If you're interested in using any of these photographs in any way, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Catch of the day

I was working at my desk when Eric came by to let me know there was a whale close to shore.  I went out to see if it was still there and didn't see it, but something else caught the corner of my eye while scanning for signs of the whale.  It was strange I didn't immediately have an idea about what I was seeing.  From a distance it looked like a piece of driftwood, but it appeared to be swimming, so I kept watching as it approached the shore.  Here's my first view with the zoom lens:

Things were happening kind of quickly, so while looking through the camera I still wasn't quite sure what it was, but I kept taking photos:

Perhaps you can tell that this is a mammal swimming with a large fish?  In the previous photo, you can just barely see the mammal's nose while it held the fish crosswise in its mouth.
I finally processed that this was a River Otter (Lontra canadensis).  I don't think I've seen one with such a large fish, so although the otter disappeared behind some rocks, I had an idea about where it might be headed to eat the fish, so I checked to see if the otter had come ashore and whether I had a chance to identify the fish.  Here's the next view, zoomed in from far away (luckily I had a large lens on the camera!):
And another showing the length of the fish:
I'm pretty sure this is a Monkeyface Prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus).  I did a quick measurement from the photo and estimated that the prickleback was about as long as the otter's body (minus the tail).  And knowing the average length of an adult otter's body, I was able to estimate that the prickleback was ~27 inches long.  I read that the maximum size of Monkeyface Pricklebacks is ~30 inches, so this is about as big as they get.
One more picture of the otter starting to eat its prize:
I'd call that the catch of the day!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Beetle time


Earlier in June, I looked down to see this interesting beetle starting to explore my watch!  I suppose you can't tell how large my watch is, but it's still somewhat helpful for scale.  [The watch is about 3 cm (~1 inch) across.]

I think this is a Coyote Brush Leaf Beetle (Trirhabda flavolimbata).  Check out the beautiful metallic green color on the wing covers:


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Bigfoot sighting?


Juvenile California Quail (Callipepla californica), photographed 11 June 2021.  I was impressed with the size of its feet!

P.S.  Happy Summer Solstice!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Riding thermals


I stepped out of my car this morning (18 June 2021) to see this Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) riding thermals with vultures over the Bodega Dunes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Peanut brittle?


Okay, I know I've shown a few peanut worms recently, but this was a nice view of several different peanut worms (Phascolosoma agassizii) extending their introverts from a crevice and using the short ring of tentacles at the end to feed.  You can also see several arms of a brittle star extending out of the crevice and even lying across one of the peanut worms.

P.S.  If you want to play the "phyla game" again, look around to see what you can find.  Below I'll list the phyla in this image.

1. Peanut worm (Phascolosoma agassizii), Phylum Sipuncula
2. Brittle star, Phylum Echinodermata
3. Barnacle, Phylum Arthropoda
4. Limpet (checkered, in lower left corner), Phylum Mollusca
5. Tube worm (
orange tentacles, upper right corner), Phylum Annelida
6. Flatworm (gray/white, same species as last night), Phylum Platyhelminthes

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Local diversity


Eric noticed a beautiful scene in the low intertidal zone a few days ago.  There are six (!) different phyla (major animal groups) represented in this image, all in an area that was only ~4 cm x 4 cm (or ~1.5" x 1.5").  

Feel free to look around and see what you can find.

In the next image, I've circled or pointed to representatives of each phylum.


Green arrow = sea anemone (Epiactis handi), Phylum Cnidaria
White circle = barnacle (Chthamalus dalli), Phylum Arthropoda
Blue circles = flatworms (unidentified), Phylum Platyhelminthes
Orange arrow = peanut worm (Themiste pyroides), Phylum Sipuncula
Purple oval = tubeworm tentacles (Phragmatopoma californica), Phylum Annelida
Pink arrow = chiton (Tonicella lokii), Phylum Mollusca

Monday, June 14, 2021

Seeing eye to eye?


This wonderful sculpin was peeking out from behind a large sea anemone.  At first I wasn't sure about taking a photo because I couldn't see the entire fish.  But then I crouched down and looked more closely at its eye and the markings on its face, and I gave it a try.  I'm glad I did!  Check out this close-up:

P.S.  I'm going to be giving an online presentation for the Sonoma Land Trust this Thursday night (June 17).  The talk will be about developing a sense of place, using my experiences on Bodega Head as an example.  If you're interested in joining in, a registration link is available here: https://sonomalandtrust.org/outings/