Monday, July 16, 2018

Further adventures close to home

 I'll continue with a closer view of the photo that ended my previous post.  I call the photo "The Remains."  Read previous post for explanation.  [More later.]







Day of Discovery

As of Friday morning, my shared driveway of 150 feet or so was lined with two-foot tall yellow flowers that I believe were Hawkweed.  Note that I said "were."  More on that later.  As I began my morning walk down the drive, I spotted a little pink.  Pun intended, I guess, because the flower turned out to be a Pink.  There must have been several hundred Hawkweeds and only two Pinks.  Both types flowers seemed beautiful to me, but I was most strongly attracted to the Pink.  Because it was the rarer?  Or, because I didn't know what it was?  I wondered: if the whole area had been covered with Pinks and there were only one or two Hawkweeds, would I have perceived both differently?
I was not carrying my camera and had only my iPhone.  However, the sun was bright, there was lots of glare, and I'm not very good at taking pictures with my phone.  Thus, the above result.  Focused on the background, but not the flower.  After several more failed attempts, I got the photo below.  That one was clear enough that I was later able to identify the flower as Mountain Pink.  I also discovered that many different, unrelated flowers go by that same common name.  Thus, the scientific name, Dianthus armeria.  Other common names for this one are Deptford Pink and Grass Pink.  But, what's in a name?
I continued my walk into town and photographed the seed pods below.  The beautiful flowers that preceded them over a month ago were featured on this blog, and are also known by several different names: Love in a mist, and Devil in a bush, among others.  A classic love/hate relationship it seems.
I love this plant. Among other things that intrigue me about it is its family affiliation: Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family.

When I got back to my driveway, about an hour later, the Mountain Pinks had closed up for the day.  Or were they experiencing a premonition? By the next morning, they were gone!  All the flowers - both Hawkweeds and Pinks - were gone.  A weed eater enthusiast must have visited. We have different tastes.  Sure glad I got to discover this new flower.
Strolling the driveway on Saturday morning, the object of natural history interest to me was the below artifact - the remains of a visit by a young bear.  Most of the soft organic matter had disintegrated or become food for bacteria and ants while the more resistant seeds of he Choke Cherry are all that remained.
I don't know if you'd call this an adventure.  It seemed so to me, especially in the original sense of the word - something that's about to happen.  I approach every walk in that spirit of adventure.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wake-up Call

 Eight after my encounter with a Chorus Frog described in my previous post, I encountered a Bumble Bee on the Spirea growing along the edge of our front lawn.  I moved in with my iPhone camera.
 Whenever I get this close to a bee, I figure it's either dead or in the process of being eaten alive by a spider hidden below.  So, I poked at it a bit, and saw a little movement and the absence of a spider.
A few yards away on our Lavender bush, I found another Bumble Bee.  Same scenario.  I spotted two others on the same bush.  Then I reflected on how lucky I am that I wake up early, usually around 5:00 a. m., and feel motivated to "seize the day" and explore my neighborhood.  This usually includes searching for an early morning source of coffee and a little protein, but today included doing so on foot.  Only an hour later, after downloading these photos from my phone, I went back outside to check the scene.  The bee on the Spirea had not moved, and it was still in the shade.  When I checked the Lavender, there were literally dozens of bees, mostly Bumble Bees but a few Honey Bees, buzzing around and feeding on the flowers.  The Lavender ws now in the sun.  I'm really glad I saw all of this. Carpe Diem.

Saving our wildlife; saving ourselves

When I returned home from an early morning walk, it was still cool, and I got the urge to start cleaning up the "leftovers" from processing the firewood delivered in June.  I thought it was time to replace the chopping block I've used for three years.  When I tipped it over, I saw a pathetic little blob squirming in the sawdust and chips (above).  In the shade and covered with these particles, I had to quickly review in my mind al the possibilities before picking it up.
Turns out it was a seriously dehydrated Chorus Frog, formerly known as Hyla regilla but now known as Pseudacris regilla. the Pacific Chorus Frog.  What to do? When I looked this creature in the eye, I felt I needed to save it.  But what did that mean?  The odds of its surviving the summer were next to zero, even if I had not tipped over the chopping block.  The odds of surviving a winter were even closer to zero.  Yet, the urge to save it was there, and remains.
As the sawdust and wood chips gradually fell away, and he/she didn't attempt to jump out of my hand, the eye contact made me reminisce on the hundreds, of not thousands, of encounters I've had with this species when it was healthy and enjoying Spring, like the one below I photographed in May.  May 27, to be precise. 
My scientific knowledge and the logical (mostly) mind I have said that every female lays literally thousands of eggs per season, and if more than two of those survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we would be overwhelmed with frogs in a short time. This scenario is obviously impossible for any reasons.  So why did I entertain the idea of saving this one frog?  I found a damp place nearby, a place that had some possibility of remaining damp until the fall rains began and this frog would have a change to bury deeper in moist soil that might not freeze over the winter.  Very poor odds, but relating to the frog in this way is how I save myself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"You can observe a lot by watching."

My afternoon wandering along Golden Eagle Avenue by the college got me to thinking about photos I used to make into greeting cards and post cards.  What makes a scene post-card-worthy?  I guess it depends on who's buying.  While I was consciously on the lookout for insects and spiders, the first thing that gave me the urge to take a picture was a patch of Teasel.  I have always loved this plant.  Covered with thorns, ot has often painfully interrupted my pursuit of an insect photograph.  But, in the end, the architecture of the whole plant, but especially its flowers, has won me over.  Technically, it's a weed.  But so am I, having moved from my native Massachusetts to contribute to California's overpopulation. 
Moving closer to the Teasel, I became conscious of the background, should I choose to take another photo.  Sometimes the sky around here is incredibly blue.  Today it seemed especially so in contrast to the haze left by fires just a few days earlier.
The patterns in which the flowers bloom is also intriguing.  Note the ring of purple flowers around the "waist" of the cluster.  Sometimes a ring or two will bloom near the top, or near the bottom, one at each extreme.  Sometimes the entire cluster will be blooming.  I can't help but wonder about the biochemical and/or environmental triggers that produce these results.  Maybe I've been n the sun too long.
After musing on the life of Teasel a while, I started looking at the ground again, as I'm known to do.  Looking at the ground is always more interesting than looking at the screen on m phone.  How  people can spend the better part of each day looking at a phone is beyond me. 
Hidden below the tops of the dried grass was an attractive spread of blooming Orchard Morning Glory, known by people who don't like it as Bindweed. I experimented with composition.
This vertical format appealed to me most.  That led my busy mind to other musings - such as why must photos and most flat art be in rectangular format.  There are some cultures in Africa who still do not recognize rectangles as being special among geometric shapes.  Seems like our entire modern culture has been controlled by things on the right - not just right angles.

I stared at quite a few individual blossoms of St. John's Wort, hoping to find a Crab Spider in its yellow phase.  All the ones I've photographed this season have been white.  I started to get hypnotized by all the overlapping petals of yellow, so stepped back to get one last photo of "the big picture."
No, not quite.
Ah, there it is.  Maybe my next photo greeting card.  Projected sales?  7, to friends and relatives.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Testing the concept "weed"

 When a "weed" is liked, is it still a weed?  Here we have Self-heal - a mint - and Poison Hemlock. More on this subject later.



Monday, July 9, 2018

One season fading, but another will follow

 One patch of daisies that I watch almost daily is coming to the end of its season - at least the season for daisies.  Petals are wilting and dropping, entire plants and keeling over, and there is much less insect activity.  However, this morning I did manage to spot the above (and below) crab spider getting ready for another day of food flying into its grasp.  There also appears to be a part of one of this little TP's they seem to make for hiding during the night.
 Even with the petals drooping, the remaining disk of flowers seemed photogenic to me.
I look forward to the next points of interest in this stretch.  The Pine Drops, Stickseed, and Horsetails are all looking pretty good, and in their maturation over the next month I'm sure I'll find items of interest.