Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Parks Week

I am back in Yosemite after two weeks away, and what changes there are. The free entrance to Yosemite for National Parks Week, combined with some school spring breaks has meant a busy week in the park. The natural scene is busy, too.
Snow is gone from the Valley floor except in a few shady spots. Waterfalls are bigger than average, with the recent warmth getting a start on melting off our exceptional snowpack. Cooks, Leidig, El Capitan, Stoneman, Ahwahnee and Slaughterhouse (lovely, I know) Meadows all have standing and/or running water in them now; some paths are blocked, but none of the main ones yet. Table Rock, our local visual river gauge for Valley commuters, is underwater.
Frazil ice forecast for this weekend: POOR.
Yellow-rumped warblers are at their brightest in the black oak canopies, where tiny pink leaves are barely starting to emerge in the Valley. Black-throated gray warblers are doing their excited, buzzy call in the live oaks in the Valley now, too. A great gray owl was reported on its nest up near Crane Flat, though there's so much snow there still, their food is out of reach and it's hard to imagine successful breeding at this point.
Our "Moonbow Photography" Outdoor Adventures course was a success on Sunday night, with a bright bow visible for a couple hours in-between overcast periods. Next up is Ken Rockwell and Dave Wyman's "Spring Light Photography" course, and then an excellent "Hawks and Owls" program the first weekend of June.
Our regular public birdwalk will be seeking John Muir's favorite bird tomorrow, Cinclus mexicanus. Thursday is his 173rd birthday. Friday is Earth's birthday; stand up for what you stand on, as they say.

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