Good Year for Balsamroot

Balsamroot DSC_0779[1]

The balsamroot plants on our ranch are having a good season. They like the open grassland mostly on north-facing slopes near the top of ridges. It’s easy to think they’re mules ear from a distance as the flowers are so similar, but up close it’s easy to differentiate between the two as their leaves are nothing like the large leaves that give mules ear its name.

We had a lot of rain this year and there’s more balsamroot blooming than I’ve ever seen before.

Here’s a link to more information about this uncommon plant which can be found in the east bay hills.

http://calscape.org/Balsamorhiza-macrolepis-()

Another Day at the Ranch

Yesterday was a good day at the ranch.

The day got off on a good note when I spotted a group of tule elk bulls feeding along the side of highway 84. I did you U-turn and snapped a few photos.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Here they are again.

Here they are again.

Impressive animals.

Arriving about 8 AM, the first item on the agenda was a whipsnake survey. Unfortunately I found only a western fence liizard for my efforts, but did snap a couple more photos.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

A morning dove perched on the dead limbs of a blue oak.

Morning doves are sleek.

Morning doves are sleek.

It has been a good year for some wildflowers.

The Mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

The mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

We had a crew of eager helpers

We had a crew of eager helpers.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

On the way home, a bobcat walked across the road in front of me. I snapped a photo before he went out of site. I think I’ve photographed him before.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Snow Plant

This snow plant has just popped from the ground.

Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea Torr.) This plant is a fungi that feeds off the roots of conifers.

While returning from shopping in Susanville, I drove a back road and came upon an area loaded with snow plants. They pop from the ground in spring shortly after the snow melts and are quite beautiful. My Grandmother used to point them out whenever she spotted one.

Here’s a photo of a bunch of plants that are more mature, but also a little fried from sunlight. They don’t last too long in the sun and are found in the pine needles underneath large conifers.

Group of snow plants.

April Weekend at the Ranch

 
It was a good weekend to be in the hills. Here are a few of the photos I was able to take while traveling around the ranch. (Click to enlarge.)
 

Here's the typical view of a ranch road coyote.

Surprise. It’s unusual for ranch road coyotes to pose for a broadside photo.
Another rarity, only in spring will you see two great blues together like this.
Nice cape on this great blue heron.
Rob pointed out some baby blue eyes – with bug.
Mules ear is having a good year. Maybe it likes the cool spring.
Checkerbloom I believe.
The goldfields were looking good.
My first whipsnake of the season. He was sold cold I could have picked him up.
I don’t know whose brand this is.
Fence lizards were out in force for the first time this spring.
 
Pacific newts have a rubber look.
 
The does were in hiding with fawns, but a few bucks were around.
We went to a spot I’d never been before.
Instant replay of the earlier coyote.
For the second time in a weekend, a coyote stopped and looked back.

Mending Fences – with Distractions

The pace of work changes when you spend a couple days in the hills. It’s really hard to get in a hurry and there are many distractions. The main event- mending fence. The sub plots – turkeys, wildflowers and other photo ops.

Rob and Terry looking down at a half mile of very old or non-existent fence, an intimidating project.

 (Click photos to enlarge.)

When you’re working on a project that looks overwhelming, it pays to not get in a hurry – so we didn’t.

The starting point for the fence project was at the top of a very steep drop off into a spot we had to exit the same way we went in. In other words what you carry down, you also carry up unless it’s fence material. A few hours per day is all we could handle on a project like this. A couple hours of hanging on to the side of a cliff while working is enough.

In the mean time distractions were all around us. On the way in I came across a group of four old gobblers that have been a making a living eating grain from horse feed.

These old toms have been hanging out near the neighbor's barn.

Wild flowers were blooming. Johnny-jump-ups, shooting stars  and butter cups were everywhere. The yellow and white flowers seem to bloom early while the blue flowers like lupins seem to bloom later on. There’s likely a reason, but I don’t know what it is.

Johnny- jump-ups (wild pansy) are a butterfly host plant.

The plant, which most locals call johnny-jump-ups, is also known as wild pansy or yellow pansy. The scientific name is viola pedunculata. It is a host plant for the Callippe Silverspot Butterfly, which is endangered. http://essig.berkeley.edu/endins/callippe.htm

Other early favorites include the shooting star (“mosquito bills” variety). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodecatheon_hendersonii

Mosquitobills shooting star.

While checking the spillway on one of our dams, I found a fresh mountain lion scat. The scat, about the size of my labs scat tends to be clay-like and greenish is color when it’s fresh – and if really fresh, extremely stinky.

Mountain lion scat. This is a medium-sized scat.

We also found a few stinkbells in bloom, but they seemed to be a little past their prime.

The stinkbell is somewhat rare.

The scientific name for the stinkbell is fritillaria agrestis.

The California buttercup is very common on our ranch.

The scientific name for the buttercup is ranunculus californicus.

With some fence progress and obligations at home, I departed while Rob and Terry continued to work on the fence. On the way home I came upon more turkeys. This time two gobblers were hanging out with three hens. Looks like nesting time is about here, but they were not very active.

These birds slipped into a creek and moved quickly out of sight.

It’s a little early in the nesting season and the turkeys were not in full breeding mode. The gobblers were more interested in eating than strutting for the hens.