Saturday, December 25, 2010

habitat ~ 12/25/10 ~ San Francisco Botanical Garden

December 25, 2010

It is with great thanks to fellow blogger Katie at Phyte Club that I even knew the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum would be open (and free) on Christmas Day. It was my first time in the gardens. Wow! It would be well worth the relatively inexpensive $7 non-resident admission price on any other day... especially if it's not raining.

As per my typical rain curse (whenever I plan ahead for a hiking or camping excursion), it rained, and then it rained some more. Did I mention my graduation ceremonies from Ohio State was the only 2nd rain-interrupted outdoor procession in its over 100 year history? Don't let me get started on my wedding day! Most of my pictures from S.F. ended up too dark or fuzzy to post, and I'm still not decided on how to handle "garden" pictures on Nature ID. I do hope to show above that there are numerous blooms here on the coast of CA during the winter.

No worries, I had an absolutely lovely day, exploring the lesser known high peaks of San Francisco, finding new places in Golden Gate Park, enjoying a New York-style bagel heaped with more lox than I could buy at a grocer with tomato, red onion, and capers at the House of Bagels on Geary, and lunching for hours with a total stranger I met on Clement who advised me of the best Vietnamese noodle house I've ever been, Le Soleil. Angela, if you're out there, you were my angel on Christmas Day.

Again, with many thanks to Katie and Angela, for helping me find and create a memorable Christmas Day.

torch aloe ~ 12/25/10 ~ San Francisco Botanical Garden


torch aloe and Kenyan aloe
Aloe arborescens and Aloe kedongensis
Asphodelaceae (now included under Xanthorrhoeaceae)

posted 2/13/11 - I've been on the hunt for the ID of a particularly large and "bushy" aloe, since they're quite prominent along the shore here in Pacific Grove where I live. I took a picture of the sign (it's a close-up of what's shown in the first picture) believing I finally found a positive ID from a reputable source, the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Once I got home and searched A. kedongensis, I quickly realized this was not the correct ID for the aloe I wanted an ID. I grumbled at first that the botanical garden must have misplaced their sign. If you can't tell already, I have a general mistrust that most people can get things right. I worked in the editorial departments of a couple publishing companies and I even corrected the pre-employment proofreading test that one had been using for 25 years - according to my hiring bosses, nobody had ever caught the error in all that time. This is not to say that I don't make mistakes on a regular basis, both in factual and grammatical accuracy. Upon further inspection of the first photo, it's apparent that there are 2 species of aloes shown. In any case, I think I have finally found the proper ID for my hometown aloe.

with a swish of the tail

See my eastern gray squirrel post or Crappy Photo Blog for more information.

eastern gray squirrel ~ 12/25/10 ~ Golden Gate Park


eastern gray squirrel
Sciurus carolinensis

New followers of Nature ID may think I have a fondness for squirrels considering my several squirrel posts in the past few months; I don't particularly like these rodents. However, I think I've finally figured out how to distinguish between the different species of squirrels in California.

What caught my attention with the ones shown above were the shockingly white bellies. Close to home, Fatty, a California ground squirrel, and the eastern fox squirrel have definite buff colored bellies. I wasn't too surprised to find out while searching for an ID, that the eastern gray squirrel was introduced to San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties... it's no wonder I don't see them around home in Monterey County.

I was amazed at how tame this family of eastern grays were near the boathouse along the Stow Lake trail in Golden Gate Park. As I was attempting to take pictures in the dark lighting and rain, several people came by to feed these squirrels nuts and such. It looked like it was a regular routine of theirs, complete with ready sandwich baggies filled with squirrel food. One older couple complained to me that she was once bitten by a squirrel, so that they now toss their nuts out on the ground to avoid direct contact. I quietly chuckled as they walked away bickering like long-married couples so often do.

ps 08/28/11 - I should have mentioned there's also a native western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) that also has a white belly. From what I've gathered they tend to be grayer, larger, and shy compared to the easterns. The Nature of a Man blogger twice mentions how the eastern gray is taking over the western gray in CA.

pss 10/18/12 - Ken also has nice side-by-side pictures of the silvery western versus the browner eastern grays.

sunrise ~ 12/25/10 ~ San Francisco

sunrise looking over to downtown San Francisco
from Grandview Park
December 25, 2010

This picture was taken oddly enough from the Sunset District. As much as I love the diversity of people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I'm not sure I'd like living there, er, with all the people and traffic. It's certainly a larger peninsula in many respects than where I live 2 hours south on the Monterey Peninsula. The green strip in the middle on the left of the photo above is Golden Gate Park.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

habitat ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna County Park



Mount Madonna County Park
December 21, 2010

posted 01/04/11 - Here's my typical final take-a-step-back-and-look-around habitats post, even though I have several other pics to ID from this excursion, which I may backdate at a later time. Visiting friends and family over the holidays took precedence over keeping up with blogging, as it should be. I haven't even gotten to my cool pics in San Francisco on Christmas Day.

I've said it numerous times before how I almost canceled this trip due to severe winter weather forecasts (i.e., on the CA coast, this term means heavy rain and lots of wind). I am so glad Andy talked me into keeping our yurt reservations. Despite the potential cold, a part of me hoped to have some snow before Christmas, since Mt. Madonna gets a decent dusting a couple times a winter. No luck on that front. After expressing concerns about keeping warm and dry, a friend showed up the night before our trip with a huge pile of dry wood and an axe to make kindling. Thank you, Steve!!! Having a campfire is one of my favorite things and the rain cooperated just enough so that I could make several decent fires to cook and warm ourselves. And, yes, we had 2 camping stoves as backup and more sandwich material than I'd like to eat again anytime soon. The hiking in the rain was incredible! As evidenced in my previous posts for this day, I saw life I've never seen before.

I guess I should mention the broken, moss covered steps in the first picture above were once the grand entrance to Henry Miller's summer home. Without his family's sale of the land to Santa Clara County, Mount Madonna County Park would not exist. The red ground is due to dead redwood needles. The last picture shows the view northwest towards Santa Cruz from near the entrance to the park at Hecker Pass.

many-headed slime ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

many-headed slime
Physarum polycephalum

I have absolutely no idea what group this would even belong. Fungus? Lichen? The yellow venation pattern is visually reminiscent of fall ginko leaves. Does anyone have any clue as to what this is?

ps 01/05/11 and edited 08/18/11 - I originally had this posted as an unknown. It's a slime mold! Who knew this was in the kingdom of protista? Much of its taxonomy is debated beyond my comprehension, but one thing that most agree is that it is not a fungus. And apparently many slime molds move! Thanks to those who have commented, I believe I have a fairly accurate ID of this slime mold.

pss 01/13/11 - Very cool! I had a student from Liverpool John Moores University contact me to ask for permission to use my slime mold picture in her final year project presentation.

pss 08/18/11 - For other blogs posts of slime molds, check out Martin's Moths, Cabinet of Curiosities, and Curbstone Valley Farm. I'm fascinated those in the UK are just now seeing them in late-July to mid-August.

pss 10/09/11 - For an excellent explanation of slime molds with plenty of good links, check out The Biology Refugia.

pss 01/30/12 - Wow, this picture is popular on the internet. I received another permissions request from Mirian Tsuchiya Jerep, a TA for the Biodiversity course at George Mason University. With her OK, here's her request, "I am writing to know if you would allow me to use your slime mold picture in my class. Your picture is so pretty, and it shows where this type of organism is found on the real world, outside the lab. One of my main goals is to make the students connect what they see in the lab with their lives, and that picture is a great example. Of course, I would reference you and your blog as the source. Generally, I post my slides for the students, but if you prefer, I can remove your picture before doing that." Very cool, times two!

pss 11/22/13 - Apparently, this is a popular internet picture.  I received yet another request, this time from Dr. Peer Seipold from the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, Institute for Transport Planning and Logistics.  He's going to be presenting a talk about biomimicry and logisitcs (huh?  really? how?) at Magdeburg 2013: Green Innovations.  Amazing.

pss 05/10/16 - My photo above continues to be of interest, despite there being a virtual explosion of Physarum polycephalum photos in situ online compared to the paucity available back in 2010.  A couple days ago, I received yet another request for use of this photo from a blogger in France who is reporting on incredible recent research of the many-headed slime.  Please check out PK Read's Fast Learners.

yellow-eyed Ensatina ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

Plethodontidae

posted 12/31/10 - For my last post made in 2010, I really wanted to have something with a face. Seeing a salamander out in the wild was one of my goals this year and voilĂ ! Actually, Andy found this salamander after he rolled over a log and called me over to take pictures - gotta love the fella for supporting me in my quirky nature obsession. For more information on this very cool Ensatina with yellow spots in the top half of its eyes, make sure to click on the embedded links above.

I was amazed at the color and diversity we found during our hikes in the rain and at the end of December. And to think, I almost canceled our reservations to "camp" in a yurt on Mt. Madonna due to fierce winter storm forecasts. It was a bit cold and very wet, but we had an incredible time. Sometimes you just have to go for the experience and hope for the best.

Wishing all my blog readers the best for 2011. May it be a new year filled with love, laughter, and the making of fond memories!

ps 01/06/11 - For a much more informative blog post than mine, check out Curbstone Valley Farm.

ps 03/16/14 - I edited the text, because now I know this was not a newt, rather a lungless salamander in the Plethodontidae family.


sulfur tuft ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

sulfur tuft
Hypholoma fasciculare
more information

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post. Thanks to a Flickr ID from John Wall, I was able to ID this.

pss 08/03/12 - I now wonder if this might be honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea). See this tanbark oak post as to the reason why I suspect this.

false turkey tail ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

false turkey tail with lanky moss/Pacific forest moss/goose neck moss
Stereum hirsutum with Rhytidiadelphus loreus
more information
Hylocomiaceae

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post. I'm making a general guess as to the moss species. For a cool Norwegian moss ID site, check out Kristins Lav Og Moser. Also, check out California State University, Northridge's CA bryophytes page.

western grisette ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

western grisette
Amanita pachycolea
more information

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post.

witch's butter ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

witch's butter parasitizing false turkey tail
Tremella aurantia parasitizing Stereum hirsutum
for more information click here and here

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post and split all the fungi out into separate IDs.

pss 02/09/12 - Oh dear. I see John at Sinbad and I on the Loose has linked to my 2 witch's butter posts, so I feel I should offer a little more information considering I sent him an e-mail IDing his very cool jelly fungi (for more information click here and here). John has much better pictures than mine, btw. For North America (I can't really say for the rest of the world, you know?), I'm only aware of 3 species of witch's butter: Tremella aurantia (as linked above), Tremella mesenterica (confused superficially, but most easily differentiated by different fungal hosts), and Dacrymyces palmatus, which (not witch) Wikipedia says is now named Dacrymyces chrysospermus.

mycenoid mushroom ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

mycenoid mushroom in lanky moss/Pacific forest moss/goose neck moss
Mycena sp. in Rhytidiadelphus loreus
more information
Hylocomiaceae

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post. I'm making a general guess as to the moss species. For a cool Norwegian moss ID site, check out Kristins Lav Og Moser. Also, check out California State University, Northridge's CA bryophytes page.

oyster mushroom ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

oyster mushroom
Pleurotus ostreatus
more information

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this as an unknown mushroom, but thanks to John Wall's comment on the initial post, I've corrected the ID above.

red-capped russula ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

red-capped russula with golden chinquapin bur
Russula sp. with Chrysolepis chrysophylla
more information
Fagaceae

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this as a fly agaric, but thanks to John Wall's comment on the initial post, I've corrected the ID above.

turkey tails ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

turkey tails with banana slug
Trametes versicolor with Ariolimax sp.
more information

ps 09/03/11 - I originally posted this in another initial post.

waxy cap ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna


waxy cap with coast redwood needles
Hygrocybe sp. with Sequoia sempervirens needles
more information
Cupressaceae

Oh my goodness, this was one of the most challenging posts on Nature ID! I know next to nothing about fungi, except that I like eating those button mushrooms from the grocer when sauteed in butter. Funny enough, I had a sudden craving for mushroom soup, similar to whenever I spy a crab and have a hunkering to eat crab.

It's taken me a couple days to sort through my hundreds of fuzzy fungi pics. Rain, dark forest lighting, and not being as steady as I could be after hiking up and down hills, versus a leisurely stroll, made for poor quality photos. I picked the best pics to post here.

I'd certainly appreciate any ID help from anyone out there. Whenever I could, I've embedded links above to the 3 best online fungi ID sites I've found so far: Mushroom Hobby, The Fungi of California, and Mushroom Expert. For additional pictures, I'm also posting to Flickr.

ps 01/01/11 - Thanks to John Wall, I've edited, corrected, and added to the above IDs. He has an incredible photo set on Flickr called the Mt. Tam Mushroom Project. Mt. Tam is a couple hours further northwest than Mt. Madonna, but both places seem to have similar habitats.

ps 09/03/11 - I'm separating out these pictures, so each fungus has its own entry. They can be seen in newer entries to this one from this hiking date, or check out * all fungi.


Pacific madrone
Arbutus menziesii
Ericaceae

This looks Christmas-y, right? I was amazed at how prolific the Pacific madrones were up on the mountain. Red, orange, and yellow berries were everywhere, in the trees and on the ground. I ate one just to try it out. Not too bad... it had the taste and texture of a not very sweet, ripe strawberry, but with a whole lot of seeds on the inside. I'm not going to become a madrone eating freak anytime soon, but it's good to know in case I ever need to "survive" out in the wild. Oh! There's an unidentified mushroom in the last pic, but I'll get to my numerous 'shroom pics after the holiday.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas day, whether you celebrate it or not.

ps 12/24/10 - I'm not the only one who has tried the berries. See Rooted in California's foraging post. It seems many regionally local nature bloggers have noticed the profusion of madrone berries this year.

banana slug ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna



banana slug
Ariolimax sp.

It was total slugville underneath the redwoods and madrones at Mt. Madonna in the gentle rain. I easily lost count of how many native banana slugs we spotted during our hikes. True to my blog rules, all of these unedited pictures were taken on 12/21/10. They're fairly camera shy and quickly retracted their optical and sensory tentacles as we walked up to them. It took more patience than I generally have while waiting for the tentacles to reappear for the first photo above. Many of the banana slugs were longer than the span of my hand, from thumb to pinky, i.e., > 7". Most appeared to have egg masses sticking to their tail ends. Or it could have been the mucous/slime plug I've read about?

I was hoping to be able to ID the banana slug to species, but my numerous internet searches didn't offer any information on how to distinguish between Ariolimax columbianus (Pacific banana slug), A. dolichophallus (slender banana slug), and A. californicus (California banana slug). Color does not seem to be an identifying trait as they can be white, black, brown, or varying shades of yellow, all with or without spots. Not even my Field Guide to the Slug had any identifying information within the Ariolimax genus. However, I did find more sites about slug sex than I ever wanted to know.

For more information, click on any of the embedded links above, or check out a favorite local blogger's very nice summary of banana slugs at Curbstone Valley Farm. If anyone has better information, I'd love to hear from you.

golden chinquapin ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

posted 09/03/11 - Just wanted to have its own entry. They remind me of pygmy puffs from Harry Potter.

fallow deer ~ 12/21/10 ~ Mt. Madonna

white fallow deer
Dama dama

posted 09/03/11 - I want to show how the antlers have grown since our last visit to Mt. Madonna on June 9, 2010.

Friday, December 17, 2010


sea otter
Enhydra lutris

The Moss Landing touristy area is one of the best local places to see sea otters in large numbers. Since I don't get up there very often, nor do I stop to look, I'm not sure about any seasonal variations of sea otter populations.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

American coot ~ 12/15/10 ~ Crespi Pond


American coot
Fulica americana

For all our futile searching for the wacky looking baby coots this past spring and summer, we not once spotted even an adult coot. They must nest elsewhere, despite numerous websites and books stating they're here year-round. I wish I had logged when we started seeing the adults in our area again; I think it might have been October, but I can't be sure of my memory now. In any case, we're now spotting numerous coots everywhere, from Crespi Pond along Shoreline Park as shown above, to El Estero, to Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough. They're funny looking birds.

ps 10/02/11 - We saw our first coot of the season at Crespi Pond today. There was only one. I'm sure more will come. I still don't know where they nest. I really want to see a baby coot in person some day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


an unusually plump California ground squirrel
Otospermophilus beecheyi

OK. I swear this will be my last post of Fatty... unless something unusual happens. I've been laughing all evening while looking through my recent photos. For the past couple weeks, I've had the camera out with hopes to capture the new unknown hawk in our area and the winter songbirds. Mostly, I get bits of trees and blurs of wings, nothing clear enough for a positive ID. While I wait for the birds, I'll take a couple pics of the fat ground squirrel, who is always present and doesn't move much. Haha, it didn't look like it was too pleased with me taking a picture of it eating. How rude of me! And, no, I don't feed the squirrels or the birds. I think all wildlife should earn an honest living. Plus, I wanted to illustrate with the second pic above why my squirrel and bird pics are so fuzzy - I use the maximum zoom setting on my point-and-shoot.

ps - I lied. I forgot I still feed a couple scrub-jays peanuts when they come calling.

Sunday, December 12, 2010



Well, it's no wonder I've had such a hard time identifying the squirrels around here. Depending on the lighting, the eastern fox squirrel (yes, it's an introduced species in CA) and the California ground squirrel look very similar. I've finally figured out the tails are distinctive between the two species; the eastern fox squirrel has a much longer and bushier tail, which makes sense since it's a tree squirrel and probably uses its tail for balance. While most of my squirrel posts are of Fatty, a slothly CA ground squirrel, I was barely quick enough to capture these two fox squirrels as they chased each other through the trees and over the rock. My National Audubon Society Field Guide to California indicates the eastern fox squirrel is larger than the CA ground squirrel... although, the writers must not have seen our Fatty.