Links to websites, bloggers, books and other information sources on natural history of the Santa Cruz Mountains and occasionally elsewhere.  I add sites as I get time or write about them so this is updated occasionally.

Let me know if any of these links don't work by sending an email via the"Contact Dipper Ranch" box in the right-hand column.

LTL (Link-to-Link)
The best place to see a comprehensive and frequently updated list of natural history links with emphasis on California is on a special page of Katie's Nature ID blog.

  • The Natural Resources Database - searchable database with lists of plants and animals from over 200 parks and other natural areas in the San Francisco Bay region.
  • CalPhotos - over 200,000 searchable photos of plants, animals, landscapes and cultural features. And its more technical companion, CalFlora.
  • The Sibley Guide to Birds. David Allen Sibley. Alfred Knopf. 2000. Good color drawings with important features pointed out to help in identification. Occasional notes on behavior.
  • eBirds - an online database of bird observations. Searchable by location and seasons.
  • Peninsula Birding - a Yahoo listserver where members (and lurkers) discuss recent bird sightings of note in San Mateo County, California. A good place to keep track of rare birds and current migration trends. Tends to emphasize coastal areas. Members are great about answering questions. Read the rules and follow other examples before you post.
  • Bird Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species. Mark Elbroch and Eleanor Marks. Stackpole Books. 2001.
  • The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1988.
  • The Bird Year: A Book for Birders with Special Reference to the Monterey Bay Area. John Davis and Alan Baldridge. The Boxwood Press, Pacific Grove, CA, 1980.
  • The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America. Donald and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2010.
  • Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. George A. Feldhamer, Bruce C. Thompson, Joseph A. Chapman, editors. 2nd edition. John Hopkins University Press. 2003.
  • California's Wildlife. Vol. I-III. D.C. Zeiner, W.F.Laudenslayer, Jr., K.E. Mayer, and M. White, eds. 1988-1990. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California.
  • California Mammals. E.W. Jameson, Jr., and  Hans J. Peeters. University of California Press. Berkeley, California.
  • Mammal Tracks and Signs. Mark Elbroch. Stackpole Books. 2003.
  • Guide to Hunting Deer in California. John Higley.  California Department of Fish and Game.  Second Edition August 2002.
  • The Black-tailed Deer of the chaparral: Its Life History and Management in the North Coast Range of California. Richard D. Taber and Raymond F. Dasmann.  California Department of Fish and Game.  Game Bulletin No. 8. 1958.
  • Behavior of North American Mammals. Peterson Reference Guide Series. Mark Elbroch and Kurt Rinehart. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. 
  • A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Third Edition. Robert C. Stebbins. 2003. Peterson Field Guide. Houghton Mifflin Company. Comprehensive guide and works well in California. Outstanding color plates were hand painted by author from living specimens. Don't forget the guides to eggs and tadpoles in the back.
  • Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California. Revised Edition. Robert C. Stebbins and Samuel M. McGinnis. California Natural History Guides. University of California Press. 2012. The lengthy introduction contains good information on the classification and behavior of herps, and the species descriptions include many actual experiences of the authors. Color plates are better in Stebbins' classic field guide (above) but this is an excellent companion reference with updated information on newly recognized species.
  • Snakes in Question, The Smithsonian Answer Book. Carl H. Ernst, George R. Zug. The Smithsonian Institute. 1996, 2004. Good  info about basic snake biology, easy to read, covers the wide range of snake diversity.
  • Rattlesnakes: Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind. Abridged Edition. Laurence M. Klauber. University of California Press. 1982. Detailed info about the habits and life histories of many species of rattlesnakes by a former collector and then volunteer Curator of Reptiles at the San Diego Zoo. Spends a lot of time dispelling erroneous myths about rattlesnakes. I can't imagine what the two volume unabridged version of this book was like.
  • Snakebit: Confessions of a Herpetologist. Leslie Anthony. Hilarious accounts of explorations of snakes, salamanders and other reptiles and amphibians in childhood, graduate school and research expeditions thereafter. The hazards of academia are almost more scary than the venomous snakes. There's a lot of basic biology explained with the adventures. The best account ever of the amazing spring mating of thousands of red-sided gartersnake in limestone pits of Narcisse, Manitoba Canada. I gotta go there.
  • Beartracker: photos and drawings of tracks and their makers with good information on how to look for and identify tracks. Focuses on the Pacific Northwest.
  • Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eric R. Eaton & Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
  • Select "wildflower" or "hike" in keyword cloud of right column to see numerous Dipper Ranch posts about places to hike and see wildflowers in Santa Cruz Mountains or beyond.  The rest of these links are for resources to help identify wildflowers or get updates on hikes and where wildflowers are blooming.
  • Docent led hikes featuring wildflowers can be found at:
    • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District docents lead hundreds of hikes a year, often featuring local plants and animals, and especially wildflowers in the spring.  Look under Activities-Calendar for upcoming hikes.
    • Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz chapters of the California Native Plant Society lead plant hikes to natural areas mostly in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  People of all levels of expertise and interest are welcomed and there is a lot of sharing of information.  These hikes are slow to allow for much plant observation and are a great way to learn.
    • Edgewood Park docents lead hikes to Edgewood Park in Redwood City all year long with multiple hikes provided on spring weekends.  Also opportunities to volunteer on workdays to help natural resources in the park.
    • Santa Clara Open Space Authority docents often lead hikes to closed sections of their preserves so these are special hikes to join.
    • Friends of Santa Teresa Park - neighbors pitching in to care and enjoy this south San Jose Park.  In particular, look for Ron Horii's descriptions of hikes with beautiful photos.
    • Cait's website has news about the hikes she leads mostly in Santa Clara County and her photographic guides to some trails.
    • Bay Area Hiker - author Jane Huber provides details of many hikes in the San Francisco Bay area.
    • San Mateo County Natural History Association - hikes and info on parks on the San Mateo coast.  Check out their docent training section.
  • Natural Resources Data Base has lists of plants and animals for over 200 parks in the central California region and because it is an on-line database, you can search and print out the data in many different ways.  Also has hot links for each species to info and photos at Calflora and Calphoto described below.
  • Calflora - website with basic info on names, places and characteristics of plants found in natural areas throughout California.  Hot links to CalPhotos, Jepson Manual, and many others.  Mostly search by name but if you poke around there are other ways to search such as by location.
  • Calphotos - hundreds of thousands of photos of plants and animals of California, searched by common or scientific name.
  • Coe Wildflowers - fantastic photographic guide to wildflowers that can be searched by colors, also features currently flowering blooms and useful for wildflowers throughout San Francisco Bay area.
  • Toni Corelli's Flicker collections - one of our best local botanists, Toni has her photos sorted first by location (often a park's name) and then by plant family.  As a botanist, she takes photos that illustrate important features to identify that particular species of plant.
  • Calphoto Yahoo Group - a nature photography discussion group where people post info about locations they have recently visited in California. Not really an identification site (although sometimes members post photos of unknown plants and get help from each other), and not to be confused with Calphotos above, joining this group is one way to learn where flowers are blooming right now in the state.
  • Wildflower ID Kit - East Bay Regional Park District's photographs of wildflowers sorted by color, often works for other parks in the San Fran Bay area.
  • iNaturalist - Greatly updated in the last few years, a website where people report and share their recent sightings of plants and animals usually with photos they took.  All kinds of ways to search the sightings.  Some parks are training their volunteers to use iNaturalist to regularly report their sightings and thus build a community of information.
NATURAL HISTORY BLOGS - there are lots of natural history blogs and what a great way to learn. I've listed only three of my favorite California ones below, however, Biobabbler and Nature of a Man have a side column on their blogsites with updated links to their favorite blogs and I skim these on a regular basis to see what others are talking about.
  • Nature ID - quick posts on the newest plant or animal species she's seen in the Monterey Bay area. Great gradual way to learn along with her.
  • Biobabbler -  biologist living near Yosemite who works and travels elsewhere in California and the West and shares her observations including great habitat photography. I enjoy reading her blog as a way to compare seasonal events between coastal California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
  • Nature of a Man - camera trapping of wildlife throughout California but also a fan of native plants, quirky sense of humor, bit of a desert rat but also regularly covers his home range of the Santa Cruz mountains. Every post has links for learning more.
  • Nature Blog Network - lists thousands of nature blogs and has a mapping program where you can figure out who is writing near you.

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