This is a poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) bomb.
To become delightful happiness
There are little bombs like this littering the fire-cut on the Northern part of the site where I am working.
must be tainted with poison
I’m working there because I’ve seen and heard a large number of quail in that area and I want to know who they are and if they are spending time in the more southern portion of the site where most of my banded birds are.
I like being there because it is beautiful and there are a lot of quail. I dislike being there because there are poison oak bombs that are presumably related to the walls of poison oak that border the cut.
Inside this wall of urushiol are a group of quail. They are pipping and quietly rally–calling. When I catch the quail that have been inside this plant they will transfer the urushiol to my hands and if I do not wash carefully with Tecnu I will break out in lesions that will remain on me, itching enough to drive me out of my mind, for at least two weeks.
Yet there was a Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) and below is a photo of a path taken by quail lit by the sun.
Their tracks, the tracks of baby and adult quail, as well as the tracks of a greater roadrunner Geococcyx californianus follow the trail up the hill. I followed it as well but their tracks were lost somewhere at the top. Doubtlessly they plunged into the brush where I could only follow if I had a machate or at least a knife, and were willing to cut down the brush to allow passage. I have neither, nor have I the willingness to destroy the cover, so the birds and other creatures may pass through a labyrinth of branches and trunks–I’ll not know where they go. The closest I’ll come is by triangulating off, using receivers in two locations, the signal emitted from the radiotransmitters I neither have nor can afford currently.
Even if I could track them this way I’d not have the resolution to know exactly which path they took through the brush. I don’t mind entirely. It is a reminder that they have lives and a relationship to the land utterly separate from me, my perception of them and my sense of my own place in the world.