Butterflies

Spring Flowers in a Mountain Forest, May 2019

Skyline Trail in May is a dreamscape. Despite the absence of patched medieval castles, squat thatched-roof villages and stolid Norman churches that I acquaint with fairytales and fantasy, the trail was magical. What wonderful stories the Native Americans of this region must have told of the flowers that bloom in these tall, moist, canopied forests in the springtime!

Taking our cue from blogger David Baselt, who describes patches of old-growth redwoods along Skyline Trail in his blog, Redwood Hikes, we explored the southern section of the trail, having already explored the northern section. The southern section is tricky to find because the trail head is not marked. We had a few false starts as we drove along Skyline Blvd (State Route 35).

In the 1920s, the road’s chief engineer described Skyline Blvd as a highway that “combines the beauties of the mountains, the sunsets of the desert, the fogs of the ocean, and the panorama of the bay.” For about half an hour, we looked for openings in the wire fence that blocks access to the trail from the road, until we found an entrance near Swett Road.

There wasn’t another soul on the trail, although we did wonder if the little fellow who dug these ⬆️ mole-sized holes wasn’t nearby. The holes connected to a ridge that followed the trail for miles, a service road for four-footed friends.

We think Hairy woodpeckers (Dryobates villosus) made these holes. The National Audubon Society says that, “In its feeding Hairy woodpeckers do more pounding and excavating in trees than most smaller woodpeckers, consuming large numbers of wood-boring insects.”

Some industrious, winged blokes occasionally broke the silence.

But otherwise the forest was quiet.

Seeing this new-growth redwood growing beside a second-growth redwood caused us to recall that trees are 95 percent carbon dioxide.

Time slowed down. Instead of minutes, we measured its passing in the moments between discovery and contemplation.

Pastel-colored baby redwood needles.

Victorian author George Eliot wrote that “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart-beat, and we should all die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

California wild rose (Rosa californica)

On the other hand, biologist T.H. Huxley said that “To a person uninstructed in Natural History, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” Skyline Trail is a gallery well worth studying.

California wild rose (Rosa californica)

California wild rose (Rosa californica). They were everywhere!

Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) learning to crawl

Et voila, Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) has found its feet!

Mature California blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

California blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Margined white (Pieris marginalis)? I wish I knew the name of the flower it was sipping on.

Fork-toothed ookow (Dichelostemma congestum)?

Crimson columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Starflower (Trientalis latifolia)

Broadleaved forget-me-nots (Myosotis latifolia)

Resources Consulted:
Douglas Iris, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Hairy Woodpecker, Audubon Guide to North American Birds
Margined White Pieris marginalis Scudder 1861, Butterflies and Moths of North America
Rubus Ursinus California Blackberry, The American Southwest
Second-Growth Forests and Restoration Thinning, Redwood, National and State Parks California
The Making of Skyline Boulevard, Mobile Ranger
Where Do Trees Get Their Mass?, Veritasium (March 2012)
Wild Plants of Redwood Regional Park Common Name Version A Photographic Guide, East Bay Regional Park District – this pdf is an awesome resource

Bonjour Canal de Bourgogne, Aug 2017

The Canal de Bourgogne is a hop, skip and a jump away from the small, agricultural town of Soussey-sur-Brionne, where my spouse has family. The Canal was originally conceived of in 1605, but construction didn’t began until 1775, and was completed in 1832. It spans 150 miles (242 km) and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

Lock near Pouilly en Auxois.

We traveled a very small section of the Canal, limiting our journeys to day-trips around Pouilly-en-Auxois. However, we saw quite a few cyclists, generally in couples, loaded down with enough gear to last several days.

I found the lock-houses (“maisons d’ecluse” in French) fascinating. Although they’re no longer inhabited by lock-keepers (“gardiens d’ecluse”), their location, abutting the trail wherever there is a lock, were vivid reminders of the days when movement through the Canal was hand- and horse-powered. The structure of each lock-house was consistent, but each bore the stamp of their owner in their color schemes and embellishments. All were beautifully maintained.

Lockhouse near Vandenesse.

Some antique agricultural equipment on display outside the Vandenesse lock-house. I used to work at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, former residence of James Deering (1859–1925), heir to Deering Harvester Company (which became International Harvester Company), so seeing this old Deering equipment was quite a thrill. James Deering had a close relationship with the French, and was even awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the trail, but that doesn’t stop locals, young and old alike, from using it to zip from one village to the next on motorized scooters.

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois in the background, with the canal and canal boats in the foreground, make this an unmistakably French scene.

An old and weathered Cardinal butterfly (Argynnis Pandora) enjoying his last days.

Oliver says the grass along the Canal de Bourgogne is some of the best in the world!

Resources Consulted:
Bourgogne-Franche-Compte Tourisme: Chateauneuf-en-Auxois
Canal de Bourgogne (Wikipedia)
I Love Walking in France: Walking the Burgundy Canal
Travelling the Canals and Rivers of Europe: Pouilly en Auxois to Pouillenay
Trip Suggest: Discover Creancey in France!

We Saw a Florida Box Turtle! Dec 2015

25°38’56.13″N 80°30’55.71″W elev 5 ft
Edge of Everglades Trail
Everglades National Park
Red line represents 8.7 miles (14 km)

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“X” marks the spot where we saw it. [Nous avons vu une Terrapene carolina bauri! “X” marque l’endtoit ou nous l’avons vu.]

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A hinged plastron enables it to close its shell tightly. [Un plastron a charnieres le permet de bien fermer la carapace.]

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We also saw Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) butterflies. [Nous avons vu des Agraulis vanillae egalement.]

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And some horny Southeastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera). [Et des Romalea microptera tres excites.]

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And four-inch long Florida ivory millipedes. I love their colorings. Their stomachs are white! [Et des Florida ivory millipedes qui etaient dix centemetres de long. J’aime leur couleurs. Leur ventres sont blancs!]

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Florida is a strange place. Its relationship with nature has a fraught history. [Florida est un pays etrange. La relation avec le millieu naturel a une histoire tendue.]

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Can you believe that this was once a street? [Pouvez vous imaginer que il’y avais une route ici?]

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[Je m’excuse pour n’utiliser pas des accents. C’est difficile les utiliser avec WordPress.com.]

Spring and Fall in Southwest Miami-Dade County, 2015


Spring starting point:
Silver Palm, FL 33170
25°33’03.40″N 80°26’43.82″W elev 11 ft

Fall starting point:
SW 168 Street and SW 208 Avenue, Miami FL 33187
25°36’30.57″N 80°31’30.14″W elev 5 ft

Our bike riding adventures took us to southwest Miami Dade County twice this year. In May, they took us to the Redland historic agricultural area. Our path followed public roads barely recognizable as roads and canal C-102. We saw a variety of farms: avocado, palm tree, mango, dragon fruit, bromeliad and many others. We also saw donkeys and purple love grass.

In November, we ventured into the fringe of Miami Dade County just west of the C-357 seepage canal where “farmburbia” peters out and the Everglades National Park begins. Once again we followed the ruins of public roads. This time they were overgrown with grasses as thick as your thumb and so high they blocked out the sun. Once inside the perimeter of Everglades National Park, there were two roads to choose from. One was cut out of the native limestone floor. We took this road as far as we could before it became flooded, which wasn’t very far. The other was made of raised hard pack and offered a great view of the endless horizon of Shark River Slough. We saw mocking birds, blue jays, butterflies, goats, chickens, cows, horses, dogs and, unfortunately, discarded tires, soda pop cans, mini fridges and cell phone accessories circa 2005. We also stumbled upon Julio’s Apiary, a licensed bee farm.

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7 miles on the Fringe

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Resources
Select Florida Native Grasses for North Central Florida – Fact Sheet #67, by Gale Kempner, University of Florida IFAS Extension
Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, 8.5 Square Mile Area, by Michael J. Collis, US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, May 23, 2012
Agrilicious: Julio’s Apiary & Avocado/Mango Grove

Off the Beaten Path, Dec 2012

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 1200 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
25°40’27.02″N 80°09’29.55″W elev 1 ft

Among the long overgrown campsites where only forgotten trail seekers dare to go…

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Giant Zebra Long Wings are everywhere.

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And so are Golden-Silk spiders, also known as banana spiders. This one was about 4 inches long. Their bite is less painful than a bee’s, and apparently, “In the South Pacific, females are induced to build webs on bamboo frames, which are then used as fish nets. The natives also relish the gravid females as a protein supplement, eating them either raw or roasted. Different reports say that the flavor is somewhat like mixed raw potato and lettuce mixed, or nutty flavored like peanut butter with a sticky consistency (http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/golden_silk_spider.htm)”.

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Ficus roots give Ollie a height advantage.

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The sable palmetto is not just a tree, it’s a habitat.

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One of South Florida’s many thorny vines…

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Is no match for Gauthier as he takes a photo of a dragonfly with his Lytro.

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A lizard (Eastern Fence?) with a skull pattern on its head reminds vagrant hikers of the dangers of hiking off the beaten path.

Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail, Apr 2013

25°19’29.77″N 82°47’59.63″W elev 0 ft
Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida, 33034, Near Flamingo Visitor Center and Campground

This is one of my favorite places on Earth.

The shortcut takes about three hours, stopping to take pictures. The full trail takes about five hours, once again, stopping to take pictures. Low and narrow mangrove tunnels make it technically challenging. We use Cannon Wave 4 piece breakdown paddles that we shorten while in the tunnels. When we called ahead to make sure the pond wasn't dry (it being March and the dry season in Florida), we were told to watch out for nursing gators, but the only gator we saw was the one that hangs out near the edge of the pond by the parking lot. Here's the National Parks Service trail description: http://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/upload/9-Mile-Pond-Canoe-Trail-2.pdf

The short cuttakes about three hours, stopping to take pictures. The full trail takes about five hours, once again, stopping to take pictures. Low and narrow mangrove tunnels make it technically challenging. We use Cannon Wave 4 piece breakdown paddles that we shorten while in the tunnels. When we called ahead to make sure the pond wasn’t dry (it being March and the dry season in Florida), we were told to watch out for nursing gators, but the only gator we saw was the one that hangs out near the edge of the pond by the parking lot. Here’s the National Parks Service trail description: http://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/upload/9-Mile-Pond-Canoe-Trail-2.pdf

This is a Black Vulture with a tracking device on him. "Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses." (Wikipedia, "Black Vulture") (http://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/upload/Final-Vulture-Tagging-SB.pdf)

This is a Black Vulture with a tracking device on him. “Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.” (Wikipedia, “Black Vulture”) (http://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/upload/Final-Vulture-Tagging-SB.pdf)

It waddled away from me as I chased it with my camera.

It waddled away from me as I chased it with my camera.

I think this is a Double-Crested Cormorant. It could also be an Anhinga, but the Audubon Society says the feet of the Anhinga are pink, and this guy's feet are clearly yellow.

I think this is a Double-Crested Cormorant. It could also be an Anhinga, but the Audubon Society says the feet of the Anhinga are pink, and this guy’s feet are clearly yellow.

Don't these red mangrove look like many-legged animals? Like millipedegroves?

Don’t these red mangrove look like many-legged animals? Like millipedegroves?

The Paurotis Palm.

The Paurotis Palm.

Bladderworts in bloom, like Chinese lanterns, floating on the water.

Bladderworts in bloom, like Chinese lanterns, floating on the water.

That's periphyton in the water in the foreground of this picture. I love scooping up pieces and squishing them in my hand.

That’s periphyton in the water in the foreground of this picture. I love scooping up pieces and squishing them in my hand.

Isn't it incredible how clear the water is? You can see a fish and its shadow!

Isn’t it incredible how clear the water is? You can see a fish and its shadow!

Mangrove tunnel! The pole on the right is a trail marker.

Mangrove tunnel! The pole on the right is a trail marker.

Where the marsh meets the hammock.

Where the marsh meets the hammock.

The Wind

The Wind

Red Mangrove

Red Mangrove

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Swallow-Tailed Kite

The Halloween Penannt. "Sexual activity normally occurs between 8 and 10:30 am, and males will normally wait for females to come to them around the edge of ponds, whilst perched on a weed" (Wikipedia, "Halloween Pennant"). Isn't it amazing how much scientists have learned about this planet we live on!

The Halloween Penannt. “Sexual activity normally occurs between 8 and 10:30 am, and males will normally wait for females to come to them around the edge of ponds, whilst perched on a weed” (Wikipedia, “Halloween Pennant”). Isn’t it amazing how much scientists have learned about this planet we live on!

American Coot

American Coot