Monte Bello OSP

Our early June hikes are attempts to see something special. We’ve missed them since 2009.

We moved our scheduled scouting hike from Friday to Sunday, as it was cold early in the
day and thunder storms were forecast. On 5/27/12, it was overcast until after noon. Fortunately, it cleared up by the time we got to the lot.

As JH and I waited for KG, a raven appeared in the lot. Its tail moved from side to side as it waddled halfway across the lot, past the entry, through the gate leading to Canyon Trail, and under the arching oak, never to be seen again…

Raven’s path

We started off at 6:30. The first section of the trail had been worked on; it was wider, and the soil was compacted. Harvester ants were busy on the sides of the trail. Owl’s clover and a yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus) grew among the oats. I thought we would see more Calochortus, but that was the only one.

Passing the old walnut grove, some hikers alerted us to a banana slug. We noticed a darkling beetle, a wolf spider with babies, and a crane fly with two missing legs and carrying a mite.

Near the bench, a Song Sparrow sang and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers called, joining the California Towhee and Red-tailed Hawk that I’d seen at the lot. Spotted Towhee, Hutton’s Vireo, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Purple Finch, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, and Wild Turkey also joined the list. We checked for previously-seen spider holes, but couldn’t locate them.

Seep-spring monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) was blooming, as was narrow-leaved flax.

At 7:08, we turned left to go uphill. It was about 60F then, and it went down to about 50F by the end of the night. What sounded like Pileated Woodpeckers called, and we heard their calls in other areas on our way. We took note of the locations of three hard spider turrets, two near a multi-trunked tree, and another near three trees in a row, to check after dark. We heard Hairy Woodpecker, and fast woodpecker drumming. I added California Quail, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Acorn Woodpeckers to my list. A black-tailed deer nonchalantly walked through the woods.

A Wild Turkey walked the trail as we neared the nature trail intersection around 8:00. There was a small amount of water in the sag pond.

Running turkey

We continued on to Indian Creek. Bushtits and Dark-eyed Juncos called. We stopped briefly at the gravel pit; phacelia and small clarkias were there, but no jewelflower. Alas, no pygmy owl. We heard some mystery calls.

It was 8:15 when we reached the intersection, not yet sunset. We headed uphill. In past years we’ve seen blue larkspur, but not this year. However, blowwives (or their relatives), golden yarrow and paintbrush lined the chaparral trail. We stopped under an oak at some quail noise. As we stood there, something walked through the brush near the trail, and we expected a quail to emerge. But the “quail” was black and white, and had a bushy tail! The striped skunk paid us no mind as it browsed, but it moved a little to fast for me to get a good shot.

Striped Skunk

At the edge, we could hear treefrogs calling from below. We went about .4 miles up and had dinner at 8:40. A bat patrolled, snapping up the mosquitos over our heads.

We started back at 8:55. After turning the corner, a Common Poorwill began to call. It called a few times from very close, then moved up the hill. We heard more Barn Owls, including twittering calls. A Great Horned Owl hooted, and we heard some Western-screech Owls as we headed back.

At 9:30 we arrived at the intersection, and checked for spider holes. We found one that we’d previously looked at. The hole was about an inch in diameter, and I could see the spider below. I gently coaxed the spider out, and we could then see that it was a good-sized Calisoga.

Coyotes howled as we started uphill, and more screech-owls called. Holes in the trail bank revealed Arboreal Salamander and two California Slender Salamanders. At the entrance to another hole in the bank perched another Calisoga. As I took a photo, some dirt a few inches away began to be pushed out of a hole about 4-5″ in diameter. A few pushes, and it stopped. Another few pushes, and stop. It went on this way for a few minutes, all the while with the spider still sitting at its hole. It must know its neighbor, as all the earth moving didn’t seem to bother it.

We rechecked the bench area, but still couldn’t find any holes.

Some insistent owl screeching, perhaps young, carried over the canyon. The sky was clear, so the stars were visible as we arrived back at the lot.

Here are more photos.

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