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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Named after a cactus

Large waves during the past week have washed lots of seaweed onto the beaches.  Pictured above is Red Opuntia (Opuntiella californica) named after prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.).  Note the distinctive growth form, with spreading branches of rounded blades.

P.S.  I had no idea — Do you know how many different species of prickly pear cactus can be found in California?  Any guesses?  The answer is: Fifteen!  (There's only one species of Opuntiella in the state.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Humpbacks, too

Views of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) while on the way back to Bodega Bay during an offshore boat trip on 9 October 2016:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Just the blues

I'm going to show a few more pictures from the boat trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 9 October 2016.  We were treated to some amazing views of Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that day some of the best I've had on the West Coast.  I'm excited to share these pictures with you.

Tonight's post features Blue Whales.  This is a great opportunity to compare individuals.  Look closely at the overall shade of gray, the details in the pattern of splotches along the sides, and the shapes of the dorsal fins.

[Remember that you can click on the images for larger versions.]

Interpreting that last picture can be a little tricky.  At first, it might look like a large shark fin slicing through the water.  It's one half of the whale's flukes turned sideways as it's swimming.

In a few images above, you can see the way the pale skin of the Blue Whales appears turquoise below the surface.

Monday, October 17, 2016

On the dock


River Otters (Lontra canadensis), 
photographed on a dock in Bodega Harbor, 10 October 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Adrift and brooding

While looking at some kelp holdfasts a few days ago, Eric's sharp eyes noticed a dark red blob with some smaller blobs along the edges:

A Proliferating Anemone (Epiactis prolifera)!  We were excited about finding this species because although Proliferating Anemones used to be common in the intertidal zone on Bodega Head, they disappeared around 2011 (perhaps associated with a harmful algal bloom at that time).  It's been years since we've seen one on Bodega Head.

Proliferating Anemones are external broodersthe adults brood juveniles along a groove near the base of the column (where the anemones attach to the substrate, e.g., a rock or algae).  Because they don't have a planktonic stage (the juveniles simply crawl away from the adult), it might take a long time for this species to recolonize Bodega Head.  Their best chance might be via rafting on kelp.

Here's a close-up of the adult anemone shown above with two larger juveniles on its right side (the anemones expanded once submerged under water):

And below is another view of even smaller juveniles nestled in the "brood groove."  The larger tentacles of the adult are visible at the top left corner of the photo.

Juvenile anemones will spend ~4 months being brooded by the parent.  One study I read estimated that Epiactis might persist for ~100 days on a kelp raft.  If the kelp washes up in appropriate habitat (e.g., in the rocky intertidal zone), the anemones might have an opportunity to move off of the kelp and onto the rocks.  (Yes, anemones can move!)

On 14 October 2016, we encountered quite a few kelp holdfasts washed ashore, perhaps transported from southern locations, as discussed in last night's post.  Many of the kelps were covered with small pelagic barnacles (Lepas sp.), indicating they had been adrift for at least a little while.  Not only did Eric spot the brooding individual shown above, but he found two other smaller Proliferating Anemones — one pink and one green:

While on the boat trip on 9 October, I photographed a raft of drifting Bull Kelp:

Perhaps there were some Epiactis on this raft?  If so, I hope some of them make their way to Bodega Head.  It would be nice to have this anemone around again.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Typhoon Songda

During the last two days, we've been feeling the effects of Typhoon Songda — stormy conditions, with strong winds, rain, and big waves.

Yesterday (14 October 2016) we found quite a few heteropods washed up on Salmon Creek Beach.  Here's one of the larger individuals:

I haven't encountered Carinaria japonica very often.  I wrote about this fascinating pelagic snail on 7 December 2014, but that was based on a sighting in March 2011.  To review those pictures and more information about Carinaria japonica, click here.

There were some other interesting things washed up on the beach yesterday, so Eric and I started wondering about the direction of the currents was the flow from the north or the south? 

This morning I remembered to check the current maps on the marine lab's website, and noted the strong flow from the south.

Then I went for a short beach walk this afternoon and found this washed up on the beach:

From a distance, I thought it might be a large pine cone.  When I got closer I thought perhaps it was a pineapple.  Then when I was right next to it, I realized what it was an artichoke!  I smiled and laughed.  :)  Of course!  This confirmed the flow from the south (maybe from Castroville?).  The recent storm represented the "Artichoke Express" rather than the "Pineapple Express"!

P.S.  I'm guessing this will be one of the only (if not the only!) posts that includes both a heteropod and an artichoke!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Out at sea

A few more of the seabirds observed during the boat trip to Bodega Canyon/Cordell Bank on 9 October 2016:

Black-vented Shearwater (Puffinus opisthomelas)

Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius

South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki

Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus)

Rhinoceros Auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata)

Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)

We saw three different puffins that daya good number for this area.  Overall numbers of birds were relatively low, but the diversity of species was decent.