Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

FROLIC in the FLOWERS

 

Yellow Mariposa Lily
(Calochortus weedii)

My passion to learn more about the design of nature leads me to examine nature at close range.  I seize on the opportunity to record photographically natural events at the macro level and flowers are often a favorite target.

Recently while photographing Yellow Mariposa Lillie’s (Calochortus weedii) I located a flower that had a small bee with its pollen sacks at full capacity and started to photograph the event. I concentrated on getting the right angle and composition while making sure to get as much in focus as I could. The bee moved around in the flower with great speed and efficiency but I knew I would be able to see the details when I processed the photos.

 

Female bee with loaded pollen sacs

While photographing the event I noticed a second bee entered the flower but then disappeared. I thought the second bee had left to find another flower.  I continued to shoot more images and while turning away to make an adjustment to the camera when I looked back a second bee appeared in the flower again. My thought was that perhaps the second bee had returned to the flower once again.

The rewards in nature macro photography come in the processing of the photos. You have a pretty good idea of what you captured, or wanted to capture, but you don’t really get to see the details until they are processed. The photos  are static images of moving objects, so what you couldn’t accurately discern while taking the photos are now seen in great detail. This is when you have the opportunity to study the beautiful design of nature and the individual components of the image of interest.

This is also the time that is often filled with wonderful surprises that are not usually seen by the naked eye when studying nature at the macro level. This shoot proved to be one of those times.

When processing the photos, I realized that the second bee that entered the flower never left. It turns out that the bee was a smaller male bee who apparently decided to take advantage of the larger female bee while she was busy gathering pollen from the flower.

Smaller male bee taking advantage of female while she harvests pollen.

Mission completed

After this male bees successful venture he is seen departing the flower, but he won’t be going far. Male bees, having lost most of their internal organs during the mating process, usually die immediately or soon after the event.  The female bee continued on her way seeking more pollen.

Jim Lockyer

© 2012 jl-studio
All rights reserved

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.  Mark Twain

 

CA Quail feather & Ant in our Extended Backyard

We are still in the settling-in process and have been working on the house and gardens. We are fortunate that there is no timetable or schedule for the completion of our settling-in to our new environment or for anything else for that matter. It is surely a nice feeling, I must say. I’m enjoying the casual approach while making new discoveries that draw me away from the daily unscheduled settling-in chores.

Our extended backyard (X-BY) has become a wonderful study area for my settling-in distractions. I’ve been visiting the area several times a week to see if I can locate any new critters or plants, and to note the changes that have occurred since my last visit. On my visit yesterday I was particularly interested in seeing if the Dudleya flowers had come into bloom since my last visit. The flower stalks had been developing for over a month and on my last visit earlier this week the buds appeared to be on the verge of blooming. It was nice to see on this visit that both the Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) and the Lance-leaf Dudleya (D. lancelota) flowers were in bloom and accepting the visiting Anna’s Hummingbirds harvesting their subtle reddish flower clusters.  

  
Chalk Lettuce flowers, Lanceloate-leaf Dudleya flowers – Click on photo for larger image

 
Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on Chalk Lettuce (D. pulverulenta) flowers. Click on photo for larger image.

Now when exploring the X-BY I am hoping to hear a fire engine heading up Clinton Keith Road in my direction. Yesterday there were several distant fire engine sirens heard but none were close enough to elicit a response from the resident coyotes. After being surprised and startled during my first close encounter with the coyotes and their reaction to the fire engine siren, I have been looking forward to hearing coyotes up-close again. One morning last week as Judy and I were getting in the car when a fire engine with its siren blaring passed close by and we clearly heard the coyotes in the X-BY yelping and howling in response.

I have been spending more time scanning the hillsides and canyons on my X-BY visits now that I know both coyotes and at least one bobcat are residents. I’ve met several other neighbors recently and all have mentioned the bobcat which apparently roams freely in the neighborhood when it chooses. None of the neighbors had seen the two cubs that paid a brief visit to our front porch before being scurried off to safety by mom several weeks ago.

A pair of Costa’s Hummingbirds arrived at the feeders yesterday for the first time. They are now visiting the feeders on a regular basis after spending some time observing and learning the pecking order at the feeders. They seem to have overcome the constant intimidation by the surely disrespectful Anna’s Hummingbirds. It was interesting to note that the female Costa’s HB was the first to arrive and put up with the Anna’s HB abuse. Once she started feeding on a regular basis, the male proudly showed up and commenced feeding. . . . Go figure?  We also added another bird to our yard list this week – A Prairie Falcon flyover, a handsome bird indeed.

  
Female Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image.

 
Male Costa’s Hummingbird – Click on photo for larger image

 
Boreal Bluet Damselfly & Acmon Blue Butterfly – Click on photo for larger image

Our newest settling-in distraction is absolutely wonderful. We finally found someone to look at the above spa that came with the house. We know nothing about spas and weren’t sure it even worked. After checking the spa out, Paul from Breeze Pool Service, deemed the spa to be in working condition. Two days ago the spa was initiated as we watched our first sunset from the spa – Very Nice!

VELCRO is doing fine and beginning to return to a more comfortable level now that most of the major work on the house and yard has been completed. All the noises and activity that come with repairs and installations were keeping VELCRO hidden in the deepest part of the deepest closet in the house during those activities. VELCRO and KARTER seem very comfortable with each other though their relationship is an inside/outside – looking-out/looking-in situation – kinda like ying & yang, I suppose!

The adventure continues . . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

 

I had nearly forgotten about how impressive western dodder was when we moved east. The sight of chaparral plants slowly and methodically being consumed by numerous deep-yellow tendrils this spring jiggled my memory. As spring progressed, the density of the dodder increased and so did my curiosity. It was time to renew my acquaintance with dodder (Cuscuta sp.). Witches Hair, Devil Ringlets, Hairweed are amongst the many negative, but somewhat descriptive, common names of the plant dodder.

Dodder is actually found throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the world. I am sure that I came in contact with less impressive dodder species in both Ohio and Pennsylvania but it was the western dodder that  is so impressive and provoked my curiosity. Dodder was originally placed in its own family, Cuscutaceae.  Genetic studies since have concluded dodder is related to the Morning Glory family, ConvolvulaceaeDodder is now rightly reunited with its family.

It’s my guess that, some time way back when, a morning glory tendril was sent out to a nearby plant to secure its parents plant location. Once the tendril had securely snarled itself around the stem of the other plant and watched the flower and leaves travel on out of sight, the tendril probably wondered why it was being left behind. Getting together with other morning glory tendrils in the immediate area, the tendrils eventually decided that they could easily come up with a more efficient design. No chlorophyll factories, minimal root systems, no heavy flowers to maintain and support. The new design would be 91 percent tendrils, 3 percent roots, and 6 percent flowers. And after a certainly large number of dead-end models dodder was born. Today dodder survives in 100-170 different forms worldwide.

   

Dodder is a parasitic plant with only several species producing minimal chlorophyll. Dodder lives entirely off the nutrients of its host plant. The numerous tiny dodder flowers produce one seed each after blooming in late spring or summer. The seeds of dodder can survive 5-10 years. When a seed germinates in the spring the emerging tendril must find a host plant within a very short time or the dodder will die. Once a host plant connection is made the dodder’s minimal root system dies.

  

It seems obvious to me that the tendrils did come up with a very efficient system for sustainability and they made it all about tendrils. GO, tendrils! I still wondered how after the seed germinates the lone tendril finds a host plant. I expected that it was most likely “random floundering” by the tendril. Success would hinge on whether the tendril was lucky enough to hit the host plant on a lucky flounder. Little did I know that the Tendril Advancement Society (TAS), formed in the late stages of dodder development,  had already drawn up plans to solve this problem as well.  A report published in Science (Vol. 313; Sept. 29, 2006) demonstrated that dodder used airborne chemical cues to locate their host plants. Those darn tendrils are very clever – WOW!

The literature indicates that dodder seldom kills the host plant, albeit, dodder surely provides the host plant with a very miserable growing season. The host plant provides dodder all the room and board at no cost to the dodder. It’s kind of similar to having a non-contributing family member moving in to your home for a year and constantly complaining that the TV remote won’t work.

 I cannot attest to the non-lethal aspect of dodder on the host plant but have staked out a couple chaparral plants to check later this season and again next year.

Does this nasty plant have any positive benefits? It appears that it does. Chaparral Dodder (Cuscuta californica) is the preferred host plant for the larvae of the Western Brown Elfin butterfly. I will be interested to see how the TAS deals with this problem which I am sure is not a welcome event.

Photographs of the dodder species Cuscuta californica by Jim Lockyer

The Adventure Continues!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO Lockyer

Yesterday I was snooping around our extended backyard looking for some possible areas where the bobcats might have a den. I was also armed with my telephoto lens in hopes of recording any other activity that might cross my path. The weather was cool and overcast, there wasn’t much activity. The motorized trail bike didn’t help much either but the individual controlling the noisy device was quite pleasant. He stopped and we chatted for awhile. He seemed to have an active appreciation for the nature and wildlife.  He asked me if I had seen any snakes, I told him unfortunately not. He then asked, if I saw one would I take a picture of it? I responded, “Absolutely!” I am still curious about the question and what other answer he thought I might provide.

I did come several unfortunate wildlife victims, a dead Western Fence Lizard frozen in the position at its time of demise. The lizard was on the dirt road but didn’t appear to be the victim of this days bike rider. Further along several crows were agitated at something, and thinking a possible predator, I went to take a closer look. As I approached the area I noticed one of their comrades was lying beneath a power pole. It too was frozen in the position at the time of its demise. The crows were apparently offering final rights and a eulogy to their fallen comrade. They left soon after I arrived. It appears that the crow had been electrocuted on the old power pole that still displayed exposed insulators and wires. This day there didn’t seem to be much active wildlife activity in the extended backyard.

 
Expired Western Fence Lizard and American Crow (Click on photo for larger image)

I was on top of a ridge with wooded canyons on either side when the fire engine raced up Clinton Keith Road with sirens roaring . After slowing its way through the Palomar Street/Clinton Keith Road intersection the sirens increased in volume and were loud and clear as the fire engine passed only a half mile away from where I was standing. It was then that I heard what I thought was a child imitating the siren, then another joined in, and another, and  another. Suddenly a chill went down my spine. The sounds were coming over my left shoulder only 15-20 yards from where I was standing. More individuals joined the chorus in response to the fire engine siren. The chorus finally ended in an explosive crescendo. With the fire engine now far in the distance, I stood there with my mouth wide open as  the sounds over my left-shoulder slowly subsided and quiet returned.

I estimated that there must have been 6-8 pups and 3 or more adult coyotes responding to the fire engine siren as well as trying to scare the hell out of me. They did a pretty good job at both. I cautiously tried to locate where the coyotes might be residing in the small canyon from several different vantage points. I was however unable to detect any trace or movement of the coyotes. The interior live oaks (Quercus wislizeni) that make up the woodland community in this area provide a great cover for wildlife with the foliage dropping all the way to the ground.

Yesterday also conducted my annual “casual”  Birthday Big Day bird count (BBDBC) – rules for BBDBC are still in development after establishing the BBDBC tradition over the past 15 years. So, I spent a lot of time looking at birds in both our backyard and our extended backyard. I didn’t have a particularily great count day (26 species) for the limited time I counted but this will set a mark for future BBDBC at our new location. I did however add 2 new nice birds to this years CA list (both seen in the extended backyard) – Golden Eagle and Phainopepla.

Ah, living on an urban/wildlife interface is proving to be a wonderful experience.

 

Another nice Dudleya shot and sunset closed the day!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in Southern California

While engaged in my now daily routine of opening the blinds in the living room to greet each new day, I groggily, and without glasses, noticed an animal on the other side of the culdesac. The animal was making its way towards our extended backyard (the oak woodland/chaparral greenspace adjacent to our home) while a crow flew overhead protesting the animals every movement. As I slowly began to realize what I was observing I began to panic since the animal was now moving out of view. Frantically, I tried without success to find my camera which is always at the ready – a photo opportunity lost!

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) was smaller and more slender than I had anticipated. For some reason I was expecting the bobcat to look more like the stockier Canadian Lynx (Lynx candadensis).  I was nice to see my first bobcat from our own yard. It was my bobcat training session  for bigger and better things on the Santa Rosa Plateau.

A couple hour later I was working in the office which has a view of the front yard. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something moving past the front porch. I looked up quickly and saw a bobbed tail passing by the window. I immediately jumped up and ran to the front door and quickly opened it. I wanted to see where this bob-tailed creature was heading. As the door rapidly swung open I was drawn to the front walk where four startled eyes were staring back at me. There sat two of the cutest felines I have ever seen and I was just as startled as the two bobcat cubs as I stared back at them. “Camea, camera, where’s the damn camera,” I asked myself. Turning to look for the camera, I noticed mom bobcat come back into view and with that they all disappeared. Finally locating the camera I tried to locate where the bobcats had gone without any luck – another photo opportunity lost! 

Yesterday when returning home after exploring more of our extended backyard I came to a spot below the embankment off our culdesac where several crows were agitated by something. I assumed it was a predator and spent considerable time trying to locate what was causing the crows concern. I didn’t find anything and returned home as the crows continued to scold what was below. I now think there may be a good possibility that the bobcat den is located somewhere in the that area.

The presence of the bobcats also explain some recent yard findings. I have found several quail wing(s) only on the front lawn over the past several weeks. Karter (the correct spelling of Carter our next door cat) occasionally leaves a dead woodrat or headless rabbit on our porch or lawn to show off to VELCRO. But the quail wing(s) indicate that the prey is being utilized for food and not sport, or showing-off in Karters case. There were no plucked feathers associated with the quail wing(s) which might indicate a raptor kill, so I suspect that the quail were probably taken by the bobcat. There are a lot of quail in our area.

I can’t get those wonderful little faces of bewilderment out of my head. They brought an instant smile upon observation and they absolutely define the word, cute!  Hopefully we will have more encounters with this family of bobcats. Next time I will have the camera ready to go. I may have located my bobcat blind – Our front porch in a comfortable chair with a good cup of coffee.

EXTENDED BACKYARD

Yesterday, when I explored our extended backyard which I may rename Bobcat Valley, I took a more macro look at the area. I also needed another Dudleya fix and wanted to see if the Dudleya had come into flower yet. It was a nice hike with a lot of new unexpected discoveries.

The cacti are now in full bloom, the spring grasses are drying out – marking the beginning of the fire season in Southern California. It still amazes me to see so many wildflowers in bloom. I would have expected to see most of them gone by now. Of course, this is an El Nino year it’s all different I am told. They are predicting cooler weather for tomorrow with a possibility of rain and there is new snow on the San Bernardino Mountains dropping to the 4,000 foot level with the storm last week. Being a former native Californian (my sister revoked my “native” status years ago when we moved away), I must now rely on the current neo-natives to advise me with regards to the unusual SoCal weather. Somehow it sounds like the same dialog everyone uses to explain the weather.

Dudleya (The DUDE of SoCal succulents) continues to intrigue me. It’s design is abolutely beautiful and it is a great example of the  Fibonacci ratio. Not to mention that I think it would also make a great Halloween costume.

   
  
  
TOP ROW: Fringed Spineflower & Bee Fly, Rattlesnake Weed, Western Scrub Jay
MIDDLE ROW: Zebra-tailed Lizard, Orange-throated Whiptail Lizard
BOTTOM ROW: Dudley (The DUDE of SoCal succulents), Bee-fight in cholla cactus bloom
Click on photo for larger image

IN MEMORIUM

The Bobcat made its first appearance this morning almost to the minute that Judy’s uncle Bernie passed away in Ohio. Bernie was 95 years old at his passing, he has always been an inspiration to me. He lived most of his adult life in Logan County, Ohio on a small 30 acre farm living off the land and caring for his parents. He married late to a wonderful woman, Daisy who brought her wonderful family into Bernies life. Bernie and Daisy continued to live a simple life, living off the land, enjoying their beautiful surroundings, and enjoying the natural world on the 30 acres that surrounded them. Bernie left this world this morning as he lived, with great dignity and grace. Thank you Bernie for the Bobcats!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Yesterday, I set out on an exploratory hike in our extended backyard (oak woodland/chaparral green space adjacent to our home) to learn more about the very nastyparasitic plant Chaparral Dodder. I had hoped to get some images of the dodder flower but it was not yet flowering. The dodder was just strangling the flowering chaparral that it was hosting on. I was cautious to not get too close in fear that the dodder tenicles would reach out and capture me. More on This is Not Your Father’s Dodder later.

On returning home I took a trail where I had earlier seen Yucca in bloom in hopes of getting some photos of the yucca flowers and possibly the yucca weevil but the yucca had already reached full bloom and were in decline. Approaching the area I noticed several silvery protrusions extending from the side of a steep hill. When I reached the area I was astounded to see a beautiful succulent plant from which the silvery protrusions were arising. My first thought was, “here is my starter succulent!” I am planning putting in a succulent garden in our front yard to reduce the sod area and to provide a natural border around some already drought resistent and native plantings.

I continued down the trail and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were many of these succulent plants all along the trail clinging to the steep wall. I was curious to know what these amazing plants were however I could find no reference to the succulent plants from the guides in my library. Several years ago I disposed of my copy of, A California Flora by Munz when I was culling out my library in PA. At the time I was certain that I would probably not return to California, so it was recycled. A California Flora was(is?) “the” botanical identification guide for the plants of California – no illustrations, no photos – it’s just a text key, a very thick key indeed. Then I thought, “well if I did have Munz, how long would it take me to key the succulent plant out?” Realizing that keying out a succulent plant using Munz would have been quite simple – since there aren’t that many native succulents!

Today, looking through a book I had missed yesterday, Introduction to the Plant Life of Southern California I found squezzed between the cacti section and the chaparral section one page on SUCCULENTS, and there it was, Dudleya pulverulenta (Chalk Dudleya) was screaming at me! From there the information flowed as Google and Bing took over.

A great article on Dudleya by Judy Wigand for the San Diego Union-Tribune is available here. I learned from Judy’s article that the Dudleya is a protected species and is becoming scarce from loss of  habitat loss. It is however available in plant nurserys, so I shall enjoy the Dudleya in its natural state and purchase my starter Dudleya from a nursery. Of course if a Dudleya were to follow me home that would be another thing. I am anxious to observe and photograph the red flowers of the blooming Dudleya which will soon appear.

   
Dudleya – The SoCal DUDE of Succulents in our own extended backyard – NICE! (click on photo for a larger image)

COMING SOON – This is Not Your Father’s Dodder!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in California

Santa Rosa Plateau Fog Blog

Today the Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) was covered with fog which occasionally reached down towards our home but remained mostly on the plateau.

I took the opportunity to visit the foggy plateau with the idea that I might be able to capture the fog burning off the plateau with my camera. Driving up to the plateau, only 5 minutes from our home, the fog became thicker the further west I traveled on the plateau and near the vernal pools the visibility was reduced to under 10 feet. I pulled into the vernal pools trail-head  parking lot, after carefully locating the parking lot entrance. Realizing that the fog was not going to lift for some time I decided to head back east to a lower part of the plateau where the visibility might be better.

I settled on the Hidden Valley trail-head parking lot to explore the plateau where the visibility was much better. The fog ebbed and flowed through the valleys and up the slopes creating dynamic soothing images. I had hoped that the sun would break through so I could capture some contrasting photos. The fog and overcast remained quite heavy and did not provide the best photo opportunities. I was able to capture a number of images that provide an accurate account of the changing fog conditions.

   

The Santa Rosa Plateau blanketed with fog – click on photo for a larger image.

  
 
 
TOP ROW: Common Mullein-not native (1,2), water droplets on grass, 
MIDDLE ROW: water droplets on spider web, Mariposa Lily, water droplets on foxtail grass 
BOTTOM ROW: , Elk thistle, water droplets on BIG spider’s web
CLICK on photo for a larger image.   

As the heavy fog begin to set in where I was located I decided to head up a trail that I hadn’t yet tried. I only intended on using the trail to gain some elevation so I would be in a position to watch the clearing fog over a larger vista. All I was doing however was moving into an area of denser fog. My camera equipment began to collect moisture looking more and more  like the water-droplet covered vegetation I had been photographing earlier. Realizing that there was going to be no fog burn-off today, I packed up the camera equipment to keep it dry. I continued on the same trail since I felt that I had already passed the half way point of the loop that would bring me back to the trail leading to the parking lot. I was now walking through a thick fog, well let’s face it, I was literally in the clouds. To be more accurate by western meterological terminology, I was actually, smack dab in the middle of  a marine layer that was coming off the Pacific Ocean and riding over the Santa Ana Mountains and lapping into the Temecula Valley.

Hiking on an unfamiliar trail in dense foggy conditions is an interesting experience. Intellectualy I knew I was going in the right direction and I was sure that the trail, well pretty sure, I was on connected to the trail that led back to the parking lot where I had left the car. The trail climbed a ridge adjacent to what appeared to be a deep ravine which was hidden from full view by the fog. Wrapping through oak woodlands the trail finally desended to a somewhat familiar area, but not entirely so. It appeared to be a portion of the Hidden Valley, but an area that I had not yet explored. While continuing on the trail in the fog covered valley the birds came vocally alive. The Acorn Woodpeckers cackled and laughed, while the Mourning Doves provided soothing coo’s. Other chips, chirps, and song were heard penetrating the thick fog. There were several sounds through the fog that did not sound of birds or amphibians. Having noticed a lot of  fresh scat and tracks of both bobcat and coyote along the trail, I wondered. . . . ? The trail did lead to the trail junction that led me back to the parking lot. 

I drove down from the plateau with the marine layer chasing my behind. I am looking forward to exploring this new trail once again when the visibility is better. I continue to be impressed by the many faces of the wonderful Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve.

The Adventure Continues  . . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO