Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vote for the 2014 Walnut Label

Juvenile western yellow-bellied racer pulled from the main springbox on October 22. Will this be the last snake observed on the Dipper Ranch in 2014?  Contestant #1   
Bits of rain but the hillsides are still dry and warm. It doesn't feel like fall except for the early dark evenings. Still, some seasonal patterns carry on despite the ongoing drought. The red-breasted sapsuckers squeak as they peck away in the persimmon tree during the day, and the leaves rustle when the gray foxes leap into the tree to eat persimmons at night. The English walnuts are falling behind the barn. There hasn't been enough rain to knock off their outer green husks, nevertheless, I find brown walnut shells a quarter mile down the road with just one ragged hole in them - ravens. If we don't get more rain soon, us humans will get black fingertips when we peel off the green husks to get to the tasty walnut meat.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Long Tall Timema Green

bunch of legs
kinda squishy
That makes it a bug, right?   

I say, "I don't do bugs" but the long, tall green one that clung to the Adirondack chair on my porch in May was just too interesting. I'd never seen an insect like this, so maybe it was one of those freaky larval stages that mimic the colors or markings of the adult insect but all the parts are twisted around to do something else. Like the transformer toys I would find wedged in the back seat of the Jeep after long trips with the boys. Alien yet disturbingly familiar. The god in charge of metamorphosis must be a boy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Green Thing May 2014

Check this thing out. I've been researching it but haven't had the time to write about it. The more I read about it, the more complicated and fascinating it gets.  Thought I would give you a chance to ponder this mystery before I get my writing shoes on.  For reference, it was about 2 cm long (not including antennae), was hanging vertically on my Adirondack chair on my porch on the Dipper Ranch in May. I have never seen one before.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Don't Park Here

If you've visited recently and parked your vehicle at the Dipper Ranch, did you notice a flowery scent as you drove away?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Small Things in Redwoods

Five-petaled nodding flowers of the white-veined wintergreen.   
Coast redwood trees get lots of attention and adoration. Yes, redwood trees are big, ancient and have interesting forms and adaptations. Even so, all this redwood worship sometimes makes me squirm because the oak woodlands, coastal prairies, serpentine meadows and many other and richer vegetation types of California deserve equal attention and protection. It's an ecologist's point of view which sometimes makes me unpopular. As if to rebuke my profanity, recently I stumbled onto a small natural marvel in a forest of redwood giants.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bioblitz - the wet part

California slender salamander. Tiny but if you look, they are ubiquitous in even the smallest of damp locations. Robert Stebbins found that the total number and perhaps the total biomass of either this slender salamander or another common small salamander, the ensatina, was greater than any other resident vertebrate in a Berkeley redwood forest,  (Stebbins and McGinnis, 2012).   
The bioblitz at Golden Gate National Parks continued through Saturday, March 29 with the official deadline for submitting all observations of plants and animals in the parks at noon. On Saturday, it was raining. Real rain like we actually live on the edge of a giant reservoir of water and arbitrator of weather - the Pacific Ocean. Rain like we haven't seen in two years. Rain that cut the number of attendees at the inventory hike Naiad and I led at Rancho Corral de Tierra from the 30 who signed up to five brave souls.

We led those five brave hikers into the park in the rain, past the fungi, insect, bird and botany teams, and into a forest. Many of the Monterey pines had foam streaming down their trunks in the rain which formed frothy piles at the base of each tree. I've seen this phenomenon before but never with so many trees.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bioblitz - First 12 Hours

Meadow vole at the trailside breakfast place.   
First thing we saw today as we walked 60 grade school kids out for their research surveys on the National Park Service Bioblitz was a meadow vole eating its breakfast on a trail of Rancho Corral de Tierra in Montara, California. Later, one of the kids asked me if plants talk to each other.  Besides the usual diversity of plants and animals on the beautiful San Mateo coast, we saw a rare plant, a rare

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Shrouded Bulb

Gopher skull, seedlings of filaree, popcorn flower and grasses.
Anyone else out there feeling a little bipolar what with the full moon and the first treacherous kiss of spring rains? I see tiny seedlings coming up two months late and I say, "You're gonna die. There's no more rain coming. Sorry."

There's hopeful life and impassive death all around. Life and death, it's all part of a cycle, right, nothing unusual. Just look for the loop I tell myself and it will all make sense. But when I reach out to detect its invisibleness, I get nothing not even the delayed snap of a spider strand.

I am a soap plant. I present my simple leaves to the moon and she approves of their sinuosity. If I bloom at all this year, it will be low to the ground and just long enough to feed the moths. To save the energy, I'll abort those seeds and the gusts at summer dusk will blow them into cracks in the soil all around me. I will survive this drought by slowing breaking down one cellulose wall after another in my shrouded bulb. See you another year cute little seedlings.