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.
This set of photos was taken last Sunday near Oakland Camp. It was my last field trip out of town in April, thus my title, even thought it is now May. I went in search of Scarlet Fritillary and other signs of spring. Ironically, I found a different Fritillary, and it felt like summer! The close-up above is Fritillaria micrantha and the common name is Brown Bells. I stepped back a little to get a photo of
the stem and upper leaves so you can see how the flowers hang like bells. With my near focus, they stand out reasonably from the background, but when walking along they are difficult to spot against the ground cover of brown oak leaves. I looked around quite a while for the Scarlet Fritillary, Fritillaria recurva, and finally found one that wasn't quite open. (below)
On the road into camp there were a few stands of Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata, a flower often confused with Mule's Ears. Note the leaf shape. The leaves of Mule's Ears are shaped like an elongated oval pointed at both ends. They weren't blooming yet at this location.
A close-up of one of the blossoms reveals my first sighting of the season of a Goldenrod Crab Spider. This is one of my favorite "bugs" and have more spider lore when these arrive in greater numbers.
Beyond the camp, on the way toward Gilson Creek, there's a large open area of widely-spaced small pines where I enjoy photographing several species of Milkweeds. What caught my eye first was an amazing crop of Showy Phlox, peaking several weeks earlier than usual. At this point, it felt as hot and dry as an August afternoon. We could be in for a challenging fire season.
Here's a close-up of the Showy Phlox, Phlox speciosa. My mind immediately engaged in word play. Phlox is one of those plants for which the scientific name is also the common name. Others are Magnolia and Roses. Ironically, these particular Phlox were growing right in the middle of a patch of shoots of Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, which not nearly ready to bloom.
Another common early spring wildflower is the Checker Bloom, Sidalcia glaucescens. These were much less abundant than expected. I found only two in a hour of wandering. Maybe they'll be late.
Here's another shot of Checker Bloom. They have five petals which are slightly fused together, but can still be counted. These are easily confused with Farewell-to-Spring that bloom a little later and have only four petals per flower.
The first of our five local species of Milkweeds to bloom is always the Purple Milkweed, or Heart-leaved Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia. I found many of these plants in an area where I see them year, but they were not quite bloomed last Sunday. They may well be blooming by now.
I also found some Narrow-leaved Milkweeds almost ready to bloom, but I'll save those photos for a post tomorrow dedicated to several species that were almost ready to bloom.