Tuesday, April 22, 2014

habitat ~ 04/22/14 ~ Pinnacles National Park - west

Pinnacles National Park - west entrance

There may have been a tiny amount of precipitation overnight resulting in a rather chilly morning and forecasts for sunny skies by noon with wind gusts.  The wind is not ideal for butterfly watching and challenging, at best, for flower photos.  I went ahead with my plans once it hit 60°F mid-morning, because I was curious to see any changes in flora, greenery, and water in one week's time, for the second week in a row.  I want the experience to feel and observe first-hand the seasonal passage of time, something that's difficult to discern daily and easier to notice on a weekly basis.  Like I said before, Pinnacles is far enough away from home for me to really note the difference.  I've been intrigued by phenology ever since biobabbler mentioned the word 4 years ago on her blog.  I never knew it was a thing with an -ology name before.  I'm still brainstorming and following the proverbial path at my feet.  Plus, I love being outside this time of year.  It was a gorgeous, crystal clear day.

I gotta say, as someone who has been to Pinnacles 4 times this month alone, if you want to see CA spring wildflowers, visit the west side right now!  Do not pass go, do not wait a week, do it now.  The noticeable uptick in floral diversity and density compared to last week really impressed me.  The Juniper Canyon Trail is the showstopper.  In addition to the 2 weeks or more of blooming Johnny jump up, goldfields, lomatium, tufted poppy, CA poppy, buttercup, common monkeyflower, wallflower, cream cup, blue elderberry, blue dick, shooting star, delphiniums, Chinese houses, both blue and white fiesta flowers, woodland star, milkmaids, miner's lettuce, linanthus, saxifrage, and buck brush, the new appearances this week are Fremont's star lily, fiddlenecks, fringepods, phacelia, crinkled onion, tower mustard, stonecrops, and a pretty face relative.  Phew!  Plus, there are some unusual findings on the higher trails, like bitter root, but you've got to go find them yourself.  It's National Park Week, btw. 

I'm beginning to think this is the drought version of peak spring green, right here, right now.  At the 9 mile turn towards Pinnacles, the hills are already turning a reddish brown, which was not the case last week.  It remains relatively green closer to the park entrance.  Who knows if any additional rain will alter this seasonal shift.  The creek along my butterfly highway is no longer running, but there are a couple scummy puddles of water.  That was quick, only 8 weeks of moving water.

For all my Pinnacles temperature links on Nature ID (there are several, because it gets hot, hot, hot in the summer), I've used an online personal weather station, Pinnacles CA US on Weather Underground.  However, wunderground.com has recently updated its site, and my old links don't work quite right.  Grrr.  Paul has been encouraging me to use the National Weather Service.  As of 7:00 am, there was an 11°F current temperature difference between the two stations.  Wunderground matched what Paul said the reading was at his office a few hours later, but NWS still ran colder.  I kinda recall this discrepancy 5 years ago when I picked a station.  By Paul's description, the NWS station may be at a higher elevation.  I may resort to tossing a thermometer out in the shade when I arrive and take a second reading when I leave, use the Beaufort scale to estimate wind, and note sky conditions.  That's what I did for Sonja on both her moth and butterfly surveys.  I'll have to ask Art Shapiro how he handles his weather records when I take him out next month to one of his butterfly sites; he's quite proficient in meteorology and is likely versed in how to link the data to butterfly observations beyond the antecdotal.  Butterflies can be rather particular about weather (sounds like me), and more than any other -ists that I know (besides meteorologists, duh), lepidopterists watch the temperature, wind, and barometric pressure very closely.

Oh!  I saw 13 pale swallowtails, plus 2 more by Soledad.  That may be the most I've ever seen in a couple hours' time.  I also saw my first acmon of the year.

And, as a last note, I finally noticed the micro-trash confetti Easter egg signs in the bathroom.  I think they were there last week, but I wasn't paying attention (haha, scary thought when I go out to observe).  I hadn't given it much thought since it's not a part of my tradition, but I went to Toro County Park the day before and saw what a massive mess it creates.  Aren't there animals that like to pick up shiny objects?  I bet there are some well-decorated nests and middens all across CA now.