Archive for June, 2013

Heat wave — Purisima

June 29, 2013

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I volunteered for trail maintenance today, but with the heat wave warning, the outing was cancelled. I only found out when I got to the rendezvous area at El Corte de Madera open space preserve. Having already driven to Skyline, I just went on up to Purisima for a short hike.

I have only a small water bottle, and it’s very hot even at Purisima, so maybe I’ll only hike out the North Ridge trail and back. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the dead end of this trail before.


Nice view of Half Moon bay, the surf of Mavericks visible to the left of the point.


Today’s collection of small animals were all flying creatures.


I like the way this one (above) rolls up its proboscis when there’s no nectar to be had.


The eye appears to be a thin surface laid over the hairy back of the head (above); even in the shot below, the eye almost looks detachable. But I really like the elaborate antenna here, not to mention the flexible proboscis drinking straw.

P1030514  P1030543


Even the grasshopper is photogenic.

The trail is not as forested as I had expected, and it was very hot. And there were sections of steep loose rock, and poison oak growing over the trail. So I got somewhere near the dead end of the trail, but finally declared victory and retreated, sucking the last of my limited water supply by the time I returned to the parking lot.

Yellow star thistle and Mission peak

June 23, 2013


I got a hummingbird feeder to experiment with my new camera. A few shots here. I think the one above is a male, all ruffled out to show off his plumage. The one below would presumably be the female, not very much impressed.


Interesting how a slight shift in the direction of the light makes a radical difference in the colour of the feathers. Iridescence!


Saturday, 22 June 2013

I volunteered to put in a few hours work for the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District today. Pulling up thistle at Russian Ridge, especially yellow-star thistle, which is highly invasive.


Yellow star thistle


You can see where it gets its name. These photos were from Sunol on Sunday:

Sunday, 23 June

Went to Mission peak, hiked over the ridge to Sunol, up Flag Hill, and back. Almost 19 miles, almost 5000 feet of climb. The new boots were not ideal, but they were okay.


The day was chilly, foggy, condensing enough that I stowed my camera in my backpack for a while. It was windy crossing the top of the ridge, and then I went down the east side, where it was a little quieter.




This memorial to someone’s good friend Rocky has been posted on a tree in the back country for a while now. Nice, and I’m glad no one has torn it down.


There are a couple of trees on the approach to Sunol, flat-topped, something like a gallows, in fact, where the TuVus like to hold court.


This is a great photo, even if I have to say so myself!

I went on up Flag Hill, another 4 miles or so, and 1000 feet of climb, which changes this from an industrial strength hike to a killer hike.


They talk about earth tones being pretty, and they’re right.


I saw a couple of tarantula wasps. At least I think that’s what they are.


They look for tarantula burrows, but will sometimes settle for a large wolf spider. The female stings the tarantula, which paralyzes it. She lays her eggs on the spider, and when they hatch, dinner is served.


Adult tarantula wasps are vegetarians.



The poison oak flowers are especially prolific this year, more than I recall from ever before.

Still cloudy, but at least Mission Peak was no longer fogged in. Lots of people out enjoying the coolth of the day.



A hawk landed nearby and posed for pictures.


It was windy at the ridgecrest, and several hang gliders were showing their stuff.


Just below him, the Morton salt piles.


And here, we see him to the left of the Tesla factory on the near shore, with the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct crossing in the background, the the Hoover tower of Stanford University just visible in the upper left corner.


And there were several adult wild turkeys with their chicks. The chicks were the size of a chicken or a duck. Big birds.


Splish-splash, taking a bath!

June 16, 2013

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Jacky and I walked down to the new Palo Alto breakfast house, which just opened in midtown. Not bad; we’ll be back.

Jacky went on to the gym, and I walked to the baylands, around the loop from the Mountain View pond to the Palo Alto duck pond and behind the airport and golf course. Another 13 miles on top of yesterday’s hike; it was about 2 miles further than I really wanted to walk, but who’s counting.

Amongst plenty of other shorebirds, it was pelican day. This one was having a wonderful time (camera in burst mode, so this is close to real-time).

















And that coy little look over the shoulder, “Hopelessly spoiled? Who, me?”

Wunderlich — El Corte de Madera Creek

June 15, 2013

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Left the car at the Wunderlich parking lot. Starting at 7:15, I hiked up the hill and down the other side in El Corte de Madera Creek open space preserve. Mountain bike heaven, although there was less traffic than I feared.


The small animals department was a little thin today. I thought the west side of the ridge would be more lush, but it’s far enough from the fog zone and the ocean that it’s pretty much the same as the east side, dry and dusty.

I think I have been to the tafoni area before, but it was many years ago, and I don’t remember anything about it. So I checked it out.


According to the bumpf, this is formerly submerged sandstone in which acidic water differentially dissolved calcium from some areas and either carried it away or deposited it in other areas. The calcium-rich areas do not erode as rapidly as the rest of the rock.



I have always just called these letterboxes, but the official name is tafoni. Very nice.






I hiked the Resolution trail, named for an aircraft that crashed here in October, 1953. It was a DC6 called the Resolution, inbound from Hawaii. The coast and ridge were fogged in, and in the days before radar navigation, and certainly before GPS, the pilots appear to have mistaken where they were. There were of course no survivors.


After seeing a giant salamander nearby two weeks ago, I had to hike the giant salamander trail here. Didn’t see anything along the trail, but the subsequent Timberview trail runs along a tiny creek, and I bet these little guys are giant salamander juveniles. One indication is the vertical tail fin.



A young water-strider turns lightly to thoughts of love.


At the top of Methusaleh trail is the Methusaleh tree, just east of Skyline. According to the sign, it is estimated to be 1800 years old, and has a ground-level diameter of 14 feet.



It isn’t tafoni, but the slate is pretty interesting, too.

First killer hike with the new boots, 22 miles,  4700 feet of gain. They still make my feet sore, but they’re getting better.

Grant Ranch

June 9, 2013

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Saturday was hot, hot, hot, so I went for a bike ride rather than a long hike. The air motion was enough to keep me comfortable. Sunday was to be much cooler, so I thought I’d try Grant ranch. I haven’t been here for quite a while, and I need to keep negotiating with the new boots.


The grass is mostly golden from a distance, but some of the fluffy parts are nicely coloured.


In areas with a bit more moisture, there are still quite a few wildflowers.


And where there is a stream in winter, we find a muddy patch today, swarming with butterflies nozzling up the water.


I stopped at a little pond to see what there was to see. The tadpoles all have legs!



The one above still has quite a cape, if that’s what we agree to call it.


The bottom of the pond, halfway house.


This little frog is so cool, just hanging out there.


While these two have an insect buffet to choose from.


There are insects in the pond, too.


Some of them having a grand time!


The high point was the helicopter attack. Really impressive!




Leaving the pond, I found what looks very much like lady-bug larvae. Usually they hang out near a colony of aphids (yum!), but I didn’t see any.


I was getting tired, the boots weren’t cooperating very well, and I was a little concerned about running out of water. So I dropped down into the central picnic area of the park and walked back to the car along the road. Takes about 5 miles and a thousand vertical feet off the hike, leaving me with a bit less than 17 miles, 3200 feet of climb.

New camera, new boots, giant salamander, banana slug porn: Purisima

June 3, 2013

I found this beautiful little guy, with the bug eyes, on the window frame outside the back door.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

It was to be a hot day again, so I went out fairly early, drove up the hill to  Purisima Redwoods open space preserve. I took no jacket, and it was foggy. Thought I might have a problem with chill and rain, but the parking lot was above the fog, and as I descended the west side of the ridge, the fog burned away before me. Cool all day, very nice.


I am experimenting with the new camera. What can it do?


I have to say, I’m not disappointed.




I often hike Purisima as an add-on to a hike that comes up from the east side of the ridge, making it a killer hike. And as part of a killer hike, I don’t explore the side trails.

But today, with only Purisima on my plate, I decided to hike up Borden Hatch Mill trail and back down Grabtown Gulch trail, an add-on of 4 miles, 1000 feet of climb. That makes the total 15 miles, 3600 feet of climb. Too bad I also didn’t bring along any calories. By the time I got back to the parking lot, I was dragging a little.


But I’m very glad I did the detour. I have been looking for a giant salamander for years, and have only ever found one before, incidentally, also here at Purisima. On today’s detour, what should I find but my second one ever! Cool!


A millipede crossed directly under the salamander’s nose. I thought for a moment that the salamander might lunch on it, but they ignored each other completely. This could have been because the salamander was wary of me, or it could have been because millipedes taste horrible. I posted six seconds of rather poor video here.

There is a Giant Salamander trail at El Corte de Madera open space preserve, just a bit further along the ridge, but Corte Madera is mountain bike heaven, and Darwin probably doesn’t favor a strategy of freezing in place when a threat comes along.

As I topped out on the climb and started down Grabtown Gulch trail, I came upon a pair of banana slugs engaged in heavy making out. I watched them for quite a while, but they had more patience than I did, and they never consummated the relationship, not while I was watching.


You need to understand two things about banana slugs: first, they are hermaphrodites; second, the genital opening (anal as well) is there toward the rear of the carapace. So chasing each other’s tails around in circles is just foreplay.

What I don’t know is whether they fertilize each other, or whether the eggs mature at different times, so that one of them plays the role of female in a given mating.


What they do is stroke each other with their mouths, from the carapace along the side of the body, all the way back. I suppose this is immensely erotic for both parties.





If their faces (such as they are)  accidentally come into contact, they pull in their horns and swerve away. No kissing.

Well, as I say, they had all day, and I fully sympathize with the joy of taking all the time in the world. But I didn’t have all the time in the world, so I eventually went on.


Came upon another pair later on, curled up tight. Maybe this couple is consummating their relationship? No, don’t think so.


At least the view into the genital pore shows something. Eggs, maybe?

I also shot a lot of video footage, which I may use if I ever see a pair actually concluding The Act.


The fog had burned off to the coast, and while it was still chilly in the shade, it was warm in the sun. Still experimenting with the camera, I shot this butterfly from a distance of five or six feet.


I had also stowed my Birkenstocks in my backpack, in case the new hiking boots were going to be recalcitrant, but they were okay.

Heritage Grove redwoods, Sam McDonald park

June 1, 2013

I got a new camera. I had been contemplating the idea for a while, and the trip to the beach a week or three ago triggered the event. The sand was blowing so hard that it scratched the lens, not much, but enough, and the zoom motor started making sandy noises… Time for a new one: a Lumix FZ200.

P1010038 FZ200

One of the first things to do was to look for an interesting small animal… This big guy cooperated by perching on the window screen long enough for me to take pictures, with the new camera (above) and the old. New is just fine, thank you.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

It was to be a hot day, so Jacky and I started fairly early, drove to Heritage Grove redwoods, near the bottom of West Alpine road, and hiked from there to Sam McDonald park, around the forest loop and then back, about 7.7 miles. (By the way, Sam McDonald’s story, at the link above, is worth reading.)


Pretty country, and until the last half hour or so, we met no one on the trail. Too bad for them; they missed a nice day in beautiful country.


Some of this country is second-growth redwood forest, which means that the original trees were logged, and what we have now is, in many cases, a ring of daughter trees that sprouted from the roots of the original, which remains visible as a stump.


I was of course watching for small animals. Mostly, we saw banana slugs, but there were a few others around, to reward the sharp eye. It’s rare to see millipedes on leaves; usually they remain in the duff on the forest floor.


Not sure whether this beetle is eating fungus; it could well be a banana slug.




I usually don’t like to take pictures of dead animals, but this one was interesting enough to make an exception. For whatever reason, it died during the molt process, whether because it got stuck in its old shell or for some other reason.



There was only about one opportunity to pull a loose large chunk of bark from a fallen tree, but I was well rewarded by the one I found.


I have always wondered what larval centipedes look like, and I think I finally found one. It has too many projections to be an insect larva.