Thursday, March 29, 2012

floating sea snail ~ 03/29/12 ~ Coast Guard Pier

posted 05/12/12 - It's thanks to Neil's (one who has many online profiles) comment on my previous salps post that I got a lead on the ID of this marine snail. Since it's such a different animal, I've moved it to its own post. And guess what? It eats salps. It was buffet day for this fantastic purple-lipped Carinaria. I had a good time looking for information on this little known animal. Make sure to check out the embedded links above in the ID for informative sites. Very cool. Thanks, Neil!

salps ~ 03/29/12 ~ Coast Guard Pier

Salpa spp.
Family Salpidae

posted 05/07/12 - The strangest creatures get washed into the area between the Monterey Coast Guard Pier/breakwater and the boating gas station near the Monterey Bay Boatworks. I was told by one of the guys on a large fishing vessel that these were jellyfish eggs. I don't know. There seemed to be 3 different types all at least 2-7" in length: round-oblong with reddish-orange circles, chains of smaller ones with the same reddish-orange circles, and a long fin-like creature with purple lips. All seemed to have moving parts that acted like mouths. Like many jellies that get caught in this area, they were only here for one day, maybe in conjunction with the tide. Can you ID?

ps 05/09/12 - Thanks to the generous comments below, I was able to place a general ID on what I originally posted as unknown jelly-like animals. As I looked up information, I added additional photos to show the variety I found. Plus, I'm moving the purple-lipped Carinaria sp. to its own new post. Most online pictures and information were done by scuba divers, so it's possible that salps are unusual to find close to the surface and near the shore, even though they're reportedly quite common in the ocean. There were so many that it wasn't too difficult to take pictures. The hardest part was trying to reduce the glare over the water, so I laid flat on my belly leaning over the docks to snap pictures in the shadows. My best guess is that all the ones shown here belong to the family Salpidae, which is a type of tunicate. To be honest, I don't remember ever hearing of these animals before.

As you can see, not all of them are pointy on both ends, so I do not believe all of them are Salpa fusiformis. There were also one-ended points, chains (clones which become sequential hermaphrodites), round with fringed edges, and large tubulars with wide openings on both ends. Notice each has a small compact round, reddish-orange gut, which apparently helps distinguish Salpa from several other Salpidae, such as Helicosalpa virgula? I had difficulty finding specific information, so I wonder if some of these might be Iasis spp. or Weelia spp. My favorite site for these animals is Dave Wrobel's The JelliesZone. And, yes, salps are chordates, so they're more closely related to us than to jellyfish. Wild! As of 2 weeks ago, salps made the news because there were such massive numbers that they clogged an intake screen at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which is a couple hundred miles southeast of Monterey near MontaƱa de Oro.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

habitat ~ 03/18/12 ~ Frog Pond Wetland Preserve

March 18, 2012

The Frog Pond is a lovely quick jaunt outdoors that feels miles away from the trappings of town, even though this 17-acre natural spot sits in the middle of houses on three sides and a busy Hwy 218. One of the benefits of all those houses is that several have bird feeders in their backyards that abut the Preserve, which creates an amazing bird cacophony that drowns out the rumble of traffic. While I didn't find any dragons or damsels (Odonata) out yet, there were numerous tree swallows flying acrobatically over the pond. We also saw several coots and a few rusty-colored unidentified ducks, possibly cinnamon teals. Andy once spotted a bobcat here, so we always keep our eyes out for them, too. To see the Frog Pond through the seasons, check out my Frog Pond habitat label and scroll down.

As an aside, when I was checking to make sure the swallows we saw with bright white bellies and iridescent blue backs (the two white blurs over the pond in the second picture above) were indeed tree swallows and not barn swallows, I found this incredibly moving series of pictures from Taiwan. It's difficult not to anthropomorphize grief.

phellinus ~ 03/18/12 ~ Frog Pond

a polyphore fungus
Phellinus sp.

If I had to make a guess as to species, I'd say either Phellinus igniarius (click for information and photos here and here), which is often found on willow as I believe is shown above, or Phellinus pomaceus. As I was trying to locate a common name for these fungi, I discovered P. igniarius is sometimes called false tinder polyphore. Of course, I had to look up this unusual name. Come to find out there are true tinder fungus and false tinder fungus of various spp., which were primitively used for creating, keeping, and transporting fire. No kidding! Two sites I found with interesting, albeit somewhat contradictory, information about this tinder ability are Tinder Fungi of Illinois and Wildwood Survival.

Pacific willow ~ 03/18/12 ~ Frog Pond

Pacific willow
Salix lasiandra (aka Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra)

This is a large shrubby plant with some surrounding shrubs already with leaves out. This section of willows was found on the opposite side of the pond from the observation deck. I'm waiting to hear back from a CNPS member to double-check the accuracy of this ID. Our local Monterey Bay Chapter recently updated their published lists, and I think there may have been a mistake in the name changes that have occurred with Salix. I'll update once I know more.

ps 03/23/12 - I was in such a rush to post as we headed out camping that I didn't take as much time as I would have liked to look for a proper ID. As a quick cheat, I referenced an older saved CNPS Frog Pond Wetland Preserve Checklist and then compared it with the new 2012 version. In addition to arroyo willow (S. lasiolepis), the older version states yellow willow (Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra), the name of which has since been changed to S. lasiandra var. lasiandra. The newest checklist states yellow willow (S. lasiandra var. caudata), which according to both Calflora and Jepson is only found in the eastern part of CA nowhere near Monterey County or any of the surrounding counties. To complicate matters, the name yellow willow is commonly given to S. lutea. Additional native willows found in the local Monterey area are narrowleaf willow (S. exigua), red willow (S. laevigata), Scouler's willow (S. scouleriana), and Sitka willow (S. sitchensis). Confused, yet? Me, too.

After looking at numerous CalPhotos (linked from the pictures on the Calflora embedded links above), I'm starting to think this might be the ubiquitous arroyo willow, even though the stems didn't have the yellowish to reddish color I usually associate with arroyo willows. I want to do another visit to the Frog Pond in a few weeks to check the changes in the catkins and leaves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

habitat ~ 03/11/12 ~ Pogonip

March 11, 2012

I love the name Pogonip. I recall a childhood memory of laughing with my aunt as she jumped on a pogo stick, so it's a fond word association. In Shoshone it means "ice fog" or "cloud". Apparently, the word is unique enough that the City of Santa Cruz has no need to add "City Park" or other clarification to the official name of this open space.

This is the first time Andy and I have purposely hiked here. We were up in the area anyways to set up one of our extra computers for a friend's 4 kids to use for homework - hey, it's better than letting it collect dust in the garage or dumping it at the e-recycling. Once, the same friend and I utilized an entrance point to get to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum while Andy ran trails over to Wilder Ranch and back. Another time, I briefly hiked parts of the southern trails from Harvey West Park. And, it's been so long since we've been to the adjacent Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park that I'm not sure if we even have pictures from our excursions.

Besides being tucked among other places we've visited, Pogonip really impressed us with its eclectic mix of trees for such a small, non-manicured city park. In addition to redwoods and a variety of oaks, there are surprises like huge cottonwoods, douglas-firs, madrones, eucalyptus, and palm trees (yes, palm trees in the middle of the woods!). Before the City of Santa Cruz acquired the land, it had been used as an exclusive social club, WWII rehab center, women's polo fields, golf course, and, of course, redwood logging. The clubhouse, the pool, and surrounding area are in total disrepair. It's sad to see natural areas and historical places used, abused, and neglected.

I have to say I'm glad I didn't look into Pogonip before going. We found a couple signs that said parts were closed due to "public nuisance", which I have since learned is because of the prolific drug trade on this land. I also found out there's a mountain lion that's been reported several times in the past few months at Pogonip. Truth be told, I'm more afraid of the mountain lion than anyone cracked up on heroin. After my visit to Pogonip, I'm left pondering how nature gradually heals itself compared to us humans with all our junk and wacky ways.

oak ~ 03/11/12 ~ Pogonip

unidentified oak
Quercus sp.

I need help (heh, probably in more ways than one) for this ID. Unfortunately, since this is a city park in Santa Cruz and it's beyond the range of my usual double-check option of our local CNPS Montery Chapter plant lists, I resorted to Calflora's What Grows Here. There are three species recorded for this area: coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), Santa Cruz island oak/Shreve oak (Quercus parvula), and interior live oak (Quercus wislizeni). We have a coast live oak tree at the end of our driveway, and I feel I'm now very familiar with this tree; it has new fresh green spring growth but nothing like the pretty pink flower-like sprouts as shown above. If anyone can help ID this oak tree for me, I'd be very appreciative.

Pacific trillium ~ 03/11/12 ~ Pogonip

Pacific trillium / western wake-robin
Trillium ovatum
Melanthiaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

It seems that I've seen quite a number of trilliums highlighted in blog posts recently. Here in CA, common ones are Pacific trilliums and giant trilliums, as shown on John Wall's and Way Points. The rare snow trillium has made a show in Indiana and Ohio, as pictured on Get Your Botany On! and ohio birds and biodiversity. I find it interesting that patterns like this become apparent while perusing blogs, just like the past few months I've seen more snowy owl posts than ever before. Has this unusual winter played a role in these sightings, or is it mere coincidence?

From our own experience at Pogonip, we were delighted to find so many Pacific trilliums and two lone giant trilliums. I wish I had a better picture to show how prolific the Pacific trilliums were under the redwoods. In one section of the trail, they spread out as far as the eye could see. As I was looking up information on the Pacific trillium, I discovered from Jepson that the flowers start out white and age to pink. I've heard other flowers change colors once they're pollinated. Nature continually amazes me. For a well-researched blog post, check out Curbstone Valley Farm.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

habitat ~ 03/04/12 ~ SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

SFB Morse Botanical Reserve
March 4, 2012

Pardon if some of this information sounds familiar, but I'm stealing partial descriptions from an earlier post on the federally threatened Gowen cypress...

I've hiked this part of exclusive Pebble Beach more often than I've featured on Nature ID. It's too bad, because this is apparently quite a place of botanical interest due to the numerous rare plants found along this ravine. It doesn't look like the usual muddy water path since it's so dry right now.

After almost 3 years of creating this blog, I'm still amazed how new information is continually presented on the internet and how those tidbits filter through to my brain differently each time I look up IDs. Considering I'm mostly self-taught based on my handful of field guides and park pamphlets (er, now huge piles of books and papers on top of a cabinet next to my home computer), and what I can quickly find on the internet, I casually meander through reported information, not too dissimilar to how I prefer to hike without a map.

So, I was very surprised to find an online PDF about how SFB Morse Botanical Reserve was created to protect the "endangered" Gowen cypress. First of all, I've called this spot Del Monte Forest for the sake of Nature ID, and I wasn't even aware this is a special botanical reserve. Andy and I have called it "poetry rock" for the longest time. From the PDF, I discovered there's another native species of cypress around here, just as I had no idea that there's another pine in addition to the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) - the Bishop pine (Pinus muricata). Who knew? Both Monterey cypress and Monterey pine are, obviously given their common names, very unique to the local area, each with only 2-4 very specific locations of reported native populations in the world.

I may have to rethink my location labels. For a comparison of a similar photograph nearby under more typical weather conditions, check out my photo from Huckleberry Hill.

CA huckleberry ~ 03/04/12 ~ SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

California huckleberry
Vaccinium ovatum

I almost gave up on being able to ID this plant and was about to post it as a can you ID? It really had me stumped. Based on the bell-shaped flowers, I figured it must belong to the heath family. The leaves are serrated and shiny, so I didn't think it could be a manzanita. Then I looked at all 176 records in Calflora for Ericaceae. Just my luck, its scientific name starts with a 'v'. Sigh. When we were hiking Huckleberry Hill that last 2 years, I never did get around to looking up what a huckleberry plant actually looks like. Well, now I know.

acacias ~ 03/04/12 ~ SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

prickly Moses / star acacia
Acacia verticillata

prickly Moses (left shrub) and golden wattle (right tree)

everblooming acacia
Acacia retinodes

Wow, I didn't know there was such a variety of acacias. Usually when I see the prolific bright yellow blooms, I'm speeding down a highway, like Hwy 1 from Watsonville to Santa Cruz and Hwy 68 from Monterey to Salinas. During this hike, I noticed the leaves and blooms were very different shapes, so I took pictures. All these trees and shrubs featured here are native to Australia.

When I saw my doctor last month for a check-up, he blamed the acacia trees for my runny nose. I'm not sure that's entirely correct, since right along the coast where we spend most of our time, there are no acacias that we've seen. The nearest one is at the Pacific Grove Golf Course a mile away. I'm guessing my and Andy's late January to early March allergies are due to the Monterey pine.

Gowen cypress ~ 03/04/12 ~ SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

yellow male pollen cones with brown female seed cones

female seed cones

Gowen cypress
Hesperocyparis goveniana (formerly Cupressus goveniana ssp. goveniana)
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory

When I first took pictures of these short-statured trees I thought, "Oh good, I can finally get close-up shots of a Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) for my blog, since they're usually too tall or perched on a cliff to take decent detailed pictures." Wrong? Maybe, maybe not? Gowen cypress is my best guess based on the CNPS plant list for SFB Morse Botanical Reserve, which does not include Monterey cypress. However, the female seed cones seemed bigger than described in Jepson compared to the larger Monterey cypress seed cones, but I'm aware visual perception can often be deceptive. I really should carry a ruler with me when I go hiking, since memory and photographs are proving to not be enough to distinguish species. I checked our neighbors' cypress trees, and there's quite a bit of variation outside of the reported dimensions. I guess theirs could be garden hybrids though. Erg. Come to find out the Gowen cypress is a federally threatened species. For more information about cypresses, check out Wayne's Word and Point Lobos Association.

pink flowering currant ~ 03/04/12 ~ SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

pink flowering currant
Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum

I'm fairly sure of this ID, because the leaves were not very hairy compared to the other possibility of chaparral current (Ribes malvaceum), which is also on the CNPS plant list and reported on Calflora for this location. If anyone can provide helpful hints on how best to distinguish between these two species, I'd greatly appreciate it.

ps 03/14/12 - I have the feeling that other bloggers gain something from my ramblings... of course, it could simply be the matter of timing. For another pink flowering currant blog feature, check out Town Mouse and Country Mouse.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

habitat ~ 03/03/12 ~ Jacks Peak County Park

Jacks Peak County Park
March 3, 2012

Sometimes I feel a bit ho-hum blogging about places that I often hike. I've already blogged about this rare native closed-cone Monterey pine forest, how Andy regularly runs to this highest peak of the Monterey Peninsula from home, and the incredible views one can have from this big hill. Given the nature of the Monterey pine forest, I haven't noticed too much change through the seasons or the years, and yet it still takes my breath away. With the very warm 83.1°F this day, the scent of the native pines was soothing and amazing. For one little tidbit of new info, Jacks Peak is named after the same man who sold the first Monterey Jack cheese.

what do other blogspot bloggers do?

Fremont's star-lily / death camas
Toxicoscordion fremontii (formerly Zigadenus fremontii)
Melanthiaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

While I was examining a couple shoots, a lady stopped to chat with me. She had a well-behaved dog who sat there panting patiently while we talked. Shocking, right? The dog didn't jump all over me or knock me over into the dirt, it didn't bark and growl at me, it didn't stick its slobbery nose up where it didn't belong, and it didn't rub me all over with poison oak. OK, I've previously maligned dog owners on trails, so, to be fair, I need to point out that I also meet many dogs and their owners who are quite respectable.

This lady is a local who regularly walks the trails at Jacks Peak. She remarked how all the star-lily blooms were very early this year because of the mild winter we've had. Yes, it has been an unusually mild winter here in CA, but I disagreed with her observation of early blooms (this is not to say early blooms haven't happened elsewhere). I told her I believed it was, in fact, the right time for star-lilies to be blooming. She was highly skeptical. Too bad I didn't have access to my blog, because I have photographic records of these plants blooming 3 weeks earlier in the season on February 11, 2011 here at Jacks Peak. I also have records of them blooming at Wilder Ranch on March 7, 2010 and Fort Ord on March 14, 2009. To me it's not surprising to see them blooming right now. Of course, they could continue to bloom for a while.

Part of why I started Nature ID and am so persnickety about backdating picture IDs to the date of my photos is to record when things occur. I already knew my memory is fickle. Had I not been keeping track of bloom dates like the Fremont's star-lily, I would have come to the same conclusion as the lady with her dog. However, I've slowed down in posting repeat IDs unless the date or some other observation is unusual. The reason for this is I've reached 66% of my blogspot storage capacity, and I'm starting to wonder what I'll do once I reach max capacity. I'd like to continue my blog for a while, because I know I have many more new IDs yet to make. One can purchase additional storage, but I'm not sure I want to go down that road.

What do other blogspot bloggers do when they reach maximum free photo space?

In addition, google made major changes throughout February 2012 with the way people can comment on blogspot. In response, I've been testing out the different comment features, which will be ongoing. I removed the CAPTCHA, because the word verification test to make sure you're not a robot became extraordinarily difficult to decipher. I'll admit that I sometimes skip commenting on someone else's blogspot if the CAPTCHA is too murky. For a couple weeks I was inundated with anonymous spam once I turned off word verification, but now for some reason those kinds of comments have ceased. Then, I also switched from my favorite of pop-up window to embedded comments. Embedded comments are now the only way they can be subscribed, but only if you have a gmail account (see lower right below the comment box). I haven't taken advantage of the new reply to comment feature available in the embedded comments options, since I don't want to inundate those who subscribe with extra emails. In my search for fixes to google's changes, I found a quote I liked, "You're not a customer of google; you're their product."

What do other blogspot bloggers do to fix their comment features?

ps 03/19/12 - Looks like google blogspot bloggers are not the only ones having issues; WordPress has also apparently changed its comment settings. Very odd.

black sage ~ 03/03/12 ~ Jacks Peak

Ever since my Doh! moment of finding junipers on Juniper Canyon Trail at Pinnacles, I realized I could pay better attention to the names of trails and why they might be named that. So, when I headed down Sage Trail, I kept my eye out for sages. This is a new ID for Nature ID. Black sage is found at all my favorite hiking haunts, but I have never bothered to take note of it before. Two sites that have great information about sages in CA, are Las Pilitas Nursery (I especially like the section titled "Other stinky things that are also called sages but are not.") and Wayne's Word (He starts off with a cursory review of sages around the world and ends up in CA.).

Does anyone know if black sage leaves can be used in cooking? One of my favorite sauces to make is crispy sage with browned butter. I grow garden sage in the windowsill just for this purpose.

habitat ~ 03/03/12 ~ Monterey City

garden flax
Linum grandiflorum

(ID thanks to Neil of microecos and Oryctology)

This is going to be an unusual post for Nature ID. The numerous photos and unidentified garden flowers are not what I prefer for my blog. However, I want to show why I love living here in Pacific Grove, an easily walkable 2 miles to downtown Monterey along the Monterey Bay Rec Trail. I thoroughly enjoy the beautiful historical Secret Gardens in Monterey. It was gloriously warm weather this first weekend of March (70-80°F/22-27°C) from downtown Monterey, to Jacks Peak, to Del Monte Forest (posts forthcoming). If you can help me ID some of the blooms, I'd greatly appreciate it!

grape hyacinth
Muscari sp.
(Darn crappy photos from the point-and-shoot!)

Hyacinthus sp.
(Sadly, it took me until 03/09/12 farmers' market to recall that this is a white version of the dark blue/purple version that looks like a solid column of flowers. The Greek mythology of Hyacinthus and Apollo is tragic.)

Larkin House gardens

This is the epitome of what I consider a secret garden, like that book by Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett. There seems to be blooms here of some sort all year-round.

Technically these are not part of the State Park historical secret gardens, but they're part of Monterey City's Colton Hall historical landmark, which is just across the street from the Larkin House. The flowers in the garden are showy, but I don't know if they're native plantings or not.

Norfolk island pine
Araucaria heterophylla

Euphorbia martinii
(ID thanks to Megan of Far Out Flora)

Monterey Institute of International Studies
Our Green Thumb Project

I've somehow watched the progress of this abandoned lot that was filled with weeds several years ago to being turned into something very useful and valuable for the students. I love it. Andy particularly liked trying out their two swings in the back of the lot near the compost bins.