Friday, February 21, 2014

western blacklegged tick ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon

female western blacklegged tick (lookalike in eastern US - deer tick)
Ixodes pacificus (lookalike in eastern US - Ixodes scapularis)

posted 02/27/14 - I remember hearing adult female blacklegged ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, so I thought I'd compare.  Yep.  It's 2 or 3 mm long, depending on if you include the relatively massive mouth parts.

She is my souvenir from Hatton Canyon.  Within 4 hours after strolling through the canyon, my left side began to feel really sore, as if I just had a vaccine shot that gives a strong punch.  I've been generally achy all over anyways due to lingering bike accident injuries, so I kind of brushed it off.  But it kept hurting more and more, so I took a look in the mirror.  Heey, I don't have a mole in that location.  What is that?  Ooof, a tick!  

My immediate reaction was to pull it off immediately.  I think you're supposed to be careful in how you do it, so as not to break off mouth parts or inadvertently squeeze any potential bacteria into the bite wound.  Eh, that's not my instinct.  Get it out, now!  I broke a couple of her legs in the process, as you can see in the picture.  It amazes me how they can get their mouth parts so far into the skin.

I've only ever been bitten by a tick twice before (that I know of), once on my eyelash line while camping on a friend's farm in southern Ohio (I thought the shadow in my view was a crusty chunk of sleep), and another in my butt crack from a day trip to Rocky Creek (it felt like a wedgie). Neither of those bites hurt at all.  So, I was really surprised at what a punch this one gave me for a little more than 24 hours after tick removal.  I kept saying, "I can't believe how much it hurts."  Thankfully, it doesn't hurt at all now.

I'm generally pretty diligent in doing tick checks, which can also be fun with a partner. Who knew "tick check, tick check" could be a bedroom call?  Eh-hem.  But this time, it didn't occur to me I had been on a "hike", so I didn't check, even though Hatton Canyon habitat matches tick territory to a T.  Doh!

bite site on torso 24 hours after removal of tick

No, that's not my boob.  Had to use a flashlight to get a clear shot of the bite site.  It's exactly the diameter of a pencil eraser.  I'm watching it for infection or a bull's-eye ring. Although, the hypochondriac in me is convinced I'm developing symptoms of anaplasmosis.  I have been feeling less than spectacular this week.

There are a surprising number of tick sites online, and who knows how reliable most of the chat community compiled information is anyways.  Lyme disease gets a lot of publicity, but it's not the only tickborne disease.  In addition to my standard links in the ID above, I want to call out a few reputable sites by name (click around, they did an excellent job!):

And lastly, for a parasite souvenir to beat them all, check out fellow blogger Camera Trapping Campus' bot flies from Belize.

ps 03/08/14 - TickEncounter contacted me fairly quickly confirming my ID and asking what type of seed was in the picture I submitted via their online form.  I replied with a link to here.  Whoa!  Whoever is writing me sure has a lot of character.  S/he is incredibly interested in Garrapata State Park, which means "tick" in Spanish.  I gave them local CNPS and FOG contact information, folks I figured would be most familiar with Garrapata's ticks.  They also asked me if they could adapt my blog post for TickEncounter.  Sure.

With their permission and edit (which I found curious), here's what they said, "Thanks Katie for the backstory. One of those other tick bites must have been a western blacklegged tick, too. That earlier bite "primed" you to react like you did.  Our studies suggest strongly that a certain protein or proteins in the tick saliva stimulate an IgE response. On re-exposure, the antigen-bound IgE also binds to basophils through their Fc receptors, activating the basophils to release their "payload" of histamine and other cytokines--resulting in the immediate type hypersensitivity rxn that your body so aptly displayed.  Itching from a tick bite might seem annoying but hey, if it helps alert you to the tick so you can promptly remove it then maybe its a good thing." 

Well, I have to say I wouldn't call the pain I felt with my bite as "itching".  In any case...  Doh!  A classic Jones-Mote levels of hypersensitivity!  That's why I didn't have a reaction from the first bites of 2 different species of tick, my body hadn't made antigens yet.  It's interesting that my initial lack of reactions look like they're specific to the type of tick (Ohio does not have I. pacificus).  I barely remember this from my Medical Entomology class (I think professionals use another reaction model now besides Jones-Mote), but the first time someone gets bitten by certain insects and related, they will not have a reaction.  None.  I'm serious.  Hence why I think so many diagnosed with Lyme disease never even knew they had been bitten by a tick.  Given enough time (~2 weeks?) for the body to create antigens, there will be an immediate reaction upon the 2nd bite.  More bites?  Then a delayed reaction after a day or more.  Eventually if bitten, like constantly, the body will go back to not having a reaction at all.  Crazy, huh?  (Disclaimer: I could totally be recalling this incorrectly, but I can't find anything online that isn't bogged down in immunoglobulin gobbledygook.)

habitat ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon State Property

Hatton Canyon State Park Property
February 21, 2014

Heavy sigh... patience is a virtue I am frequently short on.  Whatever happened to the plans to pave a bike trail here?  Does anything ever get done anymore?  Seriously, I look around at every level of government and wonder how do we actually make progress?  How did they do it during so much turmoil in the 30's and 40's?  My uncle, the archetypal retired history teacher, talks all the time about how our current situation parallels that era.  I don't have an answer, mainly because there's so much I simply don't understand.  I'm putting all my faith in the people who claim they want to figure it out and get it done, i.e, elected officials.  Groan.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah... the best accounting of the bike path drama I could find is this July 23, 2008 Herald article hosted by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC).  Erg.  I'm totally guessing a handful of homeowners may be threatening a lawsuit that CA State Parks can ill afford, if it's not currently being battled out.  I'm not sure why I hold such a bad opinion of some local homeowners, but, in their defense, they're often unduly cowed by the cities they live in.  However, they already won in court while rejecting a Hwy 1 reroute through Hatton Canyon back in 1997.  I'm glad they saved the canyon, but the predicted result has been horrific highway gridlock, especially around the high school and during regular commuter hours.  My understanding is that as part of the agreement of land transfer from Caltrans to State Parks in 2001 (scroll halfway down page), the bike path legally has to be put in as a condition of not building the Hwy there.  Poor State Parks can't even provide an online description of Hatton Canyon after 13 years.  So, who has more rights, the homeowners with all their negativity towards change, who I might point out technically do not own Hatton Canyon, or the people of California?  Who has more money?

As a daily user of the extremely successful Rec Trail, I am totally for this new bike path.  Currently, there is no easy way to get from Monterey/PG to the Mouth of the Valley by bike or on foot without having to traverse busy sections of Hwy 1.  Andy and his Saturday morning, trail-running cohorts have tried several times to find a better route, with no success.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would prefer biking to work or school through a beautiful wooded area, rather than sitting in stinky exhaust, standstill traffic.  Isn't that a good thing?  For every commuter bicyclist, there's gotta be one less car on the road.  I would think the surrounding homeowners would find they prefer reduced traffic congestion and a way to get from place to place without getting in the car themselves.  Maybe the problem lies in connecting the trail safely on the north end, closer to Hwy 68?

As it is, Hatton Canyon is being used as a personal dog pooping park with private trails to many backyards.  I'm wondering if someone with enough money wants to keep it that way, despite the total neglect otherwise.  Fortunately, I saw very little dog poop this time compared to the first time I visited Hatton Canyon.  I don't know if the new dog poop bag dispensers have anything to do with the improvement.  Who pays and supplies the bags?  The whole thing is ironic, because there's been so much vocal opposition to putting in a dog park in Carmel Valley.  Obviously, our area needs one.

I'd love to see some attention and management paid to this lovely spot.  There is so much potential!  Here's the Carmel Area State Parks General Plan from 2012 that looks interesting. As I was searching for information, I noticed the Big Sur Land Trust has quietly removed themselves since the last time I wrote about thisRana Creek has been involved, too.  Their work is distinctive, and I've seen them really grow as a company in the 11 years I've been in the area.  I personally think the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD) would do an excellent job at balancing nature, access, and the neighbors at Hatton Canyon, but it's not their property to manage.  However, this kind of arrangement is not without precedent - the Morro Bay Golf Course is run by the San Luis Obispo County Parks on CA State Parks property.  If given my druthers, an agreement between MPRPD and CA State Parks could be a great solution.

Sigh... it's been difficult to find any information, so I honestly don't know what the current situation is.  I'm writing someone, TAMC or the District 5 County Supervisor Potter, to find out.  It's such a shame this lovely public land isn't being better utilized.

Some things to note on my pictures above...  It just occurred to me that the year-round crick of water is Hatton Creek, which provides a lush green that is hard to find right now during our severe drought.  Someone must be using this water, because there are pipes and manholes scattered throughout the property. Are the Hatton Canyon environmental lawsuits a facade for water rights?  I'm not serious, but nothing would surprise me anymore.  I'm including the oaks above, because I've neglected them in previous habitat posts.  And, the Monterey pines are looking sorry indeed with lots of dried up parts.  I'm looking forward to more rain.

ps 02/27/14 - I apologize if anyone's blog feed got messed up.  I edited this a gazillion times, because I kept finding biased errors in my assumptions.  I feel a sense of responsibility in getting my facts straight when expressing my opinions.  I'm sure there's a lot I don't understand.

Todd Muck, Deputy Executive Director of TAMC, kindly replied to my query and gave me permission to quote him on my blog.  He said, "Due to the opposition to converting the dirt service road into a paved bike path, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County's Board of Directors elected to not construct that portion of the project when we constructed the tunnel under Carmel Valley Road and the paved path to Rio Road.  The unpaved portion remains in TAMC's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan as a potential future project, but there is no longer any funding dedicated to pursing the project."  He also pointed me in the direction of Victoria Beach, a Carmel City Council Member, who's organizing a citizens trails group.  Interesting.  I'll check it out.

oso berry ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon


Here's another shrub I've wanted to ID for a while.  It's delicate and pretty and one of only a handful of plants in bloom right now.  We noticed the oso berry tends to grow in the same spots as the pink flowering currant.  Oso berry is missing from the local CNPS Hatton Canyon plant list. Las Pilitas Nursery (linked in the aka above) states, "Crushed foliage smells like a green watermelon."  Oooh, I'll have to take a whiff the next time.

Victorian box ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon

I've seen this large shrub at different locations and wondered what it was.  My first thought when seeing it is coffeeberry.  Nope.  When it's in bloom, it reminds me of an orange tree.  And, I've tasted the bright red seeds.  Blech!  After several half-hearted attempts at IDing old photos, I finally resorted to a google image search for "orange berry tree wide wavy leaves".  Ta-da!  (Goodness, what did I do before google?  Anyone remember the World Book encyclopedia?)  I liked Trees of Santa Cruz County's blog post on Victorian box.  This garden escapee hails from eastern coastal Australia and has been locally reported at Jacks Peak and the Frog Pond.

CA manroot ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon

Marah fabacea (aka M. fabaceus)

My friend thought this was the dreaded cape ivy (Delairea odorata), because of the shape of the leaves and the viney way it was growing.  It does look similar.  However, I was pretty sure it was wild cucumber, but realized I never really paid close attention to either plant before.  If I hadn't found the prickly fruit, I might have been convinced otherwise.  Really, what do I know?  I'm continually learning.  There are 5 spp. of Marah found in CA, and the relatively flat corolla (rotate vs. cup-shaped) tells me this is M. fabacea.  Btw, cape ivy has yellow flowers and shiny leaves