Mitchell Canyon and the End of a Quest

Two Saturdays ago, we took a trip to Mitchell Canyon in Mount Diablo State Park in an attempt to finally end our quest to find the Coast Horned Lizards in addition to seeing some springtime wildlife. We were successful on both counts.

The park’s flowers were in full bloom, splashing colors all over the landscape. We were able to identify many of them, including the bright red Indian Paintbrushes, Mariposa Lilies and the endemic Mount Diablo Fairy Lanterns – spherical flowers dressed in yellow.

Indian Paintbrushes

Indian Paintbrushes and other flowers at Mitchell Canyon

We hiked on the Eagle Peak Loop trail which climbed up to Eagle Peak after some gnarly switchbacks and unrelenting uphill slopes. It was a great day for butterflies, birds, and reptiles – some of the most active creatures during this time of year.

We saw some classic summertime birds, such as the Black-headed Grosbeak as well as some classic chaparral-type birds such as the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. Butterflies included several Western Tiger Swallowtails and Variable Checkerspots.

Variable Checkerspot

Variable Checkerspot

One of the day’s highlights was a young Western Rattlesnake lying motionless off of the side of the trail (which we then showed to a visiting cub scout pack, the members of which were pretty excited). Northern Pacific Rattlesnake is the subspecies found in the Bay area.

But the indisputable treat of the day was the completion of our quest – a beautiful Coast Horned Lizard. It scurried briefly off of the trail before returning, gobbling up some ants and slowly crawling away. To say that we were excited would be an understatement, this lizard (as shown by the pictures) is possibly one of the most unique, awe-inspiring Bay Area animals.

Coast Horned Lizard

Coast Horned Lizard

Coast Horned Lizard back

Coast Horned Lizard back

With that, we were content with our day’s findings and made our way back.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 14 June 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    That IS a beautiful lizard, indeed! Thanks for sharing – I posted a link to this story on our facebook page, since fans of Bay Nature magazine will love your photos.

    All the best,

    Ingrid

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