Saturday, February 18, 2012

habitat ~ 02/18/12 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

Fort Ord Public Lands - InterGarrison entrance
February 18, 2012

Lately, I've been trying to focus on the positive on Nature ID and was hoping if I waited a few days to post about this excursion, my grumpy attitude would mellow out. Unfortunately, I still have pet peeves to report from this hike, and those pet peeves are more hot to me than describing my other photos.

Right as we pulled into the very limited sandy parking at InterGarrison, we met a couple of dogs off leash. As soon as I got out of the car, one promptly stuck its slobbery nose up where it didn't belong, and the other pooped not more than a few feet away in the sand (I was very careful not to step in the steaming pile of poo). I don't blame the dogs. I blame the dogs' owner. The regulation of having a dog under voice command does not mean a verbal remonstration after the fact of "Bad Barkie, leave the nice lady alone!" Plus, the owner made no movements to pick up after his other pet. (Oh, did I mention he was a mountain biker? I'll get to that in a mo'.) At the very least, I'm glad none of the dogs jumped into my car, which Andy experienced a little more than a year ago. When Andy tried to get Lola out of his car, he ended up with his 3rd worst poison-oak rash ever. His arms oozed for weeks thanks to a careless dog owner who couldn't find her way on the trails, let alone find her own dog. Given my last several encounters with dogs on trails (muddy footprints all over me, scaring me during my first ever bobcat encounter, pooping not 3 feet away in the ocean waves from my friend's toddler, and other incidents), really, I do like dogs... just not run amok where common courtesy seems to be forgotten.

There was a ton of poop on the trails. With minimal rain this season, poop seems to be holding its shape pretty well with fuzzy mold. Some were obviously from wild animals with bits of red berries in them, but I'm guessing most were from dogs. Does anyone know how to tell dog and coyote poop apart? Several bikers had dogs with them, and I can't imagine that they would stop their bike to pick up after their pet. As the biker in the parking area demonstrated, he wasn't the least bit concerned about cleaning up after his dog. All that dog poop has got to have a negative impact on the wildlife and the environment.

So, speaking of bicyclists, check out the bright red trail marker above. Can you also see the clear bike tire treads? These trail markers are new within the past couple of months. It's supposed to say "Area Closed," but it's already been defaced. These trails were closed 2 1/2 years ago, and even then the markers were promptly defaced or ripped out of the ground completely. Oh, did I mention? I witnessed the same dog/bike loving fellow promptly go down a brightly marked red trail to enjoy the beauty that is Fort Ord. If he and his cohorts continue, the place may not be so beautiful in the coming years. Considering there are still UXOs being found on previously opened trails, this could be really dangerous. Andy and I don't understand this behavior. We consider it a privilege, not a right, to have access to these lands.

edited 02/25/12 - Now that my rant is done, I've added descriptions for the rest of the photos:

vernal pool

There's a new definition of dry this year. I passed 3 vernal pools during my hike, and they were all this brown without a lick of water. Even on August 4, 2010 there was more green here. To see how filled with water the vernal pools can be, check out my March 20, 2011 post. Let's do a rain dance to get a flood of rain in March and April. Interestingly, I heard several frogs during this hike. I don't know where they'll lay eggs if there isn't some rain soon.

green grass under coast live oak

For how dry it was, I was impressed there were areas of new green under the tree canopies. The tree provides shade and extra moisture collection from fog and rain to the understory. I've asked this before, but what's the term for this natural occurrence? Is it a combination of throughfall and fog interception?

rototilled ground

While there are skunks and badgers at Fort Ord, I think the likely candidate that did this were wild California pigs (Sus scrofa), an odd cross between feral domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar. They've only been seen at Fort Ord since 2004, and more than a hundred have been trapped since 2006. While I've never seen them, Andy has seen several during his many trail runs at Fort Ord.

dusky-footed woodrat house
Neotoma fuscipes

Normally, I'd have this as its own post, but now I'm starting to see dusky-footed woodrat houses as indicators of certain habitats. I most often see them in heavily forested coast live oak areas. I rarely see just one house, and more often than not there's a whole complex of multiple houses. The king of woodrat blogging is Nature of a Man. Check out his blog!

Fort Ord Army Lands

This picture was taken very near where I saw an incredible display of Indian warriors on March 20, 2011. There's a new Fort Ord map as of last September, but we believe it's already out of date. They've done quite a bit of new trail building that will make it easier to get from the BLM InterGarrison side through open Army Lands to the BLM Creekside entrance. I'm not quite sure what this corridor was since it's not a trail; I suspect it was a temporary road that was used for equipment to build the new trails. It's been exciting to see all the work being done to convert Fort Ord into a public access space. I just hope people can respect the land, the life, and the rules so that everyone can enjoy it for years to come.

ps 02/28/12 - Given my pet peeves above, particularly pets on public lands, Shaina of Middle of Everywhere has a decent post about where this might head.

pss 03/14/12 - Well, here's a different idea - just throw the poo into the bushes according to Rambling on...

kestrel ~ 02/18/12 ~ Fort Ord

male American kestrel
Falco sparverius

Yup, I've reached a new low (or is that high?) for crappy photos, especially of birds. Never mind the massive early-blooming silver bush lupine, the coyote brush, the coast live oak, or the dried bit of telegraph weed, there is a kestrel in this pic. Can you find it? Perched on the coyote brush?

When we went to Palo Corona back on January 2, 2012, I spotted several kestrels and was unable to capture any pictures of them. I love how brightly colored the males are with their light-colored breast, slate grey wings, and brown backs. The mere fact that I can actually recognize them is because I've flipped through every single page of the handful of bird books I now have in my possession (some are on permanent loan from a dear friend). It's a sharp learning curve for me to ID birds, but it's been fun.

fuchsia-flowered gooseberry ~ 02/18/12 ~ Fort Ord

fuchsia-flowered gooseberry
Ribes speciosum

We seem to see fuchsia-flowered gooseberries at all of our favorite spots, from sandy Fort Ord to the inland hills of Garland Ranch. It's an extraordinarily spiny plant and best avoided while hiking. The bright red flowers remind me of Asian lanterns. There are 52 native spp./ssp. of Ribes in CA. The gooseberry and currant flowers can be quite showy and beautiful. I want to start recognizing some of the other spp., like R. californicum (CA gooseberry), but I suspect whenever I've seen them I may have figured they were garden escapees and simply ignored them.