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!