Sunday, March 7, 2010

habitat ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park
March 7, 2010

Thanks to stumbling upon an incredible blog post about fern ID from Town Mouse and Country Mouse, I was determined to see Fern Grotto in person. My pic looks significantly less lush than hers, which were taken only 9 or so days prior to mine. Recent high tides could have killed the ferns.

We had already made plans to hike at Wilder Ranch for my husband's big 40th. Yep, that's my favorite Mr. TrailRunner - instead of a big party, we went for a big hike and a quiet dinner at Asian Rose (a yummy - IF you know which items to order - Sri Lankan vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz that sadly no longer serves budget-conscious lunches... btw, we're not vegan, but we seek tasty food).

I've never been to Wilder Ranch myself; previously, I visited the monarchs at nearby Natural Bridges State Park while he started his runs from NB's Nature Center parking lot. Based on TM&CM's pics, I expected lush fern and redwood trails like those found at another nearby State Park, Nisene Marks... which reminds me I have yet to post any hiking pics from either place. Instead, I found windswept, coastal bluff trails similar to those found at MontaƱa de Oro State Park, much further south.

Did I mention it was very windy on the bluffs at Wilder Ranch? It's amazing how strong winds can drain you of energy. This was the same trail where we spotted anise swallowtails.

After a light lunch and a nice visit with the farm house's orange cat, we crossed through a tunnel under Highway 1 to checkout the Cowboy Trail. Fortunately, after confirming the bridges were indeed flooded on that small trail, we proceeded up the Engelsmans Trail. Then the clouds started rolling in. This pic was taken looking back towards the ocean and where we had been hiking along the bluffs a couple hours earlier.

At a trail crossing (which always reminds me of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"), we took a short side loop on the Wild Boar Trail. This is where I spotted irises, a yet-unID'ed blue flower, warty ceanothus, and more. We greeted several mountain bikers, but no other hikers.

We didn't take the trail in this pic, but I loved the vista and the old stone wall. For some reason, it reminded me of my fantasies of what the UK countryside might superficially look like.

One last addition... The summer of 2008 was the year of massive and prolific fires in the area and across California. Search online for Bonny Doon or Big Sur fires if you're interested in the details. The only evidence of fire that my novice eye noticed was a length of charred fence posts. I was hoping to spot fire poppies, but I think I'm a year too late to see these rare, post-fire flowers.

wavyleaf soap plant & sun cup ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch

wavyleaf soap plant and sun cup
Chlorogalum pomeridianum and Camissonia ovata
Asparagaceae (formerly Agavaceae, Hyacinthaceae, & Liliaceae) and Onagraceae

posted 07/30/11 - I'm posting this as evidence that I've seen soap plant growing just down the trail from where death camas also grows.

Fremont's star-lily ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch

Fremont's star-lily / Fremont's death camas
Toxicoscordion fremontii (formerly Zigadenus fremontii)
Melanthiaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

I wanted to call this Fremont's star lily, but now that I've looked into it some, I can't be sure of the species. Anyone have any suggestions for positive ID? It's also called death camas, because the leaves and bulbs are apparently toxic to humans and livestock. And, it was everywhere along our hike at Wilder Ranch.

ps 03/10/11 & edited 07/26/11 - I'm finally getting around to posting a firm ID and correcting the changes in genus and family names. I think I originally had this posted as a generic Zigadenus sp. I have to say I'm not 100% positive about this or any of my Fremont's star-lily posts. I'm not a botanist and don't generally key out, so I compare lots of pictures. There seems to be just as much variation within species as there is between species. Thanks to NatureShutterbug for explaining the relative lengths of stamens and perianth are key to a few. Here's a list of Toxicoscordion found in CA with embedded links and my made-up notes:

desert death camas (T. brevibracteatum
- south/desert, yellowish-green, flowers sparse and spread out, nothing else looks like this

giant death camas (T. exaltatum)
- scattered/Sierra Nevada foothills, flowers spread out all along stalk, or large individual flowers

marsh zigadene (T. fontanum) used to be Z. micranthus var. fontanus
- *coast ranges, stamens ± = perianth, flowers spread out, taller than T. micranthum

Fremont's death camas (T. fremontii)
- *western 1/3 of CA,
stamens ± 1/2 perianth, variable, often with small unbloomed cone hat

smallflower death camas (T. micranthum) use to be
Z. micranthus var. micranthus
- north coast ranges, stamens ± = perianth, flowers loose, shorter than T. fontanum

panicled death camas (T. paniculatum)
- north, each branch has a bunch of flowers, often ragged edged petals

meadow death camas (T. venenosum)
*north/coast/Sierra Nevadas, stamens = or > perianth, often with long unbloomed cone hat

* Found in areas I'd likely hike from home, south of San Francisco to Big Sur and inland to Pinnacles.
rosy sandcrocus
Romulea rosea var. australis

ps 05/15/10 - I've been looking for this ID ever since a friend from Santa Cruz wondered what it was last year. Thanks to Flickr Califlora's (NOT the Calflora) CA Wildflower ID Help Line, I discovered the identity. It's a native of South Africa.
Coast Range fence lizard with a tick
Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii

This fellow was pretty content sunning himself on a bridge and didn't seem to mind me taking pictures so close. Since I've added so many posts recently, I'm starting to get lazy and not actually look things up for scientific name and links to info sites. It's probably a run of the mill western fence lizard, but I have such a hard time identifying them.

ps 05/04/10 - Thanks to a series of blog comments, I started looking into my lizard IDs. What confused me before was trying to ID for Mariposa and San Benito Counties where there are other species, and I tend to make things harder than they need to be. I'm fairly confident about this ID, a subspecies of the western fence lizard.

So, what got me looking into this, was John Wall's tick post. He provided a link to one of his pics of a lizard with ticks on it! Way cool! I reveiwed my lizard pictures and wouldn't you know it, I think the one above has a tick, too! Thanks to my handy dandy new iMac, I can zoom in on the picture. Or is that just some odd lizard anatomy where an ear should be? I had a hard time finding any solid information on lizard ears. Everything is so generalized that the information really isn't information at all. I did find this odd site Absolute Astronomy that actually said the ticks like to feed near the lizard ears. One last note, apparently when ticks feed on lizards, the Lyme disease bacteria dies. Why?

Douglas iris
Iris douglasiana

There were only a couple small spots of the Douglas iris on the Engelsmann and Wild Boar trails at Wilder Ranch. I am amazed by the color variation for this species.

bull thistle ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch


I never really paid attention to thistles before this year. They're not as difficult to identify as I first thought. I was surprised to find out this is not native.

anise swallowtail ~ 03/07/10 ~ Wilder Ranch

anise swallowtail
Papilio zelicaon

Shown here is the yellow-form anise swallowtail. This butterfly appeared mostly black when flying with strong flashes of buttery-yellow stripes, which is interesting because I generally think of anise swallowtails as being black butterflies anyways. Apparently, the black-form is not as common. I dare anyone to find me a correctly identified black-form anise swallowtail through google images. (Sorry, Art Shapiro, but google thinks your image of a P. indra is a P. zelicaon!)

We spotted three anise individuals along the path to Fern Gully at Wilder Ranch. Like some other butterflies and many dragonflies, they seemed to be a bit territorial to me. They flew very quickly back and forth in a jagged flight over a fixed, sunny 30 yard spot, coming to check us out (even flying between us), and swirling in frantic pairs off the cliff until one would finally fly away. Check out Glassberg's comparison of hilltopping to singles' bars in Butterflies through Binoculars: The West - it's very entertaining! I'm sure I've mentioned previously on Nature ID my frequent observations of how humans act similarly to the animals they love to describe.

As a side note, I've linked to Art's site again in the scientific name above. I'm finding that I prefer his site over the Butterflies and Moths of North America site (linked in the common name), because Shapiro provides better details specific to CA.