Saturday, October 29, 2011

habitat ~ 10/29/11 ~ Hopkins Marine Station

Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station
October 29, 2011

This past Saturday, they held a rare Open House. Andy heard they do this about once every 5 years. It was a treat to go behind the scenes.

Up until now, the only Hopkins Marine Station location posts on Nature ID have been done outside the fence, essentially from the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail. Being neighbors to the very popular Monterey Bay Aquarium and all the tourists, they're extra diligent keeping people out with fences and coded gates. I know, because I was kicked out during one of my morning walks. Hey, the gate was open one day, and I was curious to see the views.

I haven't yet decided if I'll blog about the different labs I visited, including Andy's running friend whom I've only heard "works at Hopkins." Little did I know he seems to have written half the books in their library. After meeting various people at the Open House stations, I was very impressed with the squid researcher. He took my questions seriously and looked me in the eye when he spoke. Plus, his grad student seemed to be well-versed in his topic and knew when to defer to his PI. I was a bit disappointed to not meet Dr. Watanabe whose SeaNet site I frequently link to in many of my marine ID posts.

It's too bad I get extremely sea sick, otherwise I might consider marine biology as a postgraduate option. Having grown up in CA, Stanford and UC Berkeley were the only two colleges I wanted to attend because of their reputations and prestige. It's interesting for me to see now how it's not so much the university, but each advisor's personality that makes a difference.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

about navigating within Nature ID

view from home of the Monterey Bay
October 23, 2011

I just finished revamping my labels and categorizing them... again. This will likely become an annual blog maintenance duty. As I post new IDs, I invariably end up with new categories.

At the bottom of every post, there's a series of highlighted labels near the share buttons and comment section. These link you to only Nature ID blog posts (unlike WordPress blogs) with the same label.

I've again added the grouped label lists in the sidebar. I have 4 basic groups:
~ shortcut
~ what
~ when (includes seasons, current weather, and hiking/observations dates)
~ where.

A nifty trick of hiking/observation dates (aka archives), is you can click on a year, a month, or a specific date to see all the posts for that time period. I publish entries in a specific order, with individual IDs first and then usually a step-back, look-around habitat post. I've found clicking on specific dates to be very helpful, e.g., Pinnacles on June 10, 2011, where the habitat is shown at the top of the page and specific IDs follow. Scroll down to see all the posts.

I prefer having grouped lists, because I often find it difficult to locate past posts for my own nature journal needs. I've included search widgets at the very top left of the blog and towards the bottom of the sidebar. They don't always effectively locate items. Until I figure out the coding to automatically update the grouped indices, they will often not be complete or have nonworking links. If you want to see the most updated list, check out my complete index to Nature ID page.

As I've said before repeatedly, Nature ID does not follow the usual blog format like a daily diary. I generally post to the date of the pictures, regardless of when I happen to be online to work on this blog. I'm still behind on backdating posts and haven't even completed July of this year. Until I get caught up (haha, nature keeps going even though I have other plans), there will be an occasional feature at the top of my blog titled "newest blog entry" that will link you to new posts that are backdated.

Also, I'm testing to see how LinkWithin works with thumbnail pictures shown towards the bottom of every post. I haven't decided yet whether it's a good thing for my blog or extraneous visual stuff.

Check it out. Thanks for following my blog.

ps - The coast Douglas-fir tree that I'm featuring in The Tree Year project can be seen with its brown cones in the lower left of the photo above. Dreamfalcon has kindly included me in her latest post.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

food markets across cultures

Rome, Italy

Chennai, India
Blog Action Day 2011 Food

links updated 02/18/16 - I remembered a bit late that it is Blog Action Day today. As I looked through my pictures for ideas, I have plenty of photos of friends and special gatherings that included food... but none of our local markets. I figured the above travel photos made a great contrast next to each other. Fruits and veggies and seafood are common themes. However, I did not have a comparable photo from Chennai for cured meats like in Rome. Go figure. I'll let the folks who read this make their own conclusions about each photo.

Travel shopping aside, we live within reasonable walking distance to 3 grocery stores, 2 farmers' markets, and a couple convenience or ethnic markets. And, yet more often than not, like today, we chose to drive to the supermarket up the hill. Why? Because it's the cheapest. We spent $82.99 for a week's worth of groceries, much of it boxed or somehow wrapped in plastic. I'm a little embarrassed on several levels about this.

While Andy and I have gradually cut out many commercially canned, jarred, or frozen food items from our diets (not on principle, more for taste), I'll admit that I rarely buy organic. Quite frankly, I don't trust the label "organic" and feel it's a successful marketing ploy to charge twice the price, e.g., organic milk anyone? Plus, given my research background, I know organic does not necessarily mean pesticide-free. Doesn't anyone else miss the butterflies? We almost always take our own canvas bags and reuse those plastic produce bags until they're too torn to use. I tried my hand at growing my own tomatoes this year, and I ended up unintentionally raising more aphids per pound than tomatoes. Maybe someday, we'll have the opportunity to grow our own food, not counting culinary window herbs. It seems unnatural that it's practically an American luxury to have homegrown, unadulterated food.

When all is said and done, I feel incredibly blessed that I can afford to buy food... the energy for life. As a continuing theme from my last Blog Action Day post, my sister and I were "found" abandoned in a food market.  My mother told me she was coming back.  She never did.  At least she had the sense to leave us where there was food and help.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CA sea-lavender ~ 10/13/11 ~ Morro Bay

posted 11/04/11 - Too bad these flowers are past their prime. I've been wanting to get pictures of our native sea-lavender ever since our last visit to Morro Bay on October 31, 2010 when I spotted the purple flowers but failed to photograph them. Interesting to note, even though we visited a couple weeks earlier compared to last year, the purple flowers had already dried up. I like seeing how plants bloom at slightly different times every year.

This is the only native Limonium found in CA, and one of only 3 species native to North America, with the other two being L. carolinianum and L. limbatum. Thanks to the Morro Bay National Estuary Program site, I learned that the non-native Algerian sea-lavender (L. ramosissimum) has recently been found in Morro Bay. Most folks around the world likely know Limonium spp. as statice.

ps - Lavender is spelled with an -er, not -ar, of which the above named plants are not actually related.

CA horn snail ~ 10/13/11 ~ Morro Bay

posted 11/03/11 - I wanted to revisit this ID with fresh pictures and conduct another online ID search. What I noticed this visit was that all the snails on the path were dead with their openings facing down in the mud. I thought this was peculiar and probably not random. For the second picture above, I turned one over and cleaned the opening to show the shape of aperture. I reached into the green gunk to take a closer look at an actual live snail. The one I'm holding is about medium sized compared to the larger empty shells.

Walla Walla University still has the best somewhat-local ID comparative description I've found under Batillaria attramentaria (one of two Japanese false cerith snails, with the other being Batillaria zonalis, if indeed it is a distinct species). Plus, this time around I noticed Conchology, Inc. has at least two errors on their Potamididae family page; Batillaria spp. belong to the Batillariidae family page. So, this got me thinking about looking at other similar looking marine snails. WoRMS is great for listing the names of other Cerithioidea families. I looked through the Natural History Museum Rotterdam's site and came up with the following families that have similar looking shells: Batillariidae, Cerithiidae, Dialidae, Potamididae, Scaliolidae, Thiaridae, and Turritellidae. I checked the EOL for the locations of some of the snails, but none are recorded anywhere near central California's coast, except C. californica and B. attramentaria. Nature's variations amaze me.

I don't often post so many pictures for a single ID, but this was a personal quest after my minor hubbub around a permissions request and withdrawal from my first post of CA horn snails. It caused me to go into major blogging existential contemplation, which I wrote about in am I doing the right thing with this blog?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

habitat ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand State Beach

posted 10/28/11 - It was so hot and windy when we arrived in Morro Bay. It hit 92.8°F! After setting up camp, I suggested we go to the beach to cool off a bit. Morro Strand SB is a flat 3-mile beach with gentle waves. It's great for bird watching, beach combing, and tide pooling (when the tide is low). It was also once known as Atascadero State Beach, the name I remember as a child when my dad would surf fish here.

Andy and I first "discovered" this lovely beach when we camped back in June of 2009. Usually we prefer to camp at Morro Bay State Park where we ended up on this trip. Hey, I like being able to scope out individual campsites and check out any potential neighbors... so I never make reservations. This can be risky finding a spot during peak summer season, hence why 2 years ago, we had the fortune to find the less-developed Morro Strand SB, which is right on the beach. It's essentially a big parking lot with fire pits and restrooms with no showers. However, you can have access to showers at Morro Bay SP. I believe Morro Strand SB is $25/night and Morro Bay SP is $35/night. If you don't make online reservations like us, the State Parks only accept cash. Morro Strand State Beach is one of many State Parks slated for closure by next summer. I'm not sure how they would keep people off this incredible beach if it were closed.

Pacific razor clam ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand Beach

posted 10/29/11 - Through my sheer laziness (or am I simply feeling a bit tired from the increased autumnal dark hours?), I almost posted this as "Oooh, pretty shells! Look at the cool tie-dye effect."

However, I'm glad I took the time to research the shell evidence of this animal. To tell you the truth, I'm not 100% positive this is a S. patula; it might possibly be S. lucida, if I trust Dr. P. Roopnarine, a curator at CalAcademy. Walla Walla University (linked in the scientific name above) has a quick key to Cultellidae (formerly Solenidae or Pharidae). Pictured above are definitely more than 5 cm in length. What we saw in abundance at Morro Strand were several inches in length. The periostracum was well-worn in various stages from the wave action, which makes the shell look like many others from around the world, like S. costata or S. radiata. What made these pictures difficult to positively ID is that I didn't turn over the shells to look at the insides, so to speak. One online page that I found to be extraordinarily helpful is Common Marine Bivalves of California, Fish Bulletin No. 90, written by John E. Fitch, and issued in 1953.

long-billed curlew ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand Beach

Again, I have better pictures of the long-billed curlew, but I want to document the time of year. Interesting to note, my previous post of curlews here at Morro Strand State Beach on June 25, 2009 seems contrary to their typical migration patterns. They're supposedly only winter visitors here on the coast, and I wouldn't exactly say late June as being winter. Actually I saw many more long-billed curlews back in June, 2 years ago, than this visit in October. The previous post is a marbled godwit, which looks similar to an amateur like me.

marbled godwit ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand Beach

I have better pictures of marbled godwits, but I want to show the time of year and a different location. I love their long, black-tipped, pink bills. They're quite entertaining to watch as they poke their bills, sometimes up to their eyeballs, into the sand looking for goodies. I wonder how they know where to poke, because they seem to be fairly successful with about 1 out of every 3-4 pokes yielding something to eat. I don't know why, but it surprised me to find out they summer in "the northern Great Plains into southern Canada" (see the South Dakota Birds and Birding link in the common name ID above). The next post is a long-billed curlew, which looks very similar.

sand dollar ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand Beach

posted 10/25/11 - There's not a lot of decent information online for sand dollars. I'm assuming most people are okay simply knowing it's a sand dollar and don't bother to look any further as to what kind of animal this is. I've included the best links I could find in the ID above. Essentially what anyone finds on a beach are dead "skeletons" of sand dollars, so to speak. I've also posted this on flickr with hopes someone out there with knowledge of this animal can ID it.

ps - This Pacific sand dollar post inspired Jeannette of Bread on the Water to write a thoughtful piece on plastics and where do they go. The ocean? Also, after looking at other sand dollars and the descriptions of those found on the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean, I think my best guess for D. excentricus is most likely correct.

black-crowned night heron ~ 10/12/11 ~ Morro Strand Beach

I see these young ones from time to time at the Monterey Coast Guard Pier, but I rarely have my camera on me in the early morning to capture them. On trips like this one to Morro Bay (about 150 miles southeast of Monterey Bay), I generally do carry our little point-and-shoot. Local Monterey photographers Greg Magee and Peter Monteforte (who over the past several years, I've run into rather regularly) have much better pictures of black-crowned night herons... well, much better pictures, period. They were the ones who first told me what this funny looking bird actually was with its bright yellow legs and dumpy body. It was at a time when I finally figured out how to recognize the adults, but the young ones confused me when I initially saw them.

ps 11/14/11 - If I didn't know any better, I'd almost say this was a winter plumage Chinese pond heron (Ardeola bacchus). Just joking.

Monday, October 10, 2011

habitat ~ 10/10/11 ~ Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Hmph! I have more IDs from this hike, but they're flummoxing me. Those will have to wait until another day. In this habitat post I want to show a typical trail, the unusual geological formations, the variety of blooms in October, the incredible coves for which Point Lobos is famous, and a map of the current closed trails. Enjoy!

ps 10/26/11 - For the only other picture of the rock circles I've found online, check out DidaK's flickr. Thanks to an informative The Rocks of Point Lobos PDF provided by the Point Lobos Foundation (linked in the location name under the photos), I now know the rock circles are weathered concretions.

coffeeberry ~ 10/10/11 ~ Point Lobos

I noticed this plant around a few times this summer at a couple places. The first time I really paid attention to it was at Elkhorn Slough back on July 22, 2011. Considering I only found it in the parking lot, I mentally classified it as a garden plant. I did not post a picture back then, because the ones I saw at Elkhorn are not what I consider native for Nature ID blog labels. As I become more aware of restoration efforts, my labels will likely become a bit mixed.

trentepohlia ~ 10/10/11 ~ Point Lobos

Good golly! I would have never guessed the orange stuff on cypress trees and rocks is a type of green algae. When I first saw it years ago in this limited area of Point Lobos, I figured it was a mold of some sort. Thanks to the handy-dandy checklist the ranger gave us (I mentioned this in my osprey post from this hike), I now have a name to the genus. When I first searched online, I misspelled Trentepohlia as "Trentepholia" with the 'o' and 'h' switched. I got lots of beautiful pictures, but very little actual information about this living thing. Sigh, gone are the days when my only labels were insects, flowers, and places. I still feel like I should take another general biology class to figure out what all those non-plant/non-animals things are.

ps 06/09/12 - I edited the name and links above to reflect better book and online information about the specific Trentepohlia found at Point Lobos.

CA sagebrush ~ 10/10/11 ~ Point Lobos

California sagebrush / old man
Artemisia californica

This was definitely the dominant plant that I noticed during our hike along the water at Point Lobos. I loved how someone from CalAcademy on CalPhotos called this plant "old man" so I had to include it in the common name above. In my second blurry photo above, I was trying to show how the flowers turn into berry-like seeds. Doesn't that seem unusual? In any case, I'm becoming more familiar with the great variety of ever-present Artemisia in our area.

coastal sagewort ~ 10/10/11 ~ Point Lobos

Sometimes it takes me really looking into something several times before I get it. It never ceases to amaze me how many different kinds of plants there are. I've already mentioned (eh-hem, I do repeat myself regularly) there are at least 41 sp./ssp. of Artemisia found in California. I like the feathery soft leaves of this particular sagewort, sagebrush, sage, wormwood... whatever you choose to call it. The flowers did surprise me.