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!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Winter berries

A couple of days ago, a large flock of robins and waxwings found a tree full of berries in our yard: 

Male American Robin (Turdus migratorius) — note the dark feathers on the head, and compare them to the female's paler head feathers (below):

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) I liked how the yellow band at the tip of the tail blended in with the leaves. 

The activity also attracted another visitor that was interested in the berries:

Female Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) — females lack a red stripe on the face (while males have a red stripe).

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Under the umbrella

Perhaps it's because there's rain in the forecast (finally!) — recently I was thinking about Umbrella Crabs (Cryptolithodes sitchensis).

This is an unusual crab.  The edges of the carapace are expanded outward (like a shield).  So although the legs are visible in the picture above, when they're pulled in the legs are completely concealed (when the crab is viewed from above).

Here's a look at the crab's underside.  Note how all of the legs fit entirely inside the edges of the carapace (including the first pair with claws, even though one is flexed in the photo).

Also note that the abdomen (triangular piece between the legs) has an interesting pattern, somewhat similar to scutes on a turtle shell.  [This species is also known as a Turtle Crab, probably because of the way the shell covers all of the body parts.  But I also wondered if that name could have been derived (in part) from the abdominal pattern?]

Umbrella Crabs are highly variable in color.  Here's another example (below).  [And for a wonderful overview of the many color patterns in this species, check out these photos on iNaturalist.]

The genus, Cryptolithodes, means "hidden like a rock."  When the crab is viewed from above with its legs tucked underneath, it can look very much like the surrounding rock!  (I hear they're eaten by fish and octopus, so perhaps there's an advantage to being well camouflaged.)

These crabs are usually whitish underneath; pictured below is the same individual as shown above.  (Can you find the short, red-and-white striped antennae?)

I haven't observed it myself, but I read that Umbrella Crabs eat coralline algae (!).

One more viewa close-up of the eyes peaking out from the sides of the shelf-like rostrum:

Let's hope that thinking about Umbrella Crabs leads to a need to carry an umbrella!

Monday, February 26, 2018


Another windy day 30 knot NW winds, with 40 knot gusts this afternoon — and another nice view of Forster's Terns (Sterna forsteri) in Bodega Harbor.  I noticed a flock near Porto Bodega on my way to the post office mid-day.  [Click on the photos for larger versions.]

A few terns came in to land on the pilings next to the parking area:

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Two views

Two views of the Pacific Ocean from Bodega Head on 24 February 2018:

Silver sea

Silver lining 


Friday, February 23, 2018

Going down and going green

Recent weather conditions (cold and clear) have created great conditions for green flashes.  Here's one on 23 February 2018:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Gold or bronze?

Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa), Bodega Harbor, 19 February 2018

(Click on the photo for a larger and sharper version.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


I love the wind-sculpted waves of late winter.  

The northwest winds are blowing hard enough in these conditions (~25 knots, with gusts to ~35 knots) that it's difficult to hold a camera steady. 

It's also very cold when it's this windy.  I did something funny yesterday.  I hardly ever need to wear gloves in Bodega Bay.  When I was taking these pictures, I thought to myself, "I'm going to have to put on my (fingerless) gloves."  But then I realized I already had them on!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Terning in?

On my way home from work in the late afternoon, I noticed a flock of Forster's Terns (Sterna forsteri) on the tidal flats near Spud Point.

It was another very windy day, so perhaps the terns were looking for shelter in the harbor?

There were at least 21 terns.  Here are a couple of photos showing most of the flock:

Many of the terns appeared to close their eyes as soon as they landed.  In the images below, note the white spot at the lower edge of the black ear/eye patch.  When the terns' eyes are open, their dark eyes blend in with the black ear/eye patch.  But when their eyes are closed, the white lower lid comes up and contrasts with the black eye/ear patch.  This had the interesting effect of making the birds look awake when their eyes were closedi.e., from a distance, it looks like the terns have white eyes.  [Click on the pictures for larger versions.]

One more close-up:

Nice to see some terns today!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Small craft advisory

Northwest winds were blowing ~30 mph (~25 knots) with gusts to ~40 mph (~35 knots) in Bodega Bay this afternoon.  Hold on!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Little marbles on the sand

Comb jellies (ctenophores) have been washing up on local beaches lately.  Perhaps you've seen them?  They look like little glass marbles on the sand.  Each one is ~10-15 mm across.

This species, Pleurobrachia bachei, is often called a Sea Gooseberry.  I've written about them before, but it's been a while.  To see what these comb jellies look like when they're swimming, and to learn more about them in general, check out these posts:

"Sticky side arms" on 15 July 2013 

"A two gooseberry day" on 19 February 2012

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I was watching this Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) when it flew in and landed fairly close to me:

With a slight turn, the gorget (throat feathers) lit up:

And check out this gorgeous color when it turned head-on:

I loved seeing the color variations across the gorget:

 One more view:

I was very grateful for a few minutes with this beautiful little hummingbird in the Bodega Dunes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus

Female (above) and male (below).

And one more of the male, hovering:

Photographed on Bodega Head, 13 February 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Just for you

Calandrinia menziesii (formerly Calandrinia ciliata)
photographed on Bodega Head on 13 February 2018

  Happy Valentine's Day!  
    ♥        ♥        ♥       

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dense little clubs

Pycnoclavella is one of my favorite tunicates (sea squirts).  This photo gives you a feel for how it grows in dense colonies.  (But remember, each one is only a few millimeters high!)

I first introduced this species ~6 years ago, so for more information, see the post called "The tiny tunicate, Pycnoclavella" on 17 February 2012.

P.S.   I think Pycnoclavella means "dense little clubs."  It's an appropriate name!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Morning meeting

Great Egrets (Ardea alba) and Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) getting ready for the day.  Photographed in Bodega Harbor on 8 February 2018.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Let the games begin

A close-up mystery photo (below).  Somehow, it reminded me of the Olympics, with everything so sparkly and glittery.  [Click on the photos for larger versions.]

Zoomed out a bit more:

And the entire animal:

This is a Short-spined Sea Star (Pisaster brevispinus).  They usually have five arms, but since this individual had six arms, I took a photo for the record.  Photographed on Bodega Head on 31 January 2018.

Friday, February 9, 2018


We went to a great concert tonight at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, so I'm a little late submitting a post.  And I'm sleepy, a little bit like these Sanderlings.  [Click on the photo for a larger version.]

Photographed on 7 February 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Sunset sequence on 7 February 2018:

Monday, February 5, 2018

With a little kelp from my friends

Last week I went out to check on whether any Sea Palms (Postelsia palmaeformis) were visible yet.  This is when juveniles often appear on wave-exposed rocky shores.  They're very small at this time of year most of the individuals I saw on 1 February 2018 were under 5 cm (2 inches) tall. Sea Palm is an annual kelp that reaches peak heights (up to 60 cm or 24 inches tall) by summer. 

For comparison, here's an example of a large clump of tall Postelsia washed up on the beach in August (with Eric for scale):