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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Different coasts

I grew up on a beach in southern New England — looking for sea glass among the beach stones, watching minnows in shallow salt marsh pools, searching the horizon for diving terns revealing the presence of Bluefish or Striped Bass, skipping stones across a tidal river, digging softshell clams in thick mud and feeling for quahogs with our toes, rolling down sand dunes, skating across cranberry bogs....and yes, handlining for cod from a skiff within sight of shore!  But it was not a place where we saw wild cats.

Here's me in the Provincetown dunes I can't remember the year, so I'll have to check with my mom.  It's somewhat appropriate to share a picture of me from long ago since my birthday's approaching three cheers for Capricorns!

And about that cat.

This Bobcat padded across our path in the middle of the day today.  Although I'm used to seeing Bobcats now, I'll never get tired of them.  They're so beautiful, and I'll always be curious about what they're up to.

This individual seemed to be listening intently, and then it lowered its head and started to sniff around some branches.  Its tail was twitching.  After it decided there wasn't enough of interest, it started walking faster and left the area.

Although at times the rufous coloration and the stripes and spots stand out, against other backgrounds you can see how they really blend in: 

I miss New England, but I'm thankful for these special moments learning about Lynx rufus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sneaker waves

I had been paying so much attention to the rain forecast, somehow I missed that the waves were going to reach 14-15 feet this morning.  They were impressive!  Especially with the interesting light and clouds and the south-southeast winds.  I only had a few minutes, but here a few images for the record.

With pelican:

With rainbow:

 With white water: 

All images from Bodega Head on 16 December 2014.  Although today the waves snuck up on me, tomorrow the waves are predicted to be 12-15 feet, this time with westerly winds. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Straps and stalks

After the big waves on Thursday and Friday, we took a short walk to see if anything interesting had washed up on the beach.

We noticed quite a bit of Strap Kelp (Lessoniopsis littoralis).  I showed pictures of this species in April 2012, so click here to review what Strap Kelp looks like when it's attached to the rocks.

Below is an example of one specimen washed up on the beach:

Did you notice anything growing on the kelp?  You can look again if you need to.

If you need a better view, here's a close-up of the base of the kelp:

What was interesting about the Strap Kelp washed ashore this weekend was that almost every specimen had significant clumps of Gooseneck Barnacles (Pollicipes polymerus) growing on them.

Many of the barnacles were juveniles note the small size, gray coloration, and pale stalks (above).  A few of the barnacles were older — note the larger size, whiter plates, and darker stalks (below):

This observation confirmed something, but also led to a somewhat frustrating question.

This fall we've noticed that it seems to have been a very good year for Gooseneck Barnacle settlement.  That is, we've seen lots of juveniles around.  Seeing so many juveniles growing on Strap Kelp just confirms the observations of good Gooseneck Barnacle settlement at other sites.

But I also realized that I couldn't remember if I'd ever seen Gooseneck Barnacles growing on Strap Kelp before.  This always frustrates me.  I've seen both species quite often, but now I can't remember if I've ever been observant enough to notice if Gooseneck Barnacles regularly grow on Strap Kelp, or if it only happens in good settlement years for the barnacles?  Do you know?

And one more interesting question to ponder — Do you think the barnacles would help, harm, or have no effect on the kelp in terms of its susceptibility to waves?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Clouds and pirates

I arrived at Salmon Creek Beach to see this:

But I went there to see this:

In late November, I wrote about an interesting behaviorBonaparte's Gulls pirating food from Sanderlings.  I was intrigued enough by this behavior that I went back to watch some more.  This time, the gulls were pirating food from Marbled Godwits.

Here's a series of shots as the gulls approached the godwits:

The gulls were fairly aggressive about it running towards the godwits when it looked like they might have prey, vocalizing, and entering the "godwits' space."  Several times I saw the godwits poke or chase the gulls away.

I'm not sure if all Bonaparte's Gulls do this, or if some individuals decide it's a productive way to obtain food.  Later I checked Salmon Creek itself, and there were at least 30 Bonaparte's Gulls feeding along the shoreline there, without exhibiting pirating behavior.  Or do individuals alternate between feeding strategies?

By the way, because there are so many Bonaparte's Gulls there right now (near the mouth of the Creek), and for some reason they're quite vocal, it's a great opportunity to listen to them and to learn their calls (perhaps I'll try to record them).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rough seas

A few images to capture the storm today.  At the time (around noon), waves were about 16 feet, and the wind was blowing at about 20 knots (23 mph) from the south. 

Average wave period was about 8.5 seconds.

I dashed out when the rain was lighter, but for the record, it looks like we received about 4.5 inches of rain on Bodega Head during the last 24 hours.

When the coastal prairie is flooded and the rocky shore is unavailable due to high surf, we often see shorebirds roosting and feeding among prairie vegetation.  It's always fun to see Whimbrel and Black Turnstones surrounded by Seaside Daisies.

P.S.  I can't help mentioning that the ocean temperature is still remarkably high.  Today it was 15.3°C (59.5°F).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Remembering 2008

A couple of days ago I read that the storm arriving tonight and tomorrow could be similar to the one we experienced in 2008.  That brought back a lot of memories, so I reviewed some pictures and thought I'd share one from the day after that storm.  

Waves reached heights of about 30 feet on 5-6 January 2008.  The pictures I took during the storm don't really do them justice the ocean mostly looks gray and white.  I got some better pictures the day after, when the skies started to clear and the ocean had calmed down a bit.

Tomorrow the forecast is for rain, with 30-40 knot winds, gusts to 55 knots, and combined seas of 16-22 feet.  We'll see what that looks like!  Be careful out there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Serena's wish

This morning Serena submitted a comment on last night's "Fire bodies" post saying that she had seen pyrosomes in the Channel Islands this summer.  At the time, she also observed a small crustacean living inside the pyrosomes.  I replied that I, too, had noticed a small crustacean inside a few of the pyrosomes washed up on Salmon Creek Beach yesterday.  Serena wrote back that she'd like to see a picture of one...so...here it is!

I don't know if this is the same animal that Serena saw, but it does have very large eyes, a feature that she remembered. 

At first I thought this might be an isopod because it looked fairly flattened from top-to-bottom.  However, with more attention, and some research, I'm now thinking this is probably an amphipod.  Although amphipods are often flattened side-to-side, some of the hyperiid amphipods can have a more rounded appearance. 

I didn't have a lot of time, but I also found one reference that listed a few known associates of pyrosomes which mentioned hyperiid amphipods.

For now I'll call it an amphipod, but I'd be very interested in feedback from anyone with more experience.

And now for some more imaginative thoughts: 

What is it like for an amphipod to live inside of a pyrosome?  When I saw one, it was positioned such that it appeared to have a view looking out at the world through the transparent tunic of the pyrosome.  It must be quite something to be drifting along inside of a long, jet-propelled cylinder.  Do they see other animals swimming by?  Can they move to different places within the pyrosome, e.g., from side to side or front to back?  What is it like for the amphipod when the pyrosome starts to bioluminesce?  Pyrosome bioluminescence can be triggered by motion.  Can the movement of an amphipod start a bioluminescent wave?

Above I mentioned that Serena remembered the amphipod's large eyes.  While observing them, I tried to come up with a name for their color.  I'll let you look, and then I'll tell you what I came up with below.

You're going to laugh at me, but eventually I decided on "marsala"the 2015 Pantone Color of the Year!

What?  You hadn't heard about the color of the year yet?  Well then, you'll have to check it out here at the Pantone web site and see if you think it's a match for this amphipod's trendy eye color.