Monday, December 21, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

in memoriam to Sonja

Danaus plexippus

Pacific Grove has two main sites where monarchs overwinter (out of an estimated 300 identified sites along California's Coast): the Monarch Grove Sanctuary and George Washington Park. The monarch count in the area is down again this year. I find it interesting that the Ventana Wildlife Society found the butterflies move between sites as much as 40 miles away throughout the winter.

By Valentine's Day (easy enough to remember), most of the monarchs will have mated and begin heading out of the area to lay eggs in the Central Valley. I like this map of monarch migrations in CA.

At some point, I'll have to post my Polaroid pics from 10 years ago when I raised almost 1000 monarch butterflies in my OH apartment. The trick was to prevent my 3 cats from playing with the adults. I hadn't meant to raise so many, but I didn't have the heart to throw away all the eggs... especially when many of the local nature centers had infection issues that killed off all their stock. I liked to call my bedroom the "butterfly love shack" - that was a fun summer!

ps 3/10/10 - I want to acknowledge my mentor Dr. Sonja Teraguchi. She shared with me the thrill of raising life, the importance of natural fluctuations, and the value of documenting my observations. Thanks to recent communications with Art and Renee, I've been reminded of her influence in my life and have especially missed her spirit and inspiration lately. Click on my lepidoptera label in memory of Sonja.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

true fall colors

Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon
November 8, 2009

This was taken while we were visiting a dear friend. I love this pic so much that I'm including it here, even though it's hundreds of miles from the Central Coast of California.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

rainbow from home

This was from the morning when we left for a road trip north to OR. What started out as a casual social/camping trip ended up including a family emergency further north in WA. This is the reason there are so few posts from November to the first half of December.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

monarchs ~ 10/25/09 ~ Morro Bay

monarch butterfly
Danaus plexippus

For all those years I camped in Morro Bay State Park as a kid during the summers, I never knew there was a significant monarch overwintering site just behind the campgrounds. It was great to see them for my first time. The overwintering numbers are far fewer than in Mexico, so it's not an obvious tourist attraction. They really are difficult to spot in the eucalyptus trees, but once you know they're there... WOW!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

habitat ~ 10/06/09 ~ Fort Ord - Army Lands

Fort Ord controlled burn - from home
October 6, 2009

You can see where one of my favorite hiking spots is located in relation to home. They seem to do these every year. For a couple days each fall, we have thick smoke and ash in the air. It's not the most fun thing, especially when I was home with a nasty cold and already had a hard time breathing. Cough, hack, choke...

09/01/10 - They've started the annual burns at Fort Ord today. It's been sunny with not much breeze. The smoke plumes don't seem to be as big as shown above from last year.
California ground squirrel
Otospermophilus beecheyi

OK, I'm making a guess as to species. I hate to admit to it, but I'm waiting for this one to be hawk food as it lounges in the sun a mere 20 yards from the hawk's perch.

ps 02/11/10 - In the past week, we've seen this squirrel back on top of the rock staring at us through the office window. I guess it survived the hawk's hunt.

ps 09/02/10 - I incorrectly identified this originally as a western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus). Now, I think it's a California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

red-shouldered hawk ~ 10/04/09 ~ at home

red-shouldered hawk perched on coast Douglas fir
Buteo lineatus perched on Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii

Fatty-fatty 2x4 couldn't fit through... oops, sorry, but this one is... er... um... plump! As much as I refer to most living things as male (pets: Sam, Fred, Jack, and Max - all female cats, btw; plants: George; and wild animals) this one is so much a female to me. "She" is Henrietta! I've seen her a couple of times on the tree right below our balcony since Sunday and I hope she continues to perch here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

typical PG morning
September 24, 2009

We were supposed to have a heat wave this week with temps up in the 90's along the coast, but it never came. Instead we got fog, thick fog that lasts all day. More often than not we get this kind of fog in July and August when the Central Valley is at its hottest. This is particularly unusual for late September around here when we usually have warm sunny days.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

habitat ~ 08/29/09 ~ Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach - from the Pacific Grove Asilomar entrance
August 29, 2009

We walked through Pebble Beach for over 4 hours, covering approximately 8 miles, on this lazy Saturday afternoon. It was extremely hot inland (read: over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), so we preferred to stay along the coast where it was relatively cooler. The walk was nice, save for the part of trying to figure out how to get around the numerous golf courses.

We spent most of our time gawking at the tourists who pay $9.50 to drive through 17-Mile Drive and enjoying a couple $3.5-4.5 million dollar Eric Miller open houses. I suspect in 50 years, Eric Miller will be lauded for shaping the local architecture. For those who are not familiar, an "open house" is a very common weekend occurrence in the area where realtors show houses they're trying to sell; it's free and has become sort of a hobby of mine to stop while walking through town. Just like with nature, I prefer looking rather than... um, collecting (it helps that I don't have $3,500,000 to spend). My love for residential design could be the subject of another blog considering I have easily toured over 150 open houses in the past few years.

Yep, I'm getting off-subject with this post, but it's quickly progressing towards the blah seasons for me. I find I'm not wanting to carry the camera with me on my hikes now. I absolutely love spring here and hope in the coming weeks I'll have time to go through my photo archives and predate blog posts to fill-in the first-half of 2009. Unfortunately, predated posts may not show in the blogger reading list - I haven't figured out how to get around that since my post dates reference to when I observed nature in action, not when I happened to be online to write about it.

Alright, getting back to nature topics... Hickman's potentilla and Yadon's piperia are federally protected species within the Pebble Beach boundaries. Vern Yadon was the Museum Director in Pacific Grove for many years. It is thanks to him that we have the humble, yet impressive annual wildflower show every April. I did a little research and I believe our local wildflower show at PGMNH may very well be the 2nd largest in the world in terms of number of species represented. I'm proud!

Much of the coastline in Pebble Beach is very similar to Pacific Grove. I hold no conniptions that Sunset and Ocean View are considered the "poor-man's 17-Mile Drive." We love to drive the coast on the way home from the grocery store and I don't feel poor at all. I am very blessed to live here.
black-tailed deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

LOL! This fellow looks like one of those plastic lawn ornaments. Granted, he's on one of the very spendy Spanish Bay golf holes with the hotel rooms in the background.

We learned from a friend in Pebble Beach that the reason most people there have insanely high fences and gates is to keep the ever-present deer out of their gardens. Since it's a gated community anyways, they're not as concerned about security or privacy. I had to laugh. Here in PG, we had a bush planted next to our garage and the deer found it within a few days; I suspect there'll be nothing left of the plant by next week. : (

Saturday, August 8, 2009

about IDs

acmon blue
Plebejus acmon

I see other people's beautiful butterfly pictures and a flood of envy fills me. Truth be told, I'm generally more interested in my hiking and getting to the next place than I am to take the time to capture a great photo (a social commentary can be made of this, but I'll skip it here). However, at a certain point if the photo is so out of focus, it may be of little use to stop at all to attempt an ID. This blog has helped me pause a little longer than I may have previously. Maybe next year, I'll have even better photos to post.

There are several different small, blue butterflies in the area, but I don't want to resort to netting just to satisfy my need to make an ID. I'll admit that in my eagerness, I'm not the most gentle of netters. Plus, I'm generally opposed to collecting various things, be it animals, plants, trinkets, or gadgets... well, ok, I do have an e-photo collection that's overloading my computer right now. My college insect collections are stuck in the garage with little fanfare and are probably destroyed by dermestids by now. I make for a poor entomologist.

There's a movement amongst lepidopterists to use e-photography in place of standard collecting and spreading techniques, similarly to the post-Peterson guide era for birds. Can you believe people used to shoot, kill, and stuff birds simply to identify them? Unfortunately, dissection of genitalia is often needed to make a positive ID of many insects. I hope someday this will change.

For most plants and animals, I assume I have found something very common locally. I will rarely, if ever, claim I somehow had the luck to capture an incredibly unusual species. There's so much still unknown or uncertain or debated, that I'm not going to attempt to tackle it here. Remember, I don't claim to be an expert!

ps 06/06/11 - Since I wrote this blog post, I have learned a little about the rarer species found locally, and I have sought out the opinions of people I consider experts. You can find those posts under * expert ID.

fence lizard ~ 08/08/09 ~ Fort Ord

coast range fence lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii

The juvenile lizards were out in abundance during this hike (sadly, I'm posting 8/29 and have many more pics to post since 8/8). The lizards were very easy to catch. LOL! During a Jay Leno show a couple of years ago, a young girl showed how you could rub their throats to bellies to make them lay still for you; that's what I did for the second photo.

I give up, for the moment, in trying to accurately identify these lizards. Most likely, it would be safe to assume it's a fence lizard subspecies. See my other reptile posts (1 and 2) for my continuing confusion. In the link I provide in the scientific name above, I got even more confused over pictures of lizards that don't look anything like each other, but the site is the best one I've found on CA reptiles so far. (Maybe it says something about herp people in general? No offense, but while studying entomology, I found the Odonata and Hymenoptera fellows behaved startling like the insects they so loved! Give me a quiet lep anytime ; )

ps - I'm beginning to appreciate how all my photos of my hand show off my genetically short pinky finger. I'm still waiting for a geneticist to remind me which x-some this unusual characteristic resides.

ps 06/25/11 - has made some great improvements since I began looking up lizards 2 years ago. I've added the subspecies in the ID above and am fairly sure I can recognize coast range fence lizards now. It was unfortunate that my first lizard ID was a dark form and possibly a sagebrush lizard.

Pacific poison-oak
Toxicodendron diversilobum

I've also seen this species called Rhus diversiloba, but regardless of the scientific name they both refer to the poison-oak found on the Pacific coast. See links from any poison-oak indexed post for more information.

Our local poison-oak is remarkably red right now and stands out against the dried grasses.

Coincidentally, my husband's poison-oak rash had just started coming out the night before from, we assume, the previous weekend's camping adventure without showers. Usually after trail running, he washes immediately with tecnu, and if he does get a rash it is very minor. I credit my almost always wearing long pants when I go hiking to never having gotten poison-oak. Knock on wood!

The rash initially looks like individualized, raised red bumps less than a cm in diameter. Since this was a very bad rash, it looked like he had been stung about 50 times on the back of one leg. He says it feels just as itchy as a yellowjacket sting, but without the initial sting and lasting much longer.

ps - By the Monday after this post, the rash had turned very bright red and started oozing (very gross!). We purchased the over-the-counter Zanfel for over $40 for a 1 oz. tube (very expensive stuff). It's a tedious process of repeated applications and washing, but he claims it helps with the itching better than 1% hydrocortisone cream.

pss - It's now been 10 days since the rash first came out. It's dried up a bit and the red has spread outwardly from the initial bumps. He says it has finally stopped itching. Not fun!

Friday, August 7, 2009

western scrub-jay
Aphelocoma californica

I know it's not kosher to feed the birds, but I've made "friends" with this jay using peanuts. He's brought some of his younger family members (note the grey head in the second pic) who are more vocal. I feel like I should give them names.

ps 02/17/10 - In the past week, the scrub-jays have returned for their peanuts. They were missing for a couple months.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #15

grunion greeting
full moon cycle (11:15pm-12:45am), clear skies

Heavy sigh... this is my final grunion greeting post for the 2009 year. I'm very glad I included our grunion greeting nights in this blog, because, like rereading a journal, it has been fascinating to see how our expectations and understanding of grunion (and of nighttime fishing/beach activity) have changed during the experience of volunteering for this project. I considered including a summary of my other grunion greeting posts here, but now I simply want to tap out my report for this one night and include whatever sticks out in my mind since May 2009. Even though I submitted our official report promptly Friday morning to, I am finishing this blog entry on a gorgeous Monday morning (The fog has lifted and the sun has just cast a glorious pink glow over the bay - Wow! Have I mentioned that I love living here and feel very blessed to able to do these kinds of things?). To see other grunion notes, click on the label/index for "grunion greeting."

We arrived at 11:07pm. The time range in parenthesis above on every grunion greeting post shows the official requested times, and I believe the start time coincides with hide tide. Our enthusiasm for arriving early has waned since we haven't seen our night heron friend Charlie the past several outings. I think earlier in the season, there was one night where the only grunion we counted were the ones "he" caught. We were hoping to see him for our final hurrah, but no such luck. I know night heron are still around in the area, b/c we saw one near the Coast Guard Pier last week while we were observing the jellyfish. During the daylight, he certainly looked more scrunched up with little neck showing, versus the elongated, beach hunting stance that we observed on the berm. I'm still kicking myself for not taking the camera with us on our regular walk.

Two men were sitting on overturned buckets, hidden by the height of the pier - I'm sure by no mere coincidence - watching the waves. I overheard some of their conversation and I concluded they were waiting for grunion as well as engaging in other activities. They left at 11:20pm, shortly after high tide. I sometimes wonder if the local, nightly fishermen know a heck of a lot more about times to spot grunion in our area than most of the volunteers and researchers. If only I could recruit them for the research project! It was an evening of illicit exchanges as we also noticed a very flashy car parked on the pier with several men sitting inside and obviously handing things over to each other. Hey, we don't really want to know and tried our best to mind our own business. The pier attracts all kinds late at night.

This tide was the lowest high tide we've seen throughout the season. The biggest "waves" came up to the 9th parking meter and later during our watch the water line was closer to the 10th parking meter, past where the pier turns from cement to wood. I put "waves" in quotes, because it was very calm out on the water as evidenced by my first photo above. Earlier in the year, we would have thought this was a low, low tide; but now we know better for next year... if there is a grunion greeting program in our area and if we decide to volunteer again next year.

While we were standing on the beach about 20 yards from the pier, the favored previous grunion sightings spot, we heard a disturbingly loud and continuous, "Crunch, crunch, crunch!" around midnight. I hopped up to the pier to check out the noise. I discovered two sea otters having a feast around the 15-16th parking meters and only 10 feet out. This was our first time observing sea otters feeding so late at night. Granted, during some other nights, we were in heavy conversation with other grunion greeters and visitors that we may not have noticed the distinctive sound that carries over the water.

By this time a flock of seagulls had arrived about 100 yards from the pier on the beach, not like Wednesday night where only a handful of mixed gull species stood about, but more like what happened during the previous new moon cycle. It seemed peculiar to me that they would gather around the exact same spot more than 2 weeks later with no obvious reason to do so. They didn't seem to be feeding; they seemed to be waiting for something considering they weren't sleeping either.

I did notice that the waves brought up noticeable amounts of sand crab bodies (see second pic above). Again, this is the first time we've observed this. No, I did not count their little bodies as wrack for official reporting purposes. Interestingly enough, the last time I saw little sand crab bodies at the wave line was on Morro Strand back on June 25th. We seem to get seasonal fluctuations on the Del Monte Beach a little later in the year than further south.

We left at 12:30am after not spotting a single grunion for almost an hour and a half, coincidentally, right as several cars pulled onto the pier with 7 people who piled out and excitedly talked about how their friends had told them it would be a good night to catch grunion. We left them on the pier to watch the beach while we anticipated the warm comforts of bed...

ps 08/13/09 - As an addendum, on Sunday we were fortunate enough to accompany Dr. Martin, her husband, and a retired CDFG colleague of hers to tour 3 local beaches not on the grunion watch list. As expected, we didn't find any grunion eggs. However, we had a lovely time and learned quite a bit. I still have many questions for Dr. Martin, but it simply wasn't appropriate to grill her with my silly questions. We love our gifts of fleeces and a cool bag!

black-tailed deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I finally grabbed the camera fast enough to catch a fawn below our balcony. It's late in the year and has grown quite a bit now. I miss seeing the twins that regularly visited last year. In my previous post earlier this year on March 11, I called the pregnant female a mule deer. Take a note at how lush green the grass was back in March compared to the dried mess that we have here in August. Thanks to another quick Google search, I found an old CDFG report, which identified our local deer as black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus) - so, I managed to get the scientific name correct in the first post. However, Wikipedia has differing opinions on whether what we have in the area is more closely related to the mule deer or the Sitka deer (see link in the common name above). I know so little about deer that I can only present the information I've found. If anyone has better information, I'd be happy to hear about it. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #14

grunion greeting
full moon (10:35pm-12:35am), mostly cloudy

Heavy sigh... this moon cycle is supposed to be the last hurrah for the Monterey area... and one of the last chances to report the elusive W-3 on the 800 hotline! If I understand correctly, the grunion greeting program finished last month down in SoCal. We'll be out again Thursday night and, possibly, Friday night... if only I can convince my better-half to go with me at such a late hour for a 3rd night in a row - it's especially challenging since high tide on a third night doesn't start until well after midnight. Once we got home, we did manage to catch Craig Ferguson on the CBS tube, which airs on t.v. too late for our typical 10pm sleeping schedule. That man should be given a band, IMHO (haha). Okay, getting back to subject...

No grunion observed. However, it was a lovely, warm evening chatting it up with other "official" grunion greeters - Diane, Bonnie, and Susanna. They're wonderful ladies! I feel badly Susanna has yet to see a single grunion during this whole season. Bonnie went out the second night during the last new moon cycle, the only time we did not. She saw a couple of grunion. For actual grunion pics this season, see my "grunion greeting" tagged posts for June 7, May 25, and May 24th.

We arrived at 10:10pm, a little before the official requested time and high tide. It wasn't much of a high tide since the biggest waves only came up between the 8th & 9th parking meters. There were ~5 people on the beach wading in the waters and simply enjoying themselves when we arrived. Much to my surprise, there were no mackerel fishermen on the wharf. A handful of the usual nighttime fisherman were tossing their lighted bobs from the pier (I had to go ask, b/c we were coming up with wild ideas of how the chemical lights somehow attracted fish).

My husband and I walked down the beach to the cement structure between 11:10 and 11:25pm, to no avail. We found a partially eaten skate on the shore (pictured above). A certain amount of debate carried on whether it was a ray or not, but thanks to Bonnie's expertise, we finally concluded it was a skate based on the tail. I loved the human-like face on the underside.

There was extra lighting on the beach sands thanks to bright lights from the Bronco World Series just down the street. A small group of western and other gulls showed up on the berm about a half hour before we left. They seemed to be hunting but not for grunion.

We left at 12:20am. Phooey!

ps 05/13/10 - Thanks to seeing a leopard shark today and looking around online, I figured out the picture above is a thornback skate (Raja clavata). Are skates and rays the same?

psss 07/11/13 - After having seen another skate, I looked into this some more and am fairly sure this is not a thornback skate since it doesn't appear to be found in the Pacific Ocean.  Finding easily accessible online ID sites for marine animals is a challenge.  Here's a good link describing the difference between skates and rays.

naked lady ~ 08/05/09 ~ Rec Trail

naked lady
Amaryllis belladonna
Amaryllidaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

You know it's August in the Monterey area when naked ladies pop up everywhere. I just love pointing them out and saying the common name. I was surprised to find out that they are native to South Africa, b/c we have so many in people's yards, empty lots, and even right along the bay. This pic was taken along the Rec Trail near Hopkins Marine Station.

ps 09/09/09 - Naked ladies have all withered more than a week ago. They are truly an August bloom.

purple-striped jelly ~ 08/05/09 ~ Coast Guard Pier

posted 11/26/13 - As I was looking up information on Pacific sea nettle this morning, I also discovered the ID of this less common local jellyfish.

sea nettle ~ 08/05/09 ~ Coast Guard Pier

sea nettles
Chrysaora fuscescens

Much to our surprise these jellyfish were still hanging around the Coast Guard Pier more than a week after we first saw them. As is the case with moon jellies, I'll see them one day and then they'll be completely gone the next. I still don't know which kind these are and hope to look them up at some point. Ah, to give credit where credit is due, my husband took these very nice pics. It was a great sunny day!

ps - Thanks to an article in the Monterey Herald on August 12, 2009, I now know these are sea nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens).

pss 09/09/09 - As of September 6, 2009, these jellies are still very numerous around the Coast Guard pier. I've never seen them last so long.

pss 09/25/09 - This past Sunday (9/20/09), we finally noticed the jellies were not as numerous with only 5 spotted near the Coast Guard pier.

pss 08/22/10 - After not seeing many jellyfish since last year, there were tons of them out by the Coast Guard Pier this morning during my regular morning walk. They're smaller this year, maybe about 8" across at the most and very numerous.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

redwood ~ 08/02/09 ~ Rocky Creek

gnome in coast redwood
Sequoia sempervirens

This is simply a place-holder post to remind me to add some other pics (plus, it makes me laugh). Over the weekend we were camping down near Bixby Bridge towards Big Sur off of the old Hwy 1 on an 800+ acre private property heaven. A group of us were attempting to blaze a trail to the beach by following the creek. Even with a machete in the lead, we didn't have much success and gave up within an hour to enjoy some cool, canned refreshment. Great fun was had by all! The gnome was a surprise find, sitting peacefully in a burnt-out redwood. No one knew how long it had been sitting there or who had hiked in far enough to place this woodsy watcher.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CA sea lion ~ 07/29/09 ~ Coast Guard Pier

California sea lion
Zalophus californianus

ps 07/31/10 - I have mixed feelings about these pics from last year. Both are of the same individual on the same day. I haven't seen him this year.

black turnstone and surfbird ~ 07/29/09 ~ Coast Guard Pier

surfbird (upper-left) and black turnstone (lower-right)

The Local Birds states the black turnstone is in our area in the fall, winter, and spring. Um, what about the summer? This looks like the breeding plumage to me, yet Wikipedia states it only breeds in Alaska? Cornell's site seems to confirm this, too. I can't be the only one who's seen these around here in the summer.

ps 08/16/10 - I saw these again this morning, so I know last year's sighting was not a fluke. They're everywhere along the Coast Guard Pier breakwater rocks.  When does fall actually start around here?

pss 12/03/13 - Thanks to John Rakestraw's recent blog post, I took a second look at these photos.  What I thought was perhaps a black turnstone female and male, or a juvenile and adult, are two different kinds of birds.  I've added a third photo that better shows the surfbird.

sea otter
Enhydra lutris

How can I live near Monterey Bay and not post a pic of a sea otter? Come on! During our last walk about town, I made a point of taking a pic of a sea otter, or two. And, yes, they're mostly spotted feeding as shown, frolicking with each other, or sleeping in the kelp. I'm in disbelief that these are the first sea otter pics I have at all in my computer archives.


You'd think after the MBA's several year exhibit on jellies, I'd be able to identify these. My husband says these are part of the permanent exhibit upstairs. However, I still don't know which ones they are. We see a couple kinds of jellies, usually white moon jellies, from time to time in large numbers near the Coast Guard Pier for a day or two and then they seem to vanish.

Phalacrocorax penicillatus

The young are getting really big now. Seeing how demanding the young are reminds me of the stories I hear about how hungry human teenagers are (LOL!). I have some pics of eggs, but I'll need to dig those up from my archives from last month to post. I swear I've seen the guy whose mission it is to post pics to Wikipedia's Monterey wildlife. He rides a bicycle and has a humongous camera!

Friday, July 24, 2009

sentimental about seasons

my dad's John Deere (September 1988)

I grew up in the Central Valley of California on a small, family farm (cows, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, cotton, wheat, corn, almonds, apricots, and boysenberries) where it felt like it was either 104 degrees of dry, extreme heat in the summer or soupy-thick fog in the winter. Everything had to be irrigated and anything that popped out of the ground that wasn't purposely planted was considered a weed. I didn't experience true four-seasons-a-year changes for the first 23 years of my life. I would read about seasons in school readers or in National Geographic Society's 1970's World magazine and would wonder if there really were spring and summer wildflowers, or leaves that honestly turned bright orange and red in autumn. In a weird twist of fate, I ended up working for an educational publisher that was purchased by NGSP.

Sigh... it's yet another cool grey, high-fog, coastal summer morning here, which is very typical of Pacific Grove...

And I find myself fondly remembering the warm, fertile fields, forests, bogs, and fens that I was lucky enough to experience in Ohio for 9 years. I adored the steady color procession of summer wildflowers and butterflies; the crisp air of the fall, marked with heady scents of apple cider and the sounds and sights of crunchy, colorful leaves; and the excitement of spotting the first bright yellow forsythias and daffodils of the spring... However, I detested the very cold, long, bitter winters where early, lake-effect snow would refreeze several times to become massive, dirty, ice obstacles on the roads. The best thing about winter in Ohio was that I could jest that I walked on water, thanks to a frozen Lake Erie. On the other extreme, there was the regular, high humidity, sticky heat of Cleveland during the summers. Often 90 degrees in the Midwest somehow felt so much hotter than the dry 104 degrees of the Central Valley of California... and neither suited me.

Thus, I have purposely chosen to live on the coast for its mild winters and cool summers. As much as I sought out a moderate climate, I still miss the cycle of "traditional" seasons. Admittedly, it took me a couple of years after returning to California to really get interested in the local nature, because, in my mind, it couldn't compare to the bounty of an Ohio summer. Too often I've hiked locally and noticed fantastic flowers and such and dismissed them by shrugging, "Oh, that's a pretty flower." or "That's an interesting bug." to be quickly forgotten. I was starting to feel too pedestrian and somewhat ignorant.

So, this year I invested in a couple local guide books and created Nature ID the first week of May 2009 (older posts are predated). My first post to Nature ID is here. Google states I've had this identity since 2008, but that was because I set up a couple other basic blogs as favors for friends who don't have computers.

Thanks to Nature ID, I'm appreciating the local diversity and uniqueness like never before... after all, there is an ocean of life within a stone's throw of where I live and if I really wanted a little warmth, all I have to do is hop in the car for a 20 minute drive inland. I love spring which lasts ostensibly from mid-January to mid-May. My favorite series of blog posts are my wildflower pics from a hike at Fort Ord on March 14, 2009.

I've looked repeatedly for another nature blog in the local area and have yet to find one that resonates with me in that peculiar, romantic love of nature like the ones from the Midwest and the UK. Here's a partial list of those that feed my soul and fantasies of living somewhere else:
Nature Remains
Tricia's Tales
The Ohio Nature Blog
Orchids and Nature

A HUGE thank you to all the nature bloggers out there for sharing your local bounty, whatever the season!

ps 07/29/09 - I started this entry on Friday and it's remained cool and foggy through to this morning. An unfortunate use of pointy "carrots" deleted most of my original post and since then I've edited this post repeatedly, because I was still figuring out what I wanted to say. I usually try to refrain from posting too many random musings on Nature ID, since that's not my goal for this blog... but these past several mornings, I felt the need to work out my thoughts in writing.

pss 04/21/10 - Lately, I've been absolutely wowed by pictures on other blogs... which got me thinking about my own pictures and what kind of camera I want next. I took the photo above for a photography elective my senior year of high school. I don't remember much from the class except struggling with an awkward black cloth box to unload the film from the cassette. I even developed the film, too. I am so used to digital now that I almost forgot what it used to be like to take a picture. Anyone remember those square, disposable flash bulbs?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 no go

grunion greeting
new moon cycle (11:05pm-12:35am), overcast skies

We had signed up to watch Del Monte Beach, but Dr. Martin e-mailed us and suggested we not go. Maybe I've been complaining too much about being tired from these late grunion nights, because she thought we shouldn't lose any sleep under the circumstances. A colleague of hers tried to catch grunion Tuesday night by beach seining (have no idea what that looks like) and didn't get any. I have to admit I'm starting to feel slightly discouraged that we haven't witnessed a big grunion run here in Monterey.

We almost went to Carmel Beach instead based on a 2nd-hand report of a big run July 7. I was hoping to see grunion hatching and my husband simply wanted to see grunion spawning. Dr. Martin said the hatching grunion would be too small to see and likely happened a few days ago. Unfortunately, getting back from camping around midnight Monday after 14 hours of driving and Tuesday's late night of grunion watching finally caught up with me and I fell asleep on the couch. My husband wasn't exactly motivated to rouse me from my sleep... (Okay, in full honesty I did say I was too tired to go out right before falling asleep. He's giving me grief right now for stretching the truth a little in an e-mail, but I do think he was relieved to not go, too. Had he really wanted to go, I would have pulled on my boots!)

We're all keeping our fingers (fins?) crossed for a decent grunion run during the full moon in August.

ps 07/25/09 - My hubby joined his regular Saturday morning running group this morning and they were talking about the grunion article in last week's Weekly. Amazingly, they went to Del Monte and Asilomar on Wednesday night and did not see any grunion at all. I am so glad I fell asleep that night. Apparently, these people are hooked and will join us on the full moon in August! LOL!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

grunion greeting, 2009 #13

grunion greeting
new moon cycle (10:15pm-12:15am), overcast skies

Holy mackerel! I've always wanted to say that, but haven't had a good opportunity until now.

We arrived at Del Monte at 10:10pm and to our surprise couldn't find a good parking spot. The pier was crowded with tons of fishermen (actually both men and women)!!! We got out of the car and asked the nearest fisherman what was going on. He said the mackerel were out. We asked how he knew and he dryly replied, "Because the buckets are full." We had to laugh at his comment and then asked how all the people knew to come out to fish. He then said, "We have cell phones." LOL! We meet some interesting people during grunion nights. I walked down the pier and talked to some folks and asked if I could take pics of their mackerel in buckets. I'm thinking there's a grunion in the pic shown above. Apparently it's mackerel season from July to August. I wonder if we'll see more fishermen Wednesday night, too.

We didn't see any grunion on the beach but had a nice night of socializing just the same. We ran into some old friends from SoCal. Their mom, our 70+ year-old friend who poo-pooed the idea of grunion in Monterey Bay, told them what we were doing and they brought along their son. His twin sister wisely chose to stay home. Our fellow grunion greeter Diane and some of her friends were also there. The reporter from the Herald never showed. The tide came up to the 5th and 6th parking meters. It was a fun change of pace seeing a beach party at Adventures by the Sea and watching the fisherman toss their lines with little lights into the water (same kind of glow sticks one sees at Halloween or at amusement parks). We left at 12:05am in good spirits despite not seeing any grunion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I neglected to take pics of the incredible redwoods during our last trip north to Humbolt on June 13, 2009, so I made sure to take some this trip. According to the wonderful interpretive signs, coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world reaching heights over 350 ft. and can live 2000 years. We have patches of redwoods near water all along the coast, but the old stands of redwoods up north are truly impressive. The second pic is a nice example of a "chandelier tree."