Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oaked 'n Poked

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You know it's summer on Mt. Tam when you get home, take your shoes off -- and have to pull all the seeds out of your socks. You know you've been doing nature photography on Mt. Tam if your legs are tingling from stinging nettles and you're a couple of days away from itchy red bumps of poison oak: I call it getting oaked and poked. It's okay. It's all good -- and certainly preferable to having a couple of ticks buried neck-deep in your flesh....

I was out in Chicago for the wedding of my sister's eldest son last week, and today was my first chance to get up to Mt. Tam this month. After a week in Chicago followed by three days at work back in San Francisco I really needed a nature photography fix. Thank you, Mt. Tam! 

Even early in the morning it was sunny and toasty on the trail. I tried to photograph dragonflies in flight but had to settle for a butterfly perched on a twig of oak.

I had no grand hiking plans, so I just kind of mosied around and never got farther than maybe a half-mile from the Jeep. This scene of rocks and "weeds" (rosinweed and yerba santa, with manzanita in the background) struck me as appealing for reasons I can't really articulate. Something about the light and the green serpentinite, just an ordinary patch of Mt. Tam.

Rosinweed. It's what Mt. Tam smells like in the summer.

At one point a couple of mountain bikers passed by, heading north, immediately followed by a water district pick-up truck heading south. It must have been the five-minute rush hour because I hadn't seen anyone else up to that time or in the remainder of the time before I got back to the Jeep.

The Douglas fir trees are putting out new cones with fresh little mouse tails. The scientific name Pseudotsuga menziesii lets you know this isn't a true fir. One way you can tell it's a pseudo fir is that its cones hang down instead of standing upright.

What do you call a praying mantis that tells jokes? 
A shtick bug.

I believe this is our native California mantid. I've only seen brown ones, but they come in green as well. You can tell the male from the female by the length of the wings (the wings are longer than the abdomen in males), but I'm not certain I can tell where the wings end and the abdomen begins. I spotted this gal (?) in some brown grass near the ground and coaxed her into posing for a picture on this juncus stalk. I've only seen mantises in the summer, and it turns out they don't live through the winter. The species only survives because the eggs overwinter and hatch in spring.

It was mainly during my stalk of the leopard lilies 
that I got oaked and poked....

I was waiting for a junco with a beak full of bugs to take the meal to its nest when this sweet little guy landed on a nearby branch. If you know what kind of bird it is, please tell me. There were so many interesting bird songs out there, and several were a mystery. I had to wonder if it might be easier to identify birds by ear than by eye (but I doubt it).

I waited quite a while for this junco to take its loot to the (presumed) nest, but he wasn't having any.

I actually thought I could wait him out, but I started to be concerned for its little ones and finally gave up.

I made one last stop to check up on the "pet cemetery" site (which is no more critter-excavated than it was the last time) and was surprised to see this white Jeep parked up by the picnic tables. I thought it was a park ranger's vehicle at first, but then I noticed the citation on the windshield. Is this just a summer thing? I'd love to see the "police blotter" sometime to find out what other nutty stuff goes on up there.

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