Ripe Flower

While hiking this past week, I came upon a group of crows that were feeding in the oak woodland about 100 yards from me. As I watched them I decided to see if I could tell what they were eating. As I watched, one of the crows hopped to a while flower and began to pull on it. Then he ate one of the petals of the flower. The crows began to target the white flowers which were in the opening. As I neared, it was as though the crows knew I was going to end their feeding and they began to attack the flowers in a frenzy. I wondered what the flower was. When I arrived at the site, the crows circled around cawing.

Crows feeding in oak woodland.

Crows feeding in oak woodland.

The white flower upon which the crows were feeding was the Mariposa lily, a common wildflower that is found in oak grassland and oak woodland. Here is a photo of one of the flowers not eaten by the crows.

Although the Mariposa Lilies I observed from a distance appeared to be white, they were sun bleached and had previously been a more purple color.

Although the Mariposa Lilies I observed from a distance appeared to be white, they were sun bleached and had previously been more purple in color.

Leaves, and apparently flower petals too, can increase in food value as they ripen. As fruit increases in sugar as it ages, so do leaves and flower petals. In the fall, deer will feed upon fallen leaves that were not appealing before they fell to the ground. Here is a photo of a yellow Mariposa lily, taken when it was fresh. DSC_0234

Song of a Western Thrasher

While hiking on one of my regular trails I came upon a western thrasher calling from the top of an oak tree about 100 yards away. In the calm of the morning, his calling seemed very close and the recording is good.

The western thrasher’s call is very unique and identifiable after you’ve heard one. They are secretive and spend most of their time in the chaparral, but expose themselves while singing. They are drab in color and about the size of a scrub jay. Their long downward turning beak gives them away.

Hunting Season is Near

Didn’t get drawn for moose in Idaho, so I’ll be heading to BC in September to hunt mountain goat and mule deer.

The primary target will be goats, but if we get a chance to stalk a good mule deer buck, we will and if we finish early on the goats, we’ll focus on mule deer for the remainder of the hunt.

Goat and mule deer hunting season in BC starts on the first of September. We’ll be hunting high country. My guide, Kiff Covert, expects that there will be a sizable number of goats in the area we’re hunting, so finding goats may not be a problem. The key will be getting a good shot. It will require some climbing so I’ll be staying in the best shape possible this summer.

Purchased some items in preparation for hunting this season. One of them is a Quigley-Ford rifle scope. Sighted it in this past weekend and it s beautiful. Next stop will be some shooting at the ranch. I’ve also purchased some accessories that should be helpful – a tripod shooting rest and a Leica rangefinder. Now I’ve got to figure out how far is close enough. At age 65, I’m not as good with a rifle as I was a few years ago, but practice will certainly help.

The Quigley-Ford scope was easy to get on target. It is a 5-20 power variable scope.I’ve never owned anything like it. I’m now set up about 1 1/2 inches high at 100 yards shooting 165 grain Barnes X-bullets. The cartridge is advertised at 3130 feet per second out of my Winchester model 70 .300 WSM. If all goes well, I should be able to cover some ground

I’m also hoping to get drawn for a September/October mule deer tag in California, but the odds are not with me. November I’ll be hunting in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for the third year in a row. I’d really like to bring home a nice buck from that wilderness area.

Of course there will be blacktail hunting on our ranch, but deer numbers are pathetic. I’m not overly optimistic about chances of getting an arrow-shot at a nice buck. The rifle season won’t be easy either. Of the 20 ponds on our ranch, 18 of them went dry last fall. I’ve not seen a legal buck on our 1920 acre ranch this spring.

Don’t know how many years of mountain hunting I have left, so I’ll be trying to make the most of my time this fall.

Friday Surveys

It was back to the ranch on Friday for California salamanders and Callippe butterflies.

On the way, this forked horn buck ran down the road in front of us. One of the few I've seen in the last couple weeks.

On the way, this forked horn buck ran down the road in front of us. One of the few I’ve seen in the last couple weeks.

We seen very few deer lately. This is not a great time of year for deer observation because the bucks are in bachelor groups and the does are in hiding while the fawns are small. However, the lack of deer has gone way beyond what those effects can cause. Last summer, most of the water sources in the area dried up and deer died in large numbers. It will be a while before the deer rebound.

Our salamander larvae surveys were very productive. Here's one of our morphing CTS.

Our salamander larvae surveys were very productive. Here’s one of our morphing CTS.

We spent a couple hours observing butterflies and butterfly habitat. We watched them on nectar plants like buckeye trees and our butterfly expert caught some to determine their species type and sex. It was an interesting activity. We have many butterflies on the ranch.

This great cloud appeared on the southern horizon and stayed with us for quite a while.

This great cumulus cloud appeared on the southern horizon and stayed with us for quite a while.

A western pond turtle hid from me in upper La Costa creek on the way home.

A western pond turtle hid from me in upper La Costa creek on the way home.

After a while the turtle came out and gave me a better view.

After a while the turtle came out and gave me a better view.

I snapped this photo of our 100+ year old cabin with the same cumulus cloud in the background.

I snapped this photo of our 100+ year old cabin with the same cumulus cloud in the background.

A gobbler snipped seed heads from plants alongside the road.

A gobbler snipped seed heads from plants alongside the road.

Two deer in one day. A rare event these days.

Two deer in one day. A rare event these days.

Today at the Ranch

Here’s a slideshow of today’s trip to the ranch.

Callippe butterfly on buckeye blossom.

Callippe butterfly on buckeye blossom.

Kildeer

Kildeer

Horned lark

Horned lark

Grinding rock and pestal.

Grinding rock and pestal.

Red dragonfly

Red dragonfly

Garter snake

Garter snake

This bobcat walked down the road in front of us.

This bobcat walked down the road in front of us.

Tule elk bull

Tule elk bull

Another bull

Another bull

Great blue heron.

Great blue heron.

Always lots to see going to, hanging out at or returning from the ranch.

Garter Snake and CTS Larvae

Garter snakes are voracious predators and this is the time of year when they are present at ponds in large numbers.

While touring our ponds with members of the SF Bay Area Chapter of the Wilderness Society, we came upon a garter snake that was in the midst of swallowing a large tiger salamander larvae. It was an impressive sight. The two-foot long snake was working hard to eat a meal that barely fit into his mouth.

When last seen, this garter snake was still swallowing hard.

When last seen, this garter snake was still swallowing hard.

The tiger salamander larvae appeared to be about four and a half inches long and had it’s gills in place.