Monday, July 30, 2018

BIRDS, BEES and WILDFLOWERS: Hike in Briones Regional Park, Orinda, CA

Bee collecting nectar from a thistle flower in Briones Regional Park
In the hills of the San Francisco's East Bay, there are countless parks and natural areas where one can walk, bike, picnic and enjoy the out-of-doors. In early summer, when Art and I were in Oakland for the weekend, we took a family hike in Briones Regional Park, a short drive away, near the community of Orinda.(Briones Regional Park is a 6,117-acre regional park in the East Bay Regional Park District system, located in the Briones Hills of central Contra Costa County in California.)
Wild mustard blooming at Briones Regional Park
Our walk began  through sunny open areas among an abundance of brilliant yellow mustard plants in bloom, and patches of thistle, where bees were hard at work collecting nectar.
The mustard plants, awash in their bright yellow flowers, grew in thick clumps with stems as tall as we were.
It was a beautiful day, and although there were other people enjoying the park, it didn't seem crowded. We headed away from the main picnic area along one of the many trails.
Typical view along the path
Although the sign warned us about snakes and mountain lions, the only wild animals we spotted on the ground were a few lizards scampering up the bank at the edge of the path.
Lizard, almost perfectly camouflaged against the earth tones of the ground
As we followed the path we alternately passed through through shaded groves of California oaks and open hillsides where we could see signs (footprints) that cattle had been grazing. (Open grazing is allowed in the park.)
California live oak
We stopped for lunch at the Maud Whalen picnic area. As we sat at our table we watched swallows flitting in and out of the nearby covered picnic shelter. Inside the shelter we found more swallows and their nests plastered against the roof beams.
Swallows
Outside, high overhead, we watched a red-tail hawk circling on rising air currents.
Entry to Maud Whalen picnic area
After lunch, we retraced our steps and returned to the parking area, a total hike of about two miles. If we had wanted a longer hike, we could have circled back via another trail. Like most of our hikes, our goal was not to cover distance, but to enjoy nature and take advantage of photo opportunities. We succeeded on both counts!
Red-tail Hawk

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