Girls’ Night Out at Russian Ridge

First, the scouting trip on 8/9. KG and I left the trailhead at 6:00. It was relatively warm, maybe 75. We were going at a somewhat slow pace, but kept moving except for a couple of stops. There was an orange velvet ant on the Ridge trail, and a brown beetle. We heard a couple of Western Bluebirds and saw one.

Clarkia was blooming, and there were a few pink thimbleberries. We reached the deck at 7:25. It seemed like the view was better than it was the last time we were there; we couldn’t remember being able to see sunset, but we weren’t sure why. After the sun went down at 8:15, the temperature was about 68F. We thought we could get through on the trail on the Mindego side of the hill, going past the windmill, but at the top, there wasn’t a visible trail connection. We returned to the deck and back to Hawk Hill the way we had come.

Harding grass and the moon

Harding grass filled the area looking towards Borel Hill. Warm air and chilled air wafted across the trail as we walked. A distant Great-horned Owl called from below. Crickets, small ground beetles and darkling beetles were plentiful on the trail.

A couple of deer bounded away in the grassland. As we approached the Ridge trail again, we spotted a small-medium spider which, at first glance, looked like a wolf spider. But after a photo, we discovered it was actually a small Calisoga, a surprise. Returning on the Ridge trail, a Barn Owl called. We arrived back a little before 10:30.

The actual hike occurred on 8/12, with KG and KP. We had 20 on the reservation list, with two cancellations. 12 actually showed up. A few were new, and a few had not been on a night hike. We started on the trailhead at 5:50. The temperature was similar to Tuesday’s.

As we approached the telephone wires, a huge flock of Violet-green Swallows got stirred up, perhaps by a family in front of us. There were hundreds of them; I don’t remember having seen such a sight there before.

Hundreds of Violet-green Swallows

We stopped on Borel Hill and pointed out landmarks. We stayed there a bit longer than I’d planned, so we kept a good pace on the way to the deck. Small, light-colored insects aggregated in low swarms. (If this had been another type of hike, I would have taken the time to catch one to see what they were.) A lone Red-tailed Hawk perched on the snag below the Caltrans vista point intersection.

The bulk of the group arrived there around 7:13, close to schedule.

The air above the oats in the meadow north of the deck was filled with small insects, perhaps the same ones we’d seen on the trail. Dragonflies patrolled also. Coyotes yipped from nearby, surprisingly early. Two American Kestrels called from nearby. We speculated that one was a young one bugging its parent. A flock of Bushtits flitted between trees. Straight out, a vertical arc shined in the sky.

In keeping with the theme, we enjoyed treats and butterfly tattoos. We headed off towards Hawk Ridge. We heard the owl again. Just after sunset, we came upon a young rattlesnake in the trail. When I  shined my light on it to see it better, it slithered into the grass.

Once under tree cover, we distributed glow bracelets. Because the moon was out, it was still somewhat light even under trees. Bats flew around ahead of us in the open. Back in the grassland, we saw deer cross the trail again. Crickets and katydids serenaded us.

We arrived at the cleared area at 8:50, giving us 20 minutes to sit and enjoy the rest of our treats under the almost full moon, before heading back towards the Caltrans entrance trail and around the side of the hill.

When we reached the main trail again, someone spotted a small Calisoga spider, and we stopped to take a look at it. A little further along, and we saw a Jerusalem Cricket, and then a medium-sized wolf spider predating a cricket. (We don’t see that too often. I’m not sure how well that went over with the “girls”, but I thought it interesting.)

Back at the lot by 10:30, everyone appreciated the beautiful night.

More photos are here.

As we drove down Page Mill, a Barn Owl flew across the road and landed about 10-12′ up. We stopped the car underneath the tree, and got a quick look at it looking down at us before it took off. A hare also ran across in a different spot.

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