Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Waiting for the Storm

Valley oaks on the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve greet
storm clouds blowing down the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Storms threaten, dust the ridge tops with a bit of snow, and then skirt around us to dump on the middle of the continent.

Snowy oak in the upper Dipper Ranch pasture.

Snowy California buckeyes in foreground,
trail in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve in background.

Just enough snow to highlight the branching patterns of different types of trees and then drip down the stems.

Coyote watches the newly arrived cattle drag hooves in the snow.

We started the storm season in a serious mood of preparation - anchoring down the flyables, cleaning out culverts, and moving equipment out of the big field where it might get stuck in the mud.

Western toad waiting seven inches down a burrow for the coming storm.

Three or four storms later, I now come home in the dark and think, "The yard looks like my bedroom when I was a teenager except I don't remember having so many orange socks."

Redwinged blackbirds moving restlessly
in the skies above Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

How do animals sense the advent of a storm? Pretty much the same way weather forecasters do - by tracking the change in air pressure and watching the sky.

Blackbirds waiting for the storm.

Except the animals don't stand in line at the grocery store and complain about rain.

Hundreds of blackbirds settle into an oak tree for a few minutes.

Something about that grocery store line, makes you forgot that we require water and food and air and solid ground to live.

In breaks before storms, the animals come out to sun.

A big bobcat claims a sunny meadow far down a hill in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.

Approached by a smaller bobcat, they spar for a few seconds,
the smaller bobcat goes belly up,
and the big bobcat reclaims his basking territory.

The coyotes bask on a sunny hilltop in the morning.

They reluctantly move on
when I get out of the car to open the gate.

And the clouds come and go with more rain. Tomorrow, we will try to find a special population of newts moving through Stevens Canyon with the newest storm.

Morning moisture rising out of Stevens Canyon.

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