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Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles
by David Senesac    page 2 of 7


Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles contents
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road Trips...page 1
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road Trips...page 3

return to Hunting Hollow

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The next Sunday February 20, I drove back to Hunting Hollow at Henry Coe State Park with my 4x5 camera and exposed a few sheets of film on lacy lichen trees I'd noted earlier. At dawn I checked the NWS fog satellite image that showed heavy overcast had pushed up against the Diablo Range through Monterey Bay. Just the diffuse light conditions I needed. The image had to be made at this time of year before the dormant oak leaves came out that would block interior views into the branches. The following landscape had a convenient patch of Padres shooting stars for a colorful foreground with valley oak, blue oak, and California bay on the slope in the background.    10-B-2.jpg   . Later I explored a few more areas about that fine canyon bottomland. Along one obscure stream saw two southern Pacific pond turtles, actinemys marmorata pallida. Rather uncommon to come across turtles in these modern times. They were up on a rocky bank about 6 feet from a nearby small pool and the odd thing was the smaller turtle about 8 inches long, was upside-down on its back. A park expert, Lee Dittman, related males will sometimes flip over rivals. Being slow turtles and about 6 feet from their pool, I easily moved close enough to capture this nice image at above left.

San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area

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At the end of the month on Saturday February 27 while its environment was peaking in moisture with our winter sun still low in altitude, I drove further south to the San Luis Wildlife Area at Pacheco Pass along SR152 on Dinosaur Point Road. While topographically out of the San Francisco Bay Area proper, it is within an hour's drive of the South Bay and very similar in species to nearby Henry Coe State Park I'd been visiting. My primary reason for the visit was to capture lichen, fungi, moss, and bacteria subjects I'd found during previous seasons. The San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area has two lake recreation areas including O'Neils Forebay with camping and four adjacent wildlife areas plus Pacheco State Park is above at the pass. Most of the below 14.1mp Canon G10 images that full sized are 4416x3312 pixels, were captured using an 270EX external flash, a 32 inch diffusion disk, and my RS60-E3 manual remote shutter release.

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I'd noticed how these more primitive ancient plants thrive on coast live oak, quercus agrifolia, and California buckeye, aescula californica. Interestingly the picturesque wind shaped blue oak of that area have evolved to be resistant to most of those species even after branches or trunks have died. Although some species exist on living coast live oak trunks, once a branch or a trunk has died and especially if fallen to the ground, fungi rapidly develop for a period of a season or three before they themselves die once nutrients have been absorbed. Thus a strategy for locating interesting fungi is to find recently fallen trees and branches. In exposed ridge top areas both oak species tended to be severely wind shaped by the dominant winds from the west. The Pacific marine air to the west is laden with moisture and cool thus beyond mid winter is much heavier than the often dry sunny air to the east in the San Joaquin Valley. Northwesterly coastal winds blow that cool air up against the Coast Range and once it rises to a level of lowest crest areas, it blows from the force of gravity over those gaps and saddles. Accordingly a wind farm has been located within the state park.

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And that cool moisture helped evolve the complex micro world of lichen, fungi, moss, and bacteria here. Not only are many of the ridgeline trees bent over towards the east, but their main trunks are often right at ground level for some distance that increases moisture content. The coast live oaks on windiest sites in a strategy for wind protection often have a canopy that totally surrounds the central tree densely down to ground level. That also increases moisture on the central trunk and branch areas. Attesting to that moisture are abundant orange hued California Coast Range newts, taricha torosa torosa, that enjoy life under the canopies and the small seasonal streamlets in the hilly area's ravines. The newt at left was crawling atop the base roots of an oak trunk and I would expect many find homes in protective spaces beneath trunk and roots.

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I returned to a particularly spectacular fallen branch I'd worked in February of 2009 and still found excellent subjects. This first image at left shows bluish lichen, light brown shelf fungi, and a reddish rust fungi. Although I have access to an excellent web source of fungi, my ability to make confident ids of species is low. Thus in most cases will not identify such until those with more expertise have weighed in.

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At left is another image of these fungi against grain of an oak branch. Dense swaths of Padres shooting stars, dodecatheon clevelandii, were freshly rising on lee sides of many upper hillside slopes including those in eastern areas of the state park just across Dinosaur Point Road.

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California buckeyes are in that area found primarily on north facing slopes and at the bottom of ravines. Beneath buckeyes on those wet north facing slopes were mosquito-bills, dodecatheon hendersonii, often with reddish stems per the image at left. Unlike the coast live oaks, fungi seem to thrive on living branches and trunks too. The buckeye is a faster growing, short lived tree that makes that possible. Occasionally I found trees that had spectacular growths of lichen and on this day located the most impressive such subject I've yet encountered.

The G10 image at page top in which I used my 270EX external flash with a full size of 4200x3200 pixels, doesn't do the detail of the branch justice. So here are three links to 100% crops of that same image showing that incredible mirco world:
buckeye branch crop #1
buckeye branch crop #2
buckeye branch crop #3

Pacheco State Park

On a mostly cloudy Sunday February 28, I drove back to Pacheco Pass in order to work with my view camera on some of the blue oak savanna shooting star areas of Pacheco State Park. Although wildflowers were at levels below some of the best years when I've visited, Padres shooting stars were good enough for purposes of a particular image I wished to capture. During this period of late winter, the dormant blue oaks don't have leaves thus showing their intricate branches providing more detail. I found this foreground with flowers and a background representitive of that blue oak savana:    10-C-1.jpg   . Most of the usual many wildlfower species of this oak savanna had at least some members present, though their peaks were still two to three weeks away. Along the way was the lichen image at column left. Such lichen often cover sandstone outcrops of the park. Such "lookout" rocks receive extra nutrients from rodents that climb up atop the rocks to survey their areas and leave excrement.

San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area

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The first Saturday of the new month, March 6, I drove back a third and final time to Pacheco Pass. I expected wildflower areas I'd seen earlier at San Luis Wildlife Area with a week of warm weather, were close to peak. Among flowers in those grasslands were padres shooting stars, fiddleneck, amsinckia menziesii, popcorn flower, johnny-jump-ups, spring gold, lomatium utriculatum, purple sanicle, sanicula bipinnatifida, California lotus, lotus wrangelianus, butter-and-eggs, triphysaria eriantha, a few California poppies, eschscholtzia californica, and blue dicks, dichelostemma capitatum, as shown at right.

return to Grizzly Gulch at Henry Coe State Park

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On Sunday March 7, I drove south to Henry Coe State Park for a fourth and final time this spring in order to revisit the Grizzly Gulch areas that had so impressed me three weeks earlier. Not far from the trailhead was a small grassy meadow with these white hued baby blue eyes, nemophila menziesii atomaira, that tend to dominate in our region.

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Early onto the Grizzle Gulch Trail while steeply above the stream below I came upon a shady woodland zone with giant trillium, trillium chloropetalum, I'd seen just in bud mid February and was interested in exploring more. Indeed I could see a few of these magnificent plants both above and below the trail. This excellent group of three plants at right was right beside the trail.

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After hiking a mile and one-half up 800 feet, on my return as I stepped towards debris by the stream edge, I noticed something move towards a small log. And looking in saw a beautiful northern Pacific treefrog, pseudacris regilla, that have wonderful green hues, was peering back at me in the shadows. I wondered if there was a chance I might be able to take a picture. These frogs are rather spooky but in this case the little amphibian was about 6 feet from the creek and hesitant about moving from the shady cover of the log. After setting up my Benbo tripod and backing off, Greenie came out and after a round of my moving closer and it jumping back to the log, it settled out in the open where I managed the image at right that is actually a 100% crop from the full sized image.

Spring 2010 Wildflower Road Trips...page 3
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road Trips...page 1
Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles contents

   David Senesac
   email: sales@davidsenesac.com

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