Thursday, May 21, 2015

2nd Orchid of the Season!

The Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, is the second orchid I've spotted blooming the season.  The first was the Mountain Lady's-slippers, Cypripedium montanum, that's been around for a couple of weeks now.  There could be many other orchids blooming around the county, such as the California Lady's Slippers down on the Caribou Road.  But, my driving range is rather limited these days to American Valley and vicinity, so I get excited about each new species blooming.
We've some pretty good rain this past week and more is expected.  That makes me think of all the seeds that have postponed germinating that might now be giving the season a second thought.  June could be a great month of delayed gratification for wildflower aficionados.
I took the above photo this afternoon on a deer trail in the dark forest above the FRC main parking lot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Celebration of Water, II

My previous post included views of three local lakes.  The water in a lake is obvious.  What is not so obvious is ground water.  Unless you're a well driller or a hydrologist, you may not be in the habit of noticing above-ground symptoms of water beneath the surface.  The above photo is of a dense patch of Lemmon's Wild Ginger growing in a creek bed on the FRC campus.  There's no visible water flowing in the creek bed, but there must be plenty just beneath the surface to support the ginger as well as lots of Corn Lilies, ferns, and White Alder. 
This close-up of the ginger leaves shows how the flowers, which grow out of the bases of the stems, are completely hidden unless one parts the leaves.
I parted nearly every pair of leaves and found fresh-looking flowers blooming on nearly every plant.
Across the paved walkway from the patch of ginger is a ditch in which the creek has been confined in order to build the large playing field we call the "lower green."  The ditch has a slightly visible flow of surface water.  Enough to support a dense crop of aquatic buttercups, Horsetails, various sedges, and Forget-Me-Nots.
At the edges of the creek bed (ditch) are Deerbrush, and on this damp morning there was plenty of dew on the leaves.
There is a rock missing from the large stone fireplace near the Campus Center, and it took very little dirt and water for the cavity to sprout a healthy-looking patch of Burr Clover.  This "weed" is a close relative of Alfalfa.  With graduation coming in a couple of days, I figure the weed eaters will discover it and eat it. 
Looking across the expanse of grass known as the green, one sees a patch of Black Cottonwood, a definite sign of water just below of the surface.  This looks to me like the path the creek used to take and is intent on using again.  For now, it's a stand-off.  We keep mowing, killing gophers, and maintaining the "integrity" of the ditches that keep the water flowing down either side of the campus when it wants to meander down the middle.
Pointless to try to mow between the cottonwoods, so it makes for a nice little wild area where various wildflowers grow, insects visit, deer graze, and birds hide.

A Celebration of Water, I

 Dellinger's Pond, near downtown Quincy, undergoing restoration to a near-natural state, a project area for FRC's Environmental Studies Department.
 Silver Lake, slightly dammed, reflecting Spanish Peak.  In the "wilderness" east of Quincy.
Crystal Lake, near the summit of Mt. Hough, north of Quincy. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flowers of the Day

 I had the pleasure today of leading two nature hikes for students and parents of Oakland's Aurora School.  I love to walk with bright and curious people of all ages, and today was perfect that way.  We saw over 25 different species of wildflowers blooming.  After two nature hikes and ,owing my front lawn, I'm too sleepy to say much about what we saw or to give a full report.  That will have tow ait until tomorrow.  However I'm posting two flowers that made a lasting impression on me.  Above and below we have Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora, a member of the Saxifrage family along with the Woodland Star Flower and the Umbrella Plant which I've featured here during the past month.
 When I first spotted the Fringe Cups among the dew-covered tall grasses, I thought they were Mountain Jewel Flower.  While they have a similar overall look from a distance, they are actually quite different when viewed close up.  Tomorrow I think I can find some blooming Jewel Flower in nearby Boyle Ravine.  If I succeed, I'll post them side by side.  The short story is the Fringe Cups have five petals that are fringed.  The Jewel Flower has only four petals and is in the Mustard family.
 The flower I was hoping to see during the afternoon hike was the Leopard Lily.  I found them, but they aren't blooming yet. Shown above and below here, they are quite beautiful even before they bloom.  These were by a deep pool along Berry Creek, just a few yards from the Fringe Cups.
During the afternoon hike, we also saw the Mountain Lady Slippers, and they always make a strong impression.  However, I've already posted them a couple of times this past week, so that's all for tonight,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hallelujah, it worked!!!

     When I first spotted this work of art on campus early in the morning, I thought it might be a political act, protesting the over-use of water to maintain lawns during a drought - obviously a bad idea, yet embedded in our culture.  But then it rained!  So, the whole point of it must have been an abstract kind of rain dance, and it worked!  Very nice. 
     This brought back memories of the year I taught in eastern Colorado during a drought.  It was winter wheat country, and lots of wheat farmers were hurting, and worried.  I took some of my students to Denver to see a live performance of a play called "The Rainmaker" then on to Boulder to visit the National Bureau of Standards' Atomic Clock and NCAR's exhibit on hail storms, rainbows, and other atmospheric delights.  Got into a little trouble when we returned.  The Rainmaker was too political for the tastes of the parents (the students loved it) and Boulder was perceived as Colorado's version of Berkeley, CA.  Just full of hippies, tree huggers, and lefties.  To top it all off, I took the same group to see Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Alan Ginsberg, and Ramblin' Jack Eliot perform at the Colorado State University football stadium.  Dylan had that same magic.  The concert began on a hot, sunny afternoon, and after four hours he led a group sing of "A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall."  Around 10 minutes into the song, a great group of storm clouds came over the front range and we had an intense rain storm.  Dylan was God.  We ignored the fact that the same weather pattern happened practically every day during that time of year.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tempis Fugit

 These photos were taken sometime during the 2005-2006 school year when my son Ryan was in 6th grade.  The above photo appeared in this blog May 29, 2010, and I don't remember the occasion.  It happened to be my younger sister's birthday, but I doubt there's any connection to that.  My son and I love snakes,  The reason I'm currently thinking in terms of "time flies" is that next week Ryan graduates from Feather River College with an A. A. degree in Environmental studies.  There aren't as many snakes around here as we saw in the coastal range around Leggett.  But one species we've seen in both places is the Ring-necked Snake (below photo).  In these very dry times, I don't expect to see many snakes this summer.