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.

hooded ladies' tresses
Spiranthes romanzoffiana


Now that we've been orchid hunting for the endangered Yadon's piperia at several locations, we seem to be spotting different orchids left and right. Please note, I use the word 'hunting' to reference 'looking,' not 'killing.' In my estimation our local native orchids are not terribly showy and are fairly small, i.e. little single-stem shoots that rarely reach 18 inches tall with no apparent leaves. I'm guessing I've hiked past Spiranthes before at Fort Ord and never paid much attention to them before now. It's an odd phenomena of human attention; you're oblivious to the fact you're oblivious. I've hiked with people who simply don't see butterflies... at all, even after I point them out. There's a Hymenoptera in the second pic, but I'm feeling a little lazy to sort through a search of "all black bee" right now.

ps 08/22/10 - For other Spiranthes, check out these posts from Blue Jay Barrens in OH and Orchids, Nature and My Outdoor Life in the UK.

coast horned lizard ~ 08/04/10 ~ Fort Ord

juvenile coast horned lizard
Phrynosoma blainvillii

It was love at first sight! I'm usually not this effusive, but these juvenile horned lizards were so tiny and flat-out cute. As CA Herps states (linked in the scientific name above), the Coast horned lizards have two rows of fringed scales on the sides. Apparently, they can shoot blood from their eyes. I'm glad they didn't do that when I picked them up, because I would have felt awful for handling them. To get the spotted belly picture above, I did the "stroke the throat" trick to make it lay still. With the last picture above, it's easy to see why they are so difficult to find. Before now, I've only ever seen 1 adult male at Pinnacles 5 years ago.

ps 08/07/10 - Janet, a regular commenter on Nature ID with several blogs, has posted one of the pictures above on her tumblr account. I'm glad she let me know.

elegant piperia ~ 08/04/10 ~ Skyline Forest Drive

unknown orchid

We checked on this, but it's still not enough in bloom to ID. Will check again later, if the deer haven't eaten it. I noticed many of the asparagus looking shoots from July 25, 2010 at Skyline had been browsed upon to the nub.

ps 07/23/11 - For an updated ID on this orchid, check out my August 27, 2010 elegant piperia post.