Russian Ridge OSP

JO, KG and I (plus four newbie docents) spent almost 4.5 hours scouting on the night of 7/16/10. It was warm enough to go without a jacket, perhaps 70ish. There was a slight breeze in parts.

The wild oats had grown up since the burn last year. We passed several blooming soap lilies, clarkia, three fence lizards, many darkling and other smaller beetles, and tracks in the dust. An American Kestrel called in the distance. A bumble bee with two yellow stripes on the abdomen puzzled us.

Yellow-faced Bumblebee, apparently

Squiggly tracks

On the trail leading north from Borel Hill, we spotted a smallish (around 1.5′) gopher snake, which promptly slithered into a nearby hole. There were also a few tarantula or other mygalomorph holes, one occupied by a mygalomorph that was brown with dark brown patches on its cephalothorax and abdomen. During the night there were a few medium-sized wolf spiders, as well as some smaller dark spiders.

A pile of coyote scat in the trail had what appeared as scales over the surface; unfortunately at least some were bits of plastic bag that had apparently been ingested, something that is not uncommon.

What happens to plastic (and maybe a few reptile scales)

We ate dinner at the vista entrance intersection cleared area. Grasshopper Sparrows were singing, and tree crickets were trilling.  A White-tailed Kite flew by. The view of Mindego Hill included a carpet of low fog, and crepuscular rays lying low over the hills.

Crespuscular rays

In several places in the middle of the Ridge Trail were swarms of tiny true bugs moving around on or close to the ground. The first looked like dirt-colored gnats, but they had beaks and the antennae were wrong. Further along was a swarm of younger bugs without wings. Here’s a video:
Bug swarm

Four deer bounced away on the Ridge Trail at dusk, and we heard distant Great Horned Owl. Between Hawk Trail and Ancient Oaks, we found one small scorpion. During the night there were a few medium sized wolf spiders, as well as some smaller dark spiders. The pillbugs were also out on the trail.

We’ll have to find a way to speed up our trip to fit all the activities in…

As we wrapped up in the lot, a state parks ranger stopped in to make sure everything was ok.

==

Update:

On 7/18, JO and I went back to try to get a better look at the bugs and bumble bee. We started at 2:00; it was pretty warm, 85 or more.  The bug swarms weren’t as large, but they still were there. We didn’t find the winged ones again.

In the wild oats, we did spot a large jumping spider which skittered down the oat as soon as it saw us approaching from afar. There were multiple orb weavers, the kind that we had previously found at Monte Bello. One had prey wrapped in silk, and the silk was covered with little flies. This was a mystery–we weren’t sure at the time if it was an egg sac or prey. It turns out that these are Milichiids, which are commensals of predatory insects.

We also saw several true bugs perched on the tops of dry Harding grass, as well as a pair of mating robber flies.

At 3:50, we turned down the second left from the Ridge Trail, past the Borel Hill turnoff, and continued on to the trail that leads to the Caltrans vista point entrance around 4:35. We passed a badger hole. Around 4:50 we started up the Ridge Trail (lower trail leading past Borel Hill).

Tidy Tips

Back on the main part of Ridge Trail, a surprise was Tidy Tips right in the middle of the road. A yellowish-orange velvet ant was our last wildlife sighting before we got back close to 6:00.

 

More photos are here.

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