Saturday, September 29, 2012

habitat ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek

 Rocky Creek

posted 10/10/12 - It's been 3 years and 2 months since a core group of 7 of us camped down here together on private property that has been owned by the same families for almost a century.  We did not stay at the cabin.  We also had 3 dogs, a son and girlfriend, and 3 other visitors from last time. There were 3 additional campers, 6 new visitors, and 4 additional dogs who also joined us.  Phew! What I'll remember most from this excursion are the collective stories of our lives, all that has changed and all that has remained the same.  This passage of time has been bittersweet.

One of our cocktail hour visitors mentioned a celebrity wedding.  I assumed he was talking about another famous wedding that happened in Big Sur this past summer.  It wasn't until I got home that I found out another starlet had gotten married this day, and long lens photos were plastered all over the internet.  It's such a close-knit community down in Big Sur that I just can't imagine a native would sell out.  They guard and respect privacy.  I suspect the wedding planners for both weddings leaked the information and photos.  However, I'm glad to see Big Sur is getting booked after last year's economically devastating period with several road closures.

Blogger bigsurkate has been posting updates on the Rocky Creek hard closures that I believe will be starting this coming Sunday night and going through next year.  The traffic backup for the existing one lane can be seen in the last photo above.  It's something to keep in mind if you plan on visiting Big Sur anytime soon.

As for the habitat aspects, I couldn't get out of my mind a critical comment made by a fellow CNPS member during a trip to nearby Garrapata State Park back on June 3, 2012.  He felt the families were not doing enough to eradicate the cape ivy and jubata grass (shown in the 2nd and 3rd photos above) that is spreading down the coast.  Although, I'm not sure I entirely agree with him about extensive artificial planting of natives, either.  This practice gives a false expectation of what wild truly looks like and takes an extraordinary amount of resources to attempt to sustain.  I found Death of a Million Trees' Conciliation Biology: Revising Conservation Biology and Authenticity: A modern definition of wilderness posts to be fascinating.  I've long held the belief that us humans are arrogant if we think we can fully understand and control nature.  It's like holding a 2x4 against the tidal wave of natural processes that will continue long after we're gone, bonked on the head by that same 2x4.

fence lizard ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek

I know I have fence lizards well represented on Nature ID, but this one was just so exquisite I had to post her (I think it's a female?) picture.  Click on the image to see it enlarged.  I keep taking photos of lizards with hopes one of them will eventually be a different sp.  Unfortunately, the highly variable and numerous fence lizards seem to be the most amenable to my paparazzi-like stalking. I've seen a handful of alligator lizards around, but they're a bit more camera shy.  The only other lizard spp. I've seen around these parts somewhat infrequently is the coast horned lizard and CA whiptail.

CA poppy ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek


In all of my previous posts of CA poppies, I either talk about or show the characteristic red ring that distinguishes this poppy from other Eschscholzia spp. found in California.  The red ring is particularly noticeable once the flower has gone to seed.  I got the "red ring" terminology from Vern Yadon's collaborative Wildflowers of Monterey County.  Until researching for this post, I didn't know any other name for this distinctive flower structure.

As a backstory, I've been growing poppies at home this summer, along with baby blue eyes and a small lupine, from a wildflower seed packet handed to me by the Monterey City forestry folks at a local farmers' market. The packet mixture listed non-native wildflowers, like corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas), which did not come up.  The lupine went to seed over a month ago, which mirrors what I've seen out in the wild.  I suspected the poppies and baby blue eyes, two flowers I generally associate as spring bloomers, were only in bloom this late in the year because I was watering them.  So, I was chuffed to find these poppies blooming out in the wild down the coast.

What caught my attention about my garden "wildflower" poppies is that they have a small ring, but they're not red.  With this in mind, once I found the poppies shown here down at Rocky Creek, I proceeded to check for rings.  It was interesting because there were gradient areas where the red rings were prominent, then intergrade with partially red rings, then rings with no red.  I was actually hoping what I was growing at home and what I found with non-red rings were tufted poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa).  Nope.

I did an internet search for Eschscholzia californica with "red ring" and only came up with my own blog posts.  Jepson eFlora mentions "receptacle rim" and "spreading rim".  The USDA Plant Guide PDF talks about "torus rim" and "collar-like pedestal".  Neither mentions the color of the rim.  After some more searching, including checking all of Jepson eFlora's 12 Eschscholzia spp. and ssp. descriptions and Calflora's 17 records with its linked CalPhotos, I've come to the conclusion that only CA poppies have rings, aka rims, regardless of the color.  If anyone knows differently, I'd love to hear from you.  I did find references to a non-Jepson recognized Eschscholzia mexicana (aka Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana) having small rims, but its natural wild areas are in southeast CA to other states (as a side note, it's funny that Lee Dittmann is the photographer in my small rims AZ link, because his name was brought up in e-mail conversation with a retired Coe Park ranger regarding 30 years of erroneously reported elegant piperia that I caught).  I'm left wondering if the promulgation of wildflower seed packets has introduced a genetic mix, such that native versus non-native can no longer be separated.

Genetics is fascinating.  Red rings, non-red rings, white petals, red petals, two-toned petals, etc.  How about three petals?

At the end of the day, I revert back to my ol' classic line, "Oooh, pretty flower!"

shamrock orb weaver ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek

shamrock orb weaver

Spiders and snakes, oh my!  It's that time of year - the month of Halloween.  Spiders have been around all summer (and in most cases, all year round), but it seems the orb weavers are often noticed in the autumn when the females are huge and about ready to lay eggs.  Close to this one, we also found a very large dark grey orb weaver that I think might have been Araneus andrewsi, but I didn't get a clear picture of it.

It's unfortunate that spiders are so misunderstood and misidentified.  To accurately identify most spiders, one would need to microscopically look at the genitalia. Depending on the age, the sex, and possible other factors, different individuals of a single spider sp. can look vastly different from each other.  A look-alike spider to the one I have above is the cross orb weaver (Araneus diadematus). The difference to me is the shamrock has a more spotty look, whereas the cross orb weaver has a definite elongated flower-petal cross on the abdomen, with a prominent "petal" closest to the cephalothorax. Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm has a great new post on cross orb weavers, which are quite common garden spiders.

I'm still looking for a decent spider ID site.  Steve Lew, associated with U.C. Berkeley, had a fabulous spider site, but his research page has been abandoned.  Maybe he finished his PhD and moved on?  Speaking of U.C. Berkeley, they do have two quick reference guides for common CA big spiders and small spiders.  BugGuide (linked in the scientific names above) is okay, but you have to already have a good idea of what you have or wade through thousands of pictures to find a match.  I still use my old handy-dandy A Golden Guide Spiders and Their Kin, originally published by Western Publishing Company, Inc., to get in the ballpark of which spider I have.  I guess St. Martin's Press is now printing the books, but I haven't checked out the new books, yet.  I'm keeping my eye on as a developing and potentially great spider site. I just hope they don't go the way of and place adverts in prime content areas.  U.C. Irvine has a nice page of arachnids of Orange County, but they don't include any of the spiders I've mentioned here.  Perhaps, they're too far south?  I'm going to continue looking for additional spider links, but the first couple dozen sites I found had so many errors that I didn't want to include them.

ring-necked snake ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek

Diadophis punctatus vandenburghi (alt. vandenburgii and vandenburghii)

Like with quick birds, I often only photograph snakes after they've died.  This one was difficult to miss, because we found it belly-up with bright orange in the middle of the dirt road.  It was roughly 16 inches long.  Ants had already started meticulously carrying little bits away.  I wish I had more patience to have taken better photographs, I mean it was dead after all and wasn't going anywhere. The color differences between the two photographs above of the dirt and the orange was exactly what my camera picked up; I did not do any color correction in the computer.  I had a challenging time finding information on ring-necked snakes that wasn't overly generalized, especially with the alternate ssp. spellings.  This snake definitely does not have any black speckling typical of the Monterey ssp.  It looks more like the coral-bellied ring-neck snake (Diadophis punctatus pulchellus) found inland in the Sierra Nevadas, but according to some taxonomic notes these subspecies could be lumped together as a coastal CA lineage.

elegant piperia ~ 09/29/12 ~ Rocky Creek

It's funny how once you notice something, you start seeing it all over the place.  We weren't expecting to see any orchids this late in the year, then I found a small cluster of five of these elegant rein orchids.  On our return hike back down a 3.4 mile road, we ended up seeing them in numerous places, all on north-facing slopes.  The one dated record I could quickly find for the region, linked from Jepson eFlora, was made by Ivar Tidestrom on October 11, 1893 at Point Lobos. 1893!?!  Very cool.  I love how records are increasingly available online.

ps 10/02/12 - I stopped by Skyline Forest Drive this evening to see if any elegants were blooming. When we were on a Yadon's piperia hunt back in the summer of 2010, I checked the progress of a small area of elegants here on July 25, August 4, August 9, and August 27.  Today there was nothing, zip, nada.  The only herbaceous greenery I found were one bunch of sedges near a storm drain and pockets of heavily browsed and browning Asteraceae.  I couldn't even find evidence of any seed pods for elegant or Yadon's.  I wonder if the extremely dry year kept them from coming up.

pss 10/06/12 - I'm always amazed at the e-mail conversations I get into when I start searching for information. While looking for links to other pictures for this post, I came across an outlier on CalPhotos.  I e-mailed the photographer to query him about the accuracy of his ID.  Come to find out he's a retired ranger for Henry Coe State Park.  In his 30 years of experience there and knowing other botanists who ID'd piperias at Coe Park spanning the same amount of time, he agreed with me that the reported and photographed elegant piperia is actually Piperia elongata. I don't consider myself a botanist in any regard, so I take a breath before questioning 30 years of reported information. I do think access to online records makes double-checking IDs that much easier.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

habitat ~ 09/23/12 ~ Toro County Park

Well, I finally did it.  I hiked at Toro County Park.  This would not have been my preferred time of year to visit this park for the first time, but once again I was a tagalong while Andy volunteered and ran the half marathon organized by Inside Trail Racing.  Everything was extremely dry. Even the poison-oak, monkeyflower, chamise, coyote brush, and black sage could not feign green, let alone in some cases having leaves at all.  My hike reflected the melancholy mood I've had the past few months.  I was so absorbed in thoughts and a desire to turn around to go get some breakfast (we rushed out the door by 6:30am so Andy could help set-up) that I barely noticed I had walked up 1600 feet. The elevation at the park is deceptive.  Before I knew it I was looking down on a marine layer over the Monterey Bay and through the Salinas Valley, Corral de Tierra, and Fort Ord.  I've posted pictures of Toro Park from a distance in various habitat posts for Fort Ord, which is situated right across Hwy. 68.  The middle vertical picture above of runners is from a trail that can be seen from a considerable distance, like in the last photo of this May 11, 2012 post.  I would like to return to Toro Park when its bright spring green like it was on March 14, 2009. Hopefully, in the coming days I'll backpost specific IDs of things I did notice.

crappy photos no more?

blue-eyed darner

posted 10/09/12 - Here on Nature ID, I've joked about my crappy photos.  It's okay.  I'm good with it.  I'm practically proud, even.  While I sometimes get slightly green around the edges with envy over other bloggers' fantastic photographs taken with great skill and fancy equipment, the fact of the matter is I have little desire to grow in that direction myself.

Our trusty 8-year-old Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 point-and-shoot has served us well.  It's lightweight, fits in my front shirt pocket or Andy's running belt pocket, old enough that I don't care if it gets a few raindrops or specks of pollen on it, and meets most of our wants most of the time. I'm someone who begrudgingly carries water and won't even take my smallest pair of binoculars on a hike because it doesn't easily fit into a pocket... well, you get the picture.  Or don't you?

As with all electronic gadgets nowadays, things break or become obsolete for whatever reason. Hey, I was "forced" to replace my 10-year-old computer, not because it broke, but because technology and my desire to be online left it in the dust.  Sigh, it's time to start thinking about a replacement camera. Andy came across reviews for Lytro.  I'm not crazy about the awkward shape.  However, capturing an entire light field to create a "living picture" with the capability to refocus after the fact?  Anyone hear of it?  Does anyone know if these active focus pictures can be embedded in blogger, yet?  If so, could you please send me a link to your blogspot?  Any other recommendations?  Granted, like with my computer this may be a 2-year process before I purchase, and by then this new consumer technology will very likely be even better and cheaper.

nest box for western bluebird ~ 09/23/12 ~ Toro Park

nest box for western bluebird
nest box for Sialia mexicana

Packed clearly in my memory from some childhood book's chapter heading is a subtly shaded pencil sketch of a bird house, with a gabled roof and dowel perch, sitting sweetly atop a square peg post with flowers blooming at the base and butterflies fluttering about.  It's a charming and cozy iconic visual, but I rarely give nest boxes a second thought while out hiking.  The dilapidated state of this one stopped me in my tracks long enough to ponder some questions and provided a reason to look up information.

Is it merely semantics that distinguishes a bird house from a nest box?  Are nest boxes like this one placed specifically for bluebirds?  Why do bluebird nest boxes have a flat roof?  Why don't I see boxes with pegs for perching?  How come there aren't more different style nest boxes around?  What happened to this box?  With our weather incredibly mild since the spring of 2011, I doubt this damage was due to any storm.  Did a raccoon tear this box apart?  Did unknowing humans vandalize this box?  Are these the remains of a bluebird nest or of some other bird?

I know there are different styles of nest boxes for different kinds of birds, even though this medium-sized one with a flat roof is the type I most often see in parks around here.  While I don't normally link to commercial sites, this bird house supplier has a nice page of various man-made structures (they're not all boxes!) built to attract nesting birds.  I've seen owl boxes at Elkhorn Slough, wood duck boxes at various places I can't recall offhand, and numerous bluebird boxes, including one lone bluebird nest box at Fort Ord in memory of Chuck Haugen, which ironically is one of two places I've ever actually seen a western bluebird, with the other place being Pinnacles.

With the question of which birds also utilize nest boxes placed out for bluebirds, I continued to search.  Tree swallows have used them at Hastings ReserveEuropean starlings and house sparrows compete with bluebirds for nesting sitesViolet-green swallows and mountain chickadees use cammed bluebird nest boxes at James Reserve in SoCal.  Are there other birds, too?  I'll have to keep looking.

Steve at Blue Jay Barrens has a nice series of posts for bird box, eastern bluebird nest (Sialia sialis), and tree swallow nest.  Keeping nest boxes takes dedication and regular maintenance.

CA oak moth ~ 09/23/12 ~ Toro Park

Coming down through Wildcat Canyon, I found great swaths of dead-looking oaks, yellowish brown and upon closer inspection severely munched upon by oak moth caterpillars.  I don't think the folks who named the canyon had this kind of wild cat in mind.

Sounds of drops like gentle rain and tinkly crunchy chomping surrounded me.  The smell in this area was distinctive, too, but I can't easily describe it.  The trail and nearby ground were completely coated in greenish tan pellets.  Frass.  Caterpillar poop. And lots of it! The most I've ever seen... which really doesn't mean much considering I don't follow the fluctuating annual cycles of oak moth populations all that closely.  I believe there are people who use frass mass to estimate population densities, so my assertion isn't totally out of the blue.  This past spring, I did casually notice oak moths were on the wing in full force unusually early on with a second generation flying in June or July.  Unfortunately, I didn't take notes of the timing and my recollection isn't specific, only that it was significant enough that I commented to a couple of Monterey City forestry fellows at the local farmers' market how I predicted this was going to be a booming oak moth year.  They laughed me off and politely disagreed.

The few green leaves I found here had become veritable buffet lines for caterpillars. What surprised me was finding so many feeding on dead leaves. Their mandibles have got to be industrial strength to masticate crispy dried evergreen oak leaves.  There were plenty of dead caterpillars that simply looked dessicated, but there were also numerous dead caterpillars hanging by their first prolegs, a sure sign of a viral and/or bacterial infection.  Interestingly, I did not find a single chrysalis (yes, I use this term for moth pupa in addition to butterfly pupa, if it's not covered in hairs or silk and hangs by a stalk).  I wonder if this 3rd seasonal generation will successfully pupate and emerge in the next few weeks, or if this is an early sign of a natural population crash.

Even when everything else is dried up, live oaks usually remain green all year round.  I doubt the caterpillars were directly responsible for the dried oaks, because I suspect their heavy feeding did not actually kill the trees.  Our unusually mild winter with very little rain was gentle on last year's overwintering early instar caterpillars and also water stressed the oaks.  However, there were numerous other oaks in the park that were still green and with significant numbers of oak moth caterpillars.  There is a part of me that wonders if this area, easily accessible to group picnickers, had been hit by Sudden Oak Death or an Armillaria oak root rot fungi.  I will be curious to find out if these oaks have a fresh flush of green leaves after the rains hit.

I blogged about CA oak moths once before, which is an unexpectedly popular post.  I've linked to the UC IPM Online site for CA oakworms in the scientific name ID above, and I don't recall why I didn't include it in my previous oak moth post since it's chock full of great information. Also, while doing another oak moth search, I found this fellow blogger Garden Wise Guy's post to be quite entertaining.

ps 09/26/12 - Thanks to Cindy at Dipper Ranch who commented and always gets me thinking about things.  I have such a difficult time IDing trees, let alone the confusing complex of oaks. I've edited the post above to include the possibility that the oaks I saw were interior live oaks and the possibility the browned leaves were due to an oak root rot fungi.  I'll see what I can do about contacting the proper agencies to check into this, because SOD is closely monitored.

Monday, September 3, 2012

checkered white ~ 09/03/12 ~ Fort Ord

female checkered white (possibly western white)
female Pontia protodice (possibly Pontia occidentalis)
for more information click here and here

posted 09/18/12 - When I started Nature ID back in the spring of 2009, I simply wanted to learn more about local nature. I wasn't fully aware of the extent of challenges I would face creating a virtual collection. Sure, basing IDs solely on photographs, especially my typically crappy ones, has its limitations when experts often rely on actual collection of specimens, dissections, and scopes to distinguish species. But, I figured whatever I casually found during my hikes would be quite common and clearly represented online by people who know way more than I do. This has proven to not always be the case with some of my photographs being the first online of newly described species to the best represented of rare species to possible correction of collections from places like CalAcademy. For a new ID to me, I usually look at 3 to 20+ different sources from my own small collection of field guides, library books, and most often online, especially from reputable online ID resources I've discovered. While comparing several different sources side by side, outliers often become blatantly obvious. I hate to admit to it, but I've become something of an ID policewoman particularly on sites I know other people trust such as Wikipedia, CalPhotos, and BugGuide. In fact, I sent a correction in to a contributor to BugGuide while I was searching for this white butterfly ID.

In the embedded links in the ID under my photograph, I've linked to trusted sites Butterflies of America, Butterflies and Moths of North America (they've made vast improvements to their site in the past 3 years), and Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site. It looks to me like it's a western white based on the pattern and boldness of the markings. However for now, I'm going with a checkered white ID, because westerns have never been reported for Monterey County. As biologist and fellow blogger biobabbler has repeatedly cautioned me, I should not always rely on what other people have reported. I've sent e-mails to Paul Opler, Jim Brock, and Art Shapiro for their expert guidance. I've already heard back from Paul and Jim and will ask if I can quote them in this blog post. I have a feeling Art will have a more definitive answer for me. I'll update this post when I know more.

Btw, the Pontia I show is nectaring on telegraph weed (Heterotheca grandiflora), one of the few flowers I found blooming profusely at Fort Ord on this date.

ps 09/22/12 - Phew!  I've been in several e-mail correspondences regarding this post.  Mike Hoffman at BugGuide was surprisingly quick in getting the ID corrected, even though he's not an editor with access to move IDs.  The three experts I contacted each have authored books on butterflies (linked in their names below) and basically said the two Pontia spp. are difficult to tell apart.  Paul Opler, like me, thought it looks more like P. occidentalisJim Brock suggested I contact Art who is more familiar with butterflies in this region.

Art Shapiro ended up being a gold mine with more detail and PDFs of his scientific papers than I could fully wrap my head around (still trying to figure out how to post PDFs on my blog).  His area of extraordinary familiarity from the greater Sacramento area to the Sierras spans an impressive 40 years.  With his permission, here's what Art said, "I'm sure it's protodice. It's a very fresh, crisply-marked one, but it's still a female protodice. I've gotten nearly identical ones here and in Riverside County--and on the East Coast! Back in the 70s it was sometimes incredibly common in the Salinas Valley and nearby, and it generally peaks regionally in September. Occidentalis has never been reported reliably in the Coast Range south of the Bay, except for the two Doudoroff early-spring specimens from the Santa Cruz Mts. in the 1940s cited on p.106 of my book. (I wanted to ask him if he remembered anything about them, but he had died just a few weeks before I came upon the specimens at Berkeley!)"  M. Doudoroff actually collected these specimens in 1930, which are now housed at University of California, Berkeley's Essig Museum of Entomology and have not been catalogued yet.  Art goes on to state, "Occidentalis has indeed been expanding its range--eastward across Canada and along the US-Canada border, nowhere near here. It does show up very rarely on the floor of the Sacramento Valley (see attachments) in September-October. We don't really understand this. Monterey would be rather an incredible stretch. Nothing is impossible, of course. A P. beckeri was once caught (really) in Colusa County. I suspect the pupa came in on a camper or other vehicle..."  After some questioning on my part and an admission that I was hoping I had found a new Monterey Co. record for P. occidentalis, Art replied, "These two cause lots of confusion, and it doesn't help that where they are sympatric 1-2% may be hybrids. (Here is another old paper about their genetics. It goes back to the Miocene, before the polymerase chain reaction triggered the sequencing revolution. We probably should look at these two genomically as part of our overall hybridization research program. We're doing sulphurs right now.) The 'winter' phenotypes of both are VERY much darker beneath than the 'summer' ones and yes, it is easy to get confused with only singletons or a few specimens, rather than good series. In the 'recurrent enigma' paper, the occis are at the upper left in each group. No, that first record was not a hoax, but I had been cautioned by colleagues to refer to the possibility if only to discount it.  I have raised literally 1000s of these things in the course of research. I don't claim infallibility--only that I'm pretty good with them. Never take 'expert' stuff on faith. I've often been wrong, usually on Speyeria but hardly ever on Pontia or on skippers. But 'hardly ever' does not equal 'never.'"  Art finishes, "Butterfly people can be annoying in the same way as birders. If you can tell your Empidonax flycatchers you are up in the stratosphere with the anabolic-steroid users. Hang in there! Don't be intimidated by 'expertise.' As we age, it metamorphoses into senility."  Gotta love Art!  If anyone would like PDFs of his papers, feel free to contact me and I can forward them to you.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

habitat ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar State Beach

I'm a little surprised I haven't featured better habitat (step back) blog posts for Asilomar. The beach section is only a small part of the Asilomar State Beach property, which also includes conference grounds and a mile-long coastal trail. In fact, half of the squeaky soft sand area (it really does squeak when you walk on it!) is technically part of neighboring Pebble Beach's The Links at Spanish Bay and Spanish Bay looking towards Point Joe, both shown above. This beach is very popular with surfers (they strip out of their wetsuits with no shame on the side of the road), dogs (usually off leash fetching tennis balls from the water), conference attendees on break (always recognizable with those massive necklace name tags), and beach wedding enthusiasts (every weekend there seems to be dozens of folding white chairs and flower-covered white arches on the beach). While we regularly drive by here on our scenic way home from the grocery store, we rarely stop unless it's a clear evening and the perfect time to catch the sunset. It's funny how something could be practically at our back door, and yet we don't take the time to enjoy it. Other bloggers have done a much better job than I have at highlighting this local gem:
bigsurkate Sunsets at Asilomar
Far Out Flora Foredune Beach Plants
Town Mouse and Country Mouse Asilomar Dune Restoration 1
Town Mouse and Country Mouse Asilomar Dune Restoration 2

surf-grass ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar Beach

Phyllospadix scouleri (possibly P. torreyi)

I thought I'd try my hand at IDing between the two Phyllospadix spp. found along the shores of Pacific Grove. This proved to be an exercise in extensive internet searching and comparing information. SEINet states P. scouleri blades can be slightly wider than P. torreyi by up to 2.5mm, significant when they can be as small as 0.5mm. I ignored this site's information on flowering and fruiting periods, because I've found seasonal descriptions are entirely subjective across different lifeforms (e.g. Don Roberson in his Monterey Birds book states semipalmated plovers start their fall migration by late June... June, fall, seriously? And don't get me started on all the incorrect flowering periods published for coastal land plants). Jepson e-Flora states P. scouleri does not have a narrow bract base, whereas P. torreyi does. I could not find a side by side comparison to see what is considered narrow or not. The closest I could find was this University of Washington's page of P. scouleri life history. It's too bad the creators of California Biota Website don't know the difference between female spathes and male spadices, which is all new terminology for me anyways. Although, they do have beautiful pictures. What I have shown in the first picture above is a female spathe with developing fruit. MBARI has a nice summary and clearly states P. scouleri usually has 1, sometimes 2 spathes, and P. torreyi can have 1-5 spathes. Since I only found 1 spathe, I can't use that as a distinguishing factor. In the end, I'm leaning towards P. scouleri simply based on the blade width. Now after all this searching this morning, I'm daydreaming and imagining the above surf-grass could make a lovely mermaid ponytail.

seaweeds ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar Beach

delicate sea lace
Microcladia coulteri

posted 09/10/12 - As I was looking for barnacles the other day in a beachcomber's guide (Thanks, Jennifer!), I found a picture of a red algae that looked very much like this one. Finally, here's an easy ID... or so I thought. I took the name winged fronds, aka winged rib (Delesseria decipiens), from the book to obtain links for my blog post, but what I found online didn't look anything like what was pictured in the book. Bad photo or incorrect ID in the book, I can't say for sure. However, I discovered there are an almost identical form of Microcladia californica and a similar looking species Plocamium pacificum to what I have pictured here. It's difficult to know with certainty, because IDing a small piece of algae washed up on the beach is like trying to ID a plant solely on one dried leaf blown in from who knows where. Both Delesseria decipiens and Plocamium pacificum are saxicolous, meaning they grow on rocks, whereas Microcladia coulteri and M. californica are epiphytic on other algae.

Macrocystis pyrifera or M. integrifolia and Chondracanthus corymbiferus or C. exasperatus

Geez, I only wanted to show the amazing different textures of these brown and red algal blades. I didn't realize there were different spp. found locally. Without seeing the entire seaweed, it's difficult to know for sure. Note the epiphytic Microcladia on the Turkish towel. As an aside, many brown marine algae are known as kelp. Seaweed is an informal term for marine green, brown, and red algae.

Egregia menziesii (now includes E. laevigata)

Finally, a seaweed that I absolutely know the ID. This post took me several mornings to research (click all the blue highlighted links), and I ended up feeling like I was banging my head against an intertidal rock. There's an incredible world of underwater life that very few people appreciate unless it happens to wash ashore in its dying and broken form. I'd love to take up scuba diving or go out on marine watching boats, but alas the hole in my eardrum keeps me from going underwater at any depth and I get terribly seasick. I probably should resign myself into simply saying, "Oooh, pretty seaweed."

plovers and western gull ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar Beach

western snowy plover (aka Kentish plover)
Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus (aka Charadrius nivosus)

western gull and semipalmated plover
Larus occidentalis and Charadrius semipalmatus

Bird IDs do not come easy to me, especially small shorebirds and songbirds. They simply do not have the courtesy to hold still while I try to get a good look. It doesn't help that I'm only armed with an 8-year-old point-and-shoot with a max 4.3 digital zoom. Binoculars and field guides are usually left in the car or at home. Then, the most challenging aspect is birds change their looks more often than Lady Gaga, depending on their age or time of year.

When I took these pictures I had no idea the first was a snowy plover, since the only time I recognized one it had its nesting outfit on with dark patches on its crown, behind the eye, and above the shoulder. I was surprised to see in my enlarged pictures the one I captured had pink, sky blue, lime, and golden yellow bangles - quite the fashion statement! That was my first clue it might be a snowy plover, because I know they're closely monitored due to their federal status as being threatened.

I'm almost ashamed to admit, but I assumed the second small bird was a killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). As I was looking at Cornell's All About Birds site for snowy plovers, I noticed under similar species that killdeers have "two distinct chest bands." Erg. Semipalmated plover was not even on my radar since most pictures online only show its breeding plumage. Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) markings looked similar, but the bill was too big and it's found nowhere near here. I thus began my search of the various kinds of plovers. There are a heck of a lot of plovers out there in the world.

Finally, for the gull, I now know to first look at its leg color. Pink legs narrow down the possibilities for which kinds of gulls are found here in Monterey this time of year. Add in the dark grey of this juvenile, and I can only make a best guess.

Heavy sigh. I pulled out all of my bird books and looked at all of the bird links on my online ID resources page. I ended up getting sidetracked looking at other birds. I'd really like to find a comprehensive bird site that clearly shows the various plumage and coloring like some of my bird books. It's a process that's sometimes frustrating and other times enjoyable.

gooseneck barnacle ~ 09/01/12 ~ Asilomar Beach

gooseneck barnacle
Lepas sp.

I'm hoping some of my blog readers may be able to direct me to decent links about these 5-plated flattened barnacles I found attached to the holdfast of a bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). My best guesses would be first Lepas pacifica and second possibly Lepas anatifera. However, my main issue with these IDs is the plates are not primarily white. Does the color change as the barnacle ages? Also, there are other Lepas spp. that are not readily found pictured online. It was amazing to watch these open up to show their feathery appendages and wave around on their translucent stalks (not to be confused with the caramel-colored haptera of the kelp). Click on the pictures to see them up close.