Posted by: atowhee | November 9, 2014


A summer of drought. Reservoirs almost on empty (Emigrant Lake got down to 5% capacity). A rainy but warm autumn that has us a month behind normal date for first frost (one may be coming this week). All this has made for an unusual autumn where the flexible have had a second season. Dandelions and chicory blooming in November. Small invertebrates abundant. Multitudes of mushrooms on land and tree trunk.

There was thick ground fog at Ashland Pond this morning. Visibility was low and I saw one result: pair-o-grines…two Peregrines in combat. I first the heard the harsh, shrill anger call of one bird-—“keer-you.” It was repeated several times after a two second interval. Then out of the fog came two Peregrines, one in pursuit of the other. They circled tightly about…diverged, and vanished back into the fog at high speed, but in opposite directions. Even their fine eyesight would have given no warning that each was about to impinge upon the other.
Other ghosts in the fog included Mallards, Wood Ducks and numerous Robins.
Yesterday at Emigrant Lack, as in “lack of water,” I saw a handful of diving ducks: Ruddy and Bufflehead. One small flock of Killdeer, a couple of Great Egrets keeping their distance from one another.
The most interesting sight there now is the landscape. The former lakebed is now parched and cracked into miniature mesas. Each is separated from the others by the irregular fissures formed as the moisture leaves and the soil contracts. These mesas are usually less than three square inches in surface area on top. They come in cadres that are in turn separated from other cadres by mini-canyons of two to four inches. As I turned toward the sun on my walk there were glistening silken threads across the fissures, tiny swinging bridges. Each was a thread of spider web from some unseen multitude of dinky spiders. It must have been good hunting for the spider. Across the baked mud desert were misty clouds that turned out to be myriad pale aphids swarming in swirling flocks.

Where streamlets meander across the mudflats each has carved its own cutbanks, each revealing layers of mud laid down over past decades. At the mouth of each stream entering the reservoir is formed a delta like a gang of Mississippi River wannabes. Standing there you feel like you are seeing what a helicopter trip would reveal on a grander scale in many arid lands…but here it is on the scale of a hayfield.

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