Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SNOW GAUGE: Wednesday morning

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Coming this afternoon: EVIDENCE
Full commentary on these photos will be posted this evening. For now, let me just say that we had a significant snow drop last night, thus today's title. The other images were captured just before the storm. Further commentary as well as corrections on the orientation of some pics will happen tonight. Exciting time of year.

Later in the day: Turns out two of the snow photos were taken around 6:30 a.m. today, and two were taken at 5:30 p.m. Can you tell which are which? Amazing change! The moss photo reminds me of how ineffective high school biology class can be. I remember being taught about the alternation of generations, sexual to asexual, and so on, with regard to mosses. However, in the years following high school biology, I never observed this in my back yard - that is, I never paid attention. There was lots of moss around, but all I cared about was that it was pretty, and green, and soft. When relatively dry, it was comfortable to lie on. However, the amazing reproductive life cycle never caught my eye until years later when I took botany in college. This patch was near a popular swimming hole west of Quincy known as Lovers' Leap. The gametophyte generation is a lush green, and the brownish sporophytes tower above them. Now if this photo had been in my high school textbook instead of that boring line drawing, maybe I would have gone out looking for them.
The photos of the butterfly on a willow show my obsession. The flowering of the willow got my attention initially, then the butterfly appeared. He/she was so active and the back-lighting was so beautiful, I could have watched it for hours. As it is, I took only about 20 photos and saved the best ten. The lichens on the tree trunk are another subject I never tire of. We saw lots of lichens on rocks on our recent Table Mountain trip. My son and I have taken to looking more closely to see how many species we can spot in one small place. We've seen as many as 9 in one square foot of rock surface, and up to 5 or 6 on a small area of tree bark. As I've mentioned earlier on the blog, one of the earliest discoverers of what a lichen actually is was Beatrix Potter, now known more for her children's stories about a rabbit. She was actually a great scientist whose career was short-circuited by male chauvinists who wouldn't let her into the "club."
Finally, the fact that the snow melted so fast today makes me optimistic that I'll be photographing wildflowers and insects again soon - like maybe tomorrow!
[Don't forget - you can click on any photo to get a full-screen view.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where's my camera?

Went on a nice hike today to one of my favorite trails, the south end of the Keddie Cascade Trail. Begins near the Spanish Creek crossing 1/4 mile shy of Oakland Feather River Camp. Didn't expect to see much of anything blooming because it was cold and windy and we're expecting a week of rain and/or snow. Lo and behold, we saw buttercups, whitlow grass, chickweed, two kinds of violets, silk tassel bush, and a new one to me - dagger pod, Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides, a member of the mustard family. So, why did I leave my camera home? May just have to hike out there tomorrow in the rain.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Few Shots Before Winter Returns!

I've enjoyed a couple of sunny days and got some interesting photos, but the forecast and the gossip agree we're in for more rain and possibly snow. As I roamed around some new areas today, I recalled Darwin's comment, "all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service." I realized that I am almost always captivated by this point-of-view when I'm out wandering. I guess the view that is constantly being reinforced is that all life shares a common ancestry and I am as much kin to the filaree, butterfly and centipede above as I am to my fellow mammals. And I am reminded again of Montaigne's statement, "Miracles arise from our ignorance of nature, not from nature itself." So, I'm out there trying to reduce my ignorance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Shooting" on a Rainy Day

We had snow last night down to around 3,800', just a couple hundred feet above my house, on Claremont Mountain, then it rained all day today. Didn't expect to take any photos, but driving Old Highway, near Keddie, I couldn't resist. Two photos here of Henderson's Shooting Star, Dodecatheon hendersonii, a member of the primrose family, and the bottom photo is one I didn't see last year and am not familiar with it. My first guess is that it's a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, of the genus Cardamine. If someone out there knows better, please let me know. They were out in profusion on pine-needly banks above the road. I'll check on them on the next sunny day and confirm or correct my ID. They were very pretty, as were the shooting stars. In the same area there were lots of early leaves of violets which should be blooming in another week or so.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Just In - Blooming in Quincy

This morning I walked around my place of work and saw nothing blooming, so I posted a few more scenes from Table Mountain. Then, in the afternoon, look what happened! Johnny Jump Ups (a domesticated violet - Viola sp.) was out in great numbers, as were dandelions and henbit deadnettle. The latter, a member of the mint family, has a number of different common names as well as a number of different spellings. To be precise, it's Lamium amplexicaule. As for dandelions, I keep posting them because I really like them. Always on the lookout for the most photogenic dandelion, or one being visited by a butterfly, or one that bloomed very low to the ground, below the blades of the lawnmower. Last, there were some tiny sorrel blooming in grass taller than themselves. The more noticeable wildflowers will be blooming at this elevation soon. Watch for them here! Also, on the Plumas Visitors Bureau's "Bloom Blog."

Rivers of Flowers on Table Mountain

Our host on last Saturday's Table Mountain hike kept referring to scenes like these as "rivers of flowers." Seemed like an appropriate metaphor to me. Hard to imagine this unless you visit. Maybe a week or two remaining before the area dries up rapidly. There will be interesting wildflower viewing for another few weeks after that along the creek beds, but the large expanses of "painted" flats will be brown until next spring.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Moves Up the Mountain

This is my third day of posting photos from last Saturday's wonderful hike across Table Mountain. The first seven photos here are from that day. Now spring flowers and animals are emerging at higher elevations. I stop by the Greenville Y, elevation around 3,000', twice a week. Last week the only things blooming were dandelions and the tiny Whitlow grass. Today, there was an abundance of newly blooming rock cress, also in the mustard family. Also, the blue belly lizards were out in force which means there must be a food supply crawling around in the crevasses. I saw the leaves of many other kinds of wildflowers that will be blooming in the coming weeks. And it was WARM! Wonderful time of year.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Shadow of His Former Self....

Various Table Mountain Critters

Besides these, we saw a rattlesnake, a gopher snake, lots of cows, and squirrels. When I saw the rattler, I froze with my finger on the shutter release. Only after it had gone down a hole did I realize I was more or less waiting for it to pose. My son came running over just in time to hear it still buzzing from deep in its hole at the base of a little cliff. The newts were busy cruising, sometimes in pairs, but we didn't manage to catch any mating. Did catch some for photography though. Some folks worry a lot about salmonella, but I've never got it. The young blue belly, Sceloperus, barely had any blue on its belly. A little later in the season some will have bright blue bellies along with yellow accents on the inner thighs. The various bugs we saw in cow poop brought back memories of when one of my high school students did a study of the ecology of cattle dung, specifically, the pre4dicatable sequence of bugs that invade as it dries out, some coming to parasitize the early arrivals. The big black beetle is known for poking its butt into the air and emitting a cyanide odor, but it was probably still a little too cold to bother. More Table Mountain photos tonight or tomorrow. Also, watch for the Plumas County Visitors Bureau's "Bloom Blog" which should start up for the season in a day or two.