Monday, May 24, 2010

Three Fawn Sunset

Field of wildflowers at Russian Ridge

Fascinating end-of-May weather.  Still raining and cool on some days, bright sun with a bit of warmness on other days, and just plain cold (for us Californios) at night.  I'm racing between end-of-rainy-season and beginning-of-summer projects and am about to finish a run of 14 straight work days.  I squeeze in morning or afternoons off to enjoy the succulent air.

Checker bloom (Sidalcea malviflora) in bud

Today, I sallied up to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve to pop out thistles in the beautiful wildflower meadow that is blooming around Borel Hill in response to our prescribed burn last summer.  Although I don't usually work on Sunday afternoon, it was a glorious time.  So satisfying to see the few remaining thistles removed from among the owl's clover, California poppies, fiddleneck, lupine, checkermallow, red maids, tidy-tips, purple needlegrass, blue wildrye and California brome.  Lots of hikers stopped to ask questions and I excitedly told the story of why we burn the grasslands every few years.  Between the appealing pop and zip sounds of thistle roots being cut and pulled out the ground, my co-worker and I shared our favorite authors.

When I got home, I pulled more thistles out of the Dipper Ranch orchard.  This time last year, the soil was too dry to pull the thistles out by their roots - a sure fire way to kill them - so I am trying to get them gone while I still can.  As the sun passed behind the coastal mountain range, clouds rolled in and a cold wind picked up.  Before retreating into the house, I checked out the near-dusk sky and wildlife from the backyard.  At first, I saw 38 cows grazing and 17 deer browsing in the two pastures below the house.

Soon, the big 3-2 buck (look for a future post on him called Morning Velvet) stepped out of the willows and gave me a long stare.  Two of the does crossed a meadow to a willow thicket.  The long reddish doe picked up two spotted fawns on her way.  They must have been hiding in the grass and had stubby-looking snouts.  Once the family reached the willows, the doe stopped and the fawns started nursing.  The brown-gray doe with a white mark at her upper lip came back out of the willow thicket and a single fawn followed her into the darkening field.

When my fingers got too cold to hold the binoculars any longer, I went inside.  I couldn't get any photos of the deer, but have included sketches from my field notebook.  Ignore the smudges on the pages.  Some of my fingers are cracking and bleeding from working in the cold and wet weather, however, my heart is warm  to see all the colorful life on a wildflower Sunday with a three-fawn sunset.

Spring madia (Madia elegans ssp. vernalis)

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