Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve - Wildflower Hotspot #4

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve - Woods Trail and Barlow Road
Above the town of Los Gatos, my favorite trails in the 17,600-acre Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve are Woods Trail and Barlow Road.  These connected trails are interesting and botanically diverse because together, they carve a 360-degree circle below Mt. Umunhum in open grassland, chaparral and shady forests with rocky outcrops and small headwater streams.  You get to see many different types of vegetation and most wildflowers are presented to you right alongside the trail, even at eye level.  There is one location along Barlow Road where I often see  red larksur (Delphinium nudicaule, shown above) growing shoulder to shoulder with a deep purple larkspur.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Moving in Straight Lines

Handsome thighs of a California red-legged frog
I took a workshop last week on the California red-legged frog.  The classroom portion covered biology and behavior, and the day and nighttime field portions covered habitat, life stages and pouncing on frogs under the careful guidance of the certified instructors.  By 10:00 pm of the nighttime training, we were all basically returned to our childhoods. The boys were counting up how many frogs they'd captured, and the girls were wondering why they were following boys around in the woods at night.  Once I took my gloves off, my frog capture rate went up to about 80%, but I preferred the spotlighting duty of being the first to detect the alien-eye-rays bouncing from the willow thicket back to our strategically aimed flashlights.

Almaden Quicksilver County Park - Wildflower Hotspot #3

Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Almaden Quicksilver County Park is located in south San Jose around the former mining town of New Almaden.  Here you get a view of nature reclaiming the mined lands with several of the park entrances right out of residential neighborhoods.  A dreamy afternoon can be spent reading about the wild ways of the New Almaden mining days in the first chapters of Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Angle of Repose, and then hiking further into these very same hills.  Or you can just go the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum after your hike.

Trails wind through open stands of valley oak and blue oak trees with Chinese houses, farewell-to-spring and other colorfully-named wildflowers waving in dappled light, and California quails calling from mossy rocks and crumbled brick foundations.