After a slow first five months, I'm back to blogging in earnest. In the forthcoming few months I plan to keep on tracking the blooming of wildflowers, the activities of bugs and reptiles and any other critters I'm quick enough or lucky enough to photograph, and to comment on ecological relationships. Since there is an increasing sense of ecological crisis among many people and more vigorous denial of such on the part of others, I will inevitably comment on the social and political dimensions of survival as I see them.
I am still an adjunct instructor in the English Department at Feather River College, but time permitting, I am available for hire as a nature guide in the region in and around Plumas County. A brochure describing my usual kinds of natural history adventures is in development. Email me c/o firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address and a statement of interests, and I'll send you a rough draft.
I have been teaching since 1965 and have recently joined the English Department as an Associate Faculty member at Feather River College. Recently taught Nature Literature in America and am currently teaching Interpersonal Communication and Basic Reading and Writing.
There were so many kinds of wildflowers blooming on my afternoon adventure that it'll take two sessions to show them all. My first stop was at the top of the hill just past the college turn-off north of Quincy. I wanted to visit a spot where I see Scarlet Fritillary every spring. Sure enough, they were blooming. There's something about this flower that seems to irritate the sensor in a digital camera. Several fellow flower photographers have mentioned this to me. The flower seems to give off an unnatural glow that doesn't appear to the human eye. It's what digital photographers call noise. It might show up on film as grain. Still rather pretty, but a bit unnerving when the photo never looks quite the way you remember seeing the flower.
The second photo of the Fritillary is to show its relation to the foliage. Very thin leaves with linear veins. At higher elevations the Fritillary are still in buds, and in the lower canyon they're already dropping their petals. We're in the lucky middle. They're putting on a show.
There are lots of wild members of the pea family, Fabaceae, in the woods and on the roadsides around Quincy. This one, growing right next to the Fritillary, is Jepson's Pea, named after the author of my oldest botany book. The botanical name is Lathyrus jepsonii.
Another wild pea, encountered on Old Highway on the way to Keddie Cascades, is Lathyrus sulphereus, or Sulfur-colored Pea. This plant had healthy herds of aphids living on just a few few of its several hundred clusters of flowers. They didn't seem bent on destroying the plant at all. Just needed a place to stay. And there were ants keeping the aphids together in tight groups so they could feed off their deposits.
A native, the Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris retrorsa, is just beginning to bloom. It generally grows taller and thinner than our non-native dandelion, and the lobes on its leaves are curved radically backward toward the main stem.
The Checker Bloom are looking fresh along Old Highway and have lots of insect visitors. Mostly pollinators and no apparent damage to the flowers. This is Sidalcea glaucescens in the Family Malvaceae. It generally has a prostrate stem, but can occasionally grow fairly tall. Its higher-altitude relative, the Checker Mallow, always grows straight up. Their ranges overlap, so it's fun to find both in the same place. Lakes Basin later in the summer is a possibility.
A very nice group of Death Camus was found along Old Highway before descending down the grade to the Keddie Cascades Trail turnoff. Hard to spot while driving unless you know their locale from years' past.
Two photos of the Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule, to show the leaf pattern as well as the color variance. Most in this area I'd call red-orange, but a few were a very bright red.
For me, the most exciting flower find of the day was the Spotted Coralroot, Coralorhiza maculata, an orchid. Soon, we should be seeing the less common Striped Coralroot.
My last stop of the day was to photograph some dogwood just south of the new Spanish Creek Bridge, but this bug on my windshield was more interesting. It reminded me of one of my favorite field guides, That Gunk on Your Car, by Mark Hostetler. It's a great little field guide to the familiar splotches that suddenly appear on your windshield when the bugs are flying. Besides the great illustrations of typical splotches, it has beautiful color illustrations of the undamaged bugs for comparison. My second set of photos from today's outing will have to wait until tomorrow.