Saturday, October 31, 2015

Look what the cat dragged in!

Things I Hope Will Be Covered with Snow

What are we salvaging?

 Up on Mt. Hough cutting firewood last week, we came across this beautiful dead Black Oak.  Beautiful, you ask?  It's dead!  However, it is and has been a home to many creatures, not the least of which are woodpeckers.  A nest hole is apparent in the second and third photos.
 Then there are the lichens.  Soil makers.  And moss.  Beetles.  Oak Treehoppers (although they only live on the oaks when they are alive.  With the aid of lenses, one could probably identify a hundred or more species of organisms that depend on this oak at all stages throughout its life until it becomes soil again.
 There is considerable controversy over so-called salvage logging - taking out of the forest all salable wood after a fire.  I'm siding with the critters.  I think the damned federal government knows what it's doing in this case,  The people of the United States own this forest, not just the people of Plumas County who own wood stoves, of which I am one.

 AS the bark begins to separate from the wood, the resulting cracks are great hiding places for lizards, beetles, spiders, and all manner of other invertebrates.  A great situation for kids to learn about ecosystems, and not just about board feet or cords of wood.  We should be thinking about salvaging
whole ecosystems, not just marketable wood.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Water Invites Life

 Last Thursday's rain has been dripping down the mountain, and as of yesterday morning, Dellinger's Pond had enough water to attract wildlife.  I stopped by Early yesterday morning and was startled by a group of deer near the entrance.  As I approached with my camera, they ran along the dam, stopping several times to see if was still in pursuit.  Low-level early morning light made photography difficult, but here's the best image I got (above).  As I walked slowly along the dam, I spotted a Grey Fox running through the pond weeds.  I only had my 55mm lens, and by the time I got a shot off, the fox was at least 100 years away (below).  I cropped the photo a bit, and it's just barely clear enough to be evidence of a fox.  A fox made of pixels.  I think I'll start mounting the telephoto lens before I go through the gate.  More rain expected tonight and tomorrow, so this place might be come a good watering hole again soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Firewood-gathering distractions

 A week ago, I was up on Mt.Hough with my son Greg cutting firewood.  We found a nice group of dead Incense Cedar downhill from the truck.  Maybe it was the prospect of carrying the logs up hill, or of the incoming rainstorm, that made me particularly prone to distraction.  I did have my camera, so maybe I was hoping for distraction.  In fact, we saw a Bobcat run across the road on our way to the site.  No chance of getting a photo, but it did raise hopes of photogenic distractions.  So, after cutting down our first cedar, the holes made by ants begged for attention.
 The ants tried to hide by crawling deeper into their network of tunnels, so I kept poking at them with a pine needle with one hand while holding the camera in the other.
 You can click on these photos for a closer look, but I never got what I'd call a great photo of an ant.
Most of them had wings, so maybe they were ready to find another home after our chainsaw disturbance.  Before we left the scene, I did find one other photogenic scene (next post), but my delays were just enough to let the rainstorm catch us while we were loading the truck.  Arrived home an hour later, cold and soaking, but relishing the fact that "real" weather seemed to have returned after weeks of drought.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Change of Season

First day of morning frost on my windshield.  Bear tipped over trash can.  Aroma of skunk in the neighborhood. Oak  Treehoppers gone. Dead raccoon in road.  Did not tote camera this morning.  These are all signs of a change in season, not obedient to the Autumnal Equinox.  A weekend is nigh.  I will get my bearings, clean up the trash, split more firewood, and keep my camera handy.  Maybe also get new windshield wiper blades and refill the windshield washer fluid. "Spirit Week" and Halloween irrelevant, and I am irreverent.  Time for "winter readiness."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Found while jaywalking

 Is it possible to commit this crime in Quincy?  I'm not so sure.  I've seen judges do it.  I've seen people from all walks of life do it (pun intended). and I do it every day.  I've never seen anyone get cited, so it must not be a crime.  Today, as I jaywalked by Quincy Natural Foods, I stopped suddenly to pick up this beautiful Liquidambar leaf.  It was not rush hour, or I wouldn't have stopped. Anyway, I haven't paid much attention this year to what most people visualize when they hear the words "fall colors."  Instead, I've concentrated on insects, fungi, and other things that caught my attention, and enjoyed other people's stories and photos about the changing leaves.  I brought this bright red leaf home and photographed it.  I guess you could call that tokenism.  The above photo was taken without flash on a cardboard box illuminated by compact fluorescent bulbs.  The photo below was illuminated by my camera flash.
Lots of trees around Quincy are "peaking" about now.  Better hurry.  There are a variety of maples, oaks, choke cherries, and shrubs on display, and the Black Cottonwoods are starting to change.
Enjoy, but watch out for traffic.  :) 

Almost a pond again

A place locally known as Dellinger's Pond has not been a pond at all for several months.  That is, until this past week, when we got some pretty good rains.  Now there's enough standing water - or slightly flowing water - that I think of it as Dellinger's Almost-a-Pond.  The above photo is of a spot one sees soon after passing the entrance gate and shows where a little tributary coming from the South feeds the pond.  The photo below shows the large open area that hopefully will soon be a pond again, but for now shows a tributary feeding the western end of the pond.
I'm looking forward to more water and the return of the waterfowl.

Death throes, or hibernation?

 For context, scroll back through my several recent blogs dealing with the impressive Shaggy Mane fungus.  As promised, I checked the patch on Jackson Street this morning, and they has both grown and disintegrated!  The stems are around 3: taller than they were yesterday, yet the caps are further along in their self-digestion.  I suspect there will be no sign of caps remaining tomorrow.
I should add that neither "death throes" nor "hibernation" are technically correct descriptions of this scene.  If I could use time-lapse photography and show what happened to these caps over 24 hours in a one-minute clip, it might look like "throes,"  but it wouldn't be death because the fungus will continue to live below ground.  Then we can think of each "mushroom" like a wart - a wart the comes and goes, but happens to carry all the DNA of the whole organism.  Maybe I'm stretching my poetic license a bit too far.  It's also not really hibernation, even though the fungus is getting ready for winter.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Even faster!

 My previous post was about a 9-day look at the life of a Shaggy Mane fungus on the FRC campus.  These photos are from my other favorite viewing spot for Shaggy Manes.  On Thursday evening, the 15th, there was no sign of any Shaggy Manes where I had seen them in previous years.  By Friday morning, they had appeared and were around 5 inches tall.  (First two photos)
 By this morning, just 24 hours later, the process of self-digestion was well underway as shown in the next three photos.

 I drove by the same spot around 4:30 this afternoon, without my camera, and the caps had shrunk further and the stems were around an inch taller.  I'm wondering if there will be any remains tomorrow morning.  The most obvious differences between the two settings:  at the FRC campus, the spot caught early morning sun and was frequently the recipient of little rainstorms from the sprinklers watering the adjacent soccer practice field.  The spot on Jackson Street where today's photos were taken is always in shade and is not watered - that is, until today's rain.  THere may be other factors, but a whole week's difference in their life cycle!  Very impressive.
Here's a view from above.  That nasty black stuff almost looks pretty from this angle.  It is hard to shake off the notion that we're really looking at a single fungus here, the caps being united beneath the surface by a very thin membrane called the mycelium.

Worn out. Self-destruction.

 The above photo is the same Shaggy Mane cap that occupies the top photo in my previous post.  This photo was taken five days later, so you can see that from "birth" to total disappearance takes about a week.  My next post will show what has happened at another site.  Meanwhile, the pancake-like mushroom caps in the below photo look relatively unchanged since the day they first appeared.  A total of two weeks so far.  We've had an intense rain last night and most of the day today, so I'll drive out to this spot for another look tomorrow morning.

Life in the fast lane

 Photographed nine days ago by the paved path that connects the FRC parking lot to the upper campus classrooms.  These can erupt overnight.  The one in the above photo was barely visible as a tiny white dome the day before, then was already 5" tall on this day.   The others in this series were
 from two to five days old, and in the third and fourth photos you can see that the auto-digestive process has made them almost entirely disintegrate.  When I came by this same spot 5 days ago,
 they were all gone.  All that remained were a few small piles of black goop.  The stems had collapsed or been digested totally.  Meanwhile, my other favorite place to observe the Shaggy Manes in the fall, the west end of Jackson Street, showed no signs of their appearance.  I thought that perhaps roadside maintenance had killed them off.
 In this spot at the college, there's another species of fungi growing abundantly that look like pancakes on pedestals.  I don't know the species, but they stay around for many days.  In fact the ones in the photo below looked about the same for over a week, and they are still there, looking only slightly aged.  My next post will reveal some surprises.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Scene - and then there were none

 This is the first time I've posted to this blog from a coffee shop.  I'm spoiled.  The Internet here is soooo fast.  A couple of days ago I checked on the Oak Treehoppers in my favorite California Black Oak on the FRC campus.  I usually post only close-ups, but today I thought I'd start with a photo that shows the scene where they live.  You can see how easy it would be to enjoy fall colors for years and never know these little beauties exist.  But when you come up close, you see wonders.  They're less
than a half inch long.  Click on each photo for a better idea of what they look like. Turns out the next day they were gone.  Likewise, the little colony on the biggest oak by my driveway disappeared on the same day.  I wonder if they sense the big winter we've been promised.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nature's Influence?

 Ever since humans could dream, they have probably dreamed of flying.  DaVinci remarkably imagined a future of bicycles and flying machines.  Aeronautical engineers have certainly studied bees, dragonflies, and birds in order to uncover the magic of flight.  I got to wondering about nature's influence on design the other day when i drove by this small plane parked in a hangar at Quincy's airport.  It reminded me a large, motorized version of the Oak Treehoppers I have been photographing recently as I have been doing during this season for several years.
 I wonder if the person who painted the plane was influenced by the design of these bugs.  They really can fly, although most of the times I have disturbed them, they have hopped away - thus their name.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Papa's Trees

 Papa's Trees is not an official name, but the two oaks in front of Papa's Donuts in East Quincy are among the most spectacular in the area when it comes to fall colors.  They haven't peaked yet.  Several trees and groups of trees in downtown Quincy get most of the attention from leaf peepers during this time of year, but I recommend going by Papa's for an early morning doughnut and a
chance to photograph a brilliant sunrise and watch the colors on these oaks change with the rising sun.  These trees appear to me to be California Black Oaks, but not quite.  Maybe they're a hybrid of some sort.  Does anyone out there know?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Morning Greeting

 As I headed East toward Midtown Coffee around 6:45 a.m., I was greeted by a brilliant red sky. I stopped in the parking lot to get these photos.  For the sunrise, I cropped out all the human constructions so I could pretend I was seeing this from a mountain top or a meadow in the forest.
Toward the South, where the sky was still dark enough, I could see the Morning Star, also knows as planet Venus, and a crescent moon.  You might need to click on the photo to enlarge it in order to see Venus.  These were both shot with a normal, 55mm lens, not a telephoto.  Crows and Stellar's Jay in the vicinity were squawking, but I never saw them.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The brood is gone, mostly

We had a pretty intense rain and some lightening last night.  In one of my best Treehopper observation sites, all that's left is one mama and one juvenile.  The lighting was just right, so this ends up being one of my favorite photos of the season.

Default Flowers, Part II

 For an explanation of this set of flower photos, scroll down to my previous post.  All the flowers were within a 5-foot radius in front of Patti's Thunder.  The last photo in the series is my idea for an avant garde ad for Dish Network.