Thursday, February 16, 2012

Further Thoughts on a Microclimate

After photographing several active invertebrates that were residing under the bark of a Ponderosa stump, we headed back in the direction of Oakland Camp. My last photo of a critter under the bark was some sort of larva.  Probably a dipteran (fly).  I could feel the heat radiating from the wood beneath the bark.  It was as if the season was already early summer in there, while it was clearly still winter on the outside.  THe incredible range of microclimates in a small area fascinates me.  I wish I could appreciate it on a bug's level.
Then, my wife noticed a large earthworm struggling in a muddy puddle.  I took a few photos and watched its movements for a while, wondering whether it was struggling to survive or enjoying a swim.  I was tempted to tinker with the photo to clear up the water, but fell back to my usual position of wanting the photo to be a memory of what I actually saw.  The puddle was muddy.  The worm didn't seem to be in trouble, so I decided to leave him/her alone.  The puddle was in the sun and quite a bit warmer than the surrounding air.  Another microclimate.
Finally, one of the most impressive sights along this path is the large Ponderosa, standing alone among small California Black Oaks.  For some reason this tree isn't that noticeable on the way out to Gilson Creek, but stands out on the way back.  I was 22 years old on an expedition in New Mexico before I ever saw a tree this big.  The forests on the shoulders of Nacimiento Peak in northern New Mexico were dominated by huge Ponderosa Pines with very little underbrush.  It was easy to walk around, looking straight upward, and get a similar feeling of awe that I first experienced on a class trip to New York City.  I remember getting neck cramps that night from spending hours looking upward.  Click on this photo for a close-up and to see our large dog for scale.  Some day I hope to be patient enough to sit in this spot for a few hours, sketching and writing, and waiting to see what birds land in this great tree.  It looks over Spanish Creek, so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I see eagles or ospreys perch here.

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