Castle Rock Falcons and Wildflowers

 

by Beverly Lane

 

It’s nesting season again for peregrine falcons at the Castle Rocks near Walnut Creek, so the rock formations are closed to the public.

The rocks are located within Mt. Diablo State Park. However, people often access them from the Stage Road Trail, which runs along Pine Creek through Castle Rock and Diablo Foothills Regional Parks.

Pine Creek forms the boundary between the state and regional parks. The closed area is bounded by the creek, the Sunset Trail in the state park, and Falcon Road. Visitors can still hike along the Stage Road Trail, but should not cross the creek and climb the rocks.

The closure is in effect from now through July 31 to encompass the falcons’ nesting season. Signs are posted; trespassing can result in citations and fines.

Peregrine falcons prey mostly on other birds. They are considered the fastest animals in the world, because they have been clocked in speeds as high as 200 miles per hour during their hunting power dives. Considered an endangered species for a time, they have made a comeback since the ban on DDT pesticides. DDT had caused them to produce too-thin eggshells.

There was a nesting pair of peregrines in the Castle Rocks last year. It’s hoped that they will nest again, if they are not disturbed. So please abide by the closure.

 

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The first spring wildflowers are starting to appear in the regional parks and other public open spaces. One of the early arrivals is Indian warrior, a magenta-colored plant several inches high with fernlike leaves, which grows under manzanita bushes. Indian warrior has what the botanists call a hemiparasitic relationship with the manzanita. It can either draw nourishment from the manzanita roots or survive independently.

Other early spring wildflowers include pink and white shooting stars, buttercups, red maids and miner’s lettuce. Miner’s lettuce, which is edible, actually has tiny white flowers within its green leaves if you look closely.

Although many regional parks have beautiful spring wildflower displays, some of the parks are real standouts.

As the season progresses, you can see beautiful wildflowers along the Chaparral Loop Trail and Ridge Trail at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. Or walk the Prairie Falcon Trail at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve on Morgan Territory Road east of Mt. Diablo. Another sure bet is Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County. Walk out the Camp Ohlone Road to Little Yosemite, turn left on Cerro Este Road, and loop back to the start on the Canyon View Trail. You’ll see lots of wildflowers along the way. You can purchase a wildflower guide at Sunol’s visitor center.

One of the most spectacular wildflower venues in season is Rocky Ridge on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. From the Lichen Bark picnic area at Del Valle Regional Park south of Livermore it’s a sometimes-steep climb for two miles up to Rocky Ridge. But the payoff is beautiful displays of goldfields and other wildflowers along the ridge. The views of the Livermore Valley are another reward for your efforts.

A permit is required for the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, because it goes partly through San Francisco Water Department lands. For information on how to obtain a permit, see the Ohlone Wilderness Trail entry on the park district web site, www.ebparks.org.

East Bay Regional Park District naturalists schedule lots of wildflower walks during the spring. And there’s an annual wildflower festival at Sunol Regional Wilderness. This year it’s on Saturday, April 9. For more information on wildflower hikes, visit the park district web site. You can download park maps at that web site, too.

 

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