Thursday, February 28, 2013

Snow Moon

Full moon through California buckeye tree at the Dipper Ranch, February 25, 2013
Late February's full moon is the Snow Moon.  In central coastal California, we had snow for about 4 hours this winter.

I meant to photograph the full moon just as it was coming over Georgia's Ridge. I was inside getting ready by cleaning my best lens only to get distracted by amazing reflections of the cowboy light in the newly cleaned lens.

Yep, it's true, part of the original decor of this 1960's ranch house is a hanging light fixture in the shape of a wagon wheel.

light, light, amazing light
When I finally got outside, the moon was over the horizon by a few degrees, but still impressive.

One of the signs of spring - the buds on the California buckeye trees are just starting to open.
I was cleaning my lens because earlier in the day I was out on the San Mateo coast at Cowell Beach. I saw a gull that looked funny. On closer inspection, I realized it appeared to have a starfish stuck in its bill.

I watched the gull for 15 minutes, sometimes shaking its head, and the starfish didn't appear to move any further down its throat.
In early February, I saw clusters of fat red buds pushing out of the ground in a shady area. At first, I didn't recognize them.

New buds of Warrior's plume
Then I found nearby plants with familiar red bracts and unfurling lacy green leaves. Next, the flattened club-shaped flowers will poke out from among the similarly-colored bracts.  Last year, I saw both native bees and ants visiting these flowers of the Warrior's plume.

Colorful bracts at the tip of Warrior's plume
The bucks have dropped their antlers.  Here is the annual calendar for antlers on black-tailed deer.

The first shed antlers I saw this year were January 28 at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.  I found this pair together in an open grassland.
The King's Mountain manzanita is blooming.

Blooming King's Mountain manzanita
With volunteers, we've been pulling the invasive French broom away from this rare native plant to give it more room to survive.

Of the many species of manzanita in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the King's Mountain manzanita is the only one with the leaf clutching the branch (there's virtually no stem on the leaf) and two rounded lobes on the bottom of the leaf (like the top of a heart).
We had a walnut shelling party in the backyard of the Dipper Ranch on a sunny, cool February afternoon.

Shelling English walnuts at the Dipper Ranch from the bountiful trees behind the barn.
Our local walnut shelling expert uses crab crackers and a tray. Others used channel locks.
That evening, a troupe of us hiked to the Monotti Pond to hear the noisy chorus of the Sierran treefrogs, and we even spotted two rare California red-legged frogs. On the trip downhill, we saw several dozen female coast range newts wandering around.  The newts near the pond still had their wet, smooth pond-phase skin, but others not close to the pond had bumpy dry skin as if they have been out of the pond for awhile.

California red-legged frog in a breeding mood on February 19th.
Although we had two big storms in December, we've had hardly any precipitation since then. A few days ago, I noticed the grass blades folding up midday. It's really dry for February which is a little scary. We're getting ready to move cattle early unless it starts raining. Goodnight Snow Moon, goodbye February. I'm still hoping for spring rains and the treefrogs are very loud on the ranch tonight.

The wagon-wheel light and the library seen from the backyard at the Dipper Ranch under a full Snow Moon.
California buckeye,  Aesculus californica
gull - I don't know what kind this is. Anyone? Is it a juvenile?

Warrior's plume, Pedicularis densiflora (aka Indian warrior)
Columbian black-tailed deer, Odocoileus hemioanus columbianus
King's mountain manzanita, Arctostaphylos regismontana

Sierran treefrog, Pseudacris sierra 
California red-legged frog, Rana draytonii 
coast range newt - Taricha torosa torosa 


  1. A Facebook buddy suggested the gull may be "an adult Western Gull (clean white head, dark grey back, pink legs)".

  2. Ah, that view. Thanks again for the great day. And walnuts!


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