Saturday, May 30, 2015

4-eyes made my day

 As often happens with my little local field trips, I look for one thing and find another.  I was looking for Leopard Lilies, but in my usual spots, they hadn't bloomed yet.  Then I noticed the Showy Milkweeds had almost bloomed.  So close, in fact, that I drove the Oakland Camp Road, Chandler Road, and Highway 70 around Quincy, checking all my Milkweed spots, and finally found some blooming, and as a bonus, the Red Milkweed Beetles, Tetraopes basalis, had arrived for the season.  Photographs of them crawling around on Milkweed and on each other coming soon.  Tetraopes means four eyes, and the basalis part indicates these eyes (actually two) are at the bases of the antennae.  Each eye is more or less split by the antenna so it looks like two.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Around Noon, I sat in the sun for about a half hour, waiting for the dozens of Bullfrogs who dived into hiding when I approached to surface again.  Man, it felt like August out there.  No wind, direct sun, and a dark shirt.  My black camera was absorbing too much heat, so I tried to keep it on the shady side of me while avoiding any movement that might be obvious to frogs.  I finally saw one surface just a few feet from me.  Here he is!  How do I know it's a he - because his eardrum (tympanum) is a larger diameter than his eye.  In females they're about the same size as the eye or a little smaller.  There were lots of tadpoles in the vicinity, and mating pairs of dragonflies and damselflies.  I got photos of all of these.  My next post will explain how this relates to my intended writings about Dellinger's Pond and will include some extra Bullfrog lore.

Look What I Found!

 My plan was to go in search of a good Bullfrog photo.  I had been hearing the low-pitched garumph mornings at Dellinger's Pond, and their high-pitched squeak as they jumped into the water and evaded my lens.  Today I was determined to get a decent close-up to go with some writing I'm doing about the pond.  Just before getting into the car, I saw the scene pictured below.  It's the remnants of last Fall's firewood processing, and that one stick with a large knot on the side looked like a perfect place for a Darkling Beetle to hide.  I must be part beetle because when I turned the log over I found this pair (above) mating.  I suspect they got into this position yesterday afternoon when it was warmer, and stayed that way all night.  This morning it was too cold for them to care.  When I turned over the log they didn't move.  After getting this photo, I carefully replaced the log so they could carry on.
I then turned over quite a few more logs and large pieces of bark and found only ants and tiny spiders.  Like i said, I must be part beetle because the first log I picked out had the beetles under it.
I did carry on and eventually got some good Bullfrog photos.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Inevitable? I hope not.

Check my previous post.  I wonder if these girls are looking at photos of butterflies on daisies.  If so, I wonder if they took the photos.  I'm trying to be an optimist.

If You'd Rather See This...

rather than this...
 or this...
then you'll never see this!
  Click on the image, and it gets better.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Like a box of chocolates, sort of....

Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - when you look at every daisy for insects and spiders, you never know what you're going to get.  Daisies are blooming all around American Valley now, even in my front yard.  I'm eager to see my first Goldenrod Crab Spider of the season.  Meanwhile, I'm seeing many kinds of beetles and hoping to soon see a Thread-waisted Wasp.  The above daisy, an outlier, growing from a crack in the asphalt outside the flower garden by Midtown Coffee.  I'm hoping it'll be left alone for a while because lots of different insects and spiders visit this garden and daisies make a nice backdrop for photos.

Drama on the Cascade Trail

 More photos from Monday's walk on the Cascade Trail.  Above there's an acrobatic pair of Dimorphic Flower Longhorn Beetles mating while hanging beneath a blooming daisy while a related species, the Velvet Flower Longhorn Beetle watches from above.
 There are blooming Checker Bloom everywhere, and I have plenty of photos of them, but this trio caught my eye as they are partly hidden behind tall stems of Western Bracken Fern.
 I was curious why this butterfly chose the wilting flower right next to a fresher-looking one.  Insects detect many smells/tastes/etc. that we cannot, so what's visually appealing to us is usually irrelevant to them.
 It was fun watching this Velvet Flower Longhorn try to get into the disk flowers of a daisy that wasn't quite ready to bloom.
 Two different species of longhorn beetles competing for a meal.
A new species for me, the Tomcat Clover, Trifolium wildenovii.  Looks similar to the many species of Trifolium found on Table Mountain, but it looked different from an I'd seen before.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Impressive Trail Marker

When horse poop on the hiking trail supports a work of art like this, I don't mind at all.

A Buttercup?!!!

 I had never heard of this plant until a year ago when Jay Wright and I each spotted it in some front yards in our neighborhood.  It took a little doing to identify it, being a cultivar that doesn't appear in our wildflower field guides.  We could have asked the owners, I suppose, since they probably bought it in a nursery.  At any rate, finally ID'd it as Nigella damascena.  It is known by many common names such as...
 Love in a Mist, Devil in the Bush, Ragged Lady, and just plain Nigella.  There are many cultivated varieties which have their own popular names.  Just like with humans, there's this ambivalence - love, devil, hmmm.  Which is it?
 The most amazing discovery for me was to find it's in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.
The variety of flower shapes and colors in that family is remarkable.  The local example that's now blooming in the woods around Quincy is the Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule.  Soon to follow will be the Crimson Columbine, then the Monkshood, among others.

Oh, my!

Just as I was thinking about catching up on posting my sightings of the past few days, the first Chorus Frog of the spring jumped in front of me.  I still need to catch up on findings from recent Oakland Camp hikes, a trip down the Feather River Canyon, and yesterday's hike on the Cascades Trail.  Now this.  He/she appeared on my back deck, but I thought the Marigolds in the front yard made a better background.  This is the Pacific Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla, formerly known as the Pacific Tree Frog, Hyla regilla.  Sometimes they're green.  I'm sure I'll be posting more photos of this beautiful frog, always trying to create the perfect one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Extreme Beetlemania

 When I came across this little patch of daisies on the Cascade Trail, I got quite excited to find these beautiful beetles.  I got a few photos, then quickly scribbled in my pocket notebook, "God and Beetles," but the story will have to wait until tomorrow. Or the next day.  Very busy these days.

Part 2 of Feather River Canyon trip

Anticipation at Oakland Camp

 My last trip out to Oakland Camp was mostly a reconnaissance trip to see if the Leopard Lilies or Indian Hemp were blooming yet.  They weren't.  And I was looking forward to more insect activity.  None yet.  But, I had to take a few pictures anyway.  Here are some easy-to-spot flowers that are blooming and all but the Lady Slippers should be blooming for quite a while.  These first two photos are of Blue Gilia and were taken right by the Southpark Trailhead on the way to Oakland Camp.
 The Mountain Lady Slippers are at peak and should last another couple of weeks.
 The Orchard Morning Glory are along the roadsides and some are doing some impressive climbing on other plants and trees.
 Several species of Phacelia (below) adorn our roadsides.  The flowers do not contrast much with the stems and branches, so these are seldom noticed while driving.  Quite complex and interesting when viewed close up.
 The Purple Milkweed are in full bloom, and should be attracting insect visitors by now.  My last visit was on a cold morning so I didn't see any insects.
 The Bluebelly or Fence Lizards are active and doing their pushups and turning bright colors.  The less common, but similar-looking Sagebrush Lizard (below) is distinguished by a slightly different kind of scales - you won't notice that - and a rusty-red armpit.  Click on the photo for a clearer view of that.  I hope to visit the area again this week to lok for newly blooming flowers, insects, and spiders.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

There's More!!!

 I gave this post a silly name because I'm already looking ahead.  I'm taking a break from grading essays in order to post a sampler of what I saw yesterday on a quick shopping trip to Chico.  I think I've photographed around 20 different species of wildflowers blooming.  Here are five of the most memorable.  The ones I could spot while driving 55.  But each time I stopped for pictures I found several more better hidden ones.  More tonight or tomorrow, or when I need another break.  The above photo is of Buch Monkeyflower.  They were out in force from Jarbo Gap all the way up to the Greenville Y.  Some of the bushes were extremely covered with blooms.  Very impressive.
 The roadside had an abundance of blooming Madia.  It was hard to look straight ahead while driving.  At the roadside there was Madia and also several species of Arnica.  Probably not safe to try to tell them apart while driving fast.
 Between the Pulga Bridge and Jarbo Gap I saw quite a bit of Gum Plant (above).  It's almost ready to bloom in Quincy, but is peaking in the lower canyon.
 My favorite find of the day was the Spice Bush.  Lots blooming around the tunnels, plus or minus a few miles.  Usually in shade, so slow shutter speed resulted in a little blurriness.
The last one in this sampler is Indian Pink.  A few blooming at the roadside around Bear Creek.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2nd Orchid of the Season!

The Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, is the second orchid I've spotted blooming the season.  The first was the Mountain Lady's-slippers, Cypripedium montanum, that's been around for a couple of weeks now.  There could be many other orchids blooming around the county, such as the California Lady's Slippers down on the Caribou Road.  But, my driving range is rather limited these days to American Valley and vicinity, so I get excited about each new species blooming.
We've some pretty good rain this past week and more is expected.  That makes me think of all the seeds that have postponed germinating that might now be giving the season a second thought.  June could be a great month of delayed gratification for wildflower aficionados.
I took the above photo this afternoon on a deer trail in the dark forest above the FRC main parking lot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Celebration of Water, II

My previous post included views of three local lakes.  The water in a lake is obvious.  What is not so obvious is ground water.  Unless you're a well driller or a hydrologist, you may not be in the habit of noticing above-ground symptoms of water beneath the surface.  The above photo is of a dense patch of Lemmon's Wild Ginger growing in a creek bed on the FRC campus.  There's no visible water flowing in the creek bed, but there must be plenty just beneath the surface to support the ginger as well as lots of Corn Lilies, ferns, and White Alder. 
This close-up of the ginger leaves shows how the flowers, which grow out of the bases of the stems, are completely hidden unless one parts the leaves.
I parted nearly every pair of leaves and found fresh-looking flowers blooming on nearly every plant.
Across the paved walkway from the patch of ginger is a ditch in which the creek has been confined in order to build the large playing field we call the "lower green."  The ditch has a slightly visible flow of surface water.  Enough to support a dense crop of aquatic buttercups, Horsetails, various sedges, and Forget-Me-Nots.
At the edges of the creek bed (ditch) are Deerbrush, and on this damp morning there was plenty of dew on the leaves.
There is a rock missing from the large stone fireplace near the Campus Center, and it took very little dirt and water for the cavity to sprout a healthy-looking patch of Burr Clover.  This "weed" is a close relative of Alfalfa.  With graduation coming in a couple of days, I figure the weed eaters will discover it and eat it. 
Looking across the expanse of grass known as the green, one sees a patch of Black Cottonwood, a definite sign of water just below of the surface.  This looks to me like the path the creek used to take and is intent on using again.  For now, it's a stand-off.  We keep mowing, killing gophers, and maintaining the "integrity" of the ditches that keep the water flowing down either side of the campus when it wants to meander down the middle.
Pointless to try to mow between the cottonwoods, so it makes for a nice little wild area where various wildflowers grow, insects visit, deer graze, and birds hide.