Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Natural" bonsai?

While out photographing wildflowers with my kids, I stumbled across this amazing little Douglas-fir. In our area, this tree normally reaches 20' or more in height before producing cones. This one was growing out of a small crevice in vertical strata of basalt, and due to limited soil and water (I presume) reached full reproductive maturity while less than 2' tall. In the vicinity we saw some really interesting (that is, beautiful) wildflowers, the showy phlox and a species of locoweed. Fun day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Getting Blogged down...?

I've been having a great time editing some 500 wildflower images for my CD, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to use this one of Leopard Lily on the cover. I've got 135, more or less, species of Plumas County wildflowers in my archive, am planning a narrative to facilitate identification of our most common species. It'll be backed up by some great guitar instrumentals by my son, Greg. My goal is to emphasize the beauty, the role in the environment, and the periodic visits by amazing-looking bugs, and go light on the technical information. Will supply a printed booklet to assist with scientific names and provide references for further study - for those inclined to study! I'm just loving getting down on my knees, sometimes in mud, and discovering new angles and details in flowers that I have often taken for granted, or not noticed at all. Focusing on creating a CD has intensified my curiosity, and with a growing list of flowers that are familiar to me, the thrill of an occasional new discovery is all the greater. Besides aiding visitors in discovering the beauty of our county, I love digging into the etymologies of both the common and scientific names - and discovering interesting and sometimes bizarre names like "henbit deadnettle" and "birthwort." Sun's coming out again. Got to get my camera and run. Joe

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Idiocy of Leaf Blowers

Coming soon: an expanded version of my take on leaf blowers. Imagine an alien visiting from outer space, a creature who was up on Earth's current events. This creature would know about our diminishing supply of fossil fuels and our utter dependence on them. He/she would understand how our addiction is tied to our need for transportation and warmth. What would he/she think we are trying to accomplish by blowing leaves around? Would he/she see the obvious suicidal tendency and stupidity inherent in using up our remaining fuel supply in this manner?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What to do before or after a nature walk...

My home away from home for many years has been my favorite coffee house, Morning Thunder Cafe, in Quincy, California. I have done a great deal of writing (and coffee drinking!) there, and I designed the lettering on this sign which, after 28 years on the front of the cafe, has been removed and given to me as a souvenir. The cafe is now officially named simply Morning Thunder. On Lawrence Street, in downtown Quincy, look for red and yellow lettering in the same style as the sign above. And look for the bright flowers pictured here and, in a few more weeks, the awakening grapevine in front of the cafe. Sidewalk dining will be great when the weather warms.

What bugs the wildflower photographer?

When I set out to photograph wildflowers, I can guarantee that one of two things will happen, either bugs will arrive and compete for my interest or the wind will arrive. In the case of these photos, I adopted the attitude of e. e. cummings' Old Uncle Sol who started a worm farm, even though that was far from his original intention. I recommend the poem, "Nobody Loses All the Time" which is about Uncle Sol.

Using the term "bugs" loosely...

This critter visited our front yard in Mendocino County regularly. It was as long as a pocket comb, 6", and was lots of fun to watch. Everyone should pick one up at least once, even though it can take hours to wash your hands afterward.

Praying for what? The end of fossil fuels?

There is more and more often a bit of guilt for me when I fill up the gas tank. Even when my mission is to search for natural history photo ops to lure other people closer to nature. Finding this magnificent bug on the gasoline hose was an unexpected pleasure - sort of made me feel glad I came to fill up.

Bugs in My World

In the spring of 2008 I ventured on trails and back roads all around my county looking for wildflowers to photograph for our visitor's bureau's "Bloom Blog." I inadvertently got sidetracked by the amazing bugs and other invertebrates that kept getting into my pictures. I was so enthralled by ones like the red milkweed beetle that I started seeking bug photos on purpose!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finding beauty in weird places

While photographing roadside wildflowers and waiting for a train to come by I spotted the top of a fencepost supporting the guardrail. I've always loved wood grain, especially since reading Eric Sloane's "A Reverence for Wood." I also find poison oak beautiful in its many stages. This early spring photo was taken when the leaves were particularly moist and toxic, but also beautiful. Last, this little mint, often considered a weed, is especially beautiful. At first I thought it was an orchid it has such a beautiful flower. Then I identified it as henbit deadnettle. Great name. Last, I love fiddleneck, but this one especially enhanced as a rest stop for a grasshopper.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

California Wildflowers

There are lots of web sites promoting wildflower viewing and photography, especially relating to Sierra foothill and coastal range areas near larger urban centers. However, I live in Plumas County, a relatively isolated gem of the Sierra. Check out www.plumascounty.org and click on "wildflowers and waterfalls" or the "bloom blog" to see a blog of wildflower photos accompanied by text. So far this year I have submitted all but two of the entries. The Visitors Bureau is interested in submissions by visitors to the area. Also, I would be happy to give detailed directions to our best wildflower viewing spots, or even lead a local photography hike.
Check us out! Joe

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Black Oak Naturalist

Hello out there! I am a high school and community college teacher and amateur naturalist/photographer. My main loves include my family, the Sierra Nevada,changing seasons, natural history explorations, academic inquiry in general, and newspapers and conversations in my favorite coffee shop. My main peeves are environmental degradation, ignorant attacks (redundant?) on science teaching in general and evolutionary theory in particular, unnecessary noise, hyperactivity characteristic of cities, and out-of-control consumerism.

I'll be posting photos and previews of essays I hope to publish. My publishing company, in existence for over a year, is called Black Oak Publishing. Not yet on the web, but hope to have two titles in print before year's end.

The photos of my two kids still at home are Ryan, 15, (top right) who loves bugs, and Tahlah, 13, (top left) who loves most bugs. The photo of the yellow violet (click on it for enlargement) contains a pair of ants mating which I didn't see when I took the photo.