Monday, June 30, 2014

End of the Month Musings

 I've only seen one rattlesnake this year, and when I saw it I didn't have my camera with me.  It was on the FRC campus, on the sidewalk right outside someone's office.  Heroic maintenance staff took care of it.  I saw it being carried away on a shovel.  I heard that someone's dog was a victim of a rattlesnake bite yesterday near Oakland Camp.  With that said, I must admit that I went out to Oakland Camp this afternoon hoping to see a rattlesnake.  I certainly don't wish any people or pets any harm from rattlesnakes, but I do know they are an integral part of our ecosystem, and I would like to get some good photos of them in their natural habitat.  So here I have posted some less dramatic subjects.  The above photo of Narrowleaf Milkweed intrigued me because it is finally producing some seed pods.  They're narrow, just like the leaves.  Of the five species of milkweeds in our area, three have passed the peak of their blooming period - at least in most places I've visited around Quincy.  The first to bloom, the Purple Milkweed, went to see pods several weeks ago and I don't see any more flowers blooming at the American Valley elevation.  If one wants to see Purple Milkweed blooming, I'd suggest gaining 1,000 to 2,000 feet in altitude on our Forest Service roads.
 Another thing I thought a lot about today was the effects of our drought.  There seems to be far fewer species of flowers blooming at any given time than in most years since I've been in Quincy.  Also, many species are blooming as much as a month earlier than average.  What intrigued me today were the several species that seemed to be thriving, maybe even benefiting, from the drought.  The classic survivor that most people love to hate is the Star Thistle (above).  I think they are beautiful, and I don't like to get stabbed by them any more than the next person.  My solution: be careful.  I must admit, part of my fascination is knowing they are close relatives (same genus) of the well-liked Bachelor's Buttons.
 Another species that seems to be thriving more than ever is the Spanish Clover.  The blossoms seem more plentiful and bigger than those I remember seeing in previous years.  The ones in the photo above contrast nicely with the rocky background.
 This nice Spanish Creek scene can be uplifting or depressing, depending on one's perspective.  If you live in a place without free-flowing water, this probably looks wonderful.  If you've work hard all day in the sun, this looks like a great place to get wet.  However, if you live around Quincy and pay attention to Spanish Creek every year, you realize it is frighteningly low.  Some areas borderline stagnant.  Too much algae growing.  Makes me want to do a rain dance.
 In certain shady spots, the Scarlet Gilia are bright and beautiful, even though in sunny areas just a few yards away they have already gone to seed.
Back to the Narrowleaf Milkweed,  I love watching one of its most frequent visitors, the Checkered Clerid Beetle.  Many pairs were mating today, but they were also quite skittish and I never managed to get a good photo of them mating.  I did get a few bad photos of that, but I digress....

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