Thursday, March 31, 2011

tree year project 2011, #5

coast Douglas-fir with pride of Madeira
Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii with Echium candicans
Pinaceae and Boraginaceae

Those first green sprouts that appeared the last week of January and first of February dried up into sadly drooping tails of brown. My only guess is that our long month and a half without the usual winter rain and sunny warm temps affected the annual growth of this tree (nope, incorrect guess, see postscript below). No worries, it looks like this old Douglas-fir is sporting a second set of green shoots after the appearance of baby cones and additional rains. For those new to Nature ID, I've committed a small part of my blog to participating in The Tree Year project.

I was really pleased to get a decent picture of the gnarly tree trunk and the purple blooms of the prolific pride of Madeira in its shadow. Actually, I had the camera out with hopes to capture what I believe is a migrant Rufous hummingbird. No luck since it's such an extremely quick flying bright red bird. It does a country line dance move with a head lean and fly to side to side that I swear the sole purpose is to taunt me into trying to take its picture.

ps 08/08/11 - I just noticed the lighter brown structures hanging down are dried pollen cones. I'm also guessing the droopy brown tails are unfertilized female cones. And the bright green are indeed new needle shoots; they look very similar to budding female cones. It always helps to take another look at these older posts.

posted 04/07/11 - More often than not I see flannel bushes in yards and on the side of the highways where they're obviously planted and could be cultivars. I don't remember ever seeing them growing out in the wild. For the purposes of this Nature ID blog, they should probably be considered garden flowers. According to the records for Monterey County, it looks like they grow in the Santa Lucia Mountains where I rarely go hiking and may not for a while considering Highway 1 collapsed around the Rocky Creek area 3 weeks ago. For those out of the area and are considering visiting Big Sur this summer, you may want to check that the highway has been fixed beforehand.

caterpillars & pupae ~ 03/31/11 ~ at home

moth caterpillars and pupae in containers

Here's my assortment of jars for raising caterpillars and letting pupae rest. No, I don't keep them on the banister all the time. It's often too windy and my friendly scrub-jay is too curious for her own good to keep them here all the time. I just placed some of the containers up there, because I thought it'd make a better photo with the Monterey Bay in the background.

I'm keeping them outside so that they develop naturally. My plan is to record when they pupate, how long it takes to emergence, ID the adults, and eventually release them so they can find mates. I'm generally not a collector anymore, except for photographs. It's been at least 5 years since I've raised anything, but my curiosity about what a couple caterpillars are got the better of me.

Since I've made a policy on Nature ID to post CA nature photos to the date of the actual photos, you'll have to wait for future posts for the close-up shots. I've already posted a close-up of what I hope is a painted tiger moth.

crab spider ~ 03/31/11 ~ Carmel Highlands

best guess female goldenrod crab spider on greater periwinkle
best guess Misumena vatia on Vinca major

Let me be clear, this spider ID is my best guess. I wish my early morning photos showed the eyes and carapace better. The more I looked into Thomisidae (aka crab spiders), the more I got confused with the genera of interest - Mecaphesa (too hairy), Misumena (only vatia is well-pictured online), Misumenoides (eh?), Misumenops (most nearctic spp. now placed in Mecaphesa). I felt like Bill the Cat Ack!

Despite being considerably south from where I live, I have really liked UC Irvine's Natural History of Orange County for their pictorial representations, but I have some doubts their spider IDs are entirely correct. I've linked to BugGuide twice in the common name and the scientific name above, and even they're not all that accurate. I'm not criticizing them, it's just the nature of the beast, so to speak. There are so many insects and spiders out there, it's a challenge for everyone. I suspect the people who really know, don't spend their time posting pictures online. I found this list of Spiders of California helpful to check what actually occurs around here.

A fellow nature blogger and I were e-mailing about how we don't want to add to the prolific online misinformation. Yet, I want to learn more. For people who find my blog through searches (apparently, google and bing are now my best "customers"), they may not be aware that this blog is my learning tool and I'm totally okay making mistakes. I've said it once and I'll say it again, I am NOT an expert. All I can guarantee are that my pictures are taken on the date of the blog post and at the location indicated in the labels.

At the end of the day, my final thought on the above pictures is, "Oooh, look at the cool white spider on the pretty purple flower."
Agulla sp.

This is the fourth snakefly I've noticed around home in the past week. Last year I was surprised at how many snakeflies I found, when previously I'd maybe spot one or two a year. Now, I'm guessing they're fairly common from March to May. When I started Nature ID, I'd never have predicted that blogging would help me become more observant of what's around me. Plus, I'm a little more patient these days while taking photographs.