Posts Tagged ‘Dragonflies’

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 boots, Windy Hill, Small animals

May 25, 2013

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Last weekend, I had new hiking boots, and set off on a 19-mile hike under the assumption that they were going to be just fine. Not!

REI took them back without a squawk, dusty as they were. What a great company! How many places would do that!

With a new, new pair of hiking boots today, I’m a little more cautious. I went to Windy Hill, whose short loop is about 8 miles, and whose long loop is about 12. As well as being able to turn around and go back, I can stitch these together to a total trek from roughly 8 to 24 miles, in 4-mile increments, assuming I go around not more than twice.

Bottom line: twice around, once on the outer loop, again on the inner loop. 15 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Sore medial malleolus of left tibia, until I loosened the laces. I think they will be okay.

It was chilly. I set off without a jacket, but there was enough wind that I went back to the car and put on my padded vest. Glad I had it; even in the afternoon, it was chilly.


The day started off with a dragonfly, considerately posing on the trail for photos. I hope no one steps on it.



When a millipede goes for a walk, it’s a really big deal! Either that, or it’s nothing to even think about. Or maybe both.


But when mom takes the kids for a walk… well, shouldn’t the kids do at least a little bit of the work?


By the way, this is a really special sighting, one that doesn’t happen very often at all!

She got tired of posing for photos and headed for a convenient hole at the side of the trail.



An unintended consequence, but a good one: minutes after she ducked into her hidey-hole, upward of a dozen runners came along the trail. I probably increased her odds of survival by several orders of magnitude.

The trail is indeed a pretty dangerous place. I noticed another millipede, squashed, an antique Packard beetle, squashed, a little snake, likewise, a lizard, flattened. Mountain bikies are worse than pedestrians because riders don’t see as much, and they flatten more territory.


It is the time for larvae and pupae.






I was thinking about the common and the rare small animals, and how they change, year by year. Some are obvious: last winter was relatively dry, and I find few banana slugs, scorpions and newts. But some animals vary a lot, for no apparent reason.

Assuming that I spend about the same amount of time, at about the same locations, the same seasons, the same time of day, and that I am no more nor less observant in one year than in another — questionable assumptions, all — assuming all that, I think there are radical changes in the population of small animals over time.

Some years, I see no tarantulas; some years there are dozens. This year, there seem to be very few snakes around; some years, there are lots: gopher snakes, rattlesnakes, even ringnecks, not all of them in the same years. Fewer snakes? I don’t even see very many snake tracks in the dust of the trail this year.


This year, there seem to be a lot of alligator lizards.

Some animals have found the area a congenial habitat recently. For example, it is only within the last five years, to pick a random number, that I have seen wild turkeys, and now they are quite common.


It is the season for moths. Lots of them flying in clouds. This one was on a moss-covered oak in the forest.


I stopped for calories at the top of the climb, second time around, and this little guy came out to cross the trail. Pretty! Notice the nozzle with which it can suck up nectar from flowers.


Finally, just before returning to the parking lot, I stopped at Sausal pond and waited quietly for whatever might be in the neighborhood.




I continue to boggle at the fact that the leading edge of a dragonfly’s wings are completely open, no membrane whatever. I wonder whether some aeronautical engineering student (or professor) has analyzed and simulated this with a view to using the idea in short takeoff or hovercraft.

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Small animals without killer hikes

May 12, 2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Yesterday, I needed to cover a certain distance, and although I noticed a lot of small animals, I didn’t really seek out the ones that weren’t obvious. It was also difficult to photograph them because of the wind.

Today, I went to Arastradero open space at 7 AM, resolved to go infinitely slowly and watch for small animals. especially near the water. If I get in a mile or two of hiking, that’s fine, but that’s not the point.


Today’s supply of small animals started straightaway, down the crack in the bench where I paused to lace up my shoes.


And it only got better. A 7-legged harvestman was perched atop the fence, just waiting the chance to be immortalized by the photographer.


I really like these little guys, not least because they are everywhere but largely unknown.


The fat abdomen suggests a female crane fly.


What a beautiful face!


With faces like that, it’s probably not surprising that they mate facing opposite directions. Notice the slender waist of the male.


These last two pictures from a pair I found at home.


Everyone out looking for a little sex.


Or a little food. This is one well-fed spider! Look at that hollowed-out aphid!


It’s also an ordinary day, on which one of the chores is to manage the livestock.


And if you happen to be delicious, to avoid being too visible.




The early birds get the dew.



And the late sleepers ought to be embarrassed! Who ever heard of a bee sleeping, and upside down at that!






As the morning warmed up, the small animals took shelter from the heat. By 10, I was ready to call it a day.


Mid-afternoon, I tried a run. I have had sore muscles for several weeks, and although I can hike and ride, the pain is exacerbated by running. But with effectively zero exercise the two previous weekends, I thought I’d give it a try.

About 4 miles to the nearby REI, running, feeling good, where I bought a new pair of hiking boots. The old ones are good friends, but they are coming apart at the seams.