Thursday, September 18, 2014

hooded owlet ~ 09/18/14 ~ at home

Cucullia sp. (Hodges 10180-10214)

I have to say, Andy is incredibly accommodating to my insect-rearing whims.  Twenty years ago, my ex threw a hissy fit for 2 weeks after I mentioned I wanted to bring home a couple silk moth caterpillars from class.  I never did.  I should have known right then that it wasn't going to work out.  Ha!  Anyways, Andy got home before I did and even though he was pressed for time to get to an evening meeting, he discovered Charlotte went on her walkabout and he went searching for her around the living room.  Oh my goodness.  He's seen me make these containers enough times that once he found Charlotte tucked under a cotton rug, he knew what to do.  Admittedly, he used an old gym sock instead of nylon (I changed it out before this pic), but he got the gist.  He said she held still for about 3 minutes and then in 30 seconds she was completely under.  That was way quicker than George's 10-15 minutes.  Plus, Andy added a little blue tab to show me exactly where Charlotte had dug herself in.  Good man.  In a few days, I may gently dig up George (on the left) just to document his turd shape with photos, and then return him to the soil.  I'll be setting these containers with papae outside for the winter so they'll develop naturally without the artificial influence of indoor warmth.  I just have to make sure to check on them come spring.  Sometimes I forget I even have them.  Oops.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

hooded owlet ~ 09/16/14 ~ at home


That's George above.  I introduced him in a post from 2 days ago.  I mentioned he was mobile. Very mobile.  I provided him and his cohort Charlotte rather tall flax-leaved horseweed (Erigeron bonariensis) stalks (the same kind I brought them home on), because I was hoping to avoid the daily chore of obtaining smaller, quick-to-wilt clippings from down the street.  This is all to say, I did not have them in a container.  I simply stuck the trimmed stalks in a heavy-bottomed vase with water and a cotton topper to prevent accidental drowning.  Yep, the larvae were loose and fancy free at home, in my home.

And, George made a run for it today.  Twice.  Argh!  At first, I thought he was just searching for fresher food.  He somehow managed to get off the table and onto the floor, but that was about as far as he got.  The second time he disappeared, with a plethora of just-the-right-sized leaves to munch on, it dawned on me he must be looking for a cozy place to pupate.  It took me an hour of carefully searching every nook and cranny (man, I have some serious dust bunnies behind the furniture) until I finally found him nestled in a silty groove of our sliding glass door rail.  Phew!  I worried that if he had found a way to get into my houseplant containers, he'd be lost for good.  Plus, I had vivid images of settling in on the couch to discover something smooshy stuck to my bottom.  Yuck.  Good thing I found George.

If I hadn't dug up the large yellow underwing pupa in my compost a few years back, I don't think I would have known to simply provide a little loose dirt.  I quickly cleaned out a couple containers (another for Charlotte) and dumped in a couple inches of slightly moist compost.  I inserted a crawling stick for later and then set George down on top of the dirt.  After a few minutes of playing dead from the traumatic handling, he started wiggling himself in short spurts and then pauses, head first into the soil.  Shown above was about halfway through.  Within 10-15 minutes, he had dug himself completely under.  I was kinda surprised at how quick he was, because I had never witnessed how this happens before.

While the colors are a bit washed out in my photo, George had already started changing colors, loosing the bright yellow center dorsal stripe and gaining a reddish-brown tailend that looks a lot like a sclerotized head.  Doesn't he look a bit like a millipede here?  Very cool.

Monday, September 15, 2014

humpback whale ~ 09/15/14 ~ Pacific Grove Shoreline Park


We've had an extraordinary showing of humpback whales in the Monterey Bay recently, and today was the best so far!  The Monterey Bay Whale Watch states 70 humpbacks were spotted in the a.m., with 79 midday, and 84 (a heck of a lot!) on a bonus evening tour (as is shown here with that whale watching boat that got way too close).  Most of the road (Oceanview to Sunset) along PG's Shoreline Park was unusually crowded with landlubbers and several seriously ginormous camera lenses that likely cost more than my car, all pointing towards the water.  It was a great show.  Without binoculars, we could easily spot 4 very active areas (lots of blows) that didn't seem to move much.  Usually, the activity drifts or disappears after a few minutes.  This apparently lasted for hours.  Very cool.

Kinda crazy, and just goes to show how ignorant I can be sometimes, but humpback whales are still listed as federally endangered.  Ya.  No kidding.  That surprised me.  They were delisted from IUCN's Vulnerable status to Least Concern in 2008.

Here are extra humpback whale links: SIMoN Special Status Species, Marine Species Identification Portal, Marine Bio, Society for Marine Mammalogy, and Wild Whales (out of British Columbia).

I should mention that there were also 200 long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis), with 1500 seen 2 days ago, September 13, 2014.  Amazing.