Thursday, June 30, 2011

jeepers, bb = Nature Center Magazine blog of the week?!?


Just when you think you're blogging to an audience of four, a FIFTH person, rifling through the thick forest that is the Interenet, reaches out...


woo-hoo! =) Thanks to Emma who spotted my babblings and liked them enough to share.

She wrote a great overview on the Nature Center Magazine site, linking to a diverse set of stories & pictures, some that go WAY back (you know, relative to the biobabbler timeline). I'd forgotten about that wacky wildfire in So. Cal. that brought about some cool pics. And my Spokesbuck. And that our bobcat's name is Max.

My aunt encouraged me to start this blog, tho' I'd been "blogging to nowhere" (a file on my mac) for a while. She suggested getting snowed in, having deer as lawn art, hosting MANY wild predator species (bobcats, foxes, coyotes, bears and mountain lions interested in my chickens), adventures in Yosemite, and wrangling rattlesnakes are not things everyone experiences.

So, okay, maybe I'll put this stuff out there... any minute now...

Getting brave... looks a little scary...



Oh, yeah. Wild and scary is also frequently beautiful...

It's always worth it.

'Cause, whether you're headed out on a solo trek,

or cruising around with friends,

as long as you're rooting around in nature,

You're never alone.

=) Thanks SO much Emma, I'll definitely be checking y'all out!

And thank YOU, all you very kind blog readers and commenters.
I'm having a ball, have loved finding your blogs and learning from you.

It's an awesome adventure!

Kinda, you know, like life.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

seagull takes of with TINY camera & it was ON...


Thanks to for this, and thanks to Birdchick and Cornell Lab of Ornithology for getting the word out!


If you go to they also have a video interviewing the guy who DID get his camera back, at last.

Man, I wanna FLY!


Monday, June 27, 2011

video: camoflaged, carnivorous caterpillars... oh, my!


1. I THINK these are the killer caterpillars (or relatives thereof) my friend Dan discovered (oops, NO, see post script), but he's out tromping in the field (who knows where), so need to verify when he returns.

2. I need to figure out who made this film so I can credit them--it's great! Anyone know?


P.S. Yes, I got an e-mail back from Dan, and those are NOT his bugs. =)

Thanks to the WONDER that is Katie at NatureID, we now know this is probably the work of Steve Montgomery, whom she considers "the expert on these types of caterpillars found in Hawaii. I found that he and his cohorts recently discovered Eupithecia that eat snails."

THEN Katie said "the video is from BBC Earth's 'Wild Pacific' series."

And for the more official site of the on-line video clip, she shows us this, "BBC Earth's very hip 'Life Is' site."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Katie is AWESOME and SO much more disciplined than I. THANK YOU, KATIE! =)

AND thanks to DAN for getting back to me. =) (now I totally want to know what Dan IS up to...)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

caught on a cotyledon, bombardier beetle video WORKS

Cute little cotyledons...

Photo I took day before yesterday of adorable bean cotyledons.

And a sunflower baby





So, looking closer at this shot:

I noticed a tiny fly on one of the plants.

Then I zoomed in closer.


It's the dreaded grasshopper.


Completely missed it on Friday.

Tomorrow I'll take pictures of the bean plants 'cause not only did they NOT die in 2 days of no watering, they GREW to a ridiculous, magical-fairies-sprinkling-grow-dust-on-my-garden degree.


Summer, she has begun!

Posted post post-haste...


It's original context within bb world is here.

I did try to re-post it here, but it's NOT WORKING again, so click above.

Perhaps 'cause I posted it, then took it down as embedded video didn't work, then posted it up again now, for the present giving up on embedded vid.

ANYwho, 2nd most recent post is mostly from last Tuesday, but can be found by scrolling down past the skunk baby post.

I hope y'all are well, be it summer or winter.

While the planet continues to spin...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

our visitor whom I smelled... a BABY picture (so CUTE!!!)

Was a striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis.

baby skunk photo by AnimalPhotos

And a lovely, snowy scene with adult.

From the almighty Wiki and it's most delightful commons.
This pic was taken near Yellowstone.

Apparently, due to its strong scent, no mammals are
particularly interested in eating skunks.

Raptors, on the other hand, will.

They used to be hunted for their pelts, but skunk fur went out of vogue,
happily for the skunks, I'm sure.

Also, according to the University of Michigan
Museum of Zoology's Animal Diversity Web (ADW),
90% of skunks die during their first winter.

Apparently, winter is ROUGH, out there.

"Striped skunks are nocturnal, sleeping during the day in underground burrows and emerging around dusk to search for food. They prefer to use burrows made by other animals of equal size or natural burrows under tree stumps or buildings. They use their long front claws to build their own den if necessary." ADW.

This nocturnal pattern explains why both here in the foothills, and back in San Diego years ago,
I typically smelled a passerby each night at 9 p.m.

Just starting their "day," on a regular route.

So cute.

The more I learn about wildlife the more I realize how TERRIBLY IMPORTANT are those animals that dig burrows. Like ground squirrels in grasslands.

San Joaquin kit fox need them (well, certainly if the ground is at all hard), California tiger salamanders need them, red-legged frogs need them (all 3 species use squirrel burrows to escape the summer time heat), golden eagles need to eat them, etc.

Part of habitat suitability analysis for San Joaquin kit fox is whether or not these guys are present.

Kind of a lynchpin in the ecosystem, yet the frequent target for extirpation.

I guess, like the skunk or the ground squirrels, you don't have to be popular with everyone to be terribly important to many.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

duct tape, spider, Pepe, bombardier beetle blast & tragi-comic warnings

In order:

1. desperately want to duct tape my forearms to take the 1000 tiny barbs out of my arms.

It's okay if I lose hair.

Just did some spontaneous weeding, and while pulling (yes, KILLING) the oh-so-heinous stick tights, I was attacked. (stick tights, a.k.a. Torilis arvensis--don't let the mild photographs on that site fool you, this creature is a GIANT PAIN. Better shots re: heinos-ity, here (scroll down to red "Additional Hitchhiking Plants.")).

So, now their TINY TINY TINY little barbed spines are all over my arms and pretty much invisible.

Their presence, however, is clearly indicated by the stinging itching and red of my forearms. I will spare you the photographic proof.


(p.s. 30 min. later and a few cold water soapy washes and some packing tape press 'n' peel action, feeling ALL better. p.p.s. days later, now, all better, but am a more careful picker of same so, yet again, a PLANT has influenced MY oh-so-superior human behavior. =) )

2. huge spider from last night, lumbering across the wall. Is it possible it's a pregnant female? Her abdomen is HUGE.

Any one of you entomological folks out there know who that is?
While giant, she is kinda glossy...

And this one was without the flash,
so due to darkness & bb's shakiness, turned into abstract art.

3. Pepe or Pepette walked through again last night.

Here's evidence from 6/5 of someone new in the neighborhood.

Clearly, a nose poking through the grass,
digging up dirt 4 snax.

I learned through my thesis research that skunks eat more mice
than any other (local) creature does. Who knew?
(p.s. SO don't have a citation for that, sorry...)

And here's evidence of my photographic prowess. AWEsome. =)

=) Okay. So, if you look at the furthest left fence post, and go down and slightly to the left, kinda in the first blonde vs. light green grass, you MAY see an arc of dark around light.

That's my striped skunk's tail. Hind end.

CALL me a weenie.

However,  I neither wanted to disturb nor inspire-to-spray it.Got a good look moments earlier mildly walking past my porch, in a skunk's characteristic, unhurried way.

Kinda makes you wonder why this super stinky defense is not more common. It's SO effective!

4. I realize, however, that the bombardier beetle has taken chemical defense to another level, as our beloved David A. relates during this amazing footage. Gotta love The Big DA.

The b-beetle's defense is boiling caustic liquid.
Boiling caustic liquid.

Sometimes I just like to look up words to be sure I understand the full measure of their meaning.

Even if, as in this case, I have a strong, general idea. After all, I did minor in organic chemistry.*

Boiling, we get.

Boiling HURTS us and other things used to a similar temperature range. Burns & scars skin.

caustic (Wiki):
Causticity, the property of a substance that causes corrosion.

Okay, so then what does corrosion mean, for reals?

Corrosive (Wiki):
A corrosive substance is one that will destroy or irreversibly damage another surface or substance with which it comes into contact. [emphasis added]

Okay, THAT lays it out nice and clear.

liquid I am confident we are quite clear on.

The bonus re: bombardier beetle is it's AIMED at you and spraying in rapid pulses.


5. Here's the heartwarming sign which one uses to indicate contents are corrosive:

LOVE signs like this.

This reminds me of the don't feed the squirrels sign I've seen in parks which cracks me up. It shows a person's hand, presenting peanuts-in-the-shell to the squirrel, and the squirrel has grabbed one of the person's fingers which is very similarly shaped...

LOVE it. I can even tell you where in Yosemite one is, or at least used to be. And how it's been embellished...

Anyhow, that's enough for today!!!

FYI: Photo quiz was answered correctly by 2 ladies 
(WOO WOO!!! Honk Honk!! Nice work!!!)
check out the comments below that post.


PS Did fieldwork 2 days last week, then traveled to wedding reception, so this was delayed...

*Really, I feel that all I remember is that H2SO4 (NOT an organic chemical) is VERY REACTIVE SO BE CAREFUL was the message in chem lab. Remember, sulfuric acid is created when you get gassed by cutting onions: posted on this INSANE plant defense and the goddess Julia Child earlier.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm smelling our new visitor RIGHT NOW...

Will show pictures I TRIED to take of same (did not do well) tomorrow (it's late) but was v. pleased I figured out (via other evidence I'll share tomorrow) that someone new was on our property. BEFORE the smell.


Gee, can ya guess who?


ps at this VERY MOMENT I am hearing quiet sounds RIGHT outside the window that is 5 feet from my left leg. !!! (it's VERY dark, here...)

would a warbling vireo warble in our woods?

Been hearing a bird song while gardening, lately, that's driving me NUTS.

It's very rapidly trilly-up and down with a song that arcs twice, like two rainbows hitched together.

Been at Cornell this a.m. and last night, fishing around bird songs semi-blindly. (btw I play them QUIETLY 'cause it's not good to freak other birds out, you know, the ones that actually live here and are trying to establish a territory right about now, hence the singing)

Don't know lots about bird song, but can usually play a few species' calls and know if it's that group or not.

Then, some time this morning, I hit play here.

 warbling vireo
photo: John Harrison at

Oooh! That's certainly in the right neighborhood. And the warbling vireo is all over the U.S.

However, I only remember two rounds of the up and down, tho' that's possibly variable?

Anyhow, the Cornell folks say something I've never read about another species (bolded section):

"A drab bird of riparian woodlands, the Warbling Vireo is more easily heard than seen. It has no distinctive field marks, but its rapid warbling song with a accented, high-pitched last note is relatively easy to recognize. "

1. erg re: no distinctive field marks. field biologist's nightmare.

2. reminds me of herp stuff talking about "highly variable color and pattern" (oh, yay), but

3. that last part (high-pitched last note) is exciting and I will DEFINITELY be listening for a high-pitched last note today. PROMISING!

(4. I love this web site and the amazing work those folks do, so I will politely ignore "a accented"--ouch!)

Crossing fingers.

Do you have any bird sounds in your aural world that you want to figure out? Or that you have figured out? If so, how did you do it?


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Photo quiz: warning--wildlife poop post (tho' not totally gross)

So, here it is:

Who might have left this:

And why am I excited (happy) that it's here?

BTW: replanted ALL my pole beans yesterday as the ones I planted a ways back did NOTHING. Granted, the beans were in a glass container on the counter for, oh, a few YEARS, so probably not a shock. Replaced them with beans I bought yesterday, inoculated, and planted yesterday, so hope for some success from this batch.

I have a lot to do, today, but maybe I can v. quickly get some beds ready for squash and shove some seeds in the ground. And maybe some more flowers??

Was at a (lovely) wedding yesterday & everyone I spoke with who is a gardener started their garden update (I asked, of course) with "well, I got a really late start this year..." Yeah, 'cause we had SNOW in the middle of May, maybe?

Gardening is always different from year to year.

That's part of its charm--you never know what's going to happen.


P.S. Due to a precocious guess (that'd be YOU, Katie =)), I'm reminded to tell you that super-accurate guesses will be temporally suppressed, initially, in order to allow everyone a fresh guess. Smarty-"guesses" are much appreciated, and their guesses, like a fine wine, will not be served before their time. =) bb

Friday, June 17, 2011

ooh, local endangered BEAUTY: SF garter snake

Check out this blog post on what some folks think is among the most beautiful snakes on the planet. My boss has a permit to handle them, so I've worked for them, but have yet to see one. (That post has MUCH nicer photos, IMHO, than this taxidermied creature. STUNNING work, I don't know HOW he got those shots.)

Photo by Taka

Maybe some day....


Thursday, June 16, 2011

13 steps...

from my front door, standing out, bright and tall, in a sea of grass...

Check out it's companions, within.

Just from my house I've seen 2 or 3.

Normally I never see any from the house.

I think they dug this late, WET spring; they're VERY TALL.

SO, so stunning. Such sophisticated flowers.

While something that intricate, grand, and tall
can leave you feeling clumsy and oafish by comparison,

I'm just so happy to see them.

Anytime they'll let me,
I'll gladly,
and oh-so-happily
trundle over to worship.

From a respectful distance,
bien sûr.


P.S. It's a Mariposa lily, Calochortus sp. Haven't looked it up, but did learn it's NOT Calochortus venustus 'cause it's square "gland" does make a bump on the outside of the petal. Such complex, mysterious creatures. Heavenly. *sigh*

attack gardening ... cathartic, aerobic, risky, & profane

It was 7:50 p.m. and I could finally then hop into the garden to try and get something done. Sun sets at 8-something?

Really wanted to plant these:

How cheerful would that giant face of fuzzy yellow happiness be
in our garden this summer? Deee-lightful.

AND they'd provide afternoon shade to our peppers,
which are still suffering sunstroke since I didn't
harden them off before planting. Wuz outta town. Oh, well. =)

So figured out night before last WHERE to put them.
And had done much of the weeding earlier.
This is a plot where we put some of the detritus
from under our oak tree
for free, home-grown compost.

There was even an eggs in a nest fungus there,
all dried out, but I've never seen one in another plot, so v. cool!

So, did the REST of the weeding of that plot
(v. v. rapidly and with a personal vengence against the dreaded non-native grasses)
and this is the plot now, planted.

 Way too close together so will have to thin a LOT, later.
But, really, how can I plant just 3 seeds? Not possible.

Note aviary wire.

Gophers here meant I started my plots via bastard trenching years ago.


Things grew! Yay!

Then, things disappeared.

Fully developed, just about to be fruitful squash plants,
gone in a flash.


So, the NEXT year I:
dug out all the dirt (AGAIN)
lined the plots with chicken wire
put all the dirt back (AGAIN)
and planted seeds.

Things grew. Yay.

Then, things disappeared.


SO, the NEXT year, I:
dug out all the dirt (AGAIN)
pulled out all the chicken wire
lined the plots with aviary wire (smaller holes)
put all the dirt back (AGAIN)
and planted seeds.

Things grew. Yay.

Then, things stayed.


So, be it ever so picturesque, we are aviary wire people.

Next plot destined for flowers was 100% crazy tall, 
head bobbing laden-with-seed exotic grasses.

Pulled some of the grass and found chicken wire.


So, last night I:
dug out all the dirt
pulled out all the chicken wire

and then it got dark.

Much of this I did with my hands,
1,000 MPH.
Started with shovel, but the plot's very narrow,
then went to garden spade,
then hands.

Hands are the best gardening tools EVER, FYI.

Hands can feel how close the chicken wire is,
ferret out grass root clumps,
detect the amount of moisture in the soil, etc.

Hands are awesome.

Later, I can:
line it with aviary wire
and plant seeds
and watch things grow.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011


uploaded 5 photos and was watermarking them all.

then my computer freaked out and the internet/my computer ATE them all.

I do not have time to re-do it now.


k. here's the one that worked.

not a scenic one... not even super sharp, but I loved that green strip.

anyhow, going to garden now.

Once again, I am wearing a cute outfit today, then by the time my husband arrives home, I will be in grubbies and covered in dirt.


ah, life married to a biodork.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Still shameless: annotated tour of Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome


Shot from Glacier Point of Half Dome (well named, eh?)
and just behind Half Dome on the left is Cloud's Rest.
Also well named, as I tried to show it to Sprout earlier
in the week but it was hosting clouds, so was not visible.

Half Dome and Cloud's Rest on the left,
And to the right, just left of Nevada Fall
is Liberty Cap.

When climbing UP to Nevada Fall
it sure seemed higher that that picture shows.
The scale of this place does that.
If we'd seen this view BEFORE that hike,
Sprout was sure she'd think
"Oh, easy hike. 30 minutes tops."

Hours later... =)

So we hiked the Mist Trail up to Vernal and Nevada falls.
Got SOAKED. Crazy wet from fall mist.
Fun, exciting, envigorating, kinda cold,
made the STEEP stone path a little scary,
but also TOTALLY makes that hike memorable.

Can you see the TINY people?
Click on this to zoom in a bit, if you can't...

Highly recommend. 

That hike is virtually all I remember of my 
1st trip to Yosemite.

That, and staring straight up giant granite cliffs,
mouth agape, stunned into silence.

GORgeous cup fungus we found hiking from parking space
to (the SUPER crowded) Glacier Point.
I LOVE serious glowing orange.
Feels like a life-giving color. *sigh*

The above photo taken by Sprout, bb's co-conspirator/visitor,
from Sentinel Dome, granting a view of
North Dome and Basket Dome on the left
(rounded granite thangs, left of snag),
and Half Dome on right..

Gee, can you spot me, blending in,
wearing ORANGE pants & wearing a red backpack?
I didn't know I glowed like that,
tho' Sprout assures me it wasn't so vibrant in person.

Here's the adorable Sprout, who's hat says "Moxie"
(which I LOVE), bravely tending to her toes.
We got soaked 2 days earlier (Mist Trail to Vernal and Nev. falls)
& hiked for HOURS, so her tootsies were unhappy.
If you look closely, you may see about 5 band-aids. =)

Waterfall in the background is Upper Yosemite Fall.
Sprout is sitting at Sentinel Dome,
which is behind bb (camera girl), to bb's left.

bb hiking back from Sentinel Dome,
walking gingerly over bridge
which is buried in about 4 feet of snow.
Again, glowing...

Sarcodes sanguinea, a.k.a. snow plant.
As mentioned in a bb comment here,
"According to, they parasitize fungus, but don't kill them.
They are not saprophytes (live off dead material),
tho' they used to be called that."

And, since they parasitize fungus,
they don't need chlorophyll to make energy,
so are free to dash headlong into intense colors
with no concern for being green.

Snow plant was really OUT this last week. NICE.
I heart red, so was super happy.

And in the words of Paul Harvey,
"So, now you know....
the rest of the story."



Friday, June 10, 2011

The Yosemite Moment defined, & hiking Yosemite at high water

It's okay, if you're into that kinda thing.


Vernal falls from the top


 Nevada fall downnnnnn

The ultra-sonic THUMP... THUMP-THUMP of
house-sized blobs of water exploding onto rocks
vibrates in your chest.

Sensibly, your tiny cave-man brain shouts "RUN AWAY!"
as you stare down into oblivion, fascinated,
mouth agape.

You've seen hours of stunning, poignant,
terrifying, and transcendent natural beauty.

Your mind's been blown 100 times and
tho' elated, you are reaching wonder-exhaustion.

You're just hiking back to the parking lot, now,
thinking about dinner, a hot shower,
and the impending joy of taking off your hiking shoes.

You start to relax a little bit; phew.

Doo dee doo, hike-et-y-hike.

You turn the corner, and:

"Oh, come ON.

That to me is the Yosemite Moment.

Because the answer is:


Just when you think it cannot be more beautiful,
there will not be more glory to behold,
there is.