Sunday, July 29, 2018

Seen during a walk to town - three blocks :)

All in the family - Ranunculaceae

Ways of looking at a feather.

 I live on Boyle Street at the mouth of Boyle Ravine.  North of Boyle is the town of Quincy.  South of Boyle is the forest. So, like an old acquaintance of mine from Genesee, I live on the edge.  The edge is a kind of ecotone between civilization and wilderness.  When I encounter feathers on the ground on either side of the line, my imagination gets fired up.  I found the feather in the above photo a few hundred yards up in Boyle Ravine, off trail, lying amongst flowers in the Butterup Family that I'll feature in another post.  In the photo, the greenery just above the feather is a Baneberry plant.  Others nearby were bearing berries.  But, I didn't move the feather.  Just enjoyed the bright blue and the sense that it could have fallen just a few minutes earlier.  I found the other feather (below photo) on
my driveway.  It had suffered the usual abuses - age, tires, footsteps, etc. - and was already losing its color.  Both feather were from the Stellar's Jay.  The second one, in the spot where I found it, was not photogenic, so I brought it inside, smoother it out a bit, and placed it on white paper.  Our county is named for feathers (las plumas), probably mistakenly, but I still like feathers.  In Spanish the word also means "pens" since the first pens were probably made of feathers.  We still name a popular artists' pen the crow quill.  With a hand lens, I started viewing and picking at the above feather and discovering the intricacy of its architecture. I thought of the verb "feather" as relates to a canoe paddling technique and missed our canoe.  We finally decided it was getting too heavy and we were not canoeing enough; now I miss it.  On second thought, it was not getting heavier - I am getting weaker.  So much for today's thoughts on feathers.  Next up - the Buttercup Family.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Greetings, Haze

On my way down the driveway for an early morning walk, carrying only my cell phone, I was greeted by what I assume was sunrise over Reno, although it looked more like a gigantic version of Mars.  The phone's camera sensor did not capture the fact the whole sun was bright red, so you'll have to take my word for it.  I brought only the phone on this walk because it was sort of a scouting expedition to see what interesting aspects of nature I coud spot between my house and the coffee shop, then maybe come back later with what in my house I call my "real" camera.  Later I'll show the results: Evening Primrose in full bloom, Hollyhocks, and maybe a couple of other items.  Much more productive, photographically, was a mid-afternoon hike up Boyle Ravine where I brought said real camera and took over 40 photos.  Found three members of the Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae, blooming in the same short stretch of the cascading stream.  Monkshood, Columbine, and Baneberry.
Internet speed is worse than ever at home, so tomorrow morning I'll go down to Quincy Provisions and add a couple more posts to the blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


I've walked by the stump almost daily for many weeks, but on this particular day I felt like photographing it.  That's because I was intrigued by the variety of answers my students in Nature Literature gave to the question "How could a large area of tree stumps be seen as an indicator of progress?"  This question was asked in the context of shifting arguments in the development of the USA between conservationists and protectionists, and various definitions of each.  As so typical in political arguments, the sides tend to define each other (as in 'straw man' arguments) in ways that can differ greatly from how they define themselves.  What about this particular stump?  I tried to look at it from both points of view.  More later.

Will the seeds mature?

 Toward the end of my walk on the FRC Nature Trail, I came across a tall, or formerly tall, Corn Lily that had been stomped to the ground.  I tried to prop it up, but that was futile.  The base of the stem was damaged.  Then I noticed the beautiful florescence and decided to take some close-ups.
The flowers looked very fresh (click photo for more detail), but I wondered if they would get sufficient water through the damaged stem to complete their life cycle.  I, like most people, are probably used to looking at these from a distance.  They are impressive in certain settings like high mountain meadows.  But a very close look at the flowers is worth more time.  One of the most beautiful lilies.

Do ants get drunk?

 Walked part of the college Nature Trail the other day after many months away from it.  At first, it seemed the Gooseberry season was over.  Most of the bushes I saw had dropped their berries, or the few remaining were in various stages of shriveled up.  Then I saw the one above that was somehow photogenic.  I figured there was a lot of fermentation going on inside.  Then I saw some ants crawling up the branch toward the berry.  I didn't stick around long enough to see the rest of the story, but I wondered.
 A little further down the trail, probably in a different microclimate, I came across some bushes with fresh berries.  They were a welcome snack, after taking a few pictures.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I found the answer!!!

People keep asking me "where did all these flies come from?"  I finally found the answer.  [This photo was not 'photoshopped.']

Monday, July 23, 2018

A very hot day

Too hot to go wandering around with a camera, actually.  I did walk downtown to check a book out of the library and was wondering the whole time if there would be warning signs of heatstroke.  I made it back, so I guess I can do this when it's in the high nineties.  Meanwhile, here's a photo I took at the north end of Snake Lake a couple of summers ago.  One of my favorite insects, and it keeps my goal of averaging a post per day intact.  I think tomorrow I will wander around with my camera in the morning.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pine Borer with no Pine

 In this morning's political news, someone's take on the current administration in Washington used a metaphor "leading us into a desert with no water at the end."  Somehow, my mid-day encounter with the above (and below) beetle reinforced that image.  I was waiting for someone at the Courthouse Annex when it got too hot to sit in my truck, so I covered my steering wheel, left the windows open, and started walking around on the surrounding lawn.  Lo and behold, one of my favorite beetles, the Pine Borer, came along.  The grass probably provided a modicum of cooling, but there were no pine trees nearby. 
 The beetle came to a small pit, maybe eight inches wide, sort of like a crater of just sand.  Must have been another 15 - 20 degrees hotter in there.  It didn't stay long.
Quickly heading back out of the sand pit, it may or may not have survived.  I had appointments, so decided to let nature takes its course.  As for the desert without water at the end, I don't think we can afford to wait around for "nature to take its course."  Nature is losing.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Heat Wave

I guess I'm not the only one having a problem with the heat. As promised by Nash's "Rainmaker," a guy named Starbuck, the rain will eventually return.

Early Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Looking Forward to August

 In mid-July, as I wander the roadsides and trails looking for plants and animals to photograph, and try not to faint from the heat, I am mostly seeing the flowers that are going to seed and drying up, and fewer bugs than i saw a month ago.  However, as I spent some time reviewing and deleting or editing old photos from my archive, I am reminded that there's a kind of new season in late August and early September for someone with my particular photo interests. In a field full of Chicory with swarms of flies and bees all around, any one plant might seem like a mundane subject.  But, to zoom in close and watch for a while, the wonderful architecture of any insect or flower is amazing.  In my archive, I've got dozens of photos that are variations on the one above, mostly taken at roadsides around Quincy.  I'm only saving the best so my hard drive will have room for new ones.
 The drama of an Assasin Bug eating an ant (above) is something I've seen much more often on Tanzy in August, but this one happens to be taking place on a daisy.  Click on any of these three photos for more detail.
The katydid is a reliable visitor to my firewood pile.  One of the disappointing results of having stacked all my firewood by the end of June is that I won't be uncovering the various bugs, salamanders, and lizards that have hidden as long as they could under my rounds of firewood, which I normally don't finish splitting and stacking until October.  I'll have to look elsewhere to photograph these creatures this year.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Further adventures close to home

 I'll continue with a closer view of the photo that ended my previous post.  I call the photo "The Remains."  Read previous post for explanation.  [More later.]

Day of Discovery

As of Friday morning, my shared driveway of 150 feet or so was lined with two-foot tall yellow flowers that I believe were Hawkweed.  Note that I said "were."  More on that later.  As I began my morning walk down the drive, I spotted a little pink.  Pun intended, I guess, because the flower turned out to be a Pink.  There must have been several hundred Hawkweeds and only two Pinks.  Both types flowers seemed beautiful to me, but I was most strongly attracted to the Pink.  Because it was the rarer?  Or, because I didn't know what it was?  I wondered: if the whole area had been covered with Pinks and there were only one or two Hawkweeds, would I have perceived both differently?
I was not carrying my camera and had only my iPhone.  However, the sun was bright, there was lots of glare, and I'm not very good at taking pictures with my phone.  Thus, the above result.  Focused on the background, but not the flower.  After several more failed attempts, I got the photo below.  That one was clear enough that I was later able to identify the flower as Mountain Pink.  I also discovered that many different, unrelated flowers go by that same common name.  Thus, the scientific name, Dianthus armeria.  Other common names for this one are Deptford Pink and Grass Pink.  But, what's in a name?
I continued my walk into town and photographed the seed pods below.  The beautiful flowers that preceded them over a month ago were featured on this blog, and are also known by several different names: Love in a mist, and Devil in a bush, among others.  A classic love/hate relationship it seems.
I love this plant. Among other things that intrigue me about it is its family affiliation: Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family.

When I got back to my driveway, about an hour later, the Mountain Pinks had closed up for the day.  Or were they experiencing a premonition? By the next morning, they were gone!  All the flowers - both Hawkweeds and Pinks - were gone.  A weed eater enthusiast must have visited. We have different tastes.  Sure glad I got to discover this new flower.
Strolling the driveway on Saturday morning, the object of natural history interest to me was the below artifact - the remains of a visit by a young bear.  Most of the soft organic matter had disintegrated or become food for bacteria and ants while the more resistant seeds of he Choke Cherry are all that remained.
I don't know if you'd call this an adventure.  It seemed so to me, especially in the original sense of the word - something that's about to happen.  I approach every walk in that spirit of adventure.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wake-up Call

 Eight after my encounter with a Chorus Frog described in my previous post, I encountered a Bumble Bee on the Spirea growing along the edge of our front lawn.  I moved in with my iPhone camera.
 Whenever I get this close to a bee, I figure it's either dead or in the process of being eaten alive by a spider hidden below.  So, I poked at it a bit, and saw a little movement and the absence of a spider.
A few yards away on our Lavender bush, I found another Bumble Bee.  Same scenario.  I spotted two others on the same bush.  Then I reflected on how lucky I am that I wake up early, usually around 5:00 a. m., and feel motivated to "seize the day" and explore my neighborhood.  This usually includes searching for an early morning source of coffee and a little protein, but today included doing so on foot.  Only an hour later, after downloading these photos from my phone, I went back outside to check the scene.  The bee on the Spirea had not moved, and it was still in the shade.  When I checked the Lavender, there were literally dozens of bees, mostly Bumble Bees but a few Honey Bees, buzzing around and feeding on the flowers.  The Lavender ws now in the sun.  I'm really glad I saw all of this. Carpe Diem.