June 5th, 9 am.
It is a perfect day. The temperature is not too cold or too hot, there is blue sky everywhere with a few puffy clouds. I am walking out at the north end of the valley checking on the wood duck box that the baby ducks recently jumped out of. I wanted to check their route to the water from there. There is a thick Ash forest along the fence that always has interesting things in it. The Tree Swallows are flying above my head so I look up. There is a tall tree with a large nest I have seen before but this time some movement catches my eye so I look with my binoculars at it. At first, I don’t see anything but when I move over a couple of feet I see three small hawk babies intently staring down at me. These are young Red Shouldered Hawks. One appears to be standing up on the edge of the nest, may be ready to fly, while the other two are inside, harder to see. It is great to see that there are three of them. I think about the other times I have passed by this nest and not been aware there were babies in it!
As I am walking towards the wood duck box site I notice there are tiny frogs hopping everywhere, about the size of the tip of my little finger. It is hard to walk so I freeze for a few moments and just watch. These are Chorus frogs, just transformed from their tadpole state as the water has dried up. What does this feel like to go from a swimming fish like being to a four-legged, jumping acrobat? They must be really hungry expending all that energy!
I carefully make my way to the nesting box but once again get distracted by many dozens of flashing dragonflies. It is mesmerizing to see their dance. Most are hooked together in their mating partnership. The male, bright red with its tail hooked to the neck, or the back of the head (do dragonflies have necks?) of the much paler almost yellow females. The fly round and round, up and down in an almost rhythmic pattern, the females touching their tails down into the little bit of water in the grass. I think these are the Red-veined Meadowhawk dragonflies, Sympetrum madidum, that I had seen hatch out early in the season when they were all golden. Now they are laying eggs in a hurry before all is dry.
I can see the trail the baby Wood ducks could have taken, still a long way from Outlet Creek, where they were probably headed. It is an amazing journey after only 24 hours in the nesting box. Many don’t make it which is why these ducks have so many babies.
As I go through the grassland, I notice some beautiful purple Brodeas, Brodea terrestris, peaking out through the grasses. I walk carefully, mindful of them, the tiny frogs hopping all over the ground and the dragonflies dancing around me.
As always it is amazing how many living beings surround us at any moment, though in this place, Mithom kai, the diversity, and beauty of the flora and fauna is astounding.
IMAGES: The last two photos were not taken in this area but in different parts of these wetlands. The wonderful photo of the cows was taken on the fields in the middle-northern area of the mitigation lands, their curious faces are a part of this project and the group photo is from our weekend tour for the Willits community.