Ladybugs Photo
Nature

The Open Space Authority has nearly nine miles of trails open to the public on Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve and maintains the three-mile Boccardo Loop Trail on Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve above Alum Rock Park. The landscapes and vistas at these preserves change with the seasons. Flowers, birds and other wildlife are present in abundance.

Sightings is your chance to share your experience of visiting OSA lands. Email us your photo or story to Share Your Sighting and we’ll post it on the website.

Location: Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
Date: September 29, 2014
Submitted by: Lori Wagner

This common gopher snake was spotted on the trail at Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. Gopher snakes are non-poisonous but are often mistaken for Western Diamond-back rattlesnakes because of their similar markings and defensive behaviors. When threatened, the gopher snake flattens its head into a triangular shape, hisses loudly and shakes its tail furiously to mimic the look and sound of the more dangerous rattlesnake. An excellent way to ward off predators, no doubt!

 

 

Location: Open Space Authority Administrative Office
Date: February 27, 2014
Submitted by: Alexsis Shields, Open Space Authority Receptionist

ladybugThis image is of a ladybug, freshly pupated from its larval stage. In about 7-12 days, when its exoskeleton hardens and changes color (red with about 7 black spots), it will be a full-fledged adult. The ladybug was found on a sycamore tree right outside of the Authority office on Santa Teresa Blvd.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 15, 2010
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

mouse  photo

This deer mouse was a resident in the water trough at the Casa Loma Road staging area. The trough is covered to keep out mosquitos and other pests, but this guy seemed to have found a home. Deer mice are cute, but they can be carriers for disease.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 15, 2010
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

frog photo

I photographed this foothill yellow-legged frog in one of the pools in the Baldy Ryan Creek. This time of year the creek isn't flowing but the isolated ponds are supporting frog populations. The foothill yellow-legged frog has disappeared from much of its California range and is a species of concern listed by several conservation agencies.

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 11, 2010
Submitted by: Lark Burkhart, OSA Public Information Specialist

bat  photo

I had just started up the Mayfair Ranch Trail when I came upon 3 turkeys browsing along the trail ahead of me. They'd disappear around a bend and then reappear when I got to the same stretch of trail. When we were close to the top, they took one last look at me, dropped off the hill like hang gliders, and sailed down the slope to lower ground. Impressive.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: July 20, 2010
Submitted by: Lee Pauser

bird box photo

For several years Audubon volunteer Lee Pauser has maintained bird boxes in Llagas Meadow on Rancho Cañada del Oro to encourage western bluebirds to nest. Usually they have birds in them, but not this time. When Lee opened the box, which had been empty, he discovered this cute little creature tucked into a nest it had made entirely of lichen. The little guy didn't move all the while the box was open.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: July 17, 2010
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

bat  photo

Check this out! When I opened the overflow lot sign some really small bats fell to the ground. Shoot, I thought I'd killed them. But no. They were pretty irritated but never flew away. So after taking a few photos I put them in a tree and when I checked about 40 minutes later they were gone.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: June 25, 2010
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

Bobcat photo

I was on the preserve in the early evening to get photos of the soap plant in bloom. I took pictures along Baldy Ryan Creek and was crossing the wooden bridge heading back to the car when I saw an adult bobcat in the creek below. It was after 8 p.m., not the best light for taking photos. I think this is the same bobcat I photographed earlier this spring. I imagine it comes down to drink at about the same time each evening.

 

 

Location: Palassou Scenic Lands
Date: May 12, 2010
Submitted by: Doug Reynaud, OSA Open Space Technician

mountain lion photo

I was weed whipping at Palassou and stopped to change the string in the trimmer. While I was standing by the truck I got the feeling someone was watching me and turned around to look. That's when I saw the lion lying in the grass just staring at me. I grabbed my camera and moved a little closer, keeping a tree between us. The lion got up and started walking away and I got 6 or 8 shots of him moving off.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 17, 2010
Submitted by: David Tharp
, OSA Open Space Technician

mountain lion tracks photo

These mountain lion tracks are from Casa Loma Road near gate 18, which is a portion of the road that is not open for general public use. This is a hot spot; I find tracks here on a regular basis, every couple of weeks to monthly.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 14, 2010
Submitted by: Sam Drake

San Francisco view photo

My friends and I did the nearly 9-mile loop to Bald Peaks via Mayfair, Longwall Canyon, Bald Peaks and Serpentine Loop trails. The flowers were great – this is the first that I've seen Indian warrior this season. Even more exciting was the view from Bald Peaks. The air was so clear we could easily pick out San Francisco and Stanford by eye.  After getting home and zooming in, I was excited to realize I caught one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, and the center anchorage for the Bay Bridge.  

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 11, 2010
Submitted by: Lark Burkhart, OSA Public Information Specialist

hummingbird photo

In one of the sunny sections of the Mayfair Ranch Trail there's quite a large stand of Indian warrior. The bright red blossoms attracted this hummingbird who spent minutes going from flower to flower. My presence didn't seem to be disturbing, so I shot dozens of pictures trying to capture this fast-moving guy.

 

 

 

Location: Casa Loma Road
Date: March 11, 2010
Submitted by: Lark Burkhart
, OSA Public Information Specialist

vulture photo

I was on my way out to Rancho Cañada del Oro, but there was no arguing with this vulture who had staked a claim to some very fresh roadkill. He gave me the stinkeye long enough that I could shoot a few photos through the windshield. Then I had to get on with my workday and started slowly rolling toward him. He waited to the last possible moment to fly away, and I'm sure was right back with his lunch as soon as my car passed by.

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: February 5, 2010
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

slime photo

For years I thought this unusual fungus was the egg cluster of some unknown insect.  Instead, it's a species of slime mold.  Leocarpus fragilis or "insect-egg mass slime" favors dead wood and decaying plant matter.  What is seen - the "insect egg case" - is actually the fruiting body of the slime mold from which its spores will be released.  This example was found beside the Llagas Creek Trail.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: February 5, 2010
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

slime photo

Eeeew!  At first glance, the yellow slime-covered leaves at my feet looked disgusting.  But when I checked my Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, I discovered what I thought was bird's vomit was really a form of slime mold.  Physarum polycephalum  or "many-headed slime" is most often found on living or decaying plant matter on the forest floor. This example was also found beside the Llagas Creek Trail.

 

 

 

Location: Coyote Ridge, Valley Transportation Mitigation site
Date: October 4, 2009
Submitted by: Patrick Congdon, OSA General Manager

mantid photo

I was clipping residual dry matter, part of monitoring the grazing program on Coyote Ridge, when I saw movement off to my right. This little girl started moving in the grass and what a sight. It's an agile ground mantid, relative of the praying mantis and quite unusual in northern California. (It's identifiable as a female because of the false wings. Female mantids are flightless.)

Its small size and coloring made it hard to photograph until moved to my marker board. I've never seen one of these before: guess it pays to have your face to the ground.

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: October 4, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

alligator lizard photo

I spotted this alligator lizard basking on the access road to the Longwall Canyon Trail. Late afternoon is a good time to see these lizards as they can often be found sitting motionless on the trail. Because they're cold-blooded, like all reptiles, alligator lizards enjoy absorbing the day's solar heat as it radiates from the earth.

 

 

 

This species is plagued by ticks. In this close up photograph, the gray body of a blood-engorged tick can be seen near this lizard's ear hole.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 26, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

tarantula photo

Late in the afternoon while returning along the access road to Longwall Canyon Trail, I came upon three tarantulas. They hung about on the road and were still in the same general area when I returned 20 minutes later. I tried to get close enough to get a photo of the critter looking back at me, but their eyes are very small, close together and somewhat high on their body. AND they sometimes suddenly leap at you when annoyed!

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 22, 2009
Submitted by: Edward Rooks

frog photo

There are a series of fairly large and deep pools under the oaks and other trees along Baldy Ryan Creek where foothill yellow-legged frogs hang out. They leap into the water as you approach the creek. My nephew Nicholas (10 years old) had a ball helping me look for the frogs.

Note: The foothill yellow-legged frog is listed as a species of concern by the California Department of Fish & Game. It's a smallish frog that spends most or all of its life close to water, preferring the gentle currents of shallow streams. It has disappeared from much of its former range within the state.

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 17, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

grass skipper photo

I spotted this fiery grass skipper investigating a tarweed in a small meadow along the Mayfair Ranch Trail. These butterflies are common on the preserve at this time of year. They're small and very active, quickly flitting from flower to flower as they sip nectar.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: August 4, 2009
Submitted by: Chris Monack, Volunteer Trail Patrol member

I was coming off the Mayfair Trail above the ground squirrel playground inside the Llagas Creek loop. I heard the squirrels barking from the top of the trail, and when I reached the road I found out why: two big ears in the distance. I zoomed at them with my camera and saw they were attached to the head of what appeared to be a small coyote. It got up and walked off into the creek area, but I got a couple of pictures before it did.

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: June 2, 2009
Submitted by: Dave Burnham

tortoise photo

I came across this tortoise in the early afternoon after descending a short distance down the Catamount Trail from the Bald Peaks Trail. It was slowly moving along in the short dry grass adjacent to the trail and wasn't particularly perturbed at my presence.

Note: Except for this individual, Rancho Cañada del Oro is not tortoise habitat. Several people have reported seeing this guy in the past few years but there is no population of tortoises on the preserve. It’s possible that someone released a pet or captive-bred animal.

Dropping off domestic animals in a wild setting is never a good idea. Besides the risk to the animal, an introduced species poses a threat to native populations through predation or disease. Tortoises are extremely long lived, more than 150 years in a few cases. This visitor may be with us for years to come.

 

Location: Coyote Ridge
Date: June 7, 2009
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

killdeer photo

I was doing weed control at Coyote Ridge when all of a sudden I was being attacked by a killdeer. Yes, attacked! She (I think it was a female) was charging me and going after my shins. Well, I immediately stopped working and she ran about twenty feet from me, lay on the ground and shook her wing, pretending to be injured.

Oh, I thought, so you have a nest near by. I searched the area and when she charged me again I knew I was getting close. Sure enough there they were – three small spotted little eggs about five feet from where I stopped spraying. Whew, close call. So I just packed up and moved my equipment so she could go back to her business.

killdeer photo

Note: Killdeers make their nests on the ground in open terrain. Their chicks are precocial, which means they hatch fully feathered and with their eyes open, like ducklings. They're off and running within a few minutes. This higher level of maturity at hatching requires a longer time in the egg.

For all these reasons the job of killdeer parents is intensive. The birds have evolved a famous "broken-wing" display to lure predators away from their young, as Dave experienced in his close encounter.

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: May 25, 2009
Submitted by: Scott Ellner

dandelions photo

My wife and I went hiking for the first time ever at Rancho Canada del Oro this past Monday morning. We took the Mayfair Ranch trail as far as the cattle gate, then turned around and came back. We were both most pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the place is. Sure it’s off the beaten path, but certainly well worth the drive to get there.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: May 16, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

celer crab spider

We were near the end of Saturday's Wings & Bling hike on Mayfair Ranch Trail and were strolling along the forest corridor parallel to the creek when someone asked, “Is that a snake?" Stopping dead in our tracks, we all scanned the trail ahead and sure enough, there was a snake. And what a spectacular snake it was! We crowded around to get a close look and to take photos. The snake appeared fully grown and was a little over 3 feet long. Coast mountain kingsnake sightings are very rare, it is often a once in a lifetime event. We were thrilled to discover this living jewel on the Rancho preserve.

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: May 5, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

celer crab spider

There's an entire hillside west of the tin barn on Longwall Canyon Trail filled with arroyo and chick lupines in bloom. While photographing a stalk of chick lupine, I noticed a colorful celer crab spider perched at the tip with the remains of another spider firmly in its grasp.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: May 5, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

Acmon blue butterfly

Butterflies like the tiny Acmon blue sip nectar from a variety of sources, including non-native plant species like the smooth hawk's beard. Look for this butterfly from spring to fall as each pair will produce 2 to 3 broods annually. Males often group near water to sip moisture from wet mud. This one was sighted along the road just below the tin storage barn in Longwall Canyon.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: May 5, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

western fence lizard
I spotted this western fence lizard basking in the sun just below the tin barn on Longwall Canyon Trail. Notice the dark blue band of color on its underside? This feature earned this lizard the common name "blue belly."

 

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: April 26, 2009
Submitted by: Paul Billig

assassin bug & bee
I took this picture of two insects battling it out inside a morning glory during my hike on the Longwall Canyon Trail. At first I thought the large one was a spider, but close examination showed it was an insect. With the help of Woody Collins and BugGuide.net we identified it as an assassin bug. Coincidentally, my Bay Nature magazine named the "green fly": It’s actually a native bee, Agapostemon texanus, or ultra-green bee.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: April 12, 2009
Submitted by: Jayesh Patel

snake  photo

The warm sun of spring draws snakes out, just as it encourages people to enjoy the outdoors. This snake was sighted on the Bald Peaks Trail. All snakes on the preserve are protected, including rattlesnakes. For some tips on hiking in snake habitat click here.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: April 4, 2009
Submitted by: Bryan Murahashi

painted lady photo

One of many painted lady butterflies currently migrating through the Santa Clara Valley. Here it is feeding on the many blue dicks blossoming along the Longwall Canyon Trail.

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 19, 2009
Submitted by: Teri Rogoway, OSA Coordinator of Interpretive Programs

ground squirrel photo
I was walking the loop at Rancho when I felt like I was being watched. I looked over and saw this guy, a California ground squirrel, showing me his best side. Ground squirrels spend most of their time in burrows. You can tell the difference between their home and a gopher’s because squirrels are messy neighbors. Unlike a gopher who closes his front door with a neat little pile of fresh soil, ground squirrels toss their soil far and wide leaving what looks like an explosion leading to their front or back door.

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 11, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

bobcat photo
Returning to the car at around 4 p.m., I saw a bobcat hunkered down in the grassy meadow just past the large California buckeye tree and wood-stake fence as you near the Longwall Canyon Trail entrance gate. By the time I got the lens and tripod ready, it took one look at me. bolted up the hill and disappeared.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: March 11, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

butterfly photo
I decided to explore the area opposite the Rancho parking lot. I often find butterflies in the meadow and near the bridge over the creek. The sara orange tip butterfly is slightly smaller, more brilliant white than the varieties of whites we see. It's extremely flighty. I saw a female Sara orange tip flitting from one nodding fiddleneck to another. The second I saw it I started blasting away trying to get photos.

 

 

 

Location: Coyote Ridge
Date: February 21, 2009
Submitted by: Teri Rogoway, OSA Coordinator of Interpretive Programs

Bay Checkerspot larvae

I was taking some docents on a training hike for the upcoming Coyote Spring programs. We were walking down from the last mine site when a researcher appeared over the edge of the hillside. She told us she was looking for bay checkerspot butterfly larvae and had only found one so far. We thought, gee, we probably wouldn't see any then, but we'd only gone a few steps when she stopped and said "There's one!" It was curled right in the middle of the trail around a dwarf plantain plant. It was small enough to fit inside a water bottle cap, all fuzzy and black and orange. We were thrilled to see it! We were also very careful for the rest of the hike, hoping to see more.

 

Location: Sierra Vista
Date: February 16, 2009
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

tule elk herd

This salamander was under a piece of corrugated roofing that had been stacked on our property at Sierra Vista. The California tiger salamander is federally listed as a threatened species.

To learn more about tiger salamanders click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: February 10, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

bobcat closeup

In a meadow near the picnic table on the Mayfair Ranch Trail, saw a bobcat stalking something hidden in the grass. Meadows are "target rich" environments for predators due to the host of small rodents who make their homes there. Bobcats are patient hunters and will sit motionless over a gopher hole for great lengths of time intending to surprise and catch the gopher. The bobcat and I stared steadily at each other for several minutes before it abandoned its hunt and retreated into the forest.

 

 

 

 

Location: Coyote Ridge
Date: February 3, 2009
Submitted by: David Tharp, OSA Open Space Technician

tule elk herd

A herd of tule elk roams the grasslands of Coyote Ridge. This sighting was in the area near the landfill. I was working up there; the lands aren’t open to general public use.

To learn more about tule elk click here.

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Opne Space Preserve
Date: January 14, 2009
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

Mother fox and kit

During the week of warm weather I observed scores of common buckeye butterflies. Singly and in massed groups, these butterflies were everywhere along both Mayfair and Longwall Canyon Trails. Their coloration blends wonderfully with their surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

Location: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Date: July 3, 2008
Submitted by: Cait Hutnik

Mother fox and kit
Encountered a California gray fox and her kit near the Mayfair Ranch and Longwall Canyon trail junction. Normally nocturnal, it's unusual to see gray foxes abroad in daylight.