Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Towhee and Frazil

Cold and snow chill Yosemite. We had frazil ice in Yosemite, Sentinel and Ribbon Creeks yesterday morning; a bit late in the season, but not unheard of. The Merced River has dropped just below the average flow rate for mid-May; it has been running at above-average volume since the big storms got started in November. Though average, the falls are still big, but they'll get bigger, and they'll still look good in July. Fire season gets delayed, though the moisture likely means more growth of small fuels like grasses.
A highlight on yesteday's birdwalk was seeing Superintendent Don Neubacher dash out of his office with binoculars in hand to stalk a seldom-seen green-tailed towhee outside the Administration building. He was accompanied by ace ranger-naturalist Karen Amstutz who spotted the unusual bird out her window and had the inspiration to pull the park's boss (a dedicated birder) away from his desk to see the towhee. I'm glad to know that our park is being looked after by such people. My group was surprised to see a second green-tailed towhee a short time later near Yosemite Creek.
Ranger JT reports snowplant emerging near Sentinel Bridge. I've seen a couple in the west end of the Valley, too. Along with new birds and plants, it's exciting to see the seasonal increase in park staffing as more interpretive rangers return to duty or start their first summer as seasonal rangers. Park visitors are lucky to have all these people leading walks and campfire programs, answering questions in the visitor centers, conducting tram tours and cultivating another 24,000+ Junior Rangers.
There is still room in the Yosemite Conservancy's 3-day "White Wolf Botany" course in early July. This is going to be some terrific field time for casual botanists in a special part of the park. We also have space for people to join us for the two "Family Camping Jamborees" in late-July in Tuolumne Meadows.

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