Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Morning Afterthoughts

Three items from our Saturday morning walk that I continue to think about. Top photo is a new friend in a huge Ponderosa that Rex Burress introduced me to. Says he's been around for at least 15 years. Let's hope for many more. From now on, I'll greet him every time I walk by. Second photo is another item introduced to me by Rex, Black Knob Fungus. It's notorious for infecting fruit trees, but here it's on a wild cherry and is itself host to some attractive lichens.
Then come my obsessions: the milkweeds, and milkweed-like plants. Photo number three is Spreading Dogbane, Family Apocynaceae. The bottom photo is the Showy Milkweed, formerly Family Asclepiadaceae, but more recently combined with the dogbane family. Both have many interesting features: attractive and fragrant flowers, attract a wide variety of beautiful insects, and have useful fibers. Hopefully, I'll soon be seeing the Red Milkweed Beetle. I can never get enough photos of that beauty.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Few More from This Morning's Hike

That's it for today. Wonderful discoveries. Too bad I can't include the many interesting aromas. You'll have to visit.

Lots of new flowers and bugs on a Saturday morning

This is what I saw today around Oakland Camp and on the southern stretch of the Keddie Cascades Trail. Not all IDs are certain. Click on any image for a larger view and to see my caption. Corrections of incorrect IDs are welcome. These are posted because of their beauty and/or because they aroused my curiosity. A few more to follow shortly.

A Visit to the Ladies' Rest Room

A lady at camp came running to get the naturalist - that's me - to report an amazing moth or butterfly in the rest room. I came with my camera and found this beautiful sphinx moth primping in front of the mirror. When it became aware of me and my camera it dropped down into the sink and provided me with several different views. These are also known as hummingbird moths as they can hover in front of their flowers of choice with such a rapid wing-beat that they look a lot like hummingbirds.

Three Shady Characters

Yesterday, in our enthusiasm for photographing the Mountain Lady Slipper, we trampled on lots of Western Dog Violet before we realized they were there. This can also happen with the beautiful Lemmon's Wild Ginger which is often seen as a ground cover of overlapping, large, heart-shaped leaves. One can easily walk through a patch of these without realizing they are in bloom as the flowers are close to the ground and bloom beneath the leaves, seldom seen without pushing leaves aside. Last, the amazing Spotted Coral Root. From a short distance away, they can look dead and are often confused with the more common Pine Drops. The Coral Root, however, is an orchid. and a closer look is rewarded by an intricate flower. Click on the image above for a closer view. These three were difficult to photograph without artificial lighting as they are denizens of the dark, shady places in our forest.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Great Day at Camp

Henry Thoreau said, "An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." That certainly proved to be true today.
I led a group of a dozen members of the Art Camp on an early morning nature walk and we discovered a small alder covered with a white fuzz (top photo). I assumed it was some kind of fungus, but I had never seen this particular one before and I am far from a fungus expert. On another walk, later in the morning, I stopped with my companions for another look. This time the white stuff was moving! Then a group of young naturalists, ages 6 - 9, showed up with their leader. We all started poking at the white stuff and discovered it was full of bugs of some kind - fragile looking greenish ones. We had no appropriate collecting containers, so I've decided to go back tomorrow a.m. properly equiped and try to identify these mysterious (to me) new creatures.
The second photo is of a blackish growth on a young California Black Oak. This was pointed out to me by my companion on the second walk, Rex Burress. More about him below.
The third photo is of a scene that caught my eye for aesthetic reasons. A very tall specimen of Salsify, or Goatsbeard, had fallen down or been knocked down, probably when it was finished flowering. The "buds" of this composite look about the same before and after flowering. This one had finished flowering as we could see hints of the seed pappi forming inside. But it was still "green" enough when it fell to exhibit its natural negative geotropism, that is, to grow away from the pull of gravity, thus we see this gentle, upward curve. Nothing spectacular, I suppose, but to an avid Salsify-watcher, it was an exciting find. Click on the photo for an enlargement and enjoy the details.
The next photo is of naturalist Rex Burress photographing the most exciting discovery in camp this season - so far - the Mountain Lady Slipper. I met Rex two years ago via the internet but never met him in person until today. Rex was the camp naturalist at Oakland Feather River Camp for over twenty years after a number if years as a naturalist for the parks in Oakland. We have exchanged nature notes and photos for two years and I have been most anxious to meet him in person as he is not only a wonderful human being but a fount of natural history knowledge. Today he showed me several of his favorite spots and trails around camp that I had not yet discovered, and these will definitely enhance my nature walks for the rest of the summer. And he introduced me to his "friend" in the bark of a huge Ponderosa Pine. Rex says that this face, created by woodpeckers, has been in this spot for over 15 years. All in all, a great morning of discovery and sharing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Milkweeds Are Blooming!

To me, the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, is one of the most beautiful wildflowers anywhere. The intricate blossoms attract a great variety of insects and spiders, including the elegant Red Milkweed Beetle and the Lynx Spider. On hot afternoons the blooms have a strong peach odor. When I come across a patch of newly blooming milkweeds I cannot stop taking photos. It was hard to limit myself to two for this post. True to form, I also got some good shots of the Small Milkweed Bug, Lygus hesperus, mating. In what I have been calling my "milkweed spot," just north of the Greenville Y on Highway 89, I also found the Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, not quite blooming, but the buds are attractive. Also in the area are the Spreading Dogbane (in an earlier post) and Indian Hemp, Apocynum cannabinum. In earlier posts I have shown the Purple Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia, also known as Heartleaf Milkweed. The three milkweeds were formerly in their own family, Asclepiadaceae, but newer manuals combine them into the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, which includes the Indian Hemp and Spreading Dogbane. I have found all five in the same locale. The assortment of insects and spiders found in such a place on a hot afternoon is truly impressive.
The Grand Collomia shown here was photographed on a trail in the Oakland Camp. It's in the Phlox family. The other three pictured here, Pennyroyal, Wandering Daisy (perhaps), and Wild Onion, were all photographed on the Mt Hough trip described in my previous post. Great year for wildflowers continues.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The beautiful, amazing Mt. Hough

On Monday of this week I had the pleasure of guiding a group of senior citizens on a car caravan up Mt. Hough. For lack of a better idea, I've posted the photos of wildflowers in alphabetical order by common names. That is, by the common names I assigned them at first. Some are known by several different names, and we will get to that later. It's been a long time since I've had so much fun with people my own age. Although going on 69, I tend to approach my outdoor adventures like a much younger person and take what some would call foolish risks in order to see amazing things - cliffs, rattlesnakes, etc.. My guests were not so nimble around camp, but the amazing scenery and crisp air at the top of the mountain seemed to make people instantly a decade or two younger. They were thrilled to be able to look through clear blue skies at Lassen Peak 40-some miles to the North and Sierra Buttes to the South. Eventually, we realized we could probably have seen Mt. Shasta if it weren't hidden from view by Lassen. We confirmed this on a map back at camp. We also saw the mountains around Tahoe, like Mt. Rose. It was also fun to spot relatively close by a butterfly-shaped meadow known as Butterfly Valley which they had visited two days before to view the various carnivorous plants.
We were professionally and delightfully hosted by my old friend, the lookout, Lucas, whom I met in this same lookout 30 years ago. Now the flowers:
First is the Arrow-leaved Balsam-root, Balsamorhiza sagittata. There were literally acres and acres of this beautiful sunflower up around the 7,000' level. When we got out of our vehicles and walked around, it was apparent that there were many leaves of Narrow-leaved Mule's Ears amongst the Balsam-root. The Mule's Ears and Balsam-root have very similar blossoms, but the former were not yet blooming. Also among the large yellow sunflowers were the tiny Sierra Onion, Allium campanulatum. Also, two kinds of Calochortus or Mariposa Lilies, one known as Beaver-tail Grass, C. coeruleus, and the larger, white one Leichtlin's Mariposa lily, C. leichtlinii (mis-spelled in my caption). Then there were small larkspur, Delphinium, whose specific name I was not able to determine. These were often blooming among the leaves of the Mule's Ears, Wyethia angustifolia. There were also mountain Violet, Viola purpurea, which are yellow! The Spreading Phlox, Phlox diffusa, were blooming among the rocks near the peak which were covered with snow only a few weeks ago. Lower down the mountain, I would estimate between 4,000 and 4,500 feet in elevation, we saw Snow Plant, Sarcodes sanguinea, Mountain Whitethorn, labelled Blue Ceanothus in the caption, a relative of the Deer Brush, Buck Brush, and Mahala Mat, among many others. It is Ceanothus cordulatus. There was lots of Paintbrush, Castilleja sp., along the road and one specimen of Scarlet Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata. Last, but not least, one of my favorites, the Pussy Paws, Calyptridium monospermum. It is fun to hang around long enough to see these start their day with their stems stretched out flat on the ground, then gradually rise as they appear in the above pictures, then lie flat again later in the afternoon as moisture enters and leaves their cells. Great adaptation for surviving this sometimes harsh environment. We also saw some very large piles of fresh bear scat, but I'm not supposed to mention it so I won't. :)