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2022 May 30

Secret Walks: West Cliff at sunset

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:41
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On the evening of Sunday 2022 May 22, my wife and I took my sister to see West Cliff Drive around sunset.  We did not walk far—just a little bit from the Shrine of St. Joseph to the end of Lighthouse Field, then back across Lighthouse Field.  My wife’s feet were a little sore from all the walking over the weekend, the sunset was not particularly colorful, and there was way too much noise from the two groups playing loud music at the lighthouse (at least the fire dancers were somewhat interesting to watch, though they were not very good—Sunday night seems to be a time for beginners to gather to practice).  I did not attempt to take any pictures of the fire dancers.


There were a pair of sea otters in the kelp near the shrine. I believe it was a mother and pup. I managed to get this shot of the mama sea otter, but I never got a clear shot of the pup.


The squid boats were out, but much closer to shore than I expected.


There were a lot of squid boats.


Here are more of them—I did not get a shot of all of them (I would have needed to take a panorama shot to get them all).


I’ve no idea what the purple plants on the side of the cliff are by the lighthouse. The texture is much finer than iceplant (which covers the top of the cliff).


I zoomed in on the natural bridge across Its Beach.


Here is Its Beach and the natural bridge without the zoom. As always, there were a lot of off-leash dogs on the beach, which I believe is legal before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop yet again

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:54
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I posted before about doing the Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop on March 25 and on April 10.  On Sunday 22 May I went again, this time with my wife and my sister, neither of whom had done the loop before.  We drove to the park, but parked on Highway 1, rather than driving in to the parking lot.


I usually have difficulty photographing butterflies, but this western tiger swallowtail posed nicely for me on the wild radish. I got a few photos, but this one shows the markings best.


The wild radishes themselves have nice blooms at this time of year—I like the purplish ones best.


The wood rose had just a single bloom—I don’t know whether it has more in a different season.


This is one of my better bee photo, on some sort of mustard flower.


Here is a bee on seaside wooly sunflower (it was a good day for bee photos).


The yellow bush lupine was blooming but also showing seed pods.


I zoomed way in to get this western gull on the ridge across the beach, but the quality was not all I hoped for.


The harbor seal pups have gotten quite big—the one coming out of the water here is about half the size of the adults now. A lot of the seals were out on the rocks rather than on the sandy beach.


I could not identify these black guillemots until I got the photos home and could look at them on a bigger screen—again the quality at full zoom leaves a little to be desired.


I took my sister down to fern grotto beach, but my wife did not want to make the steep descent. That was probably just as well, as I slipped and fell, and I’m usually surer-footed than my wife.


Here is proof (if any of her friends need it), that my sister was indeed at Fern Grotto Beach.


Every time I go to Fern Grotto Beach, I’m fascinated by these holes in the cliffs. The all line up horizontally, but there is not a visible difference between the rock layer with the holes and that layers immediately above and below.


The view across Fern Grotto Beach looking north is a classic northern California coastline landscape. The finger of rock jutting out in the middle is where a lot of the harbor seal colony was sleeping.


The seaside daisies were putting on a fine display.


We saw a lot of pelicans on the beach at Wilder Creek. I’ve never seen pelicans on the ground before.


I’ve also never seen so many pelicans at once (this was not even all of them, as there were another 50–100 in the creek). Usually a dozen pelicans flying in line is the biggest cluster I see.


The California buckeyes were also blooming vigorously. Pretty soon the flowers will be over and the buckeyes will drop their leaves for the summer. I don’t know of any other deciduous tree that has leaves in winter and drops them for the summer.

2022 May 29

Secret Walks: Henry Cowell Redwoods

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:37
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On Saturday 21 May, my wife and I went with my sister, who was visiting, to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  We walked from Parking Lot 1 (by the picnic area) through the magnificent grove of redwoods that are on the loop trail near the visitor center, down to Cathedral Grove, then up to the observation deck at the highest point in the park, and finally back down Ridge Fire Road to the finish the loop trail. It has been something like 3 decades since my wife and I had been up to observation deck, as most visitors we’ve been to the park with have not been up for anything more strenuous than the flat loop trail.

I will not include the somewhat boring and cliched pictures of redwood trees in this post, but will try to highlight some of the other things we saw.  For some of the flowers I’m rather uncertain of the identification—I’d appreciate more info.  (I have other photos and higher-resolution images of several of them, if these cropped and downsampled images are insufficient.)


This is some sort of violet—I can’t tell which without the flower. It is growing right next to a lot of redwood sorrel.


This seems to be a periwinkle.


The thimbleberry photo came out better than I expected.


My sister liked the composition of these arching branches, but the zoom on her camera was being balky, so I took the photo for her.


These downed tree across Eagle Creek do a good job of hiding the creek. We had originally planned to cross the creek, but my wife did not like the steepness of the trails, so we walked along the north side of the creek until the path rejoined Pipeline Road.


I’m not sure what this fuzzy-leafed plant is. Google Lens thought it was veronica, but I don’t trust Google Lens that much.


Google Lens though that this plant was Whipplea modesta, but I think it is the same species as the previous photo (though not the same plant).


Here is a redwood violet.


This is either a Fernald’s iris or a Douglas iris. I’m not sure how to tell them apart, as both seem to be able to have the same lavender-and-yellow coloration. My wife leans more to it being a Fernald’s iris.


I had not seen a trillium for a long time, but the leaf shapes are rather distinctive.


This lizard has the markings of a western fence lizard, but was bigger than I’m used to seeing fence lizards.


I’ve no idea what sort of plant this is—I think that these are catkins on it. I have a few other pictures of the leaves and branches, but Google Lens was of no help in identifying any of them.


I’m not sure why the California yerba santa had blackened leaves. Is this usual for it? Had there been a controlled burn of the chaparral that deposited soot? There was some other evidence of burn scars below the observation deck.


Another California yerba santa, without the blackened leaves this time.


This legume seems to be chaparral peas.


These fuzzy balls seem to be golden chinquapin.


This seems to be a rockrose.


I was unable to identify this white flower at all.


I took many views from the observation deck, but they lacked much impact in a small format. This zoomed image of the scars left by Granite Construction was the best image in small format. The Google Maps satellite image (37.034602547404475, -122.0976728917913) shows a much larger scar (from sand mining, I believe) on the other side of the ridge.


I liked the lyre or trident shape of this tree.


We saw some acorn woodpeckers, but they moved too quickly for us to get photos. There were a few granary trees around the observation deck, and I took this zoom shot of some of the holes, many of which seem to have acorns in them.


This ground cover seems to be chorizanthe.


Here is one redwood—not for the tree but for the ladders of cobwebs on the bark.

We walked a total of about 4.6 miles in Henry Cowell Redwoods—a little shorter than many of our walks, but somewhat hillier.

2022 May 2

Secret Walks: Museum of Natural History

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:33
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On Sunday, 1 May 2022, my wife and I walked to the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, to see the annual display of scientific illustration.


(Click for higher-resolution map) We went down Bay, through Neary Lagoon on the floating boardwalk, along Beach Street, and across the pedestrian bridge. We returned across the Riverside bridge, so that we could go downtown for lunch. The whole walk was about 5.7 miles.


At full zoom, my camera takes rather poor pictures (I haven’t found a way to restrict it to doing only optical, and not digital zoom). But I needed full zoom to identify this bird in Neary Lagoon as a pie-billed grebe.


We’ve never seen a mallard duck standing on a railing before—they usually prefer flat surfaces.


We only saw one coot in the lagoon—usually coots seem to hang out in fairly large groups.


Another pie-billed grebe. This one made a very loud call—you can hear a similar call at


Yet another pie-billed grebe.


The yellow irises near Neary Lagoon are still blooming, but not as exuberantly as a week or two ago.


The buttercups are attracting pollinators. I did not get a close enough photo to decide whether these are bees or hoverflies, but I lean toward hoverflies.


Purple salsify grows as a weed here. Supposedly the stalks and roots are edible if cooked. We have a little in our back lawn.


Red valerian also grows as weed.


Santa Cruz now has a year-round population of monarch butterflies, but no longer seems to get many migrating ones.


I think that this mural on the carousel building at the Boardwalk is a fairly new one—at least, I don’t remember seeing it before.


On Hiawatha, someone has gotten a bit carried away with decorating their garage with wooden letters. The signs seem to say “liars beware” and “idiocracy wag the dog”.


Photographing bees feeding on bottlebrush bushes is difficult—the bees dive into the flower deep enough that little of them is visible. This was as much of a bee as I ever managed to get.

I did not take any pictures at the museum—it would not be right to take photos of the art work on display. The museum still displays a collection of taxidermy (mostly local animals), a live snake, a working beehive with glass sides, a small touch pool, and some American Indian artifacts (including some nice baskets). The museum is a good one for young kids with an interest in nature, and the illustration exhibit was quite good.


California buckeye flowers are now blooming. This bloom was on a small plant on the river levee.


Another naturalized plant is Scabiosa atropurpurea, though it is a pretty enough flower that no one seems to mind.


This ground cover on the levee is one we were not familiar with—it appears to be Lotus subbiflorus.


I tried to take pictures of gulls landing or taking off—without much success, as they were so far away that I needed a lot of zoom, and then I could not track them easily.


This small gull seems to be a Bonaparte’s gull.


Here are a western gull and a Bonaparte’s gull side by side, for a comparison of sizes.


The levee has some sticky monkey-flower planted—probably as part of the effort to restore native plants to the levee.


There is also a yellow sticky monkey-flower.


I believe that these ducks are common goldeneyes, though it is hard to tell when they have tucked their heads away so that neither the eyes nor the beaks are visible.


This shot is what convinced me that the ducks were male and female common goldeneyes.


Behind the goldeneyes was a driftwood tree.


Canada gees are a fairly common site on the river or in the ponds.


This mural is the side of the Motion Pacific dance studio.


I rarely visit Pacific south of Laurel, so I had not seen these sculptures before.


This gorilla sculpture was part of the same group as the Spiderman sculpture.

We had lunch at Cruz Kitchen and Taps, which replaces Saturn Cafe. I had a blackened-fish sandwich, which has a good sauce, but the fish itself was flavorless (probably tilapia). My wife had the breakfast tacos, which were probably a better choice. The food was not very exciting, and the traffic noise on Laurel made eating outdoors less pleasant that it could have been. We might eat there again, but it won’t be high on our list of destinations.


On the way home, we noticed that the curly willow that was cut down in front of Emily’s Bakery is beginning to regrow from the stump.


On Laurel Street, I saw a small bird at the top of a tree, but could not identify it live. Using the max zoom and then enlarging the picture in Photoshop Elements, I could see that it was a house finch.

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