Ranger-naturalists have been interpreting the natural and cultural resources of Yosemite for park visitors for nearly a century. In this blog, some of Yosemite's park rangers share recent observations from around Yosemite.
All posts are shown below, or you can view posts by topic.
November 19, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Long ago, some believed the stereotypical rugged, resourceful, and individualistic American was created by challenging and pushing back against the wilds of the western frontier. Despite cultural connections dating back to the “Old World,” bears at first were not spared from extermination.
November 05, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
As a park ranger I am often asked by visitors from around the world what species of bear currently lives in Yosemite. People are often surprised when I tell them that only the American black bear lives here now. I am quick to point out to visitors that Yosemite was indeed once also home to the brown bear, which was often called the California grizzly.
October 29, 2014Posted by: PB - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
The opportunity to view wildlife, in particular, charismatic megafauna is one of the key attractions that draw hundreds of millions of visitors to national parks across the United States each year. At Yosemite, arguably the most iconic and charismatic of all wildlife present is the American black bears. People want to experience something truly wild here, something apart from our highly structured and ordered, some might say overly-civilized, and increasingly urbanized world.
October 08, 2014Posted by: KF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
When we think of a bird, some blanket characteristics come to mind: seasonal migration, flashy male plumage and less-noticeable female plumage, a semi-circular nest made of grass and sticks and feathers, and cute, downy nestlings. The belted kingfisher in Yosemite National Park defies all of these stereotypes in unique ways.
October 07, 2014Posted by: CF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Despite its hearty stature, large stands of lodgepole pine can be found bleached of their color and stripped of their bark, in what are known as “ghost forests.” During the 1950s some 46,000 acres of lodgepole in Yosemite had effectively been defoliated and transformed into a ghost forest. So, how did some of the sturdiest high elevation trees die off in such large numbers?
September 18, 2014Posted by: KO - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
I could feel the trail dust tickling the hairs of my nose as I trudged along obediently behind my friend and fellow ranger, my pack feeling heavier by the minute. Even up in the high country of Yosemite the lack of moisture in late summer and fall is palpable.
September 04, 2014Posted by: JW - Park Ranger (Wawona)
The grand features of Yosemite National Park have a magnetism that draws not only individuals, but entire generations of people back time and time again to bask in its rich splendor. Yet, a lifetime of our own visits only represents a brief heartbeat in the constantly changing existence of this dynamic landscape.
August 29, 2014Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (White Wolf)
Ah, common names—so wonderfully descriptive, poetic, and unwavering. Wish the same could be said about scientific names. Naming mushrooms, molds, rusts, smuts, and other fungi have always been a systematicist’s (scientists who name and categorize new species) nightmare.
August 27, 2014Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (Wawona)
The manzanita is a dramatic looking shrub that brings a splash of color to its surroundings. The twisting bright red wood of the manzanita’s trunk beautifully contrasts with its light green gray leaves. Because of its environment the manzanita has adapted to both drought and fire.
August 25, 2014Posted by: JJ - Park Ranger (Wawona)
Among the mightiest and noblest of Yosemite’s trees are the giant sequoias. The “real” story of the trees is not the tree itself; but rather, it’s the story of natural processes that help maintain a healthy giant sequoia forest.
August 07, 2014Posted by: SC - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
As the sun lowers in the sky, shadows stretch out across Yosemite and the bright blue overhead is highlighted by streaks of orange and pink. Finally, the temperature begins to dip. As half of the world gets ready for bed, the other half of our living creatures begin to wake up. Winged predators take to flight. Bats!
July 28, 2014Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)
While most of us are still asleep at 5 AM, Yosemite’s bird researchers are already hanging mist nets and sipping coffee as their day begins. The sun rises as the birds sing their morning chorus, and soon the banding station is busy with the processing of information on the netted birds. This posting is a summary of the birds captured June 20 through July 15, 2014.
July 21, 2014Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)
A wide diversity of bird calls ring loud and clear every morning and there is a constant hubbub of birds flying by, delivering food to mates and hungry chicks. The bird researchers with the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) project are already midway through their summer season. There is much to be learned from the birds, and Yosemite’s avian monitoring projects are hugely important.
July 16, 2014Posted by: ET - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat)
The male Lawrence’s goldfinch dazzles with its shiny black face, gray back, and bright yellow chest, especially if your view is from just three feet away. I am in Hodgdon Meadow on June 12, 2014 with the bird researchers who are in charge of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS)....
June 15, 2014Posted by: KG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
If you’ve been to Yosemite, you’ve almost certainly seen them. Some visitors might identify them at first glance, while others may just settle in for the moment to watch “that blue bird with the triangle head” as it forages for acorns or (unfortunately) scours populated areas for crumbs.
February 26, 2014Posted by: BW - Park Ranger (White Wolf/Big Oak Flat/Yosemite Valley)
At the lowest elevations of Yosemite National Park, there is an amphibian that is making quite a scene. Sierra newts (Taricha sierrae), formerly a subspecies of the California newt, are beginning their breeding season. Like all amphibians, this newt requires water to reproduce and the males returned to their breeding pools earlier this winter.
September 19, 2013Posted by: BH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Wildfire: friend or foe? Within the Sierra Nevada, fire has been an integral part of the ecosystem for thousands of years. During that time the flora and fauna have adapted to a Mediterranean style climate of hot and dry summers allowing for a vastness of fire tolerant plants to adapt to that natural cycle. A unique plant that has a rich and distinctive life cycle within this unique ecosystem is buckbrush Ceanothus.
September 07, 2013Posted by: CF - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Yosemite is home to many things. Our most recognizable features are towering granite walls and waterfalls, but if you take a closer look you just might be lucky enough to see some of the tiny creatures that dwell in and around them. One such creature is the Pacific tree frog.
September 05, 2013Posted by: TA - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Every year millions of people come from around the world to witness the spectacular mountain scenery of Yosemite National Park and to catch a glimpse of a wild animal. During my time as a ranger, I have found that most people are here to see one elusive animal in particular: a bear! But I will let you in on a little secret. There is an animal in Yosemite that has an even more magnetic personality than a bear and an absolutely unmatched sense of courage in the face of danger. And I can almost guarantee that anyone who has visited Yosemite has seen this little guy...
September 05, 2013Posted by: SC - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Collecting is an art. Some of us take pleasure in matching the dish towels to the throw pillows or the tea kettle to the living room rug, while others are transfixed by the newest and most exciting gadget on the market. A glimpse at our homes may provide insight into the fashion, technology, and stories of our time, while a historic home might feature up-and-coming trends from 1864. But, a close look at the home of a packrat can give us a glimpse at life 50,000 years ago! Packrats, also known as woodrats, are professional collectors.
August 04, 2013Posted by: SS - Park Ranger (Wawona)
As I lace up my running shoes, the early morning air is crisp and clean with an aroma of pine and wet grass; it is the beginning of my day unfolding. The Wawona Meadow Loop is a 3.5-mile dirt road that encompasses one of few lower montane Sierra Nevada meadows: terrain gently rolling through ponderosa pine, incense-cedar, and California black oak woodland. Mountain dogwoods tightly crowd and overhang the path along one section I have dubbed “Dogwood Alley.” The dramatic blossoms in spring and the peach and rose-hued leaves in autumn lure me back to run this particular scenic loop regularly. Even in winter, the thin snow crunches underfoot and utter silence offers a cold meditative run for me in the low angle light of solstice.
August 04, 2013Posted by: KP - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley
It is that time of year again! Yosemite Valley meadows are in bloom and the showy milkweed plants are living up to their names. The showy milkweed, native to western North America, is both a home to the milkweed beetle and a vacation layover for the monarch butterfly.
August 04, 2013Posted by: JL - Park Ranger (Wawona)
"He is, without exception, the wildest animal I ever saw, --a fiery, sputtering little bolt of life." Imagine for a moment, if we had opportunity to spend the day with John Muir as our mountain guide. As Muir leads us into the upper montane forest, he excitedly speaks of searching out the “wildest animal I ever saw.” Would you be delighted or disappointed to discover that this creature is less than a foot in length and weighs just a few ounces?
August 03, 2013Posted by: LO - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
This summer has brought some hot days. To cope with the heat, animals may try to avoid it. By being crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) or spending time in the river or shade, animals can stay cool as the temperature soars. But, on those searing days, you may notice what seems to be unusual animal behavior.
July 26, 2013Posted by: JR - MAPS Avian Technician
It's been a hot, busy summer so far during this year's field season of bird banding in Yosemite. Banding occurs at six stations clustered on the west slope of Yosemite, which are each operated once every ten days as part of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. Data are collected at over 300 MAPS stations across the U.S. and Canada every summer between May and August, and scientists and land managers use these data to look at demographic trends in songbird populations both locally and continent-wide.
July 19, 2013Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Eating lunch at Taft Point (a lovely overlook reached by a trail leaving from Glacier Point Road), my favorite bird paid me a visit. A large, black bird with an inquisitive nature, the common raven is a frequent visitor to campgrounds, picnic areas, and picturesque overlooks. While the raven kept an eye on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I caught the raven's eye on film.
July 19, 2013Posted by: JW - Park Ranger (Big Oak Flat Entrance Station Ranger)
A common trail companion and "square one" for a Sierra wildflower lesson, lupine is easy to find and easy on the eyes. It has multiple flowers of bluish purple and the two most common types found in Yosemite either grow close to the ground or as a small bush. This group of flowers is in the genus lupinus and the legume family. They can be referred to as lupine, lupin, or even bluebonnets (if you're in Texas). Like a movie star on the Riviera, give lupine a sandy spot with plenty of sun and they're as happy as can be.
July 06, 2013Posted by: AH - Park Ranger (White Wolf)
A walk to Lukens Lake from White Wolf these days presents you with a panorama of colors that only deepen with your continued observation. Don’t be distracted by the meadows bubbling with Jeffrey’s Shooting Stars leaning and bending in every direction or the towering Mountain Bluebells overtaking certain sections of the trail. Take a closer look on your hands and knees at the 4 different species (and colors) of little violets blooming or the herds of pink elephants (Elephant’s Head) gathering higher up above the ground in a few special places. Don’t miss the Green Rein Orchids as you bound along the trail towards the glowing Sierra Butterweed.
June 25, 2013Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
I was exploring Yosemite's mountain forests at about 5,000 feet elevation recently, when I found my favorite patch of lady slipper orchids still in bloom. I say "favorite patch" because the first time I ever saw such lovely and unusual flowers was here in this gorgeous little swale. It was love at first sight and a turning point in my life. I was so taken by them that I decided to study botany in college.
The Wawona Meadow has played many different roles throughout its history: a home to wildlife, a food preparation area for American Indians, a hotspot of biological diversity, and more recently, a pasture, a golf course, and an airstrip! Like all Sierra Nevada meadows, our meadow here in Wawona is important habitat for plant and animal communities, including some of Yosemite’s rarest birds. It also serves as a natural floodwater reservoir and filtration system.
June 10, 2013Posted by: EH - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)
Hiking along a trail in the White Wolf area, to my surprise I saw an orange peel on the forest floor! Did someone litter? No, it wasn’t the discarded shell from a delicious fruit we know well, but a cup-shaped fungus growing upward from the ground.
June 07, 2013Posted by: BW & AH - Park Rangers (White Wolf)
Hetch Hetchy is a wonderful place to experience wildflowers early in Yosemite’s summer season. At about 3,800 feet, it is lower in elevation than many other parts of the park–so it’s also one of the first places that flowers bloom in Yosemite. Here is a small sampling of flowers recently seen blooming along the 2.5-mile trail to Wapama Falls.
April 23, 2013Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison
Dangerous snake? It sure is... if you are a lizard, nestling bird, or small mammal. If you are a human being, it is mostly harmless. The Sierra mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata multicincta), with its rings of white, orange, and black, has to be the most spectacularly colored snake in Yosemite. Some call it the coral kingsnake because of its somewhat similar appearance to the venomous coral snake. Fortunately for Yosemite visitors, the nearest wild coral snake lives in Arizona.
April 09, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Observant visitors to Mirror Lake over the past month may have noticed evidence of beaver (Castor canadensis) activity. Several cottonwood trees around the main reflection pool are showing the toothmarks of gnawing by beavers.
March 15, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Spring in the mountains is a funny thing. Like a wave slowly washing over the Sierra Nevada, spring will crash first onto the foothills and then, following the warmer temperatures, work its way up to the highest peaks in a spray of late summer wildflowers.
February 15, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
The recent warmer temperatures have melted much of the snow in Yosemite Valley, revealing damp ground underneath. One of the things that was uncovered was the fruit of the California buckeye (Aesculus californica), which had fallen to the ground at the end of summer.
January 14, 2013Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
One of eleven bird species in the woodpecker family that can be found here, many acorn woodpeckers make a home at the lower elevations of Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite Valley, this is one of the most apparent birds, often making quite a ruckus with loud nasal squawks that could resemble maniacal laughter. Seek out oak woodlands to find these year-round residents.
December 20, 2012Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
Now that the California black oaks in Yosemite Valley have dropped most of their leaves, something strange has been revealed among the branches. Even though it is winter, big green leafy clumps of mistletoe are still growing up there.
December 18, 2012Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter
2012 Christmas Bird Count
Last Sunday over 40 enthusiastic birders braved the cold temperatures to participate in the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count. This nationwide event is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and features local groups identifying and counting every bird they see in a given area for one day.