Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Genista broom moth ~ 10/22/13 ~ J's place

During a visit the day before, J showed me her lupine bush and asked me about these caterpillars.  They totally grossed her out, because there were so many (~100?), all tangled in webbing.  The best I could do on the spot was offer generalizations with comparisons to other gregarious and silky caterpillars, like western tent caterpillars and fall webworms. Curiosity got the better of me, so I asked her if I could take lupine clippings and caterpillars to raise, which I like to do from time to time, to find out which kind of moth they turn into.  I didn't really need to collect any, because a simple internet image search "caterpillar eats lupine" got me an easy answer when compared to my photos. Eh, the adults don't excite me much; they're little brown jobs (LBJs) with snouts.  Both the common names, Genista broom and Sophora, come from other preferred legume host plants.  A couple bloggers I follow have also featured the Genista broom moth: Ohio Birds and Biodiversity (excellent comments about sightings) and Bug Eric.  It's interesting to note we're seeing local caterpillars in October, versus spring and summer elsewhere.  As for the specific bush lupine, this is my best guess based on J telling me hers has both yellow and blue blooms like those at Asilomar, a characteristic that I believe is distinctive in yellow bush lupine populations along the coast.  And, I believe this phenomena is different than just the normal flower color change from yellow to purple after being pollinated.  Being the nice friend that I am, I clipped off the remaining caterpillars and bagged them to save J from the ick factor.  Her bush lupine is now only 2/3 its former size.  It'll be fine.

ps 03/20/14 - I noticed several moths have emerged.  They're not much to look at, a medium-sized moth brown.  I put both containers in the freezer.  Am not sure what I'll do with them, but I'm done having them use up my best rearing containers over the winter.  I didn't take any pictures, because they're really ugly to look at after 5 months of tangled and chewed, dried lupine stalks, numerous flat and felty cocoons attached to the rounded parts of the containers, and lots of dried poop and eclosion stains (forgot the name for this, but when leps emerge they release a liquid waste that's often reddish in color).  J would be even more grossed out!  I would like to practice dissecting, but I'm always reluctant to haul out my dissecting scope, because it takes up desk space that I usually reserve for piles of paperwork.

Monday, October 14, 2013

habitat ~ 10/14/13 ~ Fort Ord - Army Lands

 Fort Ord controlled burn
October 14, 2013

Here's the smoke plume from 8 minutes, 1 hour, and almost 2 hours after they started the fire at 10:20am this morning.  I'll admit that I used to really detest these fires.  The orange sky is disorienting, and everyone seems to get grouchy.  I blogged about them in 2009 and 2010.  I don't think they burned the last 2 years.  One year's cancellation was because they discovered such big unexploded ordnances on the surface of the ground that it would have been extremely dangerous to have a fire.  Something about the potential for shrapnel to cross into residential areas?  Now that I've been on a few BRAC field trips, I understand why they burn and am a little more tolerant.  With all the keep out signs, I'm amazed we don't hear about exploded deer or pigs.  We'll probably have a couple more fires before the year is out.  I'm quite afraid of wildfires, so even though these are "controlled", they still scare me a bit.

ps - BigSurKate posted photos of this fire as well.  Here are additional local news links: Monterey County Herald, KSBW, and KION.

pss 10/15/13 - Another day, another fire: BigSurKate, Monterey County Herald, KSBW,  and KION.  Units 10 and 7, plus is a little extra, were burned this year.

pss 10/22/13 - It's interesting to juxtapose our local controlled burns with fires down under, like this post from BunyipCo.

pss 10/26/13 - These 2 burns are still making the local news:  Monterey County Herald and KSBW.

pss 03/18/14 - I received a notification that there will be no prescribed burns in 2014.  Yay?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

habitat ~ 10/09/13 ~ Elkhorn Slough - NERR

Elkhorn Slough - National Estuarine Research Reserve entrance

We weren't sure if Elkhorn would be open considering the federal government shutdown.  Unlike many people, the only impact that we've noticed for us has been closed parks.  We had hoped to camp at Pinnacles National Park during fall break, but we scrapped those plans with the shutdown.  My backup plan was to go to nearby Kirby Park if the NERR was closed, but it wasn't.  What surprised me was to see folks in CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Game) uniforms.  I don't know how I missed that.  Elkhorn Slough confuses me as to which agency does/owns what.  Apparently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also involved.  After inquiring, come to find out the Nature Center is run by CADFG.  I did not know that. They do a nice job. 

The tide was very high during our visit.  One of the main walkways was almost covered in water.  I don't get too excited about the proliferation of invasive plants here, like poison hemlock, but for some reason I still want to go back to visit the Slough.  I've even come to like the soothing rattling sound of wind-blown dried harding grass.  It looked like they had recently done some extensive mowing.  They have an incredibly work-intensive management plan.  I think I'd feel defeated if I worked there.  It could be coincidental, but it seems like we've seen less and less wildlife (snakes and rabbits) in recent years since they've stepped up their attempts to get rid of invasive plants.

All surrounding the Slough, the farmers are just now covering their lands with a fresh round of plastic (seen in the middle picture above on the surrounding hills) for another planting of strawberries, one of Monterey County's most valuable crops.  This type of plasticulture really bothers me.  The waste generated must be incredible.  I've been wondering if anyone makes biodegradable plastic for strawberry farming.  If I did it, I'd make it so the farmer could till the plastic into the soil as a soil replenisher.  I bet the chemistry wouldn't be too difficult to figure out.  The biggest hurdle would be to invest in an efficient manufacturing process so that it would be cost effective for the farmers.

salt bush ~ 10/09/13 ~ Elkhorn Slough

 salt bush/fat-hen among pickleweed

When fellow bloggers post seasonal pictures from their neck of the woods, like the common milkweed, I'm reminded of how much I absolutely loved autumn in Ohio - the vibrant colors, the damp woodsy smell, the crisp chill in the air.  Sigh.  It's taken me a while to appreciate autumn here on the coast of CA.  I tend to seek out places, like Garzas Creek, that remind me of Ohio.  Amazingly, autumn colors occur in the slough, too, where salt water meets fresh water.

I try to take full advantage of nature center displays and will often take pictures before a hike as a take-along ID guide.  I love it when they have sample plants with identification tags... that is until what they show cannot be confirmed anywhere else.  Erg.  Assigning names for this post was a bit of a challenge since there have been recent changes among different classification systems.  Same or different species?  Who knows? Other names associated with this particular salt bush are:  A. triangularis ssp. hastata (as shown above), spearscale, A. patula ssp. hastata.  Even fat-hen refers to different kinds of plants.  Then, there's the question of is it native (as shown above) or naturalized?  Other names associated with local pickleweed are:  Pacific swampfire, S. virginica, glasswort, S. depressa.  And finally, Jepson, our CA plant bible, sticks with Chenopodiaceae as the family name.  Phew.

Mylitta crescent ~ 10/09/13 ~ Elkhorn Slough

for more information, click here and here

Eh, crescents and checkerspots are somewhat challenging to ID.  They're incredibly variable and can look like each other.  For me, I use the row of dots on the hindwing to know for sure it's a crescent; checkerspots never have the dots, which, unfortunately, makes it confusing to remember.  A funny thing about these butterflies, I find IDing them on the wing much easier to do than from photographs.  The crescents are smaller and a bit more erratic in their flight compared to checkerspots.

I have a question for you:  Does anyone know the function, if any, of the colorful antennal clubs often found on various insects?  This discussion came up on my black burying beetle post.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

sunset ~ 10/06/13 ~ at home

sunset from home
October 6, 2013

It's been all about sunsets for me lately.  This day we went to the memorial of a friend who lived a good long time.  With her failing health, it was time for her to go.  The last I saw her I had stopped by to give her the news that another friend of ours had died.  I have fond memories of her ambling over to our place early in the morning, hair sticking out everywhere and wrapped in a shawl that always slid off one shoulder.  He would make coffee in his Pavoni, and I would make buttered toast.  The three of us would sit at the small breakfast table in the morning sun and gossip about everyone we knew.  Goodbye, Yo.  Now, I'm starting to feel superstitious.  I think I got that my from my grandmother.  Things happen in threes?