During the winter of early December we hightailed it to the ranchos of central California
as ol man Colin describes it, the land takes you back in time to the 1800’s
rolling undulations of hills covered by annual grasses and cow trails

punctured by oak trees and an occasional pine
broad dry creek beds of broom thickets and tree tobacco on the fringe
and way upland
thick dense fragrant booming alive chaparral
buzzing with bees on sage, wooly yerba santa shrubs, and unstoppable chamise
doe bedded down in the shade
on the trail was a dead coyote, bloating in the sun,

no obvious wounds or bleeding
nobody would touch it or scavenge it, not even the vultures
not sure why
kid says ‘ it looks like a dog!’, it sure does

Quail hunting season this past year ran from October 16th to January 30th in our zone. And for Dove, the season was November 13th through December 27th.

Like always, I was curious about what they had been eating. This way, you know where to look for em next time. It is the same with hunting mushrooms – what trees is it growing next to? It is the same with lingcod – what is in its stomach? Octopus?! Again?! The chunky, muscle bound, buff tough little bird is the California quail. The skinnier smaller one is the dove, a white winged dove to be precise.

What is in its crop? Well the dove had only one kind of seed it seems, and the crop was loaded! No wonder it was just sitting there and not flying off.

The quail had fewer seeds, but had a bit more variety in its diet in terms of seed selection.

Brought the seeds to class and had the students sow em. Lets see what comes up!

On the dove side, seeds came up quick. The leaves look comp-ish like a dandelion or a thistle or something. Wait for it. Wait for it. The flowers – bit of a tinge of purple spines and yellowish flowers. Internet ID taxonomy seems to point towards the Maltese star thistle Centaurea melitensis. Okay, we got one!

On the quail side it was a lot more sparse and irregular. Yes theres the pink five petaled flower of a geranium family thing with the typical crane’s bill looking fruits. Reddish stems. Lets go with the redstem filaree Erodium cicutarium. That is the plant ol master Bob Patterson of Plant Taxonomy class would say, ‘comes in with the cattle’.

Another one was the cant forget about it, scorpionoid coiling tail inflorescence with orange flowers. Not white flowers, that would be Cryptantha, but orange, so Amsinckia. I know my old teachers would be proud to know that the words ‘gynobasic style’ are still forever stuck in my brain. You know or have seen this family of plants already. I know you have. Does forget me not, tower of jewels, borage or comfrey ring a bell? Anyhow, lets call it the common fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia. Well maybe it is Amsinckia menziesii, but my eyes are such that I find it hard to differentiate between flowers 4-7 mm long and 7-11 mm long. LOL. What a terrible taxonomist!

Last but not least, a bunch of thin grasses were in the quail seed plot. They look like fescues. Why? How? I’m working on it – communicating the basic gestalt of such things in simple language and drawings… For now, best determination is Festuca bromoides.

Well thats all for now. Pretty limited sample, but neat to see what comes up always. And don’t worry about the star thistle, I won’t plant it in the garden. Cant wait to go back in time again…