Saturday, March 26, 2022

Then & Now


West Ridgecrest Road on March 27, 2016

West Ridgecrest Road on March 26, 2022

I went back up on April 3 to see if the little bit of rain we had during the week had made any difference, and I wouldn't say that it did, except that maybe the grass is a little taller, and the poppies bloomed. Another difference between 2016 and 2022 is that the embankment itself seems to be less steep. Even with the 2016 picture in my hand, I was unable to reproduce the same vantage point.

The little bit of rain we've had seems to have pushed the spring season along a little bit, though certainly nothing like we had in 2016. Nevertheless, the hillsides were a more cheerful green than the greenish-yellow we found on our last visit, and there were nice patches of sky lupine here and there. 

Although it was still very dry in the woods, there was lots of birdsong. We heard the easily identified birds such as flicker, acorn woodpecker, robin, red-breasted nuthatch, steller's jay, junco, quail, turkey, chickadee, and western bluebird. And if my Merlin app is to be believed, we also heard warbling vireo, black-throated gray warbler, townsend's warbler, purple finch, violet-green swallow, hermit warbler, and brown creeper.

Beautiful day from the Coastal Trail along Bolinas Ridge, looking out over Stinson Beach and Bolinas. This hike starts at Rock Spring, goes up and over the Old Mine Trail and down to the Matt Davis Trail, then takes the fork up onto the Coastal Trail as far as the Willow Camp Fire Road. From there it goes up and over West Ridgecrest and descends Laurel Dell Road to pick up the Cataract Trail where it swings upstream to close the loop.

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Time of March

There's a saying about "the march of time," and I can see how some people might like their time to be cadenced, orderly, and on the move. But in my own experience it feels like time flows through me like wind through the trees. I shot the photo above in March of 2012, and it's amazing to me that ten years have passed since then. 

Records for San Francisco indicate that rainfall was 70 percent of normal in 2012, directly on the heels of a 66 percent year in 2011. This shot of Lower Cataract Falls was made almost twenty years ago, in March of 2003, a year that saw rainfall at 107 percent of normal.

The 2020 and 2021 rainfall years were both below 50 percent of normal.

And I suspect this year will be similar.

I was browsing through my Mt. Tam images to find out what I've seen and photographed in March in other years. Even though I could probably find images like these again this year, my heart isn't in it.

And come to think of it, I haven't even seen a calypso orchid yet this year. Not that I think there aren't any, but they certainly aren't jumping out at me.

When I biked up to the mountain to check my trail cams I was dismayed by how dry it seemed. It felt like summer, and it was even starting to get a little buggy.

Walking the animal trail through the woods was as noisy as walking on corn flakes. Birds called from the woods. Holding my phone, I waited slightly impatiently for a couple of hikers to pass. "Do you see a hawk?" one of them asked. No, I said, I'm trying to get a recording of that birdsong so my Merlin app can identify it. 

Yellow-rumped warbler. Farther along I thought the app was getting it wrong. Could that really be a dark-eyed junco? But the app was insistent. Still farther along, ruby-crowned kinglet, western bluebird. All birds I can identify by sight, and even by some of their sounds, but nesting season breeds rare songs.

The bobcats and coyotes might be hanging out lower on the mountain. None have passed by the cams in a good while.

I tried another chaparral set-up that I had high hopes for, with this nice little view up an arroyo.

But there was surprisingly little activity there. A fox and a jackrabbit crossed the arroyo, and a few deer browsed their way down through the middle of the frame. One of the deer had a very big, round belly and was probably expecting her fawn very soon.

It was so dry that I decided to pull up stakes and move both cameras.

I'm down to two cams now. One was stolen, another washed away in a flood, and a third one stopped working. 

I haven't decided where to put the cams next, so for the time being I put one of them in our tiny back yard. In the meantime, here's hoping we get some decent rain the rest of the month.

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Monday, March 7, 2022

On the Rocks


My wife wanted to do some painting along Bolinas Ridge, so I brought my camera along to poke around nearby. I was surprised to find this little manzanita blooming like crazy despite being so prostrate on its rocky foothold. I look forward to checking up on its progress over the coming years. I hadn't been in this area much in a long time and didn't recall there being a manzanita here. Nearby there used to be a reliable patch of goldfields, but the bunchgrass seems to have taken over their spot. 

This being our third consecutive year of drought, there might not have been any goldfields anyway. The hillsides were certainly not as green as we'd hoped. My wife has been waiting for months to return to a particular vantage point to paint it in a different season, but the difference this year isn't all that dramatic. I brought a water-mister to put a little touch of spring on the pink manzanita blossoms.

After photographing the manzanita, which I can only guess to be Mt. Tam Manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana) -- one of about eleven manzanita species in Marin County -- I investigated the rocks for interesting semi-abstract macro landscapes.

Although I found little of special interest, it was supremely enjoyable to be out on the mountain to do some photography and mosey around for some slow-paced exploration. I tried to will a bobcat into a nice meadow scene but got no takers. A coyote had crossed the road in front of our car on the way up, so I at least didn't have to go home virtually empty-handed as far as wildlife sightings.

I packed up my camera and returned to the ridge where my wife was still working on her painting and used my binoculars to watch a couple of red-tailed hawks soaring on the wind. A couple talkative ravens passed overhead several times, and a small flock of band-tailed pigeons flapped by, heading toward the woods behind us. With a chilly breeze blowing in off the ocean, it was a beautiful morning to just sit in the sun and take in the long view up and down the coast. Maybe next time we'll bring a picnic.

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Thursday, March 3, 2022



At about 6 a.m. I stepped out the door into a world of fog to begin my morning walk, wondering if the rain was about to start. Only when I climbed the stairs up to Grandview Park did I get above the fog where I could appreciate the awesome display of clouds scudding in from the southwest. I wanted to stay there and take it in, but I'm still on a schedule until I retire in a few months.

Farther along on my walk I got even higher than Grandview Park and was amazed at the view out over the Pacific Ocean. The whole Sunset District was covered by fog, and above the fog was a tattered mass of impressive clouds. The line was sharp between the fog and the cloudy skyscape, and it was one of those incredible scenes you just don't get very often. I wished I'd brought my phone to take a picture, but by the time I got home the sky was getting colorful in the east and I couldn't resist going for the camera bag and snapping a couple of frames through the window before getting in the shower.

The other day I was walking down the back steps where I have some potted primrose plants and found this moth sitting flat and very uncharacteristically uncamouflaged. I believe this is the wonderfully named Omnivorous Looper Moth (Sabulodes aegrotata).

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