Saturday, May 13, 2017

It Happened So Fast!

 A week ago after work I went out toward Oakland Camp to check on the status of the Mountain Lady Slippers.  See the top photo in the blog of May 5.  I saw several of the plants with no buds yet.  Yesterday, I went to the same spot and Voila!  Blossoms.  They are not yet fully open, but certainly identifiable as the flowers of the Mountain Ladyslipper.  I had n't even gotten around to posting all of the photos of other species that I took on that trip last week.  But these new blossoms were so exciting, I decided to jump ahead.  Also, just a few feet away from the Ladyslippers were dozens of
specimens of the Spotted Coralroot, another orchid, in full bloom.  I hadn't noticed even small shoots last week.  The soil temperature and moisture must be ideal, because things are happening fast.  Also, every time I turn around I see another species blooming for the first time.  Western Dog Violet, Scarlet Fritillary, various species of Ranunculus (buttercups), a few Stickseed (Forget-me-nots), among others.  My favorite photos from yesterday's outing was the newly blooming Lemmon's Wild Ginger.  Tomorrow morning I'll start catching up wth the photos from both outings, May 5 and May 12.  Remember, you may click on any photos in the blog for enlarged views.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Faith in a Seed

 During the past few weeks, the bridge over Spanish Creek that leads to Oakland Feather River Camp has been covered by rushing water. A short distance past said bridge is where the Mountain Lady Slipper may be found around this time of year.  I've been going nuts waiting for the water to recede. Finally, yesterday I drove out there with my camera and found the bridge surface to be dry.  However, there was still fast-moving water covering a stretch of pavement beyond the bridge.  It looked like it was only six to eight inches deep, so I chanced it.  Then my Spring began.  I was delighted to find that the Mountain Lady Slippers (above) were around a foot tall, but had not yet produced buds.  That means I probably have a couple of weeks during which I can notify my naturalist friends, such as my friend and mentor Rex Burress, that the "lady slippers are coming." There's also an orchid enthusiast in France awaiting contact from me on the status of these beauties as he hopes to visit during their bloom.
 I continued toward the camp and found a few other species blooming.  I'll post a few here today, and more over the weekend.  This Checker Bloom (above) was the only one I saw, and it was well hidden under the shade of leaves of the Arrow-Leaf Balsamroot (coming in my next post).
 The Miner's Lettuce are blooming in abundance, but I was pressed for time so I recorded as above, but it's not a great photograph.  Hopefully, I'll do better over the weekend.
 In the nostalgia department, I saw this great face in the bak of a large Ponderosa Pine, whom my friend Rex calls "Walter" in honor of a deceased naturalist friend.  The face is still intact, and I am fond of the moment Rex introduced me to him around 10 years ago when he came up to Quincy to see the orchids. Below is a view of the tree which is a major landmark to us naturalists.
 Finally, I tipped over a flat rock around a foot in diameter, and typical of my luck in early Spring, I found a beautiful Jerusalem Cricket.
The most amazing thing about my day is that when I got home I found Rex's most recent essay which just happened to be about this very area and reminisced about the time we viewed the lady slippers together.  In sum, I was reminded of some great writing - Henry David Thoreau's last to be published - Faith in a Seed.  After around five years of drought, then our recent wet winter, I am reminded to always have faith in a seed.  Thoreau said something along the lines of "show me you have a seed there, and I will expect miracles."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Crawls Up the Hill

 Until today, nothing new has bloomed in our yard since the Spring Whitlow Grass that arrived a few weeks ago.  Downtown along Main Street the tulips in front of various shops have been blooming for a couple of weeks.  We've only around 100' above the downtown elevation, but we are in the shade of tall firs and pines.  So today, three of our tulips fully bloomed, and there are a couple dozen more waiting in line.

 Our Dandelions are doing great, possibly the best in the neighborhood.  I suspect they are liking the canine excrement and renal outpourings diluted by the recent rains.  And for the last couple of days they've been attracting hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies.
 Today while photographing this activity I enjoyed watching one of our cats lunge at butterflies a dozen or more times with ever catching one.
 I think I'll enjoy this show of Dandelions and butterflies for a couple more days, then cut down the Dandelions before they go to seed. It seems that most people are at war with Dandelions, but I need to have a little fun before succumbing to the neighborhood standard.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

R. I. P. Dandelion

I stumbled across Hallie Bateman's clever and sensitive eulogy to the Crayola (r) color "Dandelion." The illustrated eulogy appeared in the New York Times, but I found it while surfing through my subscription to Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter on April 14.  I haven't blogged as much as I'd like to in recent months, but the Dandelions are making their appearance in my yard (above and below) and Bateman's piece has fired me up again.
I read that this color will be replaced by a new hue in the Blue family, and maybe it will be formally announced before I finish with this post.  Besides arousing my protective spirit toward dandelions, this news launched some serious net surfing during which I found that Crayola currently produces 120 colors.  Their common box sizes contain 8, 16, 32, 48, 64, or 120 crayons.  I'm not sure why they didn't continue the geometric series they started by having a box of 128.  A box of 120 is cool, though, as 120 has many factors.  I was visualizing the possibilities for box shapes: 2 x 60, 3 x 40, 4 x 30, 5 x 24, 6 x 20, 8 x 15, and 10 x 12.  And that's only the rectangular boxes.  Imagine other possibilities such as triangular, parallelogram and hexagonal boxes!
My net search also included Prismacolor pencils.  I read some histories and found that Prismacolor is no longer made by Berol, and that they currently produce 150 colors.
Since I had my camera in hand to get some shots of my dandelions, I walked around the yard a bit to see what else was brewing.  One of our yellow tulips (above) is about to bloom. We've tried to eradicate the tulips several times in order to plant something different.  However, they keep coming back.  I admire that, so I think this time around we'll leave them alone.  We do have at least 6 varieties that display an amazing array of bright colors.  Maybe we'll see them in a couple of weeks. The forecast for the coming week is cool and rainy, so it'll be a while before the other colors are revealed.
Companions to our tulips are these Hyacinths.  This name applies to quite a variety of flowers, some that are not even in the same family as the ones above, Amaryllidaceae.  Lily relatives.
Last, I'm gathering notes for a possible book on my educational experiences.  One of my strongest memories from 1st grade is that my teacher posed the question: What comes after yellow?  Back then I said "that's a stupid question" or words to that effect.  If I were a first grader today, I might answer "a funeral."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Natural History of Magazine Covers

 This magazine cover caught my eye at the FRC library the other day.  I guess that's what magazine covers are supposed to do.
 Here's a wider view for context. Crude refers to oil in the ground as well as the president's behavior. OK.  I moved on.  I was looking for articles on natural history, weather in particular.
 Then I wheeled around and saw this next one on the cover of New Republic. Looked as though the same artist might have produced both.
 Then The Progressive was more subtle, but obviously had at least two articles expressing concern about our president.
 Nice juxtaposition here - magazine called Reason featuring an article about what's unreasonable about Trump's border wall idea.
 When I got to Harper's, a magazine I greatly respect, the cover illustration cemented the idea that I was seeing a pattern here.  Since seeing and trying to explain patterns is something naturalists do, I figured I'd give it a shot here.  Onward...
 There he is again in "destroy public schools" mode.  His argument, such as it is, is based on the idea that the public schools are already destroyed.  But, when I look at his "plans" for fixing the situation, starting with the appointment of a rich ignoramus to head the Department of Education, I realize that the cure will be worse than the ailment. See below, the cover of Rolling Stone.
 More of the same.  All about Trump putting us on war footing - again.  Baiting foreign powers, showing no interest or capacity for reasoned discussion with friend or foe.
 On the cover of Rolling Stone, reference to an article inside about Betsy Devos' beliefs about our educational system.  Yikes.  Another Ayn Rand disciple on the loose.
 Click on any of these photos for a closer look so you can read what is featured.

 Even the conservative Arnold realizes there's something very wrong going on.
 The Chronicle of Higher Education features an insert, a magazine within a magazine, with profiles of the people providing "academic" support for Trump's decisions.

 I thought I'd finish with a photo of one of the most beautiful "weeds" growing alongside the road into FRC.  Henbit Dead Nettle, a member of the Mint family, just started blooming here this week.  I envy them for their not knowing what's going on.
A footnote to this display of a pattern - I have a cartoon project going on in my Interpersonal Communication class.  The assignment was to find at least five cartoons by a single artist that find humor in situations where interpersonal communication is challenged.  We study how issues such as race, gender, occupation, place of residence, among many other factors, can make it difficult for people to communicate with each other.  Each student presents his or her cartoons to the class on a big screen and gives their interpretation of the humor.  Seems like quite a few students found anti-Trump cartoons.  There are many new ones being created every day!  Then the students were to solicit feedback from the class alternative interpretations, etc.  One student came to see me with his concern that there was an overriding bias in the class.  As an experiment, I suggested that he find cartoons supportive of Trump and give an alternative presentation.  Together, we Googled phrases such as "pro-Trump cartoons," "cartoons supportive of Trump," etc., and then clicked on "images."  It turns out that nearly all the cartoons, even when we were searching for "pro-Trump" were actually anti-Trump.  Further evidence there's a pattern.  Much of the biosphere is worried about our future.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Amphibian Selfie!

 I consider myself the APP in this situation.  Connected to the frog by a thumb-belly connector, the frog positioned himself in such a way that compelled me to push the shutter button. Thus, an amphibian selfie.
 A side view of the same frog, but this time I made the decision on my own. :)
 My wife, Bib, sitting on a giant oak limb.  Click on the photo for an enlargement in which you can see the large patches of Goldfields (below) in the background.
 Another of my favorites, in the mustard family, is the Lacepod.  Looks especially nice when backlit.
 The majority of the Seep Spring Monkeyflower were still closed under cloudy skies, and actually looked wilted.  But I did manage to get a pair that were open.  All in all, I saw only around a dozen
species of blooming wildflowers.  In previous outings when I hit peak blooming time I'd get over a hundred.  We had a great day anyway.  This place is aways beautiful, even in mid-summer and fall when the streams and waterfalls have dried up and most flowers have long since gone to seed.  I'll have one more post on last Saturday's trip before moving on to a new topic.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


 Why not?  Went to Table Mountain yesterday to photograph wildflowers, but for reasons I'll explain later, these first two photos made a more lasting impression on me than the wildflowers.  An unusual and productive day. More tomorrow.  [Mar. 28, actually the day after tomorrow.]
This merger of two streams on Table Mountain got my attention.  Saw very few wildflowers and decided that maybe the peak of flower blooming is a couple or three weeks away.  I'll try again in mid-April.  This Y reminded me of the junction of the Little Colorado and the main Colorado in northeastern Arizona.  A totally different habitat, of course, but all river junctions interest me and remind me of each other.  Another one I love and will see again in May is the junction of two great rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the great Lewis and Clark expedition began and where Annie Dillard grew up.  A special city where my daughter is currently an art professor.  Looking forward to the road trip.
Another Table Mountain icon, this beautiful Valley Oak is along the trail leading to the first big waterfall that we usually visit at Table Mountain.  The better known one near the parking lot had lost some of its former grandeur, and is usually surrounded by people (and litter), so this one seemed more photogenic to me.
Owl Clover was the prettiest flower I saw on this day and was one of the few species that was fully open under the clouds.  The poppies (no photos) and Bitterroot (below) were not open.  Too cool and cloudy I suppose.  I'll be back.