Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Messing around while iPhone updates

 Uploading these photos was the slow part.  I'm going to take a quick break with my camera, then add the narrative to these photos later.  The above pair of beetles mating was pulled from my archive.  The next four photos were taken during the last week or so while waiting for more flowers to bloom.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

My complex lawn

 I've walked by this blooming Oxalis (Yellow Wood Sorrel) several days in a row with thoughts of photographing it, then getting distracted.  Today, with the return of the Sun, I decided to make my move.  Just a couple of shots, then back to finishing my school work.  But "knowing how way leads on to way" I wandered a bit and discovered why I hate to mow my lawn.  It's not that I resist the exercise.  It's because I know my lawn hides wonders.  Here's a brief sampler.
My plant ID skills have slipped this part winter, and my eyes aren't as sharp, and I rarely carry a magnifying lens with me.  So, I invite botanists' help with the above flower.  Very tiny.  Smaller than the photo, actually.  Could it be Brooklime or a gentian?  All I know is there was a patch of at least a few dozen and I don't want to mow them down.
My Dandelions are hosting these busy little beetles, maybe 1/4" long and mating like crazy.
While photographing the Dandelions I was startled by the first Chorus Frog I've seen this season. although I've been hearing them for a month.  He calmed down quickly and stayed in my open hand for a few photos.  This is now Pseudacris regilla, but not too long ago the field guides all had it as Hyla regilla, Pacific Coast Tree Frog rather than Chorus Frog. When I was studying back East, I saw lots of different tree frogs and chorus frogs that were easy to tell apart.  This west coast species seems to have characteristics of both.

Click on any of the above photos for a closer look.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

More orchids

 As we went searching for orchids on Sunday, especially the Mountain Lady's Slipper, we were treated to others such as the Spotted Coralroot (above and below). Later, at another location near Quincy, we saw that a good crop of Stream Orchids is on the way.  Their young leaves were nearly totally hidden among the sedges, ruches, and grasses by a very small stream that eventually flows into Greenhorn Creek.  In another couple of weeks, they should be blooming, too.
The Coralroots live in the shade of large trees, in this case Ponderosa Pines and Douglass-fir, many over 4 feet in diameter.  They live off nutrients and water in the soil and air.  No photosynthesis.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How can we call this a weed?

Asclepias cordifolia, Heart-leafed Milkweed.  Not really a negative appellation, but often treated as a nuisance.  Think of the more common prefixes of plants whose names are built on "weed."  Bindweed and burrweed for example.  For me, it's hard to imagine a more beautiful flower than those of the several species of milkweeds found around Quincy.  And I say this on the same day I photographed the Mountain Lady's Slipper and the Spotted Coral Root.  The above specimen is of the Purple Milkweed, or Heart-leafed Milkweed, which is in full bloom in the area around Oakland Camp.  The nearby Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, was showing early buds, and I think it will start blooming in another week.  Their flowers look like the above, but are much smaller and lack the purple.  Following them by another week or two will be the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa. 
What fascinates me is the approach-avoidance conflict we seem to have with these plants.  Some people plant them in gardens to attract butterflies, and even call them Butterfly Weed.  But when they grow too close to pavement, and the weed eaters come along, everything goes.  During these past few years where I live, it seems that the weed eating has intensified.  This could be my imagination, but when I look at my past several years of blogging around this time of year, I finding many of my favorite photography spots are devoid of my favorite subjects.  Always looking recently weed eaten, the flowers are often replaced by beverage containers and shotgun shells. Being a weed myself, I have a lot of empathy for all the others.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


 Amazing!  Last week I could only find one specimen of the Mountain Lady's Slipper in my favorite place for viewing them.  I usually find a dozen or more around this time of year.  I was expecting out-of-town guests, botany students from S. F. State who were going to take along drive top see this and other orchids.  Well, either my vision improved or some magical combination of factors caused a dozen or more to bloom.  Not only were there a dozen or more blooming, with a few plants sporting two blossoms, but the Spotted Coral Root, the False Solomon's Seal, Red Larkspur, and many other species were blooming.  I'm considering today to be the first day of the resurrection of my blogging season.  I took 74 photos today so I'll be posting some of them, along with some natural history trivia, over the next few days.

 Out past Oakland Camp (north end) we went in search of species of Asclepias (milkweeds) and anything else that might have begun to bloom.  The Brodiaea above, hosting a butterfly, got me excited about the forthcoming insect season, a season most people anticipate in a negative light.
 In a notch along the stem of a Phacelia (waterleaf) is the foam of a Spittle Bug. The nymph of said bug is protected from dehydration until it metamorphoses into a flying adult for whom all that remains in life, as far as I know, is eating and mating.
Wow!  Three in a row featuring bugs.  The Salsify (AKA Goat's Beard or Oyster Plant) has a small fly visitor.  I am looking forward to early summer when this plant hosts wonderful colonies of aphids
being tended by a species of ant that feeds on their nectar.  To be continued tomorrow, and hopefully every day afterward for quite a while.  Thanks for a great morning, Morgan and Moe.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Found One!!!

 For a couple of weeks I've been checking on the area near Oakland Camp where I'm accustomed to find the Mountain Lady's Slipper around this time of year.  Over a week ago, I thought I spotted a young specimen that had not yet produced a bud. Yet several years ago when I first discovered these beauties, there were a couple dozen in bloom by May 18.  A couple of days after finding that first one of this year, it was gone.  Well, today I was lucky.  I wandered over an area of a couple of acres on which I found an abundance of blooming False Solomon's Seal, several Spotted Coralroots, and a few other species of spring wildflowers.  I was about to leave the area when I spotted the first bloom of the year (for me) of the Mtn. Lady's Slipper.  It's not fully open yet, so there are many days of fun photography ahead.  I'm expecting some out-of-town guests soon who will travel across the state to see these orchids, and now I won't need to disappoint them.  I wonder if I should camp out there to ensure it doesn't disappear like the one I saw last week.
Here's a closer view, and you can click on either photo to get even closer.  Tomorrow I hope to find time to post a number of photos of the Coralroots and other wildflowers I saw while searching for the Lady's Slippers.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Still in Bloom

 We still have this secluded little spot on campus, only a few feet from pavement, in which the weed eaters have not yet discovered the Wild Ginger.  I stopped on my way to the parking lot, hoping to find a few that had dropped their petals.  I've never seen what these flowers look like in their post-bloom stages. 
 Often, when I stop to photograph these, curious passers-by stop to ask what I'm doing.  Most of the time it's people who recognize the Ginger leaves, but have never seen the flowers, or even realized they had flowers.
 So, I decided to photograph the reason why.  Usually, stands of Wild Ginger form a continuous mat
of leaves so dense that one doesn't see the rgound beneath them, thus, they don't see the flowers either.  I usually have to part some leaves and held them out of the way to get good photos of the flowers, and also hold the flowers up at an angle in order to view the insides.  In the above photos, I've cropped my cheating fingers out of the field.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Early May around Quincy

 Last week I went out by Oakland Camp to check on the condition of the Mountain Ladyslippers. In the area where I'm accustomed to seeing maybe a dozen plants just a few feet from the pavement, I saw only this one.  Maybe more have broken ground by now.  I hope to go out there again some afternoon this week.  Maybe there will be some buds.  I can hardly wait for their annual appearance.  This time I hope to be patient enough to get some photos of bugs inside the bulbous petal.
 I took about 20 photos to get this one.  With no telephoto or tripod, I aimed at the dozens of blues fluttering around damp spots on the gravel by Spanish Creek.  The many splotches of blue moving around are beautiful.  But within a fraction of a second after landing, they fold their wings over their backs and disappear.  They disappear because the undersides of the wings are speckled grey and brown and are perfectly camouflaged with the gravel.  Occasionally I can spot a landed one in one of the photos, but usually not.  I got lucky just once.  Click on the photo for a closer view.
 The Western Dog Violets are starting to bloom on the FRC campus.  Two of the yellow species have been blooming for a while, and this is the only local species that is actually violet in color.  There's also a whte species.
The second photo (above) shows how the leaves of this species are quite different from those of the Fan Violet I posted a while back.  The leaf in the lower right quadrant is that of the violet.
Click on these for closer views.  I love looking straight into the blossoms.  Colorful patterns and often interesting insects and spiders may be found.  One has to be motivated to get down and look because violet are pretty small and usually hidden amongst other plants, especially grasses.