Friday, August 27, 2010

Yadon's piperia ~ 08/27/10 ~ Skyline Forest Drive

Yadon's rein orchid
Piperia yadonii
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory

Okay, okay, I've already said I've had enough of these orchid pics. It's our "thing" this summer to look for orchids, whereas last year we were really into grunion greeting. Just wanted to log and post pictorial proof of the end of the Yadon's blooms at the same time and location of the elegant piperia shown on this same date.

elegant piperia ~ 08/27/10 ~ Skyline Forest Drive

elegant rein orchid
Piperia elegans

We've been periodically following the bloom of this individual orchid since July 25 when we went on our Yadon's piperia hunt. This location is literally on the side of the road, which makes it easy to stop on the way home (unlike hour-long runs up 1000 ft. of elevation to see Michael's piperia). To follow a pictorial tour of this bloom progression click elegant piperia. I consulted with our orchid friend on Flickr. He was kind enough to explain about length of spurs and and upper petals curving towards dorsal sepals. But, it's Greek to me. We did agree that the timing of the bloom a whole month after Yadon's only a couple yards away makes it likely this is elegant or a hybrid.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CA ground squirrel ~ 08/24/10 ~ at home

California ground squirrel
Otospermophilus beecheyi

Sigh, I've had this post in my drafts for a couple days now, because I've been debating about its ID. I've seen squirrels both in the trees and running into holes in the ground around home. My previous squirrel posts were grossly misidentified - yep, I'm still searching and learning. I don't think this is the same individual, nor the same species as last year's staring squirrel post from home. The other possibility for ID is the California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi). Interestingly enough, there's not much information online about local squirrels to the species level; most sites simply mention "squirrel" and leave it at that. I welcome any link suggestions from my blog readers.

I decided on the eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) (and yes, it's introduced into western CA), because of its big size... of course, this individual could be feeding on all those peanuts my friendly scrub jays try to hide in the trees rather than eating them... or it could be pregnant? Like last year's, this one loves sunning on this rock and stares at us through the windows for hours, which unnerves me. Where's my fatty red-shouldered hawk when I want a "hit" done?

ps 09/24/10 - Hahaha! I'm now deciding the subject of the fuzzy pic above is a CA ground squirrel, not an eastern fox squirrel. Although, I do believe I've seen fox squirrels chasing each other in the Douglas-fir next to our balcony. For the past month I've been watching this particular squirrel and looking for identifying features such as the white eye ring characteristic of CA ground squirrels. I'm correcting the label below the pic, but I'm choosing to keep my original post unedited to show how I have difficulty identifying even the most common animals. We also have a new raptor in the vicinity. It's smaller than the red-shouldered hawk and its breast is mostly white with brown flecks. Don't know what it is, yet, and will keep trying to take its pic to post on Nature ID.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

habitat ~ 08/21/10 ~ Fort Ord - BLM Creekside

August 21, 2010

During this hike, it felt like I physically moved from spring, to summer, to fall at Fort Ord in one day.

The first photo above has a great egret (Ardea alba), which is more closely related to the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) than it is to the snowy egret (Egretta thula). I still get the common names mixed up, since there's also a white form of the great blue heron, called the great white heron. Mainly what I want to show in the first pic is how much water is left in one of the vernal pools this late in the year after the winter and spring rains. It's been so drippy wet foggy here on the coast the past month that I'm not surprised there's still standing water. We've been wondering at what point does the heavy fog officially become precipitation.

The second pic is classic CA summer grassland, dry and yellow almost as far as the eye can see. The heat and dryness are the main reasons why I don't hike out there much this time of year.

The last pic is of CA buckeyes loosing their leaves for the year. This is about as 'fall' as it gets around here. There's still "Spanish moss" on the oaks, a local term that is not the real Spanish moss. Really, what we have is not moss at all, but a lichen called Ramalina menziesii. Interestingly enough, within 10 feet of this picture, there was one lone lupine shoot making a bloom. I'm sorry to not have taken its photo to show.

ps 02/16/11 - For a great post on our local lichen, check out Curbstone Valley Farm. And, recently while we were watching a PBS show on snub-nosed monkeys, I found it interesting that they eat lichen. Their big lips and snowy habitat reminded me of cartoon depictions of the abominable snowman, aka yeti.

common jimson weed
Datura stramonium

I really wanted this to be our native western jimson weed (D. wrightii), but alas this is the non-native. The flowers look similar in photos, although I suspect the western jimson weed flowers can get quite large. D. wrightii appears to have smoother leaf margins, whereas D. stramonium leaves are more toothed. I double-checked Fort Ord's plant list to confirm this ID. The seed pods are impressive. It seems the origins of this plant are unclear.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

seed bug ~ 08/18/10 ~ at home

Mediterranean seed bug
Xanthochilus saturnius

I thought this was a handsome bug. I'm making a quick guess that this is some kind of seed bug, a true bug. My husband asked how I knew it was a true bug. I look for the 'X' pattern the wings make as they cross each other, flat over the abdomen. Most adult true bugs have half membrane and half leathery outer wings, which emphasizes the 'X.'

I'm an old school entomologist, long out of practice, and I still think of Hemiptera (true bugs) and Homoptera (hoppers, cicadas, and aphids) as being in separate orders. Now, they've been combined in the order Hemiptera and separated out to the suborders Heteroptera and Homoptera. Confused, yet? Yeah, me, too. I kind of liked the classification the way it was. I'm not sure what the current description is to describe the now larger encompassing order. Maybe the piercing sucking mouth parts along with gradual metamorphosis?

I posted this now to show I don't just do plants, especially orchids, on this blog. If you know the ID to species, I'd greatly appreciate it. Otherwise I'll look into it later, but right now I need to get my butt over to a bocce tournament... CiĆ o!

ps 08/23/10 - I posted this yesterday in a rush. I've edited and added the common and scientific names below the photo above with embedded links to UCI and BugGuide, respectively. I can't believe this is my first true bug posting. The Mediterranean seed bug hails from Italy... it's kind of coincidental since I was off to meet the Sons of Italy yesterday.

ps 04/22/12 - Once again, I've been "put in my place" by a popular blogging entomologist who has insisted on correcting me for years on other people's blog postings for topics I consider are matters of opinion. There are now sometimes considered 5 suborders within Hemiptera: of course Heteroptera, then there's also Fulgoromorpha and Cicadomorpha (both are sometimes considered as infraorders, suborders, or superfamilies of Auchenorrhyncha), Sternorrhyncha, and Coleorrhyncha (sometimes treated as an infraorder of Prosorrhyncha). No one seems to agree. I'm sure there will be more changes. I feel sorry for those newbie entomology students out there.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Michael's piperia ~ 08/11/10 ~ Toro Park

I'm feeling very repetitive these days, but I want to have a blog record of timing and location of orchids for next year. Now that Andy has been interested in looking for orchids, he seems to be seeing them on all his trail runs. It's a good thing.

ps 08/21/10 - Michael's piperia has a stout stem and seems to be found right along the trail sides in disturbed areas. Today, a friend and I saw the tail end of blooms at Fort Ord - Creekside, which is located just across Hwy 68 from Toro County Park. She didn't quite believe me it was an orchid until I pointed out the 3 remaining blooms on the tip.

coyote mint
Monardella villosa

This flower reminded me of wild bergamot, aka bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), but apparently it's found almost everywhere in North America, except places like CA, FL, and AK. I certainly could have used some bergamot tea for my ails the past few weeks. Again, this is an Andy photo as I wasn't out with him this day. Additionally, I myself have never hiked at Toro Park, so this is a new local location for this blog.

Monday, August 9, 2010

caught in a moment of time

Garland Ranch Regional Park
August 9, 2010

There's something philosophical about this spider web, like a splash caught in a moment of time...

common madia ~ 08/09/10 ~ Garland Ranch

common madia
Madia elegans

posted 08/21/10 - I don't have much to say about this flower. Andy took the pictures during one of his many recent trail runs. Per my usual, I'm backdating this post to the date of the picture. For a couple weeks I've been feeling under the weather and haven't been out much, hence my lack of recent posts. I'm still debating whether I want to include his pics in my blog when I wasn't there. At the very least, I seem to have ignited a spark in Andy with an interest in nature. Now he's looking up IDs and posting flowers on his own running blog. Cool.

Michael's piperia ~ 08/09/10 ~ Garland Ranch

Are you sick of my posts of orchids, yet? We've been keeping an eye out for them and are finding more than we ever thought possible. Please note the different locations of my photos in the labels, marked with an 'x.' Funny, but I always thought of orchids as being a spring bloomer. WRONG. Our local native orchids seem to be most showy in mid to late summer. It's been fun spotting these, but I doubt I'll post anymore orchid photos for a while.

buckwheat ~ 08/09/10 ~ Garland Ranch

Eriogonum sp.

Given my difficulty in separating out and identifying buckwheat, I'm posting without a positive ID... but I like how pretty the blooms are here, especially in close-up. Seriously, there are at least 266 species of buckwheat in CA!!!

Thanks to Am I Bugging You Yet?'s recent blog post, I started this morning looking at my recent buckwheat pics and am giving it up to a lost cause... unless someone can provide some helpful hints on how to identify this genus of plants.

ps 11/19/14 - I now believe this is seacliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium).  Newer seacliff buckwheat posts have more detail.

Yadon's piperia ~ 08/09/10 ~ Skyline Forest Drive

Yadon's rein orchid
Piperia yadonii
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory

Do you like the dirt and grime on this orchid? I guess that's what you get when it grows 5 feet away from the road. Too bad they mow so heavily in the area to keep the roadsides clear. I wonder if there'd be more Yadon's piperia if they didn't mow.

elegant piperia ~ 08/09/10 ~ Skyline Forest Drive

elegant rein orchid
Piperia elegans

I'm making an early ID, even though this isn't in full bloom yet. I've been documenting this particular individual with posts on August 4 and July 25. Amazingly, it looks very similar to Yadon's piperia. Simply based on the timing of the bloom, I'm guessing it's a different species.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

naked lady ~ 08/08/10 ~ Rec Trail

naked lady
Amaryllis belladonna
Amaryllidaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

With all the August fogville gloom around here, I'm happy to post something bright and cheerful. The cool, wet weather sometimes gets me down, but I'd rather pull on a sweater than have to endure the 90-100+ temps inland. While I suspect these naked ladies were purposely planted along the rec trail, I'm keeping them under my non-native plants label for now because I have seen them growing wild. I may have to rethink this later as most I've seen lately have been in yards and should be labeled under garden plants. You may notice many of my label categories seem arbitrary, but they make sense to me and I do try to be consistent.

ps 03/19/14 - For an excellent post of this March lily, as they are known in South Africa, check out Elephant's Eye.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

habitat ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

Fort Ord - Inter-Garrison entrance
August 4, 2010

posted 08/18/11 - I always like to save the last post for a day as a habitat post. It's a way for me to note that I've posted all I wanted for that hike and a way to headline a series of posts in the archives, say for all of August 4, 2010.

I'm wondering if I should start naming the different vernal pools at Fort Ord. There are so many and each seems to hold water differently through the seasons. The first picture above is of the same vernal pool from May 6, 2009. You can definitely see the difference in dryness from May to August, even though each year varies. Now I'm not positive, but I think the second picture above is the same vernal pool from May 8, 2010 and the second picture from March 20, 2011. Since it's likely the largest vernal pool at Fort Ord, it tends to stay greener longer than any of the others.

Again from May 8, 2010, I also posted a picture of mima mounds when the grass was considerably greener. Here you can see the mounds a little bit better, highlighted by the various dried grasses. The sticky monkeyflower has grown in between the coyote brush, a very typical late summer scene around these parts.

August is not my favorite time of year to hike, because it is so dry in so many places. I really don't like dried grasses, even though I know they're important, too. Incredibly, it's rarely blazing hot at Fort Ord, and it's a bit cooler at Inter-Garrison which is barely closer to the ocean than Creekside. The high marine layer is evident in the pictures above, casting a dark grey filter on everything. I am glad we went on the hike for the diversity we were able to see.

colonial orb weaver ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

probable colonial orb weaver on coast live oak
probable Metepeira spinipes (formerly M. grinnelli) on Quercus agrifolia var. agrifolia

posted 08/14/11 - Last Monday Andy and I were driving home from the grocery store along Sunset Dr. through Asilomar. I noticed an older gentleman on the side of the road with a notebook and apparently counting something in the bushes. It's not often that I see a naturalist-type looking at anything but birds and the ocean around these parts. I made a U-turn and rolled down the window to ask him what he was doing. Come to find out he's from the University of Cincinnati and studies colonial orb weavers. A line of cars was starting to back-up behind me, so I had him quickly write down the name of the spider and off we went. I would have liked to have stayed longer to chat with him, but we had ice cream in the trunk. Hey, I'll admit, lately ice cream has a rather high priority in my life... well, at least higher than some stranger and mysterious spiders.

As I was driving away, it occurred to me that I've seen massive groups of spiders that could be considered colonial. They seemed to be particularly abundant last year at Fort Ord, San Carlos Beach, and Elkhorn Slough. If you saw them, you'd remember them, too. And, maybe the spiders I found were the same ones this fellow studies?

I was not successful tracking down an ID last year. The abdomen looked like an Araneus to me, but the webs didn't seem right. Instead of a clear orb-shaped web, the ones I saw looked like massive tangles stretching several feet between branches, interlocking with other spiders' webs. I kept thinking of that old study of spiders administered various drugs, and it looked like a bunch of spiders overdosed on caffeine. If I looked closely, I could sometimes make out an orb. Plus, each spider seemed to have its own hidey-hole consisting of dried leaves silked together. Clicking on the second pic above enlarges it so that the orb is visible in the lower right quadrant and a second smaller spider retreat is at 10 o'clock to the one I'm pointing. As I searched online for a match, I found something similar on randomtruth's Flickr (also of Nature of Man blog fame). However, his ID of a trashline orb weaver didn't jive with the conical rump I found on BugGuide for Cyclosa conica. I marked it for later and promptly forgot about it.

Now armed with a spider name I had never heard about until last week, I tracked down the Cincinnati fellow and e-mailed him the two photos above and a link to randomtruth's picture. With his permission, here's what Dr. George W. Uetz replied, "Your photos are probably Metepeira spinipes (I say probably, as positive spider ID to the species level requires microscopic examination of genitalia). Both photos are clearly members of the genus Metepeira, and given the location and the fact that it it built a colonial web, it was most likely M. spinipes. The Flickr photo ID is an error, as the "trash line" is actually a string of egg sacs. Cyclosa spp. do replace their "trash line" of prey remains with a string of egg sacs as well, but this one is definitely Metepeira spp."

To follow-up, I looked at other Metepeira found in Monterey County. Here are links to range maps Lynette Schimming created and posted to BugGuide from a compilation of Steve Lew's spiders of CA website and Herbert W. Levi's 1977 MCZ Bulletin: M. crassipes, M. grandiosa, M. spinipes, and M. ventura. There might be more species in the area, but that's all I could find. Available images of these spiders look very similar. I believe not all Metepeira make colonial webs, and that's why Dr. Uetz thought it was probably M. spinipes.

I'm amazed that by stopping and asking what someone was doing on the side of the road, I learned about a spider ID that puzzled me from over a year ago. Go figure.

ps - Strictly for PG-13 laughs, check out this vid parody "Spiders on Drugs".

telegraph weed ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

posted 08/14/11 - There are so many yellow asters around. I've always wondered what this one was. The fuzzy leaves seem to be distinctive enough, that is until I find something else with fuzzy leaves. Supposedly this can flower all year round.

coastal tarweed ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

coastal tarweed
Deinandra corymbosa ssp. corymbosa (formerly Hemizonia corymbosa)

posted 08/14/11 - Sometimes these yellow asters drive me nuts trying to identify. There's a bee and a beetle on the flowers shown above. Maybe I'll swing back around and try to identify them at some point. Do you know what they are?

fence lizard ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

posted 08/14/11 - I generally think of spring as the time to see babies. Nope. This is the second year in a row that I've seen juvenile fence lizards at Fort Ord in the first half of August. And it wasn't just one or two, they were everywhere!

salt heliotrope ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

posted 08/14/11 - I remember thinking these couldn't possibly be the same species of plant as what I saw 10 days earlier along the shoreline. These are incredibly small and sparse compared to those.

Pacific gopher snake ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

posted 08/14/11 - This is totally a wild guess as to species. Another possibility could be the California king snake (Lampropeltis getula californiae). However, I can't imagine any other snake as large as the skin and skeleton, both of which were well over 4 feet in length. Would there be any other snake shedding its skin actually in a gopher hole? Plus, on the skeleton, I think I see a characteristic dark line coming straight down from the eye.

poison oak ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

Pacific poison-oak
Toxicodendron diversilobum

posted 08/14/11 - Always trying for better photos. Am working on this day's hike from last year, because I just had a spider ID'd by an expert.

ps 07/10/14 - Caltrain asked permission to use the 3rd picture above in a video "Caltrain 150th Documentary - The San Francisco and San Jose Railroad".  Cool.