Wednesday, July 24, 2013

habitat ~ 07/24/13 ~ Wilder Ranch State Park

 Wilder Ranch State Park
July 24, 2013

After looking at these pictures and reading past habitat posts (03/07/10 and 09/17/11), I realize that I haven't given Wilder Ranch a fair shake.  For a couple years there, Z kept asking me to go hiking with her here.  I always refused.  From a speeding car along Hwy 1, I totally judged this park by its roadside cover.  It looked like the trails were nothing but hot, sunny, dusty paths through dried grasses (eh).  Plus, it was obviously a crowded place, given the number of cars parked on the side of the road for the common practice of avoiding paying the State Park Day Use Fee. It took Andy's encouragement for me to finally check it out.  While Andy went off to do his typical trail run, I strolled around by myself.  This day's visit was wholly pleasant and meditative with few interruptions by other bikers, horseback riders, or hikers.  Waldeinsamkeit.  The Engelsmans Loop trail currently has a zigzag detour towards Peasley Gulch, which I think improves the interest level of the trail.  The diversity of habitats in such a relatively small area really struck me as being special.  Wilder Ranch has grown on me.  I'll have to visit again, sooner rather than later.

Per our usual when we drive the hour it takes to get to the Santa Cruz area across Monterey Bay, we made plans to eat out for lunch.  This time we went to the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers' Market, which is my favorite farmers' market for market variety, funky food vendors, and programs, like composting bins just for the weekly event (wish more markets did this!). While we waited for the market opening at 1:30, we discovered a new to us local coffee shop Verve.  Andy liked their short pull, while I enjoyed a refreshing homemade seasonal soda.  For dessert, we also discovered The Penny Ice Creamery, which has a booth at the market despite being located just down the street.  Both are places we will definitely patronize again.  Sometimes I think I could easily live up there, but then the heavier traffic stops me short.

deer mouse ~ 07/24/13 ~ Wilder Ranch

posted 08/01/13 - Even though it's dead, this mouse is pretty cute.  I thought it'd be easy to ID, but I was unaware of how many different kinds of mice there are.  Ignorantly based on the short tail length, I'm ruling out all kangaroo mice (not that they're found near here anyways) and pocket mice (Chaetodipus and Perognathus spp.) in the Heteromyidae family.  That leaves me with the extensive Muridae family. Erg. My only online land mammal references are the Smithsonian and the American Society of Mammologists, which are not very helpful in figuring out an ID, only confirming if you already know what you're looking at.  My CA field guides aren't much help, either.  My best wild guess is a juvenile deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus).  Can you ID?

I have to say, I'm feeling a little like this mouse right now.  I had a spectacular spill off my bicycle on Tuesday.  Andy claims I tumbled 20 feet downhill.  With a grade 2 shoulder AC separation and a badly road-rashed knee, I won't be going out for a while.  Bummer.

ps 08/03/13 - I've added in the ID with links under the picture.  Ken confirmed the ID in the comments.

woodland skipper ~ 07/24/13 ~ Wilder Ranch

Two little skippers sitting on a leaf, k, i, s, s...  Right before I took this picture, these two were flirting and dancing in the air.  Well, at least that's my guess.  It could have been a territorial fight?  However, I'm further guessing the individual on the bottom of the frame is a male, while the one above him is a female.  Look at the color of the antennal hooks.  The bottom one's is orange, while the top's is black. I couldn't find any references specifically to woodland skippers and sexual dimorphism in antenna color, but I did find a couple references stating they are apparently the most common butterflies to be found this time of year in western North America.  That's good to know.

Despite my love for butterflies, I generally tend to write off skippers.  Partly it's because I find them so difficult to ID on the wing.  There are so many different kinds of little orange and brown skippers out there, many found in the same location, perhaps only separated by temporal spaces.  I wonder why.  I mean, why aren't there many different kinds of buckeye butterflies, e.g.?  Or swallowtails?

Actually, before looking this ID up, I never heard of woodland skippers.  They're new to me.  For those who know of my proclivity for Lepidoptera, I first use Jeffrey Glassberg's Butterflies through Binoculars: The West, then confirm details online at sites I've embedded in the ID above.  This book is just the right level for most people who simply like butterflies.  Another Lepidopterist complained to me about the accuracy of his books, but they're field guides, for goodness sakes, not exhaustive checklists.  Jeffrey Glassberg broke new ground 20 years ago with his first Butterflies through Binoculars book covering the Boston-New York-Washington Region, which has since been reformatted into The East.  Without ever having met him (well, maybe I did once, but I don't recall specifically), he has influenced my appreciation for nature.  Thank you, Mr. Glassberg.