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Monday, April 29, 2019

Pink volcano

Pink Volcano Barnacle (Tetraclita rubescens) photographed in northern Sonoma County.  Thanks to Eric for sharing this great photo!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Blades in the water

Southern Stiff-stiped Kelp (Laminaria setchellii)

Friday, April 26, 2019

In the grooves

While conducting surveys in the rocky intertidal zone, occasionally we come across miscellaneous items.  Here's a fishing weight that we found about a week ago.  It was attached to fishing line that was caught in a mussel bed:

Did you notice the tiny "dots" around the rim and inside of the "3"?

Zooming in:

The tiny dots are newly settled acorn barnacles, Chthamalus dalli.  Barnacles really like to settle in "groovy" areas.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Scales and stones, Part 2

We were working farther north in Sonoma County this morning.  On our walk back, we had some nice views of the local lizards and stones.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Green patina:


Inner circle:

Outer circle:

ADDENDUM (26 April 2019): Thanks to Lotsoflux's comment/question, I recalled another time when we observed Black Oystercatchers eating sea urchins.  Here's a photo showing examples of oystercatcher prey items at a site in Mendocino County in May 2013 (clockwise from top left) Mossy Chiton (Mopalia muscosa), Purple Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), limpet (likely a Shield Limpet, Lottia pelta), and California Mussel (Mytilus californianus).  [I positioned them for the photo.] 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Uni for breakfast?

On our way to an intertidal field site this morning, we encountered several sea urchins that looked like this:

Can you guess who was responsible for scavenging these urchins?

Here's some additional evidence:

Aha!  Black Oystercatcher tracks! 

Not sure how much the oystercatchers were finding inside the urchins, but they were definitely interested.  Perhaps they encountered some sea urchin roe (uni)?  Here's another example:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Under the Moon

We've been getting up early for field work during the morning low tides.  This morning (23 April 2019), I walked out the door and looked up to see a very bright planet just below the Moon.  Jupiter?  I haven't had a chance to check, but that's my guess.  Did you see it, too?  Photographed from Cotati at around 5:45 a.m.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Blue grass in the dunes

Sand Dune Blue Grass (Poa douglasii), photographed 18 April 2019.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Blustery Day

Wow, was it windy today (20 April 2019)!  Northwest winds were blowing about 25-30 mph (20-25 knots) with gusts up to 40-45 mph (35-40 knots).  Spring conditions in Blow-dega Bay!

When it's "breezy" like this, sometimes birds will find shelter in Bodega Harbor.  Here are a couple of quick photos from when we were leaving work late in the day:

A distant flock of Bonaparte's Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) mostly adults in breeding plumageresting on the tidal flats.  We counted about 50 birds in the flock.

At least one Surfbird (Calidris virgata) feeding with Marbled Godwits along the mudflats at the north end of the harbor.  

Thursday, April 18, 2019

At the end of the day

The swell wasn't that big today (18 April 2019) the offshore buoy was reading about 7 feet but the waves were very pretty at the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Checks and stripes

Two-banded Skipper (Pyrgus ruralis), 13 April 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Scales, stones, and shadows

While up on the northern Sonoma Coast this past weekend, we were having a snack on some sunny rocks when we realized we weren't alone:

When Eric leaned over to greet this Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), he managed to get a wonderful close-up highlighting the scales:

What a nice home this lizard has!  We especially enjoyed some of the smooth curves and shadows on the rock faces:

And check out these patterns.  There's something interesting to see everywhere you look!

Many thanks to Eric for sharing his photos of the lizard and rock formations. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Wings and ribs

After our surveys in northern Sonoma County yesterday, we did a little exploring in the low rocky intertidal zone.  In this photo there are two species of kelpcan you see the differences?  Look around at the golden-brown individuals.

One of the kelps is relatively smooth with one central mid-rib.  The other kelp is puckered and has several ribs running the length of the blade.

The first species is Winged Kelp (Alaria marginata) and the second is Five-ribbed Kelp (Costaria costata).  Note that these are juveniles and are quite small only ~6 inches long or so.

Interestingly, although I haven't seen Five-ribbed Kelp on Bodega Head, there are herbarium records for it from Bodega Head in the 1960s.  Has something changed?  Is it just patchy?  Or variable?  Have you seen Five-ribbed Kelp in Sonoma County?  I'd be interested in hearing about recent local records.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


I'm guessing someone out there can help with this identification.  We had to do field work farther north in Sonoma County today.  While walking along a trail, we passed a wet area with these beautiful purple (or dark blue?) flowers with prominent yellow anthers (holding pollen):

What do you think?  Is this Camas, also known as Quamash (Camassia quamash)?  I'd love to know for sure, but I don't have experience identifying this group.  Thanks for any feedback!

ADDENDUM (14 April 2019): Just a brief update David has confirmed this as Camassia quamash.  Thanks, David! 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Always greener?


During a break in field work today (12 April 2019), I looked across to the other side of a surge channel in the rocky intertidal zone and I was impressed with how green the Surfgrass (Phyllospadix scouleri) looked.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

On granite

Often called Eroded Periwinkles or Flat-bottomed Periwinkles (Littorina keenae), but sometimes I lean towards calling them Granite Periwinkles.  They just look like they belong there.  Photographed on Bodega Head on 11 April 2019.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Spring things

You know it's spring in Bodega Bay when  

Large numbers of By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) wash ashore:

At 7 a.m., the wind is already blowing 20-25 mph with higher gusts:

You're trying to do field work in the foam!

Hold on to your hat!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Stopping by

This afternoon I stepped outside to take a break from chores and a work project.  Within seconds I heard what sounded like a large bird landing on a branch and looked up to see this handsome visitor:

Note the long, somewhat rounded tail, the orange-brown markings on the breast, and the dark red eyes.  

From the side (below) you could see a fairly distinct darker cap:

My guess is a male Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi), but I'm open to other opinions.

Friday, April 5, 2019

View from below

Nice look at a Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) when leaving work tonight, 5 April 2019.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lovely lilac

Blewit (Clitocybe nuda) mushroom, photographed below a Monterey Cypress on Bodega Head on 3 April 2019.

I loved the lilac color of the cap!

Many thanks to Peter for helping me with the identification.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Yellow carpet

Here's another photo from our hike at Point Reyes on 29 March 2019.  I think the dominant yellow flower here is Point Reyes Blennosperma (Blennosperma nanum var. robustum).  When researching this species, I learned a fun fact: Blennosperma disk flowers exude a sticky fluid that contains the pollen.  

I wish I had known that before we encountered Blennosperma on our hike because I would have spent more time trying to get a better close-up photograph.  But here's one image where I zoomed inI think you can see some of the large white stamens (they look like white "dots" scattered among the disk flowers in the center) that will produce the pollen:

P.S.  "Blennosperma" might seem like an odd name, but it means "slimy seed" and apparently refers to a characteristic of this species the seeds become slimy when wet (according to the Jepson eFlora).

Monday, April 1, 2019

Which one?

We saw a wonderful patch of wallflowers (Erysimum sp.) at Point Reyes last week (29 March 2019).  I'm hoping someone might be able to assist with the identification.

These plants were growing along coastal bluffs in very sandy soil.  Many of the surrounding plants were species I associate with older dune communities.

Is this Coast Wallflower (Erysimum concinnum)?  I've noticed this species is also known as Bluff Wallflower and Headland Wallflower.  The other possibility would be San Francisco Wallflower (Erysimum franciscanum), but I don't think I looked at enough characteristics in the field to be able to identify which species this is.  

If you can help, I'd love any feedback!

P.S.  I think "concinnum" might mean "elegant" or "pleasing."  Either would be appropriate for this beautiful spring wildflower!

I've seen flying squirrels, but...

Okay, many of you probably saw the Long-tailed Weasel photos that I posted a couple of days ago on 29 March 2019 — see the post called "Pop! Goes the...".  Well, I didn't reveal the entire story.  Mostly because it was a little too hard to believe.

I was looking through the camera's viewfinder and was trying to focus on a Northern Harrier hanging in the breeze over the bluff edge...when all of a sudden I noticed a dark streak at the bottom of the frame.  It wasn't until I got home and downloaded the photos that I realized what I had captured.  Now I've seen flying squirrels, but I hadn't heard of flying weasels!

Can you believe that?

Well, beware the 1st of April.  Happy April Fool's Day!


The true story?  I did actually photograph a bounding weasel and caught it while airborne a very interesting perspective.  But, I missed capturing the entire animal by a nose, i.e., only by an inch or so (Darn!).  Here's the original photo:

And here's one more view of the weasel, getting ready to dash away from the burrow entrance:

Watch out for April Fool's Day jokes today!