By Mary Wilson
May 18, 2019

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

What a wonderful year for wildflowers. The hillsides were vibrant orange from the poppies and a brilliant yellow from the goldfields. There were different shades of purple from the different lupine, lacy phacelia, owl’s clover, white from the forget-me-nots, cream cups, evening snow, Fremont pincushions, and wild cu-cumber. Yellow was a prevalent color from sun cups, fiddleneck, hairy lotus, mustard, and slender keel fruit. All these colors made for a beautiful variety of landscape splendor.

Owl’s clover had a very good blooming season this year. The name “owl’s clover” derives from the clover-like purple color of the bracts and from the faces of the white to yellow flowers that look like eyes resembling an owl’s face. The flower is tube-shaped and somewhat hidden in the colorful bracts which give the appearance of being a flower.

This interesting plant is an annual plant that grows on a single stalk and is covered in small hairy stems covered with thread-llike leaves. It produces a tiny white to yellow flower which is surrounded by purple bracts (bracts are modified leaves which grow at the base of the flowers). These purple bracts (occasionally white) help protect the flowers and attract pollinators.

It is a hemi-parasitic plant which derives some of its nutrients directly from roots of other plants by injecting them with haustoria that helps the plant absorb the nutrients an water from the host plant. This is the reason for its small, reduced leaves. One of the important things for its habitat is the companion plants. You will often find them in communion with California poppies, baby blue-eyes, lupine species, blue dick and mariposa lilies. The owl’s clover will send tendrils or runners to the tissues of the host in order to extract nutrients and moisture but will also make some of its own food. Unlike the parasitic plants of mistletoe and dodder it is able to keep their hosts alive for longer periods of time prolonging their own lifetime.

Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park

The Joshua trees had a very good year and a great many produced flowers this year. Starting with the buds, to the flow-ers and then on to the seedpods they are now winding down for the season.

Flowers are blooming and some are going to seed. There are tidy tips, blue sage, linear-leaf golden bush, comet blazing star, yellow pincushions, goldfields, chia, Mojave sun cups, lacy phacelia, combs-bur, blue dick, silver puffs and scarlet buglers.

Burrowing owls play or do practice learning skills and they do this with their siblings in the nesting area. They use their bill or talons to drop, toss, bend, tear, rip or otherwise manipulate objects, even objects without any food value.

These activities help them develop necessary survival skills Manipulation play helps birds get more coordinated to build nests, capture prey or extract food from different sources. This type of play keeps bills and talons in good condition and builds up the necessary muscle strength and dexterity for intricate actions.

Taunting play sharpens a bird's reflexes and increases their agility. It also helps them learn to anticipate prey reactions or how to avoid predators, and will be useful for defending their territory. Balancing play strengthens foot and leg muscles and helps birds learn how to use their wings to counterbalance air currents or disruptions. Balancing can also be useful for different types of foraging or courtship displays.

The owls below are practicing their pouncing techniques.