Shane Brown is a lifelong naturalist and the caretaker at Big Oak Canyon, Earthroots 39-acre property in Silverado, California. This blog is a highlight reel of his experiences at Big Oak Canyon.

Join Shane for a 2-hour casual wander observing the flora and fauna of Big Oak Canyon on second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.
*See schedule for dates and times
Second Tuesdays of the month will be focused on plants, and fourth Tuesdays will be focused on birds and animal tracks and sign.

Big Oak Canyon Highlights

Here’s a peek at what some of the animals and plants at Big Oak Canyon are up to this summer.

Cactus bug (Narnia femorata) on a prickly pear pad
Spider wasp digging a hole in preparation to bury her prey
Acorn woodpecker removing a green acorn from a coast live oak. They have been doing this all month long, usually dropping the acorn to the ground.
Robber fly (Mallophora fautrix) hanging out on the road
Robber fly (Stenopogon californiae) consuming its yellow-jacket prey in the kitchen
Fence lizard hanging out on my foot
Mantisfly (Plega signata
Pacific-slope flycatcher feeding her young
Track of a mountain lion kitten (going towards the top of the page), and a bobcat track in the top left corner (going towards the bottom of the page). I was lucky enough to find and follow the tracks of three mountain lions who passed by the kitchen, through the orchard, and through the chaparral along the slope east of the orchard. From the size, I guess that a mother was traveling with 2 kittens who were 6-8 months old.
Islay, or holly-leaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), the answer to one of last month’s trivia questions. I am eating the ripe fruit, and saving their pits to plant and to teach people how to cook them into a yummy porridge.
Sweetbush (Bebbia juncea) and California Buckwheat offer some late summer color.
Fleabane (Erigeron foliosus
Elderberry and apple juice from the land has been a refreshing late-summer treat.

Projects and Discoveries

Soka University students came out to volunteer and had a great time chopping up cactus and other plants to build a hot compost pile, making our own potting soil, potting up tree seedlings, and clearing ivy.
Raz and I peeled some poles and made progress building a kiosk to go at the central road junction at Big Oak.
I found that one of the springs at Big Oak has a man-made cave that goes about 20 feet back, and has some cool and colorful mud for camouflage!

Trivia Questions

Answers from last month:
What animal at Big Oak makes wide and flat burrows that go into the earth at a shallow angle?
Scorpions make flat burrows that we see at Big Oak.
What planet is right above Scorpio in the evening sky right now?
Jupiter can be seen right above the constellation Scorpio in the current evening sky.
What wild plant with sweet, edible fruits and nuts will be ripening at Big Oak in the month of August?
Islay, or holly-leaf cherry has ripened in August.
How are rattlesnakes different from other snakes in the way they reproduce?
Rattlesnakes give birth to live young as opposed to most snakes, which lay eggs.

For this month:

What animal’s skull is pictured above?

What two basic categories of things are needed to build a compost pile?

How does a robber fly digest its prey?

What animal species was extirpated from Orange County 111 years ago?

What does tannic acid, used for tanning animal skins, come from?

All of these questions will be answered in the next Big Oak Canyon highlight blog by our caretaker, Shane Brown.

Blog post was written by Shane Brown.
Shane is the caretaker of Earthroots’ Big Oak Canyon property. He also teaches the Spanish Immersion in Nature and Ancestral Arts programs. He occasionally helps with other Earthroots classes and leads volunteer days at Big Oak Canyon.

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