Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starr Ranch

Last week we headed to Starr Ranch for a field ecology program on Reptiles and Amphibians and a Nature Hike. We've been there in the past for their Song Bird monitoring program and it's really one of my favorite places in OC.

Tucked away in an unnoticeable corner of Dove Canyon, Starr Ranch is owned by the Audubon Society and there is a lot of research that goes on there. You can only visit by appointment but they do take small groups of families and are 'homeschool friendly' - accommodating curious Mothers, younger siblings, infants, etc.

This is the fun road to Starr Ranch

Here's Scott, the 'herp' guy (or herpetologist) talking to our group. If you know me, you know how I feel about Rangers and Educators and the way they talk to our kids, and I can emphatically recommend Scott. He is PASSIONATE about reptiles and amphibians, particularly snakes, and he is all about getting in touch with real things - a total fit for our CMers.

Here's a picture of a Herp Array, or a trap. Basically, it's a series of panels or walls that direct the animals towards a trap.

Here's the real thing

Here's Scott looking in a funnel trap - almost the same setup as the crawdad trap we borrowed once.

Here's a pitfall trap - basically a bucket in the ground that the animal falls into.

Unfortunately, there were no snakes, it was too cold a day for them to be out. But there was a fence lizard in one of the traps and here's a harvestman.


They're really cute!

I forgot the name of this caterpillar, but it was crawling along the herp array.

After the first session, we had our lunch outdoors back at the picnic tables then went for a rigorous (for me and my belly anyway) hike up the hill.

Here's a wooden post covered with Acorn Woodpecker holes filled with Acorns.

I. love. open. space. !!! It feels so incredibly amazing.

Yucca, or Our Lord's Candle

Here's a close up of prickly pear cactus - can you see the white scale bug on there?

Well she took it (what a neat shirt by the way)

And smushed it and look at that color! It's called cochineal and the scale bugs are used for its dye. Isn't that interesting? I never knew, nor had I ever noticed the white scale bugs on prickly pear. Imagine what else we fail to notice right before our eyes.

And last but not least, we saw several mule deer - what a treat!

You can enjoy some of Starr Ranch too by viewing their live Barn Owl Cam. Hope you can visit, it really is worth the effort!

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