Zenfolio | Photography by Dan Quinn | 11/23/2015 Goya Gate: Valley Oaks & Mistletoe at Dawn
Visitors 39
Modified 18-Dec-15
Created 18-Dec-15
67 photos


I was out before sunrise, in the pallid dawn light. Saw a red-tailed hawk keeping watch at the top of a valley oak. As I crested the hill at the Phainopepla Tree, the morning mist was just dissipating in the hollow beyond. I hurried to capture the last traces. Then set up my tripod, watching the changing patterns of light and fog around this mistletoe-covered valley oak.

These images are organized mostly by location; different locations are shown when I first photographed them this morning. Thus the mid mistletoe tree (#2 below) appears before the Phainopepla Tree (#1), because I rushed to that one to capture the evanescent mist. I have many images of the same trees: the evaporating mist, the rising fog, the sunrise, and the shifting light makes each image different.

REQUEST TO BIRDERS AND OTHERS: Please help me and Professor Rodolfo Dirzo track which birds have been seen in which trees! Rodolfo has a project on mistletoe at Jasper Ridge: where, when, how, why. He has found that mistletoe only populates certain varieties of oak (as I recall, mostly valley oaks, Quercus lobata), and only in certain locations (solitary oaks or oaks at the margin of a forest or stand of chaparral). He suspects that visiting birds have a lot to do with this. Birds do tend to prefer solitary trees, or trees at the margins. So here is my request: please help me identify WHICH birds you have seen in WHICH trees.

Over the years since 2008, I have been drawn to five specific valley oaks out of Escobar Gate {and a few others...}. Here are the trees I want to focus on, and my tentative list of bird species I have seen there. PLEASE HELP correct and expand this list!

1. The "Phainopepla Tree". [Images 38-49 in this collection.] On Road F, a solitary oak to the left as you leave Escobar Gate (SW of Road F, just past Trail 17 from Goya Gate). Covered in mistletoe. Sick? Not many leaves at all. Birds seen:
1a.Phainopepla (Painopepla Nitens). Rare (for Jasper Ridge) This desert bird really likes mistletoe. Several were seen at Jasper Ridge in 2010 (?) -- only on this one, mistletoe-covered, tree.
1b. Sparrows (Golden-crowned?)
1c. Western bluebird (Sialia mexicana);
1d. Cedar waxwing;
1e. Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus);
1f. American robin (Turdus migratorius);
1g. Hummingbirds. Anna's??
Many others. Please help!!

2. Mid Mistletoe Tree. [Images 3-34 in this collection.] A little ways along Road F (coming from Escobar Gate), at the bottom of the hollow, also on the left. Covered in mistletoe. Much healthier, new leaves. Birds seen: the same as the Phainopepla Tree, all but the phainopepla.

{Other trees, not in my list of five, but maybe I should add these?
2.1 Bunny Tree. Across Road F from Mid Mistletoe Tree, at the edge of the chaparral there. I have seen many bunnies (real rabbits, not jackrabbits) on Road F near and just beyond this tree, in the early morn. Valley oak, no mistletoe as I remember, quite healthy, gets its leaves early. I don't recall seeing any birds in it. Birders??

2.2 Kite Tree. Valley oak, no mistletoe?, no leaves? Near the intersection of Trail 15 with the birding trail. White-tailed kites love to hang out here. I have seen scrub jays. Others??}

3. Lonely Oak. Near the intersection of Road F with Trail 15. [Image #50 in this collection.] Healthy valley oak, no mistletoe. I have seen white-tailed kites and swallows there.

4. Gateway Oak with Toyon. [#51-55 here.] Valley oak, little or no mistletoe. At the edge of the forest. At the start of the birding transect trail, near Trail 15. Birders, you often pause here. What birds do you see?

5. Three Oaks' View. [#57-58] A valley oak (Q. lobata) at the edge of the serpentine grassland, at the edge of a grown-over area, oaks and perhaps some chaparral. I call it Three Oaks' View because one can see blue oaks (Q. douglasii) and coast live oaks (Q. agrifolia var. agrifolia) in the distance from here. Another toyon bush (Heteromeles arbutifolia) decorates this tree. It has mistletoe, including two prominent bunches from the topmost branches. It looks fairly healthy, with leaves now. I have seen scrub jays and probably acorn woodpeckers there; birders??

So now I await input from birders and others regarding the specific birds you remember seeing in each of the five (or seven) specific valley oaks.

The rest of this morning was pretty uneventful. But check out the owl (?) scat near the end!
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Keeping WatchRed-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Taking OffMistletoe-laden Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) with Dawn MistMistletoe-laden Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) with Dissipating Dawn MistA Taste of SunriseSunriseSunrise ProceedingSunrise For SureGlorious DawnGlorious Dawn (2)Self-portrait at DawnGlorious Dawn (3)Morning LightMorning Light (2)Morning Fog, Valley Oak, MistletoeMorning Fog, Valley Oak, Mistletoe (2)Sunlight through the FogValley Oak with MistletoeSunlight through the Fog (2)Sunlight through the Fog (3)