Posts Tagged ‘Yellow star thistle’

Golden summer

July 3, 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

A couple days ago, I worked on yellow star thistle at Windy Hill open space preserve. This requires going off-trail into the tall grass, and I spent half an hour picking seeds out of my socks afterward. Today I tried a pair of gaiters that I have had for quite a while and possibly never worn before. They helped a lot, but I need to figure out how to properly fasten them down.

Los Trancos today, where I spent four hours, prevented hundreds of thousands of seeds from entering the next-generation ecosystem, and didn’t even make a dent. Foof! Only the photos made it worthwhile.

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From a distance, this looked like a fox lurking in the tall grass.

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I found two manti, this one in amongst the YST (that’s what we regulars call yellow-star thistle). There were probably a few thousand that I didn’t see, and if this one hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have seen it either.

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It wasn’t really happy about posing for photos, but I fired off fifty or eighty shots, and a few of them turned out not too bad.

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Later on, a big spider hiding behind a grass seed pod. If it can’t see me, I obviously can’t see it. When I worked around behind it, it scurried down the stem and disappeared on the ground.

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Hot day, hard work, good to bail out after a while and head for home.

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Bagging OSPs

July 13, 2014

Saturday, 12 July 2014

I had signed up for a volunteer project at Los Trancos open space preserve, but it ran from 9:30 to 2:30. I’m much earlier than that. Also, I’m in the process of hiking all of the trails in all of the Mid-peninsula regional open space district preserves. What could be more obvious? As soon as I had finished breakfast, I drove up the hill.

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On the trail by 7 AM. Cool and pleasant, a little fog on this side of the ridge, probably indicating heavy fog and overcast on the ocean side.

As I came around a curve in the trail, something dark ran across and down into the wood below. Too small to be a mountain lion, deer or coyote. The idea that came to mind was fox, and I did indeed see a fox around here once, many years ago. Not sure.

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By 9:30, I had hiked most of the trail, not all. The picture above shows the kind of thing I look for on trail patrol: fallen trees that block part or all of the path. My disreputable hat is to provide a sense of scale when the open space maintenance people look at the picture.

From the main parking area, the 9:30 volunteer group car-pooled down to the low end of the preserve and spent several hours working on yellow-star thistle. I did a yellow-star thistle project in another preserve, a year ago, and found it very discouraging because there was so much of it. Today’s area was first attacked eight years ago, and we were sweeping through open grassland looking for stragglers. And finding them, but few enough that we covered a lot of ground.

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Paul (above) discovered two straw mantis, and I found another. We would never see them if they didn’t move.

When finally we gave up for today, I skipped the car-pool, hiked back to the parking area. On the way back, the same (probably) fox was on the trail, ran along a hundred yard ahead of me for several seconds. Big bushy tail, as large as the rest of the animal. No question what it was. Cool!

Through judicious choice of trail, the afternoon return completes my effort to hike all the trails in this preserve (some of them three times over!). About 11.5 miles for the day, about 2000 feet of climb.

Sunday, 13 July

There is more low-hanging fruit in the idea of hiking all the trails in particular preserves. I started today by parking at the bottom of Old La Honda road and covering the Thornewood preserve.

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Yet another cool start in a beautiful mostly redwoods forest. The red in the distance is mostly poison oak, already calling it quits for the season. There are only two official trails in this preserve, plus a small lake, but there were a lot of side trails, and a pair of trails that are officially closed, although still showing evidence of use. I covered the entire place in considerable detail. A pretty place, although there are stream crossings that could be completely impassable in a wet winter.

Then I drove to Stevens Canyon park, where I left the car at the foot of the Bear Meadow trail in the Picchetti Ranch open space preserve. Hot and dry, nothing like as cool and pretty as Thornewood. I met a couple California forest fire fighters checking out the trail; I suppose they also explore to familiarize themselves with the terrain.

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Near the top, a view over the industrial quarry next to the zillion-dollar homes along Montebello road.

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The Picchetti winery still operates as a leasehold from the open space district. I stopped in to refill my badly depleted water bottle, with many thanks!

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They have a fair number of picnic tables here. One group spread out a picnic lunch and went inside for a little wine tasting. When you put out a picnic, you expect to have guests, right? Right.

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I was busy photographing the proceedings, not intervening, but one of the picnickers came out to rescue the food before it had been irretrievably lost.

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This area is heavily infested with yellow-star thistle.

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There are several insects that help control it. One of them is a weevil, of which we found a specimen yesterday (looking more like a large tick). There is also a peacock fly that does yeoman duty, but this turns out not to be one of them. They are said to have striped wings, and this little guy doesn’t qualify.

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I returned along Zinfandel trail, quite pretty.

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The trail back down left me a quarter mile from the trail up, where my car was, so there was a short walk along the road.

It was only 1 or so, but it was a hot day, I had put in another 11.5 miles, 2000 vertical feet, and the water bottle was empty. So instead of going on to another preserve, I called it a day. There are 26 preserves total, but I certainly won’t be able to knock off 3 every weekend!

Yellow star thistle and Mission peak

June 23, 2013

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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.

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

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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.

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Yellow star thistle

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Adult tarantula wasps are vegetarians.

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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.

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A hawk landed nearby and posed for pictures.

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

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Just below him, the Morton salt piles.

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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.

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

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