Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

North Yuba River – 7/6/22

It’s been HOT this week, with the temperatures in the 90’s, so I walked down to the river and spent the day! The river is low now, which is typical for summer, and easy to cross and warmer in temperature. “Our” swimming hole is just down the river a bit, and easy to get to. The water was perfect, the air was clear, the sun was hot, and life was thriving! I live in paradise!

There’s a lovely piece of bedrock that has caused a nice depth to our swimming hole. It is almost an island, with water on three sides, and I love to explore it every time I visit. This time I found lots of River Otter crayfish-filled-scat, two small snake skins, leopard lilies, and to my utter amazement a rare plant, Lewisia cantelovii!

I first saw this rare plant, Cantelow’s Lewisia, about 5 years ago on the North Yuba Trail! I was SO surprised to find it thriving at our swimming hole! It is in the Montiaceae or Miner’ Lettuce family. The flowers are tiny, about as big as a fingernail, and white with fine magenta stripes! The stems as red, 12″ tall, super thin, and end in a basal rosette of succulent-like leaves. They are related to Miner’s Lettuce, Pussypaws, Red Maids, Spring Beauties, Sierra Lewisia, and Three-leaf Lewisia! How cool to have this rare beauty right in our “backyard”!

Another surprise was seeing a Sierra Mountain Kingsnake on my way to the swimming hole! It was sunning itself out on the dry river rocks! The red-black-white banding was strikingly beautiful! I’ve only seen these snakes twice in my life, and one of them was dead! They are not rare, but they are secretive and spend most of their time under rocks or logs. These colorful snakes are harmless to humans. They are constrictors and prey on lizards, snakes, bird eggs & nestlings, and small mammals.

I watched this one for a few seconds before it headed off among the rocks and eventually disappeared under one of them! What a lucky sighting! WOW!!!

Editor’s Note: Meanwhile, to see pictures Katie shared in her July 16 blog of a Belted Kingfinsher looking for a meal, a Spotted Sandpiper scratching its neck, the Common Merganser families growing up in her neighborhood, a Canada Goose gosling floating in the river, and a Osprey Katie sees almost every day, we encourage readers to visit her blog for a full-color versions of what is depicted here and what we don’t have the space to print this week.

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