Monday, October 29, 2012

Nuclear Stupidity

No more photo space here, but enough text space for another rant or two. I just read a headline saying there are 16 nuclear plants in the path of Sandy. Still like the nuclear power option? I'm thinking of the people in my town who always leave their car engines running when they go inside to get their mail. One particularly loathsome sight to me was a lady taking her time eating breakfast and enjoying the Sunday paper while leaving her car running to keep her dogs warm. It wasn't even cold except maybe to a person accustomed to the Sahara. Maybe she's one of those people who, in the spirit of James Watt, believe the Last Judgement is just around the corner so there's no point in worrying about such things as global warming, human-caused climate change, air and water pollution, and nuclear power plant accidents. Maybe I'll invest in Alfred E. Neuman "What me worry?" stickers, and I could sell them to such people to paste onto everything in sight. There, got that out of my system. Hope to be back in photo mode in a couple of days.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

No More Fall Colors

Still naive about operating in cyberspace, loving nature and wanting to spread the love, I just discovered that I have reached the limit of "free storage space" for photos on this blog. Didn't know this was going to happen. I need to spend money to get larger storage space. Need to contemplate my options because I cannot afford to invest in a free blog. And I haven't yet figured out an acceptable (to me) way of earning money with my blog. Ironically, today's blog was going to include a nice, close-up photo of a naked acorn which reminded me of the Hindenburg. Maybe that was an omen? I'll be back one way or another. At least I met my personal quota of one post per day for October.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Paradigm Shift

 It snowed last night.  A couple of ski resorts opened.  The Oak Treehoppers are gone.  I had to scrape snow off my windshield in the dark and take flash pictures of the snow while still half asleep.  To the extent my blog is known for wildflowers and bugs, I'm suddenly having to contemplate: will I draw upon my spring and summer archives in order to tell nature stories during the winter, or will I get myself better prepared for winter photography?  Another option is to drive down to Chico once in a while and do some exploring and photography where they don't really have a winter. 
Here's still another option, and I think I like this one best:  I am writing a book, largely based on my blogging from August 2011 through August 2012.  Certain chosen blog posts during that time frame will be my launching pad for some better-developed essays and political/social/economic diversions.  I might consider serializing the book as I write it, much in the manner of Charles Dickens in the 19th Century.  Only I'd include lots of teasers and hints, holding back just enough material that you couldn't resist buying the book when it's done.  This project was formerly known as "A Crack in the Sidewalk."  As my ideas have evolved, I'm now thinking of a more appropriate title: "Get Lost."

The Morning After, Part 2

 The post coming to you via the slowest internet service in town - at the college!  I hope my stuff makes it into cyberspace before the species pictured become extinct.  These are photos taken the morning after the rainstorm that occurred during Sunday night.  Part 1 was mostly water drops on leaves.  Here I'm showing some of the invertebrates that rose up from deep in the formerly hard, dry clay to reside for a while under the small boards I leave around the yard to attract them.  I hadn't seen any slugs in the yard (above photo) for two months, yet this light rain was sufficient to excite them into coming to the surface again.  I wonder if he/she will tell his/her buddies it's OK to come out.  These critters are hermaphrodites.  One of my favorite words bridging science and mythology.
 Sharing the same small board for cover, a lone Pill Bug (an isopod) does a little exploring.  These usually arrive in large groups, so I'll be looking around for more
 Sure enough, under a neighboring board I found more Pill Bugs plus Earwigs.  The latter are quite fast, so at least a dozen escaped down their little holes before I could click the shutter.
 This beetle must have said something scary because the lone Pill Bug took shelter inside himself. 
 My lone Red Clover that was knocked flat by the dew in the morning perked up again by afternoon.  Looking fresh as if it were spring.
 The dense fir forest across the driveway from my house has very little ground cover, but what there is is quite colorful.  A few Dogwoods (above) plus Trail Plant, False Solomon's Seal, Currant, and Thimbleberry.  This section of forest seems evenly divided between Douglas-fir and White Fir with occasional Sugar Pines.  As we hike up the hill from here, we find a few large stands of Big Leaf Maple and California Black Oak. 
Adjacent young oaks, probably from this year's acorns, are inexplicably two different colors.  The orange one on top shows the most typical fall color of this species on the mountains around Quincy.  A stand of these surrounded by evergreens is quite a beautiful sight.  Look toward the college as you leave Quincy heading North to see good examples of these colors.

The Morning After, Part 1

We were bracing ourselves for snow, but got only rain.  This set of photos is only about the aesthetics of rain drops.  However, the moisture brought about interesting changes.  Bugs that had been deep under ground, below the hard, dry clay on the surface, decided it was safe to come back and explore.
I found Earwigs, Pill Bugs, and Beetles under the boards I always leave at the edge of my lawn.  The rain was still falling on Tuesday, so I expect worms to join the party soon.

It just got light enough outside for me to see that we got an inch or two of snow last night.  It will be interesting to see if my boards offer enough protection for the bugs and worms to stay a while.  They'll know before the weather man if winter's here to stay.  And they don't even get paid.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Couldn't Remain Calm Before the Storm

Photographing that spider on Sunday wasn't enough to satisfy me.  With a storm coming, I decided I needed to take a walk around the neighborhood and downtown to get one last look at things before they got covered with snow.  My tour began with a beautiful yard on the upper reaches of Coburn where Hollyhocks looked as fresh as in spring.
A flame red tree across the street from the Hollyhocks set my mind a-wondering.  If I'd had a few beers (which I never do) before seeing this tree, I might have thought it was on fire and talking to me.  We naturalists depend on our senses to gather information, but our senses can be altered by various events and substances.  Naturalists in the 1800's were often heavy drinkers.  I got to wondering about Moses.
When I approached the courthouse I was taken by the beauty of fallen leaves and enjoyed seeing several out-of-town photographers capturing the scene.  I knew, of course, that come Monday morning, if not prevented by snow, the Leaf Blower Army would be out there returning the courthouse lawn to its sterile perfection.  These leaves should be raked up, jumped in, and raked up again.  Kids should smell them, jump in them, and smell them burning (carefully, of course).  If we're giving up all of that, why not just get Astro-Turf. 
I searched the area for a few standouts like these Sweet Gum leaves.
There are also lots of non-native Maples and possibly their close relatives the Boxelders.
I continued on toward the shopping center, then stopped to photograph the Maples by the west side of Safeway.
Then, on to the ditch in front of the shopping center which until a few days ago was a wonderful mini-wilderness.  I've photographed over 50 species of wildflowers here during the summer, and many visiting insects, spiders, and birds, and a small population of Rainbow Trout.  It was a great place to sketch and take photos, but now it's been tamed - like the courthouse lawn.  I much preferred it wild.
I wonder where the "waste" goes.  Hopefully it will join the Carbon cycle soon in an ecologically sensible way. 
When I got home, one last Red Clover was leaning under the weight of dew, but still glowing bright red.  I figured the snow Sunday night would end its season, but now it's Tuesday night and it's still hanging tough.
I ended my excursion at my dining room table where I photographed an oak leaf I picked up in front of Papa's Donuts a few days earlier.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not a Halloween Cut-Out!

She's been on my front porch for a week now.  By day, she hides in a dark corner under the eave, and by sunset she comes out onto her new web and waits for an evening meal.  A cold spell forecast, so she might be getting ready to disappear for the winter.

Boyle Ravine Scenes

 On Tuesday I didn't have time to leave town, but I did manage to take a brief hike with camera up Boyle Ravine.  The most dominant Fall Colors up there were the Big Leaf Maples, mostly turned bright yellow punctuated with spots of a beautiful black, gray, and green virus.  There were a few Dogwoods, too, but not brilliant red like happens in some years.
 Every now and then the basic brown ground cover is decorated by bird feathers, this one a Steller's Jay, and tasty-looking acorns.
 Most of the California Black Oak leaves turn a deep orange, but a few trees just below the big green water tanks have turned bright red.

Mt. Hough

 Got to visit the Lookout Wednesday, just three days before it closed for the season.  Got to treat my visitors from England to one of the best views in the northern Sierra.  Pretty dry up there, so why did they close it?  Must have been confident that the rain forecast for tomorrow is actually coming.
 The view from the parking area just below the lookout is breathtaking.  Crystal Lake a few hundred feet below us, and a great view over Indian Valley into North Arm.  Could also see Lake Almanor, Round Valley reservoir, Lassen Peak, Butterfly Valley, and many recognizable peaks to the East and South.  Especially fun recognizing many places we'd visited on the ground the previous two days.
We hiked from this point down to Crystal Lake and had lunch at the notch where the lake leaks out into the drainage of Indian Valley.  Most notable "nature event" was groups of ants cooperating in dragging our lunch crumbs as well as corpses of other insects off to their dens.  I wish our economy were as well organized.  The ants were all smiling with pride in a job well done.

Not Your Ordinary Fall Colors

 A brief side trip from showing my visitors around my favorite Quincy area trails was to run an errand at FRC.  One of the beautiful surprises there, as far as Fall Colors are concerned, is a patch of Orange Peel Fungus under a stairway near the administration building.  This fungus is very convincing; I've had several friends think I was trying to pass of an actual orange peel as a fungus.  Of course, eventually, most orange peels end up getting consumed by fungi, but not such pretty ones.
 I took my friends to Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  Upon approaching the Darlingtonia Bog, one sees mostly dried up, brown vegetation with some of last year's Pitcher Plants poking up, but they too looked spent from our dry summer.  However, as we patiently crawled around and looked closer to the ground, there were many colorful surprises, including quite a number of blooming Asters (above).
 A new patch of Darlingtonia looked so cute I had to place a quarter on top for show scale.  And the Sundew were still looking good in the wet areas.  It was a cool morning, so we didn't see any flying insects. 
 One of the man lilies found in this area is the Tofieldia (both common and scientific name) which was still standing with its seed pods looking almost like blooms from a distance.
 After spending an hour or so wandering around the bog, we adjourned to the Keddie Cascades Trail.  Most of the color was the green of evergreens and the yellow-brown of oaks, maples, and many different shrubs.  But a few patches of Umbrella Plant were showing off their reds, oranges, and yellows.  Overall, the Umbrella Plant didn't produce the solid rows of brilliant red along the creek side that happens in some years.  But I enjoy looking for the individual spectacular leaf anyway.

 The dusty, gray trail was decorated with occasional Wooly Bear caterpillars.  They can winter in the leaf mulch, even under several feet of snow, and they turn into a Tiger Moth in the spring.
So, we saw more than satisfying amounts of Fall Colors, even though we never saw the seasonal standards: large groves of Aspen, Black Cottonwood, Black Oak, Big Leaf Maple, and Dogwood.

Spanish Peak

 To me, the Bucks Lake Wilderness and Spanish Peak are every bit as exciting as California's better known mountain regions like Yosemite and Kings Canyon with the added bonus of having no crowds.  I was so glad to live near them when last week I was paid a visit by friends from England who could have easily been sidetracked by Chamber of Commerce type pitches to go to the more famous places.  On their first day in town, Last Sunday, we hiked up to Spanish Peak from Silver Lake.  The top photo is the view from the dam by the east end of Silver Lake.  So gorgeous that one could easily spend the day sitting on or near the dam with a sketchbook and some food and drink.
We went in search of Fall Colors - capitalized because they are treated as sacred this time of year.  Interestingly, there weren't many reds, oranges and yellows along the trail as we've had a very dry winter and summer.  Even the Mountain Ash, which I thought would put on a good show, was mostly dried up and had lost its leaves and berries.  However, the views, as always, were spectacular.  We could see Lassen Peak in one direction, and Sierra Buttes in the other.  Then I pointed out the path we took up from Quincy.  The view of Silver Lake from the top (photo below) always gives one a feeling of accomplishment.
 Ironically, the most dramatic fall color was the wolf lichens covering the huge Red Firs that suddenly appear as we emerged from Granite Gap.
 Nearing Spanish Peak, we encountered several friends and colleagues from Quincy and a nice lady with a Labradoodle jogging along the PCT. 
We picnicked near the peak and watched the many Chipmunks waiting for us to drop some crumbs.
The only negative experience, for me, was being greeted by three hunters as they were leaving the Wilderness Area.  I hope they didn't find anything.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


 Our front porch resident spider is back.  Last night she devoured yesterday's web, and by daybreak had built a new one.  Already had one fly victim wrapped up in a corner.
 A man-made lily.  My daughter is experimenting with her new birthday camera and is already getting some nice effects.  When I look at these light bulbs over her bed, I see lilies.  Maybe she does, too.  Or perhaps stars. 
This is another arrangement of the leaves I posted a couple of days ago.  I call this shot "Botanical Rainbow."  The leaves of Cascara Sagrada stay fresh for quite a while.  I might try still another arrangement today, and post more natural history notes about the species, and color changes in general.