05 de noviembre de 2020

Doors of Memory

When I review my observations, the doors of memory swing open to me. Doors of friendship, adventure, wonder, seasons, and geography. iNat provides a map of where I have been and what inhabits the landscape. Some of the photos are reminders of who I traveled with to share that view. Weather, smoke, and fire appear in the photos reminding me of the conditions. Photographs of wet mushrooms remind me of how I squatted in the grass on a cold, rainy winter day and took photographs until my cell phone was too cold and wet to work. Under dry skies and in golden fields, I drank the scent of tarweed which is tied to my childhood memories of hot summer days with heat shimmering the air above the fields and thousands of stickers in my tall white socks. More than once, I tucked those socks deep into the garbage can rather than hurting my fingers by picking them all out.

Two great fires this year drove me to the coast for better air. Still, the yellowed skies colored the photographs. Fine ash dulled the surfaces of nearly every plant. The magnificent coastal Douglas Firs testified to the continuity of life and lives lasting far longer than mine. Just north of Sonoma County, the Meyer's fire scar blackened the grass down to the ocean cliffs and testified that all things end. 

This past Sunday, we visited Sugarloaf Ridge State Park to gawk at the landscapes both burned and unburned. A coyote on a bare burned hill spotted us and galloped to the safety of the scorched tree line. Behind us a chorus of coyotes sang out calling it. The fire colored landscape is exotic, alien, and becoming all too familiar. The trees with dull yellowed leaves and blackened trunks rise from the dirt, blackened grass, and ash white ghosts of trees that burned to dust. A shockingly blue sky behind the trees makes them pretty. The remaining unburned brush and trees lends green touches to this landscape. In the unburned park, a dried Mule's Ears seed head, fallen leaves, and the near absence of butterflies filled me with anticipation of spring. Spring brings the amazing Juicy Fruit gum scent of that fire follower Whispering Bells. And, I will never forget sitting among Bird's Eye Gilia on Bald Mountain bathing my senses in their aroma and purple color. The view and the flowers were unlike anything I had experienced before. I was bathed in wonder.

I do not have to close my eyes to imagine spring. The picture is already there. The wondrous lupine will leap up en masse as they did after the 2019 fires. In a landscape burned clean of the detritus of last season's grass, the flowers appear as if in a pristine garden. Their color and form are clearly visible delighting both the eyes and the heart.

Fortunately, I have discovered mushrooms in the off season from butterflies and flowers. Do you know there are mushrooms like tiny nests filled with eggs that splash out spore when it rains? It's called Bird's Nest Fungi. Goodness knows what I might encounter in the damp this year. Adventure beckons.

Publicado el 05 de noviembre de 2020 a las 08:40 PM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 3 observaciones

24 de octubre de 2020

iNat: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Certainly, some photos are better than others. I try to photograph a subject in such a way that honors the specimen. I much admire my iNat colleagues for some truly excellent work. Sometimes, I just have to take a photo to document something. The lighting may be poor. The background may be plain. The animal may be dead. The subjects may be in flagrante delicto. Indeed, there is at least one iNat site dedicated to cataloging breeding behavior. There is even a Dead Mammals project. Nonetheless and despite my best efforts, I've had some outright failures by my own admission.

My dead rat is resoundingly ignored. Yet the dead racoon, deer, and pelican are immediately identified. The pelican is even adding to a birding site.

Rat - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/60387910

Raccoon - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/56669404

Deer - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/52553644

Pelican - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61457522

Yet my brother-in-law's very clear photo of two flesh flies in the act receives profound inattention. Whereas, the much cuter Western Leaf-cutter bee photo, from a refreshing front perspective is adorable. Thank you catchang for your beautiful work. The bee's face was so cute and it antennae so jaunty that I must of looked at the picture five times before I noticed the bee beneath it.

Common Flesh Flies - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59191860

Cute bee photo - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61973069

Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly are all here with us in life and online. All we can do is try to capture a better photo when possible, admire the excellent work of our colleagues, and pardon ourselves for posting the occasional bad photo when our impulse to document is greater than our compunction.

Publicado el 24 de octubre de 2020 a las 03:40 PM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 2 observaciones

Mushroom Journeys

What's great about iNat is the people. And I have to credit the great people behind the scenes who created and maintain the platform. Sure identifying fantastic stuff is fun and there are some amazing photos; but, some of the interactions are just great. You have to be pretty humble and willing to be wrong. Admit your mistakes. Thank your teachers, and keep moving forward. It's a pretty fantastic place where you can share your passion for fungi and find yourself in the company of great scientists and naturalists.

Publicado el 24 de octubre de 2020 a las 04:36 AM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 8 observaciones

19 de octubre de 2020

Did the Ash from the Glass Fire Kill Monarch Caterpillars?

I am wondering, did the ash from the Glass Fire kill Monarch caterpillars? This year I planted milkweeds in my yard. Over two days a Monarch laid her eggs on the plants. I collected each leaf I could find with an egg--about 29 in all. The leaves were carefully taped to heavy paper. From every egg a tiny caterpillar hatched. Most dined on their own eggs. Afterwards, I carefully transferred them by a fine paint brush to the milkweed in my butterfly cage where they begin eating the leaves. As the days passed, the caterpillars grew fewer in number. From passed experience, I knew that some caterpillar cannibalisms would likely occur. What I didn't expect was the dying off of caterpillars at all stages of their growth process and particularly in the earlier phases. I wondered if toxins from the fires interfered with their ability to molt. I have about six left. Did my caterpillars experience a "Silent Spring" this fall?

Of course I tried to wash the ashes from the leaves of all my garden plants. Ash was ubiquitous this year showing up in iNat photos across the county. Some of my photos had a hazy sunset look caused by the piled up of smoke in the atmosphere. Perhaps smoke was a contributing factor. In any case, the caterpillars failed to thrive.

I will see how many successfully transform into chrysalises and how many emerge as butterflies. Will the air quality impact their survival at this late stage in their development? If, indeed, air quality is the problem?

I recall hearing that caterpillars breathe through their skin and found more information at Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822151016.htm in this article titled: "Low oxygen triggers moth molt: Caterpillars have a respiratory system that is fixed in size." Could my caterpillars have been triggered to molt prematurely and unsuccessfully? I hope to hear caterpillar news from our scientific community.

Publicado el 19 de octubre de 2020 a las 03:11 PM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 3 observaciones

15 de octubre de 2020

Things to Remember: Farewell-to-Spring Buh-bye. It's Sonoma Clarkia!

I was pretty confident of my Clarkia I.D.s just based off my native plant books--until I met Sonoma Clarkia. For me it was just Farewell-to-Spring until @s_pike kindly educated me writing "Drooping bud is certainly not going to be on a Farewell-to-Spring. It’s Sonoma Clarkia. As to whether most C. gracilis in Sonoma is the subspecies, I’m not totally sure! If you see these mid-leaf red spots on this shade of pink it most likely is Sonoma Clarkia. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was plenty of normal gracilis as well." Now I know what to look for and why just another pretty flower photo might not be enough. I am also happy to recognize and honor our local variety by name.


Publicado el 15 de octubre de 2020 a las 04:52 AM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt

12 de octubre de 2020

Things to Remember: Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods - Almost too chicken to show up on the West Coast.
Laetiporus sulphureus aka Chicken of the Woods is the Eastern North America species.
West Coast has Western Hardwood Shelf Laetiporus gilbertsonii if on hardwood or
Laetiporus conifericola aka Conifer Chicken of the Woods if on conifer.
Thank you @damontighe and @myco8p.


Publicado el 12 de octubre de 2020 a las 12:09 AM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 1 observación

22 de septiembre de 2020

This Year...

Years ago when visiting our coast, I wondered where all of my childhood bumble bees had gone. When I was a small child, they loomed large in my short view of the landscape. I went to the bookstore and purchased a copy of "The Forgotten Pollinators" by Stephen Buchmann which explained what had happened to many of our native bees. Wanting to help, I began volunteering at Louse Hallberg Butterfly Gardens. Much later, I began hiking in our local parks and was greatly relieved to see the diversity of butterflies and bees in their much more intact habitat of Hood Mtn. Regional Park. I am truly grateful for the foresight of so many individuals who have done so much to preserve our wild places.

Poverty of experience. When walking on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, I once pointed out a small flock of about 50 birds practicing their turns in group flight to my companion saying, "Its so sad how few birds there are now." She retorted, "That's a lot of birds." She had moved here from Southern California. I had been raised here. I recall flocks of 5,000 birds in vast clouds rehearsing their flight plans over my neighbor's barn. I remember many hundreds sitting on the powerlines. Even as recently as five years ago, I remember watching the bats on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail at dusk. Where are they now? So many are gone. The ancestors of our Native Americans reported that you could once hear the sound of the salmon run coming upstream. I feel the poorer for never having heard it but delight in the knowledge that it could be heard.

Last year, I don't recall seeing a single Monarch butterfly. This year I planted milkweeds in my tiny garden along with nectar plants that provide a good landing pad for the large Monarchs. This year I have been rewarded by one Monarch who, over the course of two days, laid about two dozen eggs. As I learned from one of Louise's very old books on the subject, I carefully collected each leaf where I found an egg and taped the leaf to heavy paper. After about four days, the eggs turned dark and then hatched. With a soft brush, I transferred the caterpillars to their host plant where they will grow large and cute. This year I anticipate having a Monarch reveal party when I will release a small cloud of orange and black butterflies. If it were only so easy to raise bats...

Publicado el 22 de septiembre de 2020 a las 05:51 PM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt | 6 observaciones

06 de agosto de 2020

Sleep & iNat

You know you've been on iNat too long when you go to bed, close your eyes, and see hover flies.

Publicado el 06 de agosto de 2020 a las 03:04 PM por arlenedevitt arlenedevitt