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Christmas Quail

California Quail (12/23/17) Robert Kermen

California’s most beloved bird is the California quail, Callipepla californica.

Seen above, a male California Valley Quail stands watchful guard, protecting his covey (family) of several chicks and his lady.

Male quail will scout ahead of their broods, scurrying along the ground and calling to them with loud pips to encourage them to follow or warn them to take cover until the coast is clear. Ever social, quail will greet each other with their distinctive call, “Chee-ca-go.”

California toyon (12/26/17) John Poimiroo

California toyon berries are a favorite food source for California quail. In December, toyon are laden with bright red berries, giving the shrubs the nicknames: Christmas berry and California holly. Toyon is what gave Hollywood its name.

Toyon is common among coastal sage scrub plants, though it also grows in the Sierra foothills. Easy to grow, Toyon does well in partial shade and is drought-tolerant.

As urban areas have expanded, the forage area for California quail has diminished. Planting toyon is a good way to provide additional native sustenance for these beautiful birds.

While expansion of urban areas has not helped California quail, it has caused Anna’s hummingbirds to proliferate.


Annas humingbird (12/23/17) Robert Kermen

As late as the early 1900s, Anna’s hummingbirds were only found in Baja and Southern California. However, the planting of exotic ornamental plants in gardens expanded the Anna’s hummingbird’s range throughout California, Cornell University reports.

This week, color spotter Robert Kermen found California quail and Anna’s hummingbirds adding Christmas color to field and garden.


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Dreary Day, Yet Still Colorful


Gingko biloba, Esplande, Chico (12/2/17) Robert Kermen

Crowned sparrow, Esplanade, Chico (11/2/17) Robert Kermen

Robert Kermen spent a “dreary day” in Chico on Saturday, though photographs he took along the Esplanade show otherwise. That’s because though overcast looms, color is intensified on dreary days.

And, with leaves off many of the branches, songbirds are easier to photograph as they search for food and sing about the weather.


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Orange Friday

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Color spotters across California will avoid waiting in lines today, on Black Friday. Instead, they will be appreciating an Orange Friday at Peak to Past Peak locations like these. GO NOW! You almost missed it.

North Coast

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou

Napa Valley (11/19/17) Tracy Zhou



















Napa Valley (11/23/17) Vasu Nargundkar

Napa Valley (11/23/17) Vasu Nargundkar

Napa Valley (11/23/17) Vasu Nargundkar

Napa Valley (11/23/17) Vasu Nargundkar









Central Valley

Mathews Ln./CA-20, Tambo (11/21/17) Robert Kermen

Merlin falcon, Mathews Ln./CA-20, Tambo (11/21/17) Robert Kermen

Prairie falcon, Mathews Ln./CA-20, Tambo (11/21/17) Robert Kermen

Red-shouldered hawk, Mathews Ln./CA-20, Tambo (11/21/17) Robert Kermen








Davis (11/19/17) Phillip Reedy

Davis (11/19/17) Phillip Reedy

Davis (11/19/17) Phillip Reedy

Davis (11/19/17) Phillip Reedy







Shasta Cascade

Meadow Valley (11/12/17) Michael Beatley

San Francisco Bay Area

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park (11/14/17) Michael Beatley

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park (11/14/17) Michael Beatley

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park (11/14/17) Michael Beatley

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park (11/14/17) Michael Beatley








Fairfax (11/23/17) Al Auger

Fairfax (11/23/17) Al Auger

Fairfax (11/23/17) Al Auger

Fairfax (11/23/17) Al Auger








San Diego County

Old Hwy 80, Boulder Oaks (11/22/17) Walt Gabler

Old Hwy 80, Boulder Oaks (11/22/17) Walt Gabler

Old Hwy 80, Boulder Oaks (11/22/17) Walt Gabler

Old Hwy 80, Boulder Oaks (11/22/17) Walt Gabler



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Pushups in the Woods

Amanita spp, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

Recent rains have caused mushrooms to push up out of the detritus, as Gabriele Leete found in Anderson.

Amanita, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

Split-gill mushroom, Schizophyllum commune, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

Among the mushrooms emerging are Amanita, among the most poisonous mushrooms on Earth, the most toxic of which cause liver failure and death.

There are 600 varieties of Amanita, including a few edible ones, though eating them is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets in a six-shooter.

Split-gill mushrooms, or Schizophyllum commune, are the only known type of mushroom to retract when touched. They are found on decaying trees during dry periods following a rainfall. Its beautiful gills or “gillies” resemble coral.

Honey fungus, Armillaria mellea, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

Honey fungus, Armillaria spp, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

Sticky when wet, the honey fungus, Armillaria mellea, grows around the base of trees it infects. The mushroom is a plant pathogen that causes root rot in many of the plants it infects, causing discolored foliage, dieback of branches and death, according to Wikipedia.

Psathyrella is a smaller version of Psathyra, Greek for “Friable.” However, do not mistake these for being “fryable,” as they are toxic.

Psathyrella are in a large genus of mushrooms, containing some 400 types, including CoprinellusCoprinopsisCoprinus and Panaeolus.

Psathyrella spp, Anderson (11/15/17) Gabriel Leete

OK, you get the idea, they’ve all been given Greek names. Aside from that, what also is common about Psathyrella is that they’re boring.

They are often “drab-colored, difficult to identify, and inedible,” Wikipedia reports, “So they are sometimes considered uninteresting,” perhaps that’s what makes them so fascinating to Gabriel and me.

No, we’re not Greeks, just geeks.

Mushrooms, Shasta Cascade – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


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Butte Beauties

Main and 5th, Downtown Chico (11/11/17) Danie Schwartz

Bold color is being seen throughout Butte County in the northern Sacramento Valley, from Oroville north to Paradise.

Sumac, Biggs (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Western redbud, Biggs (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Western redbud and valley oak, Biggs (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Chinese pistache, Biggs (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover










Biggs Pond (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

The Midway, Durham (11/11/17) Danie Schwartz

Esplanade, Chico (11/1/17) Danie Schwartz

Paradise Lake (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

This is the week to see Oroville, Durham, Biggs, Chico and Paradise at peak.  The color will likely last through Thanksgiving day (conditions permitting), though not much longer. Click to enlarge photos.

Black oak, Paradise (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

  • Oroville’s Sank Park is splashed with yellow gingko, fluorescent Chinese pistache, red-orange redbud and valley oak.
  • Vance Rd. along the Feather River in Biggs is literally dumping leaves of every color.
  • Chinese Pistache along the Midway from Durham north to Chico have transitioned from hot yellow, lime and pink to deep orange and auburn.
  • In Chico, The Esplanade and Main St. are heavy with dark red, orange, yellow and lime color.
  • Paradise is Past Peak, though spots of gold, brown, orange and lime are seen among black and brewers oak.

Butte County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!





Sank Park, Oroville (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Gingko biloba, Sank Park, Oroville (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Maple, Sank Park, Oroville (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Lott Home, Sank Park, Oroville (11/12/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

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East/West Redbud Debate

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Eastern redbud, cercis canadensis (11/7/17) John Poimiroo

When it comes to redbud, it’s debatable as to which is prettiest in autumn… East or West.

The eastern variety, cercis canadensis, displays bright gold and green heart-shaped leaves.

Whereas, western redbud, cercis occidentalis, display orange, red, gold and lime heart-shaped leaves.

Both are equally stunning.

Redbud is often overlooked by color spotters who give up looking for great fall color as soon as the forests of aspen have turned, but not Robert Kermen or me.

Robert found western redbud growing along Big Chico Creek in Chico’s Bidwell Park.

Cercis occidentalis are native to the Sierra and North Coast foothills. Native California indians used their barks for basket weaving and as a red dye. In springtime, their showy pink and magenta blossoms grow in clusters all over redbud shrubs that garnish foothill river canyons.

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

I have the pleasure of enjoying an Eastern redbud all year long. It grows in my side yard (El Dorado Hills) and provides an inspiring show when autumn light backlights the leaves in kelly green and yellow.

Eastern redbud are a popular landscape and street tree, appreciated for their shape, shade and autumn color (best from late October to early November).

Their heart-shaped leaves flutter in a soft autumn breeze, as if they’re beating.

OK, there’s no debate. East or West, who couldn’t love redbud with all they have to show?

Cercis Occidentalis Range – Wikipedia

Redbud – Peak (75-100%) – Their range forms an upside down fish hook, leading from the SF Bay Area north through wine country and the Redwood Highway, then bending east through Trinity County to the northern Sierra foothills, then south to the Southern Sierra. GO NOW!

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Color Spotting Starts Early

Dogwood, Durham (11/9/17) Paige Kermen

Color spotting need not be done or appreciated only by grown ups. Paige Kermen, age 7, proves that with her photograph of dogwood, dripping with red in Durham.

Good eye, Paige. You can now say your photography has been published.

This Sacramento Valley farm town, south of Chico, is peaking as walnut orchards turn golden, sycamore turn chartreuse and the last of California’s dogwood are heavy with bright red berries.

Durham – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


Mushroom Magic

Ink cap, Coprinus atramentarius (11/7/17) Gabriel Leete

Stump mushroom, Armillaria mellea (11/7/17) Gabriel Leete

Shasta Cascade mushroom forager and color spotter, Gabriel Leete brings us photos of the most amazing mushrooms and plants.

Ink cap (seen above) rise in clumps after a rain are usually found in tight groups, so they are easily seen from a distance. The grey-brown cap is bell-shaped before opening, after which it flattens and disintegrates. At maturity, the black liquid it exudes used to be used as ink, hence its name.

Stump mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) are often found, as the name implies around the base of trees. In an ode to Avatar, the Armillaria are capable of producing light via bioluminescence in their mycelium.


Agaricus (11/7/17) Gabriel Leete

Agaricus is a genus of mushroom of which the well-known button mushroom is a member. However, just because the button mushroom is edible, that does not mean the mushroom you may pick is. Certain types of Agaricus are poisonous.

If you don’t know for certain that a mushroom is edible, don’t attempt to cook it. Regardless, foraging for them is a fun way to explore an autumn forest, particularly following fresh rains.

Mushrooms, Shasta Cascade – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Datura stramonium (11/7/17) Gabriel Leete

Exotic Datura stramonium or Jimson weed (native to Mexico, but now naturalizing in many places) is a member of the nightshade family and is highly toxic. Gabriel found one during his wanderings.

Datura is known by many names: thornapple, devil’s snare, moon flower, hell’s bells, devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, stinkweed, locoweed, devil’s cucumber and others because of the intense halucinogenic visions it produces, which have led to hospitalization and death… not something with which to experiment.



Nearing Peak Near Chico

Chinese Temple, Oroville (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Biggs (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Midway, Durham (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Shasta Cascade color spotters Danie Schwartz and Cindy Lee Hoover are reporting signs of peak approaching throughout Butte County.

Oroville and Biggs (to Oroville’s west) are near peak with Chinese pistache throwing off increasingly iridescent color around the ancient burgundy walls of Oroville’s Chinese temple.

Maple, Sank Park, Oroville (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Dogwood, Sank Park, Oroville (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

At Sank Park in downtown Oroville, maple, dogwood and more Chinese pistache are peaking.

West of Oroville, Biggs Pond is ringed with yellow, chartreuse and lime-colored brush. The Valley oak are carrying the first signs of orange and yellow color.

Traveling north from Oroville, the Midway between Durham and Chico continues to transition with some orange appearing among yellow and lime oak and pistache, though many leaves along this boulevard have dropped. Walnut orchards up and down CA-99 are coloring up.

Esplanade, Chico (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

Paradise Lake, Paradise (11/6/17) Cindy Lee Hoover

In Chico, the Esplanade, its famous boulevard, is overhanging with patchy Valley oak and Chinese pistache, though near peak color should arrive this weekend and peak continue to Thanksgiving Day.

Further north in Paradise, color has peaked. The last remaining black oak leaves hang proudly from trees around Paradise Lake.

Oroville – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Biggs – – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Chico – Patchy (10-50%)

Paradise – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


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More Photographic Perspectives

Black oak, bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Fridays are a quiet day to catch up on posting photographs that arrived too late to be included in a timely fall color report. The first selection is of photographs taken by Laura Jean near Hayfork along CA-3, two weeks ago.

The color seen in these images has long since fallen, though her shots provide perspective about what it was like to drive the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway in late October. Click on photo to enlarge.

Hayfork, Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway (CA-3) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean










Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

California ash, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean








Also, here is a selection of images contributed by Dona Montuori-Whitaker in mid October. They arrived too late to be posted in a timely fashion, but are now in order to show additional views of Plumas County.

What is particularly striking about the Shasta Cascade region are the number of old wooden bridges, barns and cabins that have aged beautifully and contrast so emotionally with fall color.

Plumas County – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Maple, Quincy (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Genesee Valley (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Indian rhubarb, Keddie (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Long Valley Creek Bridge, Sloat (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Shed, Indian Falls (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Taylorsville School (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Fallen maple, cottonwood and dogwood leaves, Yosemite National Park (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

As reported here on the day Tracy Zhou took these photos, peak color has shifted from bigleaf maple, dogwood and cottonwood to black oak in Yosemite National Park.

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou