Saturday, July 23, 2016

Can't stay away...

Snakefly stuck in fresh spackle on my windowsill.  The "rest of the story" will be posted later.  It's a "living fossil."  How's that for an oxymoron?

Sunday evening, 7/24.  This dramatic-looking insect is superficially similar to Lacewings of the Order Neuroptera, but the latest consensus is that they are a more ancient group and are placed in the Order Raphidioptera.  When it is called a living fossil, like the Horseshoe Crab, or a plant called Horsetails, it means that today's extant forms closely resemble those in the fossil record from many thousands of years ago.  In the case of the Raphidioptera, that would be around 140 million years ago, well before the extinction of the dinosaurs - that is, the dinosaurs other than today's birds, which are dinosaurs.  Also, well before Noah's Ark, which most Ark-believers place at less than 10,000 years ago.  I wonder if any Snakeflies got on board that vessel

Just a few days after granting myself a sabbatical, due to lots of school work and installing new flooring and painting the interior of our home, the above Snakefly landed and got stuck in a freshly spackled windowsill in my office.  I just had to take some pictures and post one here.  I almost got further carried away when my son found a Hummingbird Moth trapped in the globe of one of our porch lights.  We took the time to free it, but no photos.  Needed to get back to aforementioned works in progress.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Producing Photo "Ops"

I'm beginning to think that the secret to finding scenes like this is to forget to bring my camera.  I've been walking by this spot in Boyle Ravine for ten years and have never before seen Washington Lilies.  Today, while walking our dogs up the Ravine, there were two fully-blooming Washington Lilies, each with a cluster of 6 blossoms, right at the edge of the trail.  I saw the stems and leaves a couple of weeks ago and assumed they were Leopard Lilies which I've seen here often.  But they bloomed over the weekend and are Lilium washingtonianum.  Fortunately (I can't believe I'm saying this!), my wife had her camera.  I have this Luddite resistance to taking photos with a phone, just like I initially resisted digital photography.  But film is essentially gone, and I am getting used to the advantages of digital.  Maybe some day I'll be taking photos with a phone, but so far I'm resisting even owning one.  Click on the photo for a closer view.  Extraordinary plant.

Friday, July 1, 2016

In pursuit of the Ctenucha moth

 On my way to areas that usually have lots of blooming Pennyroyal, I was dismayed to see how many of my favorite weed-viewing spots had been blitzed by the Road Department weed-eaters. I especially wanted to check on the status of the several species of Milkweeds that are still blooming.  When I got past Oakland Camp to an area near Gilson Creek, things started looking up.  While the Purple or Heartleaf Milkweed had already gone to seed, the Narrowleaf Milkweed was blooming in abundance and had many insect visitors.  The above photo is of a Checkered Clerid Beetle.  I got the shot as she was preparing for take-off.
 The first patch of Pennyroyal I came to had lots of bees and Pale Swallowtail Butterflies (above), but no Red-shouldered Ctenucha moths.  AT least none that were landed.  Some small black moths or butterflies were flitting around, but none landed long enough for me to get a close look.
 I should have been satisfied because the Swallowtails are actually a lot more colorful.  I suppose it is the relative rarity of the Ctenucha moths that makes them a top goal.
 Back to the Narrowleaf Milkweeds, I was hoping to find some Monarch caterpillars or crysallises, but had to settle for the Pentatomid bug (above), and a pair of Mating Clerids (below).
 Finally, on the Indian Hemp (also a milkweed), I found a Crab Spider.
 These last two butterflies were meant for a June post, but suddenly it's July!  These are two different species, but very similar-looking.  The first is Lorquin's Admiral (below), and the next is a
 California Sister.  The only obvious difference is the black margin around the orange wingtips, or the lack of it.
 Finally, another June shot, a blooming Checker Bloom.  Click on this one for an enlargement
and you will see the nice crop of aphids which I didn't notice until I viewed it on my 15" screen.
Even though I haven't yet got a good shot of a Ctenucha moth, it was a pretty good start for July photography.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Close, but ....

 ..., well, I didn't want a cigar anyway.  Less than a second before I pushed the shutter button for the above photo there was a Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moth resting on this Pennyroyal.  The first one I've seen in a few summers.  I was disappointed that I was not quite quick enough.  I'll be visiting this spot again.  Meanwhile, I tried to meet another challenge.  There were lots of bees around, so I
 thought I'd try to catch one hovering.  The above photo was the best I could do.  I did hang around long enough to get a few decent photos of bees that had landed.
 A few yards down the road there was a good-sized patch of Spreading Dogbane.  Some very large bees were visiting.  They were aware of my presence and spent most of their feeding time on the backsides of the flowers.  When they got carried away with feeding, they'd sometimes come to my side, and I managed to get one shot of a large bee with its wings spread.
 I'll be visiting this patch of dogbane again as it's a good place to find butterflies and crab spiders, and
on a good day, maybe crab spiders eating butterflies.
 I was about to leave this area only partially satisfied when along came one of the most spectacular-looking insects I've seen, the Thread-waisted Wasp.  Click on any of these photos for a closer view, but especially these last two.  It's an amazing insect that poses no threat to humans.  It's a pollen-eater.

A Little Ditch-digging

 I drive by the ditch (actually, a controlled creek-bed) in front of Safeway every day and think to myself "I've got to photograph those Hooker's Evening Primrose (above) before they're gone.  Finally, with a few unscheduled moments to spare, I stopped by and did a little "digging" for scenic situations down by the trickling water.  The ditch is heavily grown in with Cat-o-Nine-Tails, so I suspect the weed-eaters will come by soon and wipe out the botanical wonders.  With the thousands beginning to arrive for the High Sierra Music Fest, I'm surprised they haven't already done this bit of housekeeping.
 The Tansy are also abundant.  They are one of my favorite habitats for insects and spiders, but I didn't notice this spider until I enlarged the photo on my computer.
Down closer to the water and often hidden by the taller plants are the Seep-spring Monkeyflower (above) and lots of little blue Stickseed, that latter not photographed today.  Distracted by thoughts of a little side road near Quincy that has great crops of Pennyroyal and Spreading Dogbane.  I hope to get out there today for some photos.  This is another area that gets cleared by the weed-eaters, so I'd better not wait too long.  Maybe it's the current political situation, but, my fondness for weeds seems to be at a high pitch today.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Canyon Herps

 On the way back to Quincy from my March trip to Table Mountain, I was lucky enough to spot two different species of lizards.  Most of the photos I post here have to do with wildflowers and their invertebrate visitors - sometimes pollinators, but not always.  When I studied zoology seriously many years ago, my strongest interest was in reptiles and amphibians, lumped together in popular language as "herps."  The above photo is of an Alligator Lizard.  There are two or more species living in this general area, depending on whose classification prevails.  The photo below is of a Western Skink.  The Alligator Lizard was already out in the open when I approached, but the Skink had been under a large piece of bark before I lifted it. Fortunately, neither of them panicked, so I was able to get clear photos with a standard lens from a little over a foot away.
These two photos have been sitting on my desktop, awaiting attention, ever since I took that trip in March.  Consider this post to be a kind of spring cleaning. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Butterfly Valley, Part 2

 I think this is the prettiest flower that's been "under my nose" for several years without my noticing it.  On Saturday's field trip, I stopped with the CNPS group to look at the Lemmon's Wild Ginger that I photograph at this spot every summer.  My knees were actually smashing some of these orchids without my realizing it.  Thank you, CNPS, for showing me a new plant species. It's called Twablade, and it's an orchid.  Click on each photo for a closer view.