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!