Tuesday, June 30, 2015

While there's still some water....

I slowly and quietly approached a small, dammed-up pond where the creeks passing through the FRC campus are slowed briefly before spreading across the meadow on their way to Spanish Creek.  I thought I'd better check it out before it becomes totally clogged with algae and duckweed, although that, too, will be interesting.  I was rewarded by a view of dozens of bullfrogs with their faces barely exposed above the green surface.  Eventually they dived for cover, but quickly resurfaced in new locations.  It was fun to see them pop into view again, not knowing they were seen.

Celebration of a hospitable weed

 The Ox-eye Daisy provides a landing strip and a meal for the Thread-waisted Wasp, a marvel of insect architecture./
 This wasp poses no threat to humans but the faint of heart.  If you choose to be afraid, then they are threatening.
 These are my first grasshopper photos of the season.  Conditions were just right for this one not to be frightened as  I approached with my camera.
As blooming flowers become confined to ever smaller areas during the drought, I expect a concentration of insect and spider activity, thus, photo opportunities.  Stay tuned.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weed Ambivalence.

As I photographed plants around Dellinger's Pond, I tried to put myself in their shoes.  Do they feel thankful for humans' proclivity for creating habitat for them by building roads, and railroads and for letting them hitchhike or stow away on our airplanes and freighters?  Or do they hate us for our going back on our apparent invitations and thinking up ghoulish ways of killing them?  Maybe they are ambivalent - like me.  I love plant-pollinator interactions.  One of my favorite settings for photographing insects and spiders is Tansy, a weed.  Another is the White Sweetclover (above), also a weed.
The cute little Spanish Clover is a native plant, but many people I've led on nature walks say "it looks like a weed."  I have yet to figure out what a weed "looks like."
Here's a recent view of Dellinger's Pond.  Lots of native plants visible - Pond-Lily, various rushes and sedges, and willows.  Much less water than a couple of weeks ago.  More mud showing.  It's a man-made pond trying to return to a meandering creek, a wetland, finding its own way to Spanish Creek rather than being confined to man-made channels.  But then Spanish Creek now flows in a man-made channel, so maybe it's hopeless.
Spearment along the edges of the pond, not a native, but nobody seems to mind. 
Some kind of prolific thistle which nobody likes, but provides a great setting for photographing visiting bugs and birds.
Mountain Spiraea, a native shrub, that will probably become more popular for landscaping if the drought continues. 
The Tansy are blooming around the pond, and the ones that were cut back during Spring Semester are recovering.  Some of my favorite insect photos were taken on Tansy.
A goose feather on the wood chips.  Lots of goose poop along the dam, but no geese in sight on this hot afternoon.  Maybe hiding in the shade nearby, or maybe on a flight to a cooler clime, like up to Bucks Lake.
Rein Orchis, a native orchid, found fairly camouflaged among grasses, sedges, and rushes in roadside ditches.  These were along the watershed that feeds the pond.  I've visited the pond during several extremely hot afternoons.  I think I'll make my next visit early in the morning when it's cooler and see if things look different. 

Getting harder to find color

 First, one has to find moisture.  That's getting harder, too.  The roadside milkweeds are a good repository, for now, and that makes them a likely site for good insect photos like the Red Milkweed Beetle, Tetraopes basalis, on my left index finger.
 One can still find blooming Leopard Lilies, Lilium pardalinum, near creeks at the elevation of Quincy.  They're probably more plentiful at the higher elevation meadows, such as Brady's Camp, but I haven't been up there lately.  Also in the Lakes Basin.
 I've been finding a few Crimson Columbine, Aquilegia formosa, at seeps along the northern end of Jackson Street in Quincy.
 The wild Sierra Pea is "everywhere."  Seems unphased by drought.
 The Jerusalem Cricket is predictably found under any large piece of bark that is still a bit moist underneath. 

Things go bump in the night

Nighttime visitor to my son's pillow.  Now we're investigating humane spider removal.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I guess I'm an extremophile

When the temperature recorded at Quincy Natural Foods reached 105, and various patrons left their vehicles running with the AC on while they shopped, a feeling of disgust came over me.  We're experiencing human-caused global warming, yet half our population doesn't believe it, and more than half don't care.  A long time before AC was invented, the Arabs figured out how to cope with high temperatures.  Drink coffee and cover your body with absorbent clothing.  I decided that mid-afternoon, when the temperature topped 100, would be a good time to check in on Dellinger's Pond to see how the various plants and animals were doing.  And to see how I would do.  On my drive out there I thought of the life at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in the hot pools of Yellowstone, and in the pools below the Antarctic Ice, and maybe even on Europa or Mars.  My main worry was that my camera would get too hot and the battery would explode.  As usual, I worried more about the camera than about myself.  I have always loved extreme weather.  The cloud in the above photo almost ruined my fun.  It moved in front of the sun and lingered for a full ten minutes, resulting in a temperature drop of at least 10 degrees. 
Among the photogenic objects I discovered was the above golf ball.  Maybe someone quit right there due to the heat and didn't bother to pick up their ball.
The next thing that caught my eye as I entered the gate to the dam at Dellinger's was a White Alder tree with last year's dried out female cones with a dried out patch of Tongue Fungus.  To the right is a batch of this year's new cones.  THe tree looked healthy overall, and it provided a brief respite from the heat before I headed out across the dam where I knew it would be quite hot.
There was quite a bit more muddy shoreline than was visible during my last visit.  One might think it was ugly, but I found the new fragrance of hot mud reminiscent of the mud exposed at low tide where I grew up on Cape Cod.  Since we loved digging for Quahogs, the sulfurous smell as considered a pleasant fragrance, indicative of good clamming grounds.  I enjoyed spotting the footprints of Canada Geese and hearing the occasional Bullfrog grunt as it dove for cover.  I didn't see or hear any Coots.  They were plentiful during my last several visits.  I wondered if they were hiding in the shade or if they had flown to cooler climes.
Toward the end of the easily passable portion of the dam was a dense wall of thistle. I was wearing shorts and decided not to go any further.  I did pause long enough to take lots of photos of bees.
I also found patches of Tansy blooming.  I'll post those photos later.  Tansy is a non-native plant that spreads aggressively.  It is one of the weeds the college science classes are attempting to eradicate.  I wish them well, but meanwhile, I love the wide variety of insects the Tansy attracts.  More on that later, too.
I'll finish this chapter of my afternoon adventure with a blurry photo I got in a shady stretch of Jackson Street on my way home.  I stopped by a little spring to photograph the Stickseed, a kind of wild Forget-me-not.  Ironic that just this morning, in a post about Pennyroyal seen on Mt. Hough, I longed for the return of the Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moth.  Lo and behold, as I was photographing the Stickseed, one such moth flew in front of my camera.  I got a bit excited and scared it off, but not before I got one blurry photo.  I'll be visiting this place again.  Maybe the Ctenucha Moth season has just begun.

Mt. Hough miscellani

 On yesterday's drive part way up Mt. Hough, I found the drought conditions rather scary. But somehow the flowers that still manage to bloom made me feel cooler and more optimistic.  The bright red flowers of the Snowy Thistle contrasting with the silvery white stems and leaves were like beacons, despite the accumulation of road dust.
 The Pennyroyal seem to be having a better than average year, at least in the few places I visit regularly.  I'm still hoping to see my favorite visitor to the Pennyroyal, the Red-shouldered Ctenucha Moth.  So far, I'm seeing mostly Bumblebees and Swallowtail Butterflies.
 On the opposite side of the road from the Thistles pictured above, I spotted a large one somehwat protected by a dense patch of Manzanita and Deerbrush.  Less dust, too.  My camera doesn't do justice to the brightness of the red.
 The Yarrow seem to be doing well, too.  It was so hot by noon there was little or no insect activity on any of these flowers.  Will have to visit again soon early in the morning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Parched Mt. Hough still produces flowers

No Elderberry Beetles today

 This lone Elderberry bush looks really healthy, so I thought I'd take a closer look this morning on my way to the recycling center and see if I could spot the elusive Elderberry Beetle.  I haven't seen any this year, unless a immature beetle I posted over a week ago happens to be one.  I looked at every flower cluster and saw no insects of any kind.
 Here's a close-up of a flower cluster.
And here's a cluster of green berries.  The ripe berries, due in a month or so, are blue and more or less edible.  There's some risk of kidney trouble, and the berries are quite bitter unless cooked down into a jam or wine.  I checked the bush again around 5:00 this afternoon and found many Longhorn Beetles of another kind, the same kind that invaded my son's bedroom one evening last week.  The Elderberry Beetle is also a type of Longhorn Beetle in the Family Cerambycidae.  I'll probably check this bush every day for a while in hopes of seeing the real thing.