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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wave energy

About a 12 ft. northwest swell meets the rocky outer coast on the morning of 30 November 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Acorns for dinner

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) eating an acorn in our yard on 23 November 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Along the shoreline

A few more photos from Abbotts Lagoon on 24 November 2017:

Mixed flock of shorebirds (including Sanderling, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitcher)

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) blending in with the Jaumea (Jaumea carnosa) and Spike Grass (Distichlis spicata)

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

One of yesterday's visitors

There have been many visitors to our bird bath recently.  Here's one photo from yesterday (25 November 2017):

A very bright Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Greenish-blue below

When I arrived at the beach at the end of the Abbotts Lagoon trail yesterday, I overheard a family talking about a snake.

Intrigued, I went over to take a look.  It was a beautiful California Red-sided Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis)!

Sometimes this species has a wonderful greenish-blue coloration below:

Here it is pushing off the sand:

And one morea close-up of the markings:

 Many thanks to the family for sharing their colorful discovery!

ADDENDUM (26 November 2017): P.S.  Eric and I were debating about the color of the underside of the snake.  We discussed turquoise and teal green, but neither of them seemed right.  Then Eric sampled the actual color of the snake in Photoshop, and we tried to find the closest match with a Pantone color (see photo below).  We didn't find an exact match, but we found that Pantone 345 was closer to the snake than either turquoise or teal (although it still needs to be a bit grayer).  Pantone 345 doesn't seem to have a name, so I guess it's up to us to make one up.  What would you call it?  :)


Friday, November 24, 2017

At the lagoon

After visiting Tom Killion's open studio this morning, I took a short walk at Abbotts Lagoon.

Four Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) were visible on the west side of the lagoon (close to the beach).  They were distant, but I managed a few pictures for the record:

It was also nice to see a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) along the trail:

 I'll share a few more highlights soon!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I'm so thankful for wild places...

Best wishes to you and your family on this day of thanksgiving.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In the morning sun

Common Ravens (Corvus corvax), 21 November 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Autumn perch

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) in our backyard in Cotati on 20 November 2017.  (It's nice to be back!)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Back in the bay

A couple of birds seen in Upper Newport Bay on 16 November 2017:

American Wigeon (Anas americana)

And one for the record:

I'm not sure how common Lapland Longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) are in Orange County.  This bird was feeding along the edge of a salt marsh below the Upper Newport Bay Interpretive Center.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The violinist of the Pacific

When I heard we would be at a meeting near Newport Bay, I wondered if we'd have a chance at seeing a fiddler crab.  There's only one species of fiddler crab in California, and I vaguely remembered that its northern range limit is near Newport Bay.  (They are now found as far north as Santa Barbara.)

We took a drive along the shore of Upper Newport Bay and stopped to check the upper edges of the marsh.  It didn't take long to spot them!  Meet the Crenulated Fiddler Crab (Leptuca crenulata):

Here's another male with its burrow nearby:

And a female, with two smaller claws (instead of one larger and one smaller claw):

Later, when reviewing photos, I also spotted a few juvenile fiddler crabs.  Can you find the juveniles in the picture below?  (Hint: They're near their small burrows.)


There are two juveniles in the picturesee yellow arrows below:

P.S.  When I was reviewing the common name of this species, I encountered several versions — e.g., Mexican Fiddler Crab, California Fiddler Crab, Crenulated Fiddler Crab.  Because the geographic range spans both (Southern) California and Mexico, it was hard for me to justify using either of those names.  It's always helpful when the common name is linked to something in the scientific name, so I used Crenulated Fiddler Crab in this post.  "Crenulated" means having an irregular, e.g., notched or scalloped, outline.  

I also encountered an alternative Spanish name for this speciesCangrejo violinista del Pacifico.  I think that translates into "Violinist crab of the Pacific."  The "violinist" portion refers to the movement of the male's large claw during courtship.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Waving hello from SoCal

We're at a meeting in Southern California, but before the meeting started we took a quick walk on Newport Beach.  Here are a few quick wave shots taken on 16 November 2017.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Orange ears

Okay, maybe we just haven't lived in Cotati long enough, but this morning was the first time we've seen a squirrel in our yard.  I managed to take a few quick photos to document it before we left for work.

Eric looked out the window early this morning to see an Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) walking along the fence and climbing up a nearby tree. 

At first, the orange coloration below made us think about Douglas' Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), but this squirrel was larger.  And later when reviewing the identification, I noticed the orange ears, bushy tail, and lack of black line between the gray on the back and the orange belowcharacters which led to Eastern Fox Squirrel.

Since I'm relatively new to California, I don't know the entire story of how Eastern Fox Squirrels made it to the West Coast.  I hear they were introduced to the Los Angeles area in the early 1900s, and possibly to San Francisco in the late 1800s.  

P.S.  If you're interested in comparing squirrel species, review the post from 4 December 2012 to see some photos of a Douglas' Squirrel in Sebastopol.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rain on the way

Approaching rain clouds, from Salmon Creek Beach, 13 November 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rocky, Part 2

Lots of chores today, so here are two more images of the Rock Sandpiper on Bodega Head during the winter of 2012-2013.  That year, the Rock Sandpiper stayed around until early March.

A comparison with Surfbirds:

(The Rock Sandpiper is on the right.) 

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) focused on possible prey below.  Bodega Head, 7 November 2017.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What color is your landscape?

Perhaps it changes with the moment, or the day, or the season, or the year.  

Today the ocean off Bodega Head was silver and gray:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fall beauty

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), photographed in the Bodega Dunes on 7 November 2017

This butterfly was alternating between basking in the sun and nectaring from male Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis) flowers:


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tree frog

Sierran Treefrog (Pseudacris sierra) on a Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), 7 November 2017.  

We're received 0.7 inches of rain so far today (8 November 2017), and it looks like showers will continue for a couple of days. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Two of the locals

Nice views of two local raptors in the Bodega Dunes today (7 November 2017):

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Resting on the rocks

Yesterday (6 November 2017), a few people reported a Rock Sandpiper (Calidris ptilocnemis) at the southern end of Bodega Head.  It has been observed on the rocks below the outer State Parks parking lot.  

I haven't seen it yet, but here's a photo of a Rock Sandpiper from several years ago (on Bodega Head in February 2013). 

Rock Sandpipers are rare in the Bodega Bay area.  I hope the one that was spotted yesterday stays around for a little while!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Light rain

We've been busy lately, including some field work during the low tide tonight.  I don't have too many recent photos to share, but here's one showing the light rain during our surveys on 5 November 2017:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Eye to eye

We were finishing up some surveys tonight (2 November 2017) in the intertidal zone when Eric spotted a small Red Octopus (Octopus rubescens) among the rocks.  

The octopus was under water, but shallow enough that I could use my underwater camera to zoom in for a close-up of its eye.  Be sure to click on the image above and explore the diversity of colors and patterns and texturesExploring the eye of an octopus is like visiting another world!

ADDENDUM (3 November 2017): Hmmm...clicking on the photo above didn't enlarge it that much, so here's a zoomed in view of the octopus' eye...

In case you're curious, here's a view of the little octopus:

With its tentacles curled in, this octopus was only ~4 cm (1.5 inches) long.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A starry celebration

Well, I was caught up in listening to Game 7 of the World Series tonight.  And when the Astros won, I decided to post a sea star picture to help their fans celebrate. Here's an orange Sunflower Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides, in the class Asteroidea) to sayCongratulations, Houston!  

P.S. Astro is Greek for "star."