Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fox Set

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There are so many potential spots to place the camera trap within even a small area. I was nosing around the Set 1 area, which is very close to the Set 3 area, where I found a promising general location with some animal beds (probably deer beds) nearby, but with many critter trails also in the vicinity. Animals could have passed very near the camera without actually passing in front of it, and when I picked up the memory card this morning I didn't have very high hopes. I wouldn't have been surprised if this set hadn't turned up any animals at all.

Some days, not a single animal passed by, and the deer above was the only deer all week. But I did catch a gray fox on two different days.

On this second catch (early this morning), the fox stepped into the frame and seemed to spot the camera.

But he quickly surmised there was no threat and continued on his way.

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November Favorites

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The biggest excitement is getting to know individuals. I really enjoy that -- to partake in their day. What's going on in their world? It's selfish really, but I just love being there.
--Christian Ziegler, from The Masters of Nature Photography

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Bubblegum Slime Mold


Serpentine Power Point

Shaving Brush Slime Mold

Stream Bed

Morning Coyote #1

Morning Coyote #2

Morning Coyote #3

Deer Family

Camouflaged Cat

Druid Rocks North

Gymnopus brassicolens

Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina

Bay Laurel Nut

Xeromphalina campanella

Prowling Cat

Mossy Roots

Honey Mushrooms

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Spare the Air

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I could have spared the air if I'd biked to work today, as usual, but I've taken the week off. Instead of giving the air a break, I drove out to Mt. Tam to see what nature was up to. I've been thinking about doing a post on Redwood Creek, which I consider the southern border of Mt. Tam, but I want to traverse the creek from Muir Beach to Muir Woods as the salmon do, and Muir Beach remains closed. They've even pushed off the date for re-opening from November 27 to December 14, so that post will have to wait. It's just as well, because we still haven't gotten enough rain for the salmon to start heading up the creek.

Another thing I'd planned to do was illustrate the change in temperature -- to photograph some of the first frost of the new season. I figured it would be coldest in the bottomland along Redwood Creek, but I didn't see any significant frost until I climbed 2,000 feet above sea level to arrive at Rock Spring. 

Hoarfrost on yarrow leaves.

When working on the ground in the presence of thistle, it is best not to steady oneself by extending one's arm  earthward and using a bare palm to hold one's weight.

Frost on the hedge nettles.

This pink checker mallow was a surprise. Its delicate blossoms were almost the only thing in the entire meadow that wasn't either a shade of brown or green.

I was worried the rising sun would eliminate all the frost before I could photograph it, but the shade lasts a long time this time of year. I was still finding frosty vegetation at 10 o'clock in the morning.

After my frost pursuit at Rock Spring I drove out along Bolinas Ridge since the gate had been opened early. I kept my eyes out for bobcats to no avail. I had one of my best bobcat sightings ever at about this time last year. Also at this time last year (and the year before), the fungi were fruiting in abundance. Almost three years ago to the day, I photographed the sunset that appears on the cover of my book, A Circumannuation of Mount Tam. (Riddle: If God can make a rock so big that He can't lift it, can Blurb made a book so expensive that no one can afford it?)

I set my camera trap in a new location near Set 1 to see what might turn up. Aside from a flock of wild turkeys in the Muir Woods parking lot and a couple of roadside deer, I saw very little wildlife on this trip. 

Very little fungi, too.

This time three years ago, Cataract Falls was going gangbusters. This year, not so much. I even hiked down to Laurel Dell to check it out. At this time eleven years ago, I was already photographing bubblegum slime mold. I was looking forward to getting some rain this week, but the last time I checked, the weather forecasters were "backing away" from their predictions of a good soaking.

I know Mother Nature wants to deliver rain to her children in the Bay Area, and I feel like I need some rain to get my own creative juices flowing again as well. Maybe I should have spared the air today, after all. Hope it's not too late.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alpine Lake -- Rocky Ridge Loop

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A pair of coyotes greeted us as we parked at the end of Bon Tempe Road. Unfortunately, although I got my point-n-shoot camera out in time to fire off a few frames, my camera was still set in manual exposure mode for a photo of the moon rising after sunset. Not even close for coyotes in daylight. I didn't realize the mistake until I was trying to get a shot of this Great Egret on top of an oak tree, with the East Peak fire look-out in the background.

There'd been frost in all the shaded areas on the way in, but the sun was bright and warm when we set out around 8:15 a.m. to cross Bon Tempe Dam. Once we reached the other side to hike out around the south side of Alpine Lake, it would be quite a while before we'd feel the sun's warmth again. 

Rocky Ridge Road goes up to the left. We went right to pick up the Kent Trail.

There were lots of ducks, coots and mergansers at this side of the reservoir, but we were surprised to spot three river otters. Judging by all the crunching sounds, they were finding plenty to eat.

The pump sits out in what I would guess is the deepest part of the reservoir. It sure seemed low, but the water district's total capacity (from all seven reservoirs) is only a little below average. It was interesting to note that per capita water consumption this year is much higher than in 2012. I guess when there's less water falling from the sky, people draw more from storage.

It's a beautiful hike out along the edge of Alpine Lake, now through meadow, then forest, then chaparral, and back into forest.

This was our first sunny spot since Bon Tempe Dam. I didn't take a picture of the junction of the Kent Trail and the Helen Markt Trail (which we'd already passed by this point), but it is well-signed and easy to see.

This is one of the biggest Douglas fir trees I've seen out here, and it has a crazy secondary trunk that's as big as a regular tree in its own right.

Once you leave the lake, it's pretty much all uphill on the Kent Trail.

This Doug fir was running with sap, not looking long for the world.

On the maps, this spot is named Foul Pool. They might as well have named it Dragon Swamp. It's no more "foul" than it is the lair of dragons. I'd never been here in the dry season before. Often the edge of the pool comes close to the trail, but it's receded so far at this point that there's nothing but deer-tracked mud quite a ways in. Deer have been browsing on the cattail leaves.

The trail ascends into a nice little redwood grove.

Not all the redwoods are "little", like this fire-hollowed champ with multiple shoots.

No, this is not a picture of Pam petting a triffid. I guess it's got to be a young Hericium erinaceus, or lion's mane fungus. It would be great to see this again in a couple of weeks since it will likely have become much bigger, its spines much longer. This was growing on top of a huge, downed bay laurel log. 

Numerous honey mushrooms were also growing on the log and on other decaying wood nearby. 

We left the Kent Trail, which heads up toward High Marsh, to join the Stocking Trail (named for Clayton Stocking, a long-time MMWD employee. (Link to info on other Mt. Tam place names here.)

This is Hidden Lake along the Stocking Trail. This will be a very different scene once the rains get going again.

I'd never hiked the Stocking Trail past Hidden Lake before, so it was interesting to see completely new territory, including the biggest redwood I've seen anywhere on the mountain outside of Muir Woods.

The woods were great, but it was nice to emerge into the sunny chaparral to continue our climb.

The Stocking Trail meets up with the Rocky Ridge Trail. For a shorter loop, you could simply turn left here and end up back down at Bon Tempe Dam.

We took a right turn instead and continued our ascent.

Rocky Ridge meets up with the Lagunitas-Rock Spring fire road which goes all the way down to Lake Lagunitas. That's Bon Tempe lake (and a toyon chockablock with red berries) behind me.

Pam adjusts her shoes where we leave the fire road for the Berry Trail down to Bon Tempe Lake.

Lovin' life on the Shadyside Trail.

Almost back to the dam, we enjoyed a short break at a nice open spot on the edge of the lake. Hiking at a leisurely pace, the 6.6-mile loop took us just under four hours.

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