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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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Autumn’s End

First snow, last leaves (12/9/17) Robert Kermen

Tundra Swans, Agua Fria Rd., Richvale (12/9/17) Robert Kermen

Sandhill Cranes, Agua Fria Rd., Richvale (12/9/17) Robert Kermen

When does autumn end? When snow blankets fallen leaves, as seen in Robert Kermen’s photograph of dry leaves near the Bear River (Hwy 20), or when the last migratory bird wings further south or begins flying north?

As long as current fall color photographs are posted here, it will not end, at least for CaliforniaFallColor.com readers.

In the East Bay, Sandy Steinman looked out a window across South Berkeley to capture a “very California fall color” scene with his iPhone. Spindly-tall palms were leaning toward the bay amidst spots of bright autumn color. He reports “quite a few street trees” are still carrying color.

Sacramento Valley – Past Peak – You Missed It.

San Francisco Bay Area – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Merlin falcon, Agua Fria Rd., Richvale (12/9/17) Robert Kermen

Black Phoebe, Durham (12/9/17) Robert Kermen











South Berkeley (12/5/17) Sandy Steinman

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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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Speeding Toward Winter At Warp

Midway Rd., Durham (11/24/17) Robert Kermen

With just 24 days of autumn remaining and winter storms now wetting California every few days, autumn is speeding toward winter at warp speed, as Robert Kermen depicts in his Thanksgiving Day photo of the Midway, between Durham and Chico (northern Sacramento Valley).

Sonoma Valley (11/24/17) Anson Davalos

Colusa (11/24/17) Nancy Hull

This past weekend’s storms stripped many Northern California trees and vines of color that was evident when these images were taken by Anson Davalos and Nancy Hull on Thanksgiving Day.

Cottonwood along the American River in the Sierra Foothhills have lost their lustrous crowns of bright gold and other landmark trees in the Sacramento Valley are now Past Peak.

Splotches of auburn and orange can still be seen in Gold Country and Central Valley towns, though rain has knocked much of the color from the trees, creating a mash of fallen leaves on the pavement.

Sierra Foothills – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Sacramento Valley – Past Peak – You Missed It.


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Mass Ascension

Mass ascension, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

When a “mass ascension” occurs at one of the Sacramento Valley’s many wetlands, rice patties or wildlife refuges, virtually tens of thousands of birds lift off all at once.

They take to the air when predators (bald eagle, redtail hawks and falcons) approach.

Similar to the effect of the flashing silver and black flanks of fish in their schools, the swirling mass of white and dark wings in a mass ascension confuses raptors and makes it more difficult for them to snare a meal.

Mass ascensions are breathtaking sights that are often seen, in autumn, north of Sacramento.

Kermen knew to visit a wetland, south of Durham. If you open the California Fall Color map on the right side of this page and search for Durham or Colusa, anywhere you see large ponds of water are sure to be gathering places for waterfowl. For the easiest viewing, visit the Sacramento Valley National Wildlife Refuge or Colusa NWR. Roads pass through both of them and your vehicle serves as your “blind.” Bring binoculars and, if photographing, a telephoto lens and tripod or window camera mount (which turns your car into a tripod).

White-fronted Geese, Durham (11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Snowy egret, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Close up photographs of wildlife are best captured with digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras using lenses greater than 300 mm.

A 400mm lens is considered to be an ideal length when starting to shoot wildlife. However, long lenses – particularly those with larger apertures that will take sharp pictures in low light – come with a hefty price tag. For example, Nikon’s 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens (admittedly, a very expensive lens) costs over $11,000 (Canon’s similar lens is $1,000 less).

Snow Geese, Durham (11/25/17) Robert Kermen

Considering the high cost of telephoto lenses with large aperture settings, starting amateur wildlife photographers might consider first purchasing a zoom lens in the range of from 100 to 500mm, but with a smaller aperture setting, such as a Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 ($1,400) or Canon 100-400mm f5.6 ($1,200).

Another way to increase focal length is to add a teleconverter to a smaller focal length lens (about $300 for a 2x teleconverter). They do not provide the sharpness of a set lens, but are not budget breakers and result in fine photographs that impress, if you’re not selling your work or making gallery-quality prints.

For clarity, a smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture.

Bald eagle (middle right, sitting) (11/22/17) Robert Kermen

With these options, you will lose the ability to shoot action in lower light conditions, but can more affordably begin shooting wildlife and thus gain experience before making the investment on a more expensive lens.

For these shots, Kermen used a Canon 80D with 70-200mm f4L IS USM lens, which he keeps at hand on the console of his vehicle, so that he doesn’t miss a great shot when motoring along one of California’s backroads.

Click on photo to enlarge.


Finding the Extraordinary

Rice winnowing, Tambo (11/22/17) Robert Kermen

Searching for fall color reveals aspects of life in California that are unexpected and extraordinary, such as this scene captured by Robert Kermen. You might expect to see winnowing by hand in Southeast Asia, but instead it happens each autumn in Tambo, near Marysville.

Kermen was traveling from Grass Valley toward Marysville on CA-20 when he detoured onto Mathews Lane to photograph raptors perched near wetlands. Nearby, at a rice milling plant, rice whose hulls were too obstinate to be winnowed is dumped into a pile. Before rains can ruin the un-winnowed rice, industrious scavengers visit the location and sift the pile for gleanings.

Until recently, Robert had never been able to get a photo of that happening, though on this occasion, he got his shot.

The search for California Fall Color is not just about landscape photography or appreciating trees. It is about finding golden jewels throughout the golden state.

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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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Sweeping Fall Away

Doug Wilber sweeps leaves along 43rd St. in Sacramento (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

41st St., Sacramento (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Doug Wilber spent part of his Saturday, much as he has done each Autumn for the past 17 years… raking and sweeping leaves into a pile in front of his Sacramento home.

His neighbors along 43rd St. had or were doing the same when I visited today.

The City of Sacramento calls this time of year, “Leaf Season.” It’s when the city’s fastidious residents rake, sweep and blow leaves from their front yards into piles every few feet along city streets.  Then, every couple of weeks from November through January, city workers come by and scoop them up.

That leaf removal continues for three months in Sacramento tells you just how many trees grow there. This capital city loves its deciduous trees, which provide cooling shade in summer and warming sunlight during winter.

Folsom Bike Trail (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Mormon Island Wetland Reserve, Folsom (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Even SMUD, the local public utility, encourages their being planted to save energy. Sacramento County residents are able to get ten free shade trees through a partnership between the Sacramento Tree Foundation and SMUD.

In Sacramento’s Shady Eighty program, residents can choose the desired height, shape, level of water dependency, if the tree flowers, how close or far it might be planted to structures or power lines, and – yes – desired fall color (red, yellow or orange).

Gingko biloba, William Land Regional Park, Sacramento (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Gingko biloba leaves and clover, Land Park, Sacramento (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Each year in the week before Thanksgiving, Sacramento streets are layered with canopies of ruby, crimson, orange, gold, yellow, green and buff-colored leaves. It is an impressive sight and worth a trip to Sacramento in addition to its great museums, bars, restaurants and the Freeport Bakery with its famous leaf cookies and other irresistible baked goods.


Roosters, Village Park, Fair Oaks (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

Leaf Cookies, Freeport Bakery, Sacramento (11/18/17) John Poimiroo

My favorite locations for seeing fall color in Sacramento County include: Mormon Island Wetland Reserve and bike trails of Folsom, quaint Fair Oaks where chickens run free, East Sacramento’s Fabulous Forties (Gracious Tudor, Colonial Revival, Arts and Crafts, California Bungalow and other grand homes along tree-lined streets numbered in the 40s), William Land Regional Park in South Sacramento and along the American River Parkway (Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail – a 32-mile paved bike and pedestrian trail from the Sacramento River to Folsom Lake).

Sacramento County – 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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Rainbow Season

Rainbow and Sandhill Cranes, Lodi (11/4/17) Crys Black

California is entering its rainbow season. It runs from autumn through springtime.

When storms are clearing, the best time to see rainbows is when the sun is behind you and you are looking toward rain or mist.

Color spotter Crys Black captured just such a moment at the Sandhill Crane festival (Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, west of Lodi) as sunset approached.

A storm had just departed and illuminated by sunset light in the moist sky were rainbows and Sandhill Cranes. The latter were returning to the reserve to spend the night safe from predators.

Rainbow season provides all sorts of moments in which to be inspired by nature’s beauty.