Sunday, September 22, 2013

autumn thoughts

September 22, 2013

I feel like autumn arrived 3 weeks early this year.  Does anyone else feel like that, too?  I can't really put my finger on why.  Maybe it was the sound of the waves crashing earlier than I expected?  Or maybe it was my first seasonal sighting of a Townsend's warbler on 09/15/13, a whole month earlier than I've seen them previously (Roberson states wintering extremes run from early September to mid-April)?  Or maybe my strong yearning to see autumn rain is so much so that I'm hoping the late summer dry season could just hurry up and be over?  I'm getting impatient.  The sweet half hour of rain on Saturday was not enough to quench my thirst.

In any case, early Sunday morning while sipping coffee, Andy and I groggily discussed where we wanted to go for a hike.  Elkhorn Slough got tossed out, because it just didn't capture our fleeting interest - although it'd probably be fabulous for migrating birds starting about now.  I tend to avoid extremely dry and dusty Fort Ord this time of year, too.  Andy has been running enough at Jacks Peak lately that he didn't want to head there.  I suggested Mt. Madonna, because I figured the shady hills could provide us relief from the 70+°F heat predicted for the day.  Andy disagreed and thought it'd be blazing hot on the inland side of the mountain.  So, we settled on Garzas Creek with the promise of Jefferey's for breakfast.  I'm a little impressed and a little disturbed that we can rattle off various local places to hike and take a pick depending on the season and our finicky desires.

Our first observation when we got out of the car was how the oaks had a healthy crown of leaves, in stark contrast to the bare stripped branches we saw the last time we visited 10/14/12.  There were no oak moths to be found today.  I was expecting this to happen based on what I've read about oak moths.  Does anyone knows why oak moth populations crash after a couple years?

I have to say, I'm in awe with how much Garzas Creek blatantly changes through the seasons and from year to year.  Here on the coast with evergreen oaks and conifers bathed in moderate year-round temperatures, seasons are not always quite so obvious as it is at Garzas.  I've linked to past posts for photo comparisons below. 

(compare to second photo 11/19/11)

I'm starting to prefer the little redwood groves we have down here compared to the big monotonous forests starting around Santa Cruz going north.  I like the variety interspersed with oak/bay and maple/sycamore areas.  This trail is absolutely gorgeous when the leaves change colors and drop.

(compare to third photo 11/11/10)

It's difficult to tell for sure, but I think there's even less water this year than last year.  They take the footbridges out mid-November, which makes me wonder about the seasonal timing of the Creek. Does it always dry out, except for small pools of standing water here and there?  And, what's the typical timing?  How many rains before it starts running again?

(compare to first photo 07/14/11)

I was actually surprised to see all the dried buckeye leaves.  When everything is green the proliferation of buckeye trees is not as obvious.  I never really noticed them here before.  We usually hike here a little later than this in October or November, so the leaves would have already dropped.  I heard somewhere that buckeyes drop their leaves based on water (summer deciduous) and not light (autumn deciduous), like many other trees.  Is that true?

(compare to third photo 10/14/12)

Again, notice how the oaks are all intact and not ravaged by oak moths?  Looking back through these photos, I'm struck by how green it was.  Now, if it weren't for the dogs that jump all over you ("should be under owner control" - Ha!), Garzas could easily be my new favorite place to hike.

fence lizard ~ 09/22/13 ~ Garland Ranch

Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii

We've had the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 for 9 years now, and we just discovered a new automated macro feature.  Yep.  The more we look for a new camera, the more we like the one we already have.  

Once again, I was surprised to find juvenile fence lizards this time of year.  I don't know why it's still a surprise when I've seen them at Fort Ord in August a couple times before.  When do they hatch and how big are they?

And, yes, for some reason I cannot resist picking up little lizards.