Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Drive, Part 2

Perhaps I should have included the Great Blue Heron in my previous post and called it Birds of American Valley, but I didn't.  The Great Blue was standing in a marshy area adjacent to Greenhorn Creek as it flows through American Valley on the Chandler Road (northern) side.  It took off when it heard my electric window rolling down, but I managed to get a pretty good shot before it flew out of range.  A few seconds later it landed in the creek several hundred yards away.  I drove on for the very different second half of this outing.  Stopped near Spanish Creek where there's a good view of Spanish Peak in the distance and a great patch of Teasel at the side of the road.  I find this weed of European origin aesthetically pleasing at all stages of its life cycle.  In spring, the fleshy but prickly main stems grow tall rather quickly, then, in early summer, the clusters of tiny purplish flowers form interesting patterns as they circle the heads which are now brown and sturdy.  Lots of people spray paint them different colors and include them in dry arrangements.  In summer, the Teasels are a favorite resting/hiding place for many kinds of insects. 
On my way home, via Highway 70, I stopped for a closer look at a dead squirrel on the road.  This may sound bizarre to some, but the letters D.O.R. swept through my mind and I had a nostalgic feeling.  Certainly I felt sad for the squirrel, but it brought back memories of many exciting zoology expeditions during my college days that included all the states from Georgia to New Mexico.  D.O.R., in our notebooks, stood for Dead on Road, of course, and I saw many animals that, to me, were exotic, but I saw them only as road kills.  That included four species of skunks, armadillos, roadrunners, many different snakes and frogs, and the biggest grasshoppers imaginable, even bigger than the ones sold for high school dissection.  After getting a couple of pictures of the squirrel, I wandered into the woods for a few minutes and, looking straight up, pretended I was back in the redwoods of Humboldt County and dreamed of being a bird.  In the middle of winter, there's not a lot of color in the woods, so the sunlit lichens on small oak trees were a treat.
Looking forward to a trip next weekend with my Adventures in Nature Journaling class to Bear Creek Falls in the Feather River Canyon.  That's how we residents of Quincy cheat and get an early taste of spring.  That part of the canyon is looking very green with mosses and ferns, and I suspect we'll see some some early-arriving wildflowers.   There is still time to join the class.  Call Feather River College at 283-2022 and ask for Connie Litz in the Community Education program.  Or, call or e.mail me for directions.  The fee for six Saturday morning outings is $75 payable to Feather River College.

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