Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve (5/1/2023)

Today was my weekly day trip day. Getting closer and closer to Yosemite and Beyond that I’m doing what I can before I leave! Who knows what the wildflower situation will be like in mid-May, and I’m assuming the temps will creep up to where I don’t care for them. Gotta get out while I can handle it!

But the weather today was quite unusual. Even in far out Eastbaysia. It drizzled a touch while heading out there and actually lightly rained coming back. So bizarre to have any rain this late in the year.

I’d heard of Black Diamond Mines from a Naturalist I met and did an informational interview with. Other than that, I knew nothing. And the name didn’t intrigue me. Mines? PASS.

But then I read somewhere about there being wildflowers out there in April. So I put it on my list to visit sometime. And lately, I’ve been seeing iNat observations there of two wildflowers on my list to see this year. One, the White Globe Lily, I’ve seen before. The other, the Butterfly Mariposa Lily (aka Butterfly Butterfly Lily?), I’ve never seen before. And both were seen at BDM recently. Yay! A TWO-FER!

Felt good about the cool temps and overcast skies, as I always dreaded the thought of visiting for fear of the sun and all the heat it brings the inland areas. And maybe the place would still be green from the rains?

YES, IT WAS. And the place is quite gorgeous right now! ALSO, it’s not just mines. In fact, I didn’t really see them. Did see some piles of rock and sand near the parking lot, but the rolling hills and trails are what I saw after passing by the couple remnants of mining towns. And there are indeed some remnants! Some old barns and buildings and a house or two and a cemetary. Would be neat to get closer to them next time.

I opted for the Manhattan Canyon Loop on AllTrails. Marked “Easy” and appeared to be where to find both Calochortus flowers I was chasing. And it did not disappoint.

The trailhead is great. Parking and picnic tables and a bathroom. And a number of birds were out and about after I arrived. An Oak Titmouse even flew right past me, landed on a fence for a bit, then flew off. I’ve never been so close to one before! Some Black Phoebes were flycatching nearby. Heard Acorn Woodpeckers. Western Bluebirds were flying about. And a Northern Mockingbird was showing off near some Purple Owl’s-Clover, too.

Black Locust flowers were blooming there. Merlin’s Sound ID feature believed that a Wilson’s Warbler and Ash-throated Flycatcher were near me. And some neato holes way up in the exposed rock looked maybe perfect for BATS??

Started on the trail, and I soon noticed what I think is Oak Mistletoe? And some fresh (?) green galls, perhaps? A Western Bluebird flew into a tree and posed for me. Then what looked like maybe a Grosbeak flew into a tree further out. So hard to see with those dark gray skies! But I turned out to be right. It was a Black-headed Grosbeak!

And then it was all about the FLORA. California Buckeye trees are starting to bloom. Ithuriel’s Spear popped up, along with some Blow Wives. Newtome Western Hoptree was blooming and reminded me of Common Star Lily flowers. The two ponds nearby were full. And maybe won’t be by summertime?

Started to see Blue Dicks, but they were all dried up. Some San Francisco Woodland-Star and Common Yarrow made appearances. And then I was on a ridge where I could see the hill opposite, and it was FULL of a variety of plants. Ah, biodiversity! Looked varied and healthy. And how wonderful there’s no trail through there.

Neat looking rock started to show up on the hillside wall and on the trail. And then I spotted it. My first Butterfly Mariposa Lily! Darling and so pretty. And deep inside it is just dazzling. It was a relief to see so many right there! I wondered if it was a struggling flower. Not right there. They were even on both sides of the trail. They must love that orange rock.

Started seeing native ants on the trail, along with a Darkling Beetle. California Yerba Santa showed up. And even more Butterfly Mariposa Lilies. One right on the trail edge had come down. Maybe it was stepped on? The flower had opened up entirely, so perhaps it was also near its end? I felt so lucky to spot it, as seeing the petals entirely from top to bottom was quite special. Even I thought I’d wanna pollinate it!

There were also a number of buds yet to open, so they may be out for a while.

Then Paintbrush (Woolly Indian?) flashed their bright red colors along the trail. SO pretty. Along with many flowering Black Sage bushes. And both of these flowers reminded me of Mt. Diablo. It’s all the same range, so it all makes sense!

Saw a scary hole off the trail that looked like a small piece of machinery was inside? A mine hole? Coyote scat appeared on the trail. And then I was at an impressive wall of rock (that sadly had all kinds of carving and even spray paint on it) with lovely Manzanita trees near it.

After that, Orange Bush Monkeyflower appeared. Along with the first group of White Globe Lilies! Just adorable. And so fun to see the different shades of pink on their outsides. I felt one, and it was so cold! Handled a handful more throughout the rest of my time there, and ALL WERE NICE AND COLD. Hm! Guess fungi aren’t the only ones to keep that chilly temperature from below.

One Common Star Lily was blooming, and a bunch more White Globe Lilies were past it. Like, everywhere on the hillside there.

The beautiful orange rock on the trail was quite stunning. And I reached a point where you could see the exposed rock high up. More holes, for bats? And I heard what Merlin’s Sound ID feature thought were a couple Bewick’s Wrens up there. I wonder if the rock formations were natural or a result of mining?

Passed by one of a couple newtome Bush Poppy bushes with flowers. So charming. MORE White Globe Lilies. And some dried out Warrior’s Plume.

Then I came to an open space, where Rose Clover and Jeweled Onion and other flowers too off trail to see and ID were. Headed back to the loop, and it was kind of steep for a part! Thankfully, everything was dry. I wonder if the steepness was worsened from the rains?

Soon after that, I was alongside a dry creek. Where Q-Tips were and EVEN MORE White Globe Lilies. Some Larkspur and Milkmaids were opposite the creek. And more and more White Globe Lilies. Even many of them with buds yet to open. Can’t imagine seeing even more blooms than I saw today.

Got to a trail intersection and thought I was headed back the way I came. But it looked different. I soon realized I was on my way to the Lower Chaparral Trail, which I was hoping to do if I had time. Happy accident! And, MY GAWD. Here I thought I saw A TON of White Globe Lilies up to this point. WHAT A FOOL, I WAS.

At one point, I heard a Jay make an alarm sound. Then allofasudden a Raptor flew on the trail ahead of me and then out of sight as a couple Jays swooped in, alarming like crazy! Think it was a Red-tailed Hawk? Guess the Jays are nesting near there??

Got to see that Zigzag Larkspur up close, and then it was a White Globe Lily WONDERLAND. I honestly couldn’t believe HOW FLIPPIN’ MANY THERE WERE!!! If you want to feel like you’re surrounded by them, this is the place for YOU.

Managed to spot a Golden Dung Fly on one of them. This reminds me I also saw a handful of Bumblebees and Hover Flies along the trail. Might butterflies be out right now when it’s sunny? Lots of grasses there…

Saw one newtome Gray Mule-Ears high up on the hillside. Just one. With just one flower blooming. I love Mule-Ears. Wonder if more of them are on another trail.

And that was it. So satisfying to find what I was looking for. To see newtome things. And to finally know what Black Diamond Mines is all about. Reading up on the place after I got home, I now know there are other flowers out there somewhere I’d like to see, like newtome flora and even Mount Diablo Fairy-Lanterns. Looking forward to returning. Though, it’ll likely have to be next Spring to avoid The Heat.

Trying to fit in one more day trip this week. The other wildflowers on my list aren’t likely ones I’ll be able to find. Fragrant Fritillary, too late for it, I believe. And the Pink Star-Tulip. Both not easy to find. But, we shall see. Once the temps get into Summer Temp Mode, I’ll be spending a lot more time close to home to avoid it. So I’m feeling desperate to continue chasing wildflowers until then. We shall see if I’m able to find the time this week. Hope so!

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