Entries by John Poimiroo


Irvine Regional Park

Western sycamore, Irvine Regional Park (1/7/22) Michelle Pontoni

On a recent visit to Orange County, Michelle and Ron Pontoni visited Irvine Regional Park to find autumn still happening in January.

Western sycamore (Plantanus racemosa), red willow (Salix laevigata) and Toyon  or California holly (Hereromeles abutifolia (Lindl.) were all at peak along dry Santiago Creek.

They were there to visit the Orange County Zoo which rescues injured, orphaned, confiscated and other native animals no longer releasable into the wild. They include American black bear, mountain lion, bald eagle, kit fox ocelot, beaver, great horned owl, porcupine, coyote, and turkey vulture among their decidedly native selection.

While observing a trio of goats, the Pontonis realized the goats were waiting for lunch. The South Coast breeze would rise and blow delicious sycamore leaves to them from branches, reminding Michelle  of wedding guests vying to catch a bridal bouquet, all huddled together and keeping their eyes on the prize of a fluttering leaf. She said, “the only hope for the smaller goats was if several leaves fell at once.

“On that breezy day, piles of sycamore leaves lined every pathway and pen, except theirs. They are good housekeepers,” she wrote.

Western sycamore are a gorgeous fall color tree for Southern California, but grow throughout California up to 4,000′ in elevation. They flourish near wet ground (stream and meadow edges) in valleys, foothills and mountains. Their ball-shaped fruit attract birds, including the Santa Monica Mountains’ population of naturalized Nanday conures (parrots).

Native people used the sycamore for many purposes, including their houses, utensils, to eat and to wrap bread for baking.

View of Santiago Creek from Barnham Ridge Trail (1/7/22) Michelle Pontoni

Michelle recommends the two-mile hike along the Chute Trail to Barham Ridge Trail lookout for a broad view of Santiago Creek and its golden grove of red willows, though be watchful for mountain bikers who pedal up the Chute Trail for an exhilarating ride down the steeper Ridge Chute Trail. Though they were courteous to the hikers, Michelle and Ron couldn’t help feeling like they were an unexpected concern to the riders.

Parking at the regional park is plentiful and cheap. $3 on weekdays, $5 on weekends. Add $2 for zoo admission.

  • Irvine Regional Park (587′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!


One-horse, Open Sleigh

Gingko biloba, Wharfinger Building, Eureka (12/23/21) Michelle Pontoni

Oh, what joy it is to get fall photos in winter.

Michelle Pontoni visited Eureka this week, to send back these snaps of a Gingko biloba still Near Peak at the Wharfinger Building, downtown.

Michelle reports that there’s still a lot of color hanging on downtown.

  • Eureka (0′) – Near Peak to Past Peak, Go Now, You Almost Missed It.


Holiday Decorations

Green-winged teal, Arroyo Simi (12/21/21) Kathy Jonokuchi

As dazzlingly colorful as holiday decorations, the migratory birds at Arroyo Simi welcomed the first day of winter, this week.

Southern California color spotter Kathy Jonokuchi was in Simi Valley to record green-winged teal, Anas carolensis; American wigeon, Canada geese and white-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi.

Kathy said she loves the drake Teals’ “bright green mask and wing band and their cinnamon-colored heads,” adding that the Ibis’ iridescent plumes “always captivate.” 

White-faced Ibis, Arroyo Simi (12/21/21) Kathy Jonokuchi


Dreamin’ of a White Autumn

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy

Davis color spotter Philip Reedy was dreamin’ of a white autumn, just like the ones he’d hoped to see. Where the treetops glisten and anglers listen to hear casting in the snow.
So he and a fishing buddy headed to Yosemite then asked, “Is white a color or not?  This seems to be a bit of a gray area (pun forgiven). If white is a color and it’s still autumn for a few more days, then I had an awesome fall color trip to Yosemite.”

Fly Fishing, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy

Phil had been watching weather reports and the Half Dome webcam when he saw that the Valley was solid white from rim to floor.
He left Davis Wednesday morning at 4:30 with the intent of taking fly fishing photos, but when Reedy got there, “the  snow-covered trees could not be ignored.  And beneath that layer of snow remained a lot of nice, orange, oak leaves.”
Not only were the oak orange, but Reedy wore an orange shirt that contrasted with the immaculate scene.
Now, Phil’s got me dreamin’ of a white autumn with every fall color post I write.

Fly fishing, Half Dome, Merced River, Yosemite Valley (12/15/21) Philip Reedy

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.


Beginning and End

San Ramon/Dublin (12/1/21) Salil Bhatt

California’s autumn begins and ends with two very similar trees … Quaking aspen and Frémont cottonwood.

While color spotting along Alamo Creek between San Ramon and Dublin, Salil Bhatt was at first mistaken when he identified Frémont cottonwood as being Quaking aspen, but after checking references realized his error.

They each have heart-shaped leaves and are different types of poplars, but they grow in different ranges.

Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, grow between 3,000 and 10,000′ in elevation. Whereas, Frémont cottonwood, Populus fremontii, are seen only up to 6,500′.

So, while aspen begin the peak, cottonwood end it.

  • Sunol Regional Wilderness (196′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.


Mass Sit-in

Snow and Ross' geese, Colusa NWR (12/1/21) John Poimiroo

A mass sit-in is occurring at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Tens of thousands of Ross’ and Snow geese have taken up residence at the refuge where they honk, squabble, soar, rest and dine.

On a trip to Wheatland, we continued north past orchards along CA-99 to Marysville and Yuba City, then west by CA-20 to Colusa and the refuge. Walnut orchards vary from Near Peak to Peak orange-yellow. The almond trees are still green.

Though the sight worth the drive are the birds. Best time to be there is at dawn and for the first few hours thereafter. By midday, the birds have settled down and except for a few geese and ducks spreading their wings, most are grounded. Still, the mass of birds spreading off into the distance is inspiring.


American wigeon, Colusa NWR (12/1/21) John Poimiroo

Snow and Ross' geese, Colusa NWR (12/1/21) John Poimiroo

Black-necked stilt and various geese, Colusa NWR (12/1/21) John Poimiroo

Ross' geese, Colusa NWR (12/1/21) John Poimiroo


Artistic Impressions

Autumn potpourri, Davis (12/2/21) Philip Reedy

UC Davis has one of the finest art studies programs in the nation. No doubt its artists are inspired by what they see outside.

On a stroll in Davis today, Philip Reedy was certainly inspired and sends back these impressions of autumn’s end in the Central Valley.

Gingko Impressionism, Davis (12/2/21) Philip Reedy

  • Davis (52′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.


The Fire’s Almost Out

Volunteer Fireman Statue, Yountville (11/27/21) Vishal Mishra

Surrounded by flame-red flowering pear trees, the statue of a volunteer fireman in Yountville’s Van de Leur Park appears to be running away from the fire, though he’s actually running toward it.

He’d better hurry, as the flame of fall color is about to die out in the Napa Valley. Vishal Mishra reports the vineyards and trees are nearing past peak.

  • Napa Valley (253′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.