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Monday, September 12, 2011

Season of the Crows

Hundreds of crows wheeled about the oak canopy, the source for my large format watercolor.

After late spring rains and a relatively cool summer, the pear harvest is four weeks late this year, culminating on labor day, September 5.

The Benson name is an old and storied one hereabouts, figuring in both settler and native history.

A pair of barn owls has been roosting in the ranch owl box for the past couple of years without producing young. I set up a motion-detecting camera to catch their discrete nocturnal comings and goings. When fledglings are present there is much raucous rasping from the owls. This year the owls are silent.

Lesser goldfinch female.

Depredation statistics compiled by the Mountain Lion Foundation show the large number of lions killed by government agents in a several county-wide area including Lake County over a recent 35-year period. When lions were fair game and hunted with impunity as noxious predators, government trackers were rarely called upon. When state legislation protected lions starting in 1990 from twenty to sixty lions a year were killed by government-sanctioned agencies. These statistics amaze a hiker and camper who has logged innumerable miles, days and nights in California wilderness areas without ever laying eyes on a single cat.

This mountain lion was killed by a federal tracker in 2005 after it was suspected of killing four lambs in a barn in Bachelor Valley near Upper Lake. The back country above Bachelor Valley is reputed to harbor some of the densest numbers of cougars in the world.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On the Mountain

I drove up the dusty road on the chaparral-clad Western face of Mount Konocti. A parking lot is being bulldozed high up for the newly established pubic-access tract.

Below, to the West and North lay Big Valley and the lake.

Chaparral begins to give way to more pine and fir on the Northern flank of the mountain over Soda Bay. Spared some of the solar blast, the mountain maintains just enough moisture to support a micro climate.

The steepest part of the North face supports the Black Forest, which is dominated by Douglas fir and bay laurel. The forest has its own charismatic denizens not seen on other parts of the mountain: Stellars jays and pileated woodpeckers.

Black Forest is under the protection of the Lake County Land Trust.