Friday, June 29, 2018

Today at Oakland Camp

 This morning I decided to take a quick drive down Chandler Road and onward to Oakland Camp in hopes of finding the Red Milkweed Beetle feasting and/or mating on Showy Milkweeds.  It turns out the country weed eaters beat me to it and practically every one of my favorite spots had been decimated.  However, when I drove past the camp toward Gilson Creek, I was beyond the areas where weed eaters go and had some success.  I never saw these beetles.  Perhaps they're having an off year.  But I saw lots of other interesting things,  This is a small sampler.  The above photo of a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar was taken at one of the aforementioned favorite spots on the road to the camp, but it was barely out of range of the weedeaters, one of the few Showy Milkweeds still standing.
 In a field in the area near Gilson Creek, I found a Monarch Butterfly so engrossed in feeding that it let me get within a foot for over a dozen photos.  Then I was happy.
Not too far off, I found a stand of Narrow-leaf Milkweed, and there were no bugs on top of the flowers that I could see.  I started tipping the flower heads over to see if anything of interest was hiding beneath (it was still cool, early in the morning).  I found a pair of Plume Moths mating.  Click on the above photo for a closer view.  I got over 100 good photos on this morning expedition and I'll select some for the next few posts.

Mill Creek Trail, two weeks ago, etc.

 This is my last post from the hike we took two weeks ago, but I've heard there are a lot more new species blooming since then, so I hope to get up there within another day or two and bring the blogging season up to date.  This morning, with limited time available, I'll pay a visit to the Oakland Camp sites that I watch regularly.  Hoping to see a bigger variety of pollinators.  Text describing the rest of these photos will come soon.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


 I've been so busy, I almost forgot I made a brief visit to my favorite haunts around Oakland Camp on a weekday during a break from grading essays for my summer class.  This Cabbage White butterfly was so engrossed in feeding off the wild mustard, which is in the cabbage family, Brassicaceae, that it permitted a close approach and allowed me to take six photos before it took off.  Got me to thinking about flying, how I love to watch things fly while definitely aversive to flying myself.  A few stormy flights, which I interpreted as near-death experiences, has made me a confirmed land lover.
With this post, I have reached one of my goals for the summer.  That is averaging at least one post per day for the remainder of the year.  I have several subsidiary goals I don't need to talk about here, but I am happy to be actively blogging again.  I'll be making a few changes in the information in the left margin, and also going back to add text to several posts of the past two weeks.  Meanwhile, don't forget, if you click on any photo you'll get a closer view.

Too fast for me

This is a photo from several years ago when I first sighted a Red-Shouldered Ctenucha Moth and had no idea what it was.  When I first saw them, they were quite skittish so I couldn't get a decent photo.  The shimmering black wings had me thinking it was a female wasp of the type that drills holes in fallen cedar into which it lays its eggs.  Finally, I got one so engrossed in feeding on this Pennyroyal that it let me approach to within a few feet and get a clear photo.  Soon, I found out what it was and announced it on this blog.  That got the attention of several groups who watch for this moth and keep track of sightings.  Today, I saw one for the first time in several years, and it was on a daisy on the FRC campus, but I didn't have my camera and I was too slow getting out my phone.  It flew away.

Also today, I ws talking with a friend in my driveway when a pair of Western Tanagers flew by.  They emerged from the forest to my right, zipped over the pavement in our cul-de-sac, and disappeared into the forest to my left, all in less than a second.  Needless to say, no photo.  One of these days I'm going to stumble across a male tanager perched somewhere and get a close-up with the 1,000 mm lens I dream about.  Actually, that's not going to happen, so I'll just enjoy the memory, and maybe just get lucky.  When I peruse my old blog posts, I must admit I have often been lucky.

Smug Mugs

#1 is dangerous, has created what might become memes for years to come.
#2?  depends
#3 ?  Very friendly.  Sat on my left thumb for at least five minutes before I let him go in a moist spot to prevent dehydration.  See this blog for May 28, 2017.

Saving the best 'till last

 This is/will be my next to last report on the hike my wife and I took on the Mill Creek Trail a couple of weeks ago.  Based on the chat described in my previous post, I have a sudden urge to visit the trail again and begin a new narrative about what I find.  There should be a lot of changes since the last visit.  Later today, I hope to identify the subjects of this current set of photos and add any significant memories of what I did not photograph, and/or photo attempts that failed. :)

Flower Chat at Patti's

 I've been an irregular regular since 1977, not longer after the place opened.  Morning Thunder was originally in a building that no longer exists, then it moved to its present location.  Somewhere around 1981 or 1982, I collaborated with craftsman Mark Houston to create an addition to the above sign.  It said Cafe in blue lettering.  Some years later, when Patti took ownership, she changed the name to Patti's Thunder and gave me the Cafe sign where it still resides above my kitchen sink.  Patti, in deference to local culture and tradition, has kept what remains of the original wooden sign and has added her own variations (below photo).
 Patti does a great job every year maintaining the flower garden in front, but also loves wildflowers and hiking in the forests around Bucks Lake. She recently hiked on the trail I've been calling Mill Creek Trail, and she reports the arrival of many showy flowers that had no yet bloomed when I hiked there a couple of weeks ago. Among others, she reports the Leopard Lilies are blooming and the Blue Camas is still blooming.  He described a couple of others that I was not sure about, based on her description, but got me excited about going back up there.  I'm not not finished with my treatment on this blog of my last visit, but within a day or two I'll have new photos and stories to add.
 Here are a couple of closeups from the garden in front of Patti's Thunder.  By the way, the food is great, too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Passing of Seasons

 It has been exciting for me to see the emergence of Daisies and Milkweeds of various species and the great variety of bugs they attract.  But as I walk in search of photo opportunities, I can't help but notice the passing of other seasons, such as the the time wild orchids, such as the Mountain Lady's Slippers (above and below) reach their peak.  A few days ago I photographed these two as their blooms faded.  Still attractive to me.  They will be back next May.
 Another wild orchid, the Spotted Coral Root (below) tends to stay in bloom a bit longer.  In fact they are yet to bloom at some of the shadier forests at higher altitudes. In this photo, the yellow stalk is one that is still in bloom, and the brown one to the right is what remains of last year's specimen, probably connected below the surface.
 The insects have their seasons as well.  The bug resting (is it alive?) on a Chicory Blossom (below) appears to be upside-down.  I found it an intriguing subject, but didn't have time to stay around and investigate.  The bug might have had its last meal, laid eggs, or mated - some kind of final act - then keeled over (nautical term - hmmm).  The Chicory will last for many more weeks and host many other visitors.
 Likewise, this attractive butterfly.  It might have been in the act of laying eggs before taking its last breath.  It fluttered a bit when I touched it, but remained upside-down. I don't think this batch of eggs will survive. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Excitement over a beetle

 I was in a hurry to carry out an errand, but just as I fired up the truck I spotted a great beetle by the passenger-side window that was slightly open. I grabbed my phone and leaned over and promptly took five or six blurry photos (sample above).  I then swiped at the bettle with a work glove and it flew to the driver's side.  I really wanted a good photo, but I really need to rush off.  One more swipe and it fell below my seat.  Finally, it sat still long enough for me to focus (below).
 My first guess is that it's one of the Fir Sawyers in the family of long-horned beetles, Cerambycidae.

I got an even closer photo before driving off, hoping I'll be able to identify it later.  I also freed the beetle onto fir trees next to my drive.  I'm sure the first service wouldn't like that, but I like thee beetles and they were around a long time before we started messing with the forests.

Mill Creek Trail, III

 Third installment of last weekend's photos from our hike on the Mill Creek Trail.  I'm having one of those rare spaces in my schedule in which I go downtown for the faster Internet so I can load photos.  I've now posted about five sets without text, or with minimal text, and repeated my promise to catch up on composing text at home where not much bandwidth is required. The young Corn Lily above looked particularly fresh and stood out in its environment.  There's lots of Corn Lily and Bracken Fern along this section of the trail, so I can hardly wait for them to flower and produce spores respectively.  Will probably pay another visit some time mid-week.

It's only Monday, but here I am again near good WiFi.  As I review these photos and contemplate text to add, I realize that sometimes on a "nature" walk, I'm in the frame of mind of a scientific explorer and/or teacher, so when I see the Corn Lily, I want to share the scientific name, Veratrum californicum and Family Liliaceae.  At other times, I'm in more of an artistic mood and am simply responding to the beauty of what I see.  The above Corn Lily caught me responding to its freshness.  It was a young one, long before flowering, and it seemed pure, unassailed by insects or people, and it was easy to isolate it from its surroundings for a good photo.  Many days later, I'm thinking more in terms of names, classifying, and contemplating relationships.  As later explained in this post, some lilies are no longer lilies.
Looking at this next flower from above, the notched petals and leave arrangement had me thinking Caryophyllaceae, the Carnation family, but honestly, when I was there, the words "carnation" and "pink" came to me first.  Now I wish I had tipped the flower to the side to see if the bracts beneath the flower had the tell-tale shape of that family.
This fallen white fir log had some sizable woodpecker holes, but I don't know woodpecker species by their nesting holes.  I do know this log will soon be soil and that its role in the cycles of life is what makes it beautiful to me.
After a winter of not looking at flowers, I get rusty, so this White-veined Wintergreen (above) in Family Ericaceae, is easily confused with a somewhat similar-looking orchid known as Rattlesnake plantain..
Here's the lily that is no longer a lily.  Formerly in the genus Brodiaea and Family Liliaceae, it is pne of the many species of former Brodiaeas that have been reassigned to different genera and families.  It's hard to keep up, but I believe this one is now known as Golden Brodiaea, Triteleia ixiodes in Family Themidaeae.  Brodiaea will probably last as a popular name, and even as a scientific name for some species.
This is my most questionable ID in this series.  Feel free to correct me.  Mustang Clover, Linanthus montanus, Family Polemoniaceae, the same family that includes the more familiar Phlox.
The root structure of this tree at the lakeshore intrigued me, but I didn't think to look up, or to check needles and cones on the ground, but considering elevation and the look of the bark, I think it's Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta.
In the Mallow family, Malvaceae, we have two widespread species.  This one is commonly known as Checker Bloom, or Sidalcea glaucescens.
I saw a little rise in the ground cover of pine and fir needles and suspected a mushroom about to emerge.
I gave it a little help and verified my hunch.  I don't know the type.
We came across a huge bunch of Jeffrey Pine cones on the ground, probably resulting from a recent gust of wind.  Much larger and less prickly than the cones of Ponderosa Pine. I included my pocket comb for scale.  My next installment from the Mill Creek Trail may or may not include technical info for the scientific types among my readers.  It will depend on how I feel when I review the remaining photos.