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Thursday, January 31, 2019

January sun

Sunset, 31 January 2019

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Splashes of white -- Part 2

Okay, here are the mystery feathers from last night:

I realize that was tough because there's not much context, so here are a few hints.

I encountered the feathers in a coastal grassland.  Along with the feathers shown above, some had even more white:

Most of the other feathers in the area were brown with darker barred patterning.  The longest feathers I found were ~5-6 inches (12-15 cm) long.

I was moving along, scanning the various feathers, trying to put together a picture of the bird's identity.  Along with the tail and wing feathers shown above, there were brownish body feathers with somewhat similar colors and markings:

Then I looked ahead and spotted some feathers that clinched the identification.  I think the next photos will help you figure out the identity of this medium-sized grassland bird, too:

The bright yellow and black body feathers, along with the large amount of white on the outer tail feathers, leads to Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta). 

John mentioned the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service's Feather Atlas as a resource for identifying feathers.  Here's an example of meadowlark tail feathers from the Feather Atlas.  And here's a link to some older photos of Western Meadowlarks on Bodega Head.

I don't recall encountering meadowlark feathers before.  It was fun to see the patterns up close.  I also wondered what happened to itwho caught the meadowlark?  A falcon?  A harrier?  Have you seen a predator chasing adult meadowlarks?  

(I just tried to learn more about meadowlark predators.  Along with falcons, I was somewhat surprised to see Great Egret and Burrowing Owl listed as possible predators on adult meadowlarks.  Who knew?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Splashes of white

I'm running out of time tonight, so here's a mystery for you.  I found these feathers a few days ago.  Can you guess what type of bird they are from?  I'll reveal the answer tomorrow night.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Secret Jewelbox (Chama arcana), 26 January 2019.  The shells of this small bivalve occasionally wash up on local beaches.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Mornings have been a bit chilly lately.  On 21 January 2019, there were some beautiful frost patterns on our car:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Swimming north at sunset

Recently I had been thinking that it had been a while since seeing or hearing about a Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) sighting in Bodega Bay.  Then last night (23 January 2019), a few appeared swimming north off Bodega Head. 

They were distant, and it was starting to get dark, but I managed a few photos:

Luckily, one image was good enough for Bill Keener (Golden Gate Cetacean Research) to identify an individual:

This is Shiloh, a dolphin that's been observed between Pigeon Point and Sea Ranch during the past few years, and was also spotted off Bodega Head back in July 2015. 

Many thanks to Bill for sharing the identification and background information about this dolphin.

It's always interesting and helpful to hear about other local Bottlenose Dolphin sightings, so let us know if you happen to see them!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Little trumpet -- Part 2

Okay, so here's the mystery photo from last night:

And here's a zoomed out view showing more of the animal:

Yes!  This is a serpulid tubeworm (Serpula columbiana).  And the little "trumpet" is an opercular plug.  That is, when the worm retracts into its tube, the operculum seals the opening, protecting the worm inside. (Interesting side note: The operculum is a modified radiolethe radioles are the tentacles that form the feathery crown of the tubeworm.)

I didn't get a picture of this particular worm when it was retracted.  However, here's a different individual from 2012 (below).  In this case, the worm is entirely withdrawn into its tube and you can only see the operculum:

[In case anyone is wondering, there is a dark purple sponge growing around the worm's tube.  These serpulid worms live in calcareous tubes, which are usually white, but in this case the tube itself is hidden by the sponge.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Little trumpet

A mystery close-up from 22 January 2019.  Can you guess what it is?  I'll reveal more about its identity tomorrow night!

Monday, January 21, 2019

High and low

Today's tides were some of the highest and lowest of the year.  

Above, a flock of Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) concentrated on a small patch of salt marsh remaining above the high tide (+6.9 feet) in Bodega Harbor this morning.

And a small juvenile Gumboot Chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) exposed during the low tide (-1.4 feet) on the outer coast in the early evening.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Just in time!

The clouds cleared just in time to see the lunar eclipse!  Photographed from Cotati at ~9:20 p.m. PST on 20 January 2019.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Color film

The ocean has been pretty stormy lately, which often means there's foam near shore.  And where there's foam, there are bubbles.  And you know me — when there are bubbles, it's hard for me to resist taking a few photos.  So here you go a selection of bubble close-ups from 19 January 2019:

 Just amazing!

Thursday, January 17, 2019


I don't think I could ever come up with a proper tribute to Mary Oliver (10 September 1935-17 January 2019), my favorite poet.  But inspired by her, I can make a few promises:

I promise to keep walking.  I promise to keep trying to pay attention.  I promise to keep praising the Earth.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

One foot

You might remember that last week I tried to find a salamander and failed.  Tonight (16 January 2019), I was successful!  

It's quite stormy (lots of rain and wind), but I went out for a few minutes to see if an amphibian might be out and about.  I bumped into this beautiful Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris) in our backyard:

Here's a close-up of one front foot:

I think this brings us up to ~12 inches of rain so far this winter?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Soaring on the windward slopes

Last night, with a west well and an east wind, the gulls were actively soaring along the faces of the large breaking waves.  Although it was getting dark, I tried to take a few photos to document the behavior.  

It reminded me of watching surfers or bodyboarders.  After riding one wave, the gulls would soar up and over and fly out to catch the next one.  (Flying out to the next wave is a little easier than paddling out!)

I couldn't decide which pictures to show, so here's a random assortment.  You can click on the images for larger versions, and to make it easier to see the gulls when they're camouflaged against the waves.

(The gull in the photo above is close to the center of the photo.  It looks quite small against a very large wave.) 

If you're wondering — there were several species of gulls involved in this behavior, but most of them were Mew Gulls (Larus canus).  Mew Gulls are one of the smaller gulls in this area, with wingspans of ~45 inches (114 cm):

Monday, January 14, 2019

Distant showers

Dark blue-gray clouds to the west with passing showers on the horizon made for dramatic lighting in the late afternoon today (14 January 2019):

Especially eye-catching was the contrast between the white wave splash and the distant showers:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Down on the rocks

American Pipits (Anthus rubescens) are often seen on sandy beaches in Bodega Bay, but sometimes we encounter them along the rocky outer coast.  Here's one on lichen-covered rocks just above the intertidal zone on 12 January 2019.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Squared seas

Ocean conditions were interesting today (12 January 2019).  The marine forecast called for "squared seas," when the wave height and wave period are similar.  

Around midday, the swell height was ~14 feet and the wave period was ~14 seconds.  Viewing the incoming waves from shore in these conditions makes it look like the waves are right on top of each other:

It was a good day to be beyond the breaking waves!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Prairie hunter

It's not necessarily uncommon to see a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) perched up highe.g., in a tree, on a pole, or on a wire.  It's less common to see them actively hunting.  This one was out around dusk tonight (10 January 2019).  I thought it might be too dark for pictures, but I got lucky with one photo.  Such a nice profile of a Great Horned Owl in the coastal prairie!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Just a little

Just a little wave energy today (9 January 2019).  ;)  [You can click on the image for a larger version.]  There was a 16-17 foot west swell.  It was pretty impressive when it ran into the coastline of Bodega Head.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Wet weather?

Hmmph.  I thought it would be raining more tonight, and that I might be able to go out and find a salamander fairly quickly.  Perhaps there will be heavier rain later this evening?  For now I've gone back to the archives for one of my favorite little salamandersa juvenile Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) taken in February 2013:

Monday, January 7, 2019


Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii), 1 January 2019, actively searching for insects among the leaves and branches.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Little feet

It's been a while since I've shown a marine invertebrate, so here are a few quick photos of a Scarlet Sea Cucumber (Lissothuria nutriens) that Eric encountered recently.  This is a very small individualonly ~4 mm long!  In the pictures below, keep your eyes open for the shiny plates (or ossicles) visible in the body wall, tube feet, and tentacles.

One with a ruler for scale (tick marks are in millimeters):

A close-up of a few tube feet:

And a close-up of the tentacles: 

P.S.  I've shared some images of adult Scarlet Sea Cucumbers in the past.  For more information, photos, and a video, see the posts called "Scarlet O'Holothuroid" on 22 January 2015 and "Scarlet fire" on 12 February 2017.