Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where did they go?

 I've let a couple weeks slip by without blogging.  I've been very busy with teaching at FRC, but I've also found the month of September not yielding as many attractive subjects, at least of the sort I am accustomed to posting.  Climate change?  Recent fires?  I don't know.  So, today, by way of reminiscing, here are some from my archive.  A couple of these are six years old.  I've photographed the Oak Treehoppers, Platycotis vittata, every year since I first discovered them at a friend's place out on LaPorte Road.  Since then, I've mostly found them on the California Black Oaks lining my driveway and one big oak at the edge of the paved pathway leading to the upper campus buildings at the college.  So far this year, I've only seen a couple of them - none today - and have not got any new photos to compare with these old ones. 
In the above photos, the individual hanging upside-down at the far left is an adult, one of two color patterns the adults around here exhibit.  The one to its immediate right is a juvenile, probably the fifth instar.  Note the stripes are perpendicular to the lengthwise body.  The slightly larger ones with lengthwise red and white stripes are the other adult pattern.
 The second photo is a closer view of a cluster of juveniles.  These are around 1/4" long, very hard to spot unless you know they might be there.

I'll keep looking at the oaks for a few more weeks.  I have photographed them in mid-October in prior years.  Meanwhile, this coming weekend I need to take a long overdue nature walk with my camera.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Walking with my phone

 My wife and I took a walk into the woods above our house yesterday.  It was he last walk with the dogs before going out of town for a few days.  I came along in order to learn the nuances of successfully walking the dogs without her.  Will they mind me, or will I lose them?  I'm not a "dog person."  But our dogs are pretty darn nice as dogs go.  I didn't bring my camera so I could pay better attention to my instructor.  But, I did bring my phone in case one of our kids texted their need for a ride somewhere.  I was excited to find the False Solomon's Seal I photographed in flower a couple of months ago had produced a bunch of berries and the birds had not got to them yet.  Then I found another a few yards away.  I find these colors exciting.  And these photos are better than I usualy get with the phone.  I'm still kind of an iPhone klutz.

 On the way around the big green water tank, I spotted a Blue Elderberry bush laden with fruit.
 If I weren't so busy, I'd have picked these and tried to make a jar of jam.  I hope somebody else discovered these and does the same.  Or maybe make some wine.  Don't forget to cook them and not risk kidney damage.  And, if you're at a little bit higher altitude and run across the Red Elder, don't eat them at all.  They're pretty toxic.
Another reason for not bringing along the camera is that I was quite aware that I've accumulated several posts with pictures over the last week or two without keeping up on generating text.  All these stories are rattling around in my head and getting mixed up with my lessons plans for three courses for the coming week.  But the stories are still in there somewhere.  Maybe I can backtrack and squeeze them out before they disappear into my subconscious, or I start revising them and drifting into fiction.

Resurrection in my front yard...

Text coming soon.  9/11/17

Colors and Scents of Autumn

Text coming soon.  9/11/2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Butterfly, Part III: New Discoveries (for me)

I've never seen this flower before my recent trip out to Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  That's because I've only visited the place during Spring and early Summer.  One common name is Grass of Parnassus.  Interesting name to research.  Even more interesting to me was the family affiliation.  It has been a member of at least a half dozen families over the years.  Some of those names are now extinct, superseded by other names.  In some cases the plant has been switched from one family to another, both families continuing to exist according to botanists.  My most-often used field guide, the one by Jack Laws, lists it as belonging to the Saxifragaceae.  No other source I've found places it in that family.  The "ground" keeps changing under my feet.  I find this flower exceptionalyl beautiful.
The greenish veins in the white petals are special.  Quite often I find white petals difficult to photograph because of what digital photographers call noise.  But I'm satisfied with these two photos.  I hope you are, too.  Click on them for closer views.
These next two photos were also a new experience for me.  The dried up flowers of Darlingtonia, the Pitcher Plant, or Cobra Lily, or.... the list goes on.  In late summer in this dried up condition, I found them intriguing.  My lack of text when I first posted the photos had nothing to do with a "guess what this is" contest, but a few people did guess and asked me what they were.  Everyone guessed wrong, but that's OK.  After all, I've often mistaken a paper bag for a fox or bobcat while driving late at night and not fully awake. 
I'm intrigued by the annual life cycle of these flowers while at the same time the cobra-like leaves are always green, or, while some dry up and turn brown they are continually replaced by fresh green ones - sort of like evergreen trees.  Anyway, I hope to get back to filling out some of these recent posts that lacked texts, but now I have to take a break and do some lesson plans for tomorrow.

Butterfly, Part II: Some freshness in dry conditions

Text coming soon, although the title gives a pretty good clue what this will be about.  9/11/2017

Butterfly, Part I: Old Standbys

This ain't natural!

An intriguing cover on The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago.  What's it doing in a "natural history" blog?  I'll explain after dinner.  Suffice to say for now that the title given to this cover by The New Yorker (and maybe the artist?) is Blowhard.
Well, it's not only "after dinner" but actually several days later and the intensity of emotion I felt when I first saw this cover art has diminished a bit.  But I still have a bit of a story to tell to relate this to natural history.  Soon.  9/11/2017.

No more cherries for the bears?

For several years, we had a small plum tree on the east end of our front lawn.  Every morning during harvest time we'd find fresh bear poop on the ground beneath it.  A couple of years ago, winter took its toll and the tree perished.  We cut away all visible remains including the tap root and filled the hole.  During the following three Falls and currently during late summer, bears still come snooping around where that tree was.  I wonder if it's bear family memory or if they are sensing some remains of the tree.  Once the tree was cut away, some bears discovered a cherry tree (above) on the western boundary of or small property and began climbing it to get at the cherries.  By mid-summer or this year, the leaves on the top 15 feet or so began to turn brown.  As you can see in this photo, there's a sharp distinction between the dead top and the very-much-alive bottom.  no more cherries, and some kind of fungus infection at the junction of dead and alive.  This weekend we're going to cut the trunk just below the infected portion and see if the tree will come back next spring as a bush.  It may or may not produce cherries again, but our neighbor has a healthy cherry tree, so we'll get see see bears in the neighborhood.