An Open Space Odyssey Continues
By Michael Landram, Marin County Parks Volunteer
Earlier this month, I led a hike in Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve for John Kelly’s “Greenboots” conservation awareness organization (http://www.greenbootmedia.com/). The redwoods live up to their reputation and the loop trail provides a wonderful overview of the diversity within this preserve made famous by its inclusion as a filming location for Star Wars films. But for me, the highlight of the day was the sweeping views to be had off the Dixon Fire Road. You can almost see west to the ocean and you can see the San Francisco Bay to the east! The view of the Preserve below set the redwoods in a proper landscape context, blended into a pastoral green landscape on a fine spring day.
To learn more about Roy’s Redwoods and other Marin County parks and preserves, visit www.marincountyparks.org.
Join me on my odyssey on the trails of Marin County’s open space preserves! Contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to come along. All hikes are on weekdays.
By David Herlocker, Naturalist
Are you having trouble focusing on your income tax forms with this beautiful weather pressing in around you? Don’t feel too guilty, it’s probably natural. In spite of the fact that we celebrate romance and pair formation in February (on Valentine’s Day of course); right now is the time when nature seems to be totally focused on the mating game.
Walking the trails of Marin County Parks open space preserves, the casual observer can’t help but notice that the rocks and logs along the trail are now adorned with the bodies of sunning Western Fence Lizards (they are those scaly looking gray lizards that we called “blue bellies” as kids). If you stop for a moment to watch them, you might see them chasing each other and occasionally performing their territorial displays, which look like push-ups to us. These push-ups and mechanical head-bobs are their way to display the bright blue patches on their throats and bellies. Displays of this sort are intended to impress unmated females and to intimidate rival males. If you see two lizards that appear to be fighting you might have to look a bit closer, they may actually be mating. After mating, a female might continue to spend time near her mate. He will benefit her by chasing off bothersome amorous males, leaving her free to feast on the flies and other insects which land within this prime feeding territory.
Are you noticing that you are awakened each morning to the melodies of singing birds? Many of these love songs are an indication that our songbirds are beginning their annual mating rituals. Many of the birds that breed here are really only temporary residents; they spend the larger portion of the year in the tropics. During their brief visit to our region they totally focus on procreation. As spring approaches, they begin to move north, stimulated by hormonal urges that drive them to seek out optimal breeding habitat. Most birds usually return to the same area where they were born, males tend to arrive a week or so ahead of the females. Males use their songs and (in many species) bright colors to establish territories. When the females finally appear, these songs and visual displays attract them to the most impressive males. If a female likes the location (in terms of food availability, and suitable nesting location) she will set up housekeeping with the resident male. For most of our typical land birds, nest construction will take a week. This is followed directly by a week of egg laying punctuated by quick (but frequent) bouts of copulation. Once the clutch of eggs is complete, the pair might share two weeks of incubation, two weeks of feeding the growing nestlings, and then another couple of weeks hanging around the area as a family before they split up and head south again at the end of summer. Enjoy these sweet voices of spring; all too soon they will grow silent as the brief breeding frenzy plays itself out around us.
I’ve returned to the Marin County Open Space Preserves after a road trip in March to find landscapes fully hydrated and a flush of flowering plants. My personal exercise goal of walking all the fire roads and trails of the Open Space District in 2012 is proceeding nicely. All the preserves south of Bald Hill (in San Anselmo) are complete. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Cascade Canyon Preserve near Fairfax. The Preserve encompasses three major creek canyons; Cascade, San Anselmo, and Carey Camp.
My friend Kirk and I had a magical moment Friday, April 6, perched on the ridge where the Happersberger Trail meets the open space boundary. As we sat in a grassy opening enjoying views of the White Hill Preserve to the north and the Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve to the east, we were treated to the quiet clucking of wild turkeys somewhere below us on the north aspect above San Anselmo Creek. You simply never know what delight awaits you on a given day!
Where are your favorite places to see waterfalls in Marin?