While visiting Yosemite National Park in April, I walked a mile through the snow to have my first-ever encounter with these massive trees.
This species is the largest known tree on earth and grow only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada at elevations between 4,500 to 7,000 feet. Found nowhere else on the planet, they are closely related to California’s Coast Redwoods – the tallest trees in the world.
Sequoias can grow to be about 30 feet in diameter and more than 250 feet tall. They can live to be over 3,000 years old, with the oldest one on record living more than 3,500 years.
Mature Sequoias lack branches on the lower half of their trunks. Their trunks taper as they rise, forming a rounded top where individual branches sweep downward. Their green needles are small and arranged in spirals.
The snowpack from the Sierra Nevada provides these giant trees with the thousands of gallons of water every day.
It was an awesome experience to meet a tree “in person” that I have been reading about for so many years!
Third Eye Herp
I often see this butterfly in my travels, as well as in my backyard. My larest encounter was at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. This insect it is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world.
Males perch and patrol during the afternoon for receptive females. In the western United States males usually perch on shrubs on hilltops, while in my home state of Ohio, males position themselves on bare ground in open areas.
This is sometimes called the “Thistle Butterfly,” because thistle plants are its favorite nectar plant for food. It is also one of the Painted Lady caterpillar’s favorite food plants. What probably owes the global abundance of this creature is that thistle are common and invasive plants.
This butterfly is an irruptive migrant, meaning that it migrates independent of any seasonal or geographic patterns. It can cover a lot of ground, up to 100 miles per day at speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour.
They are a favorite subject of study in elementary school classrooms, and often the caterpillars can be ordered in “grow kits” where they can be raised and after they transform into adults are released.
Though the Painted Lady is one of the most familiar butterflies in the world, found on nearly all continents and in all climates, it’s still nice to come across them, wherever I may happen to be.
Third Eye Herp
This is a fun bird to encounter while visiting the Golden State; it is both colorful and intelligent. Their behavior can be bold and inquisitive, and their calls can be loud and raucous. The California Scrub Jay is often seen in parks, neighborhoods and riverside woods near the Pacific Coast.
Pairs of California Scrub-Jays are often seen swooping across clearings, giving harsh calls, with their long tails flopping in flight. This is a bird that does not migrate. Western Scrub Jays eat insects, fruits, nuts, berries, and seeds, and occasionally small animals. They are regular visitors to bird feeders.
California Scrub Jays gather surpluses of food and store it in scattered caches within their territories. They rely on highly accurate and complex memories to recover their hidden food, often after long periods of time. Jays can also be quite mischievous when it comes to procuring and storing food. They will steal acorns from Acorn Woodpecker caches as well as from stores hidden by other jays, and then look around to make sure no one is watching before they hide their stolen prize.
Recent research has suggested that jays and crows are among the most intelligent of animals. The brain-to-body mass ratio of adult California Scrub Jays rivals that of chimpanzees and is dwarfed only by that of humans.
Western Scrub Jays appear to have “funerals” in reaction to finding a dead jay. They will screech over the body, attracting other jays, for as long as 30 minutes and stay near the body for a day or two. We often don’t think of birds as being as “brainy” as mammals, but crows and jays are challenging that mindset.
Third Eye Herp
When visiting Point Reyes National Seashore I often encounter this common wildflower of the coastal and central regions of Northern and Central California.
The Douglas Iris was first described by 19th century botanist David Douglas Scottish who traveled through the American Northwest collecting a variety of plants. He also has the Douglas Fir named after him.
In Spring, large clumps of iris with flowers ranging from cream to deep purple bloom in grasslands along the coast, and in the deep shade of coastal forests.
The flowers are intricately patterned with nectar guidelines for potential pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.
The Douglas Iris’ sword-shaped leaves overlap and can reach over one foot long, rising from underground stems called rhizomes.
“Back in the day,” Native Americans in California extracted a single fiber from each leaf margin and used it to create strong silky fibers for fishing nets, rope and snares for catching game.
Third Eye Herp