Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Little Time for Nature

A very hectic day today, having to meet people at four different places. However, my camera is always within reach and I sighted several flowers and birds that compelled me to stop. Had to dodge raindrops a couple of times, too. I've posted two flowers that were highlights of my day - the birds were too fast.
The top two photos are of what is commonly known as Moutnain Dandelion, or Agoseris retrorsa. Some people use Agoseris as the common name. It is native to the Sierra, unlike the Common Dandelion which is not. Dandelion is named for the leaf which made some people think of the "tooth of the lion." Note that on the Mountain Dandelion the leaves are much skinnier and the "teeth" are pointed back toward the stem. The flower is a bit less full and open than the Common Dandelion. I haven't checked on the culinary or oenological potential of the wild version, but I suspect it works in both categories.
The bottom two photos are of Death Camus, Zigadenus venenosus. This beautiful but toxic lily looks very similar to Tofieldia, but has some leaves growing off the main stem while the latter has all leaves growing out of the base and none growing off the upper stem. The Death Camas is often found growing in mixed patches with Blue Camas whose bulbs are edible. Native people used to harvest the bulbs before the flowers bloomed (perhaps many still do), so it was important to know the locations of each. Both are quite photogenic and are even more beautiful when found in combination with the bright orange Leopard Lilies which will be happening before long in the wetlands at the upper end of Snake Lake. Also, Corn Lilies. Keep checking on that area. It's Lily Heaven when all four of these are blooming.
As for birds, it was an exciting day for me, but I was not quick enough to get good photos. It seems the Western Tanagers have arrived en masse. I saw them at school, at Oakland Camp, and points between. Racing from tree to tree, they were faster than I could focus. I also saw some tiny black and yellow birds that may have been finches or warblers, and they were obviously coupled, or trying to be, and also darting from tree to tree. Then there were crows - both in the woods and at my various food and gasoline stops in town. Close-up photos or flowers and bugs have been my passion these past two years, and I am impressed by what a different set of skills are needed to photograph birds. That is, honest photos of them in the wild. One can always combine bird feeders and Photoshop, or do as Audubon did and shoot them. Hopefully, that is no longer practiced. On that note, I have an essay buried somewhere on this computer called "The History of Natural History: from Shotgun to Camera."

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