Thursday, April 24, 2014

"San Diego" Easter Sunday Ramble

Cut-leaved Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata)
Those of us living in the humid northern Piedmont with seemingly perennial "eastern gray" skies tend to call cool, cloudless, low-humidity weather "San Diego days" in reference to the nearly perfect conditions enjoyed by San Diego residents.  (My brother-in-law lives there and Kali and I have visited him often.  It's not always "perfect," but it comes a lot closer than the northern Piedmont does in terms of pleasant weather year-round.)  In any case, Easter Sunday was a "San Diego day," and Kali and I took a 5-mile ramble through the city park downstream of "my" preserve to revel in springtime.  We walked downstream along one bank of the creek, then returned to our car along the opposite bank. 
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria candensis)
Though the leaves were common throughout the walk, this was the only bloodroot blossom I observed, so I'm glad I photographed it.  All the other plants had finished blooming already.  In fact, the developing seed capsule of a second blooming stalk is visible in the top center of the image.
Hanging on for dear life
When I came across this stately American beech on the edge of a ravine, Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" came into my head.  It's as if the tree's "hair" were being blown backward by some overwhelming force.
Woodland pool
Dog-toothed Violet, Trout-lily, or Adder's-tongue (Erythronium americanum)
Coy view of the reverse
In places, extensive stands of trout lilies carpeted the forest floor, though few were blooming.  Where they occurred, there were no other plants on the ground plane.
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus divaricata)
Longtime followers will recognize that I have a particular dislike for lesser celandine, a beautiful but introduced and wildly invasive buttercup species that prefers floodplain habitats but will grow just about anywhere.  Of course, since it's flowering right now, it drew my particular attention during our walk.
Lesser celandine gone wild!
In the image above, every bit of "green" is lesser celandine.  Obviously, it has not confined itself to the floodplain, but has marched up onto the wooded slope as well.  This was a particularly bad stand, but many locations were nearly as densely colonized.
Spring-beauties (Claytonia  caroliniana)
Ninety-foot Bridge (a railroad trestle)
Ninety-foot Bridge is a local landmark.  I assume this concrete railroad span got its name from its height.
Wooded hillside above the creek with May-apples or Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum)
Below I've posted an image of my favorite view of "my" creek along its entire 22-mile length, taken from a hill in the city park and looking upstream.  The view would be improved if the city would remove some of the trees, but that would only invite invasive plants to move in.  I mentioned in a public meeting once that this was my favorite overlook (heresy for someone who should find the greatest beauty in his "own" preserve), and several other meeting attendees agreed that it was their favorite view of the creek as well.
My favorite creek view
Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in motion
Nearing the end of our walk, we came around a bend and sent a pair of skittish Wood Ducks skittering to an eddy on the far side of the creek.  Once they felt that they were far enough from us to be safe, the female began to dabble in the foam.  This image was made with my telephoto lens fully extended; in fact, I suspected the ducks were Wood Ducks but couldn't be sure until I used the lens as a monocular (we didn't bring binoculars with us on our walk).  Not the most spectacular image, admittedly, but the ducks' handsome character is evident nonetheless.
A pair of skittish Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)


packrat said...

Very nice images, Scott. I particularly like the last one of the Wood Ducks.

When are you going to remove the quotations marks from "my" preserve and just take possession of the darned place?


Mark P said...

The wood ducks are pretty. That's one bird I have never seen.

Scott said...

Mark: I love to see the Wood Ducks. They are so shy, and tend to nest in such secluded spots, that it's a treat to be able to see them.

Scott said...

Packrat: I'll remove the quotation marks (just for you), but technically I'm only an employee of the non-profit organization that owns the preserve, so it will never be "my" preserve. If we want to get all philosophical about it, I guess that even if I "owned" the land encompassing the preserve, it would only be "my" preserve until I died, wouldn't it?

robin andrea said...

Love seeing these photos from your "San Diego" day. Nice to see these images of spring. Wood Ducks are so beautiful. I will always remember the absolute joy I felt when we saw our very first one in our pond.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: Your recent image of Wood ducks was superior to mine.