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Friday, June 30, 2017

Mystery moth

Not much time tonight, but here's a nice moth I photographed in Bodega Bay recently.

First, the antennae:

And here's the entire moth:

I'm going to work on the identification, but if you know which species this is, I wouldn't mind a hint!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A black mask

I'm looking for a little help with this one.  I photographed a Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) in our backyard tonight (28 June 2017).  It was unusual in that it had a black mask — black lores (between the bill and eye) and a black auricular area (behind the eye).  

I know that Bushtits in the southern part of their range (southwest U.S., Mexico, Central America) can have dark masks like this, but I haven't seen one with this coloration in California yet.

Here's the photo:

Have you seen or heard of Bushtits with this type of coloration in California?  How common is it?  Any information would be greatly appreciated. 

P.S.  To compare with other photos of Bushtits, here are links to a few older posts:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Breakfast in a tidepool

A close-up photo of Gooseneck Barnacles (Pollicipes polymerus) in the rocky intertidal zone.

And here are a couple of Gooseneck Barnacles feeding in a tidepool, with their appendages (cirri) extended to capture food from the water:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sparkling, frilly edges

This is one of my favorite flowers on Bodega Head.  Do you want to guess which species this is?

I'll zoom out a bit, so you can see a little more:

It might be helpful to know where this species grows.  In this area, we find it along the coast, especially in salt marshes.

From a distance, the flowers of Seaside Arrow-grass (Triglochin maritima) might not stand out.  Up close, it's a different story.  Purple with sparkling, frilly edges — Oh, my!

P.S.  Usually Seaside Arrow-grass is tall and straight.  This Dr. Seuss-like version is somewhat unusual, but it was fun to see!

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Colorful eddies swirling on bubbles on the surface of a high tide pool.  Photographed on Bodega Head on 25 June 2017.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Happy Pollinator Week!

In honor of National Pollinator Weeka Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), photographed on Bodega Head, 17 June 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Silk Road to Enlightenment

On 20 June 2017, I posted some pictures of colorful strands of silk in a spider web.  I was so taken with the phenomenon that I went out to try again yesterday morning.

First, I'll show two photos with the spider.  Although it is hard to believe, these are the actual colors created by diffraction as the early morning light hit the spider web!

Next is a series of close-ups of the strands in the center of the web, some of which are shown in the photos above.  [You can click on the images for larger versions.]

In one photo I captured some of the strands directly adjacent to the spider.  Eric calls this image "The Silk Road."  The diversity of colors is amazing.

I can't help sharing one more series.  This morning I focused on one section of one particular thread.  Its appearance changed, likely depending on when I took the picture and the camera settings.  Remember, this entire series (below) is of the same thread (!).  There are so many colors in these pictures, that I started wonderingif you kept photographing spider webs, could you discover new shades of colors?

Spending time with these spiders and their silk strands has certainly been inspiring and enlightening for me!  :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy Cephalopod Week!

We're in the middle of Cephalopod Week, and we didn't want to miss out!  So here's a short video clip highlighting a local Red Octopus (Octopus rubescens).  Students will observe this octopus as part of a summer course at the marine lab.  Eric had to clean its tank, so he took the opportunity to put together some nice footage.

Watch for curled tentacles; quick color changes (from dark to light and back again); a close-up of the skin featuring the amazing chromatophores expanding and contracting; and a wonderful view of the eye (from above) with silver and gold flecks.



P.S.  For more cephalopod videos, check out this Science Friday page.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Celebration of light

Tonight's post will start with some mystery close-ups.  More clues will be available as you progress through the images.  Can guess what this is?

A similar image, zoomed out a little farther:

Here's a similar pairing, but from a slightly different angle.  Notice that each long band is made up of many fine, colored stripes.  (Click on the images for larger and sharper versions.  These pictures are pretty mind-boggling!)

And now I'll zoom out a little farther.  Do you have a guess yet?  

Eric spotted this in our backyard this morning.  The photos were taken with my camera just before we left for work.

Are you ready?  The next photo will reveal the answer!

Yes!  This a spider web, one section of which was lit up in a very special way. 

Eric was brushing his teeth and looked out the window to see this spider web partly lit by the morning sun.  He rushed me out the back door to take a few pictures before we had to leave.  I struggled with the camera settings, and I didn't really know if any of the pictures had come out.  When I reviewed them later in the day, I was blown away to see the dazzling colors revealed in some of the close-ups.

To learn more about what produces the colors, I did a Web search, followed some threads, and found a few sites that describe optical effects in spider webs.  I'll admit that the physics behind this phenomenon are over my head.  However, it was interesting to note that some of the resulting colors are related to the structure of the sticky strands in parallel rows between the radial lines (or spokes) of the web.  These cylindrical silk threads are coated with adhesive droplets.  The droplets apparently act like miniature lenses!

I'll show one more picture, and will also explain one thing you might be wondering about.  I took these pictures with a relatively slow shutter speed.  The longer exposure time likely captured a small amount of web movement.  The wide bands of colored stripes are an artefact of the camera.  That is, the strands of silk are actually narrower than they appear in the photographs, but these images allow you to see the amazingly varied colors!

What a great way to celebrate the summer solstice — with an incredible light display!

With many thanks to both the spider and the sun...the orb-weaver and the orb!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunrise clouds

I've always enjoyed getting up at sunrise it feels like a very special time of day, when the world is just waking up.  This morning I stepped outside to a beautiful skysoft pink lighting up the undersides of the clouds on the eastern horizon.  Somehow it seemed like an appropriate color, given the heat of the last few days.  It was 103°F in Cotati yesterday!

All photographs taken on 19 June 2017.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tubercles and tube feet

Yesterday I took a few close-up photos of a Purple Sea Urchin test (or skeleton).

You can see the rounded and raised tubercles to which the urchin spines are attached:

Also noticeable are the podial pores, or the holes from which the tube feet emerge.  

Note that the pores are paired (two are placed side-by-side).  One tube foot emerges from each pair of pores:

To provide some context for these anatomical features of the skeleton, here are two images of live urchins (an adult and a juvenile), highlighting the urchin spines and the extensible tube feet:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sunrise moon

I looked up around sunrise this morning to see pale pink clouds below a Last Quarter moon:

A closer look (click on the image for a larger version):

Recently I've been reading a book about tides, so I've been thinking about the moon quite a bit.  How lucky are we to have such a nice moon orbiting the Earth!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Super star

Joe and Sam dropped by to say they had found something interesting in an aquarium at the marine lab.  I was a little surprised to look down and see one of the largest brittle stars I've ever seen!

We found a smaller Flat-spined Brittle Star (Ophiopteris papillosa) last year, but the size of this individual was notable.  The central disc alone was ~3 cm (~1 inch) across!

Here's a close-up of the disc:

 And a view of the flattened spines at the tip of one arm:

Amazingly, the largest specimens of this species have central discs up to 4.5 cm across!

Many thanks to Joe and Sam for sharing this impressive brittle star.

For a look at the smaller individual we photographed last year, along with a short video clip, see the post from 1 March 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A little leather

We don't encounter juvenile Leather Stars (Dermasterias imbricata) that often, but here's a nice example.  This sea star was only ~4 cm (~1.5 inches) across.  It was photographed in Del Norte County on 26 May 2017.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Beauty and intrigue

A few miscellaneous images from our trip to Oregon in late May:

A purple encrusting bryozoan, Disporella separata

Peanut worm, Themiste pyroides, with coralline algae

The nudibranch Aeolidia loui (formerly Aeolidia papillosa

The beauty and intrigue of coastal marine invertebrates!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Here's a fun mystery close-up an extreme view taken through a microscope.  Can you guess what type of animal this might be?

I'll zoom out a bit more:

And now I'll show the entire animal, so be prepared for the answer below!  

First, a few more hints: This is a crustacean that can be found in the low rocky intertidal zone and subtidal areas, but it's relatively small and can be quite cryptic.  [In the photos above, the small, colorful patches are chromatophores which play a role in camouflage.] 

Hmmm.  On second thought, I've change my mind — here's one more close-up before I give the answer away.  (Although this photo will probably help a lot!)

Isn't that a spectacular tail?

Okay, now here's the entire animal:

Meet Spirontocaris prionota, commonly known as a Deep-blade Shrimp.  This is the first time we've encountered one on Bodega Head.  I was impressed with the details and colors when viewed under high magnification.

The "deep-blade" portion of the name refers to the distinctive rostrum the portion of the carapace that projects forward in front of and above the eyes.  It's extremely narrow (like a knife), and impressively serrated above (see first two photos).

To orient you to this shrimp's anatomy, the next image shows the same photo with a few labels:

Apparently, not much is known about the biology of this species.  Here's one more image a head-on view emphasizing how well camouflaged this shrimp would be among the rocks and sand.  And note some of the other intriguing features.  For example, what do they do with those small front appendages tipped with noticeable black spines?  Why do they have clusters of long setae (bristles) on their legs?