Monday, April 30, 2012


This morning's birdwalk in the Valley had so-so sightings of the bright triumverate of western tanager, black-headed grosbeak and Bullock's oriole. All of these, and the warbling vireos sang loudly in several places. Two species of swift were a nice plus, though we didn't see them well either. The small birds can't be happy that park biologist CB has identified 11 peregrine falcon pairs this season, with 8 known nests. Seven of these are along the Merced corridor between Arch Rock and Little Yosemite. Hungry baby predators will be hatching from eggs very soon, making our peaceful park a rough neighborhood for prey species. The river has dropped a bit since last week's rain; it's possible that it reached this year's peak on the 26th-about a month early. Meanwhile north-draining Sentinel Creek is now flowing in more channels. Indian Creek now flows beneath the Yosemite Art Center. This weekend afforded one of Yosemite's transient delights for visitors: bicycling on Tioga Road without cars. Several dozen cyclists rode the quiet corridor, from both east and west sides, with a good number rendezvous-ing at Olmsted Point. The marmots are standing by to pose for pictures there. Road crews are still working but it shouldn't be long until the pass is open to cars.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It has Sprung

Apologies for the long silence here at a time when so much is happening with the change of seasons in the Sierra.
We had a couple of decent snowstorms last week, now it's very warm.
The Merced River has finally gone to above average volume (at about 1700 cfs overnight at Pohono Bridge) and Table Rock is partly under. Waterfalls are looking quite good. Sentinel, Royal Arch, Eagle and Ribbon Creeks are all flowing into the river. Horsetail trickles into Wosky Pond.
Because our snowpack has less than half of average water content, we don't expect a high runoff this year - very different than last spring. The big melting this week suggests an early peak, too.
Our regular Monday and Thursday birdwalks in Yosemite Valley have turned up lots of singing yellow-rumps and the R2-D2 songs of orioles. Black-throated gray warblers are in, as are black-headed grosbeaks. We haven't seen flycatchers (other than black phoebes) or vireos yet in the Valley, though we know they're nearby.
Flowers in the Merced River Canyon west of the park have been dazzling for the past few weeks: poppies, redbud, birds-eye gilia, caterpillar flower, wallflower, false goldfields, popcorn flower, fiddleneck, cranesbill and dozens of others are still putting on a marvelous show. Buckeyes are green, and the live and deciduous oaks are adding new foliage and dangling their flowers.
Conditions look to be perfect for Dave Wyman's "Spring Light Photography" course, May 17-20. There are a few spot still available; free park entry and free camping are included.
As if we needed one more sign that spring has sprung: Glacier Point Road opens this weekend.