
We humans have learned a lesson in observing increased personal space during the Covid pandemic — a lesson birds observe on a regular basis, not from anxiety about spreading disease, but more in response to their size, their level of thermal comfort, or their need for protection.
Big-bodied Wood Ducks sit relatively close together during the period when they are molting annually into their new suit of feathers.
However, social distance between birds depends greatly on their size and the ambient temperature in some species, increasing when it’s warm and decreasing when it’s very cool.
When the temperature drops, social distance collapses, and birds pile together to conserve body heat, like the Eastern Bluebirds did at a local park last winter during our week of -20F weather. (Photo by Scott Mohn, in a blog post on Feb. 7, 2021).
There are lots of examples of this huddling behavior in small and large birds during adverse weather conditions, where social distance and personal space becomes far less important than survival!