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Thursday, February 29, 2024



Eric found this nice juvenile porcelain crab last weekend.  Meet the Pubescent Porcelain Crab (Pachycheles pubescens)!

I realized I haven't shown this type of crab on the NHBH before, and there's a more common species (Pachycheles rudis) that I should also introduce, so I'll try to do that at some point, too.

Meanwhile, note the short and very dense hairs on the claws giving this crab a pubescent or fuzzy appearance. 

Found in the low intertidal zone among some cobbles.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Angling towards March


Another February butterfly for you!  Adding to this week's list -- a Satyr Anglewing (Polygonia satyrus) photographed in Cotati on 28 February 2024.

Happy Leap Day tomorrow! 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Tortoiseshells, ladies, and an admiral


Remarkably, air temperatures reached ~70°F (~21°C) in Bodega Bay on 24 February 2024.  I was doing a lot of desk work that day, but while eating lunch we saw quite a few butterflies flying by from north to south.  Eventually I went out to identify which species were involved.  

It was somewhat hard to tell at first because the butterflies weren't stopping, but with persistence I discovered that the majority were California Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) see above.

25 February 2024 was also a warm and sunny day, and although we didn't go for a walk until late in the afternoon, Eric and I came across a couple of West Coast Ladies (Vanessa annabella) in Cotati...


...and one Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta):

Tomorrow morning there's a frost advisory in Cotati, so I'm guessing these butterflies will be tucked away until the next warm day.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Rosemary for breakfast?


While doing some errands in Sebastopol this morning, I noticed some movement in a rosemary bush at the edge of a parking lot.  Turned out to be a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) along with a few Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus).  They appeared to be eating the rosemary flowers.  

Siskins are often perched up high in trees, so it was fun to see them below eye level.  Above, two Pine Siskins.  (Note the nice yellow feather edges.)

Below, a bright male Lesser Goldfinch.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Green on green


Sculpin resting among blades of surfgrass (Phyllospadix sp.).  

Thanks for the great photo, Eric!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

It's been a while


It's been a while (about 6 years!) since we've seen Purple Sea Snails (Janthina umbilicata) in Bodega Bay, but some have appeared on local beaches this week.  

The last time we observed large numbers of this species was during the 2014-2016 marine heatwaves (which included a significant El Niño).  Smaller numbers also appeared in 2017 and 2018. 

Although there is a significant El Niño this winter, we haven't observed too many biological signs of it in Northern California i.e., in terms of marine invertebrate occurrences — at least not yet.

I don't know if these Janthina observations will be isolated or if we will continue to see them during the next several months.

The post I shared back in 2016 is a good introduction to Purple Sea Snails, so if you're interested in learning more about them you can check that out here.

These snails are pelagic usually found offshore.  They're fragile they don't live in an environment where they need a thick shell (they float upside down with a bubble raft at the surface of the ocean).  And they're small most of the individuals I saw this morning were ~5 mm long (with some smaller, some larger).  The purple color is eye-catching!  I'd love to hear if you come across any in Northern California.  Watch for them washed up in the wrack line, especially perhaps on south-facing beaches, and after strong southerly or westerly winds.

P.S.  Quite a few pyrosomes have also washed up this week, along with Diphyes (a siphonophore).  I'll post some more photos soon.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Foam flurries


Recent weather forecasts have included a lot of different things  scattered showers, gusty winds, elevated seas, flood advisories, thunderstorms, water spouts but I don't think anyone mentioned foam flurries!  Strong winds and large waves conspired to launch pieces of foam skyward today (19 February 2024).

Here are a few wave photos, too.  Swell heights reached almost 20 feet: