Monday, July 15, 2013

Nature Study Outing - Poison Oak!

Last week we tagged along on a docent-led walk on a local creek trail.  We've been to this county park quite a few times, but the ranger led us along a trail we hadn't explored before.  Unfortunately, the trail was absolutely covered in poison oak!  So I spent most of the outing carrying two babies (my infant on my back and my one-year-old in my arms), keeping my other littles along the very narrow "safe" path, and encouraging my older two to tread carefully while they followed at the front with the guide.  Thankfully, poison oak is in its red bloom right now, so we were able to spot it fairly easily, but needless to say, I didn't take many pictures or notes while we were there! ;)

One of the few parts of the trail not covered in poison oak :)
I did, however, try to pay attention as best I could so I could make notes when I got home.  The walk focused on native plants, and the docent marked quite a few that I have seen often but hadn't identified yet.  She also pointed out our "state grass" (Purple Needlegrass), various common butterflies, and the area's most common native trees.  And as we walked, I scoped out places that might be fun to meet at with our nature study group:

Sprawling (and ancient!) bay laurel--as one of the teens in the group that morning noted, it looks perfect for climbing!

Isn't this a sweet clearing?  I think it would be the perfect place for a study of the creek itself.

The walnut trees were fascinating: English walnut trees were grafted onto the local black walnut, so the trees were half one and half the other.  And the guide identified the orderly lines of holes dotting the trunks as sapsucker holes.  We have seen them before, but I'd love to come back and take a really close look at them.

The highlight was several families of deer, including this doe, who stopped on the road (also not covered in poison oak--a welcome respite on the walk!) to stare us down before bounding off behind her two sweet fawns.

The kids arrived home tired but happy, and I immediately drew a map in my nature journal of the places with the most poison oak in that area so I'll know where to avoid next time!

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