Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Nature Study

 One of the advantages of having a good background in nature lore is that when you're doing a mundane task like splitting firewood or raking leaves, you're much more likely than the average person to see something interesting, like this Leaf-footed Bug hanging onto a catkin of our birch tree.
 One of the disadvantages of having a good background in nature lore is that when you're doing an important task like splitting firewood or raking leaves, you're much more likely than the average person to see something interesting, like this Leaf-footed Bug hanging onto a catkin of our birch tree.

Early Morning Light

A Moult

Or is it molt?  When I took this photo, I was conscious that it was framed by what I called "a new kind of adult," one on the far left and one on the right, with many juveniles in between.  What I did not notice until I looked at it on my monitor was an emerging adult in the top center.  Click on the photo for an enlargement and you'll see.  If I only had a couple of days to spare, I could have stood there and watched it happen.  I can't afford a time-lapse photography setup. 

A New Kind of Adult

 I started photographing the emergence of the Oak Treehoppers about a month ago.  This shot, taken by my driveway, shows a small group of juveniles and one adult of the olive-drab-with-spots variety.  I was seeing these near my house, in the foothills of Mt. Hough, and in ne oak tree on the FRC campus.  Then I stopped looking for them for a couple of weeks.
 This morning, on my way to town to look for some early-morning-light photos, I made a quick stop by the large oak tree in my driveway.  What I saw was a startling abundance of juveniles and a small gathering (above) of a different kind of adult.  In fact, today, all the adults I could find were of this very different color pattern.  Basically red, black, and white longitudinal stripes, a kind of 90-degree rotation of the juvenile pattern.  I've done a little reading on this, and all I could find is that adults come in two basic forms - the two I've shown here - and I have not found any genetic studies.  The differences seems much more dramatic than, say, the difference between blondes and brunettes, or between brown and blue eyes, in humans.
 Here's a shot of these "new kinds" of adults tending their young.
And, in another part of the tree, a hint of fall colors to come.

The Natives Are Restless

The native tree species, that is.  While our California Black Oak, Black Cottonwood, and Bigleaf Maple are barely showing signs of fall colors, a little yellow or orange here and there, the non-native maples are often brilliant red, and some are already losing their leaves.  These two shots are of a non-native maple growing by the parking lot across from Moon's.  The Thursday afternoon lighting was not the greatest, but these shots were to remind me to check out the neighborhood around sunrise for more dramatic lighting.  I finally got around to doing that this morning.  Results will follow.

An Unselfie

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In Living Color

Staghorn Sumac, a native of the eastern USA and Canada, seen at the western end of Jackson Street.

Thoughts while waiting for fall colors.

The thoughts are metastasizing.  Need to eat dinner before I can bring them under control. 5:13 p.m.

It's now 6:10, and my thoughts are now fueled by organic tomato soup and bread from a local artisan (fancy!) bakery. 

The above photo was taken in front of my son Greg's house on Bell Lane.  It's the seed capsule of a fascinating plant in the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.  It's sometimes called Love in a mist.  But also called Ragged Lady and Devil in the Bush.  These names reflect our ambivalence about such things as love and the devil.  To add to the mystique of this plant, the scientific name is Nigella damascena.  It's a native of southern Europe and the Middle East, the specific epithet referring to Damascus, Syria.  The name Nigella reminds me of Nutella (r) which is another sort of etymology challenge.  And thoughts of Syria bring me to Muslims and Dr. Ben Carson.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Wait!  What in heck does that mean? 

The Nutella folks want it to be pronounced new-tella, but who can resist a nut?  Go to their website and you'd think it's a healthy combination of hazelnuts and a little bit of chocolate.  Go to other sources, maybe even the product label (I haven't looked) and you'll find the main two ingredients are sugar and "modified" palm oil.  Oh, oh.  Do we have a "health food" product here?  Turns out this brand is produced in many places, and the formula varies from place to place.  Sometimes contains soy products.  They promise no peanuts.  In any case, I don't trust it.

As for Ben Carson, who was evidently very good at brain surgery, he recently said no Muslim should be elected President of the United States.  That's because Sharia Law basically says one must live his religion at all times and in all places, so if we had a Muslim president, that would conflict with our Constitutionally guaranteed "separation of church and state."  In fact, he said, due to our history, we should obviously elect a president who "would swear on a stack of Bibles to uphold our Constitution."  Go figure!  And why a stack of Bibles.  Isn't one sufficient?  By the way, God is not mentioned in our Constitution, and the oath of office, which is mentioned, does not contain the word God.  George Washington added it during his inauguration and it's now one of our main memes. 
These big, black ants, like many black birds, are terribly misunderstood and under appreciated.  Henry Thoreau and I, along with the great E. O. Wilson, have spent a lot of time watching ants.  They really seem to "know" what they are doing.  They do a lot of very important work.  Some species love to invade households that are careless with food.  If you can read Chris Van Allsburg's Two Bad Ants without falling in love with ants, I feel sorry for you.  I guess the ant theme crept into this verbal adventure because my classes have been reading J. Drew Lanham's "Birding While Black" and "9 Rules for the Black Bird Watcher."  Black birds and black people are often treated just as badly as black ants simply for being black.  Sick.
The above quote from Jon Stewart nicely sums up Dr. Ben Carson's problem.  Fundamentalist religion can render people incapable of understanding the Constitution's intention regarding religion.  Worse: it can render them unwilling to try to understand.
So, I have to end this adventure on a positive note - although what I've already said here can be seen as positive in the sense of shedding light where it needs to be shed.  So, I drove down Jackson Street early this morning, knowing I wanted this blog post to end with this photo, and got several pictures showing that the Autumn Crocus is very beautiful even while dying.  The stems have collapsed, and they and their petals will soon dissolve and become a part of the soil along with the pine needles and leaves nearby.  The bulbs will have a nice winter beneath the surface and greet us early in the spring with green leaves.  That's my hope.

Throwing Caution to the Wind

I was looking around for Oak Treehoppers or varieties of Fall Colors when I came across this scene and could not resist.  I did a little online research but could not find any information about the origin or age of the phrase.  I'd guess it evolved in a sailing ship environment, but I have no evidence of that.

Friday, September 18, 2015

In Cool Pursuit

 Well, it was a cool evening when we encountered these two on our front porch.  And they move very
slowly.  Maybe the word "pursuit" has no meaning in their lives.  It was relaxing to watch for a while.

Eating Crow

Or, is it "crow eating?"  I guess it's a matter of perspective.

Tunnel Vision

Over the years, I've heard lots of complaints about "tunnel vision" but I think that sometimes it comes in handy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Waiting for an Oil Change

 I didn't have much time for photography or writing today, but I did bring my camera along when I went for an oil change.  In the midst of all this dryness, there was a little water flowing in the creek in front of Safeway.  That keeps the shoreline moist enough to support some late season blooming.  The patches of Gum Plant by Paradise Cafe had lots of bees visiting, but the wind was blowing.  I must admit it took around 20 shots to get these two that I thought were worth sharing.
 There's something magical about capturing a bee in mid-hover.  Some day I hope to be as lucky with a hummingbird.
I came across just one small patch of asters.  Among other species that were blooming, but which I bypassed due to lack of time, were Goldenrod, Chicory, Cat-o-nine-tails, Stickseed, and California Poppies.  Despite my early morning rush to school, I stopped to see if there was any water in Dellinger's Pond.  There was!  We might be getting a little more rain this week, and if so I expect to see interesting changes in vegetation and animal behavior.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Legitimate Fall Colors

 In my previous post I showed Ambush Bugs on Tansy, a yellow background that makes it hard to spot the bugs.  I followed with a close-up of a bright pink Pea blossom, and imagined how beautiful it would be to see a yellow bug on a pink background.  Well, about five minutes after taking those photos, my wish was granted, and I found an Ambush Bug resting on a bright pink-purple Thistle.
 Nearby, the honey bees were busy on other Thistle blossoms.
 Then, I spotted a small patch of a smaller species of thistle and imagined its being a landing pad for some sort of colorful insect.
 Within a few seconds after taking this photo, a Cabbage White butterfly arrived.
 I went back to the Ambush Bug on California Thistle and found it slowly crawling toward the stem.  I wondered if it detected the romance taking place on the nearby Tansy and contemplated getting involved.
 After all this colorful excitement, I found the scene below calming.  The earth tones relaxed me, and I was able to carefully drive home without thinking too much about the smoke-filled sky.

What meets the (discerning) eye

 The Ambush Bugs were out in force today when I visited Dellinger's Pond.  They are hard to spot when they are hiding on yellow backgrounds like the Tansy.  These Tansy "buttons" are around 1/4" in diameter.  When I first spotted them, I could not tell with the "naked" eye that this was a mating pair.
 After taking a few shots and hoping some would be precisely focused, I twisted the stem to get a
 different angle, but I wasn't convinced I had a pair until I enlarged the photo on my screen.  I suppose I could have disturbed the bugs in order to see what was going on, I didn't want them to waste their energy adjusting to my intrusion.
Very close by were a couple of blooming Sweet Peas and I thought it would be particularly beautiful if Ambush Bugs landed on this bright pink background.  Of course they might then be ambushed.

Like a new hairdo

 This afternoon I was walking around Dellinger's Pond looking down toward the ground.  This is a habit of mine as I often look for tiny flowers and exotic-looking bugs.  Today, it was also because overhead the sky was full of smoke from fires over a hundred miles away in the Coastal Range.  Although I was searching for bright colors, and did find some before I was finished, the first impressions were made by these plants gone to seed.  The spread of dried seed pods of a Wild Sweet Pea reminded me of a new hairdo, the kind a young girl or women likes to show off because it represents radical change.
Nearby, I saw a Thistle which gave me a similar feeling, although it was a very different style of hairdo.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Season Progresses

 I love photographing these guys.  They appeared on the oaks by my driveway a few days ago, and today, I spotted them for the first time by the walkway leading to the upper campus at FRC.  They arae getting bigger and more abundant, and I'm continually trying to take the ultimate photo of them.

 This shot shows the population density and includes a hint of falls colors.
Undoubtedly a conference on parenting going on here.  I wonder if it's as complicated for them as it is for us.

Thoughts about thinking

 In academia, we talk about metacognition.  Even spell checkers don't recognize the word.  Maybe that's why it exists - sort of like a secret handshake.  One of my sons knows well how I wrestle with the ups and downs of trying to teach college students to think.  He finds images and statements like these two during his late night net surfing and forwards them to me.  I don't know if he thinks they'll help my teaching, or if he's just trying to tease me.  Ignorance is not "bliss."
Speaking of brains, is there hope for people who sport bumper stickers like "Keep the government out of my Medicare"?  Probably not.  I think that on my early morning walk up to my office, I will go slow and pay particular attention to the Ravens, Grey Squirrels, Oak Treehoppers, and much else that lies along the path.  That always restores my hope.

Fall Colors, sort of

 California Incense Cedar, looking really productive. Lots of male and female "cones."
 Mountain Ash, a grand specimen by the Plumas County courthouse in Quincy.
 For a while, the brightest colors in the area will be the berries.  If all goes well, aesthetically, this show will be followed by Mountain Ash leaves turning bright red and the neighboring Sweet Gum trees ...
 will exhibit a a wide range of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples.  For now, a few of the trees around
the courthouse are showing small patches of yellow.  The leaves that have fallen to the ground are not at all colorful.  Mostly dried up and brown.  That should change.