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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Down to earth

Sometimes it's just fun to see things from a different perspective!

Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea), sunning in the grass on Bodega Head, 3 September 2015.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Just a quick picture to note that thousands of Sooty Shearwaters are still streaming by Bodega Head.  Tonight, on 2 September 2015, they were flying north in the late afternoon.

They were pretty far out at least 0.5 mile offshore but this picture will serve as a record.

Ocean temperatures have been fluctuating quite a bit.  From over 20°C (68°F) during the weekend, down to 13.2°C (55.8°F) yesterday (after some strong northwest winds), and back up to 16°C (61°F) today.  A small craft advisory is in effect tomorrow — those winds will probably cause another temperature drop.

If you're interested in the relationship between seabirds and sea water temperatures, you can read this recent description posted by Debi Shearwater.

And if you'd like to track how the sea water temperatures this year compare to the long-term average, check out this web page showing offshore temperatures (click on the "Seawater Temp" tab).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tiny settlers

A few days ago, Eric and I discovered some tiny crabs hiding among the branches of a clump of Green Pin-cushion Algae (Cladophora columbiana).  

Here's an even closer view of the crab.  Look at those beautiful bronzy eyes...and the wonderful red and yellow chromatophores.  My best guess a juvenile porcelain crab (Petrolisthes sp.), but let me know if you think otherwise.

You might be familiar with Green Pin-cushion Algae from the high intertidal zone.  It looks like patches of dark green moss:

So there are a couple of questions about the crabs we found in these algae clumps.  Were the crabs already in the algae while it was growing on the rocks, and then they were swept out to sea with the algae when it was dislodged?  

Or, was the algae drifting offshore and the crabs found it there during their larval stage i.e., the crabs settled out of the plankton onto the drifting algae, thinking it was suitable substrate?  

Sunday, August 30, 2015


I didn't get to post these pictures from 28 August 2015.  Just before sunset, the sky was filled with "popcorn" clouds.  Perhaps you saw them, too?

Here's a description of these cirrocumulus clouds from The Weather Network: 

"These high-altitude "popcorn" cloudlets can be a harbinger of unsettled weather. If they occur with cirrus and cirrostratus clouds spreading broadly across the sky, they may mean rain is on the way within 8-12 hours."

Sure enough, rain followed these clouds in the early morning of 29 August.  During the past 10 years, I remember rain (although rare) in June/July, but I'm having trouble recalling rain in August.  It was light and didn't amount to much about 0.8 mm (1/32 inch) in Bodega Bay — but it was nice waking up to the sounds of raindrops. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This juvenile Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) is standing in water that's 19.9°C (67.8°F)!  The photograph was taken on 29 August 2015 at Salmon Creek Beach.  I won't be surprised if the Pacific Ocean off Bodega Head reaches 20°C (68°F) tonight.  Amazing.  (That's more than 5°C above the long-term average for this time of year.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

All in the family

Eric called to say that he was seeing some young birds outside of his office.  Luckily, they were still in view by the time I got there.  Here's my first photo:

And then I captured two in one view:

This was my first close look at juvenile Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana).

Eric had noticed that these juveniles were being fed.  So I kept watching, and sure enough we saw the juveniles begging.  Here is one example:

And then another example (below).  This time the bird on the right is bringing food (just barely visible in its bill).

I was a little confused when we were watching this behavior.  The juveniles were begging and receiving food from birds that didn't look like adults.

I kept watching, and then saw this bird (on the left) come in to feed one of the juveniles:

The birds were moving quickly, but the blue on the neck and rusty color on the breast looked more like an adult...but then again, not quite right.  When I downloaded the photos I could see yellow at the gape (the base of the bill).  The bird on the left was not an adult it was also a juvenile, although an older individual.  The younger juveniles were being fed by older juveniles!

So then I had to look up information about cooperative breeding in bluebirds.  In turns out that it's very rare in Eastern Bluebirds, but a bit more common in Western Bluebirds.  [For example, in one study, 7.4% of Western Bluebird pairs at the Hastings Reservation (in Carmel, California) had helpers.]

The "helpers" can be either adults or juveniles.  In this case, they were juveniles.  When this happens, the older juveniles are most often helping their parents feed a later brood.  (Western Bluebirds can have up to three broods in one season.)

P.S.  To see pictures of adult Western Bluebirds, see the post from 12 December 2013.

P.P.S.  If you'd like to learn more about cooperative breeding in Western Bluebirds, check out this paper:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mystery spot

This might be tough, but can you guess where this photograph of a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) was taken?

Here's a more helpful clue:

It might also help to tell you that I was in San Francisco today.

Could you tell that these pictures were taken at a baseball field?  All of them were taken at AT&T Park on 27 August 2015.  The dragonflies were a nice bonus to an exciting baseball game!

In the past —  see the post from 1 July 2012 — I've mentioned that I have some fun when attending baseball games by keeping track of bird and insect sightings.

Today the most visible dragonflies were Common Green Darners.  They were actively feeding along the edges of the field.  I'm not sure exactly how many individuals were in the Park, but I photographed at least three at one time:

Although distant, I also photographed one tandem (male/female) pair of green darners:

And today I added one new "ballpark species" to my list.  I didn't get a photograph, but I saw one Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata).  I'd love to hear about your bird and dragonfly sightings at baseball games!