Sunday, October 31, 2010

habitat ~ 10/31/10 ~ Morro Bay

Morro Bay
October 31, 2010

This picture was actually taken from Los Osos looking back across Morro Bay and the State Park. I still haven't figured out if it's officially called Los Osos or Baywood Park. In any case, we were there for their annual Oktoberfest. This year they moved the bandstand and beer to the main street. It was a tad too loud and crowded for us, so we ventured through the neighborhood to walk off our full bellies of cheap (i.e., $3) and very yummy brats and tri-tip sandwiches.

Morro Bay feels more like a real bay to me with quiet waters compared to the much larger Monterey Bay at home. It's particularly nice this time of year with sun and very little wind. Around the corner in the second pic is the Elfin Forest. To the west is MontaƱa de Oro State Park, which Andy likes for the trail running.

monarchs ~ 10/31/10 ~ Morro Bay

monarch butterfly
Danaus plexippus

I can't say this picture of clustered monarchs is any better than last year when we visited Morro Bay. We laughed over the fact we drove 150 miles south and then looked for monarchs, when just down the street from where we live in Pacific Grove we have our own Monarch Grove Sanctuary. Silly, really. I still haven't made a visit to the local sanctuary yet this season to see their newly purchased eucalyptus trees... that may be a story for another time.

From a purely casual observation standpoint, there didn't seem to be very many monarchs this year, perhaps, even less than last year. I got a crick in my neck from looking up for so long in the very tall eucalyptus. I didn't include any links in the common and scientific names above, because I figure anyone can find information online about monarchs. More than half of what's available online doesn't go beyond a 1st grade level of understanding, anyways.

I want to give a shout out to Chris Grinter at The Skeptical Moth for being, well, skeptical.

ps 11/23/10 - I've been sent an e-mail asking about monarch numbers this year in Pacific Grove. I'm not associated with any of the following groups, disagree with some of what they say, and generally prefer to stay out of what is increasingly becoming a political fray... but thought I'd make a list o' links for reference:
Arizona Monarchs
Butterfly Digest
Monarch Alert
Monarch Grove Sanctuary January 2009
Monarch Watch Forum
Pacific Grove Message Board
Ventana Wildlife Society
Western Monarch Discussion Group
Xerces Society
sea otter
Enhydra lutris

Ah, now I remember why I don't post many pictures of sea otters... in my measly photos, they look more like big turds floating in water than anything identifiable.

CA horn snail ~ 10/31/10 ~ Morro Bay

California horn snail
Cerithidea californica

These shells are kinda of pretty with the blue on the fat end. It's somewhat odd to me that I found these in a town that I visited for many, many years for holidays where we always went to The Shell Shop. They sold the prettiest, polished shells from around the world for pennies. My mother liked keeping an abalone shell filled with various other shells as decoration on our main bathroom counter. Maybe it was a sign of the times. I don't know. I do remember not being particularly keen on cleaning them when they got covered in household dust during my weekly bathroom chores. Now, I feel a little repulsed by any collection of animal parts on display as art or decoration, without any knowledge of what they are. "Pretty" just doesn't do it for me anymore.

With a quick search online, I didn't find a decent site describing C. californica, but I'm fairly sure of this ID. Several sites mention the CA horn snail is similar looking to the introduced Asian horn snail (Batillaria attramentaria), which I've posted about before. However, when considering the location, relative density of the horn snails, and looking at pictures of each without being completely covered in mud, the visual cues seem fairly obvious. Despite my hesitation to promote online commercial interests, I found Conchology, Inc. to have an excellent pictorial comparison of snails in the Potamididae family.

ps 10/01/11 - I was asked this week for permission to use my photos of CA horn snails by a journalist from Pour la Science (apparently the French version of Scientific American). I was pretty chuffed that someone from France found my pictures and wanted to use them in a respectable publication, online and in print. During our e-mail communications, I pointed out that I am not a malacologist and that my IDs are my amateur best guesses. Hey, I really do try to be honest and up front. I'm not sure how that translated into French, but she ended up declining use and thanked me for my time. I remember how long it took me to make this Cerithidea californica ID, and I'm 95% sure I got it correct. Before granting permission, I admit to holding concerns about knowing exactly what the article was supposed to be about and whether to charge $ for use (more for those bloggers who use their blogs as a way to advertise their own professional photography; personally, I don't have much interest in that kind of thing). I did not ask pay for use, but I did ask to quote her e-mail request. She didn't respond specifically, so I don't have it available here. I was a bit disappointed my photos are not being used, and my ego got bruised. In any case, her article is already out: I assume she received permission from Conchology, which I embedded in my original post above, but she also got the credits incorrect - I seriously doubt Haderman had access to e-photography back in 1840. I think it'd be a tough job being a journalist and writing about things you know very little about.

pss 11/03/11 - I visited this place again to get better pictures and to double-check my ID. Please see my new post on CA horn snails.

white pelican ~ 10/31/10 ~ Morro Bay

American white pelican
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

I'm still attempting to get a closer picture of the American white pelican; certainly, this is much better than what I've posted previously. They're huge! Maybe it's the bright white that makes them seem so much larger, but their 9 ft. wingspan is only half a foot longer than the brown pelican. Depending on the information source, American white pelicans can weigh as much as 2 times the size as brown pelicans. Seriously, how do those things fly?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

habitat ~ 10/30/10 ~ Corral de Tierra

Corral de Tierra
October 30, 2010

As per my usual, I post landscape pictures to show the seasonal changes of habitats for most of the locations featured on Nature ID. Serious rain for the winter season began about a week before this visit and shoots of green grass are just starting to pop up after a typically dry summer. In the second picture above, the ocean is barely visible in the distance. This is my second Corral de Tierra habitat post; the first one was taken on a much greener February 13, 2010.

crow and sea lettuce ~ 10/30/10 ~ Monterey Municipal Beach

American crow picking through sea lettuce
Corvus brachyrhynchos picking through Ulva sp.

It's posts like this that remind me why I truly like creating this blog. I've spent a very enjoyable morning searching online for crows and sea lettuce (an unusual combination)... and learning new things that I would have otherwise shrugged aside. If you're visiting Nature ID for the first time, make sure to click on the embedded links above in the common and scientific names.

I was surprised to discover there are at least 3 species of crows in North America, the others being the northwestern crow (Corvus caurinus) and the fish crow (Corvus ossifragus), and not to overlook the closely related common raven (Corvus corax) and Chihuahuan raven (Corvus cryptoleucus). Also, for recipes of sea lettuce, aka green laver, check out MBARI's site.

Oh! I guess I should mention this is the beach we usually do our nighttime grunion greeting in the summer. I've never seen the sea lettuce washed ashore like this, but autumn seems to be the time when the ocean sheds it summer growth, too. Interestingly enough, this was only a few beach miles away from Fort Ord Dunes State Park that we visited the same day.

ps 07/19/16 - From a recent news report, the green is Ulva lactuca.

habitat ~ 10/30/10 ~ Fort Ord - Dunes State Park

Fort Ord Dunes State Park
October 30, 2010

This California State Park officially opened in March 2009. It's directly across Hwy 1 from California State University, Monterey Bay. Finding the parking lot is a bit challenging, because you have to maneuver through confusing old Fort Ord roads, past dilapidated buildings and massive piles of broken concrete. Unlike many other State Parks, there's no day use fee and not much in terms of services: a large porta potty, a couple picnic tables in the parking lot, and a short boardwalk with very good interpretive signs.

The dune bluffs erode away at about 5 to 8 ft a year. I got this information from one of the interpretive signs, which is quoted in the SF Chronicle. The evidence of this claim is Stilwell Hall almost fell into the ocean despite initial plans to make it a visitor center for the new State Park. The beach is definitely not a swimming beach and large signs warn of rip currents. However, the views of the entire Monterey Bay, from Pacific Grove to Santa Cruz, are incredible from atop the dunes or down on the beach.

To get down to the water there's a short walk through a dune valley of sorts. The dune bluffs go straight up on both sides with some unusual sand graffiti etched into the firmer parts of the bluff. It felt like a scene from one of those cheesy old Star Trek shows where they're checking out a new planet. Scotty, set your phaser on stun!

hottentot fig
Carpobrotus edulis

They're in the process of restoring the dunes by removing the invasive hottentot fig, which is just starting to turn red for the season. This is no small task since this iceplant from South Africa is everywhere. According to the interpretive signs, black legless lizards, Monterey spineflower, Menzies' wallflower, dune gilia, Smith's blue butterfly, and snowy plovers can be found here. We didn't see any of them but enjoyed our quick visit anyways.

brown pelicans ~ 10/30/10 ~ Fort Ord Dunes

brown pelicans
Pelecanus occidentalis

This is my first entry of brown pelicans in flight. Usually my pics are so distant and fuzzy that they're not worth posting. Plus, I've gotten a little camera shy trying to take pics of pelicans as they've flown over my head, because I've been pelted with massive glops of poo. It sounds like a machine gun as the numerous heavy drops splat. I think I'd rather be beaned by a seagull.

Again, as with white pelicans, the seasonal range maps seem to be off for our area. Everything I've seen states they're only here in the winter. I swear they're here all year-round. I'll have to search my picture archives to see if I have brown pelican pictures from the summer months.

At least with this photo, I finally discovered the most obvious difference between adult and juvenile brown pelicans. The juveniles have light-colored bellies and a distinct white line along the underwing. The adults have all grey as seen from below. I believe there are 2 juveniles, of different ages, flying in the picture above.

yellow sand verbena
Abronia latifolia

This is a cheery little sand dune plant. It's a welcome sight in an area overrun by the hottentot fig, an iceplant. As I was looking this up, I was surprised to find it's in the same family as the bougainvillea. I read somewhere this is the only yellow colored sand verbena; based on a search of Calflora, this looks like it might be true as the others range in color from white to pink to purple.

ps 11/04/10 - Could someone do me a favor and click on the embedded link above to Calflora? I'd like to know whether what I see as a registered user is what the public can access. Thanks!

turkey ~ 10/30/10 ~ Corral de Tierra

wild turkey
Meleagris gallopavo

Are you ready for the next holiday? It always seems to be autumn before I see turkeys out and about. I'm not sure exactly why, but our local turkeys appear skinnier than most online pics. Of course, I've seen the males puff up into their trademark Thanksgiving pose, but otherwise they look kind of prehistoric. It's a bit shocking to witness these huge birds take flight. I don't have much to say about wild turkeys, except that I know the domesticated ones found frozen and wrapped in plastic at the grocery are the same species.

Warning: if you're squeamish and prefer your food sanitized in plastic, then stop reading!
Years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a college classmate who was also a commercial turkey farmer returning to school with hopes to get out of the business. He invited us to his family’s annual Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving tradition of prepping the next day’s meal. He let us take a pick of his turkeys. We chose a "small" one at a live weight of around 36 lbs. and 28 lbs. fully plucked and gutted...
Thankfully, his teenage son did the kill and spill (lots of blood). He used a baseball bat to knock it out and then a sharp knife to cut its throat. After the blood let, we dunked the body into a huge cauldron of boiling water over a wood fire, by holding onto its legs. It was heavy. I enjoyed plucking the feathers, but I was surprised at how warm the body and guts still were when I reached in to pull out the innards.
In their backyard, they had a deep, dug-out pit with a metal barrel inserted, with the top lid flush with the ground, next to the cauldron fire. I think someone added coals to the pit throughout the night to slow-cook their turkeys… and it’s no wonder! We had to keep our prepped turkey wrapped in a garbage bag outside until the next morning, since we couldn’t fit it in our fridge. I ended up squeezing it into our oven at 6am to start the roasting in time for dinner.
It was the best turkey I ever ate! I liken the freshness to just-caught fish or just-cut vegetables. I find most elaborate recipes (including brining, save for religious purposes) are designed for the sole purpose to mask the “old” flavor of long-stored/frozen meats and vegetables.
What are you eating for Thanksgiving? I think I'm going to cook ham.

tarantula ~ 10/30/10 ~ Corral de Tierra

Just in time for Halloween! This tarantula was crossing the road and of course we stopped. I'm fairly sure it's a male, because some of my numerous pictures clearly show spurs on the underside of the front "knees." As big as he seemed, his cephalothorax was not much bigger than a dime. When I touched his back legs, he'd arch his abdomen up and spread out his spinnerets. He was very camera friendly and would walk toward me when I got down on the ground to take pictures. We tried to herd him to the side of the road, but he seemed to prefer roaming around on the road... which was terribly unfortunate. As we were leaving him to his thing, he got squished by a passing car. I almost cried.

While I believe this is an Aphonopelma eutylenum, I've e-mailed Brent Hendrixson at The American Tarantula Society to confirm and will update this post when I hear back. For more photos, see my Flickr set.

ps 11/01/10 - For other regionally local tarantula sightings, check out Idora Design, Nature Visions, and Dipper Ranch.

pss 11/12/10 - Again, another tarantula post, not necessarily local, Weird Bug Lady's blog post.

pss 11/15/10 - I heard back from Brent after sending a second e-mail without a photo attachment. With his permission, here's what he said, "This is a tough group of spiders. The species belongs to what we call the "Aphonopelma eutylenum" species complex, a group of several closely related species whose identities remain elusive because they are difficult to distinguish (in fact, I think they're more than likely all the same species). I know this isn't terribly helpful, but that's where we're at with this group right now." Thank you, Dr. Hendrixson!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

black-tailed deer ~ 10/28/10 ~ at home

Columbian black-tailed deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

It seems that all the fashionable nature blogs are featuring deer this fall season, so I thought I'd join in on the game.

Does and fawns are regular visitors, but this is the first time we've ever seen a full-grown buck on our side of the Monterey Peninsula, let alone in our driveway in the 4 1/2 years we've lived here. The horned fellas usually seem to stay on the ocean side around Asilomar and Del Monte Forest, where there are reports of a pet-eating mountain lion every few years. In fact, some people put up posters in their yard saying, "Go away, mountain lion!" as if the big cat could read sharpie and crayola home-made signs. OK, I live in a funny, little town.

This guy looks kind of young, no? The sun was just coming up, so my pics are a bit dark. Plus, I wasn't too eager to head down the stairs to get a closer look and collect greens for my caterpillars, as I've heard the bucks can attack women unprovoked. It's probably local lore, yet I wasn't about to take my chances.

I believe I have finally correctly ID'd this local deer down to subspecies. According to the USGS, there are 11 subspecies of Odocoileus hemionus. For a nice summary of black-tailed deer by Keith Smith, click on the scientific name above. There's much debate about names and subspecies. Mule deer seems to be a generally accepted common name for O. hemionus. I still don't quite understand the antler descriptions between the species/subspecies, but I picked pics to show off this fella's antler shape and huge ears. Interesting to note for those of you not from around here, the common North American white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is apparently not found in California. I'd appreciate hearing if anyone knows of better information.

ps 11/21/10 - For more information on male mule deer, check out this blog post from It's Time to Live. They definitely look different than what's around here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

They hatched! It's been 9 days since they were laid next to our front door. See my October 17, 2010 blog entry of their beautiful mother. Yesterday I noticed most of the grey eggs had turned a bright steel-blue color. I should have known some action was about to start, and yet I was a bit unprepared this morning as I was heading out the door.

I quickly got a container out. It's a simple plastic jar with cut pantyhose secured over the top with 2 rubber bands and tied in a loose knot. I've found rubber bands tend to deteriorate after a while, so using a backup is an easy solution. For insects that are tiny, like these 2mm Arachnis picta caterpillars, nylon keeps the critters from escaping and is stretchy enough to allow you to get into the container for feeding and cleaning.

I used a small soft paintbrush to collect the caterpillars onto a sheet of paper and then poured them into the container. In my haste, I neglected to add a damp paper towel to the bottom of the container. Some moisture is good, but when caterpillars are this small they can easily drown in a drop of water. Didn't you know? Caterpillars are not good swimmers.

I quickly threw in some organic carrot tops that I had on hand thinking primarily about accessibility to more of the same. Doh! I've inadvertently killed previous lepidopteran broods, because Btk is a commonly used organic pesticide. Later when I got back home, I went around outside and clipped various foliage with hopes they'd like one of them. I did a fairly extensive online search to see what the painted tiger moth larvae eat. There's no consistent information. Some say Lupinus, others say mustards or dandelion or bull thistle, and still others say radishes and Acanthus. I don't have easy access to any of those and am still kicking myself for pulling the dandelion shoots from my compost several weeks back.

ps 10/27/10 - I checked around noon and the caterpillars seem to like the carrot, dandelion, and fennel. They're already pooping tiny black specs, so that's a good sign. I'm still not sure if I'll keep these caterpillars, since it may take a whole year to properly rear them. Oh! I used the second pic of the container above, because the shiny plastic isn't very good with flashes indoors and I also wanted to show the unusually humongous waves we had yesterday.

pss 11/01/10 - Yesterday morning, several caterpillars had spun tiny little silk mats on the container. Today, I noticed several are bigger (3.5mm), lighter in color (must have molted over night), and hairier with bits of fluff next to them (cast exoskeletons). I'm still contemplating releasing them.

pss 11/06/10 - For the final post on these critters, click here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

habitat ~ 10/24/10 ~ Butano State Park

Butano State Park
October 24, 2010

I woke up this morning with a hunkering for biscuits and gravy, the kind only 3-Zero Cafe in Half Moon Bay could satisfy. For a town filled with trendy coffee shops and bakeries, the old cafe at the airport is my favorite. This recent post from My Back 40 (Feet) reminded me that we hadn't visited Arata's Pumpkin Farm yet this year. In years' past, we've taken Andy's Little Brother, our nephew, and friends with lots of kids to visit the amazing hay maze at Arata's. So, even though we didn't have any children in tow with us this time, we hopped in the car as soon as we could for a much anticipated breakfast and plans to enjoy this year's maze.

Uh, perhaps, I should have looked up the weather forecast before we drove the almost 2 hours northward along Hwy 1, aka Cabrillo Hwy, aka Pumpkin Hwy (my terminology for all the pumpkin stands).

Rain. Heavy rain. Fog. More heavy rain.

Making the best of a very wet day, we decided to skip the maze and its muddy muck and hit the back roads on the way home... you know, the ones you never seem to have the time to pursue... and discovered Butano State Park.

It's incredible!

As you can tell by the rain drops in my pics, we stayed just long enough to want to go back later.

ps - I hoped I'd spot a newt but didn't have much luck. According to the interpretive sign, Butano is supposed to have California newts (Taricha torosa) and rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa). Maybe, next time!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

sunrise ~ 10/23/10 ~ at home

sunrise from home
October 23, 2010

I prefer sunrises over sunsets. There's an inherent promise of a future with sunrises.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

painted tiger moth ~ 10/17/10 ~ at home

painted tiger moth
Arachnis picta

I found this painted tiger moth sitting on top of her just-laid eggs next to our front door. She was covered in cobwebs. Maybe I'm unusual, but I haven't cleared the plethora of webs from our entryway, because I figure the spiders need nourishment this time of year to lay their own eggs. I took the moth inside to clean her off and take a few pics. She was already a bit worn, and yet she was determined to get away from the light of the window while I tried to take pictures. Once I was done with the photo shoot, I set her back next to her eggs. She was gone the next morning.

This is the second moth egg set I've seen in the past 2 weeks on our building. The other set already hatched with tiny fluffball caterpillars that started dropping off the wall with my smallest exhale. Larval Arachnis picta are fairly ugly compared to their adult kin, especially right before they pupate. I found this site to be particularly good for showing the stages of painted tiger moth development. I'm going to take note when the eggs hatch. Who knows, I may pull out my old containers and raise these moths for the heck of it. I just hope the caterpillar hairs are not urticarious. I learned my lesson with mosquitos, honey bees, io moths, and walking sticks that feed on blackberry - I do not want to raise anything that involves biting, or stinging parts, or feeding on prickly things! I originally posted a pic of this moth on Flickr with what I think is the true version of the famous Bourdillon poem.

ps 10/26/10 - For a follow-up post of hatched eggs, click here.

pss 09/23/11 - I found my first painted tiger moth today on the wall of our building.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

dusky-footed woodrat house ~ 10/16/10 ~ Elkhorn Slough

dusky-footed woodrat house
Neotoma fuscipes

I have absolutely no idea what made this. I would estimate it's about 4 feet wide and about 5 feet up off the ground and within 20 feet from the slough water. There looks to be a clear hole leading from the main tree branch. We actually spotted 2 of these nest/den thingies within 50 ft of each other; they're kinda hard to miss since they're so big. I would have tried to get a closer look, except the poison oak was particularly dense around the trees. I'm guessing some kind of mammal made this. Does anyone know what it is?

ps 02/11/11 - I originally posted this as an unknown nest or den. Thanks to commenters both here on Nature ID and Flickr, I've learned it's the house of the dusky-footed woodrat.

Pacific aster ~ 10/16/10 ~ Elkhorn Slough

Symphyotrichum chilense (formerly Aster chilensis)

posted 02/05/11 - I double-checked the Elkhorn Slough Plant List and this is the only aster on record. As a note, I'm going with Calflora's new genus name Symphyotrichum, rather than the more commonly known Aster chilensis (there's a spelling difference in the species name that complicates search queries). In my humble opinion, I'm wondering if this might not be Symphyotrichum lentum (Suisun Marsh aster), but considering there's no record of this in Monterey County, I'm going with the more common species on this ID.


If nothing else, California's ubiquitous poison-oak serves as a beautiful autumn (and spring) color addition. Our local black-tailed deer supposedly eat poison-oak. For more information, check out the embedded links I've provided above, or check out my previous poison-oak posts.

If you asked my husband, who is an avid trail runner (always wearing shorts with exposed legs, I might add), I'm guessing he'd say poison-oak and yellowjackets are the two worst things about California. He was born in SLO here in CA but was raised in Canada and Washington state. While trail running, he'd prefer the immediate pain of blackberries, as is found plenty in WA, versus the 1 day to 2 weeks delay of the onset of the poison oak rash. He questions the evolutionary advantages of a defensive mechanism that comes out weeks after exposure. We know friends who have gotten the rash on private parts (er, I didn't really want to ask for more details) and boys who seem to like rolling around in it as a last ditch effort to avoid going to school for a week. Many local parks and reserves have prominent signs warning about touching the poison-oak, even the bare winter twigs. If you're not familiar with it, it can be challenging to identify based on a very common 3 leaf configuration. Not everyone experiences the same kind of rash, if at all. I'll admit, I've never experienced the "fun" that is poison-oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac... and I'm a little fearful my boasts may do me in, so I'm careful around the stuff.
snowy egret
Egretta thula

This is my gratuitous bird post from this hike. The reason I say this is because Elkhorn Slough is known for its bird diversity, and this is the best bird photo I could capture. Most of the wonderful shorebirds, were too far away to distinguish, let alone to take a decent picture. I'm not very good at capturing birds in photos and really appreciate those who can, like Red and the Peanut. Andy brought along binoculars, but both the bird blind and hummingbird island were closed for repairs. We were there for 4 hours from before and after low tide. Note the black bill. Click on the scientific name above to hear the squawk of the snowy egret.

pickleweed ~ 10/16/10 ~ Elkhorn Slough

pickleweed / glasswort
Salicornia virginica
Amaranthaceae (formerly Chenopodiaceae)

I took the first picture above, because the red color was so striking. From a distance it looks muddy. I wasn't aware that pickleweed turns red in the autumn until I started looking into it. The segments turn red before dropping off, similarly to some deciduous trees, I guess.

Calflora lists 6 species of Salicornia, all native to CA. I'm listing this as S. virginica, because the Elkhorn Slough Plant List shows only this species. For an interesting article on eating pickleweed and to get thoroughly confused as to the taxonomy, check out this San Francisco Chronicle article.

ps 08/03/11 - I've made changes to the family name above.

yellowjacket nest ~ 10/16/10 ~ Elkhorn Slough

western yellowjacket
Vespula pensylvanica

I make no apologies for not getting a closer picture of this yellowjacket nest. It looks like a converted rodent burrow. Please note, someone came along before me and clipped away the dried grass from around the nest.

I used to scoff at picnic people who made a ruckus trying to get away from a perusing yellowjacket (distinctly different than pursuing). Inwardly, I huffed even more when they called them "bees" and were afraid they'd "bite". Really, it's fascinating to watch these scavengers chew away a hunk off your BBQ plate. Generally if you don't bother them, they won't bother you, er, too much.

Last year I got stung for the first time, on the head, while hiking at Nisene Marks near Santa Cruz, one of the only times I wasn't wearing a hat while hiking. It got caught in my hair and my friend could not get it out for me. Panic. For lack of better words, I now have a healthy respect for these multi-stingers.

Andy has experienced multiple stings during organized trail runs, something I admit I had little sympathy for... until last year. Part of the reason is, during an organized run with hundreds of people, there is simply too much commotion that disturbs the ground nests near the trails, often under the redwoods; the folks who are not in the lead get whammed with a defensive ground hive. For the other part, September to November is a major yellowjacket stinging season around here. Oh my, we've made emergency stops at the store to pick up baking soda, expensive sting-ease solutions, etc. None of them worked any better than another. It seems you just have to wait out the pain.

ps 10/18/10 - I should mention how I came to ID this particular yellowjacket to be V. pensylvanica, which interestingly enough is not found in Pennsylvania or anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains (as an aside, I find it curious that many species in the U.S. get divided based on this particular mountain range). I found several sites that mentioned this is the only Vespula species that has a complete yellow eye-loop/eye ring. Huh? For a clear visual of the eyes, compare V. pensylvanica with V. germanica. Although, I did find one site that mentioned V. sulphurea (California yellowjacket) also has the complete yellow eye ring, but it also has bold stripes on its thorax.
California wild rose
Rosa californica

In a time of year of dried grasses and the death of non-natives (both seasonally and by the reserve's visibly apparent use of herbicides as a management tool), it was refreshing to see this native rose blooming. As I've been looking around for more information online, I found Las Pilitas Nursery description to be particularly entertaining and perhaps a bit uncouth. And for a touchy-feely link recommendation, Friends of Edgewood has an interesting post. I'm still looking for information on how to prepare fresh rose hips for tea. As a start, I thought this was a good post at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. I'd love to get suggestions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

H2O - the bad and the healing

My sister died from bad water. Acute gastroenteritis. We were supposed to be adopted together. I had 3 sets of legal parents and guardians across two continents. I lived with more families than I can recall. I would have loved to have my sister along for this journey. I miss who she could have become. I am now living by the ocean. I hear salt water is healing... the sea, the sweat, and the tears.

This is my story.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gabriola sp. ~ 10/12/10 ~ at home

Gabriola sierrae or Gabriola dyari

While doing laundry, I spotted this moth in the stairwell and figured it was worth a photo with its handsome features. I thought it'd be easy to ID. NOT! I've already spent an hour looking online and am still not satisfied I've found a match. My best guess would be the distinguished cypress owlet (Cutina distincta), but I don't think that's correct, mostly due to the fact they're not supposedly found in CA. The moth above is 16mm from head to forewing tip.

We get numerous moths in our 3 story stairwell, because several lights turn on automatically every night and we're right next to a public park with an oak and several conifers of various species. Unfortunately, I rarely take pictures of the moths that greet me every morning, since I'm either rushing out the door, or the moths are too high up and too tiny to get a decent pic.

ps 10/16/10 - Another moth originally posted as unknown. I'm going to go with the expert opinion of Chris Grinter from The Skeptical Moth that this is G. sierrae. Although, now that I've looked it up, I wonder if it might not be G. dyari, which according to BugGuide feeds on Douglas-fir (there's one not even 5 feet away) and flies from June to October.