Sunday, December 27, 2009

On the Protectiveness of Mothers

Just saw a video, "The Blind Side," whose main character is cognitively challenged, but has incredible "protective" instincts. Then, at morning coffee, was asked about my own mother's influence on me and the word "protective" came to mind. The only photo in my archive that reflects this wonderful protective urge of mothers toward their young is this centipede. Widely hated and feared [after all, they are poisonous], these creatures have a kind of beauty, too. I love watching the wave pattern in their legs as they move along and contrast it with that of millipedes - check them out some time - but when I stumbled across this momma protecting her eggs, I was most impressed that the mothering instinct was perhaps just as strong in this myriapod as it is in any other animal.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Xmas - Wild Strawberry

Just felt like posting something colorful before bedtime. This wild strawberry photographed during the Fall had Christmas colors, so it'll do. Still seems too cold to take my camera outside. The car doors are frozen shut most mornings. So, I'll spent lots of time this winter organizing photos and preparing items for publication. I'll go outside and hike a lot, process firewood, etc., but I just don't enjoy cold weather photography. When it warms up, at least at the lower elevations like Table Mountain, I'll be raring to go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Time to feed "Einie" - thinking of snakes

Today we need to buy another mouse to feed Einstein, my son's pet corn snake (the red one pictured here), and I started looking through our snake pictures from the last few summers. We caught the yellow-bellied racer (with the yellow belly, duh, and greenish back) near the Greenville Y, around twelve miles from Quincy. We just kept it long enough for photo ops then let it go, which is what we usually do with wild snakes. Our corn snake was bred in captivity. The gopher snake, AKA bull snake, was found in the school yard near Leggett. We kept it and fed it for a few weeks, then released it where we caught it. Note the painting of Einstein in the background of my classroom. Maybe that inspired my son to name his snake Einstein - Einie for short. The other two photos are of a ring-neck snake, found in our back yard in Leggett. Virtually all the non-venomous wild snakes are easily hand-tamed. The gopher snake might strike and bite when first caught, but nearly always calms down quickly and gets used to being held. Same with the racers, although if you keep them as pets for a while, you need to keep them fed and watered. If they are hungry or thirsty they understandably get angry. Snakes are descended from reptiles that had legs, and in some species the vestigial pelvic girdle and leg bones are still present, barely. We find their feeding behavior and locomotive skills remarkable and snakes are always great conversation starters, for better or worse. We hope more people learn to like them.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Enjoying the Solstice with My Favorite Bug

In the vicinity of noon today the real reason for the season can be felt by those who still spend a significant amount of time out of doors and pay attention to the sky and other signs of the seasons. The critter pictured here, photographed last spring, is my favorite "bug," and she is probably a foot or more below the surface now, dormant for a few more months. But, I wonder if she can feel the change? The days get a tiny bit longer and the nights shorter, and soon it will be spring again, my favorite season.
I also love the Mexican name for this magnificent insect, La Nina de la Terra. Far more friendly than potato bug. It still "bugs" me that when you google a critter like this you mainly get pesticide and exterminator web sites.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Still Thinking about "Bugs"

The hard freeze has been over for about a week, and the milder temperatures in my wood pile are sufficient to wake up a few of the bugs. They're groggy, and most will stay dormant until spring, but the little bit of activity I saw today while stacking firewood has me longing for spring. The photos posted here are from last spring and spring of 08. Click beetle is from Quincy and the millipede and banana slug are from Leggett. Happy Holidays, especially Monday, the solstice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Qun-icy not so icy today.

In my December 8 post, I mistakenly spelled my home town Qunicy instead of Quincy. Intending to post a correction on December 11, two things happened. First, since the week of December 7 - 11 was incredibly icy, I decided to let the mistake stand. Qun-icy. I'm not sure how to pronounce it. Second, I accidentally posted my explanation on the wrong blog. So, here's a good place to suggest you check out the blog of the Quincy Writers Group. Now, a few more photos from last spring. As I post these I'm thinking about several e. e. cummings poems having to do with spring, especially one that begins "O sweet spontaneous earth...." Remember, you can click on any of these images to see a full-screen view. Happy Holidays - remember, the real "reason for the season" is the fact that Earth's axis is tilted 23.5 degrees off perpendicular to the plane of our orbit. Does that spoil it for you? For me and Galileo, it makes it more exciting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Skipping Winter

An afterthought about my recent post of Dutchman's Pipevine: One thing I love about the Sierra is that I get to experience several seasons on any given day just by changing elevation. Last Saturday, I left my relatively mild (by winter standards) home in Qunicy for a trip up to around 6,500' on Claremont Mountain to catch a Christmas tree. It was MUCH colder up there and very icy, reminding me of the dangers to the unaware.
In the opposite direction - from my perspective as one who was raised in New England - I feel that the lower foothills, say below 2,000', really don't experience winter. When the snow starts to fly around Quincy and higher, it is more often than not rainy at the lower elevations and the golden hills quickly become green. When we in Quincy are experiencing the "dead" of winter, the first spring wildflowers are blooming on Table Mountain and Bidwell Park, and as far as I am concerned it's spring. Today began as the coldest day of the winter so far with many locales reporting temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Kind of gives me the urge to go down toward Chico to look for wildflowers. I know it gives others the urge to head for the Tahoe area for skiing. The great thing about the Sierra is that you can do both in the same week!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Foothill Favorite

Another in a series of avoidances of winter. Just got nearly a foot of snow and my mind is still in spring and early summer. Memories are made of this. I really like snow and winter; I just don't like taking pictures at this time of year. I don't know why. Maybe because it's cold!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorting my Bugs

Celebrating getting a new laptop by sorting and transferring some photos. I remember fondly the moment, after several months of seeking wildflower photo ops, of realizing that the frequent "intrusions" of bugs in these photos were not intrusions at all but a subject every bit as exciting as the flowers. So now I am building bug folders for future reference. Next spring, when I resume my favorite season for photography, I'll seek out "bug photo ops." I wonder if I'll discover new flowers. This connectivity is entirely appropriate in that the flowering plants evolved in concert with their insect and bird pollinators. Somehow the flowers are popular subjects for art and photography, as are the birds, but the bugs often get a bad rap. I hope my photography will help to change that. How can anyone deny the beauty of the goldenrod crab spider or the red milkweed beetle pictured here?

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I feel like I'm in the "in-between" season, still struggling to find photo "ops." The fall colors are mostly gone - or, I should say, the reds, oranges, yellows, etc., have merged into browns, and most deciduous trees and bushes have already shed. We had our first snow on 11/21, but it was a light coating, and I haven't yet discovered photogenic snow scenes. So, until the next snow comes, possibly burying the last vestiges of herbaceous plants and shrubs, I'll be watching for "winter readiness," that is, nuts and other types of seeds, and signs of the plants' and animals' winter survival plans. This cat-o-nine tail I have watched weekly ever since spring when it first emerged from a roadside ditch a mile north of the Greenville Y. Left photo taken in mid-October and the right in mid-November. I'm also thinking about paying more attention to clouds. I love clouds, but, for some reason, have not taken up photographing them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apple Fest 2009

We had a great time on Sunday, October 25, at the annual Apple Fest at Dawn Institue, around 12 miles north of Quincy. Music provided by BLT and miscellaneous friends, bring your own apples or pick from what remained in the Institute's orchard, and make fresh-squeezed apple juice, great potluck lunch, and a great opportunity for people photos and nature photos. Nature photos here include one of my favorite angles on bigleaf maple, three piles of bear poop - from among at least 50 in the orchard, lichen on a rock, and a back-lit apple leaf - on the tree that produced "the big apple" featured in my last post. Check out this event in 2010. No neon signs, no "rides," very little traffic, nothing to buy, just plain old fun with neighbors and guests.
. One of these guys "marches to a different accordion."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fall images around Quincy

Here are some of my favorite photos from the past few weeks of wandering around my favorite place in the northern Sierra. The showy milkweed bursting with seeds is at a turnout my son and I have named "the milkweed spot"
because we've stopped there often and seen many wondrous things. Three different species of milkweed blooming all at once during the summer. Visits by the amazing-looking red milkweed beetle as well as red milkweed bugs. (Maybe later I'll write about what's the difference between a beetle and a bug.) The sycamore leaf was on the ground in my neighborhood below a tree that has been pruned so severely I can almost hear it cry, but it keeps on growing new branches and keeps a particular intersection looking beautiful during the summer and fall. My twice-weekly commute to Greenville was exciting on the day I saw five otters playing in a pool by the Greenville Y. I got lots of shots of their heads barely breaking the surface, then one finally decided to pose for me. The annual Apple Fest at the Dawn Institute was great fun - more pics coming soon - and I'm always wandering around looking for unusual things or looking at usual things in unusual ways. One of these pics I've captioned "There's more to apple trees than apples." True at least from the perspective of woodpeckers and sapsuckers. Then, I've always wanted to see The Big Apple without enduring traffic and polluted air. Finally!!!
[Click on any photo to see a large version, sometimes even too large for your screen!]

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some summer bugs

These were all photographed in the vicinity of Quincy, California, northern Sierra Nevada, 3,500' elevation. From top to bottom: (hoping the software preserves the order!) anise swallowtail butterfly on fennel, monarch butterfly larva on showy milkweed, checkered clerid beetle on mallow, goldenrod crab spider on yarrow having captured a wasp.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hello, mystery person

Hi Sierrosmith or Q-topia. I have a feeling, judging from the photos, that we're neighbors. I'd love to know who you are. Also, several of my friends and former students want to post comments on my blog, but don't know how. Neither do I! :) Apparently you know how it works because you're a "follower." Could you enlighten us? I'm still a neo-luddite, even though I'm trying to blog.
My next post will be "bug" photos collected over this past summer. Joe

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pictures to hang onto summer by

As cold weather approaches, and my firewood is all split, stacked, and covered - finally - I'm simultaneously bracing for winter and not wanting to let go of summer. Winter will come, and I will adjust. But, meanwhile, I'm posting two more photos that remind me of the best of summer - the Pacific Coast Tree Frog, Hyla regilla, and the Goldenrod Crab Spider. Both are subjects of greeting cards in a line I hope to release before Christmas. The frog, by the way, has recently been renamed Pseudacris regilla, and is now a "chorus" frog rather than a tree frog. I guess I must have had a premonition of this back in 1981 when I published an essay titled "Our Tree Frogs Don't Like Trees." Having learned zoology back east where both types abound, I knew that our California frog had habits and appearance more similar to the Pseudacris clan, but I never really questioned the name. I liked the Hyla clan so much I named my first child Hyla. Now I'm hanging onto the first name just like I'm hanging onto summer.
The Goldenrod Crab Spider is a work of art, and I have photographed it often. In my next post I'll include a few more pics of it plus some other bugs I enjoyed this past summer.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quercus kelloggii

I didn't think California black oak could get any prettier, then I went to get a donut at Papa's, and there it was!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii

Here are a couple of pics of the plant that inspired this blog and my publishing operation. Later, I'll post a brief history of the name and biographical info about Dr. Kellogg. These pics were taken October 3, as the fall colors are just beginning to emerge around my home town.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A poem from one who is not a poet

Here's the poem I promised a few entries ago.

Oh, deadly nightshade,
You mysterious bundle of DNA,
Perhaps you knew we were coming.
You killed some of us, but
You spawned many tasty cousins:
Potato, tomato, eggplant, and peppers.
Your cousins, too, are toxic
Except for the parts we eat.
So intriguing, your beautiful toxic flowers
And your often delectable fruit.
Both feared and admired; Solanaceae,
I thank you
for forcing me to pay attention.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Colors, Quincy, CA

Fall is in the air and the weatherman says we should get our first freezing night tonight and tomorrow will be our first truly cold day. This will speed up the changing of leaves to bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Very exciting. This past weekend, we got a preview, finding a few dogwoods turned red in the watershed of Big Thompson Creek, 15 minutes from downtown Quincy. We continued on down the LaPorte Road to the Middle Fork of the Feather River and found lots of Bigleaf Maple and the nice reflection scene shown here. I contribute a lot of photos to the nature blogs at the Plumas Visitors Bureau. The current one, called Leaf Peepers, emphasizes fall colors, and the springtime blog emphasizes wildflowers and is called Bloom Blog. If you live in this area, or if you visit, check out these blogs, then get out there with your camera and make a contribution. I find my camera gives me incentive to pay closer attention. Then I notice special little details like this "crown" at the top of a horsetail stem (top).