Milagra Ridge (4/18/2022)

Today was my monthly day trip! And, since I’m spending a bit of $ on gas and tolls going up to Pt. Reyes every Saturday, I decided to visit a newtome place that wouldn’t cost me much. That place was Milagra Ridge.

I discovered it when I was mapping out our last visit to Mori Point. More research on AllTrails showed some trails up there. More learning led me to understanding that it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And, finally, I learned (can’t remember exactly how right now) that Mission Blue butterflies are up there. So, it’s been on my list. April is supposedly a good month to possibly see them, so I went to check it out.

NOPE, I didn’t see any. But, I’m so glad I went and know about the place! And, I saw three different butterflies plus a gorgeous moth. So, I WIN!

Not a lot of parking there (just enough spots for maybe 6 or so cars?), but I got to go on a Monday. So, it totally rocks that I can do that. And, as soon as I took my first steps toward the Milagra Ridge Trailhead, a deer (Columbian Black-tailed Deer?) came into view on the hillside. Just by itself. Looked at me for a second, stuck its tongue out (!), and continued downward and out of sight. Already exciting, and I was still in the parking area!

Got to the trailhead with signage, took a look at it, and then spotted ladybugs (Seven-spotted Lady Beetle and Convergent Lady Beetle) and a ladybug larva and a Coyote Brush Leaf Beetle larva, all on a small Coyote Brush just below the sign. So much going on right there!

Headed up the short incline and noticed TONS of Coast Paintbrush and some Blue Dicks and some planted lupine in the distance. A flying butterfly-looking thing caught my eye and landed in a shrub. MOTH!? Black and white design like you wouldn’t believe. Not able to ID it with the obstructed photos I got of it. Perhaps JD might know it?? Please see photo below, kind sir!

Hop Trefoil and more Coast Paintbrush and newtome Cobwebby Thistle and California Poppies and Seaside Buckwheat were along the trail, brightening up a partially cloudy day. Got to a small clearing, and THE BATTLE OF THE BUTTERFLIES WAS ON. An entirely beaten-up American Lady was duking it out with another similar-looking but perhaps not the same butterfly. I got dizzy watching them whiz around me and everywhere SO DANG FAST.

I couldn’t keep up with it, and the other butterfly seemingly did not want to land, so I moved on. And, after spotting some Western Blue-Eyed Grass, I looked ahead at the trail and saw half of A COYOTE that was about to cross the trail but quickly returned to where it came from when it realized I was there. I was frozen for a second, then I saw it come into view (when I KNEW it was a Coyote) between two shrubs, take a quick look at me, and continue on – away from the trail and me. If anyone tells you coyotes want to get in your business, I’ve never seen such behavior. But, it was exciting!! Just wish I was able to have gotten a photo for iNat so folks tracking them would know. Ah, well.

Beach Strawberry and a couple Dwarf Checkermallows and Varied Lupine (I think) and Douglas Irises and some intriguing different-shades-of-purple lupine (Varied Lupine, I’m guessing) and Sticky Cinquefoil all started to pop out inbetween the shrubs. And, looking forward, I was starting to get a sense of the place. Despite me not featuring them in my primary photos, the place is FULL of wildflowers right now!

I turned a corner and noticed a black beetle crossing the trail. Perhaps newtome California Night-stalking Tiger Beetle (??) got to the other side when I spotted a Coastal Green Hairstreak a couple feet ahead on the trail! It kindly remained still while I got some photos. And, after taking like the fifth one, it VANISHED. No, really. VANISHED COMPLETELY. I think it has that capability. I do.

Further on, Twinberry Honeysuckle and Coyote Mint and Pink Honeysuckle all showed off their colors to me. At that point, one of only a handful of people I encountered the entire time I was out there walked past me and complimented my Totoro backpack. Never fails!

A Turkey Vulture practically flew over my head (!) right before I heard a bird singing that sounded somewhat familiar. Spotted Towhee! It must’ve realized I was close, so it soon flew down to the ground and hopped out of view. Wish I could’ve seen it better!

After admiring the appearance of California Phacelia, a West Coast Lady flittered frantically in front of me and rested on the trail for me to appreciate. Perhaps this was the other similar-looking butterfly fighting with the American Lady? As I’m getting more photo close-ups of butterflies lately, I’m noticing how different their faces can be! It is awesome to see that. Right after seeing ANOTHER butterfly fly deep into a shrub (Red Admiral? Painted Lady?), I heard rustling. Turned around to catch superquickglances at what I think were two California Thrashers. They immediately hid in a shrub together. I waited a little, hoping either would come or make a sound. NOPE.

Got to the gun battery thing and decided to head down to see the labyrinth. The area turned out to be all roped off for Mission Blue butterfly protected habitat. A trail on the map is now part of that roped off area, so back up I went. After admiring the mini-labyrinth someone made that looked about beetle-size or so. Aw!

Some Pacific Asters and what looked like Rabbit Tobacco (newtome Two-color Rabbit Tobacco, perhaps?) were on the way up toward the summit. At this point, it was very lightly drizzling. Because of that, I skipped the summit and kept on and got to watch a Bewick’s Wren singing in a bare shrub! It sang for so long! It was so charming. Singing its heart out in the wind and the rain. It was also the first time I was able to get a photo of one! EXCITING!

Continuing on, I stopped when I realized an Anna’s Hummingbird was on top of a shrub about four feet from me! Maybe it didn’t see me coming (??), but when it realized I was so close it zoomed away. I wonder if I hadn’t stopped, would it have left? How often might that be going on?? While stopped, I got to see blooming Wavy-leafed Soap Plant. Love those flowers.

The short out-and-back Milagra Creek Overlook Trail was right there. But, the drizzle had turned to almost light rain, so I’ll have to save that for next time.

A huge group of Twinberry Honeysuckle shrub was just ahead, where I got to watch a hummingbird (Anna’s, I think) feed from one of the shrubs right in front of me. Even with the lightish rain, I couldn’t help but watch it, often getting within three feet of me!

Approached the end, and I spotted what looked like galls on a small Twinberry Honeysuckle shrub! No helpful leads yet, ID-wise, but maybe JD nows??

At the small reservoir lawn, two Western Bluebirds didn’t seem to mind the now definitive light rain. But, I was looking forward to soon being in my car, as my wool jacket wasn’t so nice to be in just then.

Got to the gate and end of the trail when I heard a bunch of birds in the pines above me that lined an old wood fence. Then, a Northern Flicker flew right onto a branch in clear view! And, a Wilson’s Warbler was right near it! The Flicker quickly left. And, the Wilson’s quickly moved on. But, what a nice way to end my Naturing!

BUT, THEN! While looking along the fence after those birds left, I noticed movement in the distance. A BUNNY AND A QUAIL! The California Quail was pecking on the ground, while the Brush Rabbit was almost right next to it. Nibbling, perhaps, and moving out of my view. I managed to get a couple shots of both, thankfully. And, I got to imagine them as friends, having adventures together.

So, Milagra Ridge is great! If you like views, try it out on a clear day! On sunny, warmish days, I bet it’s a butterflyhappyplace right now. Almost wished it hadn’t started lightly raining so I could’ve explored a little more of the ridge. But, do I mind my Naturing getting cut short by rain? NOT AT ALL.

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