Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flowers 'n Stuff

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I'd love to shoot this at sunset, but I'm such a morning person. In all these years I've probably been on Mt. Tam at sunset a half-dozen times. I'm sure a lot of people are just the opposite, and it's definitely great to be up there when a colorful sunset goes off. I'd like to have a lot more callas in bloom when I finally check the sunset shot off my bucket list.

I'd hoped to find shooting stars, and there were just a couple in bloom. I'm sure there are many more at lower elevations. The flower on the left is so fresh its anthers haven't changed to blue yet.

I also spotted a very few telltale spots of pink in the forest and was glad to see my first calypso orchids of the year. Like the shooting stars, they are only just beginning to bloom.

Shooting stars, coming in at an angle.

It was a day for macro photography. I saw the colorful madrone leaf on the ground some distance away and walked toward it thinking it was something man-made. As a bonus, I found it near some pristine moss with no douglas fir needles in it.

California native people used to eat the almond-sized bulbs of these orchids, but I've always resisted doing so myself, not wanting to sacrifice a plant. I finally decided to give it a try though and found it bland with just a slightly bitter tang, and not terribly mucilagenous.

This is a fairly large fruiting of bear's head fungus. This is another wild edible that I have yet to try. I rarely remember to bring wax paper bags with me to collect anything I might find while shooting pictures. I don't really have extra room in the camera pack anyway. Another item for the bucket list.

I enjoyed just slowly stalking around the wet woods and dewy meadows, seeing whatever I might find. The wet season is my favorite time of year on Mt. Tam, and I've resented the long drought for taking that away from me. Days like today, once taken for granted, are now savored.

I know it's been a good morning when I head home with soaking wet knees.

In contrast to the mossy garden, a tapestry of rock and scattered lichen.

Veins and cracks in the serpentine.

I looked for more oak leaf critters like I found on my last visit, but there were none to be found.

My final stop was with a crowded inflorescence of hound's tongue waiting to spring into action.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Morse Gulch

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Two weeks without rain, and the Great Morse Gulch Flood has receded. I still needed to change out of my hiking shoes due to shallow pools and mud near the trailhead. I wore short pants and the same kind of footwear I like to wear when I'm photographing on the reefs at low tide. They're like rubber moccasins, and they were fine for the whole trail.

I didn't do any photography until I reached the falls, which are maybe a half-mile up the trail, but I did a little shooting on the way back. The trail is maintained basically by people hiking on it, and I saw one set each of relatively fresh human and dog tracks. Although I've only been up there once before, I still remembered it -- walking through pine duff, coming out into a small meadow, treading carefully along a stretch not much wider than my feet. Someone had put up rope in a few places, meaning to be helpful.

Most of the fungi was spooged out, but it was nice to find this late-season cup fungus still attached to its host branch.

The creek runs down that ravine in the middle distance. On the opposite hillside are numerous buckeyes. All that brown on the ground is dried-up sword fern.

I have some canyon gooseberry trying to grow in my very shaded little yard, but it has yet to unfurl its leaves or sprout any flowers.

More gooseberry flowers.

Close-up of the white maids (or milk maids, as some people call them).

After leaving Morse Gulch I went up the mountain and hiked down to Upper Cataract Falls which was already kind of disappointingly tame after two weeks with no rain.

I've been watching for wildlife in vain for so long, I couldn't believe it when I spotted my first coyote in probably a year. It used to be a fairly common thing to see coyotes, and not unheard of to see the occasional bobcat or gray fox, but the last few years have been tough for sightings, at least for me.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Gone Trappin'

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I haven't set out my camera trap since the rains started. I like to set it up at water holes since they are a natural lure to animals, but once the rain starts, there's water everywhere, not just in a few places. I had a waterless spot in mind where various animal trails led into the woods next to a meadow, and I happened upon a few chanterelles near my new trap location.

Chanterelles often grow under oaks, and these were no exception. This is a close view of the underside of a fallen oak leaf. Our live oaks are evergreen, and I took an interest in the fact that there were still-green leaves that had fallen to the ground. Most of the leaves were very small, but this one was just big enough to be worth photographing. Check out the cropped section below:

When I was out in the woods trying to photograph the leaf, I didn't notice the little denizens burrowed into the brown spots. They look more like a critter than a fungus, don't you think? I have got to start bringing my hand lens with me again. I tried to find the little nuggets in this online field guide to no avail.

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