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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Riparian Zone

The other morning I jumped the puddles at the ranch gate to walk across the road to the creek. The first rains of the season had begun to recharge the Kelsey Creek aquifer. The water flow had still not saturated the deep gravel of the creek bed this far down stream.

Dew-spangled mullein have colonized the gravel bars.

As always, the creek bed tells a tale of ongoing abuse.

Flowing water has reached the Renfro Crossing, where a bulldozer has recently pushed aside the road crossing gravel and opened the channel to the creek flow.

The riparian community of willow and cottonwood, currant, coyote brush, and valley oak provide nesting and roosting cover for coveys of California quail. These sinuous strips of woods and brush serve as reservoirs and corridors for wildlife amidst the monocrop orchards and vineyards of Big Valley.

Uprooted walnut stumps block off-road vehicles from one section of the habitat. Prince Charles calls his pile of stumps a stumpery, reminding me of the Victorian term for a cozy room - snuggery.

The moment of fruition of the acorn crop on this valley oak was attended by scores of jays and acorn woodpeckers.