Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Yesterday by Gilson Creek, Part 1

 I think I took all these on yesterday's hike to Gilson Creek with a couple from Oakland.  The top photo is of a Small Milkweed bug on a rather wilted cluster of Showy Milkweed,  This bug is known by entomologists as a "true" bug, in the Order Hemiptera, as opposed to beetles and other types of bugs as the term is used more generically.  In some writings the word bug applies to spiders and even snails and leeches.  In a post last week I included some photos of this bug mating. 
 A beautiful flower on the sides of the road to Gilson Creek is the Scarlet Gilia.  Often covered with road dust, I sometimes bring along a mister or flick a little water from my water bottle in order to get a better photo.  In this case, the plants were just far enough off the road to be free of dust.
 Another view of the Scarlet Gilia.
 The first species of milkweed to bloom and also the first to go to seed is the Purple Milkweed or Heart-leaved Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia.  Soon these will be attracting masses of bright yellow aphids.  The color of the aphids is quite dramatic against the purple of the plant.  Then later still the pods dry and crack open releasing seeds that can be air-borne for many miles.
 There is lots of Pennyroyal blooming around camp these days, and it is attracting many kinds of insects, the most dramatic of which is the Carpenter Bee.  I'm eagerly awaiting the return of the Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moth.  I might have seen a couple today around Tollgate Creek, but they didn't sit still long enough for me to confirm their identity.
 Here's another photo of the Small Milkweed Bug, but this time on the Narrow-leafed Milkweed. 
 When we approach the wet sand near Gilson Creek, we see this sort of scene.  Sometimes there are hundreds of butterflies of several species constantly fluttering around, landing, and taking off.  When they land, they often hold their wings together over their backs.  Since the undersides of wings of most species are of "earth" colors, they blend well with the wet sand.  For instance, can you spot the California Sister in this photo?  Try clicking on the photo for a closer view.  The butterfly is in the center.
 Once they land, they may continually open and close the wings, maybe a sort of air conditioning.  I'm not sure.  But it can be tricky to try to click the shutter while the wings are open.  Note how the orange patches at the ends of the fore wings have black borders on the far edges.  A very similar-looking species, the Lorquin's Admiral, lacks the black borders so the orange goes all the way to the tips.  The difference can be difficult to notice unless the butterflies sit still for a while, or reside on an entomologist's pins.
A beautiful, small lily hidden among the taller grasses and milkweeds is the Harvest Brodiaea.  In wetter areas at lower elevations this plant can grow 2 to 3 feet tall, but in this dry area a quarter mile shy of Gilson Creek, they are mostly around 6 inches tall.

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