Saturday, May 17, 2014

Along the path to work

 I don't know if it's just a shift in my awareness or a shift in climate, but I am seeing a lot more of the Woodland Star (above) than in previous years.  If I were doing a true scientific survey, I'd have been counting and recording over the years, like Thoreau did, and I'd be able to relate my experience by means of numbers.  As a naturalist who mixes science with aesthetics and continually ponders the relative importance of each, I am content to straddle the worlds of science and humanities. 
A case in point: the Woodland Star is a Saxifrage, as is the Indian Rhubarb pictured here recently.  This is unremarkable to the botanist who is familiar with the specific characteristics that place them in the same family.  However, the casual observer who doesn't know these things has the advantage of the sense of wonder.  Even though I have a biology background, I am still struck with wonder when I think about the Buttercup family (coming up), Ranunculaceae.  It includes not only the buttercups, of which there are many different species, but also the Larkspur, Columbine, and Monkshood, among other iconic flower garden standards.
 The Western Dog Violet seems more common this year in the areas I frequent.  There must be at least a hundred blooming between my usual parking space and my office.  The invite me every day to try for the perfect photo.
 Speaking of Buttercups, this aquatic species is now blooming abundantly along several of the drainage ditches on campus.  Perhaps the easiest place to see them without getting your shoes wet is along the northern edge of the parking area by the rodeo grounds and softball fields at FRC.
 Here's a meal suspended among the weeds.  Since spiders normally drain the innards and leave the exoskeleton, I'm not sure whether this "meal" has already been consumed.
Robins are so common they are a cliche in children's stories and songs, and one has to work in order not to take them for granted.  Along my path to work, which is mostly shady and kept moist by the adjacent drainage ditch, earthworms seem to be abundant.  The Robins know this.  At least during this season, it's such easy pickin's that the Robins are unusually tame.  With a little patience, one can make a very close approach and witness the details of their feeding and nest-building habits, and maybe even learn a bit of their language.  The above photo did not require a telephoto lens.

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