Sunday D. and I spent the afternoon at Arastradero Preserve, just up the road from us, in Palo Alto. Arastradero is a former ranch turned into a lovely park in the foothills above Stanford University and the city of Palo Alto, encompassing rolling grassland, oak woodland and broadleaf evergreen forest habitats. Deer, bobcats and coyotes are often seen there, as well as many varieties of birds.
The sign at the trailhead warned of ticks, rattlesnakes, poison oak and mountain lions. Now, that's my kind of place! Almost right away we saw what could only be a mountain lion hairball (the first of several) on the Redtail Loop Trail going through the grasslands. Lots of swallows were swooping over the hillsides, chittering and clicking while eating bugs on the wing.
Scenery along the Redtail Loop Trail.
More Redtail Loop Trail scenery.
We also saw a western bluebird in a valley live oak tree and a great blue heron in the middle of a field over the fence on Stanford property, as well as lots of red-winged blackbirds staking out their territories.
Here's a bird house with a fence around its entry. Hey, it's Palo Alto -- even the birds are snooty.
Here's one of hundreds of funnel webs trailside. Didn't see the spiders that lived in them, though.
Stanford's satellite dishes across I-280, seen from the crest of the Redtail Loop Trail.
Mini crop circles? No, impressions in the grass made by deer bedding down for the night.
Here's where my camera's card filled up, so no more pics.
But we saw more stuff along the Arastradero Creek Trail, which runs along Arastradero Creek between Arastradero Lake and Sobey Pond. We saw stuff like a "quail condo" 4' high made from piled-up brush (see, in Palo Alto even the quail live in condos ); a northern harrier gliding over the grassy hillsides and a white-tailed kite hovering over same hillsides; lots of oak galls looking like little apples on the branches of certain oak trees; a couple of magpies; a fire hydrant out in the middle of nowhere along the trail (no structures anywhere near ); dozens of frogs ringing Sobey Pond's banks, and the sound of wild turkeys calling from the nearby woods; a wood duck nest box near the pond; and lots of bird houses scattered throughout the woods as well as a bat box on a post not too far off the trail. On our walk back we passed several pairs of equestrians, one of whom told us about a coyote they'd just seen down the trail. We never saw the wily creature, though; they tend not to hang around waiting for people to come along.
The hillsides were still green from recent spring rains, the wind was refreshing as it raced through the long grass, the sun was bright and warm on our faces, the trails were peaceful and tranquil, and we were at peace for these long calm gentle hours.