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Monday, October 31, 2016

Looking for flies

I'm running out of time tonight, but I'll share this nice picture of a Red Phalarope from Doran Beach.  Hundreds of Red Phalaropes were feeding along the beach today (in the water and on the sand).  I think they were primarily feeding on flies. 

I don't know how long they'll stay, but if you're interested in trying to see Red Phalaropes, you might try looking between the whale monument and the North Jetty (see park map here).

Sunday, October 30, 2016

High in the sky

A day of interesting weatherrain showers alternating with sun, wind, and dynamic clouds.  We looked up at the end of the day to see a faint rainbow very high in the sky:

I hope you enjoyed the weather, too.

And here's wishing you...

...a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016


A 10-foot west-northwest swell late this afternoon, 29 October 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Just spinning in the rain

The Red Phalaropes were still at Gaffney Point today, so I took a few more photosthis time in light rain:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The day after the storm

I got lucky today — I had been working in the office through the morning, but then had to make a quick run to the post office.  On the way back, I noticed Mario photographing some shorebirds near Gaffney Point.  The recent storm had pushed some Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicarius) into Bodega Harbor.  (They're normally found much farther offshore.)  

The phalaropes were busy feeding in shallow water along the edge of the mudflats.  They're beautiful little birds, so here's a selection of images[Click on the pictures for larger versions.]

I was curious about what the phalaropes were feeding on, so I was glad to capture the next image.  Can you tell what's in the phalarope's bill?

It's a bright green shrimp!  The phalaropes were actively probing around patches of sea lettuce (Ulva sp.).  When they came up with prey, I couldn't tell what it was in the field.  But when I checked my pictures it was clear that several of the phalaropes were catching shrimp. 

The wind was calm today, creating good conditions for listening to the phalaropes.  I might have recorded some of their call notes.  If so, I'll post those soon.

Although it's predicted to be stormy during the next few days, the weather might bring more phalaropes into Bodega Harbor.  Keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

During the storm

Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) taking shelter on the beach during the storm, 25 October 2016.

Monday, October 24, 2016

1.5 and counting

It's been raining for most of the day, so after dinner I thought I'd take a quick look outside to see if there were any amphibians around.  I said to Eric somewhat hesitantly but hopefully, "Maybe I can find a salamander..."  Then I opened the back door with my headlamp on, looked down and said, "There's one!"

About 1.5 inches of rain has fallen so far today.  I'm sure many salamanders, frogs, and toads are taking advantage of the wet conditions!

Three quick images of an Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris) in Cotati on 24 October 2016:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A visitor from East Asia

On 18 October 2016, a Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus) was discovered at Point Reyes.  I couldn't help it — I went to see it today.  I hadn't seen this species before and Point Reyes is so close!  There are only about 12 records for Lesser Sand-Plover in California, making it a very rare vagrant to this area.

Their former name Mongolian Plover hints at where they're usually found.  They breed in northeast Asia (e.g., examples of breeding sites include eastern Siberia, southern Mongolia, western China, the Himalayas) and winter from the Philippines to Australia.  Needless to say, this bird has strayed quite far from its normal range.

In the pictures below, look for the overall brownish coloration above, the dark markings around the eye, and the pale buffy coloration on the forehead and face (and faintly on the breast).

These photos were taken this afternoon, 23 October 2016 (about 1-hour walk north of the North Beach parking lot on the outer beach of Point Reyes):

In the image below, look for both the Lesser Sand-Plover and the Snowy Plover.  Note the Snowy Plover is smaller and paler gray:

(The Lesser Sand-Plover is on the far right; the Snowy Plover is on the far left.) 

And one more:

Good night!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Taking a breath

I haven't shared a sound file in a while...but I ended up with a few recordings of whale spouts when we were on the boat trip on 9 October 2016.  So here you go[You might need to turn up the volume of your speakers.]

Sadly, I didn't keep track of which species of whales these are, but they're either Blue Whales or Humpback Whales.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Named after a cactus

Large waves during the past week have washed lots of seaweed onto the beaches.  Pictured above is Red Opuntia (Opuntiella californica) named after prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.).  Note the distinctive growth form, with spreading branches of rounded blades.

P.S.  I had no idea — Do you know how many different species of prickly pear cactus can be found in California?  Any guesses?  The answer is: Fifteen!  (There's only one species of Opuntiella in the state.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Humpbacks, too

Views of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) while on the way back to Bodega Bay during an offshore boat trip on 9 October 2016:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Just the blues

I'm going to show a few more pictures from the boat trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 9 October 2016.  We were treated to some amazing views of Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that day some of the best I've had on the West Coast.  I'm excited to share these pictures with you.

Tonight's post features Blue Whales.  This is a great opportunity to compare individuals.  Look closely at the overall shade of gray, the details in the pattern of splotches along the sides, and the shapes of the dorsal fins.

[Remember that you can click on the images for larger versions.]

Interpreting that last picture can be a little tricky.  At first, it might look like a large shark fin slicing through the water.  It's one half of the whale's flukes turned sideways as it's swimming.

In a few images above, you can see the way the pale skin of the Blue Whales appears turquoise below the surface.

Monday, October 17, 2016

On the dock


River Otters (Lontra canadensis), 
photographed on a dock in Bodega Harbor, 10 October 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Adrift and brooding

While looking at some kelp holdfasts a few days ago, Eric's sharp eyes noticed a dark red blob with some smaller blobs along the edges:

A Proliferating Anemone (Epiactis prolifera)!  We were excited about finding this species because although Proliferating Anemones used to be common in the intertidal zone on Bodega Head, they disappeared around 2011 (perhaps associated with a harmful algal bloom at that time).  It's been years since we've seen one on Bodega Head.

Proliferating Anemones are external broodersthe adults brood juveniles along a groove near the base of the column (where the anemones attach to the substrate, e.g., a rock or algae).  Because they don't have a planktonic stage (the juveniles simply crawl away from the adult), it might take a long time for this species to recolonize Bodega Head.  Their best chance might be via rafting on kelp.

Here's a close-up of the adult anemone shown above with two larger juveniles on its right side (the anemones expanded once submerged under water):

And below is another view of even smaller juveniles nestled in the "brood groove."  The larger tentacles of the adult are visible at the top left corner of the photo.

Juvenile anemones will spend ~4 months being brooded by the parent.  One study I read estimated that Epiactis might persist for ~100 days on a kelp raft.  If the kelp washes up in appropriate habitat (e.g., in the rocky intertidal zone), the anemones might have an opportunity to move off of the kelp and onto the rocks.  (Yes, anemones can move!)

On 14 October 2016, we encountered quite a few kelp holdfasts washed ashore, perhaps transported from southern locations, as discussed in last night's post.  Many of the kelps were covered with small pelagic barnacles (Lepas sp.), indicating they had been adrift for at least a little while.  Not only did Eric spot the brooding individual shown above, but he found two other smaller Proliferating Anemones — one pink and one green:

While on the boat trip on 9 October, I photographed a raft of drifting Bull Kelp:

Perhaps there were some Epiactis on this raft?  If so, I hope some of them make their way to Bodega Head.  It would be nice to have this anemone around again.