Tuesday, September 28, 2010

kelp ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar Beach

bull kelp with surf-grass
Nereocystis luetkeana with Phyllospadix sp.


Usually, this beach is totally clear of debris with the softest sand around (the kind that squeaks beneath your feet). Asilomar is located on the ocean side of the peninsula and is often very windy and chilly; this is why we rarely stop to get our toes sandy or wet. However, the surfers in their wetsuits don't seem to mind.

I had an epiphany about the seasonal nature of the ocean and beaches while figuring out how to write this blog post. I liken the wrack as an oceanic version of the fall of the leaves back east and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere (see my list o' links of autumn leaf colors). This past Thursday morning, I noticed the sound of the waves crashing, even though we've been experiencing very warm, non-stormy weather. Yep, I know, we live less than a block away from the Monterey Bay and you would think we always hear the ocean waves... but, we don't. In fact, for most of this summer it was very calm and quiet, hence why the constant crashing noise that started last week stands out. I had always assumed the sudden appearance of wrack had to do with storms, and yet there are no storms in sight. I've been trying to look into why we have bigger waves right now, but I haven't found much online information.

ps 10/07/10 - For added reference, Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:09pm PDT marked the autumnal equinox. Also, September's full moon hit its peak Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 2:17am PDT. Not only is this a harvest moon, it's a super harvest moon because of the timing all in the same night. For more information, see bigsurkate's blog post or National Geographic's daily news.

pss 10/22/10 - For a nice blog post in a similar vein as this one, read Bread on the Water.

pss 07/31/11 - While doing another post, I discovered there are actually 2 species of Phyllospadix found locally: P. torreyi and P. scouleri. There is no way I can tell the difference. I've made the changes in the embedded links. Also as a personal choice, I've decided to keep the seagrass family name of Zosteraceae, rather than list the surfgrass under the pondweed family name of Potamogetonaceae.
pss 09/22/11 - It's that time of year again. The sound of the waves woke me up. Again, no storm in sight. We've actually had very sunny days since 09/12/11. Before that it had been the usual summer coastal fog. I noticed the waves were louder sometime last week. I'm still wondering where to go to look up information about the seasonal changes of the ocean.

yellow sand verbena ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar Beach

yellow sand verbena
Abronia latifolia

posted 11/04/10 - I've included different links in the common and scientific names than the October 30, 2010 Fort Ord Dunes State Park posting of the yellow sand verbena.

ps 01/23/11 - For more dune plants and information at Asilomar, check out Town Mouse and Country Mouse posts 1 & 2.

hop, hop

See my beach hopper post for more information.

beach hopper ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar

beach hopper / sand flea
Megalorchestia sp. (formerly Orchestoidea sp.)

Oy! This was a very difficult animal for me to nail down to a specific ID for several reasons. I didn't grow up here on the coast, so most marine life is still foreign to me. Hey, when you don't know, you simply don't know. If you had asked me before I started this blog, I would have shrugged off this cute, jumping critter as an immature sand crab (in the order Decapoda), which btw are also sometimes known as beach hoppers even though they don't hop. Haha, this is how little I know!

Thanks to one of Wanderin' Weeta's posts, I was reminded of the order of amphipods and figured out it's in the family Talitridae. I've linked to SIMoN in the scientific name above (jump to the Kelp and Seaweed section for the best information); while it's the best marine ID site I've found, it has its share of typos. The genus Megalorchestia (not Megla... as SIMoN states) was formerly known as Orchestoidea, not to mention the common names have a variety of spellings online.

My best guess for ID is Megalorchestia californiana or M. corniculata. I even pulled out the lovely book Light's Manual sent to me by a fellow blogger Steve at Blue Jay Barrens and went through the keys. While the antenna 2 do not reach the middle of the body, nor are rosy colored, the dorsal pigmentation (see in pic 1 above) doesn't match any of the plates. There were no discrete spots on the sides of the body, so these are my two best guesses out of only a handful of Megalorchestia species.

In all my searching, I did find this great sandy beach life site. Based on its information, the hole in the sand shown in my last pic should be an exit hole. The one in my hand is about the largest one I spotted, as most were various sizes. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for hopping directly to the kelp piles. Oh, and despite online information saying these beach hoppers are best found at night or in the early morning, I found massive numbers around the kelp a little after 5:00pm. Ha!

great blue heron
Ardea herodias

Finally! I had the camera on me while driving by Crespi Pond in the Pacific Grove Golf Links near Point Pinos Lighthouse. We regularly spot great blue herons and black-crowned night herons here (not to mention American coots and a plethora of various gulls), but we rarely have the motivation or camera to stop and watch. In fact, there are two night herons hiding in the reeds in the second pic (for lack of a better ID of this pond plant), barely evidenced by their white faces. It's our standard route home from the grocery store; I know, what a terrible commute (psht!). As for the location, this is right across the street where Oceanview Blvd. changes into Sunset Dr., so I am including it in the Pacific Grove Shoreline Park location label.

I don't have much commentary on the great blue heron. I know there have been massive annual nests that have been killing the tops of the pines near a friend's house in Monterey and where they hunt for gophers in her yard. Usually, when I see great blues, nights, or great egrets, I'm out for my morning walk near the Coast Guard Pier... without a camera.

ps 03/15/11 - For great pictures of a great blue heron catching a gopher, check out John Wall's Natural California here and here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

En plein air

Tom Davies' paintings
September 25, 2010

There is something incredibly magical about viewing plein air art outdoors, versus some sterile and snooty all-white galleries. When nature and the open air is your studio, it is fitting to have your work displayed as shown above when participating in the Monterey County Studio Tour. Tom mainly paints local outdoor scenes but also does portraits and places in Italy and France. I asked him if it was okay for me to take pictures of his work to post to my blog. He was happy to grant me permission. Check out his website and story in the link embedded in his name above. To see more of my pictures from his studio tour, see my Flickr set.

This is not the first time we've seen paintings hooked on trees and tucked away in the shrubbery here in the Highlands. For big celebrations the family pulls out the grandfather's work to adorn their yard. It's wonderful! I feel incredibly blessed to have met this family upon returning to California from Ohio. They have always welcomed me with a big smile and a warm hug. They are good people and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, September 24, 2010

sunrise ~ 09/24/10 ~ at home

cruise ship coming into the bay
September 24, 2010

This is probably the quickest I've ever loaded a pic from the camera to Nature ID. It looks like it's going to be a gorgeous day here on the coast. We haven't seen cruise ships for a while, but when they do come into the bay, they always seem to arrive right at sunrise. We chuckle that most people on the ships are probably still sleeping off the previous night's heavy buffet and miss the spectacular sunrises. For whatever reason, I have rarely had a desire to do a cruise; once I was tempted to do a river cruise in Europe. Mainly, we've been seeing military ships and squid boats out on the bay this year.

The vertical line of red dots on the mountain in the background is a tower located on Mt. Madonna. For the longest time I couldn't figure out the location of the mystery dots as I still get disoriented where things are across the Monterey Bay. A couple friends moved to the mountain right below the tower last year, so we finally figured it out.

Oh, here's a shout out to my uncle, aunt, and cousins who are heading to San Pedro, CA this morning for a 14-day cruise through the Panama Canal to Miami, FL. I can't wait to see their pictures!

ps 09/20/12 - There's another cruise ship coming through this morning.  I thought it'd be interesting to log when I see them, and sure enough as I looked up this post it's almost at the same time of year!

pss 10/02/12 - Today there was another cruise ship.  When it first came in this morning like shown above, it made an unusual turn towards Moss Landing.  Later in the day it was anchored in the usual spot just outside of the Monterey Harbor.  I'm starting to wonder if the only reason I see these hard to miss massive cruise ships this time of year is because the summer fog has cleared away.  As a side note that I'd like to remember, cruise ship season = local termite swarms.  This evening I ran into a friend, almost quite literally as he was running across the street from his tri-pod camera to his car.  I turned around and jumped out to chat with him for a bit.  As the cruise ship was leaving the bay at sunset, large numbers of termites were flying around us.  With the low lighting, he thought they might be oak moths, but I caught one and confirmed they were indeed winged termites.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

young or female Anna's hummingbird
Calypte anna

Back to my regularly scheduled blog program...

Thanks goes out to Don Roberson who confirmed this ID for me. In the past week, the hummingbirds around home have been rather frisky with high speed chases and spectacular dives. Does this mean they're mating in September? For another link to info on the sound made by Anna's at the bottom of the dive, check out Cornell's All About Birds.

ps - I'm posting this 09/21/10 and yesterday morning I said "hello" to a couple local nature photographers (Greg and Peter). I see them regularly at the Coast Guard Pier during my morning walks when I never take my point-and-shoot... well, because my hands are full with 2 lb. weights (a subject for another post). So, anyways, they were snapping pics of a young black-crowned night heron. I felt silly, but I had to ask what kind of bird it was, because it was mottled light brown with funny greenish-yellow legs. I'm hoping they'll post their pics to share. I've finally accepted the fact that photography or birding simply isn't my thing (as evidenced in the pic above), but I sure do appreciate the patience and dedication others have.

Friday, September 17, 2010

a meeting of two blogs

Phew! I finally finished adding my other blog's posts to Nature ID. I lost a couple pics and comments along the way (despite blogger/blogspot's assurances that all would remain intact), but I'm fine with that. I'm still working on fixing my labels and embedded links. Here are a few of my recently moved old posts and labels:

sentimental about seasons
artsy photos
crappy photos
travel version of Nature ID
yakety yak

This little hobby of mine has turned into a piece of work. My self-imposed rules for Nature ID were becoming limiting, hence the reason why I decided to combine my blogs. Compared to some of the bloggers out there, I'm relatively new to the scene with only 16 months of blogging under my belt. I'm still learning the etiquette of the blog-o-sphere.

Quite honestly, I never thought anyone would read my blather, let alone comment, but, someone, namely Biobabbler, felt I was worth mentioning and awarded me a blog badge, which I now proudly display in my sidebar. Again, thank you, bb! While I'm not up for taking the time to adhere to the award's guidelines (I feel it's a new generation of the old-fashioned chain letter without the bad joojoo), I will make the following comments:

a) I don't particularly like writing or taking photographs. Nature blogging seems contrary to this dislike, but I also like learning new things and I love the community of nature aficionados that blogging has exposed me to.

b) I regularly link to bloggers and posts that I find "good," without fancy-schmancy awards. However, maybe I should let them know more often as I'm fairly shy about commenting on other people's blogs.

c) Here's a short list (considering I regularly check in on over 350 blogs, this is short!) of my favorite bloggers, nature-related or not, and in no particular order:

Blue Jay Barrens
Posie Gets Cozy
Wanderin' Weeta
The Zen of Motherhood
Meanwhile in a valley in the Coast Ranges...
Indian flowers and herbs
A Yankee-in-Belgrade
John Wall's Natural California
The Max Files
The Skeptical Moth
Bread on the Water
The Speckled Wood Calendar
Phyte Club
From Russia with Blog

Monday, September 13, 2010

To interrupt my regularly scheduled blog...

I'm in the process of combining my two public blogs. My concept for Kt's Nature ID companion didn't pan out. While I like sharing some personal information, I'm uneasy about sharing too much for internet consumption. Do you know what I mean? Now I'm going to relegate my companion blog for testing and playing around with blogger and coding features. Plus, I'm finding it's too time consuming to keep up with multiple blogs, Twitter, and flickr. Until I get organized, here's a little tidbit to show a new label, shout out to awesome blogs and sites:

I had the opportunity to watch Karate Kid recently since the mid-80's. Ah, I miss the simpler times and seemingly innocent life experiences. Thanks to the power of the internet, I found this on YouTube: Funny or Die's Wax On, F*ck Off with Ralph Macchio.

LMAO! This is my generation in a nutshell. Again, what was I saying about too much information? Seems every celebrity in the news these days has behaved in some heinous fashion, and why it makes "news" is beyond me. All I can do is shake my head and appreciate those who use their fame for good, like Angelina Jolie's work with UNHCR. I still remember when her tattoos and marriage blood vials with Billy Bob shocked the public.

"Haha. You're so sweet, baby. Why don't you come back when you turn 18, okay?"

So, I've been deliberating over actually mentioning the following nature bloggers. They like curse words, but in some ways it helps me laugh and not take things too seriously:

Fuck You, Penguin
Bourbon, Bastards and Birds

The Drunkbirder... Birding From The Hip Flask.
The Drinking Bird (Nate doesn't regularly curse, but his blog name fits the theme)

And, one last shout out to an ol' friend Friday Jones who inked parts of Angelina.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

fiery skipper ~ 09/11/10 ~ Monterey

female fiery skipper on lantana
Hylephila phyleus on Lantana sp.

Finally, there's some color to my blog! We had so many days of drippy, wet fog here for more than a month that my mood has been in the damper, as evidenced by my infrequent and grumpy posts as of late. There are several activities going about town this weekend. After our respective morning runs and power walks, we pumped up the air in our bicycle tires and tootled around to check out the Triathlon at Lover's Point, Cherry's Jubilee in Cannery Row, and the Festa Italia in Monterey's Custom House Plaza. Sigh, it was a good day.

I guess I should comment about the skipper and flower. I'm 90% sure of the lepidopteran ID. Like crescent butterflies there is much variation within skipper species, not to mention sexual dimorphism. As for the lantana, while we have a couple native species according to Calflora, this one was in a container and so it goes under my * garden flowers label. It's apparently a very popular garden plant to attract butterflies and the like.

Hope you're having a good weekend, too.

about festivals and traditions

Festa Italia bocce tournament
Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA

In the past many weeks, we attended the Turkish Arts & Culture Festival (Jul 31 - Aug 1), Congregation Beth Israel's Jewish Food Festival (Aug 29), Monterey County Fair (Sept 1-6), Monterey Bay Greek Festival (Sept 4-6), and Festa Italia (Sept 10-12)... and not to mention a family reunion in Fresno, CA.

Apologies, checking links and will finish writing later. To be continued...

ps 09/14/10 - I had thoughts to write about why I love cultural festivals and to relegate stories of my first generation grandparents (Norwegian, German, Armenian, French), while I hail from Korea. Am I in the proverbial melting pot or a chopped salad? Writing about this felt like it was becoming a dissertation, so I'll leave well enough alone.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

habitat ~ 09/02/10 ~ Harkins Slough

Harkins Slough
September 2, 2010

Unless I suddenly decide I don't mind hauling around cumbersome equipment (heavy cameras, big phallic lenses, tripods, etc...), I doubt I'll ever get a decent picture of the American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhyncho). Yep, those white blobs in the first two pics are white pelicans mixed in with a bevy of gulls. My friend I was visiting had a massive scope, which I declined since I wasn't sure where or how we were getting around the farm during my visit.

Oh, the organic farm sits right alongside Harkins Slough, hence this habitat location label. It looks like the slough area has changed since the main road (as evidenced by the submerged power poles) is now covered and many shrubs have died from the flood of water. Apparently the birds like it.

As a side note and in line with my other comments about seasonal birds in the area, I'm a little curious why a couple reputable online bird sites (Cornell and WhatBird.com) and the ever present Wikipedia state white pelicans only overwinter along coastal CA. Considering the last time I saw white pelicans was in May and my friend says she's seen them around the farm all summer, this seems to be a glaring trivial error. Stan Tekiela's Birds of California seems to get it right in saying white pelicans are a non-migrator in most of CA and includes the only correct map of seasonal presence I've found. This, my blog readers, is the reason why I'm so persnickety about backdating all my post to the dates of my photos and why I try to keep my blog posts writing to what I experienced first-hand, versus paraphrasing and promulgating potentially incorrect information.

St. Catherine's lace covered with honey bees
Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum covered with Apis mellifera

I couldn't believe how big this buckwheat is. The fence post in the second picture is about as tall as I am. Thanks to the organic farm's native plant restoration lady, I have a positive ID. Goodness knows I'm not good at identifying buckwheats since there are so many in CA... 269 species & varieties of Eriogonum to be exact, all native to CA with many of them limited, rare, or endangered, including St. Catherine's lace.

Calflora doesn't show this plant as being native to Santa Cruz County, but Harkins Slough is only a couple miles from the Monterey County border. However, like many other buckwheats, I suspect this one was purposely planted outside of its native range. Simply based on recent CA blog posts, the red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) seems to be very popular in gardens along the western, central to northern area of CA, yet its native range is mostly southerly Santa Barbara County and is a CNPS 1B.2 rare plant.

So, this got me asking a series of questions (as a caveat, I am not a gardener and plead ignorance)... 1) What exactly constitutes "native" in terms of gardens and nurseries? County borders? State borders? Stolen from the woods and fields nearby? 2) Where do the nurseries obtain their initial stock? 3) Like orchid collecting from the early 1900's, could the current "native garden" trendiness actually be depleting our regional, natural populations? 4) What are the long-term environmental impacts of introducing a non-regional, yet "native", plant to areas where it doesn't naturally occur? Are we inadvertently creating hybrids? Is that something we want? Is it "good" for nature? 5) How is a "native" plant planted in a garden hundreds of miles away from where it occurs naturally be somehow better and preferable than say planting something from South Africa with similar climate? Just asking.

Btw, Apis mellifera is not native to North America; I'm not sure how many people know this. Really, they're the insect version of cows, sheep, cats, and dogs. It makes me wonder how much we anthropomorphize the plight of the non-native honey bee.

Mylitta crescent ~ 09/02/10 ~ Harkins Slough

female Mylitta crescent
female Phyciodes mylitta mylitta

As I visited a friend where she works at an organic farm, I was extremely pleased to see numerous butterflies next to the fields. The farm owner does not use Btk. I once killed an entire stock of cabbage whites (don't ask why I was raising these butterflies) by feeding them washed, organic cabbage from the grocer after depleting my home-grown supply. Many people don't realize "organic" may still mean pesticides are used. Btk is a very popular biological pesticide. To read more of my rambling thoughts on this, check out this other post.

I find crescent butterflies very difficult to distinguish between species, because the wing patterns are highly variable within species. I was tempted to call this the montana subspecies of the field crescent (P. campestris aka P. pulchella - again, why is there a need to rename species already described?). However, besides the obvious elevation difference, Glassberg notes field crescents have dark brown or black antennal tips, which is not the case with my specimen above.