On Saturday D. and I went on a docent-led tour of the Warms Springs Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge to see the wildflower blooms around some of the last intact vernal pool habitat in the East Bay. We learned about the unique features of a vernal pool grassland and about the endangered species supported by this habitat, particularly the beautiful endangered Contra Costa goldfield. Here are some of the pics I took.
Docent Betsy opens the gate for us to enter the grassland.
A barbed wire fence leads in to the distance.
Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus).
A red-tailed hawk soars overhead looking for unwary ground squirrels.
Grasshopper on gumweed (Grindelia hirsutula).
After a rainier winter this would be full of shallow pools, but because of the drought all the pools have evaporated already.
Woolly-heads (Psilocarphus brevissimus var. brevissimus) are almost ready to bloom.
Popcornflower (Plagiobothrys stipitatus) has eensy-weensy blooms.
Goldfields (Lasthenia conjugens).
Harvest Brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans ssp. elegans) pops up among alkali heath (Frankenia salina).
A field of goldfields glows golden yellow.
Downingia pulchella is in the bellflower family.
Brass buttons (Cotula coronopifolia) have tiny 1/4" flowers.
Each vernal pool location is numbered so biologists can track and record their development.
A ground squirrel observes our group from across the field.
Small-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii).
On our way back, a burrowing owl flies away from its nest when it feels our group has come too close.