Winter colors: San Francisco Bay area

From time to time I have been assembling some images that I find interesting and that are related to seasons.  Recently I published a post about winter colors in the Lake Tahoe Area, and this post is about winter colors in the San Francisco Bay Area.  After four very dry winters, the winter of 2015-16 has brought normal or near-normal rainfall to the Bay Area and more widely to other parts of the state, and it has certainly been enjoyable to see green hills as they are “supposed” to look at this time of year.

I took these photos while out on walks and/or hikes in the months of January and February in years 2013 to 2016.

Although winters in the Bay Area are considered mild, there are typically several overnight frosts each year, especially in valleys that are a bit inland from the Pacific Ocean.  During the frost watches, many residents place coverings over sensitive vegetation that would be harmed by frost.  Here is an example of a sheet draped over a lemon bush; citrus plants famously do not tolerate frost well.  It is notable that our local frost only occurs overnight, and temperatures quickly warm up to above freezing shortly after sunrise.

image of a sheet protecting a lemon bush from overnight frost

A sheet protects a lemon bush from overnight frost

On a mid-January walk in the North Bay I noticed Christmas decorations still in place.  It was a bit amusing to see Santa on the rooftop with his sleigh!

image of rooftop Santa with his sleigh in mid-January

Rooftop Santa with his sleigh in mid-January

During the same walk I found some pretty roses: yes, roses blooming in January.  I think they are the last of the previous year, since it is typical for gardeners to prune their roses in early February.  I grew up on the East Coast with roses in the landscaping and, even after living in California for more than 30 years, I get a thrill seeing roses bloom during the winter.

image of roses blooming in January

Roses blooming in January

In another yard there was a beautiful succulent plant accompanied by pansies.  Pansies are another flower I associate with spring, and consequently I especially enjoy seeing them early in the season: this is another picture taken in mid-January.

image of succulent with pansies

Succulent with pansies

Flowering trees begin to bloom in February or even in late January.  One of the earliest is magnolia, which is easy to find since it is a common street tree in many communities around the Bay Area.  Most of the magnolia trees have pink blossoms, like this one, but some have white blossoms.

image of beautiful pink magnolia blossom

Beautiful pink magnolia blossom

In one neighborhood, as I walked past one of the houses, I was checked out by a black cat sitting under a large tree.

image of black cat checking me out as I walked by

Black cat checking me out as I walked by

In another yard I noticed a colorful pinwheel, with three wheels that could spin in a breeze.

image of colorful pinwheel

Colorful pinwheel

Although I typically hike more frequently in the spring, summer, and fall than in the winter, it is generally feasible to hike all year round in the Bay Area.  The only typical weather-related hazard, besides rainy weather itself, is muddy trails following multiple rain storms.  One January I went for a hike in Diablo Foothills Regional Park, on the flanks of Mt Diablo.  The green hills seemed especially glorious in January 2015, the fourth year of a serious drought, following a few weeks of much needed rains.  It’s clearly winter time in the picture, since the trees are not yet budding new leaves.

image of green hill in Diablo Foothills Regional Park

Green hill in Diablo Foothills Regional Park

Many Bay Area families and communities celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls on the new moon that occurs between 21 January and 20 February.  A number of traditions are observed at this time, and colorful house decorations appear outside some houses.

image of Lunar New Year decorations

Lunar New Year decorations

In my neighborhood there is a torii, which is a traditional Japanese gate typically found within, or at the entrance of, a Shinto shrine.  Obviously, this torii is present all year round, but I enjoyed photographing it with a nearby flowering tree around the time of the Lunar New Year.

image of torii in a Bay Area neighborhood

Torii in a Bay Area neighborhood

From time to time I walk the entire length of Stevens Creek Trail to Shoreline at Mountain View, more familiarly known as Shoreline Park.  When I start from my front door, the round trip distance is 10.4 miles – unless I add loop-backs to increase the distance.  It is one of my favorite walks.  On one particular occasion I carried my camera and stopped numerous times to take pictures.  I also took a short side trip off Stevens Creek Trail toward the heart of Shoreline.  I was particularly interested in this hillside carpeted in orange flowers.  Although a similar color to California poppies, the flowers were something else, so far unidentified.

image of flower-carpeted hill in Shoreline at Mountain View (more familiarly, Shoreline Park)

Flower-carpeted hill in Shoreline at Mountain View (more familiarly, Shoreline Park)

While walking Stevens Creek Trail that day, I saw a few birds of note.  First, heard before seen, was an Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna); its call is said to be reminiscent of a squeaky gate, and the first time you hear one you will recognize it.  The hummer sat on a branch for a few minutes, looking around and intermittently calling, before I continued walking and scared it away.  (It was on the same branch when I returned, walking the other direction.)  The feathers on its back gleamed in the sunlight, but I couldn’t see the throat to see whether or not it was a male, with a characteristic bright red throat.

image of Anna’s hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbird

In the grassy area near the orange flower-covered hill I saw a small group of killdeer (Charadrius vociferous), which kindly stayed relatively still long enough for me to take a few pictures.  Normally killdeer spend a lot of time running around the ground wherever they happen to be feeding.

image of group of killdeer near the Stevens Creek Trail

Group of killdeer near the Stevens Creek Trail

I also saw a black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) feeding – and nicely reflected – in shallow water.

image of black-necked stilt

Black-necked stilt

While walking in a neighborhood near my house I saw a tree, or large shrub, with distinctive yellow flower clusters: a mimosa (Acacia dealbata), also known as blue wattle or silver wattle.  At first I didn’t know its identification, but once I found that information, I seemed to see them all over.  It think they are quite pretty.

image of beautiful mimosa blossoms

Beautiful mimosa blossoms

The first Sunday of February, 2016, was a special date in the Bay Area, as the city of Santa Clara hosted Super Bowl 50.  The day before the game the Blue Angels made several passes around the area practicing for their appearance at the game.  I was actually able to see them from my front yard.  Of course they were audible before they were visible, but they moved so fast that I was lucky to get a couple of pictures on their third pass, this one almost in focus!

image of Blue Angels practicing before Super Bowl 50

Blue Angels practicing before Super Bowl 50

For Super Bowl Sunday I opted to go on a group hike in San Francisco, covering most of the Bay Area Ridge Trail route through the city.  The weather was spectacular and clear for the hike.  Afterward, while taking a city bus back to the beginning of the hike around sunset, I realized that I was seeing a couple of specks on the horizon in the Pacific Ocean.  As the bus stopped for a traffic light, I quickly got out my camera for this picture.  To my surprise, the specks turned out to be the Farallon Islands!  Because they are about 35 miles off the coast, and because of the persistent fog bank that tends to park off-shore, they are not often visible from the mainland.  It was a real treat and the perfect ending for the hike.

image of Farallon Islands viewed from San Francisco

Farallon Islands viewed from San Francisco

I feel very fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where residents and visitors are able to enjoy walks, hikes, green vegetation (in non-drought years), and even flowers blooming during the winter months.  Each season has a different look, and I look forward to presenting photo collections for other seasons.

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One Response to Winter colors: San Francisco Bay area

  1. Pingback: Winter colors: Lake Tahoe area | trailhiker

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