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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Skunky Mood

This striped skunk has walked by this wildlife camera many times and ignored it. For some reason on this particular night, the striped skunk (presumably the same striped skunk) decided to charge the side of the camera. Was there a strap blowing around? Was the skunk in a testy mood? Was there an animal behind the camera? I don't know, just one of those camtrap mysteries.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wolf's Milk - A Bioblitz Preview

Wolf's milk - actually not a fungus or a Hostess pastry - a fact I learned while browsing iNaturalist   
The National Park Service is having a bioblitz at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the San Francisco Bay area on March 28 and 29, 2014. Sponsored by National Geographic, it's gonna be huge. They expect thousands of citizens to join over 300 scientists observing and documenting the plants and animals of Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties at 12 locations of GOGA (the National Park Service's four-letter code for this park).

A bioblitz is an event where animal and plant species are identified in a specific location over a short period of time. The eyes and ears of students and citizens are led by scientists to cover as much area in the park as possible and to confirm identifications. The inventory is useful to understand the park's ecology but it is also a great way for everyone to experience the biological richness of our public lands and the techniques of scientific inventory.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bad Bad Bushnell Brown

Arrggh, that sinking feeling when I open up my Bushnell HD Trophy trail camera and the date says January 1, 2013. It's not January and it isn't even 2013. Rats, the camera reset itself! I know this means the Bushnell has probably missed some shots and quite possibly has a completely blank memory card.

I check the battery level, the memory card, and every one of the 20 steps in the complicated menu. And I check them again. Everything seems to be working fine, at least right now. One of the batteries is sticking out a little. I tap it. Was it loose or not? I don't know but the rangers are waiting for my advice and I've got a dreadful feeling.

(click Read More to continue but be forewarned there are gory photos of a deer carcass coming up and predator photos)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Zombie Rodent

Mountain beaver (a.k.a. aplodontia) is one of the unusual mammals you get to practice camera trapping on at this workshop in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It took me several months to realize why this particular camera, Wingscapes Birdcam 2, would occasionally get great close-up nighttime photos with flash but never more than one. Something about the electronics in this model shut the camera down after one or two flash photos. This model is now discontinued. For more info about this unusual burrowing mammal go here and a fellow alumnus has better photos of the zombie rodent here.  
Dr. Chris Wemmer announced his 2014 camera trapping workshop - if you ever wanted to get serious about using trail cameras to understand the mammals on your study site or the back-40 then this five-day adventure is for you. In 2014, it will be July 13-18 at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus in beautiful Yuba Pass, California.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Walking Rain

Centipede strolling in this morning's rain.
A good rain invites centipedes out into the open instead of their usual habit of keeping hidden, moist and hunting small prey under rocks and logs, in leaf litter or underground. This one seemed quite content soaking in a puddle this morning as I was checking culverts for first-storm clogging.