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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The sound of raindrops...

...in July!

I was a little surprised to hear the sound of raindrops this morning.  I went outside to experience the passing shower, and looked up to see raindrops falling from the sky with the crescent moon in the background:

The sun was high enough that I thought there was a good chance for a rainbow.  I finally spotted a faint arch in the western sky:

The clouds were spectacular.  I couldn't choose just one photo, so here are a few:

Quite a morning for sky watching!

Monday, July 21, 2014


Today the seawater temperature off Bodega Head reached 17.5°C (63.5°F).  That's one of the warmest temperature readings I've seen since moving here 10 years ago!  It made me look out at the ocean and wonder where that warm water was coming from:

Even far offshore, at the NDBC Bodega Bay buoy, the seawater temperature passed 61°F today.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Peanuts with chocolate chips

For years I've been trying to photograph this intriguing peanut worm, Themiste pyroides:

I've discussed peanut worms on the blog before (see post from 31 January 2013), but I haven't shown this species yet.

Remember that peanut worm tentacles are located at the tip of a long "introvert" that can be withdrawn, or rolled in on itself.  Here's a series of pictures illustrating that process (below).  Watch the tentacles disappear!

Themiste pyroides has wonderful golden tentacles, a purple "neck", and fascinating hooked brown spines — see close-up below.  You'll laugh, but the shape of the spines reminds us of tiny chocolate chips!

Because peanut worms live in crevices, you often only get to see their tentacles.  Look closely for clusters of golden tentacles extending from low intertidal zone crevices along rocky shores, and you may be rewarded with a sighting of Themiste pyroides!

P.S.  In this species, the tentacles are used for suspension feedinggathering small food particles from the water.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer sailors

I haven't been able to get out in the field as much recently, so pardon me if I've been missing this event (and please tell me if I have!).

Today I came across some very large By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) washing ashore on the beach.

Most of these individuals were 7-8 cm (~3 inches) across at the base of the float see next photo.  [With the mantle extended (the dark blue portion), they measured 10 cm (~4 inches) across.]

Although I submitted a 3-part series about Velella in March, I'm posting these pictures now because it's somewhat unusual to see Velella during the summer...and because I haven't seen Velella this large on Bodega Head in a long time (I think it's been years!).

The local ocean water is extremely warm right now — 62°F (16.7°C).  Perhaps there's a different water mass nearby that's brought a population of Velella near shore at an unusual time of year?

It'll be interesting to see if anything else unusual shows up with this warm ocean water.

P.S.  For more information about Velella velella, see previous posts: December surprise (2012) and Below the water line (2014).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slant of light and shades of gray

Early evening light, photographed from Bodega Head, 16 July 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bird of prey

I turned the corner when I arrived home, looked up, and was surprised (shocked) to see this Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) sitting on the corner of the building.

It seemed to be actively looking and listening to nearby activity.  And then it focused on something intently.  I'm glad it wasn't me.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Master of disguise

After field work this morning, Eric's sharp eyes spotted something interesting below a boulder:

It might be hard to identify at first, but did you find the small octopus in the center of the image?  It's camouflaged like a rock.  The overall color of the octopus is brown, somewhat different than the rest of its surroundings. And if you look closely, you can see the two eyes outlined in white. 

We decided to watch this octopus for a little while, and we're so glad that we did.  Here's what happened next:

The octopus left the ledge and moved into a patch of coralline algae:

In the picture above, the octopus (the same one) is in the center of the image.  It's so well camouflaged, this time like the algae, that it might be challenging to see.  Below is a closeup to help you find the octopus and to help you appreciate the wonders of its disguisethe colors, the patterns, and the textures.  Notice how pointy it is, just like the upright branches of the algae!

Then the octopus moved to the edge of the coralline algae and started transforming again:

It morphed into an amazing combination — the head and mantle looked like the pale, blotchy tunicates (sea squirts) in the background, while the arms looked like the darker purplish-red algae nearby.

Is it a rock, algae, or a tunicate?  What a master of disguise!