Monday, March 24, 2008

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

My first birding excursion for spring break really wasn't much of a birding trip at all. It was more of an all-around nature hike for three hours at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park - all the way up the canyon to the ridge-line (I think it's a part of the santa ana mountains but I may be wrong because I was looking out across Laguna and Aliso to Saddleback).
I need an ID on the flower and the insect, click for a closer view.
I love this shot of the red-tailed hawk against the hillside, click to see him.

I parked at the Nix Nature Center - which is very nice, and starting in the parking lot I heard wrentits and California towhees competing for the loudest and most numerous bird award. A close runner up were the California quail with their "chi-CA-go" calls from the bushes.
Bee on unidentified white flowers.

Yellow Violets

This really has been one of California's best wildflower years since I bought my camera - I was constantly switching back and forth between my 75-300 zoom lens for birds and some butterflies to my regular lens with macro adapter for flowers... and oh, the flowers! Everywhere I looked, yellow, white, many shades of purple, and blue. It was amazing. My pants are filthy from crawling on the ground to get a shot, or pressing through the bushes to get closer looks. 
Behr's Metalmark
The butterflies were also out with a vengeance, checkerspots, whites, sulfurs, orange-tips, ladies, duskywings, blues and more! I wish I was good enough to ID them to the species, but unless I shot a photo of them, which was hard since the buggers were patrolling so zealously they rarely paused to nectar and allow me a photo.
Dodder - a parasitic plant that takes nutrients and wate from it's host.
I made it all the way up to walk along the ridgeline where I got breath-taking views of Orange County and the hillsides which I had just hiked up. The plant diversity was thrilling, as were the butterflies and birds. I was looking down(!) on ravens and red-tails enjoying the thermals rising on this incredibly warm day - somewhere in the high 80's where I was. I was having such a blast up there that I didn't want to hike back, but images of my car being locked in when the gates closed for the night finally urged me to begin my trek back.
The trailhead where I came out onto the ridgeline.
As I headed toward the car, I took my final shots, filling my memory card to the brim, which is hard for a photographer when you don't have a spare handy. I was torn between each new potential shot, and the horror of having to delete some shots before I had a chance to see them on a computer screen to judge whether or not they were worth saving. Guess it's time to invest in that second memory card so I don't have to make that choice...
Mariposa Lily maybe?

While on the ridge, I passed some cool rock formations, which I snapped a few shots of because I recognized the type of rock from geology, but couldn't bring the name into my mind. I'll probably add it in later when I figure it out. Within the limestone there was a bee hive - or is it nest when it's in the ground? All in all, this was one of my best hikes to date, I had a wonderful time, despite the heat, and saw a lot of new things through my lens, what a wonderful treat for spring break!
Miner's Lettuce, a water-loving species. Edible as I recall although as a general rule I never sample plants in the field, better safe than sorry!
Mallow species?
I want to say this is a monkeyflower for some strange reason.
White flower - perhaps a phacelia, there were dozens of purple phacelia there.
Owl's clover - a root parasite.
Whoops! Chipping-sparrow, guess I ought to pay more attention before I post ;)
Looks like some sort of pea species, ID needed!

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