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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

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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.

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A Taste of Oak Glen

Mule deer in an apple orchard, Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Los Rios Rancho (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

One of California’s great autumn traditions is driving to Oak Glen (San Bernardino County), Apple Hill (El Dorado County) or Julian (San Diego County) for a taste of the harvest.

Of course, no trip to these apple-growing areas is complete without buying an apple pie, apple strudel, apple dumpling, candied apple, apple cider or some other delicious apple delicacy.

Legendary Oak Glen bakers, Theresa Law of Law’s Oak Glen Coffee Shop and Steve Gillespie of Los Rios Rancho are famous for their apple pies. The following recipe incorporates the best of both.

Since food is so important to Thanksgiving Week, we provide the recipe should you want to bring a taste of California Fall Color to your Thanksgiving Day dinner. Why, even the mule deer are paying attention.

Of course, as color spotter Alena Nicholas suggests, there’s still time to get to Oak Glen, Apple Hill or Julian, should you want to buy a pie straight out of the oven and bring home the sweet smell of autumn.

Indian Corn, Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Famous Oak Glen Apple Pie


  • 9 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples such as Idared, Jonagold, Newtown Pippin, or Stayman Winesap (about 2 1/2 lb. total) Adjust sugar and lemon juice according to the sweetness of the apples you use.
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
  • 1-1/3 cups apple juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 in.)
  • 1 strip orange peel (1/2 by 4 in., orange part only)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)
  1. Mix apple slices with 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and, if desired, add more granulated sugar and lemon juice
  2. On a lightly floured board, roll half the pastry into a round 1/8 inch thick. Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Fill with apple mixture.
  3. On a lightly floured board, roll remaining pastry into a 1/8-inch-thick round and lay over apple mixture. Fold edges of top pastry over edges of the bottom one and crimp to seal together. Cut decorative slits in top pastry and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  4. Bake on the lowest rack in a 375° oven until juices bubble in center of pie, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. If pastry edges brown before pie is done, drape affected areas with foil. Cool pie on a rack at least 2 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan, combine apple juice, cinnamon stick, and orange peel. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in brown sugar until it dissolves. Mix remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch smoothly with 3 tablespoons water; stir into juice mixture over high heat until sauce boils. Discard cinnamon stick and orange peel.
  6. Cut warm or cool pie into wedges; top each portion with vanilla ice cream and warm or cool cinnamon sauce.

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

  • Calories: 476
  • Calories from fat: 28%
  • Protein: 3.2g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Saturated fat: 3.8g
  • Carbohydrate: 84g
  • Fiber: 3.2g
  • Sodium: 244mg
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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.

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Autumn Accipiters and Asteraceae

Redtail Hawk (11/5/17) Robert Kermen

Ferruginous Hawk (11/5/17) Robert Kermen

Coopers Hawk (11/5/17) Robert Kermen

Robert Kermen was looking skyward to find these hawks watching him from autumn posts spare of leaves.

Accipiters are the largest genus of birds, writes Encyclopaedia Brittanica, with more than 50 species of falconiform birds.

Kermen found these on one morning in Northern California. Though, many others have been attracted to Northern California to prey on migratory waterfowl.

In autumn, hundreds of thousands of duck, geese and other migratory birds pass through the Central Valley, providing a flying feast for these raptors.

After looking skyward, Robert looked down to see another form of living autumn color in full bloom…  exotic Asteraceae, a flower native to South Africa.

Central Valley Flyways – Peak (75-100%) – GO NOW!

Kiss Bronze Star Gazania (11/5/17) Robert Kermen



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Redwood Highway – Glimpses of Brilliance

Bigleaf maple and ferns, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (10/29/17) Max Forster


Mill Creek, Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP (10/29/17) Max Forster

James Irvine Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/17) Max Forster

North Coast color spotter Max Forster sends glimpses of brilliance from his most recent tour along the Redwood Highway.

He reports that despite recent rain (perhaps until this weekend), stormy weather has not “truly returned to the North Coast, extending fall color into November.”

As Max predicted in his previous report, peak color has continued and the Roosevelt elk “are still very active” from

Howland Hill Rd., Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP (10/29/17) Max Forster

Beneath Mill Creek Bridge, Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP (10/29/17) Max Forster

Big Lagoon to Prairie Creek State Park.

Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – Peak (75-100%) – Bigleaf maple along Drury Parkway near the Big Tree are the finest Max recalls having seen in years.  “Almost all of the trees are peaking together.” GO NOW!

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park – Peak (75-100%) – “The drive through the park

Mill Creek, Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP (10/29/17) Max Forster

along Howland Hill Road will be very colorful this week, with the forest carpeted in golden vine maple,” Max reported. He hiked the entirety of Mill Creek through the park over this past weekend and found bigleaf maple in top form. GO NOW!

Bull elk defends his harem, Elk Meadow (10/29/17) Max Forster