Sunday, August 14, 2022

Neighborhood Natural History

The North Yuba River flows right through our neighborhood, and is my haven during these hot summer days! Right now it is low, slow, and perfect for swimming! It is also a paradise for a naturalist! Insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals thrive in, above, and alongside this river.  I never know what I might come across when I spend time there.

Midges - Chironomidae Family

Right now there is an incredible insect hatch going on in the river! Thousands of Non-biting Midge adults are hovering just above the surface of the water!  

 Non-biting Midges are often mistaken for mosquitoes due to their similar size and body shape. They lay their eggs in shallow waters. The eggs sink to the bottom. In a few days the larvae hatch out of the eggs and burrow into mud, or construct a small tube in which they live, feed and develop. The aquatic larvae feed on detritus in the water and are a great source of food for fish and aquatic insects. After 2-7 weeks, the larvae turn into pupae. The pupae then swim to the surface and the adults emerge from their pupal exuviae (cast off skin). Adults do not feed and spend their short, 3-5 day lives mating!

Twelve-spotted Skimmer - Black Saddlebag Skimmer
Libellula pulchella - Tramea sp.

The biggest predator of midges are dragonflies!  There are lots and lots of adults above the river these days.  They catch bugs with their legs while in flight, and then eat their catch in the air.  Big dragonflies will eat their weight in insects in a day!  Midges and mosquitoes are their main prey.

Black Phoebe (adult) - Brewer's Blackbird (female) - Western Wood-Pewee (adult) 
Sayornis nigricans - Euphagus cyanocephalus - Contopus sordidulus

Black Phoebes, Brewer's Blackbirds, and Western Wood Pewees also forage above and along the river. They perch and hawk insects out of the air above the river all the time. They are not known to eat midges, but there are plenty of other insects that they feed on, such as dragonfly, mayfly, and stonefly adults. They will also search among the dry river rocks for invertebrates to eat.

I rarely talk about these birds, but they are just as much a part of the river ecosystem as Mergansers, Sandpipers, Kingfishers, and Ospreys! They raise their young in nests built along the river. The Black Phoebes live here year-round, surviving on fruits and berries in the winter. The Brewer's Blackbirds migrate down to the foothills and California's Central Valley in winter. The Western Wood Pewee migrates down to Bolivia in the winter!

Spotted Sandpiper (juvenile/adult) - Actitis macularis

There are still some Spotted Sandpipers along the river shore foraging for invertebrates.  The adults are starting to lose their spots, and the juveniles won't have spots until they mature.  In the winter, these lovely birds fly all the way down to Chile or Southern Brazil!!!

Common Merganser - Mergus merganser

There are still several Common Merganser families on the river. They have regrouped somewhat, but they're still on the section of the river near us. The juveniles will be able to fly within a month, and they will all depart in the fall for their winter habitat in the southern parts of California or Arizona.

Osprey - Red-tailed Hawk
Pandion haliaetus - Buteo jamaicensis

There is one old Cottonwood Trees on the river edge that Great Blue Herons and Ospreys like to perch in. One morning this week there was a Red-tailed Hawk perched there!  Unlike Herons or Ospreys that mainly eat fish, Red-tailed Hawks prey on birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. They aren't here in large numbers so it was lucky to see one of these beautiful raptors!  The black on the end of its wings is a shadow not a pigment.

Columbian Black-tailed Deer - Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

Down in the Garden!

Our garden is another haven for us and the local wildlife. Right now the blackberries in our neighborhood are all ripening up and attracting lots of critters!  Across the street from our garden this morning a young buck was feasting on them!  We've also seen several bear scats that are FULL of blackberry seeds!  Most of all the other fruit crops in our neighborhood failed this year due to a late hard frost in March.

Himalayan Blackberries - American Robin (adult)
Rubus armeniacus - Turdus migratorius 

Lots of birds are also feasting on the blackberries that border our garden, such as Robins, Towhees, and Grosbeaks! Although we don't actually water the blackberries, they get water from the garden.  This makes them big and juicy, where a lot of the wild roadside blackberries are already dried up.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake - Crotalus oreganus oreganus

To my surprise a Rattlesnake cruised by while I was watering the garden one evening this week!!!  I didn't have my camera nearby when it showed up, so the above photo is a picture of a dead Rattlesnake that I found a few years ago. In the 36 years we've lived here we've only seen rattlesnakes in the immediate area about 5 times.  Nevertheless, I will be a little more watchful in the garden until the weather cools off!

Honeybees - unknown native bee
Apis mellifera - unknown sp.

Right now our sunflowers are in full bloom and there are LOTS of different pollinators on them. We had a hive of honeybees for the past five years, but this year they swarmed! They have apparently found somewhere else to live locally, as there are lots of honeybees on our garden flowers!

Monarch - Anna's Hummingbird
Danaus plexippus - Calypte anna

Our Bee Balm is also in full bloom and along with the bees, Anna's Hummingbirds are feeding on their nectar!  To our delight a couple of Monarch Butterflies showed up in our garden this week!  Hopefully they will have a successful journey to their winter habitat along the California coast near Santa Cruz and San Diego.

Western Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio rutulus rutulus

There are also many other butterflies in our garden right now, feasting on the nectar of the recently blossomed zinnias, phlox and bee balm.
Lesser Goldfinch (male) - Carduelis psaltria

Newly arrived this week, the American Goldfinches have shown up and are eating the recently formed sunflower seeds!  I LOVE these colorful little birds, and welcome them back every year!

Damp Earth Art

More HOT weather has come in this week, with no rain in sight.  Please join me in my continuing hope for precipitation! Perhaps our collective efforts may help it happen.

I'm going to keep posting rain inspired writings, art, etc. on my blog at Any submissions would be greatly appreciated.

What's changing in the Lakes Basin?

Check back next week for the answers to these questions and more!

Unfortunately, you can no longer sign up to get my blog via email. Just go to directly. It looks better than the emailed version!

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email
me at Thanks!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Sierra Valley in the Summer!

View north from the Steel Bridge - 8/1/22

On Monday, my husband and I drove over to Sierra Valley. To our delight, it was overcast and the heat wasn't so intense. We even drove through some rain on the way there! Wow!!! I hadn't been in Sierra Valley for almost two months, so it was wonderful to be back!  It had dried out quite a bit, and actually looked a lot like it does in the Fall.  However, there were still birds to see and the wide open view to enjoy!

American Coots - Fulica americana

Two months ago I had seen several newly hatched baby coots with bald heads, orange bills, and wildly colored yellow and red downy feathers.  Since then they've lost their colorful feathers, are no longer bald, but haven't yet acquired their black adult feathers.  I saw about 20 of these juvenile coots, feeding near the Steel Bridge!  How fun!

Pied-billed Grebe (juvenile) - Podylimbus podiceps

I also saw two juvenile Pied-billed Grebes feeding in a canal! They were so cute!  They looked like they were fully independent from their parents.  In fact I didn't see any adult grebes!  It will take several months for them to acquire their adult plumage.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds (female - male) - Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus 

There were also LOTS and LOTS of Yellow-headed Blackbirds perched on the barbed-wire fences along the roadside canals! The males were starting to loose the bright-yellow color in their feathers, as it is no longer mating season. The females looked just the same as they did in the beginning of the breeding season.

View north from one of the canals in Sierra Valley

 Besides the main headwaters of the Feather River at the Steel Bridge, there are several small canals in Sierra Valley. We lucked out and saw a few interesting birds in them!

White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
There was a pair of White-faced Ibis feeding in one of the canals!  The overcast sky made the rainbow colors of their feathers glow! They were probing the canal  for insects, crustaceans, earthworms, and fly larvae.

White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi

It is hard to tell if these are adults or juveniles.  My guess is that they are adults in non-breeding plumage.

Barn Swallow (adult) - Ruddy Duck (male)

Although there weren't the thousands of Cliff Swallows at the Steel Bridge, there were still some Barn Swallows flying around.  I love the coppery color of their throats. This could be a female, or a male no longer in its mating colors.

I also saw one, lone, male Ruddy Duck!  His bill had faded to gray, from its bright-blue mating color!

Beckwourth Peak and dry grasses in Sierra Valley

We headed home under threatening dark-gray skies.  The dried grasses were luminous in the soft overcast light!  Such beauty!!!

Ridge on the west end of Round Lake

In Hot Pursuit of Sierra Primroses!

Last week the temperatures were in the high 90's up in the Lakes Basin, and the humidity was quite high.  This meant that the wildflowers weren't going to last that much longer.  Every summer I've hiked up to see this one particular patch of Sierra Primroses in the Lakes Basin, but I hadn't yet. Now or never was the choice!  So last Thursday, my friend Nancy and I headed up the HOT trail to the primroses! Most of the hike was off trail and uphill! Luckily we were able to cool off in a small pond-like lake along the way! 

Snow & Sierra Primroses - Primula suffrutescens 

The primroses grow on a steep, damp, fern covered slope, above the west end of Round Lake. To our delight there was STILL a 15' chunk of icy snow at the top of the slope, and the primroses were in profuse bloom!  Yahoo!  A little bit above the primroses, the slope ends at a huge, vertical rock face. At its base, blooming Elderberry bushes, Crimson Columbine, Cinquefoil, Monkeyflowers, and more Sierra Primroses created a thriving, magical garden! Hummingbirds zoomed past us and clouds moved in while we watched in amazement, surrounded by beauty!

Sierra Primroses - Primula suffrutescens 

After a while, we headed downslope to Round Lake to go for a swim.  The clouds continued to astound us with their beauty, while simultaneously giving us a break from the heat!  The temperature of the lake was perfect, so we swam and lingered until we had to head home!  

View of Round Lake from the primroses

Once again we had an incredible day in the Lakes Basin, our home-away-from-home !

Damp Earth Art

It was very HOT again this week, but we had clouds and scattered showers on Monday and Friday!!! Friday morning it was raining SO hard that it woke us up at 6:00 AM!!! It smelled heavenly! Hopefully these little rainstorms will keep happening! We really need them. Please join me in my continuing hope for precipitation! Perhaps our collective efforts may help it happen.

I'm going to keep posting rain inspired writings, art, etc. on my blog at Any submissions would be greatly appreciated.

What are my neighborhood songbirds doing?

What's changing in the Lakes Basin?

Check back next week for the answers to these questions and more!

Unfortunately, you can no longer sign up to get my blog via email. Just go to directly. It looks better than the emailed version!

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email me at Thanks!

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Butterflies & Moths!

Common Sheep Moth - Hemileuca eglanterina

We came across this pair of Common Sheep Moths mating in the Lakes Basin this week, around 7,500' in elevation!  I've never seen these beautiful moths before, and their coloring was exquisite!  They were fairly large, with a wingspan of about 3". We watched them for a good 5 minutes and they were still mating when we left! Here's what has posted about them.

"Adults emerge in early morning and mate in late morning. Females lay eggs in rings on plant stems. Eggs overwinter and hatch in April and May. Young caterpillars feed together in groups and when they are older they feed alone. Fully-grown caterpillars pupate in loose cocoons in the leaf litter or in burrows in soft soil, and adults emerge from July-September. At high elevations and northern latitudes, 2 years are needed to complete development. The cocoons overwinter and in the spring the adults emerge and start the cycle again.

Caterpillar Hosts: Mountain lilac (Ceanothus), mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata), bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), snowberry (Symphoricarpos), currant (Ribes), wild rose (Rosa), willow (Salix) and others.

Adult Food: Adults do not feed.

Habitat: From sea level to at least 8400 feet in a variety of habitats including chaparral, pine and redwood forests, oak woodlands, and riparian areas."

Ceanothus Silk Moth - Hyalophora euryalus

Another local moth that I've seen in the past is the large Ceanothus Silk Moth.
These gorgeous adult moths are large, with a wingspan of 3.5"-5"! As adults, their primary purpose is to reproduce, and do not feed. After mating and laying eggs the adults soon die. Again, here's what has posted about them.
"Life History: Females glue eggs singly or in clumps on leaves of the host plant. The eggs hatch in 9-14 days and the caterpillars eat leaves. The cocoon is spun in the outer part of the host plant and is attached to a twig by only one-half its length.

Caterpillar Hosts: A wide range of plants including buckbrush (Ceanothus), manzanita (Arctostaphylos), gooseberry (Ribes), madrone (Arbutus menziesii), willows (Salix), alder (Alnus), and mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides).

Adult Food: Adults do not feed.

Habitat: A wide variety of habitats including coastal areas, chaparral, and conifer forests."

Field Crescent - Hoffman's Checkerspot
Phycoides pulchella montana - Chlosyne hoffmanni 
There are many butterflies fliting around the Lakes Basin. They differ from moths in many ways.  Here are the basic differences:

 Butterfly vs. Moth
wings usually open at rest - wings usually closed at rest
usually diurnal - usually nocturnal
usually brightly colored - usually dully colored
usually have clubbed antennae - usually have "feathered" antennae

Adult butterflies spend most of their time searching for mates, laying eggs, feeding and resting. Males either search for mates or perch and wait for females to fly by. If another male comes near a perched male, they will often engage in an upward spiraling flight, after which the "intruder" usually leaves. If a female flies by, of the same species, the perched male will force the female to the ground to mate. Another method of perching is known as "hill-topping". 

Wikipedia states: "Males of many butterfly species may be found flying up to and staying on a hilltop - for days on end if necessary. Females, desirous of mating, fly up the hill. Males dash around the top, competing for the best part of the area - usually the very top; as the male with the best territory at the top of the hill would have the best chance of mating with the occasional female, who knows the "top male" must be strong and thus genetically fit. Studies have shown that even slight elevation differences on flat terrain can trigger hill-topping behavior. Flowering or tall trees may induce hill-topping behavior."

California Sister - California Tortoiseshell 
Adelpha californica - Nymphalis californica

Butterfly Facts

Wikipedia also states, "Butterflies have "complete" life cycles, with four different stages: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), and adult. The entire life cycle, from the deposition of the egg to the emergence of the adult, usually takes about a month for most butterflies. Each species of butterfly has a different adult life span. Some adult butterflies only live for a few days, while others live for a few weeks or even several months (if they experience dormant periods of diapause or hibernation). The average lifespan for most adults is one to two weeks.

Butterflies have compound eyes and simple eyes. They see very differently from us; they can see ultraviolet rays (which are invisible to us)."

Great Spangled Fritillary (female - male)
Speyeria cybele leto

"A butterfly's antennae, palps, legs and many other parts of the body are studded with sense receptors that are used to smell. The sense of smell is used for finding food (usually flower nectar), and for finding mates (the female smelling the male's pheromones).

A butterfly's feet have sense organs that can taste the sugar in nectar, letting the butterfly know if something is good to eat or not. Some females also taste host plants (using organs on their legs) in order to find appropriate places to lay their eggs. These receptors (called chemoreceptors) are nerve cells on the body's surface which react to certain chemicals. We have similar receptors in our nose and on our tongue."

Flooded meadow near Frasier Falls

Lakes Basin Meadows

One day last week we decided to check out the Lakes Basin meadows. To our complete surprise we found one of the meadows totally flooded!!!  Lots of trees had fallen in the area and possible some had created a dam across the far end of the meadow!  Unfortunately we didn't have time to check it out, but will in the near future!  The last time we had been there was last fall, when the meadow was completely dry and the aspens had golden leaves! 

Creek running through Howard Meadow, bordered with Yampah and Asters!

 The Lakes Basin has many lovely meadows ranging is size from a few to several hundred acres. Although they all have many things in common, each one is delightfully unique. I never know what I might discover whenever I walk out into one of them.  

Meadow at the edge of Upper Tamarack Lake filled with Paintbrush!

Apart from being gorgeous, meadows are a very important part of the sierran ecosystem. The following quote from
briefly summarizes their benefits to the environment.

"Besides supporting species not found elsewhere, meadows do many other things. They filter sediment from water flowing from surrounding slopes—providing clean water for wildlife and healthy habitat for aquatic animals that live in lakes and streams. Meadows provide an important breeding ground for invertebrates (such as insects), a key food source for many birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Meadow plants also provide food and habitat structure for small mammals that, in turn, provide an important prey base for raptors, coyotes, and other predators. Meadows are sponges, absorbing water as snowpack melts and holding that water like an underground water tank. By holding the water in the mountains, the risk of flooding in the Sacramento Valley is reduced significantly. Then, later in the summer, this stored water feeds the many streams and rivers in the mountains, so they continue to flow during the long dry summers."

Meadow off FS Road 09 filled with Yampah, White Brodiaea, and Mallows!

In the book Sierra Nevada (1970) the author, Verna R. Johnston, writes a delightful account of the wildlife that inhabits sierran meadows, including Pocket Gophers, California Moles, voles, Aplondontia, shrews, Coyotes, bats, deer, weasels, songbirds, and raptors! It is a fascinating account of the complex ecosystem of a meadow. I highly recommend her book! The following quote is her introduction to the subject of mountain meadows.

"This inherent rhythm, unique to each species, is very evident among the animals of the mountain meadows. Thousands of meadows, varying from small seepages to spacious ranches, intersperse the midmountain, higher mountain forests. Each, in an unmatched setting of its own, is a serene open place where morning dew hangs heavy on the grass and sedge, midday sun dazzles, evening's coolness brings the deer. But each is much more than grass, wet soil, wildflowers, deer at twilight. Each is an interlaced community of plants and animals whose lives affect each other intimately the year through, often in ways that barely show above the surface."

Meadow near Mud Lake filled with Paintbrush and Fireweed!

The meadows this year have been filled with thousands of flowers, more than I've ever seen before! Some of the meadows are starting to dry out, but the meadows at the higher elevations are still in full bloom! Such beauty!

Damp Earth Art

It was very HOT this week, but the smoke has diminished from the Oak Fire. Hopefully more rainstorms will come soon. We really need them. Please join me in my continuing hope for precipitation! Perhaps our collective efforts may help it happen.

I'm going to keep posting rain inspired writings, art, etc. on my blog at Any submissions would be greatly appreciated.

Wishing for peace in Ukraine and
an immediate end to this senseless war!

What are my neighborhood songbirds doing?

What's happening in Sierra Valley?

Check back next week for the answers to these questions and more!

Unfortunately, you can no longer sign up to get my blog via email. Just go to directly. It looks better than the emailed version!

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email me at Thanks!

Sunday, July 24, 2022

A Few Mammals!

Yellow-bellied Marmot - Marmota flaviventris

I lucked out this week and spotted a Yellow-bellied Marmot near 8,000' in elevation! It was in one of the wildflower-covered, rocky slopes in the Lakes Basin. We were able to watch it for a minute or more until it backed off the boulder it was on, and disappeared into the bushes. How cool!!!  I don't see Marmots very often, and this is the first one I've seen this year!

Yellow-bellied Marmots are the most common large rodent in the Sierra, and generally live underneath rocky talus slopes from 5,400' to 14,000' near vegetated meadows. They can often be seen perched on a boulder. If threatened, they make a very loud chirp that you can hear from quite a distance. The main predators of Marmots are coyotes, followed by badgers, martens, bears, and Golden Eagles.

Yellow-bellied Marmot - Marmota flaviventris

Most marmots reside in underground colonies of about ten to twenty individuals, consisting of males, females, and their offspring. Their underground tunnels have many side passages, in which they raise their young, hibernate, and hide from predators. There is only one breeding season per year, which starts two weeks after they wake up from hibernation. The males mate with up to four females in a season. The females give birth to 4-5 pups, after a 30 day gestation period. The pups are born in April or early May, and are blind and naked at birth. Within two months they are weaned and can forage for food, consisting of plant material, insects, and bird eggs.

The young marmots remain with their mother until the following summer, even hibernating with her. Marmots hibernate for approximately eight months starting in September and lasting till May. In the Fall, they put on a layer of fat that sustains them through hibernation. During hibernation, young marmots will lose up to 50% of their body fat! The male of the harem drives out the male offspring upon their awakening from hibernation. Female offspring are allowed to remain in the harem. The young males then dig their own burrows and start looking for female mates to start their own harem.

Gray Fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus

The fox I saw near our garden just a month ago is still around!  One morning, I was heading down to the river when it jumped out into the field ahead of me!  It was obviously very accustomed to humans as it didn't run away, and eventually laid down!  What a surprise!!! It was squinting because it was facing right into the sun.  It posed for a minute or so, until I moved and scared it off.  How lucky it was to closely watch this beautiful Gray Fox!  The colors in its fur really camouflaged it in the field of dried weeds!

Gray Fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus

I have written about Gray Foxes many times in my blog.  Just type in "Gray Fox" in the "Search this Blog" bar on the upper right corner of this page, to find out lots of information about them.

Striped Skunks - Mephitis mephitis

 Early one evening, I saw an adult female skunk with three young skunks in our kitchen yard!  The light was fading and they moved quickly, so I didn't get a great photo.  I haven't seen young skunks before, and they were so cute!!! However, I didn't get close!

If a skunk raises its tail, it's time to beat a hasty retreat! The highly potent musk of skunks, keeps most predators away! When approached by a predator, they raise their tail, then they stamp their front feet vigorously and hiss and growl. If those actions don't deter the predator, they will quickly present their hind end and spray musk. They can spray up to 12 feet away, with accuracy! Most predators don't come back a second time, once they've been sprayed!

  Skunks live in dens year-round. They have been known to make their dens under woodpiles, buildings, concrete slabs, and rock piles. Their dens have also been found in hallow trees, rock crevices, and abandoned ground-squirrel and fox dens! Skunks use their dens year-round. Skunks will often share a den with
other skunks. They don't hibernate, but go into a state of torpor, in which their body temperature drops and they fall into a deep sleep. To stay warm during winter weather they plug the entrance to their den with dry leaves and grass.

Striped Skunks breed from February through April. Males will mate with several females. Once mating has occurred, the males are not welcomed by the females. The gestation period is 59 to 77 days. Sometime in May, the females give birth to a litter of 4-7 kits. After 6-8 weeks they are weaned, and begin to hunt with their mother! By July or August, young males begin to disperse and become independent. Their sisters will typically remain with their mother for almost a year.

Skunks have poor eyesight, but like many nocturnal animals they have highly developed senses of hearing, touch, and smell. They are omnivores, and eat mice, gophers, voles, rats, birds & eggs, beetles, beetle larvae, caterpillars, fruit, nuts, carrion, bird seed, some garden produce, and even pet food!

Leopard Lily - Lilium pardalinum

Lakes Basin Birds & Blossoms!

There are several small aspen groves scattered in the Lakes Basin.  Right now, one of my favorite groves is filled with blooming Leopard Lilies, Monkshood, Paintbrush, Mallows, and Groundsel!  Blues, oranges, purples, yellows, pinks, and whites accent the chest-high green growth of grasses and forbs below the aspen trees! It's a kaleidoscope of colors!  We lucked out the morning we walked through the grove, as there were a few clouds blocking the sun and the light was incredibly beautiful!

Leopard Lily - Arrowhead Butterweed
 Lilium pardalinum - Senecio triangularis

I have always called the yellow flowers in the above picture "Groundsel".  However, it has recently been renamed "Butterweed".  Luckily the scientific name hasn't changed!  Hopefully my senior brain will keep all this straight!

Mountain Bluebird (juvenile) - Western Tanager (male)  
White-headed Woodpecker (male)
 Sialia currucoides - Piranga ludoviciana - Picoides albolarvatus

Many species of birds raise their young in the Lakes Basin.  The Western Tanager has traveled the farthest of the three birds pictured above.  It overwinters in southern Mexico/Central America, and breeds in the Sierra in the summer, a one-way distance of more than 2,500 miles!

Monkeyflower sp. - Erythranthe sp.

Although the common name for these Monkeyflowers hasn't changed, their scientific named has been changed from "Mimulus" to "Erythranthe"!  There are lots of different Monkeyflowers and I couldn't identify these precisely.

Red-breasted Sapsucker (juvenile) - Rock Wren (adult)  
Mountain Bluebird (male)
 Sphyrapicus ruber Salpinctes obsoletus - Sialia currucoides

Of the three birds pictured above, the Rock Wren is the most uncommon.  In fact it is rare at the elevation I observed it (7,500').  It was calling/singing loudly from a rocky perch.  There were two of them on the same rock, so they were probably a mated pair!

Western Monkshood - Aconitum columbianum

These aptly named beautiful flowers are poisonous!  In fact all parts of this plant are very toxic and potentially fatal!  So admire it without handling it!  Native Americans used the plant juice to make poison arrowheads!

Chipping Sparrow (juvenile?) - Yellow-rumped Warbler (male) - Cassin's Finch (male)
Spizella passerina - Setophaga coronata - Haemorhous cassinii

The bird on the left above may not be a Chipping Sparrow.  I have submitted my photos to and should have an answer within a few days.  It was a lovely little bird that posed for me in the willows bordering a wet meadow.

Oregon Checker Mallow - Sidalcea oregana

These pretty pink Oregon Checker Mallows have recently blossomed in the wet meadows.  It's interesting how they grow in tight groups of 10 to 100 or more.

Chipping Sparrow - Mountain Chickadee - White-crowned Sparrow
 Spizella passerina - Poecile gambeli - Zonotrichia leucophrys

I love hearing the birdsong of all these lovely, little songbirds!

Slender Beardtongue - Penstemon gracilentis

This year there are thousands of these Slender Beardtongues in the Lakes Basin, more than I've ever seen before!  We came across a slope that was so packed with them that you couldn't even see the ground!  Their coloration is exquisite, changing from pink at the base to purple-blue at the mouth of the flowers!

Canada Geese - Branta canadensis

Waterfowl in the Lakes Basin

Almost every pond or lake in the Lakes Basin has some waterfowl living in it.  Earlier this year I saw lots of Canada Geese and their goslings in a VERY wet meadow.  I have checked the same meadow recently and only one family of geese is still in residence!

Bufflehead female with 7 ducklings - Bucephala albeola

In one lake around 6,500' in elevation, this lovely family of one female Bufflehead and 7 ducklings are in residence!  So fun to watch!

Bufflehead (female) - Bucephala albeola

I found two off-trail, un-named ponds that had one female Bufflehead each, 
but no ducklings.

Mallard female with 6 ducklings - Anas platyrhynchos

I've seen two families of Mallards in my wanderings!  Both families consisted of a female and six cute little ducklings!  How wonderful!

Mallard female with 6 ducklings - Anas platyrhynchos

Damp Earth Art

It was hot and dry this week. In fact this morning, we are filled with smoke from the Oak Fire down by Mariposa, CA.  Hopefully more rainstorms will come soon. We really need them. Please join me in my continuing hope for precipitation! Perhaps our collective efforts may help it happen.

I'm going to keep posting rain inspired writings, art, etc. on my blog at Any submissions would be greatly appreciated.

Wishing for peace in Ukraine and
an immediate end to this senseless war!

What are my neighborhood songbirds doing?

What's happening in the wet meadows of the Lakes Basin?

Check back next week for the answers to these questions and more!

Unfortunately, you can no longer sign up to get my blog via email. Just go to directly. It looks better than the emailed version!

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email me at Thanks!