Saturday, April 18, 2015

Snapshots of spring

 This hymenopteran (tiny bee? wasp?) was DOA, discovered while I was weeding.
It is SO TINY I had to carry it on a saucer
with a glass over it to keep it from blowing away. 

The irises are blooming, now. Not all of 'em, but this one is going at it. =)
See the TEENY tiny thrip?
An extremely small insect
living in an impossibly beautiful place.

Western fence lizard watching me photograph irises.
I'm not sure that's an approving gaze... 

The "beard" in bearded irises reminds me SO strongly of nudibranchs.
I'm JUST in love with irises. And the ones I have smell amazing, too. That's a requirement. =)

A local native, golden brodiaea. Beautiful buttery yellow faces beaming up at you.
Even with the drought, they're making a good showing.
They're just shorter than usual, if I remember correctly.
Yay, natives! 

An extremely tiny spider (crab spider) atop a pale owl's clover flower.

For a sense of how tiny thrips are, look at the pale part of the bloom,
center left edge. 

Zooming WAY in, there's a few thrips.
Can you find this tiny section in the previous photo?

One last moody gaze from a still-unfurling iris, this year's very first.

A great thing about irises, since I am clearly deeply in love with them,
is that they love OUR climate.

They don't need summer water.
They just sit there, high and dry, through the drought,
waiting for the rainy season to return.

Lovely, since my standards for the drought tolerance
of plants I'll allow in our garden is rising every year.

I hope your spring (or fall) is progressing beautifully.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stunning stilt striding, and other natural delights--it's been a good week

With weather like this, and longer days, I've been outside more.

Which means more photo phun.

Western kingbird, same place. Always beautiful. That stunning yellow underbelly knocks me out. 

 White-faced ibis (Merced NWR).
Not always the most helpful name, but what a ridiculously regal bird.

 Husband spotted this creature & knew I'd want to see it.

Holy. Wow.
I love that face.

Learned from Twitter friends (@ta_wheeler) and
that though it looks like a crane fly, it's not a fly at all
(flies have 2 wings, this creature has 4).

and the only representative of its genus among the Pacific states.

I am so glad I got to meet it.

Last, but not least, the first confirmed painted lady I've seen here this year.

I took this photo because twitter-folks (@ErikRunquist @eButterfly_org)
are interested in tracking their migration.

And I'm so very glad I was therefore motivated to encounter this charming animal.

I hope spring is springing forth merrily (northern hemisphere),
or fall is falling elegantly (southern hemisphere),
wherever you are.



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Flinging photos: Sierra Nevada lower-montane life in early March

 This appeared at our window last night & I almost had a heart attack:
It's a ceanothus silkmoth (ID thanks to @CrawliesWithCri), 3.5-5 inch wingspan. AMAZING.

Just look at that gorgeous abdomen! So stylish, jeepers.

After taking some photos w/my confused camera (why shooting at night??)
I went back inside & turned off our lights so it would stop being confused by us,
and continue on toward finding a mate, or whatever it would normally do. =)

So, walking in the dark house, smiling quietly,
my husband said, "Welcome to Samantha National Park."

I'm glad he understands. =)

Baby Blue Eyes and Friends

Photographed first baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) on our property this year, March 3rd.

When I uploaded the photo, saw I captured one of
the so tiny (presumed) globular springtails in focus. So cute!
If you scroll back up to the flower photo, can you find the tiny bug?

For amazing shots of all kinds of these cuties,
much clearer, and much closer up,

Truly, his work is superb,
and there's such diverse colors & patterns in these species.
He finds them in leaf piles on the ground. So, so cool.

Love and Death

Just this morning, saw evidence of a spidery romance on our window...
I think it's a female up top, and a male down below.

"So, Bob. How'd the date go last night?"

(no response)


Presumed female looks as innocent as possible...
batting her perty eyelashes.

Dating in the spider world is risky business.

Other Visitors

Teddybears of the insect world, a bee fly appeared recently.
Super hard species to get good photos of--they're very speedy and restless. 

For much better photos:
The subfamily Bombyliinae has lots of the fuzzy types.
Check out this shot--WOW. SO CUTE!

We flung out some birdseed & got lovely visitors, including this spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus).

The redberry (Rhamnus ilicifolia) is blooming--it's an extremely subtle event.
At least to us. Lots of tiny bugs are floating around it, so for them it's shouting.
Those teensy green blooms are barely discernible to my eyes.
Squinting hard I can pick out the white stigma to know which are open.

Miner's lettuce (Claytonia spp.) is also blooming happily.

 Another fan of the birdseed: a brave western gray squirrel.

 And last, early for Easter, a black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) plays peek-a-boo.

Happy spring!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Feeder frenzy, fawn photobomb and fabulous fungi

It was a cold morning and I'd just flung a bunch of wild bird seed out.
The birds rewarded us with early morning visits.

Two hungry acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus)
neatly photobombed by a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) fawn.

THREE acorn woodpeckers on one pinecone. Impressive.
Especially the one that's upside down.
I also like that one tiny bit of feed falling 'neath them.

Sticking the tongue out.

First saw these two Steller's jays (Cyanocitta stelleri)
and wondered why the little one was standing its ground in the face of a larger one.

And then I thought: oh... the little one is probably the offspring of the big one.*
And rather than threatening with the big mouth, it's saying, "Feed me!"
It's a theory.*

Since we've gotten a bit of rain these last few weeks,
the hygroscopic earthstars (Astraeus hygrometricus) unfurled again,
much to my delight.

I love this olive green one... so elegant.

Nice beige, crackly one.

This one shows JUST how much they can look like an exploded acorn.

So, that's some of the things kicking around the property in February.

I will be posting more images of birds
and the early-blooming flowers soon.

In the meantime, here's to more rain here in the west! Woo-hoo!

xoxoxo bb

*Yes, it's a theory, but it's probably wrong. Two smarties commented that
this sort of behavior is common in mated pairs. Flirting, basically. =) Thanks, peeps!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Verdict: tiny adorable birds = guilty, Biobabbler = innocent

One thing I learned in 2014: it's not my fault.

All the times I sowed seeds to fill my iris bed
(with plants that would bloom when the irises were done)
and ended up with nothing but weeds,
I thought it was me.

More than once I sowed and planted,
and watered and waited,
and watched and watered and waited.

And nothing.

Zero new flowering plants, just a boring, perennial line of iris blades.

Therefore, I was a lame gardener.

But this year, I am redeemed!
The birds totally ate the seeds.
How do I know this?

"Your Honor, I would like to submit exhibits A and B."

Exhibit A:

Sites where I did not protect the seeds from birds.
 Look how tidy and clean and plant-less it all is...

And, Exhibit B:

Site where I did protect the seeds from birds.
Rows of baby plants. Cute little tinsies (and a few weeds), bursting with promise. A miracle.

This may have changed my life.

I am not a hopelessly unskilled gardener.
I can make things grow,
I can fill out my iris beds
with things that will bloom after spring,
providing DH & I lovely sights (incl. bugs) to admire for months and months.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Goodies for YOU, Patient Reader, and a new year for us all

So, a few low-resolution resolutions floating around in my head, including:

Share more of the wonders of the world with you, here.
More frequently. Starting now. =)

Today's feature: earthstar fungus (shot in November).

I actually think I saw it last year,
but it was kind of like a celebrity sighting:
 "It CAN'T be something as exciting as that earthstar fungus.
It MUST be just some sort of exploded acorn, right?!?"

They do look a lot like exploded acorns.
I actually searched for "germinating acorn" images to be sure.
Nope, not germinating acorns.

Freakin' cool fungus.
Maybe the hygroscopic earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus.

Measuring up (shot in December):

Hygroscopic refers to how their form changes with the humidity.
Their little rays curl back up when it gets dry,
some all the way into a dark, tough ball that can roll around.

Went back to the site today (January), and they looked like this:

I found another that was an even tidier little brown ball
(no leaf had gotten tangled up in it, like the lower one).

So, that's one of the coolest things I discovered & learned about in 2014.


Oh, and while I was JUST on the east coast,
gazing at Nauset Lighthouse on Cape Cod, MA,

What did I see at my feet, right about there?

The 4 in a row are really easy to see in the photo, but there's more than that in this frame.
They were significantly smaller than ours,

I was pumped.

'Course back home, now, I can't expect to hear any of those amazing accents,
eat spectacular clam chowder,
or wander about in a frozen swamp (future post).

But, we do get to be with our kitties & hen, again.
And my beloved garden.

'Course I had to WATER a few things in my garden AGAIN today.
It basically didn't rain the 2 weeks we were gone;
and winter is our rainy season.

We really need more rain to counter this drought.

Plus, more rain --> more fungus, woo-hoo!! =)


Thursday, December 18, 2014

2 manzanita shots to go, please...

Busy, but today's assignment was "red"
(for the 30 day photo challenge by @just_go_do_it)
so as soon as I realized that meant some quality time with manzanita,
I grabbed the Nikon and headed out.

I find myself gazing at this plant like I'm in love.
Just staring and staring.

So beautiful. We're very lucky to have them here.

SO many wildlife species eat the berries,
and they are early bloomers in the spring,
which gives a low hummmmm to the landscape
as thousands of bees merrily pollinate them
to begin their little bee lives for the year.

Maybe I am in love. =)