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Horseshoe Lake
Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
Horseshoe Lake, a cool oasis high in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Near the shore, a large California Newt rises
to the surface for a quick gulp of air.
The trail loops around the lake, passes into
forest shade, then climbs a small hill.
Fence Lizards are a common sight along the trail to the lake.
Many different kinds of wildflowers edge the trail,
including this non-native camomile.
Winecup Clarkia can be seen blooming in several places.
Bright yellow Mariposa Lilies favor sunny hillsides (mid-May to mid-July).
Banks of Sticky Monkeyflower can be found
in sheltered areas (April through July).
Non-native Bird's Foot Lotus is common everywhere
along the trail, an important nectar source for insects.
Rock surfaces exposed to sun retain heat, creating
a comfortable spot for cold-blooded reptiles to rest.
In shaded areas, wildflowers like this Ocean Spray bloom (mid-July).
In the undergrowth beside the trail, the pink blush
of the California Wild Rose (June-July).
Along this same shaded avenue, Crimson Columbines
brighten the path (June-July).
Banks of Farewell-to-Spring Clarkia can be found blooming in sunny areas.
Skunkweed blooms June to September and edges the trail in drier areas.
This beautiful wildflower is Davy's Centaury.
Look for it as the trail climbs uphill.
And where there are wildflowers, there are butterflies feeding.
A Callippe Fritillary sips nectar from a buckeye flower (July).
A Mylitta Crescent perched on a camomile flower.
Newly emerged Chalcedon Checkerspot.
Its wings still crumpled from confinement in its cocoon
A tiny Western Tailed Blue butterfly sips nectar from a camomile flower.
An Acmon Blue turns around slowly as it feeds.
This Acmon Blue thinks there may still be
a little nectar left in this dried out Italian thistle.
A Common Ringlet feeds on camomile.
During a visit 14 July, clouds of tiny
Golden Hairstreaks danced along the trail's shaded avenues.
More than a hint of autumn in the air.
Showy butterflies like this California Sister
favor cool forests with water nearby.
Numerous dragonflies patrol Horseshoe Lake in search of food.
Although exquisitely beautiful, dragonflies
like this 8-Spotted Skimmer, are serious predators.
A female 8-Spotted Skimmer pauses at the water's edge.
Dragonflies prey on small insects as well as
on tiny mosquito fish, tadpoles and baby frogs.
A magnificent Flame Skimmer pauses briefly before resuming flight.
Gripping a dry stalk, a Cardinal Meadowhawk balances effortlessly.
Cardinals' vivid color, streamlined body aids in identification.
Nearby, a Blue Dasher adopts a similar pose.
Blue Dasher's are distinguished from Western Pondhawks
by their teal green-blue eyes and white faces.
Smaller, less active, this female Widow Skimmer
almost went unnoticed among the reeds.
Watch for her close to the base of weeds along the shore.
As green as the surrounding foliage, a female Western Meadowhawk.
A pair of Tule/Arroyo Bluet damselflies in congress.
Bench near the lake is an ideal spot for observing dragonflies.
From here, the trail passes through a quarter mile of shaded forest avenues.
Then emerges into sunlight as the trail climbs a small hill above the lake.
A variety of wildflowers can also be found along this stretch of trail.
A Fence Lizard suns itself beside the trail.
As summer wears on, wildflowers and butterflies will fade away.
Visit Horseshoe Lake soon.
Return to Top.
More dragonflies? Visit Roop Pond.