Monday, April 30, 2012

Looked Happy to Me

Took a brief hike on the Keddie Cascades Trail this afternoon to see if spring was progressing.  Not too much, actually.  I could make a long list of wildflowers that were "almost" blooming.  Then a couple that have been around for a while that were blooming profusely - Miner's Lettuce and Chickweed.  Here I'm posting a few that I photographed for the first time this season, except for the two invertebrates.  Top photo is of the Mourning Cloak butterfly. It didn't look like it was mourning.  In fact, when I arrived on the scene it was spreading and closing its wings slowly, over and over again.  I discovered, when approached within four feet, that I hadn't re-inserted my media card in my camera, and I had my short lens on.  The butterfly waited patiently (happily?) while I fetched my SD card and changed lenses, and didn't fly away until I was finished.  Along the trail we found the main apple tree in the little, formerly inhabited meadow at the half-way point was in full bloom.  We also encountered Gooseberries and Sticky Currant blooming, and Oregon Grape and California Dogwood.
Remarkably, the Hellgrammite I found under a rock in a little spring was still alive.  They can spend several years in the larval stage before emerging as Dobsonflies.  The spring was so small that I didn't think the critter could survive there so long.  Finally, the last photo of rushes emerging from a nearby lake reminded me of the art work of Andy Goldsworthy.  No art here, unless my discovering and framing the scene can be called art.

Violet Errors, Oh, My!

Disclaimer time again!  I am not a botanist.  I recently posted photos of four kinds of violets, two yellow species, one white species, and one violet species.  I probably made some errors in identification, but get this:  The top photo, which I called Wood Violet, Viola lobata, is possibly Viola sheltonii, as one of my viewers suggested.  In the first field guide I consulted, V. sheltonii is called the Fan Violet, but is called Shelton's Violet in most other sources.  In my first field guide, V. lobata and V. sheltonii look very similar except for the color of the leaves and the number of lobes on each leaf.  The second photo above, I called the Pine Violet, Viola pinetorum.  Those are the names in the field guide I use most often.  I then found that most internet sites call V. pinetorum the Goosefoot Yellow Violet, and in one of the most popular field guides this species is absent.  To top it off, in that latter field guide, V. lobata is called the Pine Violet.  To make matters worse, when I type any one of these technical names into a browser and click on "images" I see photos of violets that are clearly of two or even three different species going by the same name.  So, to repeat my disclaimer, I am not a botanist, and I have not been able to untangle the conflicting descriptions I find in my several field guides.
I have found all the violets beautiful and fun to photograph, and, hopefully, my photos are sharp enough that you can click on each one for a close-up, examine the fine points and argue with your fellow nature lovers about which is which.  My 1951 Jepson Manual lists 20 species of violets in California, half of which are yellow.  Since it was published, there are either more or less than 20 species, depending on whether your favorite source is a lumper or a splitter.  Meanwhile, the violets just keep smiling back at us.  I'm more confident with reptiles and amphibians.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pretend This Is A Video Clip

One of the secretive botanical delights of this area is Lemmon's Wild Ginger, Asarum lemmonii.  It's a member of the birthwort family, Aristolochiaceae.  If I had a video camera, I could show you how I stumbled across this plant.  So, let's pretend.  The top photo shows a patch of the typical heart-shaped leaves (botanists use the term cordiform or cordate), and you'd be forgiven for not knowing there might be flowers hiding beneath.  In the second photo, as my eyes wandered over the scene, I spotted one little red blossom.  Click on that photo for a close-up and you'll see it.  The remaining photos show close-ups as I came to within 8 inches of that first flower then started seeing others nearby as I tipped leaves up one by one.  Sometimes this leaf tipping reveals other surprises like interesting bugs, salamanders, frogs, and snakes.  This little swamp-like area is due west of the FRC gymnasium in a grove of White Alder trees.  It's to the right of the paved walkway leading up to campus from the main parking area.  There are lots of young Corn Lilies there, too, so walk around carefully to find the ginger.  This little grove faces more or less South.  In Boyle Ravine, on the south side of Quincy, the creeks and forest face north, so the patches of wild ginger there, which are extensive, won't bloom for another month or so.

Violets May Be Yellow, or ....

I don't remember my botany professor's name, but I remember his saying, "Blackberries are red when they're green."  I can imagine him saying, "Violets are yellow," but that wouldn't have made sense when I explored forests with him in the Southeast where all the violets I remember seeing were violet.  Here in the northern Sierra, lots of violets are blooming now.  From the top:  The Wood Violet, Viola lobata, is blooming in the hills surrounding the FRC campus as well as along the paved path up to the college from the parking lot.  The Pine Violet, Viola pinetorum, was blooming yesterday on the hillside across the railroad tracks from Oakland Camp, as was the only violet one here (bottom two photos), the Western Dog Violet, Viola adunca.  The only white one I've seen in these parts was blooming in the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  That would be Macloskey's Violet, Villa macloskeyi.  And, of course, Pansies are violets.  Confused yet?  What if this genus had been first discovered in California, and the first ones seen were the yellow species?  They wouldn't have been named Viola. 

Save the Frogs Day

Friday, April 27, 2012

Today's favorites!

Did some serious climbing up talus slopes today near Oakland Camp.  At this rate, my boots won't last until summer.  Wore shorts, so I didn't wear holes in the knees - there were no knees!  Saw several species of wildflowers blooming, and several more almost blooming.  Will post more detailed report tomorrow, but for now, here are my two favorite images from the hike.  The blue spots on the Fence Lizard's back indicate he's in mating mood.  As you might guess from the charred log he's sitting on, this area experienced a wildfire.  Only a couple of pines and firs remain standing.  The slope is almost entirely covered with young California Black Oak interspersed with lots of Buck Brush, Deer Brush and Manzanita.  Lots of Dog Violet and Buttercups blooming.

Save the Frogs Day should be every day!

I'm sitting in a noisy coffee shop, but it's pleasant noise.  It's foggy this morning, and when I left the house I heard a few Pacific Chorus Frogs (pics 1 and 3 above) chirping.  I love frogs, but they've become California's (and maybe the world's) "Miner's Canaries."  I know, weird combination of images.  To make matters more confusing, canaries got their name from some islands which, in turn, got their name from wild dogs (Canis).  Anyway, at the present time, the rapid decline in frog populations is a serious indicator of environmental degradation in general.  So, tomorrow, which is Save the Frogs Day, do something nice for frogs.  Maybe start by checking out Save the Frogs Day websites and activities.  Then, read about your local species of frogs and toads.  You might fall in love.  Around Quincy, we only have four native species plus the Bullfrog, but whenever I see one I reminisce on the South where I went to college and where there are several dozen species of frogs and toads.  May they all thrive!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Botany Help Needed

Taking time out from the work of sorting through my unfinished business to post this return visitor to my unpaved parking area.  I posted this little guy last year, but no one responded.  I think it's probably a non-native species, but I can't find it in any of my books.  I might have to review my plant anatomy, get out a good hand lens, and dig into the details and an advanced taxonomic key such as in the Jepson manual.  The blossoms are only abut an eighth of an inch in diameter and are easily overlooked in a patch of wild grasses, especially when upstaged by dandelions.  It looks roughly like a phlox, but I was hoping a botanist out there could help me out.  I can't afford the new Jepson manual as yet. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dandelion Success Story

Tonight I'll let the dandelions speak for themselves.  I'd rather my children roll around in these than in carcinogenic herbicides.  We need to outgrow our tradition of lawn worship. 

Didn't see it? Maybe you're driving too fast!

Looks like a couple of rainy days, maybe even a bit of snow.  So, I have three items on my catch-up agenda.  First, I'm still swimming in the sea of dandelion conflict.  Got input from others, both pro and con, as I continue my propaganda on behalf of dandelions.  Then, there's the brief visit to the old apple tree on Lee Road that is always good for a few surprises.  On Saturday, I took a brief drive up Peppard Flat Road, maybe gaining a thousand feet in altitude, to see what I could see.  That's where I got the above photo of Henderson's Shooting Star, Dodecatheon hendersonii.  Peppard Flat Road begins a little over a mile from my house, so it's one of the most convenient ways to gain some altitude.  Most roadside vegetation is covered with dust, of course, and most users of the road, it seems to me, drive too fast.  Thus the title of this post.  I captured a few other interesting images on this drive.  Will post them during this rain break.  On Sunday, I took a hike with my wife to the vicinity of Gilson Creek, beyond Oakland Camp.  The photo of the tunnel in a recent post was taken there.  I have lots of other interesting photos from the hike that will be posted soon. 
On another note, the absence of the Bloom Blog and the Plumas Visitors Bureau is being noticed by various followers around the state and beyond.  Stay tuned, as there are number of people in town involved in resurrecting the Bloom Blog among other features promoting tourism to Plumas County.  I'm looking forward to helping with that project by providing some photos, but I'll do the majority of my posting of spring wildflowers right here.
Currently, there is an exhibit of my photos and a few sketches at the Plumas County Library in Quincy. 
A new show will be hung at the Main Street Artists Gallery in Quincy this weekend, and an Art Walk, showcasing openings at several of Quincy's art venues will be Friday evening, May 4.  I'll have four new pieces at Main Street Artists as will all the other member artists as it's a group show.
Be sure to check out the work of other local artists at the Plumas County Museum, the newly opening Plumas Arts gallery at the old Capitol Club, and the newly re-opened Morning Thunder Cafe, now named Patti's Thunder.  The "art season" is underway.  Let's make it a year 'round thing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fishing with a Camera

I'm still aching to catch up on stories I've started and promised to continue soon, but the distractions are just too numerous.  On a routine errand at the shopping center, I couldn't stop myself from carrying the camera down to the creek in front of the parking lot.  The gathering of trout was exciting, but I'm still thinking about dandelions.  My naturalist friend Rex Burress in Oroville managed to send me his recent essay about dandelions before I got mine together.  He scooped me on a number of points, but I do think I still have a couple of new things to say.  I hope I can get to it today.  I've made several brief explorations near town since I posted my first dandelion comments.  Each of these hikes had its high points and its collection of photographs.  I need about two hours of uninterrupted time to catch up.  Maybe I'll go park somewhere outside a business with free WiFi powerful enough to reach me.  Otherwise, I'll tackle these posts after the rest of the family has gone to bed.  I'm thinking dandelions, mating beetles, crickets, several species of violets, a flower I haven't identified yet, some notes on non-native species, railroad lore, and the emerging leaves of many species that will be
blooming soon.  When I review the photos, I'll probably find several more topics that need to be addressed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Got Side-tracked!

Had an adventurous day, and didn't leave time to finish stories promised yesterday.  Will catch up tomorrow.  Have more to say about dandelions as well as more photos of flowers and bugs from yesterday's and today's explorations.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The DMZ: A Dandelion Story

Here's a property boundary.  Guess which side I live on.  I need to get some sleep before I can tell this story properly.  I'm tired because I removed all the dandelions by hand.  They'll be back.

Dedication to Learning

A nice warm and sunny day, perfect for a tour of the new Outdoor Learning Landscape, a project of the Feather River Land Trust and several cooperating landowners, donors, school district, etc. (See the sign on the middle photo of the series.)  After listening to a few remarks by various leaders of the project, we walked a trail from the entry point off the bicycle path by the high school more or less due north to a large parcel of farmland west of the junction of Lee Road and Quincy Junction Road.  The photos are of some of the more interesting things I saw.  From the top: The Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, is a non-native frog, and is invasive in many parts of California.  But, it's also tasty.  I can't help but love the frog because whenever I see one I reminisce on my many hours and days of keeping frogs company in the southeastern states where the Bullfrog is native. The Filaree, AKA Storksbill, Erodium cicutarium, is a member of the Geranium family or the Gentian family, depending on which field guide you like.  My family used to raise Geraniums, and i can certainly see a resemblance.  Filaree are blooming profusely all over American Valley at this time.  They, too, are non-native.   The fourth photo from the top is probably a Yellow Jacket feeding on Filaree.  There are so many wasps and flies that look like Yellow Jackets, I'm not confident of the ID on this one. 
The sixth photo down is of Teasel, some species of Dipsacus, also a non-native.  This is the dried stalk of last season's plant.  The new leaves of this year's crop are just now breaking ground.
The next photo is of a Tree Swallow as it left the nesting box.  I'm trusting the ID of birders who were on this hike.  I don't see small birds very well, so I was lucky to get this shot. Now you know why most of my photos are close-ups.  Photo Number 8 is Johnnytuck, AKA Butter and Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha.  There's another flower found locally that is called Butter and Eggs, too.  In fact I found some blooming last summer along Quincy Junction Road, not far from this reserve.  Triphysaria was once placed in the Family Scrophulariaceae, but is now usually placed in the Broomrape family, Orobanchaceae.  Last, a ball of seeds, placed in a creekside willow as a bird feeder.  The Redwing Blackbird on the entrance sign seemed particularly appropriate today as the Redwings were plentiful today.  After the tour, I drove down Lee Road to the old apple tree where I enjoy photographing tiny things.  My next post will be of my findings there which include more dandelion photos.