Naturalist Notes

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

To attract mates, these little guys put on a quite show in spring–swooping, climbing, and diving, making a squeal with their tails. Look for a copper-colored throat and belly, with a bronze-green back. Selasphorus sasin can be found in forest, scrub, and chaparral along the coast from California to Oregon. Put up a feeder and you might attract them to your yard. Learn more at All About Birds.

Baby Blue Eyes

Field of Baby Blue Eyes in bloom

A hardy annual native, these delicate, sky blue flowers are also easy to grow in backyard gardens. Look for fields blooming when weather warms after a rainy season, before summer brings too much heat. They attract large numbers of native bees, helping pollinators thrive. Add your sightings to iNaturalist.

Brush Rabbit

Brush Rabbit

If you are seeking an Easter bunny, look no farther than California's adorable cottontail. They hide in dense cover, rarely leaving the protection of the brush where they build runways, tunnels, and burrows to escape from predators. The best chance to see these bunnies is at twilight, when they nervously emerge to eat grass and other plants. But if they sense your presence, they can take off and run to safety at a speed of up to 25 miles an hour. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

California Buckeye

California Buckeye tree against the sky

Also called the California horse-chestnut, this multi-trunked deciduous tree can live as long as 300 years. Aesculus californica has adapted well to summer dry conditions, thriving from the central coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills. Striking white flower spikes appear in spring. The show continues when they go to seed–the largest seeds of any non-tropical plant species. But take care, because bark, leaves, fruits, and seeds contain a neurotoxic chemical. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

California Carpenter Bee

California carpenter bee gathering pollen from pink flower

Many native bees are almost too small to see. By comparison, this metallic black buzzer is a dirigible. Up to one inch long, it's hard to miss. They are polylectic, meaning they are generalist pollinators, visiting a wide variety of flora. But unlike some other bees, they prefer solitary nests, excavating wood tunnels with their powerful jaws. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

California Poppy

Close-up of California poppies in bloom

The state flower of California, native Eschscholzia californica carpets the hills in spring, opening its blooms to the sun. These hardy souls thrive from coastal dunes to the edge of redwood forests. Pollen-rich, they are part of a diverse wild plant community that boosts the food web in spring for insects and small mammals. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

Gray Fox

Gray Fox

This peppery gray and gold omnivorous mammal has adapted to living among human settlements. But they are not often seen due to their reclusive and nocturnal nature. Be thankful if you have one in your area–they are effective rodent eradicators. Don't use rodenticides; you can kill the foxes, especially youngsters. Mating takes place in spring, and males bring kills back to the nest to feed pups. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

Great Blue Heron

Great blue heron wading in a marsh

These statuesque waders stand motionless, but special neck vertebrae allow them to strike like lightning when they spot a fish or rodent, stabbing it with their impressive beak. Due to enhanced night vision, they even hunt in the dark. In spite of their large size, they only weigh about six pounds, because of hollow bird bones. Look for colonies of their bulky stick nests high in trees. Learn more at All About Birds.

Milkmaids

milkmaids

Milkmaids (Cardamine californica) are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in early spring. These blushing white and sweetly scented perennials grow in dappled shade and are a host plant for the veined white butterfly. Add your Milkmaid sightings to iNaturalist.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk in flight

Distinctively marked, Buteo lineatus can be spotted wheeling over forests near a stream or pond. Couples return to the same nesting area every year; you will see them circling over their territory in spring. Epic battles over food can take place between a hawk and a mob of crows, but these opponents will join forces to fight against a Great Horned Owl muscling in on their turf. Learn more at All About Birds.

Sky Lupine

Close-up of sky lupine in bloom

These fragrant beauties light up during early spring in chaparral clearings and grassy slopes. The blue-violet blooms are especially striking in a field mixed with bright orange poppies.There are over 200 wild species of lupine across North America; bee pollinators love them. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.

Tidy Tips

Tidy Tips wildflower

These sunny yellow, white-tipped flowers bloom March to June, welcoming spring. Look nearby for Checkerspot butterflies, which feed on Tidy Tip nectar. Found from valley floor to higher elevations, they are an easy-going native annual, also popular in backyard habitat gardens. Add your sighting to iNaturalist.