Yosemite Ranger Notes

About This Blog

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.

If All Goes Well, There Will Be No Swimming

February 06, 2016 Posted by: CJ - Creative Media Assistant (Yosemite Valley)

Like in summer, there are bodies of water to cross when travelling in the wintry Yosemite Wilderness. But winter has that extra bag of tricks: it’s cold. For some, the coldness itself may not be much of an obstacle to overcome, but winter changes to a landscape can test anyone’s abilities and common sense. Instead of fording a creek, one is forced to walk over ice. If all goes well, there will be no swimming.


Peregrine Falcons

March 09, 2015 Posted by: JG - Entrance Station Ranger (Arch Rock)

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth. Soaring hundreds of feet in the sky, the peregrine falcon uses its keen eyesight to spot smaller birds, such as waterfowl, doves, and song birds. With its prey in sight, the peregrine falcon will fold its wings back, and dive towards its target. Reaching speeds of over 200 MPH, faster than a NASCAR racer, the peregrine falcon snatches its prey out of mid-air.


Bear Series, Part Four: “Bear-Men” of the American Frontier

November 19, 2014 Posted 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.


Bear Series, Part Two: Bears of Our Forests and Our Imaginations

October 29, 2014 Posted 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.


An Uncharacteristic Aerial Fisherman

October 08, 2014 Posted 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.


Bear Series, Part One: A Bear's Sense of Smell

October 01, 2014 Posted by: JG - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

When you visit Yosemite National Park, you are likely being smelled by at least one of Yosemite’s black bears.


A Bird with a Plume

September 25, 2014 Posted by: TA - Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

Woooooot! Hike after hike I would hear this mysterious noise and puzzle over its source....


The River Changelings: Monitoring of Benthic Macroinvertebrates in the Tuolumne River

September 20, 2014 Posted by: AH - Park Ranger (White Wolf)

On June 6, 2014, a small group of Yosemite Ranger Naturalists set out to find some elusive creatures…with nets and water shoes.


A Difficult Journey

September 18, 2014 Posted 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.


Pocket Gophers to the Rescue

September 15, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (White Wolf, Hetch Hetchy, Hodgdon Meadow)

Yes, pocket gophers are here to help restore the meadow after a fire!


Danger in the Beauty Above

September 12, 2014 Posted by: LH -Park Ranger (Yosemite Valley)

In Yosemite Valley, the California black oaks are one of the beautiful tree species we enjoy; unfortunately that beauty comes with inherent dangers.


A Perspective on Time at Yosemite

September 04, 2014 Posted 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, 2014 Posted 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.


"Little Apple"

August 27, 2014 Posted 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.


Seeing a Giant Sequoia in its Forest

August 25, 2014 Posted 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.


Summer Vacation for the Sierra Tree Frog

August 16, 2014 Posted by: PU - Park Ranger (Hodgdon Meadow)

How does a Sierra tree frog (Pseudacris sierra) keep from drying out at mid-summer Hetch Hetchy when temperatures can reach the triple digits and humidity can dip below 20%? Go deep.


Nighttime's Tiny Fighter Jets.....Bats!

August 07, 2014 Posted 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!


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 3: A Bird in the Hand

July 28, 2014 Posted 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.


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 2

July 21, 2014 Posted 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.


Monitoring Birds in the Park, Part 1

July 16, 2014 Posted 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)....


Incredibly Steller… Jays

June 15, 2014 Posted 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.


Newts Wrestling

February 26, 2014 Posted 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.


Wildfire: Friend or Foe?

September 19, 2013 Posted 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.


Pacific Tree Frog: Pseudacris rigilla

September 07, 2013 Posted 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.


Oooh, Shiny!

September 05, 2013 Posted 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.


Back Off! Rodents of Unusual Size and Courage

September 05, 2013 Posted 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...


The Wildest Creature that John Muir Ever Saw

August 04, 2013 Posted 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?


Meadows of Milkweed

August 04, 2013 Posted 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.


Run With a Ranger on the Wawona Meadow Loop

August 04, 2013 Posted 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.


Staying Cool During the Heat of Summer

August 03, 2013 Posted 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.


Bird Banding Bonanza!

July 26, 2013 Posted 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.


A Wolf in Flower’s Clothing

July 19, 2013 Posted 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 ple


Blink of an Eye

July 19, 2013 Posted 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.


Steller's Jay Coloration

July 01, 2013 Posted by: BR - Park Ranger/Resources Management & Science Liaison

The Steller’s jay is one of the more common birds Yosemite visitors see. It has beautiful blue feathers that aren’t blue at all--that is, they have no blue pigment in them.


Lady Slipper Orchids

June 25, 2013 Posted 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.


Wawona Meadow

June 21, 2013 Posted by: KL- Park Ranger (Wawona)

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.


Orange Peels in the Forest?

June 10, 2013 Posted 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.


Hetch Hetchy Wildflowers: Species List

June 07, 2013 Posted 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.


Sierra Mountain Kingsnake

April 23, 2013 Posted 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


Busy Beaver at Mirror Lake

April 09, 2013 Posted 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.


Spring has Sprung Somewhere

March 15, 2013 Posted 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.


Winter Wind Valentine

February 15, 2013 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Some travelers to Yosemite this winter may be surprised to find something besides snow in the air.  Pollen from the incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is flying far and wide this February.


The Buckeyes are Looking for Spring

February 15, 2013 Posted 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.


Acorn Woodpecker

January 14, 2013 Posted 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.


Winter Solstice

December 21, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

With just over nine and a half hours of daylight here at Yosemite National Park, today is the shortest day of the year.  This day also marks the lowest point the sun will reach in our daytime sky.


2012 Christmas Bird Count

December 18, 2012 Posted 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.


Leafy Mistletoe

December 20, 2012 Posted 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 16, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

The fresh layer of snow in the Valley has brought out the coyotes.  Several have been spotted over the past few days, roving around in search of food.


Rain Beetles

December 01, 2012 Posted by: EW - Park Ranger

These beetles have literally been waiting their entire lives for this moment, this one moment…


Birding in Cook’s Meadow

November 26, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

Even though our neo-tropical migrants have flown south for the winter, Yosemite is still a great place to go birding.



November 13, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

This large bobcat, which has been regularly sighted around the Valley in the past month, was spotted behind the Rangers’ Club intently stalking some small prey item.


Showy Milkweed

November 12, 2012 Posted by: BW - Volunteer Interpreter

The most common milkweed plant in Yosemite Valley is putting on its last show of the season.


Last updated: March 27, 2021

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