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Monday, July 28, 2014

Fun arroyo work

Got an unexpected day off from banding so decided to do some much neglected pruning and trail maintenance. After pruning along the road and lower arroyo, I decided to rework the overgrown arroyo trail between the upper and middle dam where we found the swampdamsel a week ago today (see July 21st post).

As usual, I forgot to take a before picture, but vegetation was making it hard to walk down the arroyo. Now that I know it can hold treasures, I wanted it to be more accessible, without reducing the vegetation. Not an easy task. I managed to keep the side pruning to a tiny minimum, and only removed two soapberry saplings from the middle of the path. The soapberries on the edge should grow over and benefit from the thinning, and make better shade for the path.

There was a problematic area where a bush had completely grown over the trail and rather than prune it back drastically, I determined to make the path go around it, which meant modifying a rocky slope. Here's the "after," looking east.

With pick and shovel, I removed the higher portion of the rock protrusion. The old path went under the bushes and across the rocks that you see toward the center of the photo. Those are hard bedrock and very difficult to chip away at, but I got enough of it out in the new section of trail that I can live with it, at least until a flood exposes it and I can chip out more.  (That rock was once volcanic slag.)

Below is the view looking west. As I was taking my pick, shovel, water, camera, and binoculars, from the work site, I had to pass the clump of basketgrass you see on the right side of the photo. Just as I came beside it, where the trail is pretty narrow, I heard the dreaded rattle of a rattlesnake. I know when you don't see the snake you should freeze and not move, but I've never been able to achieve that amount of discipline. I hastily launched myself away from the clump of basketgrass.

When I poked the shovel at the grass, the rattler departed, rattling as it went. On the left of the same photo is a soapberry sapling (somewhat larger than the ones I removed) that I was able to leave. You can see where the trail now curves to the right around the brush. It still goes up over that rocky outcrop, but I reduced its height a good 6 inches or more. And on the very left side of the photo, off the frame, is where we saw the swampdamsel. Here's a closeup of where I still need to whittle another 6 inches from the bedrock in the new section of trail.

And lest anyone is curious as to how one gets into the arroyo, here are the two "entrances."

I know the sunflowers are really wilted in the above photo but if it rains they'll perk up.

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