Thursday, June 30, 2011
An Amazing Day for Naturalists
These photos are but a hint of what an eventful day it was. My narrative will have to wait till morning when I am fresh. The bottom photo of an American Avocet was taken by one Jeanne Collins whom I have never met. It was submitted, with permission to use, by a fellow writer friend.
[It's now early morning, July 1.]
The top photo shows a Goldenrod Crab Spider (white phase) preying upon a butterfly, I believe a Hydaspe Fritillary. This drama was taking place atop a branch of Spreading Dogbane, a milkweed-like plant, about a foot off the ground. Beneath the spider on the ground was a small pile of butterflies it had killed earlier (sample in the second photo from top). The remarkable thing was that we saw the same drama, on the same plant, on two previous days. I'm going to check again today. It's not often you can say to a hiking group, "We're going to see a remarkable spider on a very interesting plant," and have it be there when you arrive. Better than Disneyland!
The third photo is of a Sharp-tailed Snake, Contia tenuis. This one was found by our head maintenance guy in the empty tots' pool where we found a big toad last week. A great, tame little snake that is an adult when about a foot in length. I included my pen for scale. These little guys have a sharp tail which they use to stabilize prey like small insects and slugs while they swallow them. Harmless to people and seldom seen because they are both nocturnal and secretive. Thanks, Justin!
The next two photos are of beautiful beetles on a species of Clarkia called Farewell-to-spring. Ironically, the first ones we saw blooming showed up on the first day of summer. The first beetle seems to be a species of Cerambycid, the Long-horned beetles. The second is the Common Checkered Clerid.
The next photo of shiny, metallic beetles, is a scene I've often seen but never researched until now. Along the Tollgate Creek Trail, and I'm sure many other places at this elevation, I've been seeing these beetles on top of Klamath Weed (cousin to St. John's Wort), mostly not yet blooming. Turns out the beetle is the Klamath Weed Beetle.
Then we have another Goldenrod Crab Spider, this time on a cluster of Yarrow blossoms. This one, too, has been found on this same plant several days in a row. Hopefully, I'll be able to show it to some kids again today.
The bottom photo of the American Avocet was taken somewhere in Sierra Valley by one Jeanne Collins - Thank You, Jeanne - and submitted for my use by a friend who writes for the Portola newspaper. Thank you, Trish.