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!

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.

Canis latrans

#1 question asked at the Visitor Center (usually preceded by “WHOA!”): “Is it real?”

#2 and #3 questions: “How do you get to the M*A*S*H site / Rock Pool?”

Occasionally I don’t know the answer to a question, which sends me off to do research. Right now I’m learning about trapdoor spiders because of a visitor query. More on that to come …

heteromeles arbutifolia

The toyon berries are putting on a good show right now. This is the shrub for which Hollywood is named, though it’s not a type of holly at all. Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub plant community, and a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It is the sole species in the genus Heteromeles.

Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds love the summer flowers, and the autumn berries are devoured by a large variety of birds, including cedar waxwings, quail, towhees, Western bluebirds, robins, and mockingbirds.