Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Lilies, Shooting Stars & a Few Other Early Bloomers at the Santa Rosa Plateau

It was quite breezy this morning and much cooler than yesterday, but at least the sun was out, so we headed out to the Plateau this morning to see if there were any early blooms along the Vernal Pool trail. We stopped at the visitor center for trail info, and found out that the boardwalk over the main vernal pool was closed due to flooding from our most recent rain storm and the Vista Grande trail was also closed at the bridge. Kinda like groundhog day, as this is a repeat scenario from last year when the boardwalk was inundated and many of the footbridges on the Plateau badly damaged from heavy rains & flooding.

As for blooms, the most abundant were the Western Buttercups (Ranunculus occidentalis).  Along the Vernal Pool Trail, we saw some nice stands of Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum), Padres Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii), Bush Lupines (Lupinus excubitus ssp. hallii), a few California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and one Common Lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum). Along the Trans Preserve Trail, the Chocolate Lilies (Fritillaria biflora) are just starting to bloom, as well as Checker Bloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora), Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), Johnny Jump-Up (Viola pedunculata), and Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida). In the oak understory along the Trans Preserve, Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus), Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fasciculatus), Common Bedstraw (Galium aparine), Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobium), Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum), and Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa ssp. glandulosa) are all greening up.

 3/6/11 Vernal pool at the trailhead near the parking lot off Via Volcano. Lots of waterfowl, but will need to bring the spotting scope next time to see them better.

3/6/11 Main vernal pool.

3/6/11 Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis), Vernal Pool Trail. 

3/6/11 Main vernal pool, with Western Buttercups in the foreground.

3/6/11 The boardwalk over the main vernal pool looks quite askew.

Lots of debris along the sides of the boardwalk.

But the duckies aren't complaining. Main vernal pool.

3/6/11 Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Bush Lupine (Lupinus excubitus var. hallii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). A nice patch of these are blooming along the Vernal Pool Trail past the main vernal pool (heading towards the Adobes).

3/6/11 Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 An unusual white-flowered form of Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Common Lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 A Tiger Moth caterpillar. Every spring, these guys are EVERYWHERE along the trails - hard to avoid stepping on them! Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria biflora). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus) twining through some lovely (ahem) Poison Oak. Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 View from Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Some lush-looking Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Pass the vinaigrette, please. Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 A gnarly, but grand old oak tree (Coast Live Oak - Quercus agrifolia?). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fasciculatus). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Only a few of these in bloom along the Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Checker Bloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Second to juvenile gulls, those drabbish, hyperactive microbirds high up in a tree are my favorite birds to ID (NOT!). 

Heck, I think I'm going to call this guy a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). Minus the tell-tale flash of a ruby crown, it's a toss-up between that and a Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni). But it looks like there's a black bar behind the second white wing bar, and the bill is on the thin side, so I say Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.


  1. Another wonderful tour. I've never been here, and will remedy that. The view from Trans Preserve Trail reminds me of thhe area around Solvang.

  2. I wonder why the Lupinus excubitus isn't grown more. My first contact was with the austromontana variety in the mountains east of me, and the plants just knocked by socks off. And wow, you have so much else in bloom. It's a reminder I need to unbusy myself and make some time to get out into the wilds. That's a wonderful preserve you have there. Every visit you make there seems to be a special trip.

  3. My favorites are the late afternoon backlit birds!

    Gorgeous photos -- thanks for sharing!

  4. What a stunning collection of pictures. I particularly love the wildflowers. We are at least month away from that here in Bluff Country. Shooting stars are one of my favorites although our are mostly all white.

  5. Now I want shooting stars in the garden! How beautiful. I wouldn't mind a chocolate lily or two either, it's gorgeous! We're being overrun with Miner's Lettuce at the moment. It's a great plant for indicating some of our soggier soil patches this time of year. I noticed our poison oak was leafing out the day, when I almost poked myself in the eye with it. The hazards of macro photography! ;)

  6. altadenahiker, yes - the plateau is reminiscent of that area.

    James, I've seen austromontanus up in the San Bernardino mountains and they were indeed stunning. I also like the fact that their blooms are so fragrant (hence the common name, Grape Soda Lupine).

    Thanks, Lisa!

    troutbirder, very cool that your shooting stars are mostly white - like your snowy winterscape! White ones are pretty rare in our area.

    Claire, I'm envious that you have miner's lettuce growing on your property! I tried seeding them last year (got the seeds from Larners'), but no luck. Will try again in the fall.