Sunday, August 19, 2018

Dreaming of Snow

In the shade of tall Black Oaks and Douglas-fir, the Snowberry bushes still look fresh.  That's comforting during this hot and dry summer.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Colors other than brown

 Lately most places I wander with my phone (excusing the blurriness already) are brown.  Dry and scary.  Looking forward to rain.  So, when I see a bright pink thistle, even if I've posted thistles often, it stands out, and I look for visiting arthropods, or anything else to make a particular blossom unique. The one above, found along the college walkway to the upper campus, had a small crab spider visitor.  I'd say it was no longer than 1/3"
 On a neighboring thistle, I found a skipper that was so engaged (maybe its tongue was stuck?) that it allowed me to approach to within a foot.  Thus, a great view of its tongue.  Click on the photo for a closer view.
Last, another skipper landed on a leaf of Mugwort.  Slightly blurry when enlarged, but it provides a good view of its antennae which, like butterflies, are not feathery and end in bulbous enlargements,  but unlike butterflies, have recurved hooks rather than just being spherical.  Close-up photography is incentive to notice these things and have the urge to share them.  Who knows what today will bring?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Last Violet

Thanks to lawn sprinklers and mower blades set high, a few violets spring up on the FRC campus long after their "season" is over.

Mistletoe in August?

Year 'round, actually.  This one growing on Ponderosa Pine on Chandler Road near Cascades Trail crossing.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Damaged wing

Here's a closer view of the butterfly described in my previous post.  A hole in its left wing reveals the green foliage beneath.  It didn't seem to affect its flight capabilities.

Western Swallowtail

Western Swallowtail butterflies seem to be really abundant this August.  In my front yard, and everywhere I see flowers in front yards when I walk to town.  I wonder if they're taking advantage of the absence of competitors.  This one by Quincy Natural Foods was so engaged in sipping nectar it et me get fairy close.  With a normal, 50mm lens, I got within a couple of feet and was able to take a dozen photos without scaring it off.  Click on it and you might see a hole in one of its wings.  Reminded me of bad old days when I used to shoot them with my BB gun.

Out of season?

I took this photo as I peered over the edge of a log or board; I forgot which.  I acted quickly because I didn't want these little critters to break formation.  Was it a menage (household)? or just three beasties out for an adventure.  Anyway, the Nine-spotted Ladybird Beetle is one of my favorite photo subjects.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Courtship on Golden Eagle Avenue

Note to voyeurs: click on the photo for a closer look. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Even more wrong than I thought

 A week ago I posted a piece titled "I was wrong."  It followed another which claimed that nearly all the yellow wildflowers that usually dominate the local roadsides in August had either wilted early or never bloomed in the first place.  That earlier post was based on photos of red flowers, the thistles.  One trip to Reno revealed, to my surprise, some great patches of Blazing Star and Gum Plant.  Well, since that trip last Sunday, I have looked around my immediate vicinity more intensely.  The combination of very hot weather and the high cost of gasoline have kept me closer to home.  So, these new findings show that I just wasn't looking closely enough to what's actually going on rather than what isn't.  The above photo was taken along Golden Eagle Avenue and is of a healthy-looking Canadian Goldenrod.  Ironically, my favorite local spider is the Goldenrod Crab Spider, yet I've never seen one resting on Goldenrod.
 In the vicinity of the Goldenrod, as well as along my own driveway, are lots of Hawkweed, a composite in the Aster or Sunflower family.
 The flower that most people love to hate, the Star Thistle.
 Past its prime, but still hanging on, one can still find lots of St. john's Wort along the roadsides.  In places with some standing water, or even a slight trickle, they may still look fresh.
 The Mullein is also past its prime for this season, but there are still a few blooming near where I park on campus.  I'm also seeing small birds land and eat the seeds where they are already formed.
Last, but not least, in some extremely dry places with mostly dead grass, some patches of Common Madia look "fresh as a daisy."  Weird expression to use today when virtually all the daisies do not look fresh.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Much Ado about Treehoppers

 Spotting this adult Oak Treehopper on a California Black Oak the other day, a month earlier than expected, sent my bug-loving mind a whirl.  I'm sitting at my favorite coffee shop where the Internet speed is great and I can upload these photos quickly.  Now, I'm going to walk home, treating the oppressive heat and haze as my free weight-loss program, then add add text to this post in he comfort of my home office.  Please stay tuned.  Meanwhile, click on amy photo for a closer view, and possibly some surprises.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

No, I spoke too soon.

 Earlier this morning, two posts back, I spoke of the apparent disappearance of the sole Treehopper I found on an oak branch yesterday.  Just a few minutes after completing that post, I headed home down the same path, armed only with my phone camera.  This time, though, the Treehopper was back - or maybe it was just my eyesight that was back.  Steadier hand?  Luck?  I managed to get a passable photo with the phone.  Holding the branch in a good position with my left hand, I managed to get a reasonably-focused few shots with my right.  If you click on the photo, you'll see what I never saw, even while cropping the photo for publishing here.  A crop of babies!  Look in the upper right-hand corner.
In this differently composed photo, you can see the notch in the branches, also upper right, where I spotted the adult in the first place yesterday.  Also, another view of the babies.  This is amazing to me.  Now I'll need to check on them every day and see what the season has in store for these creatures.  On a cold morning, maybe I can get some good photos of them in my hand.  I can operate my DSLR more easily with one hand, and also get sharper images.

Mosquitos anyone?

 Not far from severe drought conditions all around the campus, we have watered lawns and the shade of some magnificent California Black Oaks.  As I walked by the one shown above, I was intrigued by the subdivided trunk and imagined suspending a treehouse 15 or 20 feet above the ground.  What a great reading place, especially if the platform were camouflaged.  So, I took a closer look.
A sizable puddle.  Looked like an ideal spot for raising mosquitos, but who'd want to do that?  Maybe someone with an aquarium full of Gambusia, AKA Mosquitofish. 

I have only a passing interest in mosquitos, based mostly on two things - their potential as vectors for many human diseases, especially in more tropical areas, and several horrendous mosquitos attacks I experienced during college days in Louisiana. 
Several of us in the zoology department at Tulane U in New Orleans had been given permission to study certain ground-dwelling mammals on Avery Island, the location of Tabasco and a wonderful wildlife sanctuary.  E. I. McIlheny (the 3rd?) was a Tulane zoology major, so that was a great connection.  I remember setting Hav-a-hart (sp.?) live traps in a grid pattern over a large meadow in the sanctuary.  Lots of mosquito bites!  The next day while we were checking the traps, they were waiting for us.  A dense cloud of mosquitos attacked.  We worked very fast, screaming, swatting, swearing, then finally giving up and running for dear life, dropping traps along the way.  That was many years ago, so I can't remember how we resolved the situation.  Probably came back to collect traps when it was not prime time for mosquitos. And, I was not privy to whatever study my professor was involved in.  My true interest then was in reptiles, amphibians, and food flavored with Tabasco sauce.

Treehoppers, too soon!

 Yesterday morning, as I walked up the paved path to the upper campus, out of habit I inspected the lower branches of a California Black Oak that hangs over the walkway.  In my mind's eye, I was looking for the annual arrival of the Oak Treehoppers which aren't really due for another month.  With this continuing heat wave, I wondered if they would arrive at all this year.  Then, I was startled to see a single, adult treehopper in a notch near the end of a branch.  The above photo, hurriedly taken with my phone camera under poor lighting conditions, might be difficult to interpret.  Click on it for a bit of an enlargement.  Below is a reference photo from last year.  This shows the two forms of adult
 Treehoppers one might find around here.  The one on the top of the branch is the form found in the top photo, and seems to be the more common one in most years.  Note, the adults hanging below the branch have longitudinal body stripes.  Compare them to the photo of juvenile Treehoppers in one of
my file photos from several years ago.  Note the stripes run perpendicular to the body axis.  Something really interesting (to entomologists) must happen before the last molt.  As of this morning, the one I spotted yesterday is no longer there.  However, now I'm hooked.  I'll need to inspect that tree every day until our first freeze - maybe even afterwards.  These bugs are true survivors.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Fighting back at sidewalks and pavement

I was wrong!

 Suddenly, despite my post about thistles being "the last flowers standing," I am sudden;y seeing yellow wildflowers everywhere. {Later, I'll tell about my trip to Reno on Friday which forced me to re-evaluate my recent observations about what's blooming and what's not.}  I just wanted to post these photos while I got the chance.  Will add text later.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Last Flowers Standing

 The California THistle is the only prominent wildflower I'm seeing on my local walks.  Most of the daisies have shriveled up and/or gone to seed.  The few that still look fresh to the casual observer have quit producing nectar or fragrance, so bugs are not landing on them.  August usually features a variety of yellow flowers.  The late-season bloomers include St. John's Wort, Bitter Brush, and Goldenrod, but I'm seeing very few of these compared to past years.  Fortunately, for one who loves the pairing of flowers and bugs, the thistles are still active.  Above is a California Crescent, a new species to me.  I think earlier careless observations had me thinking these were Fritillaries or Checkerspots  Glad to add a new one to my "life list."
 I really like to watch the Skippers (below), especially when their tongues are clearly in view.  Most summers I see these in abundance on Bitterbrush, but not this year.
 Last, another angle of view of a Skipper plus some kind of bee.  THey apparently do not mind each other's company.  We still have most of August to go.  I hope there will still be signs of life.


The title of the photo is "Haze."  There just happens to be an airplane in it.  I like to watch the airplanes coms and go as I wait to pick up my son from work.  When I look at the same mountain every day (Claremont), I become more aware of details, like visibility toward the East (Reno) and the West (Spanish Peak), and estimate visibility based on known landmarks.  The amount of haze from the Yosemite and Redding fires, and maybe sometimes from Mendocino County, has been so intense that I've given up my afternoon hikes up Boyle Ravine for the time being.  Today is a "Red Alert" for even more intense haze today in Reno where I'm planning to be.  I can't help but wonder of the animals, from mammals on down to the lowest invertebrates, are similarly affected.  Do the deer move more slowly or graze less?  Are the earthworms bothered by it?  Does it affect how the airplane breathes?  Sad that I have to contemplate these things.  I think I'll make time in this day for a rain dance.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Escaped the blade

While looking around campus for insects and spiders on blooming flowers, and enjoying surprises like the turkey family in my previous post, I came across a really big fungus that found a good hiding place in the shade of a big pine where the ride-a-long lawnmowers couldn't get to it.  This was around 8" in diameter and was very impressive.  Surface texture reminds me of cooking marshmallows over a campfire with finesse.  I was never one to turn them into charcoal. Click on the photo for a closer look.

One Happy Family

The wildlife viewing on my walk up to the office has been great lately.  Not many people on campus, plus lawn watering, makes this a kind of oasis for the deer and the turkeys.  This family was so engrossed in feeding on the green that I was able to approach to within 20 feet with my phone camera.  I backed off before they tried to run away.  I've also seen a good variety of insects landing on what remains of the daisies and on the thistles which are in peak form.  Discovered a new species (new to me) of butterfly the other day.  Will post photos of bugs on thistle next.  Meanwhile, Happy August.  Be careful of the heat.