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Saturday, October 6, 2018


By early August, 2018, the Los Angeles Times would report that during the past five years over 53% of Lake County had been charred by wildfires.
 At that date the Mendocino Complex Fires (the River Fire and the Ranch Fire) were still raging across the rugged country west and north of Clear Lake. The fires had both started on July 27 in Mendocino County. Within a couple of days, the more southerly River Fire had swept over the Mayacamas Range and took out many ancient oaks all the way down the canyons to Big Valley in Lake County. The Ranch Fire, meanwhile, raged, uncontrolled, in Mendocino National Forest, burning completely across the breadth of the county and on into Colusa and Glenn Counties. By now, the Mendocino Complex Fires had been identified as the biggest ever recored in California.

Maps show the foot print of the fires in tan and the actively burning areas in yellow, orange and red.

The ranch fire subsequently continued burning much further to the north and east than shown on the map.

The roadside scenes below are along the Hopland Grade, Rte 175 on the eastern slope of the Mayacamas Range.


 Mop-up crews cut down many charred oaks along the road.

The marks made by the chain saw obscured more than half of  the annual growth rings on this Valley Oak, but I still managed to count more than 300. The circumference of the stump is twenty-three feet.
This beloved tree stood as a landmark, the Guardian of the Western Gate of Lake County.
As a sentinel spirit, it thrived for probably six centuries before man's destructive ways finally caught up with it.

A scorched manzanita is adapted to sprout again from the roots.

Scorched ridges of the Mayacamas Range, and dense haze over the lake from the still-burning Ranch Fire.


Two pictures seemed to encapsulate the mood and light of last year's Spring and Fall Equinox.

Last Spring, the trail camera caught jack rabbit on a visit to the ranch meadow.
With the flush of new grass of March, things are good for the March hares. They appear more frisky than usual. It's probably sex, rather than madness, that inspires their playful antics.

Last Fall, Jim Leonardis caught this picture of starlings massing on his walnut ranch in Big Valley.
At this time of year, seemingly in anticipation of cold, hard times, the birds merge into a defensive super organism.  Thousands synchronize fantastic undulations as they come to roost en masse in the tule beds of Boggs Lake. Hawks, falcons and eagles are strafing them in the gloaming.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


In frosty mid-winter the meadow is an arena for creatures going about their purposeful errands.

Daytime residents and sojourners, and creatures of the night triggered the trail camera over the span of twenty-four hours. 

Scrub jays, the neighbors' cat, black tailed jack rabbits, raccoons, gray foxes, California quail, western gray squirrels, and spotted towhees were the main players.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


2017 began with rains of record. Aquifers rose. For the first time in many years Kelsey Creek retained water downstream of town throughout the summer. The lake overflowed. Insects flourished. On the ranch, birds had great breeding success, with tree swallows and bluebirds fledging multiple broods. Wood ducks, Barn owls and black headed grosbeaks hatched.
After a cool Spring, the heat of Summer was relentless. By Fall, big wildfires swept the region.

In the delta of Kelsey Creek.

The first homesteaders in the Big Valley selected oak-shaded sites near water on which to build their homes.

This mid-summer clutch of tree swallow eggs never hatched. Instead, it cooked in the extreme heat. But several clutches laid earlier in the season successfully fledged.

Tree swallow nestlings, which later perished in the heat.

          Italian cypresses in the rain-shadow country East of the Coast Ranges in Colusa County.

Ranch in the rain-shadow.

The Three Graces at Stoneyford Store. 

Herds of elk move seasonally down to pasture around Stoneyford from Lake County's Mendocino National Forest. Some elk unwillingly give up their heads, which end up as wall-mounted trophies.
Taxidermy at Stoneyford store typifies the ubiquity of the craft throughout the West in country stores, bars, restaurants, lodges, sporting goods stores and private homes. Taxidermy is surely the region's most visible art form, a cultural touchstone speaking of the romance of wild country and big animals. The mounted specimens may be seen as reliquaries of animal magic, but unlike the carved animal effigies seen in African and Asian masks, here we have the animal itself... almost.
The visual effect on seeing rank after rank of every possible species of North American big game animal decorating the walls of a large sporting goods store, puts one in mind of a charnel house. 

 The coast ranges support many thousands of wild pigs, a hybrid of escaped stock introduced by early Spanish settlers in the 1700s and European wild boar introduced by hunters in the 1920s. Throughout the state their population is judged to be between 200,000 and 1 million, a rough guess indicating just how wily and illusive the animal is. Hunters can't make a dent in the numbers.

Old truck and trailer ornament  Finca Castelero.

Looking East from the Mayacamas Range over Clear Lake.


   Local craftsman's booth at the Kelseyville Pear Festival.

                                              Audubon Society booth at the Pear Festival.

In the show ring at the Pear Festival.

Kelseyville still resembles its former self.

                                                Historic pictures of Kelseyville Main Street.


                                                            Last tomatoes of the season.

                                                        Along my bike trip to the lake.

                                                           Groundwater Valley Oaks.

                                                Where Kelsey Creek meets Clear Lake.

                                                Freshwater clam shells along the lakeshore.

Catfish skull.

                                                              In the delta of the creek.

                                                       Soda Bay and Mount Konocti.

                                        I stopped my bike along the road from the state park.

                                                           Looking West in Big Valley.

East to Konocti.

A bald eagle seized a fish from an osprey at Letts Lake, Mendocino National Forest.