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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Five stars

Some nice examples of juvenile Bat Stars (Patiria miniata) raised in the lab.  Each one is less than 1 cm across.  Many thanks to Eric for sharing!

Friday, September 27, 2019

¡Hola, amigo!

Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), near Cordell Bank on 22 September 2019

P.S.  A follow-up the to Laysan Albatross that I showed in a blog post on 27 August 2019.  That albatross had a numbered leg band that could be read from photographs.  Alvaro followed up and learned that individual was from a nest on Isla Zapato, an islet just south of Guadalupe Island off Baja California, Mexico.  The albatross hatched in February, was banded in May, and fledged in June (and it won’t return to the breeding colony until it is 6-7 years old).

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Morning crescent

Crescent moon rising, 26 September 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The paddler and the wave

Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata), photographed from a boat offshore of Bodega Head, 22 September 2019

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fall flights

I know I promised more pictures from the pelagic trip, but there was also an interesting flight of butterflies today that I thought was worth documenting.  So, here's a bit of both.

First, from the pelagic trip.  Here are two views of arcing shearwaters on the horizon taken from the boat on our way back from Cordell Bank on 22 September 2019.  The winds had picked up (probably ~15-20 knots), creating conditions when seabirds are often soaring high above the ocean surface:

Second, the butterflies.  During the fall, when inland air temperatures are very high, we can see flights of butterflies at the coast.  Today there were quite a few California Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) coming in off the ocean and crossing over Bodega Head.  Most of them rocketed by, but occasionally they landed briefly, either on the ground or on the outer walls of buildings:

Flights of shearwaters and tortoiseshellsa nice combination!

Monday, September 23, 2019


Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), offshore near Bodega Canyon/Cordell Bank, 22 September 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The marauder

I joined a pelagic trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank today aboard the New Sea Angler.  It was a bit rough, but we made it out there thanks to Rick and saw some seabirds and marine mammals along the way. 

Above, a South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki) approaches the boat.  Note the overall dark coloration and the white wing markings.  The white markings are subtle when viewed from this angle, but I liked the head-on perspective.

More offshore highlights to come this week!

P.S. Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Nice to see

So nice to see a few Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) during the past couple of days.  They're such a striking butterfly!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Offshore spouts

There were quite a few Humpback Whales off Bodega Head tonight (20 September 2019).

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Flying fish?

Yesterday (18 September 2019) I snapped this photo of an Osprey carrying a fish.  Is this a Jacksmelt (Atherinopsis californiensis)?  If you can confirm or correct the identification, let me know!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Feeding in the fog

I didn't get to post these photos earlier.  Both photographs are from 4 September 2019.  It was a foggy day in Bodega Harbor, but there were nice views of shorebirds on the tidal flats.  Western Sandpiper (above) and Red-necked Phalarope (below).

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Diving in

We were out sailing in Tomales Bay yesterday (15 September 2019).  Nice views of a few feeding frenziespelicans, gulls, cormorants, terns (including a flock of 11 Elegant Terns), seals...

Along with beautiful shoreline reflections...

And elk bugling and fog coming in over Tomales Point:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

September stunner

This morning Eric called me over to point out a nice-looking spider web lit up by the sun in the backyard.  It was a special one.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Friday, September 13, 2019

Harvest time

Harvest Moon, 13 September 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Juvenile Red Knot (Calidris canutus) near Spud Point on 11 September 2019.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

In the gloaming

 From Cotati, 10 September 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019

Lobos Rock

I've been reviewing photos from our short visit to Monterey County in late August.  Here's a view of one of the Lobos Rocks near Garrapata State Park.  I hadn't taken a photo of this offshore rock with a larger lens before.  While scanning this image, I realized there were quite a few sea lions ("lobos marinos") on the rock.  Can you see some of them?  [You can click on the photo for a larger version.]

Eventually I noticed there were a few sea lions near the peak of the rock. Here's a zoomed in view.  Check the uppermost right hand corner:

So, which route do you think the sea lions took to reach the top?

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cobalt blue

I haven't posted much about sponges.  That's primarily because they can be a little more challenging to identify.  The species featured tonight, however, is quite distinctive.

Sponges are animals and have skeletons comprised of elements called spicules.  Some species have spicules made of calcium carbonate, but most have spicules made of silicon dioxide.  The spicules are wrapped in elastic fibers that together make up the wall of the sponge.

As with the ossicles of sea cucumbers (featured previously), sponge spicules come in a diversity of sizes and shapes.  The characteristics of the spicules can often be used to identify the species.

This particular sponge can basically be identified by its color alone, but we also checked the spicules to confirm the identification.

Many encrusting animals in the low intertidal zone are variations of yellow, red, orange, pink, and sometimes purple, brown, gray, or white.  This one stands out because it's brilliant cobalt blue:

Meet the Cobalt Sponge (Acanthancora cyanocrypta)!

We noticed this sponge under a rock overhang in the low intertidal zone in Monterey County.  It's primarily a southern species (distributed from Monterey south), but has also been reported in British Columbia.  We haven't seen it in northern California.

Note the species name"cyanocrypta."  This sponge has symbiotic cyanobacteria (which apparently contributes to the amazing blue color).  Crypta means hidden, so I'm guessing cyanocrypta refers to the cyanobacteria living within the sponge.

Now for the spicules.  Here's an example of the types of spicules in Acanthancora cyanocrypta:

Figures modified from The Sponges of California: A guide and key to the marine sponges of California (Lee, Elvin, and Reiswig, 2007).
Note the different shapesthe long, simple tornotes; the club-like and spiky acanthostyles; and the barbell-like amphiasters.

Eric took some nice photos of the spicules so you can compare.  Remember, the spicules are microscopic.  In the images below, they are magnified 400x.  See if you can find all three types of spicules in the next three pictures:

There are over 250 species of marine sponges in California, so perhaps we'll be able to feature a few other species in future posts.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Feather duster

Yes, you guessed it, another outstanding tubeworm.  This one is a Giant Feather Duster Worm, Eudistylia polymorpha.  It was also photographed in Monterey County on 31 August 2019.  You can find this species locally, although the individuals we see in Bodega Bay are more often a solid, deep red/maroon color.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Spiralling in

A beautiful tubeworm, Spirobranchus spinosus, photographed in the low intertidal zone in Monterey County on 31 August 2019.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Dream waves

I mentioned that the light and sea conditions were interesting on the boat trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 25 August 2019. Here are a few more examples.  [You can click on the images for larger versions.]

Dream wave:

Just a hint:

Glide (Black-footed Albatross):

Gray on gray (Red Phalarope):

Monday, September 2, 2019

Power surge

I didn't get a chance to finish "pelagic week," so I'll be sharing a few more photos from the boat trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 25 August 2019.

Tonight's post features Pacific White-sided Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquens).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Saddles overhead

We were getting ready to do some grilling in the backyard tonight when Eric looked up to see a dragonfly cruising around overhead.  Then a second dragonfly appeared.

We don't see Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) in our yard very often, but they're known for moving long distances when dispersing.

Watching them overhead provided great views of the "saddles," the large black patches at the base of the hindwings.