Saturday, February 22, 2014

habitat ~ 02/22/14 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

 Fort Ord National Monument - InterGarrison entrance

Andy wanted to run some trails, and I tagged along for the ride.  I don't enjoy running like he does, so we often do our own thing.  We've gotten pretty good at setting a time limit and meeting up at the end.  He only wanted to do an 1 1/2 hour run, but I asked to push it to 2 hours (he's so accommodating to my whims) because I thought I'd have plenty of early spring sightings to keep me busy.  Nope.  Oh sure, under the oaks there's a gorgeous flush of green grasses and poison oak, as expected, but out in the wide open spaces...  

... grey, dried, dead.  This year's record-breaking drought has bleached the landscape into a flat monotone wash.  It doesn't even pretend to have the usual golden winter tinge.  Shown here is one of the larger vernal pool sites at Fort Ord.  Um, nope.  To compare how wet this spot can be, check out the 2nd picture from my habitat post taken March 20, 2011.

I headed directly to a road lined with large lilac trees (Ceanothus sp.), because I was hoping to see blooms considering the Ceanothus in gardens around town are going gangbusters right now.  Um, nope, again.  Grey.  Dried.  Dead?  In my head, I rationalized the moderate amount of rain 2 weeks ago was enough to kick things into gear.  It looks like it's going to take a lot more rain to catch up to what I expect.  I'm hoping this is not becoming the new normal.

So, I'll admit I've been in a bit of a foul mood lately, which may just be an annual February thing, but... Argh!  Seriously?  Once again there are new closed trail signs, this time "No Trespassing", and once again they're being promptly vandalized.  Many of the metal signs were completely ripped off their hefty posts and tossed into the poison oak.  In the summer of 2009, the BLM first started adding "closed trail" stickers to their brown trail markers, which were ripped out by May 2010.  Then sometime during the winter of 2011-2012, somebody added new "area closed" red markers, which were defaced immediately by February 2012.  I say "somebody", because I'm not sure if it was the BLM or the owners of the neighboring private property, who apparently host bicycling races as I discovered this day with all the traffic.  Was there a transfer of land somewhere in the last 5 years?  I don't know.  You gotta figure the signs are spendy to make and install, and I just don't see how vandalizing them is productive in any way. There's obviously a kerfuffle going on.  Look at the tire tracks behind the sign.  There you go.

coast live oak ~ 02/22/14 ~ Fort Ord


I don't know why I keep getting tripped up on coast live oaks, as is evidenced by my past posts March 20, 2011 and March 11, 2012.  In the comments section, Cindy @ Dipper Ranch has provided quick tips on oaks, but my mental block around trees keeps me from remembering most of it.  I now know to look for "underarm hair" on the underside of leaves.  It seems to me that our CA native oaks have a greater degree of variation within spp. than between spp.  Every time I think I've found a different sp. of evergreen oak, it ends up being a coast live oak.  Ugh.  These two sets of photos are two trees growing about 20 feet apart.

Underarm hair?  Check.  But, look how smooth the trunk is, akin to how smooth the leaves are with very few points on the leaf margin.  I know the number of points can be variable, but the trunk, too?  Can anyone confirm for me that this is coast live oak?  Cindy?

For my future reference, and maybe yours, too:
California Oak Identification @ University of California Hastings Reserve
California Native Oaks @ Las Pilitas Nursery 
Oak Identification @ University of California Cooperative Extension, Marin County