Archive for the ‘trees’ Category

Pine Marten Pair

Monday, March 18th, 2013

 

  A Pine Marten, martes americana, in a bound (a fast sprint using four legs).  Two Marten trails wove in and out of each other through the alpine wilderness near Tahoe , California. The distance between their trails would widen and narrow, and at times speed up or slow down in relation to what I assumed was  the plentiful population of Douglas Squirrel that frequented the forest area.  One trail held footprints slightly larger than the other, which led me to assume I was following a male and female of the species in the process of acquiring sustenance not only for themselves but for a soon to be embryo, young that would join their wild family sometime this month or in April.

 In the background you can a second Marten trail intersecting it’s companion’s, along with some Douglas Squirrel tracks, likely the sumptuous dinner they feasted on that winter day.   

   A “sitzmark”, where an animal lands in a deep substrate from a height , causing it’s body to register more than just  feet.  In this case a small pine tree, no doubt harboring a terrified squirrel, was the object from which the Marten returned to the ground.  Notice the impression of the belly, neck and what appears to be muzzle in this photo.     

  The enormous leaps of a Long-tailed weasel trail looks surprisingly similar to that of its tree-bound cousin, only mini.      

Martes Americana

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

 

  

       Martes Americana, or the American Pine Marten.   

     It’s amazing how the weasel family has adapted to cover all sorts of terrain and habitat. The Long -Tailed and Short -Tail weasel have taken to the marshes and wetlands, the Mink and Otter to lakes and stream, the Badger has gone underground, the Wolverine took to the harshest of alpine and tundra climates, the Sea Otter to the salty ocean and the Fisher and Marten to the trees.

   Both Fishers and Martenshave a unique foot structure which allows their hind feet to turn around in a complete 180 degree half -circle. This affords easy movement up and down the trunks of trees. This is helpful to the Marten who wreaks havoc on the squirrel population as he hunts though the canopy in pursuit. I always wondered why the red and Douglas Squirrels where such tense little creatures, often alarming at me as i walked afoot, to the point of significant frustration.   They have giant ferocious weasels crawling after them through the trees, ripping them and their young right out of their hollow-tree trunk nests!! Nowhere is safe. No wonder they are on edge. 

 

 

       Here is my wrist watch next to the trail for a size reference.The tracks where in between the size of a Mink and a Fisher, about one and a half to one and three quarters inches long. Its bounding trail paralleled that of the Douglas Squirrels all day long, leading in and out of root cavities and entrances to various underground spaces.  Supposedly they can spend a significant portion of their time  underneath the snow in certain areas.

   I got the impression that the Marten was a smaller, cuter version of the Fisher. But more alpine. They moved very similarly, bounding about in between a 2x and 3x lope.

       Towards the end of my sojourn the Marten left a scat right atop a much larger animal trail. It looked like a dog trail but was moving about in a lope. It kind of reminded me of Fisher but bigger. I dismissed it as a local dog, but now i wonder what it was. 

Pine Marten atop a Snowshoe Hare trail

Fire and Ice

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

  Some cool ice formations i came across on the gravel road one chilly morning at Donner State Park in the Sierra Mountains of California.  Frozen in time, gone by the afternoon’s melting sun.  What hidden messages does the crystallized water have for a wandering wayfarer? 

   I was reminded of the poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost, which my English teacher had us memorize in high school. I thought it was a cool poem then but i remember she was kind of excited sharing it with us at the time. I never really got why she was so excited, but reading it now i get it. It  talks about Nature and Destruction. Nature and Destruction are Awesome!!

                               “Some say the world will end in Fire

                                                  Some say in Ice

                                   From what I’ve tasted of desire

                                 I hold with those who favor Fire.

                                        But if it had to perish twice

                                     I think I know enough of hate

                                    To say that for destruction Ice

                                                    Is also great

                                              And would suffice. “       

  Now i even get why she accented and spaced the words the way she did. Adults are so…………. entertaining. 

   Robert Frost spent a significant portion of his life in New England, writing, teaching and walking about in the woods among other things. Many of his poems are about Nature and his interactions with Her.  I guess in this poem he was linking two human qualities that would tend toward the dark side of our beings, with elements in Nature, and then personifying them.

 

Wandering bears in the snow, flocks of Hooded and Common Mergansers, (lophodytes cucullatus), chattering kingfishers, minks and beavers. This well- used beaver trail connects a pond with a nearby mountain stream. It rises right over a well used hiker and auto trail. 

 

  

 You can see the hand-like beaver tracks intersect with the tire prints. I figured the beavers used the trail to drag brush from its foraging area, pond, to its burrow/lodge  in the bank of the stream.

  The interesting thing about this park is that it has a railway  going directly through it. So all of a sudden you will be hiking along and a giant freight train blazes by with much ferocity and clamor.

  A downed, weathered Pine, with accompanying beetle trails, a mysterious and silent melody written on the staff of Life, now past and dead.

Northern California Autumn

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

  A gorgeous Autumn here in Northern California.  The Black Oaks are a rich yellow to gold, which mixed with the bright greens of the Pines and Madrones, turn the hills and canyons into an artist’s palette, the brush of the brisk breeze making the colors dance  in a symphony of worship to the bright Sun-God above, sitting regal in his azure palace. 

    I enjoy Northern California because it shares some similarities to my home in the Northeast; snowy winters, somewhat of an autumn, deciduous trees, yet lots of sun and a Mediterranean climate.

  Some nice rounded stones on the shores of Lake Tahoe. A red glowing sunset over the snowy mountains. Chipmunks scurrying beneath the downed logs. Gulls lazily transversing the air overhead as people walk their dogs and search, beset with anguish, over their lost portable communication devices.

Apple Blossom

Monday, February 27th, 2012

apple blossom

An apple blossom in my front yard. Its only February and they are starting to bloom cause of all the warm weather.

“Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you will wear or what you shall eat. Observe the lilies of the field. They neither toil nor do they spin. Yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these.”

- Matthew 6:25

We worry, worry, worry, meanwhile Mother Natures miracles are blooming on our front step.

Beckworth

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Beckworth is a rocky peak that sticks up into the sky outside my apartment window here in Portola, California. My roommate and i have been wanting to climb it so today we finally ventured out. The very top one hundred feet is a rocky crag that somewhat resembles a curved dome. I walked right up to it and found the most amazing lichen covering the stone.

I felt like i was in some kind of underwater tropical reef, it was so colorful. With the Sierra Valley spread out below and the sweet smell of some kind of scented bush below me, it was quite spectacular.

I scaled the wall to the top and found Woodrat scat -latrines and a nest fifty feet up the cliff! It was amazing to see a non-winged creature living in such a dangerous environment. I thought that the potential benefits might be that they could avoid predators.

One interesting thing about climbing is how mindful and present it forces you to be. It is a rare situation in which moving your foot two inches to the left results in death. When’s the last time you were sitting at a table having lunch and you were afraid to move your hand cause you didn’t want to die?Never. Minus the “afraid of falling to my certain death” part, if i could feel the way i felt seventy feet up that cliff every moment of my life, i would be all set. Complete and utter focus on the task at hand. Complete and one hundred percent conscious movement of every foot and forearm.

The cool thing about Nature is it can serve as a blueprint for the human mind as to how to be, meaning how to be alive in this world. You go out in the wilderness and you look around. The trees are not worrying about their bills they have to pay. The stones are not worrying about finding their soul-mate. The birds are not angry that their colors aren’t bright enough. You look around and you see that the essence of these creatures is stillness and peace. And you get to match up your own mind and soul with that essence. In this way connection with Nature serves as a spiritual practice.

The Ponderosa Pine is such a magnificent tree. Long green needles stick out in every direction forming wispy green orbs at the end of each branch. The bark has the most amazing Vanilla-sugar smell when it’s warmed by the sun, that brings me back to a flour-covered counter-top in the kitchen of my childhood.

Yuba Pass Meadow

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Columbine

The Crimson Columbine, aquilegia formosa, an incredibly gorgeous Sierra wildflower that accompanied my sit one morning in a meadow at Yuba Pass, a pass over the high sierra a bit north of Tahoe.  It was an absolutely INCREDIBLE morning. The beauty was ridiculous.  I am starting to get why John Muir wrote about the Sierras the way he did.

Lupine

As the sun rose i sat amidst the rich , moist green of the high-mountain meadow, colorful flames of flowers spread throughout, soaking up all the beauty.  The Hermit Thrush was singing its other worldly song, perhaps the most beautiful and mysterious of bird songs i’ve heard.   I was in awe at how ridiculous it all was. It almost seemed kind of fake. Like those flowers at the flower shop that look too colorful to be real.

The Broad-Leaved Lupine, lupinus latifolius, a purple tower of a plant. Quite splendid, mixed in there with some Corn Lilies.

snow plant

Snow plant,  sarcodes sanguinea. This guy was just popping up all over the place quite randomly, not even in the meadow. Kind of like a friend that just shows up on your doorstep uninvited yet quite welcomed.

I find the beauty of Nature sometimes to be kind of ridiculous. Like you see it and you think, ” Wait a minute…….. whats going on here?”

old dried up Yellow Pine

Kestrel

Friday, July 29th, 2011

falco sparverius

Here is a female American Kestrel, falco sparverius, that was killed on the highway by my home.  Such an incredibly beautiful being to look at up close despite its tragic death. As i studied it, a male kestrel alighted on top of the pine across the highway from where i sat, making its shrill “killy-killy” call.

talons

Here’s her underside.  The male is a sight to behold. An incredibly rich blue on the wings and head. Its quite a beautiful bird. In general, males are more colorful than females in bird species.

Black Oak

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Black Oak Imprint

Imprint of Black Oak Leaf (quercus kelloggii) on iron. The oaks are all starting to leaf out. Buds exploding in slow motion. I noticed the buds seemed to leaf out earlier higher up on the trees, like the top branches. Closest to the sun perhaps?

Swallows, warblers and orioles back from down south. Mexico or wherever.  Cliff swallows (petrochelidon pyrrhonota) flying together in a flock in a large circle, about 150 feet in diameter, over their nesting site. The exact same shape in the air over and over. What”s up with that?

Been here in the Sierras for a year now. Spring had just started when i arrived last year. They are truly stunning. I’m starting to get why Muir was so obsessed.

Mysteries

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Mystery Photo

Here’s a mystery for you. Who made these tracks?  The pine needle on the right is a ten inch Ponderosa Pine Needle for size reference.