Russian Ridge OSP

Ocean of fog

We started off at 5:30 to scout our upcoming Girls’ Night Out. The temps ranged from about 68-73F, and the sky was clear. The first stretch of trail has been worked on over the summer. Now it’s like walking on the back of a giant snake, a little unsettling to walk on, and not much room for a bicyclist to pass.

I noticed a few stones that seemed out of place. KG lifted one up, and beneath it was the top part of a small paper wasp nest, fashioned into a hatch with a porthole. Below that was a spider burrow, lined with silk. We didn’t know what to make of this, whether a human had interfered in some way, so we left off the stone until after dark.

Another spider burrow showed up. This time the spider had done housecleaning; bits of arthropod exoskeleton lay scattered in front of the opening. Goldfinches, an American Kestrel, juncos (some different looking but hard to see), Band-tailed Pigeon and Bewick’s Wren went about their business.

On Borel Hill, a Painted Lady butterfly taunted us into trying to get good looks. As we descended, a juvenile Southern Alligator Lizard, with yellow eyes, tried to make itself invisible in the dry grass.

Unfortunately we began to see cigarette butts in the trail. LJ picked up at least six of them, and there was a drink container, tossed by the wayside. After we crossed the trail leading in from the vista point, still seeing butts, I was dismayed to see that someone had written graffiti on a lichen-covered rock by the trail. I come to the open spaces to get “far from the madding crowd”. I don’t like reminders like this; I want to forget about the rest of the world.

The graffiti didn’t stop a praying mantis from using it as a perch. This was an introduced species, Mantis religiosa, with a dark spot on the inside of its upper front leg. We’ve had more than the usual number of sightings of mantids this year. It would be nice to see a native mantis.

Another juvenile alligator lizard made an appearance, and we would see a third. In the fine dust of the trail, animal tracks were easy to see–turkey, a smaller walking bird, and a puzzling bird track that had a very long stride for the size of the feet. A small pit of dust from a disturbance revealed insect tracks in it, perhaps made by one of the 3-4 large darkling beetles or few smaller ones we saw along the way.

A couple of tangled webs around uneven holes probably were made by black widows. One spider was visible but not her abdomen. I’ve also been seeing odd silk funnels that appear to go into the ground, but they don’t look like the funnels made by grass/funnel spiders (Agelenids).

At the Hawk Ridge intersection, a large feline had left scat. A large wolf spider carried her brood through the grass. A White-tailed Kite hunted.

We reached the deck at 7:20. A California Thrasher gave “whit-whit” calls, and coyotes yipped. A couple of dampwood termites and a bat fluttered around.

We left there at 8:05.  Great Horned Owl called, and Western Screech Owl wailed.

When it was dark enough, we found one scorpion, and a desiccated yellow-spotted millipede.

At the spot that we had chosen for our second sit, we looked at the Milky Way steaming out of the Teapot (actually Sagittarius), and Scorpius and Libra. We turned to the right instead of the intended way.

That did give us an opportunity to watch a large two-humped orb weaver spin her web.

We stopped to check the spider burrow. The stone remained where it was, and the spider peered out of the hole like a pixie. Still not sure which came first, I replaced the stone.

The pixie spider

Despite the detour, we got back by 10:30.

Here are more photos.

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