Saturday, November 24, 2012

peacock ~ 11/24/12 ~ Casa de Fruta

Well, we didn't have turkey this Thanksgiving holiday, but we did spot another phasianid on our way home.  There were 5 peacocks haphazardly crossing the road and creating a traffic jam at Casa de Fruta, a roadside attraction that has grown to monstrous proportions in the 35 years I've passed through here.  Andy and I conferred that it's been about that long since we last saw peacocks regularly.  They seem to have been in fashion back in the 1970's.  Friends of my parents had them in their yard, and I have a vague recollection of my mom not knowing how to get one off the car so we could leave.  While the name peacock is ostensibly gender specific, I had never given peafowl a second thought before and figured Nature ID is as good of an excuse as any to look them up.  There are two other kinds of peafowl, the green peafowl (Pavo muticus) and the Congo peafowl (Afropavo congensis).  The Indian blue originates obviously from India, where it is the national bird, as well as from Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.  They have been introduced around the world.  In some places, feral populations have caused a nuisance with their calls and other issues with such a large bird.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Big Sur Half ~ 11/18/12 ~ at home

Big Sur Half Marathon from home
November 18, 2012

Technically this wasn't at sunrise.  It was taken a couple of minutes after 8:00am as the lead runner (orange top in lower right through the trees) ran by as part of the Big Sur Half Marathon. The majority of runners are still heading out towards Asilomar (seen on the road).  We can always tell when the lead man and lead woman run by, because of all the cheering.  The usual cow bell isn't around this year.  We may not head down to cheer on our friends since Andy has just started making a big breakfast.  With our running/hiking in the rain yesterday, we're a bit hungry.

Update: Newlyweds Ben Bruce and Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce won first place for men's and women's.  I wasn't sure I had captured the lead runner above, because it's unusual to have a non-Kenyan or non-Ugandan win the Big Sur Half.  Speaking of races, after breakfast Andy and I followed the last of the runners into Monterey.  There I spotted a blue-colored darner in front of the Portola Hotel. I've added a week's lead to Graeme of Imperfect and tense in our dragon hunt.

Monday, November 12, 2012

habitat ~ 11/12/12 ~ Frog Pond Wetland Preserve

November 12, 2012

When we walked down the steps from the newly fortified roadside parking area and looked toward the pond, our jaws dropped.  We have never seen the Frog Pond practically dried up. This year's drought has seriously taken its toll on local ponds and streams.  The shallow puddles that were present, perhaps from the previous week's rains, looked fairly recent with healthy land plants poking out and cracked mud.  The last picture above is from the middle of the pond area looking back at the dock where I usually take pictures of the water for past habitat posts (click and scroll down to see other posts). We had enough rain by this date that fresh green grass was starting to show along the trails.

CA bulrush ~ 11/12/12 ~ Frog Pond


edited 11/15/12 - This is not a sexy post.  I've been off my blogging routine the past few weeks thanks to major headlines occupying my morning internet time:  Giants winning the 2012 World Series, Sandy, elections, Petraeus resignation, all interspersed with gruesome murderous plots. I've wanted to write about Buster Posey's incredible comeback one season after his horrific leg injuries, big companies and local neighborhoods utilizing the reach of social media to provide immediate help in the aftermath of Sandy, like Duracell's Rapid Responder, Google's Crisis Map, and Occupy Sandy (ARC could learn a thing or two), Nate Silver's statistical forecasting of elections, post-Petraeus implications for the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and how cooking human flesh has become the fashionable way to murder (case in CA, case in NY)... but they're not appropriate for Nature ID.

One thing that has hit home for me is "news" these days is mainly compiled of opinions, speculation, and reporting other's reports.  It becomes a real-life game of telephone.  The facts are few and far between, and by the time they're reported, in many cases in a matter of a few hours in the race to be ahead of the competition, they're disturbingly distorted from the actual truth.  It's unfortunate, but I've seen this with nature information, too, albeit at a slower pace. What one author states clearly in a scientific paper is a wild guess gets referenced, second referenced, down the line until finally another group states definitively that what was once a guess is indeed fact.  Then it gets put into textbooks and field guides. Lovely, eh?  Because of this spectacle, I consciously try my best to focus Nature ID on my first-hand observations rather than rewording "facts" from books or sites.  This practice makes my blog appear to lack content, but at least it's original.

So, getting to CA bulrush.  I've largely ignored grass-like plants on Nature ID, since I have a mental block around them, like with trees, and find them very difficult to ID.  I had to look up the difference between grasses, rushes, and sedges just so I knew which families to search.  I narrowed down the above ID by using the published plant list for the Frog Pond.  It's impossible to tell how tall these bulrushes are from my pictures, but here's a comparison photo with a small human.  Now that I have the basics of this sedge ID, I can look into more information, like these amazing Peruvian tortora horses made out of this plant (tortora is the name for a South American subspecies of CA bulrush and the horses are actually reed boats).  Cool!

blue-eyed darner ~ 11/12/12 ~ Frog Pond

This post is for Graeme at Imperfect and tense for our friendly blogging Odonatathon wager across the pond (so to speak) to see who spots the latest in the season for 2012.  As of this date, I have him beat by 1 day.  My last sightings in 2011 were December 10 at Los Padres Dam (sorry, no pictures).  His last sighting in 2011 was November 27 at HESC, although he says someone else saw the same dragon there December 5.

This is also a tester post.  I've never edited or posted a video before.  It took me a while to figure out how to stabilize and trim the above crappy clip in iMovie.  Google's automatic file reduction makes the video play even worse on the blog.  Oh well.  For both the video and heavily cropped picture above, we tried out a spanking new borrowed point-and-shoot Canon (don't know which one) in a search to upgrade from our crappy photo point-and-shoot Minolta.  While I kind of like the larger file sizes to crop, the touch screen focus features of the Canon did not work at all for close-up shots, even in the macro setting.  Our trusty 8-year-old Minolta still seems to do a better job.  So, our search continues.  For now, I will remain green with envy at the patience and gorgeous dragonfly photo captures other people manage to get with seeming ease.

ps - Oooh, interesting.  The video doesn't show up in Reader.  Hmm?