Monday, November 25, 2013

habitat ~ 11/25/13 ~ Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds

November 25, 2013

I feel like I should appreciate Asilomar more than I do.  It's just 2 miles across town on the ocean side of the Monterey Peninsula, and the weather is often more so than the bay side with more wind and fog.  I hardly ever get over there, unless I'm visiting a friend or taking the scenic route home from the grocery store.  To roam around, I have to be in the mood to deal with the super fine, squeaky Asilomar sand that gets lodged between my toes (I still haven't found great shoes for walking in sand).  However, it really is a gem of a place.  I love the architecture, which was designed by Julia Morgan who also did Hearst Castle.  The Conference Grounds are currently going through a multimillion-dollar accessibility renovation.  It's looking very spiffy.

Pacific sand crab ~ 11/25/13 ~ Asilomar Beach

They look like delicately patterned cracked egg shells. At first, I didn't think these pics were ideal as an ID entry, but it occurred to me that I tend to see the carapaces of sand crabs more often than actual live crabs, which has been late at night while looking for grunion.  Are they nocturnal?  I'm assuming the numerous carapaces are from a mass molt, rather than a mass die-off of sand crabs, but I don't really know. I'm always amazed how the composition of wrack changes through the seasons. Here's a mixture of sand crab carapaces, various red seaweeds, and surf-grass. It's nature's compost by the sea.

ps - In the first photo, directly behind the right carapace, the out-of-focus green surf-grass is covered in pink-colored crusting red algae called Melobesia mediocrus.

habitat ~ 11/25/13 ~ Monterey Harbor & Marina

Monterey Harbor & Marina
November 25, 2013

I'm so glad we decided to stay home for the holiday.  With an easily walkable view like this, can you blame us?  Despite our desperate need for rain, I have been enjoying the gorgeous weather we've had.  This picture was taken from the Rec Trail that I so love. The City of Monterey has a nice site on the history of the Harbor, which I just discovered.  On this section of trail, I've been keeping an eye on a family of night herons, a laughing herd of Heermann's gulls, western gulls, several kingfishers, snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, brown pelicans, and new seasonal gulls with spotty grey around the eyes that I have yet to ID.

Pacific sea nettle ~ 11/25/13 ~ Coast Guard Pier

The sea nettles have been in great abundance near the shore this past month.  Their sudden appearance seems kind of random, as I've also seen large numbers in the middle of summer.  I wonder if they passively float along with the water currents, or if they actively follow food.  I wouldn't want to be a surfer or a scuba diver, because some days there are so many nettles that I imagine it would be impossible to avoid getting stung, at least on exposed hands.  Being the land lover that I am, I generally don't pay much attention to them, but they are kind of pretty in a brown sort of way. When they die, they turn a ghostly white and tend to sink (didn't get a good picture of this).  I've watched western gulls and opal eye awkwardly try to eat them.  I realized this morning that I hadn't really looked up information yet, and I was interested to see how different aquariums present their online information (sea nettles are apparently relatively easy to keep in captivity): Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, National Aquarium in Baltimore.  I have to say I've been impressed with the improvements MBA has made to their site over the past few years.

habitat ~ 11/25/13 ~ Stevenson Garden

Stevenson Garden
November 25, 2013

posted 11/28/13 - Whenever tourists stop me to ask what they can do in downtown Monterey, I always mention the Secret Gardens of Old Monterey.  The historic building tours cost maybe $3, but the gardens are free to enjoy.  As part of my daily walks, I visit several regularly.  I don't think very many people know they exist, because I rarely see anyone else in them.  Plus, they really are kind of secret and often hidden behind high fences.  The Stevenson House Garden has become my favorite out of all the Secret Gardens.  No matter what season it is, Vilhelm, a State Parks Gardener in charge of Stevenson, makes sure there's color.  Right now the Liquidambar sp. is in brilliant red display (I'm surprised it's spelled 'ambar', not 'amber').  I'm not absolutely positive about its ID since it's cultivated, but I'm guessing it's American sweetgum (L. styracifula), which has also naturalized in a few parts of CA.  I am very thankful for these beautiful public gardens.  Wishing all my American blog readers a happy Thanksgiving!