As the 2011 year comes to a close I recall many of the memorable photos and messages that I have placed onto this UC Hopland Research & Extension Center blog-site. I hope that you have enjoyed them ...and will continue to follow the BLOG during the 2012 year.
Here, I leave you with a beautiful sunset photo of the coast range horizon on the west side of Sanel Valley as viewed from UC-HREC just last evening. Just imagine what the exact same location-photo would look like without the oaks!
As a wildlife biologist who lives and works amongst oak forests I cannot express the importance of large natural cavities that old decadent oak trees provide for wildlife. Not only are these cavities utilized by numerous wildlife species for nesting or denning, but they are extremely important for year-round roosting and sleeping. Just think what you you do if all of a sudden your house was gone due to some disaster ... you would immediately know that you must seek shelter for you and your family. Well, the same with wildlife!
So many times I have seen landowners remove old oak trees just because a single limb falls, which totally removes that intrinsic wildlife habitat value. It is best to just understand and live with the oaks ... don't place picnic tables, sheds, vehicles, barns or houses directly underneath them. Instead give them their space and enjoy their aesthetic value and the wildlife that are attracted to them.
Here you see a Western Screech Owl (Otus kennicottii) sunning itself on the edge of its roosting cavity in a large California Valley Oak. These owls are more commonly heard than seen, but are the most common owl species in our North Coast oak woodland habitat and at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center.
I posted a BLOG about Oracle Oak (Quercus Morehus or Quercus Kelloggii x Wislizenii) the other day. I will again mention that a common local name for this oak is the Golden Oak due to its habit of retaining leaves throughout the winter time that often turn yellow in color.
Here is a striking example of a "Golden Oak" that is just north of the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center. This tree is not quite as spectacular this year, so I am using a photo from last year. The Center has many Oracle Oaks scattered throughout the property.
Most of us do not think about butterflies when the morning temperatures are below freezing and frost is on the ground. However, last weekend I stumbled upon this Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) basking in the morning warmth of sunlight. This butterfly species is extremely common throughout the United States, southern Canada, and Central America. It inhabits open, neglected fields, grasslands, and areas of low vegetation.
The adults, of course, feed upon nectar, but also take fluids from damp earth ... a behavior that is most apparent during the warm seasons. Common Buckeyes exhibit seasonal polyphenism (a polyphenic trait is one for which discrete phenotypes can arise from a single genotype as a result of differing environmental conditions). Butterflies hatched during the summer months show light yellowish ventral wings and is called "linea", and the fall hatched form (morph) shows pinkish ventral wings and is called "rosa". This photo shows that pinkish coloration (even though slight) on the ventral wings.
The caterpillars feed upon a variety of herbaceous plants, especially those in the snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae) and the plantain family (Plantaginaceae).
Being a secondary pioneer plant in vegetative communities such as chaparral, coastal scrub, and riparian, the Coyote Bush (Baccharis pilularis), otherwise known as Chaparral Broom or Bush Baccharis, is a shrubby plant that quickly colonizes disturbed sites. Normally the Coyote Bush-dominated transition from disturbed site to scrub to mature chaparral or forest takes about a half-century. Growth occurs mainly after March when temperatures begin to rise. Tap roots on mature plants can exceed 10.5 feet showing its adaptation to long dry summers.
The plant is a native dicot plant in the Asteraceae family, and is dioecious, which means that staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers occur on separate plants. Coyote Bush seed is dispersed from October to January, and normally requires a wind or gentle breeze to dislodge them from the plant and carry them great distances through the air as this photo shows.
Coyote Bush is a locally common plant at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center.