lizard fun

I was thrilled to see my first horned lizard on this morning’s hike with Vic and Annette. Huge kudos to A. for spotting this guy in the shadows. The Blainville’s Horned Lizard is a flat-bodied lizard with a wide oval-shaped body. Adults can vary in length from 2.5-4.5 inches / 6.3-11.4 cm (snout to vent) and have enlarged pointed scales scattered on the upper body and tail, and a large crown of horns on the head. Their biggest claim to fame is that they can squirt an aimed stream of blood from the corners of the eyes for a distance up to 5 ft / 1.5 m.

We also spotted a pair of side-blotched lizard having a cuddle in the middle of the trail. Ah, spring!

Viola pedunculata

Viola pedunculata, the Johnny jump-up, California golden violet, or yellow pansy, is a perennial yellow wildflower of the coast and coastal ranges in California and northwestern Baja California. The plant grows on open, grassy slopes, in chaparral habitats, and in oak woodlands. We see its cheerful yellow flowers in the Santa Monica Mountains from early to late spring.

red rock canyon

Bodie is a herding dog, not a hunting dog. So it was very surprising when she sniffed in the grass beside the trail, then suddenly lunged and caught a rodent of some kind. It was bigger than a mouse, but smaller than a gopher, and its tail was shorter than a rat’s but not gopher-like. She ignored my commands to drop it, and crunched for a minute before swallowing it. Ugh! Sorry, little critter!

Wallabia bicolor

Namadgi National Park is a protected area in the south-west of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It occupies 106,095 hectares (262,166 acres), approximately 46 percent of the ACT’s land area.

Declared a national park in 1984, Namadgi National Park has helped protect the biodiversity of the ACT. Eighty percent of the area burned in the Orroral Valley bushfire in early 2020; recovery is ongoing. I’m not sure if the Square Rock trail was in the burn area, but to my eyes today, the place was looking pretty good!

Cardamine californica

It was so nice to see the first milkmaids this morning!

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) are some of the first wildflowers to appear in the Santa Monica Mountains each year, showing up in winter and early spring. This member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family likes shady, moist hillsides or stream banks in riparian areas. Each flower is about 12mm in diameter with four white to pink petals. The flower closes its petals in late afternoon as the sun goes down and nods its pedicel before a rain, protecting the pollen. It is perennial—after flowering and setting seed, it dies back to its roots where it goes dormant until next year’s rains awaken it.

I hiked this trail once before, in summer 2016, and had a bit of a heat exhaustion incident. I was alone at the time. I remember feeling very dizzy and nauseated, and crawling into the scant shade of a tree to rest and cool down. Luckily today was perfect hiking weather. No hyperthermia involved.

buddha in the grass

There used to be three buddhas out on the trails, placed by locals who respectfully use this undeveloped private land to exercise themselves and their dogs. The statues attract offerings of pretty rocks, flowers, and other treasures. Two of the statues were removed by the land-owner, but the smallest one remains.