Purisima Creek Redwoods OSP

Leaf colors

Looking for a new place to lead public night hikes, JO, PB, KG and I scouted this preserve on the lower side on 9/5/12. There was a threat of a thunderstorm, but except for a few light drops, we didn’t experience one.  We started off around 5:30.

Except for a Pacific Wren chattering, it was silent all night. We stopped to look at particularly tall fairy bells, and sugar scoops. Soon we came across the carcass of an intact shrew, with a long snout and sparsely-haired tail. A few minutes later, a green Sierran treefrog (Pseudacris sierra) hopped away and up the trailbank. On some hedgenettle (Stachys), we found a couple of bronze leaf beetles. These were something new, and we found one more later. Thimbleberry leaves had interesting mines. We found several lady ferns with knotted galls at the frond ends. We haven’t noticed anything like this before. It’s possible this was caused by a fly.  Burning bush was another plant sighting.

The sky was overcast, but that didn’t prevent a reddish color cast as we sat at the second bridge at sunset. After twenty minutes we moved on around 7:35.

We decided to go part way up Craig Britton Trail, making the turn at 8:00. JO found a mating pair of green Timemas, a native walking stick. These are short and stocky and don’t look like typical tropical stick insects.

We reached the bench around 8:25. There hadn’t been much else of particular interest, so we turned around. At the bottom back on the original trail, something awkwardly ran across in front of me.  An Ensatina! Further along there was a small group of mushrooms, and a small puffball.

At almost 9:00, another Ensatina crossed our path (or we crossed its path). Shortly after that, another small mammal carcass showed up. At first, we thought it was the same as the first, only broken down by scavenging beetles and other insects. But the hands were different, more shaped for digging (but they didn’t seem as big as some mole hands I’ve seen), and the tail had more fur. The hands were also positioned out from the body, unlike the first carcass. But most of the internal structure was gone. I’m wondering if this is a shrew mole. Sexton (Nicrophorus) beetles carrying mites crawled in and out of  the carcass.

After ten minutes of examining the carcass and beetles, we proceeded on. We came across a few harvestmen eating insects. One harvestman perched on a fallen leaf, apparently having predated a moth.

As we got up to move on, I noticed something else nearby. The large insect was dusty, and at first glance looked like one of the female Orthopterans we often see. But as we discussed the features, it became apparent that this was something else that we hadn’t seen before.  “Horntail” popped into my head, from seeing images of them.  It turned out that that’s what that was.

Another, large Ensatina appeared, and a scat pile with another scavenging Nicrophorus beetle.

It seemed like a night of eating, for the critters.

More photos are here.


Here is often what happens when people leave drink containers where they don’t belong–critters get in (like shrew moles), and can’t escape.

Bottle of beetles, Death Valley, courtesy Jack Owicki

This not only happens with drink containers, it can happen with any kind of item with smooth walls, like open top vertical pipes.