Saturday, March 3, 2012
After a very cold start of the day in Quincy, negotiating an icy driveway, we found spring had arrived in the Feather River Canyon. Within five minutes of leaving our vehicles behind, I found a lungless salamander under a small oak branch buried in the grass. This is the Sierra Nevada Ensatina, Ensatina eschscholtzii. That species name might sound familiar to flower lovers; it's a version of the name of the California Poppy. This salamander was motionless when I found it, and remained so for several minutes on my hand. It must have sensed when its body temperature climbed to a point where it could risk an escape, for it suddenly took off and I had to catch it in order to return it to its original resting place. Another treat on today's hike was the discovery, by Spencer and Dalynn, of the Waterfall Buttercup, Ranunculus hystriculus. There were many patches of this beauty growing on the mossy cliffs to the side of Bear Creek Falls. On my way home, I found a huge patch of these in the place where I first encountered them a year ago, in the vicinity of the Rock Creek Powerhouse. This location receives much more sun than the canyon by the falls, so the flowers were further along. There must have been a thousand within a 50-foot square, more or less.
Last, for now, is the Dutchman's Pipe Vine. I photographed these in Bidwell Park a few weeks ago, but they have begun blooming in this part of Feather River Canyon, around 2,000 feet elevation, since our last visit three weeks ago. The one pictured above was growing at the side of the road near the signs indicating the 1964 and 1997 floods. Watch out where you park and walk or you'll end up in the next edition of Flattened Fauna.