White rump and owlish face are good ways to ID northern harriers
I love it when wildlife cooperates!
Along with the abundance of raptors (hawks, kites, harriers & kestrels are common), another top reason I like Russian Ridge: it's my goto spot for coyotes. I see them there often. Sometimes I even get close encounters. They patrol the paths & fields, hunting the numerous ground squirrels, voles & gophers (and when uncertain "volephers") that live on the grassy slopes.
And, no sooner had I crested the first hill, when I saw 2 coyotes duck behind it. They had obviously seen me first. I moved to cut one off, but only got a going away shot:
"here boy!" - darn coyotes never heel when you call
So, I high-stepped around the other hill, hoping to meet his gray sidekick as she circled to reunite. I thought I had a bead on her, but it turned out to be a bonus beauty bobcat instead:
A bobcat in the brush
And since I spied the Lynx rufus before it eyed me, I got a decent pic as it sauntered off.
Shazam. Dang right it was a good day.
I continued down the recently rain-soaked trails, enjoying the coastal scenery:
Oaks, snags, grassy hills and coastal scrub - classic California
Sandstone jumbles decorate this piece of the Bay Area ridge trail
Turning a few sandstone rocks, I found this crazy big silvery spider:
Calisoga Silver Spider, Calisoga longitarsus, also called the False Tarantula
> 3 inches in diameter, with a mandible-to-spinner length of ~ 1-1/2 inches
I'm glad the hairy beast was cold and cooperative. I like spiders, but they can give me the serious heebie-jeebies if they're fast or jumpy. Societal conditioning I guess.
Also under the rock was this interesting egg case:
Egg case of California Praying Mantis - about 1-1/2 inches long
I saw one under another rock too. They've got a Star Trek look to them. Like Warf's forehead, or some critter that crawls in your ear. I thought at first that maybe they were the kids of the calisoga silver spider, but the cases were hard, and not spider's silk-like. After a pointer from a flickr friend, it turns out they're egg cases of the California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica!
Beneath a chunk of rotting oak trunk, I found this photo-friendly slender salamander:
Slender salamander, Batrachoseps sp. - food for False Tarantulas?
Then, moving on down the trail, I spotted another Canis latrans hunting volephers. This one seemed much more interested in the redtail hawk circling overhead than in me. Made me wonder if hawks help or hurt the coyotes hunting chances, which is why the clever canids keep an eye on them. Do the raptors scare off the rodents? Or is the song dog looking to try and steal a meal? Unfortunately, the coyote ducked down the gully before revealing his secret.
Coyote stops hunting volephers to watch redtail hawk (and ignore me)
Do hawks help or hurt coyote hunts? Or is he just a bird dog?
And so I rambled on.
In the pockets of oaks, madrones, buckeyes and firs along the trail, the rains had brought out the mosses, mushrooms & lichens. This ancient character oak was almost perfectly covered:
Massive mossy oak
Here's a closeup of the seasonal salad:
Moss and Lobaria lung lichen
And, though it was obvious the mushroom thieves had already scoured the area, I did manage to find a few colorful and interesting fungi, such as dabs of witch's butter on fallen branches:
Jelly fungus Tremella mesenterica, called witch's butter and yellow brain fungus
And a blood wine red mushroom that took the fungi prize 'o the week - what a crazy color!:
Blood red fungi growing in a burnt oak trunk
Btw - do you say "it" or "they" when referring to a cluster of fungi caps? The caps are just multiple "flowers" from a single underground fibrous entity. So, it's an "it," but the caps are "they"? Hmmmm....
And finally, I saw this chuckle:
Acorn woodpeckers are amazing. As is Russian Ridge.
- Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District - Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
- The Nature of a Man (this blog) - Russian Ridge Coyote Encounter
- Bug Guide - Calisoga longitarsus
- UC Berkeley - Common Spiders of California
- Wikipedia - Northern Harrier
- Wikipedia - Witch's Butter
- Wikipedia - Lobaria
- Wikipedia - Batrachoseps