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Tastes of Chico

Gingko biloba, Esplanade, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

“Smoke from the Camp Fire has lifted somewhat,” allowing Robert Kermen to get out of his northern Sacramento Valley home to do some errands in Chico.

Gingko biloba, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

He found gingko biloba in full peak along Chico’s Esplanade and was moved by an American flag, seeing it as a symbol of how Butte County is rebounding from the Camp Fire, where many friends and relatives lost their homes and businesses.

While in town, he stopped to pick persimmons which he plans to turn into  persimmon cookies and persimmon jello for the holidays.

Robert recommends using the Hachiya persimmon, not the Asian or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) which can be eaten like an apple and are great on a salad topped with vinegar and oil.

Hachiya persimmons must ripen completely before they can be eaten otherwise they are astringent. 

American robin, Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

That doesn’t stop wildlife from getting to them before they’re picked, as the American robin in his picture is doing.

Persimmons are favorite fare for opossums, rodents, white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, black bear and skunks.

  • Chico (197′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen
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Fowl Idea

Here’s a fowl idea. Between waiting for fall color to descend through the foothill canyons to lower elevations, fill the time enjoying the fall migration of water fowl and their predators to California’s Central Valley.

Robert Kermen spent yesterday among sandhill cranes, great blue heron, egrets and a watchful redtail hawk near Nelson.

He writes, “With the flooding of the harvested rice checks, rodents are forced above ground where blue herons, red tail hawks, kestrels and other predators gobble them up.”

“Also seen are magnificent sandhill cranes, that even this late in the season can be seen going through courtship displays.”

If you stay until dusk, you’ll see them flying in at sunset to roost overnight in shallow ponds or on islands protected from predators by natural moats. 

  • Central Valley Wildlife Refuges (birdwatching) (50′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
Flooded Rice Field, Nelson (11/3/18) Robert Kermen

On Autumn Wings

“Far from the aspen groves in the Sierra, the smaller creatures … go about their business of preparing for winter.” color spotter Robert Kermen reports.

While relaxing over a cup of brew in his backyard, Kermen observed two very different winged species feeding on the last blooms of a Rose of Sharon bush: a carpenter bee and an Anna’s hummingbird.

The carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica californica) arrived first to grab some nectar and drop off some pollen in return. Next, the Anna’s hummingbird  (Calypte anna) flew in and quaffed some nectar.

“Soon, the carpenter bee will seek out its nest in a dead tree to overwinter, to reemerge in spring, while the hummingbird will stick around all winter, as it’s one of only four hummingbird species in California that does not migrate south,” Bob observed.

Now, why did CaliforniaFallColor.com include a report on a bug and a bird? Because fall color is not just about trees, but about all things colorful about the season.

Soon, whales will be migrating south, elk will be trumpeting their rut, Sandhill Cranes will be calling as they return to roost in the Central Valley and Monarch butterflies will be cuddling together along the coast. 

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Ducky at Silver Lake

Mallard ducks, Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono Lake Tourism

A mating pair of Mallard Ducks enjoyed a rest from their southbound migration Saturday at Silver Lake on the June Lake Loop where fall color is Near Peak. Now, isn’t that just ducky? 

  • Silver Lake (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Unbearably Beautiful

American black bear, Ursus americanus, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

The High Sierra is “unbearably beautiful right now,” color spotter Clayton Peoples reported.

He was in the Hope Valley over the weekend, photographing along CA-88 and CA-89.

“While taking in fall colors, I was lucky enough to spot what is probably the largest black bear I have ever seen. It was feasting along a creek that passes under Highway 89,” he wrote.

What Clayton did to get this shot was to be as unobtrusive as possible, not approaching the animal and letting it act naturally.

Should you encounter wildlife and wish to photograph it, stop and don’t move. If you run to get closer, the animal will run away. But, if you stop, wait and watch, the animal may not notice you or will become used to you and not perceive you as a threat.

As long as the animal is not bothered by your presence, he will go about his business, which makes for great fall photography.

A long lens (200mm or greater) and sturdy tripod are useful for close up, sharp images. My favorite working lens is a 28 – 300 mm, f3.5-5.6. It provides enough length and range to capture either closeups or environmental shots of mammals.

Animals are creatures of routine. They tend to return to the same locations (watering spots, food sources) at similar times of day, and forage during he first couple and last two hours of daylight.

Aspen, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

American black bears are not generally a threat to people, unless they are protecting young or sense that you have food. They usually can be intimidated from approaching by raising arms above one’s head, shouting or making loud sounds (banging a pot), but if they do not, walk away.

In addition to the bear, Clayton found more “bare” branches among the Hope Valley’s aspen, though said the trees surrounding Red Lake Creek Cabin are “still stunning, and the highway (and nearby hillsides) are still sporting a patchwork of gorgeous color. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it is still very pretty right now.” 

  • Hope Valley(7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!




Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

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Squirrels Strip California Black Walnuts

California Black Walnut and Fox Squirrel, Bel Air  (9/3/18) Peter Asco

California Black Walnut, Bel Air (9/3/18) Peter Asco

Early in September, along Southern California’s coast, squirrels begin stripping “the sparse but beautiful native California Black Walnut (juglans californica) of their walnuts, Peter Asco reports. They “take full advantage of this crop, stripping the trees of every single walnut in a period of two weeks.”

Exploring “one of BelAir’s undisturbed canyons within the Santa Monica Mountains,” Peter came upon this rarely-shot autumn scene and scored a first report by photographing fall color up Bel Air’s wild canyons. 

Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) – California Black Walnut, Santa Monica Mountains, Bel Air.


Where Have All The Monarchs Gone?

Monarch Butterflies, Santa Cruz (1/15/2006) John Poimiroo

Ninety percent of the nation’s monarch butterflies have disappeared during the past 20 years. So many have disappeared that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipates determining in 2019 whether to designate monarchs as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Monarch butterfly on swamp milkweed in Michigan. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS

The colorful insects return to California in late autumn each year, but fewer and fewer of them have been doing so because they depend upon a few species of milkweed for reproduction, and habitats conducive to supporting monarchs have been declining.

In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to provide financial assistance to create or improve monarch habitat.

The Michigan Farm Bureau reports that farmers and land owners will be able to apply for compensation at NRCS field offices, this year, for having created conservation cover and field borders or conducted prescribed burns and other brush management steps. The financial aid is designed to offset the cost of establishing or improving pollinator and monarch habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has indicated it will begin evaluating monarch conservation measures across the migration route with a decision expected in 2019 on whether to designate monarchs a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Individuals can also help by planting butterfly and pollinator gardens and encouraging the creation of monarch habitats in their communities. CLICK HERE to learn how you can help.

Let’s keep this beautiful aspect of fall color returning to California.


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Happy New Year!

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Gingko biloba, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Frank McDonough’s photograph of tiles at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden reminds us of the festive color to explode on New Year Eve and makes us look forward to 2018 and the end of 2017.

This past year was filled with tragedy for many. Wildfires, hurricanes, floods and heartache delivered by the worst side of humanity made it so.

Even on the fall color front, the show was disappointing, but not so the photographs taken by those tracking fall color across California.

Frank’s images of everlasting gingko biloba at the LA County Arboretum provide hope for a new year of everlasting color, joy and good things.

Happy New Year.

LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Bamboo, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough










Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough










Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough










Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough










To the north near Durham, Ferruginous hawks are in search of squirrels out gathering nuts among the orchards and the last spots of fall color (berries still clinging to Dogwood branches) are seen in these images captured by Robert Kermen.

Ferruginous Hawk, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen

Gray Squirrel, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen

Dogwood, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen










Central Valley – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Oakland color spotter Darrell Sano, who holds the distinction of being the first and last to post on this site in 2017, sent these closing shots of peak color seen in at Mountain View Cemetery in the Oakland Hills.

Darrell writes that, “The balmy weather we’ve been experiencing around the bay area led to many people enjoying the afternoon scenery–walking, jogging, groups of people having conversations, dogs happily being walked, and of course families paying respects to loved ones. It’s an extremely serene and introspective place. Walking the hills always makes me think about time, and the passage of it. No better appropriate place to be in the last weekend of the year. And the colors persist into 2018!”

Oakland – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano








Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

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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