Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fall Colors, No Commercial Motive

 Found a beautiful Dogwood leaf on the pavement at FRC and got out my phone/camera.  This was a couple of days ago.  This morning I saw 9 Wild Turkeys within 15 feet of the path I was on.  They didn't panic, so I stopped and carefully reached for my phone.  Discovered that I had left it at home.  Oh, well.  When I got home, this photo I took a couple of Falls ago got my attention and the Dogwood leaf lingered in my mind.  During that special Fall the Cascara Sagrada, a buckthorn, was bearing many colors of leaf simultaneously, and slight winds were dropping the full range on the ground.  I gathered up six of them and placed them on a large sheet of white paper for this photo.  These can be mistaken for Dogwood when they display this range of colors.  This year, the same tree has only produced shades of orange and brown.  No reds.  And they all turned at once, so there are no remaining greens.  I'm still hoping to see an Orange Peel Fungus soon, but with no rain in the forecast, maybe they'll skip this year.

But, I like shadows!

 I think this quote from Whitman was meant to be uplifting, but it bothered me.  Maybe it's a lingering memory of playing with shadow puppets as a child, but I've always enjoyed exploring the dark side of things.  Thus, ...
 There we were, at the corner of Main and Pizza Factory, "Me and my Shadow."
 I imagined a visitor from outer space.
Wall hanging....

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Daylight Shifting Time

This Crab Spider image from my photo archive has nothing to do with the topic in today's title.  I just love spiders.  The message, not yet completed, has to do with the fact that it is impossible to "save" time.  We label time, then we run our lives by the labels we choose, some complying readily while others resist.  When we shift the points in our daily rotational cycle what we call sunrise and sunset, we do not save any time.  What is the real meaning of Noon?  Isn't it the time we've labelled as the Sun reaching its zenith on any given day? 

The real reasons for arguing about Daylight Savings are economic.  The idea first occurred to an entomologist over a hundred years ago who thought it might be a good way to have more daylight available after work to observe and collect insects.  I empathize with that idea.  With that said, I should have posted a photo of an insect rather than an arachnid. By World War I, financiers and warmongers (same?) persuaded the Power that Be of advantages to them of adopting Daylight Savings Time.  Bad idea. If we kept our labelling of daily time to correspond to a natural cycle, we still have the option of deciding when to open and close schools and businesses, times for public travel stops, etc.  Some people have more trouble adjusting (getting up? being on time?) than others with or without DST.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Last Flower?

We hiked the Jamison Mine Trail up past Grass Lake on Sunday and got part way uup Mt. Washington.  A casual walk, over some pretty rocky terrain, we enjoyed walking through groves of huge confers and occasional meadows lined by smaller broadleaf trees.  I'll posting tree photos and notes shortly, but wanted to start by posting this photo of Paintbrush, the only flower we saw on the 6-mile venture.  I don't call it an adventure because we knew where we were going.  Backlit by a low sun, it literally glowed from a basically brown ground cover.  Many flowers of many different species will bloom here next spring, but for some reason on this day of cold wind and the ground covered with the yellow leaves of Cottonwood, Maple, Alder, and Willow, a single blooming flower gave me the feeling of a "last of its kind," like seeing the last Passenger Pigeon or the last Dodo.  A sad feeling, really, yet happy to see it. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Little Stem Cell Research

Interpret this any way you wish - was I researching little stem cells (actually, they're all little), or doing a little research on stem cells.  Maybe both.  I just knew I didn't want to take cliched photo of a pumpkin.

Blooming Asters, a bug magnet for Fall.

To me, every flower-pollinator relationship is a wonder.  I got this photo in a nick of time just after my presence disturbed a nearby dog.

How to Make a Dog Growl

For a while, I stood erect while trying to catch a photo of this Cabbage White butterfly on an Aster bush while a beautiful Golden Lab lay around 20 feet away, apparently oblivious to what I was doing.  The butterfly kept coming and going, quicker than I could adjust.  But gradually it started frequenting the lower branches.  I then got down on my knees for a better angle of view.  Suddenly, the Lab got and up barked and growled.  This reminded me of an experience I've had at home recently when my getting down on all fours was a signal to one of our dogs to get angry with me.  I don't know enough of dog behavior to say whether the dog saw me as a potential threatening predator, or potential prey.  I didn't really want to find out, so I cautiously stepped away from the scene.  But not before getting a few more interesting photos.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

My Favorite Sunflowers This Year

AS if they were not tall enough, I cropped this photo to make them seem even taller.  Very impressive, well cared-for. Even make the sky seem bluer. Thank you, Charter School.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Come on Out

Come to this event and learn some things about nature.

Click on the poster for a more readable size.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Nature Bats Last?

I came across this scene on my afternoon walk around town.  I couldn't help but wonder if Mother Nature was trying to tell us something about the state of our democracy.  Ironically, the flag had been attached to our town's funeral home.  Seems fitting after yesterday's confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. I replaced the flag.  Hopefully that will help.

Like a Bear?

While splitting firewood for kindling, I found this fellow hiding under a small piece of bark.  It looked to me like a place that would soon dry up and this little critter would perish.  There was no apparent water source nearby.  It also appeared to me that, like a bear, he'd fattened himself up for the winter.  I wanted him to survive, so I moved him to a nearby place that was more likely to remain humid until the rains resume.  Hopefully, they will.  Pseudacris regilla.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Transition time

 I almost titled today's post "The Last Daisy," but I know there must be a few here and there around American Valley, but this one stood alone along the pave path up to the main campus at FRC.
 Nearby was a small stand of end-of-season Mulleins. A beatiful flower when viewed up close, even though it's seen as a weed by most.
 What came to mind when I looked up from photographing the Mullein was imagining a determined gopher racing the women to class.  It wouldn't surprise me if their underground route was just as fast.  I know it will be after the snow flies.
 Around 100 yards away, one or more other gophers seem to have established an underground network.
 While I enjoy spotting the last of certain flowers, it' also exciting to see some firsts, like these fall mushrooms. I hope the Orange Peel Fungus returns this season.  Certain landscaping projects seem to have wiped them out at my favorite viewing spots.  THey are certainly easy to spot when they emerge. 

One more time?

Deer Lake, a couple of weeks ago, when water was low enough that it was two lakes.  Beautiful, as long as I didn't look down at the ORV tracks along the shoreline.  Hope to get up there at least one more time before the snow flies.  Also contemplating Homer Lake, Brad's Camp, and other favorite spots at higher altitudes, but might have to start contemplating Spring (in the middle of winter) around Chico.  Tempus fugit.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Rain and Turkeys

Two things I haven't seen in quite a while made my walk to the truck this afternoon very pleasant - rain and wild turkeys.  The intermittent rain brought up that smell of soil and earthworms that I love.  Where I grew up back east, we experienced that every month of the year, but in California, especially during the recent drought years, we rarely experience rain in the summer.  I've seen this flock of nine a couple of times from a distance at places along Golden Eagle Avenue, but now they're back at the Green where a new food supply has been exposed.  They barely looked up as I walked by within 100 feet or so.  I think there were nine, including one outlier who probably didn't trust me.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bears Do Visit the Neighborhood

Coburn Street, looking northward toward downtown from a point just south of Monte Vista. Product of a large bear plus some tire tracks. 


Spotted this beauty on my afternoon walk. In pattern and behavior it resembled a Cabbage White, but it was a dark yellow, and I don't know my butterflies that well.  The color was impressive against the background of Asters.  Try as I did, I could not get a shot of it with wings spread.


While sitting in my truck,listening to the Senators act out a farce, I was startled by a gust of wind that sent a shower of leaves from our birch tree toward me. One landed on my windshield at eye level, so I decided to get out my phone and impose a rectangular border around it and cal it an abstract.  The wind stopped as quickly as it had started, and I wondered if the wind coming out of senators' mouths would end as peacefully. I'm not optimistic. I find more solace in the wind coming off the mountain every afternoon.  It's like sunrise - something I can count on.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Almost all grown up

 Click on this photo to get an enlargement so you can easily distinguish juvenile from adult.  The stripes on the bodies of juveniles are perpendicular to the body axis, while the adults are either without stripes and instead are olive drab with yellow or orange spots or have red and white stripes running parallel to the body axis, a remarkable change n appearance that happens during the 5th and last molt.
 Besides checking daily on the lone oak branch in my driveway hosting these treehoppers, I generally walk around downtown looking at flowers that people are watering and otherwise caring for, mostly cultivated varieties that I don't now as well as I do the wild ones.  Below, I think, is a cone flower, or Rudbeckia, that lives in a box in front of one of the new charter school sites.  Pleasant to see the bright colors when nearly everything else is turning brown.

A New Angle of Repose

The Autumn Crocus, with its season's duties nearly complete, relaxes into an angle of repose while retaining its colorful presence until the bittersweet end.  The leaves, which appeared in the spring, produced energy that went to the bulb beneath the surface which, in turn, provided the energy for thee flowers.  While the flowers will soon become soil and blend in with the leavings of the surrounding trees, the plant remains alive, dormant until next spring, when it will produce new leaves.  A somewhat happier story than Stegner's, although his is brilliant and I make no such claim.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Where'd they go?

I used to love to watch swarms of Praying Mantises flying among the lights at night football games in the fall.  This year I haven't seen a single mantis, not even at last week's football game.  But my son did - at work.  He works at a machine shop in Quincy and this lone Praying Mantis got into the shop, maybe to escape the afternoon heat. After getting this photo with his phone, he put the critter outside in a shady place where there would probably be some other insects to eat.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What to do when there are no flowers - well, two.

 Took a rigorous hike in Lakes Basin yesterday and searched for new subject matter since it was well past wildflower season. We saw acres of dried up Paintbrush, and acres of a member of the carrot family, I'm guessing Brewer's Angelica, also dried up almost beyond recognition. I was taking mostly scenic vista kinds of photos, not my specialty.  It was fun from 7,000 feet to be able to recognize lots of places miles away that we had visited by car and sometimes on foot - after driving t those places, of course.  These included Smith Peak, Mills Peak, Beckworth Peak, and that mountain range that forms a wall east of Hallelujah Junction. Then, I suddenly stumbled across a single Paintbrush blooming (above).  Backlit by the setting sun, and standing out among many dried up plants of kinds, it was very beautiful.  Then, a few minutes later, while enjoying a big view of Long Lake, maybe 1,000 feet below us, I stumbled across a single flowering umbel of the aforementioned Angelica.
 I wanted so much to get the lake and the flower both in focus like Ansel Aperture (er, Ansel Adams) is so famous for.  Couldn't do it with my equipment and know-how, so I took separate shots, one with the lake in focus, and one with the flower in focus.
Then I imagined sewing them together with some sort of Photoshop magic.  But I don't have Photoshop, so I'll leave it as a good exercise in imagination.  After all, that's what images are anyway.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Pretty dramatic change has occurred on my favorite bunch of Oak Treehoppers.  When I stopped by today with my phone camera, I noticed the olive-drab-with-yellow-spots mom was still there, along with many "babies" that were red, white and black with stripes running perpendicular to their body axis.  But now some of those progeny have turned into the other form of adult I've described here in previous years.  They're the ones with longitudinal red and white stripes and, of course, are bigger than their siblings that have not yet had their last molt. A fascinating variety of forms on one six-inch stretch of twig.  Click on the photo for a closer look.

They're Back!

These Autumn Crocuses seemed to spring up suddenly when I wasn't looking.  Near some mailboxes toward the western end of Jackson Street, a spot I pass frequently, I didn't notice when the leaves arrived, then died back.  Now here is a beautiful big cluster of blossoms.  They should be around at least a week or so.  Click on this photo for a closer look.
This Crocus resembles a Crocus from which we get saffron, but it is deadly poisonous.  Nevertheless, it is a popular ornamental at this time of year.  Last year around this time, there were several small bunches in this general area, but this year there's just one large bunch.  Interesting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Water still supporting life

 By way of catching up, here are a few flower photos I took along the Quincy/LaPorte Road a week ago when I was returning from picking up PCT hikers, my son and daughter-in-law.  These were by a roadside cascade that I've never seen dry up located on the steep grade leading down to Nelson Creek.  These are, from top to bottom, Aster, Fireweed, Fireweed, and I forget.  Will look it up.

Part of a colony?

When I got out of my truck at this loading zone, I thought I was hallucinating, or maybe having a serious memory lapse.  All last summer, I thought, there was a small Black Cottonwood growing out of a crack in the pavement right against the building, maybe 3 feet to the right of the one you see here.  It even survived last winter because i remember seeing it at least for the first half of this past summer. Then I noticed this area was recently repaved and a number of cracks were filled with an asphalt product.  Click on the photo for an enlargement to see the details.  That operation probably killed the little Cottonwood struggling to survive against the building.  Then, VOILA! a new one pops up 3 feet away from the building.  Maybe there's just one cottonwood in this whole area and it includes the above-ground trees in the background beyond the driveway, and this new one and the deceased one are just growths from the vast underground root system.  Don't laugh.  The Black Cottonwood is in the same family as the Quaking Aspen found around here at higher elevations.  In northern states of the Midwest and at high elevations in Colorado, among other places, many square miles of aspens are known to be interconnected below ground and function as one giant organism,  In some ways like the interconnected coelenterates in a coral reef.  Fascinating.

Monday, September 10, 2018

39 degrees, 42 minutes

 For the first mile or so on the trail to Deer Lake, frequently looking over my shoulder to scenes like the above, I can imagine I'm in the wilderness - barely.  However, more and more frequently, I am encountering scenes that tell me I am not.  My new name for 39 degrees and 42 minutes is The New Horse Latitude.  No dead horses floating on lakes, but still some "leavings" that remind me there are people around here who don't enjoy walking or allowing any trails for walkers alone.
 Then, while I am relieved that our dog doesn't decide to roll in this stuff, I encounter a further
 disturbance - tire tracks.  These back country travelers were not satisfied to take the newly permitted dirt road down to the lake, they had to do some "mudding" as my students over near the coast used to call it.
 There's still some great scenery up here in Lakes Basin, but there's more and more that I have to learn to ignore, or perhaps vent about here.  Ironically, when I get home and explore the edges of
my driveway, I see that the Oak Treehoppers are still having a wilderness experience.  The mom in the above photo has had an encounter with a spider web, but she's still diligently watching over her brood.  Her family actually extends for about 6 inches to the right along this limb as shown in some earlier photos in this blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Intro to Deer Lake

 Me and Loki discovering that Deer Lake is now two lakes. Click on photo to see smaller lake in the distance.  Lower water level divided the lake into two parts. The smaller part is in the photo below.
 My first introduction to Deer Lake was many years ago.  I can't even remember if I was hiking alone, or possibly with a colleague from Yuba City or Sierra County schools.  I do remember the steep and hot climb up from Upper Salmon Lake and the startling beautiful view of the lake as I/we climbed over a bit of a ridge.  I also remember diving into the lake to cool off, and I'm not one who casually dives into cold water.  While swimming out a hundred feet or so from the shore I was again startled by a small plane that looked like it was going to crash into the lake.  Then, out of the belly of the plane came thousands of shiny particles that looked like pieces of aluminum foil.  I later figured out it was fish!  The lake was being stocked with trout.  That was at least 35 years ago. The above photo was taken by my wife yesterday as I reacquainted myself with a somewhat changed Deer Lake.  She had visited the lake several times this past summer with only her dog, Loki. We got to compare notes.
Finally, she got a photo of me doing what I do - other than walk a lot and grade papers.  More on this wonderful hike later today when I need  break from grading papers.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Perils of Parenthood

Not only has this Treehopper mom had to contend with a large (to her) human frequently poking a camera into her domain, it seems she's having to fight off spider webs.  This "family," with at least 50 young out of the frame, has occupied the same stretch of a Black Oak branch for a month now.