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Monday, October 15, 2018

Up at the surface

A few Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) photos from the pelagic trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 14 October 2018.

Note the large eyes; pale whiskers; conspicuous ear pinnae (external part of the ear); and long flippers.

P.S.  I shared some information about Northern Fur Seals in a couple of earlier posts: "Jughandling" on 29 August 2014 and "The little bear with the beautiful nose" on 29 March 2016.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Back from the blue

I was out at sea today (14 October 2018), so I'm starting to fade.  But here's the back and dorsal fin of a Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).  More to come this week...stay tuned!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday nightjar

Well, time slipped away from me today, so I'll have wait to share a more detailed story about the Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) that I showed in last night's post.  But here's another photo of the same bird (below).  Check out the beautiful details of the feathers!  [Click on the image for a larger version.]

And yes, this bird is perched on the roof of a car (!).  The short story is that it was accidentally flushed from a daytime roost site, and ended up sitting on this car in the Bodega Marine Laboratory parking lot for a little while. If you're interested, I shared some information about poorwills back in 2014 see the 6 November 2014 post called "the sleeping one."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday night special

I'll reveal more tomorrow night, but for now...enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The usual view

A brief glimpse of a Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) before it disappeared behind the rushes along the shoreline.  Note the cryptically colored plumage, allowing them to blend in with wetland vegetation.

This description from The Birds of North America account is quite accurate "the usual view of a Wilson's Snipe is as it flushes from grass or sedges, escaping in rapid, zigzag flight while uttering a rasping scaipe."

On Bodega Head, Wilson's Snipes are relatively rare migrants or winter residents.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rising tide

Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Bodega Harbor on 7 October 2018.  

The seals were hauled out on the edge of the tidal flats (near the boat channel).  Their heads and tails/hind flippers are arched up out of the water, but the tide has come in and covered their mid-sections (so their bellies are still resting on the bottom).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

In the bay

These are somewhat distant shots, but I haven't shown photos of these species before.  Both were taken in Bodega Bay (in the water off Pinnacle Gulch) on 7 October 2018. [You can click on the images for slightly larger versions.]

Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii) 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Fall colors

The large-scale movement of California Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) that I mentioned in last night's post continued this morning.  The butterflies seemed to be enjoying the morning sun on the south-facing walls of the Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Many of them were also probing the surface of the building with their proboscises.  I wondered what they might be interested in — could there be salt on the outside of the building?  Or were they just searching for moisture or nutrients?

They're such beautiful butterflies, and I just love the fall colors in their wings.  I took a few photos for the record:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Why did the tortoiseshell cross the road?

Late this afternoon, I was driving south along Highway 1 from Bodega Bay towards Valley Ford, when I noticed a fairly steady stream of butterflies crossing the road.  I thought they might be tortoiseshells, but I wasn't certain without a better view.  So I pulled over in Valley Ford to take a closer look.

The number of butterflies was impressive!  I counted more than 50 individuals in ~10-15 minutes.

They were California Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica), and here are two photos for the record.  Both were taken on the outer wall of what is now the Northern Light Surf Shop in Valley Ford.

Around this time last year, there was also a large movement of California Tortoiseshells.  See the post called "And the answer is..." on 26 September 2017.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A big splash

Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have been quite active off Bodega Head during the last couple of days.  Although somewhat distant near the horizon when viewed from shore — they've been breaching frequently, creating enormous splashes when they hit the surface.  If you're at the coast this weekend, scan the horizon for breaching Humpbacks.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Loping along

I can't help posting one more River Otter photo.  After they finished feeding in the swash zone, this family of three (mom on the right) loped along the shore for a bit before leaving the beach.  It's a nice view of otters in motionand check out those broad feet!  [This photo was taken with a large zoom lens and then heavily cropped, so I was much farther away than it looks.]

I hope this helps cheer up your day! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Heads in the sand

Some interesting observations of River Otters (Lontra canadensis) this morning (3 October 2018).  This group of three otters was spending some time in the swash zone on a sandy beach:

From their postures, it appeared they might be feeding.  Note the young otter on the far leftthe nose-up position is one that you often see when otters are eating something.  And check out the mother otter on the far right with her head curved downward.  She appears to be holding something and perhaps chewing on it or manipulating a prey item in some way.

I started to wonder if they might be eating Mole Crabs (Emerita analoga).  So I took a few more pictures.  Watch the young otter in the middle of the photo — you can see it "bulldozing" its head through the sand, perhaps in pursuit of a crab:

And here's one more photo, with all three otters lined up.  It looks like the younger otter in the foreground might be using its paw to dig at something in the sand:

I've read about Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) eating Mole Crabs, but I haven't seen reference to River Otters doing so.  Perhaps it's an opportunistic behavior?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

With the passing rains

This morning I was interested to see that we received almost 2 inches of rain last night.  Some of the local birds took advantage of the puddles.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) among them:

Likely the same bird in a Coyote Brush shrub (Baccharis pilularis):

Not too far away, a Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) was finding something to eat on the pavement:

And here's a view of the same bird on a nearby Bush Lupine (Lupinus arboreus):

Nice views during a brief walk through the parking lot!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dark sand

Close-up of a layer of dark sand — a mix of quartz, garnet, and magnetite — on a beach in Chatham, MA, photographed on 27 September 2018. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Turnstones among stones

A Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) among stones in Humarock, MA, on 28 September 2018.

And here's a closer view of a Ruddy Turnstone in Bodega Harbor, CA, on 7 September 2018:

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Beach hopper blues

A beautiful blue-eyed beach hopper (a type of amphipod) at the entrance to its burrow on a sandy beach in Chatham, MA, on 27 September 2018.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In the puddles

A few days ago we were walking in the woods in New Hampshire when Eric noticed some movement in pools of water on the trail. 

We couldn't see what it was at first, but then our eyes adjusted to the dim light and we spotted these wonderful Red-spotted Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens).  

Their scientific name means "greenish with eyespots" and you can see why, with the greenish-brown background color and the bright-orange-ringed-with-black eyespots on the body:

Red-spotted Newts have an interesting life history they're aquatic as adults.  Note the flattened tail (for swimming) in the photos above.  However, the juvenile stage (called an "eft") is terrestrial, spending 1-3 or more years on land before returning to the water.  

Efts are more reddish in color, have rougher skin, and more rounded tails.  Interestingly, we found one newt that might have been a juvenile transforming into an adult.  Note the reddish-orange color, the rougher skin texture, and a tail that appears to be undergoing metamorphosis into a more fin-like shape:

It was fun to visit with these wonderful salamanders!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On the lake

Common Loon (Gavia immer) in New Hampshire on 24 September 2018

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A green-eyed welcome!

What a nice welcome to Massachusetts!  This is one of my favorite groups of dragonflies.  A beautiful Clamp-tipped Emerald (Somatochlora tenebrosa):

I'm on way out "out-the-door," so I don't have time to figure out which species this is yet (but now updated above and below).  But here are a couple of close-ups in case someone wants to help me with the i.d.

A close-up of the eyes and the thoracic markings:

And the terminal appendages, which are pretty impressive!

(P.S. I'll have intermittent Internet access this week, but I'll post when I can!)

ADDENDUM (25 September 2018): Just back with Internet access today.  A couple of nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night with the word "tenebrosa" in my head.  I haven't had to identify emeralds since moving to California, but my brain must have retained enough to work its way (slowly) to the identification of this dragonfly.  I've updated the name at the top of this post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

M & M

Did you look up at the sky tonight (19 September 2019)?  It was amazing to see Mars so bright just below the Moon!  In the photo below, look for Mars at the bottom of the image (almost directly below the Moon.)

Here's a close-up of Mars a bit fuzzy, but you can see that intriguing reddish color:

And one of the Moon:

 A beautiful night sky!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Through the fog

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) spout off Bodega Head, 16 September 2018.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Feathers in the wind

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) in the wind, Bodega Bay, 16 September 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Color coordinated

A few quick pictures of one of my favorite local moths (photographed on 15 September 2018).  Note how the patterns on the legs match the wings!

We moved this Painted Tiger Moth (Arachnis picta) to a safe spot.

Although gray and black and white above, the underwings and abdomen of this species are quite colorful:

I've always been curious about the red coloration on its front legs.  Why so colorful there?

Here's an even closer view:

The bright red color in that position reminded me of another beautiful species that I photographed in Sebastopol several years ago.  Do you remember the Goddess of the Hearth?  Click on this link to see the Vestal Tiger Moth (Spilosoma vestalis) from 21 April 2012.

I've written about Painted Tiger Moths a few times, so if you'd like to learn more, or to enjoy some more photos, you can review these posts:


Thursday, September 13, 2018

A little furry

Last month we found a very small juvenile Furry Crab (Hapalogaster cavicauda).  The width of the carapace (the back) of the crab was only ~4 mm across.  It was clinging to a patch of pink Derby Hat Bryozoan (Eurystomella bilabiata) in the low intertidal zone.  

P.S.  I've written about this species before, so if you'd like to see what this crab looks like when it's older, check out the post called "Soft belly" on 21 February 2017.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rocky shore

I've been organizing some photos, so here's a nice shot of the rocky shore in July 2018:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


When we left work tonight (11 September 2018), there was nice light on the American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) feeding at the north end of Bodega Harbor:

I kept scanning to try to see what the pelicans were catching.  What do you thinkdoes this pelican have a stickleback at the tip of its bill?  [Click on the photo for a larger version.]