"Vetter Mountain, In Service"

Day Five: Residents

8:22 amI'm getting the "hang" of putting up these shutters. It's a whole body thing--using my foot to brace the prop and keeping my head out of the way!
8:45 amAnna's Hummingbirds buzz around me as I work, or wait impatiently on the feeder for it to be refilled.
8:55 amNo dead bugs in the cab this morning. I wonder how the previous occupant got rid of them all when he closed up. Mmmmm? Ah-ha! I see a note that more bug spray is needed.
9:06 am"Angeles, Vetter Mountain, in service."
Dispatch does not respond with a time today. A different voice, a different way of doing things.
9:15 amI take the weather earlier this morning since it is already getting hot and I want to record the changes. It's 84° at 9 o'clock and will go to a high of 92° in the early afternoon.

The relative humidity is around 15% and the skies very clear allowing me to take some readings of peaks I haven't seen before:

  • in the gap east of Gleason appear the Liebre Twins in the Tehachapis at azimuth 323.54° and distance 55 miles
  • in the next gap west is Alamo Mountain (south of Frazier) at 296.01° and 59 miles
  • and McDonald Mountain (south of Alamo) at 294.36° and 57 miles
  • behind Lukens are the Santa Susanas at 274-275°, 33 miles
  • the low stuff behind Condor is the Topatopa Ridge and peaks--Hines Peak and Topatopa Peak, 57-60 miles
It is, indeed, a clear day.
10:15 am The hummingbird wars have started. Seven battle for space at the feeder at once. All of them are Anna's of differing age and sex. It's a preliminary squirmish preparing for the major conflict later in the season when the migrators invade.
10:54 amThere is a commotion at the top of the nearby Coulter pine. The needles are jiggling about in a funny way. Then a dark head pops up and then another: Scrub jays, parent and child, feeding in the new growth, the "candles" at the top of the tree. The needles of the Coulter are so long that they hide the birds as they pluck out whatever is attracting them there--insects or pollen or something else. The young one has a shorter and stouter bill than the adult and makes such a racket that it is barely identifiable as a bird call.

The cones on the Coulter pine are growing larger daily, filling up with sap and getting heavier and heavier, though they are still tan-colored and tightly closed.

11:43 am Bothersome little gnats are out today. The in-your-face kind. I'm constantly wiping them off my glasses.

All sorts of small rodents are out and about this morning as well--bushy-tailed California Gray Squirrels, sentinel California Ground Squirrels, zippy Merriam's Chipmunks. Are they more visible because these are the daring youngsters coming out of the nest and searching for food on their own?

12:02 pmThe Callippe Fritillary is the most common butterfly again today, often resting on the pavement or the bannisters. Thus, I am able to get a better look at them. Many are quite pale appearing buff and black, others have three distinct colors--orange, buff and black--while some are only light orange and black. I cannot see any silvering at all on their ventral hindwings; this surface had a reddish ground color with whitish spots. I think that this may be a very local "macaria" subspecies population.
3:30 pmIt's hot today. I put the folding chair out on the catwalk, but I find that that the breezy spots are sunny and that the shady spots are still. I keep moving around to get just the right combination of breeze and shade.

The flags--the beautiful flags--flap and pop in the breeze, making noises that sound like the wind is strong. But upon measuring the speed, I find it never gets above 10-12 mph. It certainly sounds faster than that.

The heat and the breeze also combine to accentuate the characteristic forest smell--the deep resinous odor of the pines. Wonderful!

4:02 pm Over the radio comes a report from the East Fork of a vehicle fire that turned into a "brush incident". The name is "Curve Fire" from the location at "20-mile-an-hour-curve". Everyone seems to know the exact place by that name.

Emergency traffic switches to ForestNet to avoid interference from someone somewhere broadcasting in Spanish.

4:35 pmThe Golden (Boisduval's) Hairstreaks are also numerous. They look almost the same color as the backs of the fuzzy, golden-orange, new leaves of the canyon oak on which they perch. Only by brushing the branches or tugging on them, can I make the butterflies fly up so that I can see where they land and study them further.
5:06 pmI close up without calling in because there is still emergency traffic only.
7:14 pmAfter I get home, I call dispatch to report "Vetter Mountain, out of service."

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© Jane Strong, July 2000