Monday, February 28, 2011

Forgot to Fly South?

I saw these geese on the way to work this morning when it was around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Some looked as though they might have been attached to the ice. Looked very uncomfortable, but I guess they know what they're doing. Baseball and softball seasons have begun in Quincy - indoors. Maybe we should have a hockey team. If you're tired of snow and ice, stop by the Main Street Artists Gallery and take a look at my photos of spring wildflowers and insects.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Keeping the Spirit of Spring Alive!

I hung my photos for the March show today, and they are mostly spring wildflowers and various invertebrate critters that begin to show up in the spring. All the while, I was thinking about the recent weather forecast that said we could receive snow every day for the next week! Well, I'm fighting back by posting these from last spring.
Click on each photo for a closer view and a caption in the upper left-hand corner. Click a second time and you can zoom in even closer; the spot where you put the cursor will be in the center.
I don't know if this will work like a rain dance - you know, if spring arrives soon I can claim credit, but if it doesn't we'll all forget I suggested it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What're You Grinnin' At?

Ever get mad at a little piece of styrofoam? I did. Went out this morning to investigate the new storm and started shoveling. I thought I was going to work today, but not possible. As I started the back-breaking job of tossing the snow clear of the already tall piles, This little styrofoam ball on my antenna kept grinning at me. Sort of silly, but I did get mad. This storm is no laughing matter!

Everyone Talks About The Weather, But....

The global warming deniers will fill the coffee shops and barber shops today. Yikes. This is the most snow I can remember in Quincy and it's still falling. Decisions, decisions. Shall I ski to work? Will the heat be on? Right about now the wood stove at home seems like a good place to be.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't trust your calendar. The plants and other animals don't!

Sierrosmith's comment on the previous post opens up all sorts of paths of inquiry for the curious. Ever wonder why our 9th through 12th months bear prefixes that mean 7, 8, 9, and 10? Those nefarious calendar manipulators again. Then there's my friend in Point Arena who was born on February 29! Poor guy, after living for 32 years, he was given an 8th birthday party by his fellow teachers and students. He even got a few toys that were appropriate for 8-year-olds!
The other comment, by Greg, on my previous post refers to the still earlier post headed by a photo of a lizard.
Snowing again!

Artists' Opening, Quincy, March 4

Here's another one of my bugs from the forthcoming show at Main Street Artists at 436 Main Street, Quincy. The show will be open for viewing March 1, but the formal opening will be Friday night, March 4, 5 - 8 pm, during Quincy's first Friday Art Walk. Several other art venues are open that evening including Plumas Arts where I'll have one piece showing and the Plumas County Museum where my son Ryan will have a show for the month of March. Please come by and enjoy the hors d'ouvres, music, and art and mingle with Quincy's art lovers. Or at least the hors d'oeuvres lovers. Find out why we love Quincy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today Is The "Real Day"

Just a reminder to those who have been seduced by the modern custom of three-day weekends: Today is George Washington's "real" birthday. It's a cool day this year. 2/22/11. Can't you imagine the insertion of a right parenthesis followed by a vinculum over the 22, indicating a simple division problem? Sorry about that. I see numbers everywhere. Besides, Darwin, whom I admire greatly, said, "It seems to me that mathematics endows one with something like a sixth sense."

No Longer "Ticked Off?"

The always-inteesting science writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, David Perlman, had a great one in today's issue. Titled "Lizard-tick ties yield surprise," it's about a study being done by some UC scientists on the relationship between the lizards, ticks, and Lyme disease. When I lived on the coast, I remember the many lizards my kids and I caught, especially the Alligator Lizards, often were carrying quite a few ticks. Before the word of Lyme disease got around, I'd handle these lizards and their ticks with abandon, but always remembering to rid myself and the kids of ticks when we got home. Some of these lizards carried literally dozens of ticks in their "armpits," "groin area," and ear openings. The lizards eat lots of ticks, too, but they'd almost have to eat them off their companions because the ones on their own bodies were out of reach. Maybe there was some sort of social bonding behind this?
Anyway, in the Perlman article, which deals with the Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) in Marin County, it is revealed that a protein in the lizards' blood purges the tick of the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, thus reducing or eliminating their potential to infect humans with said disease. So, be nice to your neighborhood lizards!
The Fence Lizard shown above was photographed at Oakland Camp near Quincy, and the Alligator Lizard held by son Ryan was photographed by our former home in Leggett.

Not Your Usual Poppy Photos

Everything outside is still white around here. My daughter is having softball practice indoors. I am wondering how the Eskimos can have dozens of different words for snow - or so I've heard. I think I can differentiate maybe six kinds. Anyway, my need for color erupted again as I stepped onto the cold deck, barefooted, to get a new bundle of firewood. I thought I'd post a few poppy photos that don't look like everyone else's. The middle photo is of Frying Pan Poppies on Table Mountain. In the background are Bird's Eye Gilia.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Two Snow Gauges

I went out and shoveled snow for about an hour, all the while in awe that the flowers in the previous post remain alive under it all. Well, not the flowers, but their parent plants - in some cases bulbs, in others seeds or other kinds of roots. Also, the eggs or other stages of many kinds of bugs, and dormant reptiles. It's all pretty amazing, and now we have to wait longer for these life forms to reappear above the surface.

I Need Some Color Today

Did Punxsatawney Phil predict this? I looked out the window at 6:00 a.m., and it looked like about 3' of the white stuff on the ground. The split-rail fence that had been my snow gauge until now has completely disappeared. In a little over a week, my photo show opens at Main Street Artists. Very much a Springtime theme, I had thought "what great timing; a wildflower and insect display just as the 'real thing' is beginning outside." Well, it looks like winter will be around a while longer. I'm sure I'll get out and wander around with my camera in a while, but it is definitely tempting to spend the day reading and drawing by the wood stove - and hope the roof doesn't collapse!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How The Day Ended

The trip home, after taking a few photos in Greenville, was more exciting than I expected. First, I got behind a Prius going up the long grade from the Greenville Y. Yikes! Barely crawling along, I couldn't stop safely and I couldn't get around her safely for about a mile. Constantly hoping I wouldn't be rear-ended. Yeah for passing lanes. We got by her and got up to a safer 30 mph. Then, just before the Keddie Y, on the scariest curve of the trip, we were startled by this jack-knifed big rig taking up both lanes. After braking as safely as I could and sliding into the ditch on my right, Ryan and I spend the next two hours sitting, looking at this stupid truck that was inadequately chained up for conditions. Radio reception wasn't too bad, and I did have some good reading in the car. My son had some music on his iPod. Low on gas, so we didn't run the heater. All in all, a mini-study of the natural history of winter driving. I did spend a little time thinking about the various critters that were comfortably waiting out winter a couple feet underground.

The Real Thing?

We've had a series of small "winters" this year, but none, until now, seemed like what we need. Namely, lots of stored water for the forthcoming season of agriculture, fishing, and all-around recovery of drought-stricken and otherwise abused ecosystems. I woke up this morning to nearly a foot of new snow - see top photo - and various amateur and professional forecasts of another week of this kind of weather. Coming to work on a day like today is topped only by hanging out at the barber shop for discussions of weather. The reactions range from anger to delight and various sideways responses not on the spectrum. As a naturalist who is always looking forward to the next spring, I can both lament another delay and admire the many kinds of critters who are adapted to surviving winter. I can only imagine the various critters that spend the winter a foot or more underground, that is, unless I want to get out a pick-axe and dig for them. I get frequent reminders when I split a few more rounds of firewood and find larvae and adults of various insects inside some of them. I have breathed on these inactive critters long enough to bring them back to life, so to speak. I take a few photos, then stick them back into what little holes I can find to give them another chance to make it through the winter. They'll end up in the wood stove one way or another, but let's not think about that.
So, here's to everyone who enjoys this weather. To be honest, I even enjoyed the drive to Greenville today. It was a bit slippery, but I was careful. There have been and will be lots of wrecks today and in the coming days. Impatience, mostly! Arrogance, sometimes. I hope none of them hit me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They're Back!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned here that I had seen a flock of turkeys grazing in a field near the beginning of Dixie Canyon Road, but I was going too fast and it was not a safe place to stop, so no photo. Well, yesterday, on my way home in a steady rain, I thought I'd slow down and take a peek. There they were! Around 30. I had appointments to keep, so I got a few photos from the front seat of my car. Fellow blogger Sierrosmith informed me that a group of turkeys is called a rafter. I can't get used to that. After all, "what's in a name?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bugs in Mind

First installment for the day. It's relatively warm and rainy this morning, the kind of day that often causes some bugs to emerge to see if it's really spring. My camera hopes so. Stay tuned....
Until I get to wander around a bit in the rain, here are a few from my archive. Top photo is a swallowtail, I'd guess a Pale Swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon, on a Leopard lily, Lilium pardalinum, photographed in a swampy spot along the trail that skirts the eastern edge of Bucks Lake. Second and third photos are of the Red Milkweed Beetle, Tetraopes basalis, to me one of the prettiest of the Cerambycid family, also known as long-horned beetles. These live out their lives in and on milkweed plants, in this case the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa. If you try to research this one on the web, you will encounter confusion, on some sites, between this and the Red Milkweed Bug, illustrated here ion a recent post. The bottom photo is of the beetle that kids love to "bug." Its response to being prodded is usually to raise its rear end and squirt a mist that, up close, is rather awful, but from a certain distance can be quite pleasant. Sort of like cigarettes.:) This is a Tenebrionid beetle, most likely of the genus Eleodes sp. Now I'm off to look for bugs on my way home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

No Such Thing As Bad Weather

Thoreau said it, and I agree.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Few from My Forthcoming Show

Art Walk in Quincy, March 4, 5 - 8 p.m. I'll be sharing a show with sculptor George Fluke at the Main Street Artists Gallery. I'll also have a piece at the members' show at Plumas Arts. My son Ryan will open at the museum with his collection of electronic inventions, pyrotechnics, and origami. The shows at Main Street Artists will be ready for viewing when we open on Tuesday, May 1, but the opening Friday night will be more fun. Several Quincy venues open to show art plus music and snacks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My New Neighbor

I didn't get a chance to do any outdoor photography today, so it was satisfying to have a new colleague move into the office next door and bring a potted orchid. A cultivar, for sure, complete with the nursery label still attached, but nevertheless, like all orchids, pretty amazing. Especially when viewed up close. I walked by it several dozen times in the course of my morning duties when, finally, I couldn't resist any longer and went to fetch my camera. The results are above. Click on either photo for an enlarged view. In fact, click twice for a closer close-up of any part of the photo. Of all the world's major regions, we have the fewest wild orchids, so it was quite a thrill to find Mountain Lady Slippers (an orchid) in the forest just outside Quincy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Help! What is it?

As I gear up for the coming summer's nature walks, I'm reviewing photos taken last summer. I came across this one of a flower I was never able to identify. It grows close to the river in a gravelled area that is submerged for most of the winter. It bloomed in August. I'd love it if someone out there recognizes it and would let me know.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Format Lie

Just for fun, I titled this photo "Format Lie." Can you guess why? Hint: Photographers are most likely to know.

Caerulean or Ultramarine?

How blue can the sky get? This is how it looked yesterday in Greenville and Indian Valley. These two colors are in my set of acrylics, and I'm pretty sure mine are artificial because they were really cheap. I researched these two colors and found they have complex histories and come in many different forms from traditional "pure" forms to a variety of alternatives. Thinking back on my high school chemistry, it would have been a lot more fun if we got to play with pigments - maybe even make some and use them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hemiptera - "True" Bugs

Had a interesting geometry class today. Somehow we dealt with a.) how to deal with mistakes, b.) the relevance of geometry to art and interior design, and c.) what actually is a "bug?"
The top photo is from a page in my nature journal on which I discovered I had misidentified a bug. A few weeks ago, in this same building, we had found a live Box Elder Bug crawling on the stairway. We were having a warm spell so some of these bugs that often spend winter "hibernating" in the walls decided to come out for a stroll. I took a few photos and posted them on this blog under "Birds and Bugs." Later, when I decided to enter this event in my journal, I accidentally used a drawing of a similar bug, a White-crossed Seed Bug, as a model. Note the similarity to the Red Milkweed Bug. Later, when I reviewed my earlier blog entry, I realized I had the wrong bug. So, today, after looking over some articles on the Box Elder Bug and my own photos, I painted a Box Elder Bug and explained the correction. Drawn in this way, dorsal view, the bilateral symmetry is obvious. Also, the parallelograms I used as background of the top paintings were the subject of today's geometry lesson. The problem was, more or less, graph the following four equations on the same co-ordinate system. y = x + 5, y = x + 10, x = 5, and x = 10. We actually had some "greater than's" and "less than's" in there somewhere, since the lesson was ultimately about graphing inequalities. I placed the colored shapes behind the bugs just to make the page more colorful.
We talked for a while about mistakes. In typical high school math classes, the answers are in the back of the book. Students never get to try to solve problems that haven't already been solved. Students don't learn how to make hypotheses or to take mistakes in stride. In science, we tackle problems that haven't yet been solved. One has to be ready for mistakes, hypotheses that don't pan out. I try to simulate this in math by giving the students open-ended questions. For example, give them a drawing of a regular polygon and ask them to work as a group and list as many "facts" as they can about this figure. Their lists get surprisingly long.
Finally, we talked for a bit about what actually is a bug. When the term is used loosely by lay people, it can refer to most any arthropod, insect, spider, centipede, millipede, etc., and sometimes even worms and slugs. To a biologist, a true bug is a member of one order (subdivision) of insects, the Hemiptera. This is one of the larger orders of insects, topped by beetles, butterflies, and flies. The backs of most of them are shield-shaped, and when I was a kid we called many different species of them shield bugs.
I'm nursing a sore throat and getting sleepy, so I'll postpone any further comment, and proof-read this tomorrow a.m.
Next morning: corrected a few typos and have to add this - When I looked up Red Milkweed Bug and clicked on "images" I got a mixture of photos of Red Milkweed Bug and Red Milkweed Beetle! Two different orders of insects. They're both red, but are quite different in most respects. "Mathematics seems to endow one with something like a sixth sense." Charles Darwin.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A "Sunday" Drive on Monday

Took a sick day today and alternately slept and coughed all morning. Then, in the afternoon, decided I needed some scenery - shoot a few photos from the front seat of the car and park in the sun for a while and enjoy the greenhouse effect. After ping pong, if I don't have the ultimate coughing fit, I'll post a few of my findings. I'm starting to enjoy more and more the subtle browns and tans of the fields at this time of year. Also, the birds, even though i'm not equipped to do good bird photography. I did manage to see some Canada Geese in a pond near the edge of Quincy Junction Road, and a Great Blue Heron in the distance. Also crawled around among the Black Oaks for a while, hoping for bugs, but enjoying the lichens and mosses. The sky was bluer than I ever saw east of the Mississippi. My relatives back East accuse me of using filters to get these blue skies, but I don't.