Friday, May 23, 2014

A Few Adventurous Days

     The Shrew Mole, Neurotrichus gibbsi, showed up on my front sidewalk, dead.  The way it ended up on this blog is chapter one of my adventure.  The photo was taken by my son Greg, but I'm getting ahead of the story.  More about the Mole later today.
     Later:   I was snoozing on my sofa  when a visiting teenaged boy brought me the Mole.  I took it outside for a few photos then placed it in the bushes so it could return to the soil.  The next morning I got an email from Greg with the above photo.  He had seen the same mole in the morning on his way out of town.  His photo was better than mine, so here it is.  This is a very tiny animal, maybe three inches long including the tail.  And it has 44 teeth!
 Later this morning as I returned from a local errand, my younger son Ryan spotted this Alligator Lizard, probably Elgaria multicarinata scincicauda, by a crack at the bottom of our garage door.  As I approached with my camera she quickly disappeared under the door.  Inside the garage, we finally found her hiding in a corner amongst various boxes of assorted junk.  Notice that as I approached with the camera she cocked her head sideways for a better look.  I reached down to catch her, but she was too fast.  After a couple more attempts, I saw her escape into a plastic bag containing a throw-away pillow.  Foiled! 
I handed the camera to Ryan and slowly removed the pillow from the bag with the lizard clinging to it.  Ryan got a few nice photos (e. g., the one above) before we released the lizard so it could find a comfortable hiding place outside the garage.
     Now, the real adventure story, for which the above text is a kind of placeholder, occurred on Tuesday.  Oops - telephone.  I'll be back.
    Back:  On Tuesday afternoon I had the opportunity to guide some visiting band members on a nature hike.  We went out to Oakland Camp to hike a short distance along each of several of my favorite trails.  The first great sight, for me, was the Mountain Lady Slippers that are blooming right at the side of the road leading into camp.  They're blooming about a month earlier than they were the first year I saw them, 2011 I believe.
    Then we hiked up to where Berry Creek emerges from a culvert that passes under the railroad track.  On the way, we paused to check the fragrance of several of our more aromatic wild plants: the Pennyroyal, Choke Cherry, and Mugwort, the latter being a close cousin of Sagebrush.  On that latter plant I was thrilled to see a little critter that I missed last summer - the Western Bloodsucking Conenose.  If you don't believe me, look it up!  Better yet, we saw two, and they were mating!
    Then we headed past camp to the area where my wife had seen the California Mountain King Snake a couple days earlier.  I wasn't really expecting to see one, so I was headed straight for a patch of Narrow-leaf Milkweeds that I follow throughout the season.  One of my guests, Adam, yelled out - there in a rocky crevice were TWO Mountain King Snakes mating!  And I didn't have my camera.  Fortunately, Adam's girlfriend had a cell phone with a good camera and she got some good pictures, both of the Conenoses and the snakes.  As soon as she emails them to me, I'll post them.  They were a spectacular sight.

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