Sunlight & Shadows on the Burdell Trail – 11 November 2013

This hike with Jim was the first after gaining that extra hour so ten o’clock seemed just a little different – a bit askew, a new world by just a little. It was also pleasantly different too because some of the Footloose Foray Dogs took time out from their busy schedules to join us on the trail. Luca and Rosella’s MAGIC and Louise’s POGO added a lot to our walk.

That’s Magic securing the perimeter and Pogo checking out the trail information sign.

The mountain did not disappoint with terrific vistas and many opportunities for Jim to share some insights with us on the trail. The shadows of autumn were sharp and quite wonderful whether tree or dog or hiker. Jim checked out some defoliated Coastal Live Oaks and wondered about Sudden Oak Death but then pointed out that many insects feed sometimes voraciously on our oak populations. The California oak worm moth has been active in this area of Marin and while the tree might appear dead or dying, oak moth damage is reversible and the healthy tree will bounce back. The UC Davis site includes frass monitoring (oak worm caterpillar droppings) which Jim also talked about.

Toward the top of the first hill he spotted some tar weed and turkey mullein sustaining the butterflies and other insects in this less opulent time of the year. and UC Davis comes through again with a great Tarweed entry:

What was that third low-growing plant in this group that seemed to be blooming blue?

We took a breather further up the hill by a large, spreading bay tree where Jim pointed out the many nooks and crannies providing shelter to birds, insects, and other passers by. He mentioned the great loss to the environment that occurs when one of these is cut down. It isn’t just a matter of planting another tree since it may take a century or much more to reproduce the size and structure of these heritage trees. Clear cutting of the forest as well as salvage logging take little account of these concepts. Here’s an interesting Native American site that comments on these issues:

A pause or should I say paws, the hands are interesting too.

Treated to a Red-shouldered Hawk up by the Burdell seasonal pond – sol y sombra. I watched one in a live oak in my back yard plummet out of the tree on a Northern Alligator Lizard forming a winged umbrella over his prey and then flying off with the long lizard tail dangling in the breeze. The Range Map shows major habitat in the east, mid-west Mexico and a sliver in California Alta and Baja.

A California buckeye ready for the holidays with its intriguing fruit. Native Americans “used the poisonous nuts to stupefy schools of fish in small streams” N.B. this is from the Wikipedia entry on Aesculus californica ( We are also familiar from our other hikes with Michael and Armando with the use of the root of the Soap Plant for similar stupefaction. Did this technique have a downside with the food quality of the fish harvested?

One other WONDERFUL site goes further afield describing the many other food sources for the Ohlone. I’m presuming the Miwok, Pomo, and Wappo followed a similar pattern. Note that the site has CONTINUED at the bottom of a number of entries, definitely an amazing resource. Susan Labiste who put this together works with Outside Educators in the East Bay.

Jim found some egg casings for the California oak worm moth. He pointed out that there is a whole universe of diseases & insects of California Oaks. It isn’t only about Sudden Oak death. Here’s a meaty site on this from the USDA that is really well done: It’s quite a tour including such names as Orange hobnail canker, Hedgehog fungus,
Hypoxylon thouarsianum, Wetwood and alcoholic flux, Weeping conk, and for the season – Western jack o’lantern fungus to name just a few.
Read up.

Pogo plugged along the entire hike with great energy and style.

Jim talking various invaders in the cracks of oak bark, he compared the dark protuberances to a dog’s nose but no dog was on hand for illustration. The word of the day was, I think, Hypoxylon. Sounded Greek, like a character in the Percy Jackson series.

Autumn in San Marin

The San Marin Fire Road a-winding up the final hill.

Pogo thanks Jim for a snifforiffic hike, Magic had to leave earlier with gratitude as well.

Here’s the hike on Dropbox with some Scott Joplin – his PALM LEAF RAG:

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