Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Another trip to South Florida brought another visit to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands (see the January 2016 image of the month). Not surprisingly, things had changed in the six months since our last visit. Gone were the Palm Warblers that seemed to be in every shrub and tree. Purple Gallinules were also scarce. However, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were literally hanging out on the rails of the boardwalk allowing for close views (and photos) of their subtly beautiful plumage.
One of my favorite late spring hikes is the Mary Bowerman Trail near the summit of Mount Diablo. The hike is not challenging by any means - less than a mile in length and and level. However, the trail circles the summit and provides spectacular 360-degree views. Even better are the wildflowers that continue to bloom as the lower slopes of the mountain are entering their dry summer dormancy. While some of the flowers you find along the trail could have been observed in the lowlands earlier in the spring, others like this Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), are only found at the highest elevations of the mountain - Eagle Peak, North Peak, and the chert slopes along the Mary Bowerman Trail at the summit.
Mary Bowerman was a botanist who performed the pioneering studies of the flora of Mount Diablo starting in the 1930s. This trail that now bears her name was originally named the "Fire Interpretive Trail". It was constructed after fires in the late 1970s to educate visitors about fire ecology on the mountain. Mary was instrumental in ensuring that impacts to the habitat along the trail, especially these talus slopes and rock outcrops, were minimized during construction. She was also a co-founder of the conservation organization, Save Mount Diablo, and remained actively involved with the organization until passing away in 2005 at the age of 97. The trail was renamed in her honor in 2007.
After 4 years of drought the winter of 2015-2016, fueled by "El Nino"storms, brought abundant rainfall to Mount Diablo. The mountain responded with a spectacular Spring wildflower display. I captured this image of a Goldenbush, Lupine, and Paintbrush extravaganza on the slopes of North Peak during Save Mount Diablo's BioBlitz event.
2016 was the year of the "superbloom" in Death Valley - Fall and Winter rains enabling an outrageous display of wildflowers that attracted visitors from all over the world. We had made plans for a Spring desert trip to Death Valley long before the superbloom made the news. Fortunately, Death Valley is a BIG place and you can always find solitude if you know where to go. I captured this image of Desert Paintbrush on the drive into Titus Canyon. The yellow wash on the ridge in the background is from Golden Evening Primrose, which were blooming in abundance during our visit.
When I see the first Sara Orange-tip butterfly of the year on Mount Diablo, I know that Spring is on the way. Mitchell Canyon is a great place to find this species busily patrolling the trails and hillsides. As is the case with many butterflies, they are difficult to photograph well, because they are always in motion. I photographed this Sara Orange-tip in White Canyon (a side canyon off Mitchell Canyon) on a Fiddleneck flower on February 27th.