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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Prince, a delicious edible mushroom, is fruiting early on the Mendonoma Coast

I think of The Prince, Agaricus augustus, as a summer mushroom. With the dry weather we've been having on the Coast, this mushroom has bloomed early.

Mark Hancock recently photographed a group of them on the Gualala Arts Center grounds. In the first photo you see Mark's hand to give you the scale.

Gifts of the forest! Thanks to Mark for allowing me to share his photos with you here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fawns are gracing us with their presence and a report of a white fawn!

Rob Diefenbach recently photographed a newborn fawn with its mother.

Something is handing from the mother, perhaps the umbilical cord?

A white fawn was born on The Sea Ranch this year. I had a report with no photo a week or so ago. When I didn't receive any more reports or a photo I thought the fawn had not survived. But this morning the fawn was spotted with its normal-colored sibling and its mother. When I receive a good photo of it I will share it here.

Here is a photo of the white fawn that was born in 2006.

You can see by its eyes and nose that it is not an albino. It was considered a towhead and did eventually color up. Lynda O'Brien took this photo. She described the white fawn as a magical being.

Thanks to Rob and Lynda for allowing me to share their photos with you here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First newborn Zebra at the B. Bryan Preserve, as photographed by Judy Mello

Judy Mello wrote, “This is a Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. This species of zebra is on the endangered species list, with less than 6,000 left in the world. She/he already has its dewlap under its neck and the classic zipper pattern on its tail.” It looks like Mom is keeping a close eye on her little one.

Several more births are expected this summer at the preserve and several more animals will be joining the herd from San Diego Safari Park in June.

A visit to B. Bryan Preserve in Point Arena would be a unique thing to do. By reservation you can be there when the animals are being fed. They also have several guest cottages for rent. It's beautiful there - like you've entered another world. To learn more about the preserve, here's the link:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Newborn Pelagic Cormorants as photographed by Craig Tooley

On a quiet, secluded bluff face on The Sea Ranch there is a colony of nesting Pelagic Cormorants. With nests attached to the steep sides of the bluff, the colony is very special to see. Craig Tooley recently witnessed the parents exchanging places, giving him a chance to see and photograph the babies in the nest.

These shy seabirds attach their nests of grass, twigs and seaweed to the bluff face with their own guano. They dive from the surface of the water for fish, which they chase down underwater.

I thank Craig for allowing me to share his photo with you here. It's something not all of us would be able to see for ourselves.

To see much more of Craig's beautiful wildlife photography, here's his website:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

White-tailed Kite as photographed by Andy Moore

Andy Moore photographed what he thought was an Osprey perched on top of a tree, overlooking the White Barn at The Sea Ranch.

But when I zoomed in on Andy's photo I found he had photographed a White-tailed Kite.
This is such a beautiful hawk. They hover in the air while they hunt for small mammals. The meadows at Gualala Point Regional Park are a good place to see one. To hear the sounds of a White-tailed Kite, here's the link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Thanks to Andy for allowing me to share his photo with you here. To see more of Andy's photography, here is his website:

Friday, May 24, 2013

A breaching Gray Whale calf as photographed by Kathy Bishop.

Lately the Mendonoma Coast has had so much wind that we wouldn't be able to see a whale even if it were just offshore. The Pacific Ocean is filled with whitecaps. But several weeks ago Kathy Bishop spotted a mother Gray Whale with her calf quite close in. As she was photographing them, the calf breached.

Kathy said she knew it was the young calf because the mother was covered with barnacles. What a great photo! Thanks to Kathy for allowing me to share it with you here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Inside-out Flower - what was Mother Nature thinking?

Vancouveria hexandra, Inside-out Flower, is blooming now in moist forest under Douglas-fir. Its petals are swept back as if it's turning itself inside out.

The flowers look like white shooting stars! Peter Baye recently photographed this flower alongside one of the reaches of the Gualala River. I thank him for allowing me to share his photo with you here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tide Pooling is a Coast tradition!

Low tide is the time to head for the tide pools of the Mendonoma Coast. Peggy Berryhill recently did just that. And look at the beauty she found. In the photo below is an Ochre Sea Star, one of the more commonly seen. It looks like it is wearing fine silver jewelry. Also in this photo are Mussels and Goose Barnacles.

 And here you will see Sea Anemones. They eat small fish and shrimp.

Next low tide might entice you to discover your own wonderful sightings.

Thanks to Peggy for allowing me to share her photos with you here. Listen to Peggy on KGUA radio, 88.3 FM. Here's the link to find out more:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why abalone divers die in their hunt for red treasure

Jack Likins is an experienced abalone diver. He often gets trophy-size abalones, abalones that are ten inches or more. Here is Jack with a limit of ten inch abs.

He wrote this piece for the Independent Coast Observer and I thought it should also be shared here. Jack says if one death can be averted then the article was worth his effort. And if, like me, you will never dive for abalones, Jack's story will give you an idea of what it takes to do so.

Why Do Abalone Divers Die by Jack Likins.

I thought I’d take a stab at trying to explain why divers die abalone diving.

I've been abalone diving for over 50 years in both Southern California and here on the North Coast.  It can be a very dangerous sport if not done with proper training, conditioning and knowledge of the ocean.  Let me explain why.

From what I have observed, most of the deaths come as a result of what the newspapers call a "medical emergency".  In other words, the deaths occur not directly from drowning but from some other medical problem (usually a heart problem) that may lead to drowning.

Think about it this way... A person who dives once or twice a year comes to the coast with his/her family and friends for a little diving and a lot of fun.  If they have dived before they begin to get excited about the prospects of diving and getting abalones for a meal or to take home.  If they haven’t dived in a while or kept swimming over the winter, they may not be in very good condition and many divers are older (50+).  In any case, anyone will have anxiety and apprehension on their first dive of the season (it still happens to me and every diver I know).  They look at the ocean, but they don’t have enough experience to know if the conditions are within their personal capabilities and they see other people and their friends diving so they think it must be OK.  It’s difficult to say you don’t feel comfortable going into the water when your dive buddies all say they want to go.  Who is going to be the one who backs out first?  Ten years ago it was not going to be me.  Anxiety probably causes most of these so called “medical emergencies”.

Here’s what happens.  You put on an old wetsuit that may have gotten a little smaller over the years and it is very constrictive.  It’s tight on your chest and gives you that claustrophobic feeling of confinement.  As you start to suit up you start to thinking about sharks, even though the chance of being bitten are extremely rare, you can’t stop thinking about how it would be to be attacked by an 800 pound great white shark.

Once you’ve struggled to get into your wetsuit then you put a 20-30 pound weight belt around your waist, grab all your other gear (float tube, mask, fins, snorkel, ab iron, etc) and start walking to the beach (maybe down a cliff with a rope).  By the time you get to the water you are sweating profusely from hiking in your wetsuit.

After putting on the rest of your gear you jump into 47-degree water and all of a sudden the cold water starts to seep into your wetsuit and you begin to swim, hard, to get out beyond the breakers.  Maybe there is a current, maybe there are waves, maybe you start to get sucked out to sea and try to swim against the current, or maybe you just get knocked down by a wave and washed into the beach or rocks.

But, let's assume you are successful in getting out to the area where you want to dive and the visibility is only 2-3 feet underwater.  You can't see the bottom, so you get out your underwater light. Since you can’t see the bottom from the surface, you dive down 15-20 feet and finally see the bottom, but it is covered with palm kelp so you have to go another 2-3 feet and get under the palm kelp.  Once there, it is even darker so you shine your light to look into the rocky crevices and under the rocky ledges where the abalones live.

Now you've successfully gotten to the bottom and have looked for abalone, maybe even found one and you want to go back to the surface.  You can’t use any type of underwater breathing apparatus so you have to be constantly going down and up as you look for abalones.  When you decide to return to the surface you look up and the surface is covered with matted bull kelp, so you look for the light shining through the kelp and head for a clearing hoping not to get tangled in the long strands on your way to the surface.

Let’s say you dive for 45 minutes to an hour.  You’re getting tired and now its time to head back to shore, but the wind has picked up during that hour and there is a current running in the opposite direction that you want to swim.  Maybe the waves have picked up too, maybe the tide is lower and the exit is more rocky.  What do you do?  Hopefully you’re in good enough shape that you can swim against the current, or you have a “bail out” location down current where you can safely get out of the water.

If you’re lucky or experienced and have planned right, you will get back to shore safely.  I am trying not to exaggerate, but I have had all of these things happen to me at one time or another.  Now imagine thousands of divers, many of whom are not very knowledgeable or experienced and you can understand how some of them become overly anxious and why 3-4 people die every year.

If you’re lucky or if you are well trained and experienced you can avoid these hazards of abalone diving and get safely back to the beach with an abalone or two to enjoy with your friends and family.  If not, from what I have described, you can understand how this sport can be deadly.  Personally, I would not want to stake my life on luck.  I’d rather base my life on knowledge and experience.

My advice… the best way to prevent these hazards is to avoid them altogether.  In other words, don’t dive if you don’t feel comfortable with the ocean conditions, even if your dive buddies want to dive.   If you dive or have friends who dive, the best advice you can give them is “don’t go into the water when the conditions are beyond your capabilities”.  To be able to judge ocean conditions you must have the knowledge to “read” the ocean and the experience to understand your own capabilities.  To me, this is what the buddy system is all about.  If you are a new or inexperienced diver, find an experienced buddy who can help you gain the knowledge and experience, both in and out of the water, and one that won’t push you beyond your comfort level.

Having said all this, if you pick the right day with the right conditions and don’t push beyond your ability, conditioning and knowledge then abalone diving can be a wonderful, eye-opening experience.  Most of the time I go abalone diving I don’t ever take an abalone, although I see hundreds of them.  What’s most rewarding to me is the experience and the wonders of the ocean that I see every time I dive.  More often than not, I will see something that I have never before seen.  The ocean is an amazing environment and one that has only begun to be explored and understood by man.

I thank Jack for allowing me to share his story and photo with you here. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Brown Pelicans, the first adults, are thrilling us with their flybys!

Brown Pelicans are on the move. The first adults have been seen over the past two weeks. Just yesterday, Rick and I saw several flocks fly by when we were at Gualala Point Regional Park getting a geology lesson from Ken Browning. I'll be sharing some of what we learned in a later post.

The first Brown Pelicans spotted are adults. One of the indicators is that their head is white. Paul Brewer photographed one of the first to be seen on April 30.

We particularly cherish these birds because they were so severely impacted by the pesticide DDT that they landed on the Endangered Species List. DDT was banned in the US in 1973 and Brown Pelicans have slowly added to their numbers. They recovered enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List in 2009.
Hooray for the Brown Pelicans!

Thanks to Paul for allowing me to share his photo with you here. To see much more of Paul's photography, here is his website:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Manchester State Beach is one of the jewels of the Mendonoma Coast

There is always something to see when you explore Manchester State Park. You will find five miles of a huge crescent beach, which ends to the south at the Point Arena Lighthouse. Bettye Winters explores the north end, which is just south of Irish Beach. She shared some recent sightings.

Plovers and Sandpipers feed and rest in Bettye's photo below. You'll also see the white caps on the Pacific Ocean. Yes, it can be very windy here on the Coast in the spring.

Below is Hunter with his stick of the day. You can see the beach is deserted. You can often have the entire beach to yourself here. There is a section of this beach that has nesting Snowy Plovers. Dogs, even on leash, are not allowed in that area.
 Can you spot the hiding Sierran Treefrog in this piece of driftwood? Just its head is peeking out the crack.
And here is a "mushroom" sunset. Just beautiful...
Thanks to Bettye for allowing me to share her photographs with you here. To learn more about Manchester State Park, here is the link:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Killdeer eggs - hidden in plain sight.

Jerry Rudy discovered a nest of Killdeer eggs in a meadow behind his home in Timber Cove. They are truly hidden in plain sight.

You can see how the Killdeer mother chose a spot that closely resembled her eggs. Here's a photo of an adult Killdeer next to its eggs, which was taken by Rich Perry.

Killdeer often lay their eggs this time of year in gravel riverbeds, as Rich's photo shows. That's one of the very good reasons to never drive in a river like the Gualala River.

Thanks to Jerry and Rich for allowing me to share their photos with you here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pelagic Cormorant eggs unattended but all ended well

Craig Tooley was at The Sea Ranch photographing the group of Pelagic Cormorant nests. He was startled to see a nest with eggs unattended.

 You will see three eggs in the nest. The nests are made on steep cliffs, facing the ocean.
And here the parent has returned to care for the eggs. Several nests now have babies and I'll share that with you soon.

Thanks to Craig for allowing me to share his photos with you here. To see much more of Craig's Coast photography, here's the link to his website:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mark Simkins has been photographing a Bobcat in Manchester

Mark and Kitty Simkins have a resident Bobcat that gives them multiple chances for sightings of the cat with the tufted ears and bobbed tail. Here are two recent photos. Mark titled the first one "Bobcat looking at me."

 And below the Bobcat has found a nice fat gopher for dinner.
Thanks to Mark for allowing me to share his photos with you here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Whimbrels feeding and resting up on Manchester State Beach

Bettye Winters was walking with her dog, Hunter, when she came across this large group of Whimbrels feeding and resting on the beach at Manchester State Park.

Whimbrels have incredibly long migrations. Some actually migrate 2,500 miles, from southern Canada to South America.

To hear their call, here's a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Thanks to Bettye for allowing me to share her photo with you here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A walk on the bluffs at The Sea Ranch brings a wonderful sighting - Brown Pelicans!

Rick and I were enjoying the beautiful Thursday morning, looking at the wildflowers and hoping to see some Gray Whales. We were just south of Black Point Beach. There's a rock where a few Western Gulls are nesting. As we approached, a squadron of Brown Pelicans flew by, almost at eye level. It's our first sighting of them this spring.

These are adult Brown Pelicans. You can see their white heads.
At this point the Pelicans headed towards land and they gained altitude before heading off to the north.
They are air surfers! It is always thrilling to see them as they glide across the sky.
To see a close-up of an adult Brown Pelican, here's the link:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beautiful Clintonias are blooming in the forest

Andrew's Clintonia, Clintonia andrewsiana, is a lovely member of the Lily family. They grow in shaded forests. We have a few on our land in Anchor Bay and we cherish them. This Clintonia is about a foot and a half tall.

 In the summer, if a Deer doesn't eat the flower head, the flowers turn into blue berries. Rozann Grunig photographed this Clintonia last year. It's other common name is Blue Bead Lily. Now you can see why!
This is another wildflower that should never be picked. The flowers need to develop into these seeds. They will fall to the ground and, if they find a nurturing spot, will take root. They are very slow to develop. We have several "babies" and, even after ten years, they aren't big enough to flower.

Thanks to Rozann for allowing me to share her photo of the blue berries.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Young Sea Lion as photographed by Connor Angwin

Connor Angwin was visiting home recently and found this young Sea Lion in the tide pools at Arena Cove in Point Arena.

Here's what Connor wrote, “Last time I was back home I was at the Point Arena Pier taking some pictures and came across this young Sea Lion taking a dip in the tide pools. I ended up taking a bunch of pictures, but this is my favorite. Living in Los Angeles for the past ten years, I appreciate growing up in Gualala on the north coast that much more.”

Thanks to Connor for allowing me to share his beautiful photo with you here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Harbor Seal pups riding on the backs of their moms, as photographed by Carolyn André

Here's what Carolyn wrote, "“There were two pups diving off of the moms and doing somersaults underwater. Then, back up on Mom. Moms and pups – the annual show.”

The best place to see Harbor Seal mothers with their pups is at Tide Pool Rookery off The Sea Ranch or the mouth of the Russian River at Jenner.

Thanks to Carolyn for allowing me to share her photos with you here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beautiful photo of a Great Blue Heron at the moment of liftoff

Great Blue Herons are year-round residents of the Mendonoma Coast. They are particularly graceful when they liftoff for flight. Paul Brewer caught magic the other day. Paul's photo looks like a painting.

 And below a Great Blue Heron has caught an eel. I love the way the bird is reflected in the water.
Thanks to Paul for allowing me to share his photos with you here. To see much more of Paul's photography, here's the link to his website:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Coltsfoot at our feet, as photographed by Margaret Lindgren - plus beautiful Redwood trees

On a recent hike with clients, Margaret Lindgren came across the lovely group of Coltsfoot. It was the perfect place to get off their feet and take a rest.

Coltsfoot, Petasites palmatus, is found in moist wooded areas. It is a member of the Aster family.

On another hike, Margaret photographed these beautiful Redwood trees. She entitled this photo "Redwood movement."

Thanks to Margaret for allowing me to share these photos. To learn more about Margaret's coastal hikes, here's her website:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fawns have appeared on the Mendonoma Coast and are they ever cute

Robert Scarola was watching a very pregnant Doe last week. He said she looked big enough to have two and that is just what happened. Here the mother Doe is nursing her fawns.

And one of the newborn fawns.

Here's what mom looked like just before giving birth.

New life on the Coast is always to be celebrated. Thanks to Robert for allowing me to share his photos with you here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wild Rhododendrons are blooming on the Mendonoma Coast

Pacific Rhododendrons, Rhododendron macrophyllum,  are blooming in profusion now on the Coast. Driving along Highway One by Salt Point State Park, you can see them right along the road. Another spot close by to see them is Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve. There is a beautiful hiking trail there. This bush is just off our driveway in Anchor Bay.

This native wildflower grows in acidic soil. Their appearance speaks of springtime.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring wildflower glory on The Sea Ranch as photographed by Allen Vinson

Spring wildflowers are in glorious bloom. The bluffs at The Sea Ranch are a great place to see them. Allen Vinson recently took these beautiful photos.

Here is a field of Goldfields.
 You can see that we've been having lovely weather.

Thanks to Allen for allowing me to share his photos with  you here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Osprey hunting as photographed by Paul Brewer

The Osprey nest that we can see with the help of our spotting scope is officially occupied. The female is sitting on the nest, presumably on eggs. Her mate will be hunting for the both of them.

Paul Brewer recently photographed this Osprey on the hunt.

Thanks to Paul for allowing me to share his photo with you here. To see more of Paul's photography, here is the link to his website:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Local Abalone Divers find red treasure

Local divers, Jack Likins and Eric Anderson, recently dove for Abalone. Here's what Jack had to say about the dive:

“Eric and I went for a dive last Wednesday at a secret spot off of The Sea Ranch coast. The wind was calm, the waves were calm and the water visibility was about 15 to 20 feet. It was a good first dive.

"Eric is 71 and I am 68 so we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, especially on our first dive of the season.

“We were diving relatively deep for a low tide, from about 20 to 35 feet. Eric got a nice 9 ¾ inch abalone and I got two that were over 10 inches. Both Eric and I dive a lot, so we save our annual limits [24/season and three/day] for the larger abalones. We usually see hundreds of abalone on each dive, we seldom take one unless it is large or we need one for dinner.”

Here is the photo of Jack's two ten inchers:

Several abalone divers paid the ultimate price this past weekend. Eric Anderson has this poem on his website. He has kindly allowed me to share it here.

       by Abaloneten 
When I’m dead and in my grave
No more abalone will I crave
At the top of my tombstone will be seen
“Here lies the body of an abalone diving fiend”
A little bit lower will be inscribed
“He nearly got the big one before he died”
At my funeral the preacher will say
“If it hadn’t been for abalone, he’d be alive today”
My family will be sad, and, they’ll wonder why,
So will my buddies when they come to say good bye
All I can figure, is, God wanted my soul
Cuz I think I  located God’s favorite ab hole…

To learn much more about abalone, here is Eric's website:

Thanks to Eric and Jack for sharing their photo and experience with us here.