Thursday, July 28, 2011

banana slug ~ 07/28/11 ~ Butano

banana slug
Ariolimax sp.

I love my picture of the pneumostome. Think one honkin' huge nostril. It almost looks like an eyeless eye, if you know what I mean. Oddly enough there's only one and it's always on the right side. Right? For much better information than I could ever provide, check out Snail's Tails post on how a slug breathes.

red clintonia ~ 07/28/11 ~ Butano


Hey, that's not red! I need to keep my eye out for the scarlet red blooms next year. It seems I only ever notice the large deep-blue berries under redwood trees.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

banana slug ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

banana slug
Ariolimax sp.

Yep, I know, I just posted another banana slug above. True to my policy on Nature ID, I post according to the date I took the photos. In any case, I wanted to show how big, how small, and how sexy they can be. For more information on slug love, check out this former UCSC's grad student's page and this YouTube vid. They're surprisingly tender in a romantic kind of way... um, except for a certain gnawing behavior they sometimes exhibit.

I've had a difficult time finding decent links to provide with my banana slug posts, hence why I still don't know which of the three species of Ariolimax I see. Two of the top google results were written by undergrad students and are not entirely accurate, so I refrain from linking to their univeristy-sponsored sites. For one of the best comprehensive web pages I've found on banana slugs, check out Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm. I've been impressed with the amount of research she does for her posts. I'd rather link for two reasons: 1) I'm pretty lazy about writing and 2) I try my best to not plagiarize or inadvertently perpetuate misinformation. Speaking of which in a similar vein, I can't believe how many images are re-purposed repeatedly on the web, some under creative commons licenses and others flat-out stolen. Suffice it to say, I prefer bloggers who use their own pictures.

ps - That former UCSC grad student I linked to above got her PhD and then became a professional cyclist with dreams of going to the 2012 Olympics. I only know this because I tried e-mailing her for slug ID help, got a daemon, and then googled her. She's now retired from cycling after doing some prioritizing. Amazing. I'm absolutely fascinated by the multiple lives people can lead in a lifetime. There's hope for me, yet.

satyr comma ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

It's rare that I spot a comma butterfly resting long enough to confirm the silvery white comma mark on the underside of its hindwings. Notice how the color of the wings looks very similar to the dead parts of the leaves. Usually when I notice them, they're flying by so fast in an erratic, zig-zaggy, rapid wing beat manner that I can only guess it's a comma. There are several species of Polygonia in North America, including one that has a dot at the end of the curvy mark called, you guessed it, a question mark (Polygonia interrogationis).

ps - I'm waiting for Graeme at Imperfect and tense to make a good pun out of this one.

pss 06/13/14 - I've been looking closely at the shapes of the comma marks.  Note the rounder shape of the white comma here compared to the satyr found in the Monterey area.  Different ssp.?

broadleaf helleborine ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

We were really excited to find an orchid that we haven't seen yet. I also posted a picture taken the following day showing the color variation on Flickr. It was common at Butano State Park along the creekside trails under the redwoods. However, I was a bit disappointed to discover the broadleaf helleborine comes from Europe. In fact, it is the only non-native orchid listed in Calflora. I've mentioned before about my developing negative prejudice against non-native plants and animals, which taken to the extreme is what The Biology Refugia calls "biological xenophobia." Before doing this blog and placing labels on everything under the sun, I was pretty content finding something new and simply being in awe. I want to get back to that innocence and unbiased admiration of nature. Interestingly enough, Jennifer at A Passion for Nature recently posted about the broadleaf helleborine blooming in western New York. She's a blogger after my own heart in how she researches for her posts. Also, David at Orchids, Nature, and My Outdoor Life posted finding a broadleaf helleborine across the pond.

CA newt ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

I knew Butano State Park was known for their newts based on our brief visit in the rain on October 24, 2010. According to the brochure, February is a good month to spot newts. I didn't expect to find any in the middle of summer. We actually saw a few, both on land well away from any water and in Little Butano Creek. Andy pointed them out to me. I'm discovering he has quite the eye for finding newts/salamanders.

Butano has two similar looking species of newts, the CA newt and the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Based on the bumpy skin of the individual I photographed above, I figured I had a rough-skinned newt. Nope. Thankfully, has this handy-dandy Taricha ID guide. Both transform to a smoother skin during their aquatic reproductive phase - never heard of this before researching for this blog post. Plus, both have yellow patches in the eyes. What sold me on the T. torosa ID was the light-colored lower eyelid.

I'll admit to picking up this fellow to keep him from sashaying into the water before I could get a couple of pictures. We later read that it has poisonous skin secretions. I need to learn to not pick up wild, unknown things, even if they're irresistibly cute. The toes totally get me laughing. Four in front and five in back. As a side note, it looks like this one still has its nuptial pads. Shoot, forget caterpillars and tadpoles, I think I may want to raise a few newts, ones without poisonous secretions.

ps 02/17/14 - Given my outing with fellow bloggers on February 10, 2014, I'm now wondering if this might be a rough-skinned newt intergrade.  Erg.

caddisfly eggs and cases ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

caddisfly egg mass

I looked at the usual suspects for this area, like California newt or California red-legged frog, but none of the pictures seem to match this egg mass. Each egg did not appear to have any round definition. The whole gelatinous mass was attached to the rock on the top and loose and flat on the bottom. It was roughly a quarter coin in size. When I found it, it was positioned in such a way that half was in the water and half was above water. After taking the above picture, I placed the rock back to about how it was in the water. Anyone have any ideas of what animal laid this egg mass?

edited 08/05/11 - I originally posted this as an unknown egg mass. I initially thought it might be an amphibian egg case, particularly after I had just spotted a CA newt. Thanks to commenter Neil of microecos and Oryctology blogs, I have an answer. Neil has been extraordinarily helpful in identifying things for me and providing information, although I find I have to google about every other word in his blogs to even get a gist of his topics. All I can do is stand back in awe of people whose brains function on that level.

If I had seen an adult caddisfly, I would have been able to identify it to Order without too much trouble. I like to think of Trichoptera as aquatic versions of Lepidoptera. Indeed the two Orders are closely related with adult caddisflies looking very similar to moths. However, there is very little specific information available on caddisfly eggs. The only picture I can find online that looks anything like the egg mass I found is from Bruce G. Margot's taos-telecommunity. I'm hesitant to agree with his guesses to family and genus since I have no way of confirming his IDs. There are other types of caddisflies that lay eggs on leaves instead of rocks. For lovely pictures of egg masses attached to leaves, check out Natura Mediterraneo and manham's Flickr set.

caddisfly larval or pupal cases

It simply never occurred to me that whatever laid the relatively large egg mass was also the same type of animal that made the gravel clusters seen right next to the eggs on the same rock and all around in Little Butano Creek. I'm guessing these are two different species of caddisflies, but then again, I have no way of knowing for sure. The gravel clusters are protective cases caddisfly larvae make using silk and available materials, such as sand, twigs, or jewels as provided by Hubert Duprat. Depending on the species, they can either live in them through their entire immature stages or make them only to pupate, like a cocoon of sorts. I was hoping to be able to identify the cases since some are distinctive enough to be diagnostic, but that might be asking too much. Aquatic Insects of Central Virginia has a nice posting on saddle-case makers (Glossosomatidae), which was the closest shape of case I could find to match what I saw.

As a side note, you would not believe the amount of e-mail that went on behind the blog scene here. At one point someone sent me a picture of another unidentified case made out of twigs and I forwarded it to an entomologist in Australia. Interestingly enough, caddisflies are not the only insects that make cases from surrounding materials. Bag moths in the Order Lepidoptera and Family Psychidae make startling similar cases, the log cabin shape out of twigs (bag moth vs. caddisfly) and the tubular shape out of sand (bag moth vs. caddisfly). Besides size, the easiest apparent difference is caddisfly cases are usually found in water. If you can manage to get the larvae to peek out, caddisflies have rather long front legs and bag worm caterpillars are short.

This was a really fun post to share. Thanks to everyone who helped out and put in their 2 cents.

ps 09/27/11 - For a good summary of various caddisflies, check out Aquatic Insects of Central Virginia's newest post.

pss 10/03/11 - I'm happy to report this blog post has been included in Circus of the Spineless #66 blog carnival, hosted at Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

silver-spotted tiger moth ~ 07/24/11 ~ at home

posted 08/11/11 - The verdict is in. I heard back from Paul Opler and Jerry Powell, authors of Moths of Western North America, and Chris Grinter of The Skeptical Moth, the CalAcademy entomologist who first suggested the caterpillars I found and raised were L. sobrina. They all agree this moth that pupated 05/01/11 and emerged 07/23/11 looks like L. argentata.

Here's what Chris had to say about it, "I had assumed it was sobrina based on location - Monterrey [sic] peninsula is the type locality of sobrina and where all of our specimens of are from. I have to dig into our rare book room with a librarian to find the original description, but I doubt it will help differentiate the two species being that it's form [sic] the late 19th century. But, if sobrina/argentata are separate then they are nearly identical moths and it might be the case that they can not be differentiated from external morphology alone (genitalia required). I am skeptical that both argentata and sobrina could both be in the same habitat on the same trees at the same time of year - just seems more likely that sobrina is not a true species! (or alternatively, argentata does NOT occur in coastal CA and all of the moths and caterpillars you have seen are sobrina)."

I believe he's going to dissect specimens from CalAcademy to clarify whether there are indeed two distinct species. Here's where collecting does have its uses. However, I released this female moth the day after these pictures were taken. I should have saved her for Chris to compare for his dissections. Sigh, I already felt badly for not releasing her the previous day when she emerged, because she beat herself up trying to escape overnight and there were scales everywhere. The curl at the end of her wings was from her resting at the bottom of the container when she hardened. All in all, she wouldn't have made the best specimen, although I don't know how intact pinned insects are after removing the genitalia.

Oh! The cocoon seen in the first picture is from another moth that began pupation 06/25/11. It still has not emerged. I'll have to go back and correct my caterpillar IDs. I'm adding a new label specifically for this moth; to see my rearing exploits, check out lophocampa.

Friday, July 22, 2011

dodder and pickleweed ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

salt marsh dodder on pickleweed

The orange stringy stuff is dodder, and the cactus-looking plant is pickleweed. When I first saw dodder at Elkhorn Slough, I thought someone's brightly-colored, tangled, plastic fishing line had washed in from the last high tide. It took seeing dodder at Pinnacles, too far away from any fishing, for me to figure out it is a plant, parasitic and alive.

blooming salt marsh dodder
Cuscuta salina 
Convolvulaceae (formerly Cuscutaceae)

So, imagine my further surprise to find dodder blooming... not just tiny little blooms, but relatively good-sized white blooms, way bigger than the thin orange stems supporting them. As of 1998, it has been moved to the morning glory family. Wild.

blooming pickleweed
Salicornia virginica (aka Salicornia depressa, Sarcocornia pacifica)
Amaranthaceae (formerly Chenopodiaceae)

When I first saw the dodder blooms, I thought it was the pickleweed blooming. Nope. Pickleweed has barely noticeable white blooms as shown above, which apparently has allergenic pollen. It, too, has been moved to a new family.

ps 10/07/11 - I wished I had linked to the reference of where I read the pollen was allergenic. I do remember a volunteer-looking fellow had stopped as I was taking these pictures to point out the tiny flowers on the pickleweed. We had a brief quip about how that was unexpected considering the more showy dodder blooms. In any case, the main reason for this postscript is that Wanderin' Weeta states the white stuff on the pickleweed are actually salt crystals, not flowers. I haven't been able to find any information about this. Do you know?

bull and milk thistle ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

bull thistle (left) and milk thistle (right)
Cirsium vulgare (left) and Silybum marianum (right)

posted 09/28/11 - The above are easily identifiable and distinct. However, I recently realized that I often falsely assume look-alike plants do not grow right next to each other. Once I think I've made an ID, I walk by similarly looking plants believing they're all the same. I may have hastily overlooked differences in patches of Clarkia, Delphinium, early leaves of soap plant and death camas, and false Solomon's seal. In upcoming posts, I'll have additional examples of this.

cliff swallow ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

juvenile cliff swallow
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (formerly Hirundo pyrrhonota)

posted 09/26/11 - This poor little thing had fallen out of its nest. The dutiful parents were still swooping down to feed it even though people were only feet away from the entrance to the nature center building. Judging by the amount of piled poop, I wonder if it was close to being fledged. By the time we returned from our hike the juvenile cliff swallow was gone. Surely it didn't fly away on its own? We went inside to inquire what had happened. One of the volunteers is a wildlife rehabilitator and took the bird. Apparently, there were many things wrong with it, including open sores and a misshaped wing. I know bird lice are common, but that wouldn't necessarily explain the open sores. And, how would one rehab a bird with a misshaped wing? My question was shrewdly evaded by the volunteer.

I've posted pictures of cliff swallows at Elkhorn on 05/13/10 with their distinctive gourd-shaped nests. The volunteers told us that the odd wooden structures in the meadows were built specifically to lure the cliff swallows to nest there, instead of on the nature center and research buildings. It didn't work. That may explain why for a couple years I noticed strips of reflective ribbon exactly where this bird's next was.

ps - I often don't think things through before commenting on others' blog posts. I couldn't figure out why Tree in the Door's Fauna and Flora has pictures of cliff swallows in cup-shaped nests, like what barn swallows have. Duh! I should have noticed the birds were adult and that they were just starting the process of building their nests.

chicory ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

posted 09/16/11 - I'm very fond of this weed. Not only is the light lilac color my favorite, I have cherished memories of when I first saw it in Ohio. During the college years, we lived in a rather poor neighborhood of Cleveland, and this plant, ever the cheerful survivor, would spring up through the cracks in the sidewalks and in abandoned lots. I ignored the rusty hypodermic needles, brown bag wrapped empty bottles, and McD's wrappers strewn about the streets, and I would focus on the thrill of seeing my favorite color. Sonja told me how the roots have been used like coffee. That was the first time it ever hit me that wild plants could be used as food, and this is coming from a girl who grew up on a family farm. My naiveté seems silly now, but I really didn't know much about the world around me. Maybe I still don't. I think I've seen chicory occasionally here in CA, but until now I wasn't sure since it's not often that I see the same plants that live in OH as in CA, even if they're weeds. For what it's worth, chicory supposedly is native to Europe.

curly dock ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

posted 09/12/11 - I usually only notice this non-native (and other Rumex spp.) sticking out by its reddish-brown, erect, mature form. I believe I've seen it frequently in the late summer vernal pools at Fort Ord (the second picture in my post from 08/04/10 shows a good example). I was surprised to discover this is classified as Polygonaceae, the buckwheat family; although, worldwide I think the family is better known as the knotweed family. To my untrained eye, docks seem very, very different from buckwheats. Wikipedia says this originated from Europe and western Asia. Cal-IPC and UC IPM classifies this non-native as a limited invasive weed.

Sigh, I'm still trying to examine my prejudices against non-natives and will probably post more non-natives here on Nature ID. Isn't that the American way? Non-natives making a new life for themselves, surviving and succeeding in a new environment against all odds? Apologies, the media proliferation of the 10-year anniversary of 09/11 is still running through my head, and I'm wondering what it means to me to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. If anything, the seed coverings are an interesting form.

field bindweed ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

field bindweed / orchard morning glory
Convolvulus arvensis

Seriously, after this post, I think I'm going to stay away from even attempting to identify bindweeds/morning glories. Between Calystegia, Convolvulus, Ipomoea, and Polygonum/Fallopia convolvulus (black bindweed) there are at least 51 sp./ssp./var. in CA with multiple name changes. Of those there are only a handful distinctive enough for non-experts like me to ID on the spot. Based on Wikipedia, I'm guessing this is the narrow leaved Convolvulus arvensis var. linearifolius. As a comparison, see what I think is the broader leaved variety from Hopkins.

Monday, July 18, 2011

habitat ~ 07/18/11 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

Fort Ord Public Lands - InterGarrison entrance
July 18, 2011

posted 09/10/11 - Yep, I'm still backposting from this summer, filling in blank spots I skipped in order to write about more current encounters, like red abalone, before I forget the details.

My habitat posts seem to be the least popular and rarely get comments. Basically, they're a step back and look around at the place where I'm hiking. Photos seem to do more justice about the type and seasonal changes than I can possibly describe in words. I often don't have much to write about habitats, because I've yet to really look into the basics of habitats. I'm still focusing on IDs of specific plants, animals, and other.

Everyone seems to have different names for particular habitats and frequently a location has legitimate numerous descriptions. The University of California, Santa Cruz's Fort Ord Natural Reserve, a place I have not hiked and is adjacent to my Fort Ord locations, describes Fort Ord as "maritime chaparral." The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) describes Fort Ord variously as "riparian forest, perennial grasslands and vernal pools."

From the very beginning of Nature ID, I felt it was important to include the wider picture, so to speak. Because I'm limited as to what blogspot can do and my own ability to code, I rely heavily on labels and archives (masquerading as hiking/observation dates). A nifty trick is to go to the sidebar, look at the current blog entry you're looking at and click on the specific date under hiking/observation dates. Then you'll be able to see all the posts for that particular hiking excursion. For this date, I only have a Spiranthes orchid. For dates like June 10, 2011 at Pinnacles, there's much to be seen.

Blogging is merely a hobby I have enjoyed. I know if I set up my own domain or switch to WordPress I may have more flexibility in how I present information. I'm not ready to go down that path quite yet.

hooded ladies' tresses ~ 07/18/11 ~ Fort Ord

It's that time of year again - orchids! Posting this reminds me we should go look for some other orchids around town. Piperia anyone?

Often when I repeat previous identifications, I do a cursory look to make sure I have past posts correct, in this case another hooded ladies' tresses at Fort Ord on August 4, 2010. The CNPS plant list for Fort Ord shows this species as "Spiranthes porrifolia/romanzoffiana – Western/Hooded ladies' tresses", which is unusual having a slashed ID on one of their lists. Maybe they weren't sure? I cheated last year by simply going with what Native Orchids on Flickr told me.

This time I looked at Jepson for both S. porrifolia and S. romanzoffiana, but relative proportions of fused upper sepal with lateral petals sounds variable and somewhat subjective. Besides, most flower descriptions don't make much sense to me unless I compare pictures. The two best CalPhotos' for comparison purposes are these close-ups of western and hooded. I've come up with my own non-scientific metaphor on how to tell these two ladies' tresses apart: western has a long straight tongue (lower petal/lip) sticking out over wide lower lips (sepals), whereas hooded has an arrow-shaped tongue sticking out over missing lower lips.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

habitat ~ 07/14/11 ~ Garland Ranch - Garzas Creek

Garland Ranch Regional Park - Garzas Creek
July 14, 2011

posted 09/04/11 - We were surprised at how lush and green it felt along the trails leading to Garzas Creek. This is California in mid-July where "The Golden State" could just as well be describing the fields and hills of bright yellow dried grasses. Because of this, July and August are not my favorite times of the year; I have very few hiking posts the past few years for these months. While we didn't get down to the redwood trail, I want to show there are redwoods at Garland Ranch. I have only hiked here a couple of times, compared to the main Garland Ranch entrance at Carmel River. I think I may have to visit Garzas Creek more often.

false turkey tail ~ 07/14/11 ~ Garland Ranch

I thought I'd try my hand at ID'ing these older mushrooms. Ha! The other possibility is turkey tail (Trametes versicolor). Even in fresh specimens, it can be very difficult to distinguish between the two unless you look closely at the underside and look for pores. False turkey tails lack pores, and turkey tails have pores. I'm leaning towards a S. hirsutum ID based on the dead oak it's growing on and the obviously hairy surface. T. versicolor cap is described as finely fuzzy or velvety, which I'm not sure how to tell the difference. I may have to revisit this ID in the future when I get more comfortable with mushroom ID.

Chinese houses ~ 07/14/11 ~ Garland Ranch

Chinese houses
Collinsia heterophylla
Plantaginaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

I usually think of Chinese houses as a spring bloomer. I was surprised to see this in mid-July. The older reddish leaves look like they're on their last legs, but there are new shoots and blooms (ooh, 3 uses of th'air). It has been such an unusual weather year with rain as late as June, so I suspect the flowers are a bit confused.

thimbleberry ~ 07/14/11 ~ Garland Ranch

thimbleberry / salmonberry
Rubus parviflorus

This was growing right next to Garzas Creek. Simply wanting to show off the leaves. Will have another post with flowers and fruit coming soon.

buckwheat ~ 07/14/11 ~ Garland Ranch

Eriogonum sp.

I've resigned myself to the fact that some buckwheats are simply too difficult for me to ID to sp., let alone ssp. I'm guessing there are two different Eriogonum spp. in this post. Instead of pulling my hair out and spending way too much time on a single blog entry, I'm perfectly okay to post these buckwheats without a positive ID. I'll need to remember to try to take pictures of the leaves, which can often be a challenging task when they're growing in a tangle among other plants. The sunny yellow flowers shown above are common madia.

Eriogonum sp.

The yellow blooms above are, I believe, deerweed. I'm starting to suspect that other plants found growing right next to an unknown can help ID the unknown. I often use the Monterey Bay Chapter of the CNPS local plant lists to help me narrow down from hundreds of species (at least 268 Eriogonum sp./ssp. in CA alone) to just a handful. Although, I know based on my own findings and flowers listed in Wildflowers of Garland Ranch - a field guide by Michael Mitchell and Rod M. Yeager that the CNPS list is not nearly complete. For my future reference, here's a combined list of what has been documented at Garland Ranch from CNPS and the book (* denotes my guesses for the above):

(CalPhotos) --- (Calflora) --- (Jepson Interchange - older version)
elegant buckwheat --- E. elegans --- uncommon, sand or gravel
* long-stemmed buckwheat --- E. elongatum var. elongatum --- common, dry places
* coastal California buckwheat --- E. fasciculatum var. fasciculatum --- coastal scrub, often on bluffs
St. Catherine's lace --- E. giganteum --- uncommon, dry slopes, ridges
slender woolly buckwheat --- E. gracile var. gracile --- sand
* naked buckwheat --- E. nudum var. auriculatum (book) --- common, rocks or gravel
hairy flowered buckwheat --- E. nudum var. pubiflorum (CNPS) --- common, dry flats, slopes
seacliff (dune) buckwheat --- E. parvifolium --- dunes, seabluffs

ps 09/13/14 - Both the CNPS list and the Wildflowers of Garland Ranch were updated shortly after I originally wrote this post.  I've made minor var. corrections above for coastal CA buckwheat and slender woolly buckwheat.  I'm not making any guesses as to spp. from these photos, because I've since learned to take better pictures of the leaves, which for me is extraordinarily helpful.

For my own record keeping purposes, Podere di Farfalla is in the general area as Garland Ranch, and its plant list is as follows:
elegant buckwheat --- E. elegans
long-stemmed buckwheat --- E. elongatum var. elongatum
Mojave Desert California buckwheat --- E. fasciculatum var. polifolium --- dry slopes, washes
Pinnacles buckwheat --- E. nortonii --- sand
naked buckwheat --- E. nudum var. auriculatum
seacliff buckwheat --- E. parvifolium

pss 11/19/14 - I now believe the first set of photos above are seacliff buckwheat (E. parvifolium), and the second set of photos are likely (not absolutely positive) ear-shaped wild buckwheat (E. nudum var. aruriculatum).  Newer seacliff buckwheat and naked buckwheat posts have more detail.