Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I love spring

On the road

My commute home from work site--skirting the storm.
 It's so great to see the hills all green after years of drought.
Check out how the rainbow is doubling itself (at the bottom).

One of the cutest things I've EVER seen: baby killdeer
with its siblings and very busy parents at Merced National Wildlife Refuge.
Check out that TINY wing! =)

Snow goose, also at the Merced NWR.
That beak makes me think of a sock puppet, for some reason... =)

This native phlox was SO frothy & pink (on highway 166) we HAD to pull over
during our drive to Carrizo Plain NM.

The Carrizo Plain NM: a fascinating place.
Heaven for a minimalist, and I was anxious to visit, since
the last time we saw it, it was 4 years into a drought.
 Soda Lake stirred by wind.

Carrizo Plain had greened up nicely, thanks to El Niño.

Desert candle (Caulanthus inflatus), a species I'd never seen before, at Carrizo Plain NM.
Another thing we saw from the car & stopped to investigate. =)

We drove up elevation from Carrizo & found purple puddles of Phacelia. So great!

Closer shot of Phacelia--love those flamboyant anthers. =)

More wildflower puddles, north and uphill of the Carrizo Plain.

Back home

Band-tailed pigeons appeared under our bird feeder—that was a first!
They are SO much bigger than mourning doves (upper left corner).
Love their bright beaks & feet.

Ladybird beetle upon lilac. Ah, spring! =)

 The new climbing rose we just bought is making me swoon.
 I have a thing for anthers...

Wavyleaf soap plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) beading water beautifully. =)

Lovely variegated miner's lettuce (Claytonia spp.) on our property that caught my eye.
So stylish! =)

Last, a wild hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum) on our property.
What an elegant beauty.

I hope you all are having a marvelous spring (or fall).
It's a pretty amazing thing.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wild (speedy) wildlife photo fling

Just in case you don't follow me on Twitter or Instagram,
I wanted to be sure you see the lovely creatures
that have been gracing our property, of late.  =)

The grand coyote (Canis latrans) arrived after big splashes of rain.

Was cruising around, hunting gophers,
spending a lot of time looking about (hence, Wily Coyote).
(Note coat is wet fm. all that rain)

The classic LEAP & JAM down into gopher tunnels. =)

We also saw bobcat (Lynx rufus).
That fence is at the northern (and very wild) edge of our property.
Source of many great things for a biologist. =)

Sleepy bobcat in manzanita shade at the edge of our driveway.
Very exciting for me, but I only allowed myself 3 photos, 
then left that window so it could relax w/o the paparazzi. =)

And, here's an animal both the above species love to eat,
and of which we have plenty, the humble gopher (Thomomys spp.).
Attracts SO many exciting carnivores for me to ogle. =)

 Wily Coyote Tale

I'd recently noticed the fencing of our hen's porch
seemed a little more pulled away from the framing than it had been.
As if a creature was helping that process along...

So, investigating it to asses when & how to fix it,
I saw FOUR long hairs right at one of the pulled-away corners.

Pretty sure hair that long is from a coyote.

Funny, when I'm about (& awake) the coyote studiously avoids the hen house.

Looks like when the humans are snoozing,
coyotes return & look into opening that tantalizing snack shack.

Since then I've shored it up & will do more of that work today.

Mechanical exclusion is my #1 method for dealing with pests,
whether they're gophers or deer (gardening) or coyotes & bobcats (chickens).

That way, if I'm smart, there's no need to kill anything.

These giant brains can be very useful, if we employ them. =)


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tiny worlds...

 Baby blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii) sprung open this a.m.

And therein I found things I never saw clearly before I got a macro lens.

Little worlds are everywhere...
Probably globular springtails, see bugguide.net.

Tiny little lives, everywhere you look...


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February flash, flung 1 day late =D

 He is glorious; she has the munchies.
It's that time of year, turkeys parading all over.
I LOVE the percussion males provide to accompany their dance. SO COOL!

Squirrel-y cunning leads to tasty breakfast.
Extremely impressive core strength in this creature.

new-to-me species!

Common sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis) I found while raking around the grape arbor.
 Pretty gorgeous tummy, eh?
Those are pine needles, so you can see this is a SMALL snake.

It was kinda cold, so I righted the snake for a photo,
then returned it to its home under a bunch of leaf litter.
Such an exciting discovery, and I'm glad it was unharmed (far as I could tell).
For more info on this species, I highly recommend its page at Calherps.

Now that gardening activity is on the upswing (here in the northern hemisphere),
a friendly reminder to CHECK under your row covers
EACH a.m. & release anything trapped w/in. =)
Beautiful male wasp (ichneumon, I believe)
I found under my row cover and released. 

It was 0% aggressive and, btw, males don't have the
equipment to sting. Note LACK of pointy barb @ end. =)

From February 1st--note the snow on the ground.
Seems like FOREVER ago. =)

Super cool stuff soil does when the cold freezes the water out.
I didn't grow up in really cold places, so this is fascinating to me. 

One of the first macro photos I ever took was
of this non-native early bloomer, red-stemmed filaree.
Changed my view of the world.
I'm a sucker for visible pollen grains, especially on purple anthers! =)

A lovely little flower...

Gorgeous small beetle I saw clambering across the greenery as I photographed the above flower.
So glad I got to see it.

Wildlife prints I found at the work site:
best part is the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) print...
you can SEE the fur on the underside of the fox feet. SO cool!

K. That's some of the myriad delights that transpired in spring.

March onward!!! =)


Monday, January 11, 2016

I FINALLY planted milkweed seed. WOOT! =)

Did some work in the a.m., then in the afternoon felt unwell.
DH prescribed gardening.
Who am I to question him? =)

So, planting milkweed seed was priority one.

I weeded this iris plot (protected fm. gophers via that wire mesh)
and got to work.

I took photos 'cause I've learned that where I plant X Y and Z
stays in my brain about 15 minutes.

Next day, it's gone.

SO, I made these! =)

And here's the details, re: the seed packets.
I'd researched it in the past to find spp. native to California
and which help monarchs specifically, butterflies in general.

Note the one above likes to be over 1,000 feet in elevation: we're 3500, so we're a go!

Note: "packed for 2014" means I shoulda planted them 2 falls ago,
but, whatever.

Planted is better than not planted.
Part of learning to garden is learning to quash the perfectionist.

Just. Do. Something.

Also, I paid for these (& a bunch of to-be-planted-in-spring kinds)
versus looking for a free source. 
My priority was get the right spp. for our area & bugs.
Didn't cost much, anyhow. =)

Next, I had to protect our seeds from the HOARDS of hungry seed-eating birds:

Before I learned this trick, I'd plant seed mixes and get almost nothing.
I concluded I was a crap gardener.

Turns out, dark-eyed juncos (& friends) kick through & eat seeds on & under the ground.

So, I protected newly planted areas in the above manner
and suddenly I had LOTS of BABY PLANTS! Total miracle.


Next I need to attach that wire mesh to wood so it's safe for wildlife.

But, now, having followed my husband's recommended cure,
I am now well, AND I've got 3 species of milkweed planted in our garden.

Some of which can grow to 5 feet. SWEET!!

One of the best things about gardening is it gives you things to look forward to.
Like stunning, fabulous flowers attracting stunning, fabulous insect life
that I then get to ogle and PHOTOGRAPH.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

life, art, biology, repeat: quick East Coast flash, bug question & a question answered

During our trip back east,
I pigged out at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
So yum.

What follows: a biological subset of the delicious repast.

Images Caveat
I looked for but didn't find "can't share these" on nga.gov,
I only took photos of those we were allowed to (w/o flash, of course),
& given that many can be downloaded for free here,
& many are >100 y.o., I'm thinking it's ok to share them here. =)
End Caveat

Gorgeous data bank

Painting style that makes the nature noodle in me drool...
Still Life with Flowers and Fruit
Jan Van Huysum, oil on panel, circa 1715, Dutch

Stunning, excruciatingly detailed work that seems like a
great way to preserve data re: living things (if accurate).

Can't imagine any pressed botanical specimen
having color like after 200 years
(tho' obviously natural history museum collections
can be staggeringly valuable to science).

Seems like you could ID many of these species,
if you knew where they were collected. Maybe. =)

And the bugs are the kicker.
Detail of Still Life with Flowers and Fruit

I bet $$ that's a (300 yr old) tiger beetle. =)

Can any bug people confirm or deny my tiger beetle guess?
Pretty please do, in comments, below. I'd be MOST grateful. =)

Fly, ants & butterfly (or moth?), same painting:

I think it'd be fun to review the flora and fauna
of paintings like these to see if they were accurately depicted.

Not your "Great British Bake Off"...
Still Life with Peacock Pie
Pieter Claesz
oil on panel, 1627, Dutch

This made me think of the amazing creations
that Great British Bake Off contestants try to emulate.

But, the first thing I thought of
when I saw the above was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. =)
I'm pretty sure peacocks aren't covered by it (not native to US, etc.),
but part of my job is to look for such violations, so my brain sent up a RED FLAG. =)

Also, by now the bird's been dead for close to 400 years...

Among NGA's amazing display of lush American-made furniture,
this table leg caught my eye, for obvious reasons. =) 
RAWR! =)

I'll post more images & thoughts later,
but for now, I'll address what many have asked:

Why don't you spend more time at the Natural History Museum?

Because that stuff is what I've been studying
my WHOLE LIFE (or there abouts).

I want to look at different things,
unfamiliar things,
things I may not understand.

I want to explore other worlds when I'm on vacay.

And, apparently, art makes me happy.

Really happy.


Plus, there's LOADS of overlap between nature and art
which I'll continue to explore in further posts.

And I believe nature can explain much of why that overlap exists.

We're just another mammal, after all.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nature upload: the living, traces of the past, finicky finches, and a GAME! =)

The Living

Some lovely lichen I found 'neath an old oak tree
when I was foraging about for some nature coolness.

Under the same oak, I found this a few days later.
Looks like a nest with a perfect hen's egg in it, right?

It's fungus. Some kinda puffball, I presume. =)

And, from my field site, a super not great photo of a FABULOUS bird, a phainopepla.
I'd never seen one at the site before, and have only seen them maybe 4 times?
Looks like a black cardinal with red eyes. And makes a sweet little sound.
SUPER cool.

Traces of the Past

Photo that represents much of what I love about my job.
Looking for and detecting wildlife, in whatever form I can.
This is a coyote print in some tasty mud.

And thanks to the smarty tweeple I follow on twitter (e.g., @Laelaps & @LianaBrooks),
I believe THESE are worm tracks.
I only find them RIGHT after a rain storm in areas that are pure dirt (no plants).
I'm super psyched I learned this. Such beautiful tracks.

DH and I were cruising around learning about local mining history.
Our shadows on infrastructure of what I think was a ferry landing at the Merced River.
 It's just off highway 49 (its name is NO coincidence re: 49-er history).

Hills are greening up nicely, around here. Yay! =)

Then we cruised down foothill backroads to where some mines used to be
and found this beautiful fence. I LOVE the way it frames everything.

Finicky Finches

Got photo documentation of our local birds
rejecting the millet in the birdseed I put out for them. =)

House finch grabbing millet to fling...

...annnnd flung!
(See lower right hand corner)
Duly noted. =)

Guessing Game: How Big Is This Oak?

An oak as viewed from within the Ahwahnee in Yosemite NP.
How tall would you guess it is?
If you were standing next to it, how high up would the top of your head go?
Just go ahead and try and picture yourself there. 
Then scroll down to see how tall people are relative to the oak.




So, how close were you to reality?
I think that tree is OVER 70 feet tall.
A towering beauty, to be sure. =)

I hope your winter is cruising along nicely. =)