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.
Destination, Friday afternoon: Gilson Creek. These 8 photos represent the highlights of "the way out." The next post will include 8 photos taken on "the way back." Once beyond the camp boundary, my favorite first stop is a rocky outcropping overlooking a favorite pool in Spanish Creek among fisher-people and watercolorists. My special attraction here is the Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis. As you can see, it's nearly ready to bloom. This plant plays host to many interesting beetles, and also a nice community of bright yellow aphids and bugs that eat aphids. None of these insect visitors seem to decimate the milkweeds. In fact, there's no visible damage, and great ecology lessons abound. There appear to be around a dozen milkweed plants in this area so far, and I am looking forward to showing them to my summer hikers. Adventures in Nature Journaling class during Feather River Art Camp, June 16 through 23.
A little further down the road is a great spot for Purple Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia, also known as Heart-leaf Milkweed. This one is also about ready to bloom although, depending on sun and rain patterns, it could stay at this stage for a couple more weeks.
I walked across the dirt road to get a closer look at the status of the Showy Phlox and was startled by a good-sized garter snake. I do not specialize in photography of moving things, as these two photos will testify. The Garter Snake, often called Water Snake when it is near water, and called Gardner Snake by people who don't know it's Garter, is known scientifically as Thamnophis elegans. There are several races or subspecies in California. This genus of snakes is closely related to the true water snakes of the eastern states that are in the genus Natrix.
If you use your imagination to sew these two photos together, you get to "see" the whole snake. I deleted the 8 or so other photo attempts. They were pathetic.
I saw my first Arnica. Out of obligation to my botanically inclined visitors, I tried to key it out as to species. I was comforted by this message at the top of the Arnica page in my Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada: "Difficulty Identifying Arnica? Relax, It's not You..." If I were forced to guess, I'd call it Arnica sororia, but it's a guess, and not that important. It brightened up an otherwise brown patch of ground.
As I approached Gilson Creek, the puddles in the road and the damp sand surrounding them were crazy with two basic kinds of butterflies: Blues and Checkerspots. I think these are Checkspots, but since they don't stand still and I don't have a powerful telephotos, they're even more difficult than Arnica to identify at the species level. It's difficult to catch a photo when the wings are spread as they generally rest with the wings together over their backs. In the case of the Blues, there's a dramatic difference in pattern and color between the top side and the under sides of their wings.
The Blue Gilia, Gilia capitatum, is becoming abundant in the area either side of the Gilson Creek crossing. They are nearly pure white in this area, but they are much bluer at the sides of the road leading in to Oakland Camp.