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2022 June 23

Secret Walks: goat walk

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I’ve been lax in publishing my walks lately, as my sister visited for about a week, then my wife and I went up to Richmond to help our son settle into his new house.  I helped him remove a rotten pergola and put up curtain rods, while my wife cleared a lot of weeds from the small yard.  I’ve got photos from three walks that I’ve not written up yet, but I’m not going to do them in chronological order.

The “goat walk” that my wife and I took on 16 June 2022, was just the Neary Lagoon loop from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover, but there were goats clearing the weeds on the east side of the park, making our excuse for doing this short walk. The walk in the book is 1.3 miles, but we rotated and reversed the walk to start at the California Ave entrance to Neary Lagoon and do the floating dock first.  Even starting and ending our walk at our house only made the walk 3.1 miles—one of our shortest.


The tule reeds looked particularly fine with a clear sky behind them.


I took a couple of pictures of wood ducks in eclipse plumage, but they were a bit distant, and I’m still having some trouble with focus or motion blur at high zoom.


Another wood duck.


I have several pictures of the goats, but I won’t bother with captions for most of them—as about all I have to say is “goats!”



Here is a before-and-after picture with an electric fence dividing where the goats are eating from a patch that they have not been allowed to graze yet.


This handle, which I believe controls a check gate for managing the height of the lagoon. It does not seem to have been changed in a while, as the tule is growing up through the handle.


This tree does not look very healthy, but it makes a rather surreal picture.


The open water at Neary Lagoon shows the effectiveness of last year’s tule clearance.


This church spire can be seen in the previous photo, about ⅓ of the way from the right-hand edge. Some of the church buildings are rented to the private school my wife works for, though the school is not otherwise affiliated with the church.


The tule seeds are make a nice contrast to the green reeds.


I believe that this is cow parsley (which is edible) and not hemlock (which is poisonous), but I’m not about to taste it to find out.


The redbud pods are very colorful at this time of year. I believe that this is western redbud (Cercis occidentalis).


In the pollinator garden by the sewage treatment plant is this plant, which seems to be red-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens).

2022 May 2

Secret Walks: Museum of Natural History

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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.

2022 April 30

Secret Walks: Climate Action Fair

On Saturday, 23 April 2022, my wife and I walked to the Seymour Center to see what the Climate Action Fair was like.  We decided to take a different route there than returning, taking advantage of what we had learned from the Long-Antonelli Loop.


Click for high-resolution map. We went down King to the end (red), then over to Swift down to the rail-trail, down Natural Bridges to Delaware, Delaware to the trailer park, and around the pond to the bridge (yellow), then over to UCSC’s coastal campus and to the Seymour Center parking lot (green) where the Fair was held. Our return route went on the paths through the coastal campus, crossing the tracks at Shaffer Road, Mission to Western Drive, then Grandview to Escalona to Anthony to Bay to King and home (blue). The whole walk was about 5.6 miles.

I got a few decent bird and flower photos on the walk:


These blossoms on a tree on King Street were unfamiliar to us. After searching with Google Lens (using this and another photo of the tree), I think is is either an ash or a pistachio tree.


There are plenty of lupines blooming around town, but I can’t tell the different species and cultivars apart.


I was trying to take a picture of the fortnight lily—the hoverfly was an unexpected bonus.


Now that the trees and shrubs have leafed out, we only get peeks at Antonelli Pond from Delaware Ave.


In the park by the pond in the trailer park, California poppies are blooming.


So are the water lilies in the pond.


We did not recognize this yellow flower, but Google Lens identified it as silverweed.


In the overflow from the pond down to the beach, we saw a dark-eyed junco bathing. I had a hard time photographing it, because it moved around a lot, dunking itself and shaking the water off.


Here is a view of the pocket beach from the Peter Sunzeri Memorial Bridge over the pond.


One of the mobile homes has these cheerful porpoises decorating the end wall.


From Horizon Drive, there is a very good view of Natural Bridges State Beach and the tidepools. The tide seemed unusually low to us.


I can’t resist taking pictures of these agave whenever I pass them.


The mast of the wrecked ship La Feliz is still on display on the edge of the cliff, but I don’t know much longer it will be there—it looks like a good storm could either break the mast or erode the cliff beneath it.


We saw this song sparrow, but could not identify what sort of sparrow it was until I got the zoomed-in pictures off my camera.


Here is another view of the song sparrow.


At the Climate Action Fair, the best table was for the Marine Mammal Center, who had some lovely casts of skulls of marine mammals (and a few real skulls, though not in this photo).


More of the cast skulls, plus a couple of real skulls in front—the white one with a crest is the skull of a male sea lion .

There looked like there were other interesting tables and activities at the Climate Action Fair, but the awful music was way too loud and unrelenting. I’m going deaf and I found the music uncomfortably loud—my wife could not stand to be closer than about a quarter mile from it. Going into the Seymour Center only made the noise worse. Talking to people at the tables was nearly impossible, so we just got arepas from the Pana food truck and went home. If I knew who was responsible for organizing the fair, and if I knew they were planning to do such a fair again, I would tell them to throw away the amplifiers—have acoustic music or no music, so that the other activities had a chance.


We were unable to identify this yellow flower—we think it is probably a California native planted as part of the restoration of the wetlands, but my photo was not distinctive enough to identify it.


This yellow flower seems to be a gumweed, though I’m not sure which one.


We consider our walks well-formed if we see an egret—and here was a great egret hunting in the grasslands that (in a normal rain year) would be wetlands.


The great egret was successful in its hunt—we think it caught a gopher, but at max zoom I could not hold the camera steady enough (even with the monopod) to get a clear photo of the prey.


We saw a Little Free Library in the middle of the Homeless Garden, but I only took a photo of it from the road—we did not wish to take books away from the homeless people that the library was clearly intended for.


This grand pink flower stalk is from a Bechorneria. (The leaves are green—those red leaves in front are a different plant.)


The bees really love the echium flowers. I think that this was a different echium than Pride of Madeira, but I could be wrong.


As we crossed Highway 1 at Western Drive, we saw a shaved-ice truck parked in the shade, but we did not stop to get anything, as we had the walk light to cross the other way.


The leucospermums are still blooming all over town.


We had not seen this Little Free Library before, but there was nothing in it that we fancied.


This weird blue and purple flower seems to be a Cerinthe major (also known as honey wort).

2022 March 25

Secret Walks: Wilder Ranch Coastal Loop

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On Friday March 25, I went for a walk with a friend.  She drove us to Wilder Ranch, where we did the short coastal loop (about 2.15 miles). The route could be extended by scrambling down to Little Strawberry Beach, or by going around Old Dairy Gulch along the railway tracks—there is quite a bit more coastal trail to the west (which Santa Cruz people will think of as “north”).


We did about the shortest coastal loop that is possible, as the fields are still being farmed.Click the image for a higher-resolution map.

There was a lot of scenery and wildlife along the route, so I took a lot of pictures. I think that the tide was low, so that the rocks and sea caves were unusually visible.


There are some nice views of sea caves.


The telephoto lens lets me get a good view of the sea cave in the previous picture without getting wet.


The little black oval about a third of the way up the cliff is a cormorant, I believe. The man on top of the cliff provides scale.


Another sea cave.


My wife and I regard a walk near water as well-formed if we see an egret. This one was a bit far away, and some of the zoom here is from Photoshop Elements, but it is clearly an egret.


These were also way too far away to get a good picture, but I believe that they are black guillemots.


I believe that this is Erigeron glaucus, known as seaside daisy or seaside fleabane.


I believe that this handsome gull is a western gull, but I have a hard time identifying gulls.


The cormorants here look like they are members of a gang.


Another western gull.


A convention of cormorants


Sea lions Seals on a beach and yet another sea cave


I believe that this is a galucous-winged gull hanging out with the cormorants.


This rabbit was a bit cautious and would not let us get close.


This rabbit with the notched ear was closer, but behind plants that made it hard for me to get a good photo.


I don’t know what mechanism makes all the holes in this cliff be at the same height.


The holes continue around the cliffs at the same level.


This sea lion seal was a loner, not sharing the beach with most of the others.


The canada goose was right at the edge of the cliff—probably for easy take-off and good views.


Some of the sea lions seals on the beach watched us, but most just napped on their sides.


One of the alert sea lions seals.


The patterns on the fur vary quite a bit.


This one seemed to be particularly relaxed.


A view of the beach with sea lions seals from the landward end.


A california quail.

2022 March 18

Secret Walks: Harvey West-Quarry loop

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On Saturday 4 March 2022, my wife and I took a short (3.97 miles) but slightly hilly walk to the quarry owned by the Springtree Homeowners Association, which is where the spring is that gives Spring Street its name.


We started on the red route to get to Harvey West Park and go up the Wagner Grove trail, then the orange route to get to the quarry. In retrospect, we should have taken the yellow route, which would have given us another pedestrian-only path on the route and eliminated the one duplicated block that we walked. We then took the green route: the stairs up to Limestone Lane, down to the pedestrian cut-through to Quarry Court, and down to Westlake. From there we took the blue route home.(Click image for higher-resolution map.)


This mixture of snapdragons on King Street was a colorful display.


I’m partial to weird flowers, like this grevillea.


The fig trees were just beginning to open their leaf buds.


This is the first time I’ve noticed seedpods on a redbud.


This huge yucca plant is an impressive front-yard tree.


I’m no good at telling the various fruit-tree blossoms apart, but I like them all for the short time that they are around.


This walk has a lot of Little Free Libraries—and we picked up a few books that my wife wanted on this walk.


Most of the calla lilies around here are large white ones, but a few people have planted smaller colored ones—they don’t seem to naturalize as much (which is probably a good thing).


Neither my wife nor I recognized this plant as baby sage (Salvia microphylla), but Google Lens identified it for us.


Both my wife and I like the architecture of the Piedmont Court, which is now senior condos. I was playing with the zoom on the camera to get this view of the medallion in the center.


On the path above Highway 1, we saw wild cucumber.


We also saw a dead tree with these weird seed clusters—we believe it is (was) some sort of eucalyptus.


The buckeye trees have fresh young leaves and catkin-like flowers—very different from their late summer appearance.


Our route took us past the Evergreen Cemetery—one of our walks will have to go through the cemetery, looking at all the gravestones, but that was not part of this walk.


We walked up the path through the Wagner Grove, which I had done before, but my wife had not.


The only part of the walk that made my wife uncomfortable was scrambling under this fallen tree, as the path underneath has mostly crumbled away and has quite a cross-slope. A little path repair here would be welcome. (There is an alternative route going back a little ways and climbing up to a slightly higher trail that we have taken before.)


This plant was identified by Google Lens as black nightshade. I can usually only identify nightshade when it has berries.


Looking back from the stairs need the top of the park shows the redwoods lining the (mostly dry) creek.


Our second Little Free Library of the walk.


This old machinery in the quarry may have been part of pumps used to drain the quarry, back when it was used as a quarry.


The quarry itself is mostly a tule marsh now, with the tule reeds covering at least 80% of the pond.


I was amused by this palm tree crossing (and almost blocking) the outflow from the pond. I also wonder how often the wooden retaining walls for the outflow need to be replaced.


The Springtree Homeowners Association maintains a nice picnic area tucked back behind the pond.


I was playing with my zoom again, to get a picture of the fence at the top of the quarry taken from the picnic area.


These steps up to Limestone Lane are referred to as the “dragon stairs” by one of my wife’s former colleagues, who lives near the base of them. (We ran into him and chatted for a while on this walk.)


This pedestrian path runs from Limestone Lane to Quarry Court.


Here is our third Little Free Library.


And our fourth.




And sixth.


In Westlake, we saw a cormorant sunning itself in the middle of the lake. It looks like a turtle has joined it.


There are almost always mallards.


But the ring-necked ducks are more unusual sight.


Coots are very common.


But buffleheads are a rarer sighting.


Canada geese and mallards are the most commonly seen birds, though the canada geese may be seasonal.


Frosty the Lamppost is a rather light-hearted yard ornament.


Coming down the steep part of Laurent, there are some fine blooms of pride-of-madeira. The bees were delighted with them, and I managed to get a couple of shots of the bees. I find bees and hummingbirds difficult to get pictures of—by the time I have found them and gotten the picture framed, they have usually flown away.

We probably won’t be doing a walk this weekend—not only is it supposed to rain on Saturday, but I’ll be judging at the Santa Cruz County Science and Engineering Fair all day.

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