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,
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. =)


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rando photo fling

Gotta go do fieldwork, but gonna fling a few photos 'cause it's TIME, jeepers! =)

Lovely cosmos face in November.

The Three Faces of Eve (or 3 stages of a cosmos blossom).

We got 2 inches of rain a few days back, so I looked for soggy green stuff.

Lichen and moss assemblage on the shady side of a rock.

First hygroscopic earthstar I've seen this year.

In order to keep my solitary hen company,
she lives with a mirror that she can cuddle up to.

It needed washing, so I brought it outside in the shade & this happened.

One of the joys of stormy weather: places for the sunset to play.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Towering palm trees, I'm awfully frond of you*

I was born in San Diego, and there developed a real weakness for
very tall, slender, old palm trees.

Last week DH & I drove by a part of San Jose that had a lot of them.
I vowed to walk there if possible.

Next morning I googled "palm tree-lined streets San Jose, CA" and BAM!
Palm Haven pops up, established 1913, incorporated in 1917.**

Which I'm thinkin' means these lovelies are one hundred years old.

And they were just a few blocks away from us.
Thank you, magical internet.

Witches can be wounded via impact with palm trees--look out, ladies!

Some of these trees may be nearly 100 feet tall.**
The tallest ones would be the Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta); the species I adore.

And these elegant trees may be just about at their age limit.

L.A. (which also has very old palms) is replacing dying palms
with trees that provide more shade and can remove more pollution.

Palm Haven's tall, thin lovelies. *happy sigh*

We may be living in the golden years of tall, old palms in California.

It might be wise to appreciate them now. =)

In all their spindly glory.


P.S. For more info, there's a brief history of palm trees in Southern California online which includes a photo from 1918 Beverly Hills, a long boulevard with stubby little planted palms. SO CUTE!

*With apologies to & their charming "Rubber Ducky" song. It's the 1st record I remember getting fm. my parents & I'm pretty sure it made me so happy I cried. Also, apologies for the pun, but it was just SITTING there, STARING at me.
**Wiki page on Palm Haven, and PalmHaven dot info.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Yosemite etimesoY

 Reflecting near Tioga Pass, Yosemite NP, this past weekend.

It's a pretty nice place.

Here's to finding a beautiful, natural place near you,
and getting into it.

And, although the NPS is running a
Find Your Park campaign to encourage & celebrate such things,
and I am a huge fan of the NPS,
it doesn't have to be a national park.

Whether you're at some famously stunning natural landscape,
or peering at the bugs that flew to your porch light,
nature can always enrich your life.

Ours is a complex and wonderful planet.
And it's all right out there...



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The world is on fire... or at least California is.

This freaky sunset brought to you by the Butte Fire (taken last Friday)

This was my drive into Sonora, Calif., last Thursday afternoon...
 The Butte Fire started the previous afternoon, about 43 miles from Sonora,
and since spread quickly and moved a lot closer.

Drive to Sonora Friday afternoon... a wee bit smokier.
Note how dark it is, at 5:30 p.m. Spooky stuff.

I've never been anywhere with such thick smoke.
Tiny bits of white ash fell like a very light snow. Odd.

I have relatives who've been evacuated from their home for days, now,
due to this fire. Happily the fire missed their house,
now they're waiting for the power to come back on,
so they can move back (no power=no water if you're on a well).

Last Sunday afternoon DH and I tore ourselves away from scanning fire info
(re: the Butte Fire, the Valley Fire, and the Rough fire)
and head to the golf course.

DH golfs, I bird/peruse nature.

Acorn woodpeckers living up to their name.
"This one goes here..."

I love how this branch is so densely drilled
that in parts it's see-through. 

I love the white eyeliner on this California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi).

Non-native mullein affected by fasciation
(note normal mullein bloom on lower left).
I love fasciation and the super interesting shapes it brings about.

Another herbivore (desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii), diggin' the golf course habitat.
Their habit of freezing when startled is great for photography. =)

Canada geese, another herbivore species that favors this place.
Considering I didn't have the auto-focus telephoto lens,
I'm very happy with how sharp this shot is. Luck!

So, with a couple soothing, non-fire-focused hours under our belt,
we see this...

Oh, dear. Another fire?!?
It was the Sundance Fire, near Oakhurst.

Happily, we also saw this large air tanker a little while later,
 and the smoke cleared pretty soon thereafter.

And last night it actually rained a little bit (minor miracle),
which is very exciting.

I hope it helps quiet some of these fires.
It's also about 20 degrees cooler than it was last week.
Also good.

Anyhow, I don't have a profound way to end this post.
It's been very sobering seeing what's been happening
in Middletown (via the Valley Fire) and elsewhere.

If there's a vote re: whether or not summer should end now & fall should start?
I'd vote YES, please.
Let's do that.

Stay cool, everyone.