A Night Hike for Newbies

At Russian Ridge on 7/23/10, KG, JO and I were surprised, honored (and a little intimidated) to find DWB awaiting our hike, along with 11 other participants. The reservation list was at 11 until the night before, when it went up to 23. One person had cancelled, but it was odd that people signed up at the last minute and then didn’t show (a group of 6 among them).

The night was warm, 70-75 degrees all night, warm enough for me to stay in shirtsleeves.

Despite intentions to get out quickly, we left the lot around 6:23. We would have had to keep moving to reach our planned dinner spot on time, but we saw lots of things along the way. The swarming bugs that we saw on our scouting hikes were still around. We pondered their behavior and if they associated with a particular plant. They seemed near some purple sand spurrey, which was not in bloom. The Aculepeira orb weavers were also still around, as were the true bugs on Harding grass. A Western Bluebird chirped from atop an elderberry. We observed lots of tracks and scat in the trail. The darkling beetles and other small beetles plodded along.

Velvet ant, really a wasp--don't try this at home!

We stopped for dinner close to 8:00, at the same spot has we had on our scouting hike. While we sat, some Band-tailed Pigeons flew over, and swallows looked for insects. There were small clouds of gnat-like insects above our heads. KG found a true bug and a katydid as we ate. We heard some seabird-like bird calls coming from downhill.

The group below

While KG talked about night vision and other things, I checked up the hill to see if I could find the mygalomorph in the hole that we’d seen previously. I couldn’t find the hole, but I did see what was producing the calls: two Red-tailed Hawks perched in a snag, with the low fog behind them in the valley.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks squealing

Continuing on our alternate route, we headed down towards the Mindego Ridge Trail. A few brush rabbits scurried into the vegetation at the side of the trail. Eight deer, many with antlers, watched as we approached in the twilight. We passed a couple of badger holes, and found a hole in the middle of the trail with dirt fanned out on one side, made by a coyote. I wonder what it was after.


As we entered some trees, we flushed a roosting quail. The katydids and crickets were calling. JO found a crab spider.

Near the Ancient Oaks intersection close to 9:30, we found a katydid that fluoresced–not brightly, but it stood out. There was also a scorpion, and a small millipede of the dark brown and yellow kind.

Taking the left fork up in the oaks, we reached the Ridge Trail again at 10:00. When we got closer to the lot, we stopped to do the scent activity. As we stood in a circle, a Barn Owl flew around some brush in the west.

We continued on, and as we approached the curve and the telephone pole on the right, a loud “who-who-who…who-who” startled us. I looked at the top of the pole, and on the far side, a Great Horned Owl perched! It called a few more times, then flew to the lower telephone line near the parking lot.

On the last leg, we came across a small Jerusalem Cricket.

The moon was out, so most of us went into the tunnel for one more activity (triboluminescence). After we finished, DWB took advantage of the acoustics to give us a wonderful song that suited the night.


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