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.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Higher Elevation Scenes

 These photos were taken near the summit (unnamed?) of my drive last Sunday on the Quincy-LaPorte Road where the PCT crosses.  More later on what I saw around this spot, and more on what I photographed on the long descent to Nelson Creek.  One thing I love about the Sierra is the many opportunities to experience a great elevation change within a relatively short distance (by car or truck) and to see the changes in life zones from one elevation to the next.  In many ways the Red Fir zone roughly between 5,000 and 7,000 feet at this latitude is the most exciting to me.  I especially love the equivalent zone above Buck's Lake Wilderness just north of Spanish Peak.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Every Walk Is Different

 Most afternoons I walk from my house on the hill to downtown and back.  I check many of the same spots for nature activity and photo ops, and it's never the same two days in a row.  If the scene looks the same, my thoughts are different.  Yesterday I found my herd of Treehoppers on the same branch they've occupied for several weeks.  The young ones are getting bigger and the mom is still guarding them.  This time I estimated the number of branches of similar size that were hanging at eye level.  I figured around 50.  So, why were the treehoppers occupying only this particular one?  Then I estimated the tree to be around 40 feet tall and had at least several hundred branches of this particular size beyond my line of sight.  I wish I could borrow one of those arborist's hydraulic lifts so I could check the upper reaches of the tree.  I guess you could say I'm still somewhat obsessed with the Oak Treehoppers.
Across the driveway from the oak was a Stellar's Jay feather caught under a scraggly Chicory plant that I thought was photogenic.
As my walk continued toward town I found the biggest pile of bear poop I've ever seen.  It appeared that he/she had diarrhea, but the tell-tale cherry stones were there and it was definitely bear.  This made me wonder why so many people along Coburn put their trash cans outside Sunday night, ready for Monday morning pick-up.  The bear(s) tips them over every time and drags plastic bags around the neighborhood.  Duh!  This morning, there was a new pile of poop just a few yards beyond the aforementioned on.  No diarrhea. Either a different bear, or the original one found the needed medicine in someone's trash.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Flowers Tougher than I

 On this hot Labor Day, I thought I'd take a break from desk work and go photograph some airplanes.  Too hot for them, I guess.  There were none.  So, I decided to walk around one of the hangers and photograph wildflowers.  It was 96 degrees F, and I was beginning to wilt right at the start.  But the flowers, which are supposed to be the ones wilting, looked quite fresh.  The end-of-summer survivors.  The above Poppy was lonely, but still looked fresh.
 The wild Sweet Peas are the ultimate survivors along our roadsides at this time of year.  Must have deep roots.
 California Wild Mustard doing OK.
 I still haven't ID'd this one, although I suspect it's in the mustard family, Brassicaceae.
 Another variety of Sweet Pea.
 THe Lone Gumplant on this walk was still doing OK and had lots of insect visitors.  Maybe they were flying fast to keep cool?  At any rate, I didn't capture any on camera.
 I take back what I said about Sweet Peas.  Star Thistle probably deserves the honor of ultimate survivors.
 Most Daisies are long gone, but there were a few fresh-looking ones on the north side of a hanger in the shade.  Looked "fresh as a daisy."
 Chicory still looking fresh.  Same insect situation - coming and going too fast for my shutter finger.
In partial shade, near a place where water is often dumped, was a dense group of poppies of another variety than the first one in this series.  I'm back in the shade now, and am not anxious for another hot walk like this one.  At the very least, I'll wear  hat next time.

Holey Rocks

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Additional Report on Dellinger's Pond

 There was lots of blooming Tansy along the dam as mentioned in my previous post, and very few bugs.  This Skipper stood out.
 Normally, I don't pay much attention to the fern-like leaves of Tansy, and definitely don't look to them with the expectation of exotic "fall colors."  But this one stood out from the rest.  Maybe a bear stopped to take a pee.
On the way back to my truck, I not only saw several large specimens of bear poop, but also a nice patch of Blackberries.  Very refreshing after a hot, dry photo session along the dam.

What I Saw at Dellinger's Pond today

 A beautiful insect; that's all I'm sure of.  When I look at the pahes in my field guides dedicated to bees, wasps, bee-like wasps and wasp-like bees, I get dizzy.  For me it's a lot like looking at little-brown-birds-that-all-look-alike.  At first I thought it might be a Cuckoo Bee, then I switched to Golden Digger Wasp, then I gave up.  I don't have enough entomology knowledge or guidebooks to go further.  But it was a beautiful sight, the colors contrasting with the light purple of the Spearmint blossoms.  My short walk along the dam that creates the pond revealed a number of other interesting sights that I'll post soon.  Lots of Tansy, for instance, but no Assassin Bugs and other insects I'm used to seeing on Tansy.  I think I might have got one good photo of a Skipper on Tansy, though.  I'll sort through what I have and post a few.  It was a busy morning as I also drove up to the PCT crossing on LaPorte Road and gave my son and daughter-in-law a a ride back to Quincy after their hike from the Highway 49 crossing.  Got some good photos near Nelson Creek.
 Click on any photo for a closer look.  Then click just outside the left margin to go back to normal size and where you left off.
Right after taking this photo I found some ripe blackberries and indulged a few.