Monday, March 10, 2014

Nature Study Outing :: Spring on the Way

After a week of rain, a gorgeous, sunshiny morning greeted us for this week's nature study outing.  I admit I was feeling a bit sluggish, so we just went to a local city park that has a jogging trail attached--a natural setting, but no climbing up creek banks or dodging wild boar this time around. ;) 

The funny thing was that even though we were in a more developed spot than usual, my daughter and I both noticed right away that there was so much more birdsong at this location than at the "wilder" places we usually frequent.  We were very motivated from all the birdsong we heard to memorize more of our local bird calls so that we can bird by ear more often.  We did, however, identify an Oak Titmouse by ear for the first time!  We happened to see one in our yard last week, so my daughter remembered his Tsicka dee dee...though I admit it sounds more like Tsicka tsicka dee to me, but I'm no birder! ;)  This time out, we heard his call and took a guess, then saw his tiny tufted head peeking out from the upper branches.

We also saw lots of signs of spring: pine catkins, tiny oak leaves...

...and some early wildflowers, always a lovely sight toward winter's end.

The wild radish (on the left) is everywhere these days, in all its colors; this morning, we spotted purple, pink, white, and yellow.  And several spots were overgrown with red-stemmed filaree (on the right), with its distinctive seed pods that look like swords--always a big hit with the boys!  There was also a bit of chickory and some California poppies here and there; we'll see more of both later in the season.  We did a "Wildflower Walk" on this path last summer, and our trip this week reminded me that we definitely want to do so again this year.  I'm not sure why, but this patch of trail seems to get far more wildflowers (and more variety of wildflowers) than any other place around town.

And we came home with some homework: a new tree to identify!

rough, woody trunk, with furrows running slightly askance

gray-green leaves and funnel-shaped blossoms
I assumed this tree was a Eucalyptus based on the color of the leaves and the tell-tale blossom shape, but the ones we usually see here are a different variety--much taller, much thinner leaves, more ribbon-like bark, less showy.  And this one curiously had round leaves all over the low branches, which I didn't realize was characteristic of juvenile eucalyptus leaves.  We were finally able to narrow it down to a Eucalyptus polyanthemos, often called a Silver Dollar Gum after those round leaves.  It's a fitting name to be sure, and apparently they're common "street trees" here in California.  Anyway, another "new friend" to add to our list!


  1. I am enjoying your blog!

    1. Thank you--glad you stopped by! :)

  2. Very nice! I had to go and listen to the oak titmouse's call at, just to see how it was different from the chickadee's call (it's much faster and higher-pitched). I love your pictures, but have to be careful because I'm starting to get discontented with winter, and we still have a month of it to go. :)

    1. Yes, the calls are apparently the same in intonation but not speed--really interesting. And hang in there--I promise Spring will eventually arrive! :)