Late Summer Diversity

August 19th, 9 am.

The long summer days are beginning to get shorter and the mornings have a crispness to them. Even so, summer is still here for another month and I am thinking of how much diversity there is in our Little Lake Valley. By that I, of course, mean the plants and animals that we share this valley with. As I look around at what is living in the riparian corridors, woodlands, and grassland areas around us, I see an abundance of different animals which in turn reflect the plant life and water they are dependent upon. 

As I am walking around the Outlet creek and Davis creek areas there are so many birds calling, flying, and eating around me. The one that I will choose to talk about is the beautiful Western Tanager, Piranga Indoviciana. This is a juvenile of the species which even though it does not have the striking red head and bright yellow body of the adult male, it is still a lovely bird! The Western Tanager is not a year round resident like the American Robin, or the Black Phoebe, it is only here for breeding and nesting then returns in the late summer and early fall to Central and South America. The song of the Tanager is a little like the Robin song but is not heard much at this point, just its prrip sound as it moves through eating berries and other fruit. Here it seemed to be eating the seeds of the wild anise plant. 

There are many small frogs hopping in the wetter areas along the creeks. These are the Pacific Chorus Tree frogs, Hyla regilla. Its characteristic black line through the eyes helping me identify it. The coloration is highly variable from cream to dark brown to red or green as in this very cute one. I am careful not to step on them as I walk along.

My mind is of course on the animals that we don’t see during the day but are out at night. The signs of them are footprints or scat in the dust of the roads or in the case of our American beaver, Castor canadensis, in the dams they build or the gnawing of the trees. This week we had a big surprise on our video cam recorder showing a whole family of beavers at work and play. We have posted one of them and will post more with a beaver blog next week. The beaver is an important component of our wetlands along with the Tule elk, Cervus elaphus ssp. nannodes, and again, we are so very fortunate to have them in this valley. There is a group of Tule elk moving along the tree area and I watch as one of the cow elk gracefully leaps over a fence. 

Wild California rose is blooming still in many areas with its sweet smell and enticing nectar for many insects. Another large grazing mammal I see is the cattle that we share this land with. They seem content and healthy grazing in the lush fields of grasses. There is a newborn with umbilical cord still dangling looking curiously at me as I move on.

It is the second half of August,  school is back in session, and as the days grow shorter, the animals and plants are changing, preparing for the fall season ahead.  Look around and let yourself be astounded by the diversity and beauty of the habitat we live in.