Friday, December 19, 2014

Is That a Salamander in Your Pocket?

A photo on a computer screen in the ranger office   
Months went by and I forgot about the alleged red-bellied newt of Santa Clara County, then one Monday in December when I walked into the ranger office, a photo flicked on a computer screen and caught my eye. It was a newt being held by a hand clothed in a ranger's khaki sleeve. I looked again:  the newt in the photograph appeared to be the dark-eyed stranger I'd never met, the red-bellied newt. In the background of the photo were the same ranger bulletins I could see on the real bulletin board across the office. I was stunned as photo after photo of a red-bellied newt clicked on the computer's screen saver.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Thousand-Watt Smile

Chuck, long-distance runner and trail patrol volunteer, and his partner Chris
Sometimes you meet someone whose physical appearance so closely matches your unconscious image of a personality type that something very odd has to happen for you to be jolted into seeing that person as an individual instead of a stereotype. Same, same, same, BANG, different.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mystery of the Red-Bellied Newt

This is a story of a dark-eyed stranger, one of the most powerful neurotoxins in the natural world, a suicide, and something out of place.

The dark-eyed stranger is the red-bellied newt, known in scientific circles as Taricha rivularis.  A medium-sized salamander (5.5 to 7.5 inches from nose to tail) with a chocolate-brown back and tomato-red underside, this newt lives in the redwood and similar forests and streams of northern California.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

First Mud Puddle

First mud puddle - must have been some party going on after that rain   
Rain. Here are photos of tracks that appeared in one little mud puddle on the Dipper Ranch after rainstorms finally arrived in mid-November. Can you tell what the tracks are from? The mud puddle was on a road that goes past the water tank.

Everyone's saying "Rain" with such joy. We've been getting rainstorms every few days. People have been going out for walks in it. Waking up at night to watch the stormy skies. Turning off the radio and TV to listen to the sound of it on the roof and the leaves.

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?