Thursday, March 4, 2010

CA red-sided garter snake ~ 03/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

California red-sided garter snake
Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis
(ssp. of common garter snake)

Do snakes go stiff after they've died? Because this one was still fairly soft except where there's a big kink, likely from being run over by a mountain bike. We found it on a bridge over a small stream. I'm making a guess as to subspecies.

Yes, this location is Fort Ord, not Carmel Valley Road. We stopped here on our way home from our long drive of looking for wildflowers.

ps 07/16/11 - I originally posted this as a coast garter snake (Thamnophis elegans terrestris) Nope. The red head should have been my clue. I've corrected the ID above.

pss 07/23/11 - I've been in e-mail exchanges with John of WildHerps about garter snake ID. He was kind enough to send me a link to HumboldtHerps and the continuing discussion of intergrades in areas where different garter snake species are known to exist. CA red-sided (T. sirtalis infernalis) may not always have a red head and may be a cross with valley (T. sirtalis fitchi). And, if that wasn't confusing enough, while the snake pictured above is definitely CA red-sided, it could also cross with coast (T. elegans terrestris) which has quite of a bit of red flecks on its side and may sometimes have red on the sides of its head, too. Since both species are found in the area (John has pictures of coast at Asilomar here in PG), I'm making a note for future IDs. I did learn that the number of labial scales may be indicative of species, but, of course, not always.

This is a very bold, non-native mustard and covers many hills in a bright yellow. I'm using Calflora for this ID. It's also known as Brassica campestris and is closely related to rapeseed (Brassica napus). As I was trying to figure out the difference between the two species, I came across this genetic Triangle of U theory. Interesting.

As an aside - speaking of rapeseed, does anyone else smell and taste fish in canola oil? I'm guessing it's a genetic trait like with phenylthiocarbamide. We've only recently discovered our sensitivity to canola oil's fishiness. And here I long thought fishy tasting fries at certain local restaurants were due to dirty fryer oil. Plus, it's too bad our local grocer has stopped carrying Best Foods mayo with olive oil, because the alternative brand Kraft primarily contains canola oil. Phooey!

ps 02/09/11 - For common names of plants, I often look to The Jepson Online Interchange from UC Berkeley, e.g., click to see the page for this particular species.

pond turtle ~ 03/04/10 ~ Carmel Valley

best guess western pond turtle
best guess Actinemys marmorata pallida

Would anyone hazard a guess as to which kind of turtles these are? I take a picture of them almost every time we drive down Carmel Valley Road looking for spring wildflowers.

ps 05/09/10 - I'm still unsure of this ID for several reasons. 1) The pic is fuzzy, and yet not as fuzzy as last year. 2) Audubon's California book states western pond turtles like to bask alone. 3) Linked above is the southern subspecies. There's also a more social-looking northern counterpart A. m. ssp. marmorata, but its range doesn't extend this far south. 3) There are isolated populations of different turtles, so maybe. 4) Other more social pond turtles have been introduced and have established themselves (red-eared slider and western painted turtle). 5) It's quite possible these are one of the introduced pets since there's an insane barbed fence surrounding this pond (even more than before), hence my fuzzy, zoom pics.
Douglas' wallflower
Erysimum capitatum

None of the books I have at home are in agreement for the common name or the scientific name. I'm a bit confused. It's also known as western wallflower and/or Erysimum occidentale and there are several subspecies of E. capitatum. This is a native mustard. I can always count on seeing this bright orange flower along the CV Road in the spring.
yellow-billed magpie
Pica nuttalli

A very striking bird and only found in CA! I wish my photo was better.

acmon blue ~ 03/04/10 ~ Carmel Valley Road

acmon blue on rape mustard
Plebejus acmon on Brassica rapa

I'm not positive about this ID. Usually I ID based on what's common, in this case an acmon blue, or simply state I don't know. However, it could be a lupine blue (Plebejus lupinus), because from above there's an obvious black border on the inside of the hindwing's orange band and the forewing black border is fairly wide. Then again, it could be an early spring acmon blue female. Erg! Can anyone help me with this ID?

It was happenstance that I even captured this butterfly on camera, because I jumped out of the car to get a close-up shot of the yellow flowers which covered the hills where Carmel Valley Road meets G17. I'll post pictures of the hills and ID the flowers later.

ps 03/07/10 - On a whim, I queried Art Shapiro, professor at UC Davis and author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, about this butterfly ID. He was kind enough to promptly reply, "It's a female acmon of the early-spring phenotype "cottlei," but abnormally heavily-marked on the lower surface--so much so that it superficially resembles a Euphilotes battoides! The ID is made easier by the fact that nothing else but acmon would be out this early in the year on the central coast (or almost anywhere). Even at sea level, lupini--which is always found in chaparral in the central Coast Ranges--wouldn't be out before April (or May!). The flowers appear (I can barely see any leaves) to be either Brassica campestris or Brassica napus, both naturalized weedy Old World mustards. Thanks for the kind words." Thank you, Dr. Shapiro!

padre's shootingstar
Dodecatheon clevelandii

I was a little surprised that shootingstar is not listed on CalAcademy's California Wildflowers site. Also, with my recent brouhaha about common names, I found it interesting that my three CA wildflower books at home (Yadon, Lamb, and Munz) call this "padres' shooting star," whereas most online sites state "padre's shootingstar." Needless to say, I don't know enough to identify these to subspecies. I was happy to find the white version.

world of thumbnails

I'm changing my standard photo order on Nature ID so that the closeup pic(s) is first and then followed by any distance shots. I'm doing this because I realized I often click on my blogroll based on an intriguing photo... and I'd like to entice you to do just the same for Nature ID. I had originally posted the opposite order, because like when hiking, you first see something far away and then you try to get closer; I thought that was natural, but it doesn't work well in the world of blogs and thumbnails.

I'm still looking for a flower ID book that shows both photos of closeups and distance shots - Hello? Anyone up for the challenge? Or how about this - a roadside flower ID book, based on what you see doing 55 mph?

ps 07/01/10 - Yes! Somebody else is thinking along the same lines with roadside flowers. Check out A Passion for Nature.

fiddlenecks ~ 03/04/10 ~ Carmel Valley Road


This is the same hill as taken on April 8, 2008. I assumed back then that the deep yellow was poppies, but maybe I was wrong. Since fiddlenecks were out in bloom during this year's drive, the color on the hill more closely resembled those of fiddlenecks, rather than the bright orange of poppies.

bush lupine ~ 03/04/10 ~ Carmel Valley Road

bush lupine and fiddlenecks
Fabaceae & Boraginaceae

I'm feeling too tired to look up the genus species names for these flowers right now... just want to go through some of my hundreds of pics from several outings the past few weeks. I'll edit this post at a later date.