Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 25, 2015

San Bernardino Fall Color 5/24/15

California Fall Color reports there is still good fall color in the San Bernardino Mountains

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The Arctic Circle and Big Bear Lake.

See photos and full report at Big Bear: Beautiful Along The Arctic Circle


Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 25, 2015

Ravens Communicate By Pointing Their Beaks

Until recently it was believed that only humans and great apes used pointing gestures to communicate.  Science Daily reports that Simone Pika from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Thomas Bugnyar from the University of Vienna have proven that Ravens also use pointing gestures. They observed  ravens in the wild and saw that they used their peaks to show and offer objects such as moss, stones and twigs. The behavior was directed primarily to test interest or strengthen bonds with the opposite sex.

Read more at  Science Daily ‘Look at that!’ Ravens gesture with their beaks to point out objects to each other.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 24, 2015

S. Calif. Fall Color Updates 11/23/15

California Fall Color reports

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Lake Gregory, Rim of the World and the San Bernardino Mountains

See photos and full report at Orange Friday at Lake Gregory

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 24, 2015

Sea Otters Aren’t Just Cute, They Are Saviors of Marshes

NPR writes about the major contribution Sea Otters make in preserving ecosystems. They specifically talk about how otters have benefited Elkhorn Slough, which is an inland salt marsh near Monterey Bay. NPR reports

Farmland runoff regularly pours into this estuary, loading it with man-made nutrients.”It’s sort of just like throwing … a bunch of fertilizer in here,” says Tinker. “You’re going to get a bunch of algae growing, and that algae grows over top of the eelgrass and chokes it out.”This eelgrass was home to an entire food chain of animals — or it was, until the algae took over. Bugs would normally keep the algae in check, but with no sea otters around, the otters’ favorite food — crabs — ate the bugs. And there are lots and lots of crabs.”Within the marsh banks itself, there are all these holes,” Tinker says. “Those are the crab condos … that’s what I call them.”

That’s where sea otters come in. Under decades of government protection, they’re back, and eating crabs. That means the algae is down, the sea grass is up, and with crab condo vacancies, the muddy marshland banks are still here.

Read full story at More Than Just Cute, Sea Otters Are Superheroes Of The Marsh : NPR.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 23, 2015

Fall Color Photos UC Botanical Garden 10/23/15

Fall Colors from today in the Asian section of the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.

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Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 23, 2015

California Fall Color Updates 11/22/15

California Fall Color has several new fall color postings

  1. Arboretums Their associated botanic gardens are mostly dormant, but the arboretums are full of color.
    California has nearly 20 arboretums, in nearly every corner of the state.  All are beautiful places to find solace and to learn more about the native and exotic trees growing throughout our state. CLICK HERE for a list of them.

    Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden See photos at LA Arboretum

  2. Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Napa Valley See photos at Napa Vineyards
  3. Most of  California elevations below 2,000′ is now peaking. Locations mentioned included
  • Apple Hill in the Sierra foothills of El Dorado County are canopied with color

  • Nevada City in the Gold Country and at McArthur-Burney Falls State Park in the Shasta Cascade.

  • Citrus Heights is typical of the color to be seen lined along boulevards in Folsom, Fair Oaks, Carmichael and Sacramento.

  • crimson, yellow, orange and golden Japanese maple at the Ironstone Vineyards in Murphy

See photos at Postcards: Peak Peak Peak Peak Peak

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 23, 2015

Hummingbirds Use Raw Power To Assert Dominance

ScienceDaily reports

Brute strength is surprisingly important to the ability of hummingbirds to outmaneuver rivals for nectar and evade predators, according to new research. An intensive study of 20 Anna’s hummingbirds, Calypte anna, has revealed that birds with the highest muscle capacity are able to accelerate faster and make more demanding, complex turns.

Read full story Hummingbirds rely on raw power, not physique, to outmaneuver rivals — ScienceDaily

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 22, 2015

Cedar Waxwing Madness Photos

It was Cedar Waxwing Madness today in my front yard. They were doubly pleased with the Toyon Fruit and Bird Bath.

untitled (7 of 36)

Cedar Waxwing eating Toyon Fruit


Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing communal bath


Cedar Waxwing scolding Sparrow

Cedar Waxwing scolding Sparrow

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 22, 2015

Most Amazon Tree Species Threatened By Deforestation

The New York Times reported on how deforestation threatens the majority of tree species in the Amazon. A new study has found


By comparing maps of projected deforestation with data collected in the forest, the researchers found that at least 36 percent and up to 57 percent of the Amazon’s tree species should qualify as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the most widely recognized authority on threats to species conservation.

Read full story at Deforestation May Threaten Majority of Amazon Tree Species, Study Finds – The New York Times

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 21, 2015

Birding Eastshore State Park 11/21/15


Today I led my first organized bird trip at Eastshore State Park in Berkeley, CA. We walked two miles from Gilman St. to University Av. along the shoreline and through Berkeley Meadow.

The weather was good as the temperature was  high 50’s to start, 60’s most of the day. Mostly Sunny and only a slight breeze.   We started a little past high tide so we were able to watch shore birds come into the mudflats and shoreline to eat.

The habitat is protected marine water (S.F. Bay), rocky shoreline, mudflats, sandy shore, coastal scrub and restored meadow. Berkeley Meadow is still dry and the seasonal ponds are still non-existent. Hopefully, they will be wet and have waterbirds later this winter if El Nino materializes

Plants in bloom were Gumplant, Anise, California Poppy, Lizard Tail , California Fuchsia. Butterflies seen were several Monarchs and Cabbage White. A Black-tailed Hare was also seen.

Forty-six bird species were identified today. Most abundant were Greater Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, and American Coots. Best birds were a Northern Harrier and Say’s Phoebe. Interesting behavior observations included watching Gulls stir up water to attract food and lots of Turnstone rock turning. Cooperative birds allowed us to observe side by side comparisons of Western and Clark’s Grebes and Western and Ring-billed Gulls. I didn’t do much bird counting due to focusing on leading trip.

Click read more to see a list of bird species seen today.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 21, 2015

49 Calif. State Redwood Parks Free Black Friday

The San Francisco Chronicle reports

Thanks to a generous private donation, 49 of California's redwood state parks will be free to visit on Black Friday. The event is being sponsored by Save the Redwoods League, which received an anonymous donation to cover the $50,000 needed to make it happen.

In order to participate, you'll need to head over to the Save the Redwoods site and print out a free parks day pass.

Some participating local parks include:

Annadel State Park
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Jack London State Historic Park
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Butano State Park
Castle Rock State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Portola Redwoods State Park
Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
Wilder Ranch State Park

See fullarticle and photos at 49 California parks will be free on Black Friday – SFGate


Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 20, 2015

Rat Poisons Threaten California’s Endangered Wildlife

News Release Center For Biological Diversity

Study: Rat Poisons Increasingly Imperil California’s Endangered Wildlife

DAVIS, Calif.— Researchers at the University of California released a study today indicating that rat poisons increasingly pose a significant risk for California’s imperiled Pacific fishers, small, forest-dwelling mammals that are protected under the California Endangered Species Act. The study shows that increasing numbers of fishers are being exposed to, and dying from, greater varieties of rat poisons, or rodenticides, found at illegal marijuana farms. It also affirms reports and data from across the state that rodenticides continue to poison and kill numerous California wildlife species.

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 19, 2015

Where Do Birds Go In the Rain?

Bay Nature answer the question in the article Ask the Naturalist: Where do birds go when it rains? – Bay Nature.

The article discusses how different types of birds respond to rain and the various coping strategies for birds when there is a a storm.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 18, 2015

Arizona Fall Color Report 11/18/15

Wild in Arizona reports

The Huachuca Mountains has just hit peak color this week. Ramsey canyon is having a great  year for fall foliage and should last 1 more week. Miller Canyon has some leaf damage from insects and is just past peak. Huachuca Canyon is at peak last weekend. Garden Canyon was still mostly green and looks a bit damaged. San Pedro river has just a little color left on the northern sections. The road into Cave Creek in the Chirichuas is reportedly closed with flood damage to Maple Camp. Ash Canyon in the Galiuro Mountains is having a banner year with peak just past. Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas is also just pass peak with a week left.

See photo at: Arizona Fall Field Report 11/18/15

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 18, 2015

Humboldt County Fall Color 11/18/15

California Fall Color reports  on Humboldt County  

“It’s hard to really give a blanket rating of Peak/Past Peak for the area.  It’s more about individual trees or small areas than wide swaths of color.  Some spots are past, while others are just getting into peak.”

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Humboldt Redwoods State Park – While some of the big leaf maple have petered out, others that have been surviving outside of full sun are peaking now.  Avenue of Giants is still a worthwhile drive. 

Maple at the extreme southern and northern ends of Humboldt Redwoods State Park are looking nice.  For the south, by the Bolling Grove to Myer’s Flat.  For the north, specifically by the Drury-Chaney Grove in Pepperwood and the unnamed trail by Elinor Road are peak.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – 
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – 
Roosevelt Elk bulls are still actively rutting, battling rivals and gathering their harems.  They have been seen daily by Big Lagoon and the little red schoolhouse.  Similar to Humboldt Redwoods, bigleaf maple that have been growing without direct sunlight are really going off now.  The big maple by the visitor center is at peak.

Vine maple is also finally peaking, turning brilliant yellow like their big leaf neighbors.  Some parts of the trails are like walking through a sea of yellow. 

Specific spots are along Drury Parkway by the Big Tree for the big leaf maple. For the vine maple, the Prairie Creek Trail is your best bet.  A very brilliant vine maple grove can also be seen roadside on Drury Parkway by the Brown Creek Trail.

See photos at Humboldt County

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 18, 2015

Could This Be The Most Powerful Recorded El Niño?

The LA Times reports that the current El Niño has the potential to be the most powerful El Niño in recorded history. Read story at El Niño could be the most powerful on record, scientists say – LA Times

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 17, 2015

Redwood Highway Fall Color 11/16/15

California Fall Color reports

Vineyards between Hopland and Ukiah along U.S. 101 have developed into a blend of green, yellow, orange and burgundy.

Heading south from Ukiah on U.S. 101, Simaine Cellars, Rivino Winery, Nelson Family Vineyards, Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery, Saracina Vineyards and Campovida Winery are developing color by grape variety. Some vines are bright yellow, others are deep red and still others have yet to change.

Nearby, fields and forests along the Russian River are being gilded with fall color.

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Redwood Highway (Hopland north to Ukiah)

See photos at Redwood Highway Fall Color

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 17, 2015

Henry Coe Wildflower Update 11/14/15

Henry Coe State Park has a new wildflower bloom report  for November 14, 2015 at the Pine Ridge Association website with photos and a list of flowers now in bloom at: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 17, 2015

How Butterflies Mimic Dead Leaves

Kallima Butterflies look like dead leaves when their wings are closed. This provides a great disguise that helps the butterflies avoid predators. Their has been a lot of discussion as how the butterflies developed this adaptation.

National Geographic reported that Takao Suzuki,  and a team of researchers at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Ibaraki has documented the mimicry behavior of Kallima butterflies.

The team mapped small, incremental changes to markings on the undersides of Kallima butterflies’ wings over time “to provide the first evidence for the gradual evolution of leaf mimicry,”

Read full story and see photo  at National Geographic of the  butterfly mimicking  a leaf at Mystery Solved? How Butterflies Came to Look Like Dead Leaves.

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 16, 2015

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Tomorrow

The Leonid Meteor Shower peaks at midnight Tuesday 11/17/15. NASA is predicting about one meteor every four minutes. Read more at Leonid Meteor Shower: When, Where, And How To Watch | Popular Science

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 16, 2015

Redding  Fall Color 11/15/15

California Fall Color reports

Redding,CA  is peaking, with the cottonwoods and willows beside the Sacramento River as good as they get.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Redding.

See photos at Redding

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 16, 2015

Yosemite Reduces Fall/Winter Entrance Fee

Yosemite National Park’s entrance fee has been reduced to $25 for a seven-day pass for private vehicles from November through March. The reduced entrance fee aims to encourage visitation to Yosemite National Park outside of the busy summer season. The private vehicle entrance fee is $30 from April through October.



Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 15, 2015

Southern California Fall Color Updates 11/14/15

California Fall Color has the following update for Southern California

Weekend reports from color spotters show fall color going big across Southern California.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – San Bernardino Mountains (Lake Gregory, Rim of the World, Seely Creek, Green Valley, Deep Creek)

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Wrightwood

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Photos and full report at S. Calif Fall Color


Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 15, 2015

Birding Eastshore State Park 11/14/15

Yesterday I went birding in the Eastshore State Park in Berkeley, CA. We walked three miles from Gilman St. to University Av. along shore and through Berkeley Meadow, west along University north around Berkeley Meadow, Virginia Annex and back to Gilman St. The habitat is bay, coastal scrub and restored meadow. Berkeley Meadow is still dry and the seasonal ponds were non-existent.

Due to the incoming high tide coming in there were few shore birds but we did have three sightings of Spotted Sandpiper. Most abundant today were American Coots, Scaup (only identified Greater), Ruddy Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, and House Finch. Best bird of the day was a Eurasian Wigeon in the cove behind the Sea Breeze Market and Deli at University Av. 33 bird species were identified.

Plants in bloom were Gumplant, Anise, California Poppy, Lizard Tail , California Fuchsia, Coyote Bush and Blackberry. Butterflies seen were several Monarchs and one American Lady. We also one quick sighting of a rabbit.


Click read more to see bird list

Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 15, 2015

Juvenile Cowbirds Sneak Out At Night

ScienceDaily reports

A new study explores how a young cowbird, left as an egg in the nest of a different species, grows up to know it’s a cowbird and not a warbler, thrush or sparrow.

Read full article Juvenile cowbirds sneak out at night — ScienceDaily

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 14, 2015

Sierra Foothills Fall Color 11/13/15

California Fall Color reports

Traveling west on I-80 from Truckee to Auburn, we saw the full range of past peak to peak color, today.

Above 6,000′, trees are stripped of color. No surprise; the High Sierra is Past Peak.

However, at 5,700′ and below, black oak are peaking with full peak at Dutch Flat (3,144′).

Over the years, I have driven past Dutch Flat a couple hundred times, but never exited. Today, in search of fall color, I exited and Dutch Flat is anything but flat when it comes to its color and charm.

Dutch Flat was full of fall color.  This stretch of I-80 is peaking from Drum Forebay Rd. west, past Dutch Flat and Colfax to Auburn.  Golden cottonwood, orange-yellow black oak and crimson exotics are backlit brilliantly by afternoon sunlight. There seems to be no obvious vantage point from which to overlook the forest, though hillsides painted with orange black oak and dark green pine are evident along I-80.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Sierra Foothills (5,500′ to 2,000′)

See photos and full posting at Sierra Foothills 

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 14, 2015

Did You Know There Are Three Trillion Trees !

The BBC reports  Earth’s trees number ‘three trillion’

The figure is eight times as big as the previous best estimate, which counted perhaps 400 billion at most.

Read story at Earth’s trees number ‘three trillion’ – BBC News

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 13, 2015

Native Bees Exposed to Neonicotinoid Insecticides & other Pesticides

news release USGS

Native Bees Foraging in Fields Are Exposed to Neonicotinoid Insecticides and other Pesticides

According to the first-ever study of pesticide residues on field-caught bees, native bees are exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides. This report was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

This research focused on native bees, because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. In fact, little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment. This study did not look at pesticide exposure to honey bees.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.”

Although conservation efforts have been shown by other investigators to benefit pollinators, this study raises questions about the potential for unintended pesticide exposures where various land uses overlap or are in proximity to one another.

The research consisted of collecting native bees from cultivated agricultural fields and grasslands in northeastern Colorado, then processing the composite bee samples to test for 122 different pesticides, as well as 14 chemicals formed by the breakdown of pesticides. Scientists tested for the presence of pesticides both in and on the bees.

The most common pesticide detected was the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam, which was found in 46 percent of the composite bee samples. Thiamethoxam is used as a seed coating on a variety of different crops. Pesticides were not found in all bee samples, with 15 of the 54 total samples testing negative for the 122 chemicals examined.

Although this study did not investigate the effects of pesticide exposures to native bees, previous toxicological studies have shown that the chemicals do not have to kill the bees to have an adverse effect at the levels of exposure documented here. For example, neonicotinoids can cause a reduction in population densities and reproductive success, and impair the bees’ ability to forage. Follow-up research is now being designed to further investigate adverse effects at these exposure levels.

There are about 4,000 native species of bees in the United States. They pollinate native plants like cherries, blueberries and cranberries, and were here long before European honeybees were brought to the country by settlers. In addition, many native bees are quite efficient crop pollinators, a role that may become more crucially important if honey bees continue to decline.

This paper is a preliminary, field-based reconnaissance study that provides critical information necessary to design more focused research on exposure, uptake and accumulation of pesticides relative to land-use, agricultural practices and pollinator conservation efforts on the landscape. Another USGS study published in August discovered neonicotinoids in in a little more than half of both urban and agricultural streams sampled across the United States and Puerto Rico.

“This foundational study is needed to prioritize and design new environmental exposure experiments on the potential for adverse impacts to terrestrial organisms,” said Mike Focazio, program coordinator for the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. “This and other USGS research is helping support the overall goals of the White House Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators by helping us understand whether these pesticides, particularly at low levels, pose a risk for pollinators.”

More information can be found on this paper here. USGS research on the occurrence, transport and fate of pesticides can be found with the USGS Toxic Substance Hydrology Program webpage or the USGS Pesticide Fate Research project in California. Stay up to date with USGS Environmental Health science by signing up for our GeoHealth Newsletter. Read More…

Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 12, 2015

Desert Wildflower Reports 11/12/15

Desert Wildflower Reports – DesertUSA has the following wildflower reports and predictions

Nov. 2015 – Rain has fallen in most of the deserts in the southwest, this could be the foundation for a good wildflower season. A beautiful wildflower spring depends on the right amount of rain, in the right months and how fast the desert heats up. Some new reports below.

Southern Arizona

Nov 12 2015 Wildflowers in November! Strips of yellow flowers were found between I-10 and the railroad tracks, from Ina well past Cortaro. Several Texas Ranger bushes were covered with lilac blossoms. Monday, See photo at S. Arizona Wildflowers

Nov 5, 2015 Big Bend National Park‬ Reports: Blooming now! Mountain sage, Salvia regla, blooms in the Chisos from late summer to fall, adding beautiful color to the hills. The Chisos Mountains is the only place in the U.S. where it grows natively, but it is used by many gardeners across the Southwest as food for hummingbird and butterflies. See photo at Big Bend



Posted by: Sandy Steinman | November 12, 2015

Bear Bear Fall Color 11/11/15

California Fall Color reports

The fall color to be seen at Big Bear is worth bundling up and heading to Big Bear.  As, a beautiful mix of fully peaking black oak and some lingering cottonwood provide swaths of bright color painted across the San Bernardino Mountains.

Arrowbear Lake is nearing Past Peak with its oak still showing color, but probably only for another week.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Big Bear Lake

See photos at Big Bear

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