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Monday, July 6, 2015

A glimpse of green

Isn't that an amazing color?  Some people have called it "grass-green."

Do you know what type of animal this is?

The next image provides a more complete view:

This fish was swimming in and out among the Feather Boa Kelp fronds.

My best guess is that it's a Penpoint Gunnel (Apodichthys flavidus).  I had a little trouble with it, because there aren't many gunnels with horizontal stripes from the mouth to the eye.  I eventually found one reference that mentioned juvenile Penpoint Gunnels can have that type of marking.  However, if you think it's a different species, just let me know!

A couple of interesting facts about Penpoint Gunnels:

- After the female lays a cluster of eggs, the male will guard them for ~2.5 months until they hatch.

- They're known for displaying a dynamic color polymorphism.  Individuals can be green, red, or brown.  One research study figured out that the color depends on where the juvenile fish settles and how much light is availablethat is, if it settles high in the intertidal zone in shallow water, it will be green; but if it settles low in deeper water, it will be red-brown.  (It doesn't matter what type of algae is in the background.)

Watch for these beautiful eel-like fish among the seaweeds and cobbles along the shore.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Standoff

I was watching a jumping spider crawl along a rock face in the high intertidal zone.  As it approached a limpet, I wasn't sure what it would do would it crawl around the limpet?

Nope!  It crawled right up onto the limpet.

The spider kept going, moving towards the crevice. 

And then this happened:

A juvenile Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) emerged from the crevice and moved towards the spider.  The crab appeared to be defending its space.

What do you think happened?

The spider retreated and crawled further up the rock wall.

I don't think I had ever considered a standoff between a jumping spider and an intertidal crab.  In retrospect, since there is overlap in the habitat they utilize, I supposed it shouldn't have been a surprise.  But it sure was fun to see it today! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saddles in Bodega Bay

I've been waiting for a long time to see this dragonfly in northern California.

I know it isn't the best picture.  But you'll laugh at the story.  I had heard Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) had been spotted in Half Moon Bay, the Bay Area, and in Santa Rosa recently.  I wanted to see one, but I couldn't make it in to Santa Rosa at the time. So I went out to one of the closest ponds in the Bodega Dunes, figuring I'd probably have a chance there, since these dragonflies have been moving northward, and they can be found along the coast.  

I spent some time at the pond, and didn't see one dragonfly...not one!  I was about to leave, but paused to take some notes about how the drought has affected the vegetation around the pond.  And then I looked up to see a dragonfly appear at one corner of the pond.  And I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized it was a Red Saddlebags.  A single dragonfly, and it was the one I was hoping to see!

I tried to take a picture for documentation, and ended up with one that's good enough for the record (see below).  This dragonfly made a couple of passes along the edge of the pond and then disappeared, so I felt lucky to get even one picture.

Red Saddlebags have large red patches at the bases of the hind wings.  The "red saddles" often have a central spot that's clear, which you can see in the photo above.

I'm still learning about the distribution of dragonflies in California.  My impression is that Red Saddlebags are resident in southern California, but only move northward to northern California in some years.  And you can see from the distribution map provided by Kathy Biggs (link below) that Sonoma County is near the northern limit for Red Saddlebags along the coast:

Count yourself lucky if you see a Red Saddlebags this year.   And if you do, I'd love to hear about it.  

P.S.  If you're wondering, the site where Red Saddlebags were seen in Santa Rosa is Nagasawa Community Park.  Check out Alan's outstanding pictures of them here.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seasonal display

Happy Fourth of July!

It seemed like sharing the seed head of the local Beach Dandelion (Agoseris apargioides var. eastwoodiae) would be a fun way to help celebrate.  Does it remind you of fireworks or sparklers?

If you're curious, this is what Agoseris looks like in flower (below).  Note the broad, fuzzy leaves.  You can find Beach Dandelions along Bodega Head's coastal bluffs.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fluffy, like granite

A few years ago, I posted a series of pictures documenting the development of 'Summersalt,' a juvenile Black Oystercatcher.  To review that story, see the post from 17 August 2012.

Today, while returning from a different type of survey, I accidentally passed by a young Black Oystercatcher being guarded by its parent.  I was a good distance away, but luckily I had my long lens on the camera.  So I took a few quick photos and then moved on.  I cropped this photo substantially to focus on the chick.

It's amazing how well it blends in with the surrounding rocks.  If the adult oystercatcher hadn't given an alarm call, I don't think I would have seen the chick.

We're lucky to have these beautiful shorebirds nesting along our coast!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sailor's delight

Around 8 p.m., the air temperature started dropping, a breeze began to blow, and dark clouds were visible to the east.  I wondered if it was raining somewhere:

I went outside for a better view, and noticed large flocks of American Crows flying to roost:

I went out a third time to check on the sky, and this time I looked west:


It only intensified:

I hope some of you got to see this sunset, too.  Or perhaps the full moon a little bit later?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wandering offshore

Well, I'd rather see one alive, but since this is the first time I've seen a Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) washed up on a beach in Bodega Bay, I thought it was worth posting a picture:

Last summer I shared a picture of the similar Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) washed up on the beach.  If you'd like to compare, you can review the post from 10 July 2014.

While we experience a short heat wave today and tomorrow (over 100°F or 38°C in Santa Rosa today!), I wouldn't be surprised to see more migrant dragonflies appearing in our area.
Keep your eyes open!

P.S.  We don't know what happens to these dragonflies.  Do they fly too far offshore and run out of energy?  Do they get blown out to sea by strong winds?