The Seasons of Fallbrook

Black Fly (Buffalo Gnat) Season ~05/15/96 - ~08/15/96
~05/01/97 - ~08/01/97
~06/01/98 - ~08/01/98
~06/01/99 - ~08/15/99
~05/15/00 - ~08/01/00
~06/01/01 - ~08/01/01
Fire Season1 mid-May to mid-December usually
04/62 - 02/11/63 (longest since records kept since 1950s)
04/21/97 - ?
05/24/99 - 1/18/00 (third or fourth longest)
Gopher Dispersal Season January to May usually
01/01/99 - 05/15/99
04/15/00 - 10/01/00
02/01/01 - 11/01/01
Greening of Fallbrook

This refers to when the average non-irrigated yard in Fallbrook appears to be more green than brown. Note that most yards do not consist of native plants; they consist almost 100% of weedy non-native grasses, filaree (Erodium species), and Crete weed (Hedypnois cretica).

12/20/95 - ~05/01/964.4
11/03/96 - ~04/15/975.4
11/13/97 - ~05/15/986.1
11/17/98 - ~04/15/995.0
02/15/00 - ~05/11/00 (one of the shortest ever)2.9
01/29/012 - ~05/15/01?3.5?
12/03/01 - ~04/10/0234.3
11/12/02 - ? 
10/21/04 - ~05/21/057.1
10/22/05 - ~05/13/066.8
~2/03/07 - ~04/05/074 (possibly the shortest ever)2.0
12/8/07 - ~4/18/084.3
11/30/08 - ??
10/24/10 - ??
Flowers Planted along I-15
(Improperly called "Wildflowers",
since they are non-native and planted)
Dimorphotheca sinuata, African daisy
~02/15/97 - ~03/15/97
~01/25/98 - ~06/01/98
~02/01/99 - ~05/10/99
statistics not gathered for later years
1 Fire season begins when the Forestry Department determines that the vegetation will support burning and the Department adds seasonal personnel around the clock. It ends when the Forestry Department determines that the biggest threat of wildfires is over. (NCT 1/21/00)
2 Fallbrook became "partially" green on 11/13/00. We got only enough rain (a half inch) to turn flatter areas green, but not enough rain to turn hillsides green.
3 Fallbrook never got really green in 2001-2002 due to the extreme drought that year. My yard had patches of green, but never even required mowing. Contrast that with a normal year, when I have to mow every 6 days for months.
4 The severe drought up to 1/31/07 prevented most annuals from germinating. North-facing slopes became pretty green on ~2/3/07, but some south-facing slopes remained brown for the entire season.
TBD: To Be Determined

The "Greening of Fallbrook" begins when the winter rains have germinated the "natural" annual plants (which are almost exclusively non-native weeds in most yards) in non-irrigated areas and ends when the color has changed from predominantly green to predominantly brown. The beginning date is usually very well determined, to within a day or two, since it takes only ~3 days after the first significant rain for the land to turn from uniformly dirt to uniformly green. (This is primarily due to the non-native weed filaree being very quick to germinate.) November 2000 was an exception. The ending date is not precisely determined; I pick a date corresponding to when the fields change from mostly green to mostly brown. The ending date is accurate to within a week or two.

Black Fly Season

Black flies, aka buffalo gnats, are found seasonally nearly everywhere below about 6000' in natural areas of Southern California. I have found them nearly everywhere I hike in Southern California. They vanish where paved areas are above some threshold and perhaps far enough away from a natural flowing creek.

Downtown Fallbrook does not have black flies, but nearly every place else in the Fallbrook area with one-acre minimum lots does. Some day I plan on mapping the distribution of flies locally, but I have found few fly-free areas in my bicycle trips locally. I suspect that nearly every place in rural Southern California suffers as well.

For more information, see Bugs in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The following plot shows my subjective evaluation of how annoying the flies (gnats) are in the morning and the afternoon. A rating of 1 means no problems; 3 means they were definitely annoying; and 5 means they chased me inside. Note that the bugs made a resurgence in late summer 1997 when the monsoon weather with high humidity arrived. The data have been smoothed over a 2-week period, with the points at the very beginning and end of the plot averaged with fewer, and so are noisier.

Note that some people are entirely oblivious to black flies. If you spend most of your time indoors, or constantly moving when you are outside, you won't be troubled by them. In season, on bicycle trips, I notice the flies only when I stop for more than a moment.

Although Fallbrook definitely has annoying gnats, there is a remarkable absence of mosquitoes. I've been known to attract mosquitoes from a block or so away, and can protect an entire group of 10 or more people by drawing them to myself! In Altadena, I had to regularly quit gardening outside an hour or so before sunset due to mosquitoes. I always used to claim that California has the same total number of mosquitoes as anyplace else in the U.S., but that they were spread out over the entire year so that they were less frequent in the summer here than elsewhere. However, in Fallbrook I have yet to receive a mosquito bite. So at least there is some tradeoff for having the annoying black flies (buffalo gnats).

As the black flies decline, the very-similar canyon flies cause a bit of trouble later in the year.

Gopher Season

After suffering and cursing gophers, aka Tunneling Terrorists, for my first 5 years here, I finally learned that the best way by far to eliminate gophers is to trap them with Macabee traps. They usually catch the gopher within a day, and dispatch him immediately, preventing further damage immediately. This has then allowed me to discern when gopher offspring migrate to new areas, and thus reinfest my yard.

I began trapping gophers in mid-April 1998, and the following plot shows the number of gophers caught on my nearly 2-acre property vs. time:

As the plot shows, there were 13-14 gophers on my 2 acres when I first started trapping them in 1998, and within a month I had dispatched most of them. In 1999, I was able to dispatch them as quickly as they came into the property, and hence that curve more properly reflects the number coming into my yard from the neighboring properties vs. time.

The plot then showed an amazing variation in the number of gophers killed pear year. The number of gophers killed increased very regularly from 1999 to 2004, and then decreased very regularly from 2004 to 2009. The only exception was an unusually small number of gophers killed in the severe drought year of 2006-2007, when there was essentially no weedy vegetation growth to support gopher reproduction. The previous severe drought year of 2001-2002 had similar low numbers, but that drought year occurred in the middle of an already low period for gopher reproduction.

I have no idea why there is a roughly ten year cycle in the local gopher population. If you do, please let me know!

For those interested, the way you catch a gopher is to buy a set of 2 traps, and then attach them to a stake via wire. Find a fresh gopher mound, and start excavating until you find the tunnel that the gopher used to push out the dirt in the mound. Follow that tunnel with a shovel until it T's into the main gopher tunnel. Put a set trap on each side of the main tunnel, block the dug-up end of the tunnels with a large dirt clod, then loosely fill-in the hole. Check 24 hours later for the gopher. 80% of the time you'll catch the gopher in a day, and most of the rest of the time you'll get the gopher the next day after resetting the traps.

When you have the gopher, release him from the trap and put his body back into the tunnel, then fill in the hole.

Setting the traps is easy, but somewhat difficult to learn just from the instructions. It's much easier if someone shows you how to set them.

Finally, for those who think it is a bad thing to kill gophers, I find it distasteful as well. (At first, I couldn't even kill snails, finding them too big to step on, when I first moved to California and discovered that these cute things I had always admired in aquariums were horrible plant predators here.) However, it is nearly impossible to garden without eliminating them from your yard. I have had numerous plantings, in which I invested a lot of time and effort, completely go to waste when Mr. Gopher came along and completely chewed off all the roots up to the soil line. It is a sad sight to see a prize rosebush laying on its side one day with no remaining roots, even despite a chicken-wire cage around the entire rootball.

A better way to eliminate gophers, although it is much more expensive and involves a lot more effort, is to install 1" hardware cloth 24" below ground completely around the perimeter of your lot or area that you wish to protect. I am in the process of doing that, and may eventually complete it sometime before I die. Note that although this keeps the gophers out without the necessity of actually killing them yourself directly, the same number of gophers will die each year from starvation simply because you are not allowing them access to your property.

Go to Weather, Climate and Seasons of Fallbrook

Copyright © 1997-2011 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 4 February 2011