Welcome to Wild California

The Purpose of this Site

On this website you can follow me on my trips through California's wild places. I'm a fan of wild things large and small, though I'm quite partial to butterflies and birds. Armed with camera, scope, and binoculars, I'll try to show you what I see and hear out in the wild.



Summer Season Begins in Sonoma



Lakes Basin

June 18 and 19, 2011

Still full of snow! Could not access many of my favorite trails due to either snow or raging waters. Still, it was beautiful, especially Eureka Lake with Eureka peak in the background.


Annadel State Park

June 16, 2011


The most surprising find were the frogs by Lake Ilsanjo. Surprising, because I had no idea they would squeak so much, and no idea they'd be so hard to photograph! It's always good to see the Variable Checkerspot, and I managed to get a good photograph of one. The dragonflies were another story. Plenty of them, but nary a good shot.

China Camp

April 15, 2011


Point Reyes



Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lakes Basin Region

July 31-August 3, 2010


This trip was replete with sunshine and butterflies. Lassen was stunning as always, escpecially the fields of blooming Mule's ears and monardella. Clodius parnassians were abundant in Lassen, along with various blues and hairstreaks. Tiger and Pale swallowtails soared by our of reach of my camera. Bird highlights included a red breasted sapsucker and white headed woodpeckers. Mammal highlights included 3 marmots or some such creature.

The Lakes Basin area was alive with warbling vireos, hummingbirds, juncos, wood pewees and olive sided flycatchers. Clodious parnassians were here as well, along with Greenish Blues, Hoffman's Checkerspots, Lorquin's Admirals, and other hard to identify crescents, checkerspots and blues. I finally heard a rattlesnake rattle its tail on the trail, but didn't get a picture, nor did I get bit.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park

May 2, 2010


The birds were active, though I couldn't see many. Heard the Olive Sided Flycatcher by the creek and the Wilson's Warbler, along with the usual Juncos, Chickadees et al. A Woodpecker appeared higher up the mountain, but not the Pileated like we saw last year on this hike. When we finally reached Mt. Barnabe and got into the sun, I was pleasantly surprised to see at least 3 separate Pipevine Swallowtails, and 2 painted ladies. Other than those and some ringlets, the butterflies were basically absent. However, on one stretch of trail there were numerous sightings of late instar Buckeye caterpillars. Closer to the road there were some similar caterpillars but with rusty hairs growing out of them. A disease, a final instar, or a different caterpillar? I don't know.

Mt. Tam


Matt Davis Trail to Coastal Trail to Cataract to Bootjack and back to Matt Davis

Sierra Nevada Trip

Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, Lake Tahoe Basin, Lakes Basin (Plumas County), Lassen


August 3-7, 2009

Highlights from this trip include some amazing butterfly pictures, a martin sighting, and some great views.

Annadel State Park


July 23, 2009

The End of Bay Area Hiking until October
Dusty and quiet is how I characterize bay area hiking at the end of July. By this time one has seen all the birds one is going to see. The young have fledged. The butterflies have diminished. On this day, even the lizards seemed to tired to go out. What's left are grasshoppers and dragonflies. My advice, go near water, as life needs water. Near lake Ilsanjo is where I found the most life, tons of insects on the mint, three different kinds of dragonflies fliting around, a couple different butterflies. But I believe its time to head for the Sierras!

Mount Tamalpais State Park

See and hear the Podcast for this hike at More Wild California.


July 9, 2009

There's still life in these hills, and water, too. Creeks are running down the slopes of Mt. Tam. Most flowers are dried up, which makes the remaining ones that much more precious. No more signs of the Painted Lady. The lizard action has really picked up, and snake sightings are increasing.

El Corte de Madera Creek Regional Open Space


June 27, 2009

I ran the hills, competing with mountain bikers and snakes. Okay, only one snake, but he was kind enough to pose for me, though he kept his head in the shade. One Painted Lady and some evidence of past caterpillar activity. A very interesting moth and a good look at a a Swainson's thrush made this trip worthwhile.

Mount Tamalpais State Park


June 17, 2009

A long hike on the "good" side of Mount Tam. The northwest slope offers a better variety of plants and features a number of small meadows. These edges provide a lot of perfect habitat for bird life. Although a sunny day, few butterflies were out. A couple of California Sisters, and a few ringlets and blues. No evidence of Painted ladies.

Hood Mountain and McCormick Addition


June 10, 2009

A cloudy day in Sonoma, but the birds will still out. Eventually I some some insects and spiders as well. Still on the watch for painted ladies, and I did observe one old one flying around. I saw evidence of caterpillars but could not find any.

Tilden Park


May 24, 2009

And now it's time for fog! The bay area is socked in, so not a good butterfly day. Birds were out, but I forgot my binoculars. Instead I tried to get some good close up pictures of plants and insects. I found some somber, slow moving insects, and some that seemed to be dead. I found some kind of fly species on a brassica. There a number of them, all not moving, seemingly dead, but perhaps just unable to move due to the cold. My lucky find of the day was a caterpillar in a rolled leaf on artemesia douglasiana. Possibly a checkerspot, which fits with what I've found in the past. UPDATE After further research, I've realized its an early instar of Painted Lady, which also fits, since Artemesia is in the aster family, same as thistles. Also, there were even earlier instars of painted ladies on the thistles next to the artemesia.

Annadel State Park


May 17, 2009

Heat Wave

Although hot, I had a pleasant hike in Annadel. This park has dramatic changes in vegetation that I love. I got a few good closeup shots of some butterflies, but I was unable to get a picture of either Ring-Necked Snake I saw.

Henry Coe State Park (southern end)


April 26, 2009

Butterfly Madness

Not only did I see evidence of Painted Lady Migration in the form of caterpillars, I was pleased to report an abundance of Variable Checkerspots. No Caterpilars yet sighted for these beauties, however. I also saw a number of Ringlets and Anise Swallotails, but few other species.

Olompali State Historic Park


April 8, 2009

Newt Migration

Thank goodness we didn't step on any! As we hiked in Olompali on a rainy Wednesday morning, we witnessed about 10 newts going uphill to find their rest. The newts were of all sizes. As we went higher up on the trail, no more newts. We did, however, see more Painted Ladies. This time they seemed to be spending more time gathering food rather than just flying North.

Sugarloaf Ridge, Sonoma


April 5, 2009

Painted Lady Migration?

Over the past two weeks I've seen butterflies heading North. I saw them in Glen Ellen, I saw them in Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and I've seen them here in San Francisco. I saw some smallish, some a little larger, flapping maddly showing a bit of orange and dull gray. Only once did one land, and I confirmed it as a lady (though to be honest it could have been a lady other than a painted lady.) I am assuming that I am seeing a Painted Lady Migration. I hope so, as it will make this summer interesting for caterpillar observations as well.

In addition I've seen two Monarchs. A lot of people say they've seen Monarchs when they usually are seeing something else. I usually see Monarchs later in the year, so I was pleasantly surprised to see two recently. I also saw a flash of an Anise Swallowtail while running. Right now, I'm feeling very positive about the butterflies in Calfifornia!

March 7, 2009

Sugarloaf Ridge was full of butterflies, right on schedule for this time of year. Not much in bloom, some plants just starting to bud out.

July 20, 2008

Still a dearth of butterflies in the bay area. East of here, in the mountains, I've saw many of the same species that I saw last year, so perhaps there it is not unchanged. But here, almost nothing. I spent a week out in the wild with Natural Explorers, and we saw perhaps 3 butterflies total. A pity!

June 25, 2008

I've had a hard time seeing butterflies this year. Although I've been in places where I've seen many butterflies in the past, or locations which seem prime for my favorite insects, I have rarely seen them. Probably the biggest day for butterflies was during the heat wave in San Francisco last week. Everywhere I went I saw swallowtails, and finally saw some red admirals and west coast ladies. I'm assuming that it is the drought which is causing the apparent decline in butterfly sightings, but it could be just bad luck on my part. Soon I'll be in the Sierras where I usually many different species, often in abundance. What will it be like this year?

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