Μάιος 05, 2024

Hilltop butterflies at Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery

Today's "Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery" combines four nineteenth century graveyards that clustered around a small wooded hill about a mile northeast of our then- splendid county courthouse. Even in those simpler times, sensibilities in our small town(1880 pop. 3600) required four separate boneyards to decently accommodate ethnic and class diversity! By the mid 20th. century these were superseded, abandoned in favor of the current Santa Rosa Memorial Park next-door. The old graves had to be collected into a city park of thirteen acres behind cyclone fencing to slow down vandalism a bit. The site has been left fallow since except for a small native garden managed by local volunteers in one corner. With little bloom, it does not at first seem a promising place to find butterflies; but it turns out that having a hill is sufficient.

The cemetery knoll barely looms over the adjacent neighborhoods, but enough to attract hilltopping species.
In spring and summer Swallowtails patrol glades in the oak forest along the crest. By May, you generally see male Pipevine, Anise and Western Tigers jousting in these spaces hour after hour, defending a position hoping a female passes by. Hard to photograph, but very easy to watch! The hill does have one nice black Sage blooming in April and May; and during this period you can get your shot as the bitter rivals converge on neutral ground to nectar together quite companionably. But these insects are not here to feed; and they remain quite consistently present through the summer months.

By November these have gone, and the action shifts slightly from the summit glades to the gravestones on the southwest slope. A nice variety of stone monuments in this upscale section get the best of the wintery sunshine, so are ideal for perching butterflies. Mourning Cloaks, California Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and occasionally West Coast Ladies and Painted Ladies might be seen here any time of year, but now they've this stoneyard to themselves until March.

Of these Vanessa atalanta dominates here, and can be seen any warm winter day. If there are two butterflies, they are fighting over the best location. If undisturbed , a butterfly will perch on a favorite spot in his territory, flying off to patrol every few minutes, and usually returning to station. Any butterfly that comes by will be instantly challenged. Anything not a female atalanta will be chased off in tight circles that spiral off into the treetops. West Coast Ladies behave quite the same, and so it's tough to tell these apart until they land. As these two species have been seen to hybridize, they may have the same problem. The other overwintering species noted are less frequently seen; but all will join the Cynthia butterflies from time to time competing for prime locations. if you visit regularly you'll see them all.

By April, Swallowtails return, and seemingly chase off most of the Vanessae and Morning Cloaks. These larger butterflies dominate the space until summers end. In the warm months, other butterflies do pass through the park; with much greater variety than you could encounter in the surrounding neighborhoods.
I'd speculate that this hill takes much of its faunal character from the essentially contiguous oak-covered hills marching up to the Mayacamas Mountains.. I've seen Eastern Tailed Blues, Ringlets, California Sisters, Lorquin's Admirals, Dogface, Mylittia Crescents, Ox-eyed Satyrs and Northern White Skippers here; along with our more urban-tolerant species. I've lived for 30 years about 10 blocks from this spot, and none of those wild butterflies ever visit my garden.

I suspect--if this were a widely held priority-- we could do more to accommodate these other foraging butterflies that visit the park. The native garden is a nice start on this, and could be expanded. After all, our indigenous cultures regarded butterflies as associated with death and the transmigration of souls! But that might not be fair to the Europeans, Africans and Japanese interred here.... and it would be foolish to complain in view of the miracles already found here on any warm winter day. Short of actually removing this small hill, the Rural Cemetery should continue to delight no matter what else is done.

Posted on Μάιος 05, 2024 0138 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Νοέμβριος 11, 2023


Purplish means somewhat purple; as when an artist mixes a dab of this royal color into another pigment to get an intermediate hue. Our Purplish Coppers are not 'purplish' in this sense. Indeed, many would say that they are not purplish in any sense. Scanning published images of the butterfly, you'd admit that they have a point. Generally speaking, Tharsalea helloides seem to be either orange(female) or grey-brown(males) and not purple at all.

Purple color can be found only in young males, and then only for a day or so. Not a mixture, but a pure hue produced by interference as sunlight refracts through the many regular transparent layers of their scales. Like all iridescence, the intensity varies with the angle of viewing; so your handsome, if earth- toned insect might flash brightest lilac as it shifts its wings. Some of the freshest males might properly be called purple coppers. More commonly, as scales thin out day by day, the effect is less, with a shimmer of purple floating over the ground color: purplish!

Of the 2500 or so images of T. helloidies on Inat, only about 1% show any tincture of purple. I've had better success in Sonoma County, so at times I've wondered if we had a more vividly colored race of coppers. I'm convinced we don't, but instead simply have a lot more of these small lycanaeids. I've a definite bias to concentrating on the prettiest butterflies, and I'm drawing from a deeper pool.

For unknown reasons, Purplish Coppers have been in decline around the Bay. When Tilden published his excellent small book on San Francisco butterflies in 1965 they were "everywhere"; now, not so much. But unlike other species declining because of habitat loss, this is a creature rather favored by modern civilization,
hosted by the ubiquitous Docks and Knotweeds that thrive on the bits swampy 'waste ground' generally safe

from development. Bit of a mystery what's gone wrong.

At least where I live this seems to have eased. We are seeing more butterflies in more places, and seeing flights starting in spring and persisting until frost. I hope this is happening in the rest of our region as well.
If so, we'll see both more posting, but especially more of the choice purple individuals sifted out by discriminating correspondents. Because there seems to be no clear factor driving their decline, there seems lots of room for hope.

Posted on Νοέμβριος 11, 2023 0954 ΜΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 3 παρατηρήσεις | 1 σχόλιο | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Οκτώβριος 26, 2023


One of the nicest things about living in Sonoma County is the very real chance of seeing a California Dogface Butterfly. The male is iconic, with the dorsal forewings showing a doghead silhouette framed by velvety black over orangish yellow, with a shifting shimmer of purple. An exquisite creature! But I actually prefer the unmarked female: the most delicate lemon-yellow, and a graceful swooping flier that you just have to see for yourself. These two definitely check most of the boxes required of our State Insect... except for the rather important one of visibility. Very few people will ever seen one. Our Dogface is not really rare, but is mostly restricted to the wooded foothill canyons where they can find False Indigo, where they fly unseen.

Fortunately, this unusual pterid-- bigger, longer-lived and a much stronger flier than any of the related white or yellow butterflies--is vigorous enough for occasional individuals to fly off- reservation, where an alert naturalist might see one flying in city neighborhoods. When I was 8, I netted an immaculate male in a neighbor's yard in Central Los Angeles; likely an individual that started out 20 or 30 miles away in the San Gabriels. In Santa Rosa we are much closer to the butterfly nurseries, and I see them in our neighborhood every week or so throughout their long flight. Starting in February, I can usually see them in the hills; later and until frost, just about anywhere in the county.

Like many others, I hope to take a few pictures when I see a choice butterfly. With Dogface this can be very frustrating. The commonest sort of sighting is of a rather high-flying yellow or orange butterfly on a beeline flying past and then away. They never seem to settle! Of course they do, but where is a mystery to me. The butterfly is regularly seen in Hood and Sugarloaf Parks on warm days in February before any of the important annuals bloom. My first photo ops have been on March's Blue Dicks and Hairy Vetch in the hills, and then a bit later on Wild Radish in the Laguna de Santa Rosa. As summer develops, they can be occasionally be seen a singletons anywhere in the county, and visiting many sorts of flower. Regrettably, these encounters--even if they add up pleasingly over a whole season-- are hard to predict and can never be counted on. If you are seriously intent on Dogface, it's all about thistles.

Our native Cobwebby Thistle provides a magnificent setting for a Dogface image; but sadly these are never very numerous and their season short. Happily, the more vigorous invasive thistle species thrive in our region; starting with the unlovely Italian Thistle, continuing with Milk Thistle and reaching a peak at summer's end with Bull Thistle and the (native) Douglas Thistle. About 1/3 of the Dogface/flower images on Inat involve Bull Thistle! These two provide satisfaction until fading in October. After that point I'll continue to see them flying until frost, but I'll not be needing my camera.

It is my impression that the last several years have enjoyed a bit of a Dogface boom in Sonoma County.
Shortly after moving here in 1983 I saw one in my neighborhood. Certainly in those first decades here I was working long hours, but I never saw another. Since 2011 I've been looking systematically, but only saw one or two each season. The last two years have been fantastic, and I've had hundreds of sightings, with scores within our northeast Santa Rosa neighborhood. Other Inat correspondents locally have also done very well, so I don't think my own experience is just a fluke. I had been apprehensive that our 2017 and 2019 fires might have damaged or even destroyed their false indigo nurseries, but that's clearly not the case. As these
grow in brush-choked canyons, perhaps the cleansing fire actually benefitted this reclusive plant?

Hard to say, given the fact that-despite yearly proof in the appearance of Dogface and Silver spotted Skippers- it is so hard to locate, and impossible to survey, our False Indigo. I've never found any in Hood or Sugarloaf Ridge Parks despite a decade of looking! Just as well. Most of the decline in butterfly populations is due to habitat loss, and the narrow canyons that support False Indigo are relative safe from the developers for the moment. But I've gotten a few plants from the plant sale at the Hallberg Gardens, and I'm hedging my bets.

Posted on Οκτώβριος 26, 2023 1238 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 4 παρατηρήσεις | 1 σχόλιο | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Δεκέμβριος 28, 2022

Hairstreak Elegy for Hood Mountain

Hood Mountain has been my favorite butterfly spot for years. I believe I've photographed most of the 45 or so species recently seen flying here, before successive fires in 2017 and 2019 damaged most of the park. Hood was closed after the 2017 fire for more than a year, and is still in a long process of reopening. Since I've had access I've been visiting to see how things are coming along. Changes had to be expected.

One great loss that is obvious is John Muir's Hairstreak. This is our local 'Juniper' Hairstreak; formerly hosted by the Sargent's Cypress Forest covering the North and West ridges. This scarce creature was always one of the first new butterflies each spring on this mountaintop. Rich chestnut brown flushed with purple and touches of green , these seem a miracle in the austere setting of these bone-dry serpentine ridges. By early April and the blooming of the dwarf ceanothus(Musk Brush) you might see pristine individuals nectaring alone. As season progresses they were more numerous as they shift to emerging Yarrow, Yerba Santa, Blue Gilia and especially Common Wooly Sunflower. By midseason they fly in the company of a growing cast of pollinators including choice butterflies and day flying moths. Muir's hairstreaks have been easily seen here all the way into July. By then, these vivid insects are so faded so that they are hardly identifiable.

There are other decent sites for Callophyrs muiri in our region, but I doubt any match this community on the roof of Sonoma County. Several hundred acres ,over two serpentine ridges, with an unworldly forest of stunted grey-blue trees hedged with Manzanita and a scattering of serpentine endemic plants. Hood is a true gem by any standard, and this 'Pygmy forest' was its pride. And a gem even rarer for being open to the public! Sonoma County is proud of its parks, but the truth is that we've a rather slim proportion of public land; and most of our Cupressus sargentii is on private land.

For example, there's a robust grove along Stoetz Road in the west county that supports muiri. Folks used to visit the site of an old garbage dump here; but that's closed. Worse, the neighbors are not friendly; going so far as lining this country lane with huge boulders to prevent anyone stopping here. I have seen nice butterflies and even Jewelflowers along the road; but only by slinking along, feeling much the criminal after contriving to park unconventionally. The area of the old dump would make a marvelous reserve, so it's a pity.

Inat. reports suggest there are a lot of John Muir Hairstreaks in the 'Cedars'(i.e. sargentii) district above Armstrong Woods, alongside numerous other serpentine wonders. This might well rival Hood Park, but you visit here only by special arrangement, so few will manage a trip. And there are surely other places--I've seen singletons here and there in the Mayacamas--but it's hard to learn anything without access. My plan is always to visit any Sargent's Cypress I can get to.

This project will be bittersweet after watching successive fires sweep over Hood in 2017 and 2019, together destroying the Cypress forest and the butterfly here. The first fire only nibbled at these ridges, burning roughly south to north, but incinerating everything until being stopped at the crest by a broad firebreak along Panorama Road. Imagine running a bulldozer along this stoney ridge in the choking smoke in front of an advancing fire! By such heroic efforts the forest survived then, and the next two springs hairstreaks were abundant. What was ominous was the completeness of the burn south of the firebreak, in contrast to the often spotty damage in the adjacent Fir/Oak forest.

In nearby Orchard meadow you can appreciate the difference. This old home site is still surrounded by a respectable number of Fir. The old shack and fruit trees are gone, but the meadow's Douglas Thistle, Lupine, Hedge nettle and Vetch sprang right back. The colony of Boisduval's Blues on the Lupine seems to have survived intact. This spring I saw California Dogface here on several visits. This meadow is back in business.
Just above in the Cypress forest, fire left nothing to regenerate. The charming spring of 2019 was followed by more fire in October; a more intense and extensive burn leaving a clean slate for recolonization. Aside from a tiny clump of young trees next to a driveway off Panorama Road, the only survivor is a single patriarch towering over a moonscape. Absent the forest, the hairstreak is done here.

In the years since we've been in the grip of drought, but even so, the mountain is visibly recovering. Our meager springs of 2020, 2021 and 2022 managed to bring increasing bloom to the burned area. Notable for butterfly people is a massive growth of Yerba Santa, formerly quite scarce in the park. Yarrow, Common Wooly Sunflower, Blue Gilia and others are increasing. Butterflies seem to be rebounding. Particularly gratifying is an abundance of Spring Whites visiting persisting Jewelflowers. But we've had two springs now without Muir's Hairstreak. I'm concluding that they've been lost here for the immediate future; and as long as it takes for enough of the trees to come back.

That recovery, if it happens, will be a long time. Saplings in the 2017 burn area are now 18" high. But these are only found here and there, mostly at the margins of the forest. Unfortunately, none of the burned trees has the trick of resprouting from the ground, like the Bays and Toyon nearby. These ridges will sport sargentii again, but nothing like what we've lost here. Perhaps even scattered small clumps of cypress might support muiri here? It might be possible to reintroduce them from nearby populations... . In the meanwhile, more flowers on the burn scar will make make this spot very attractive to many nice butterflies.

Personally, I still have trouble accepting this particular loss. I expect that every March when the Musk Brush blooms, I will be haunted by the fear of missing the return of John Muir's Hairstreaks to these ceanothus gardens. The Ghost of John Muir will stir, and I will not be able to resist two or three climbs up here before April. And I'm sure, when I see my first blooming ceanothus, I'll be holding my breath. Often for butterfly people, no amount of faith or shoe leather will secure a sighting of a particular insect, so it does not do to get greedy. If I was a spiritual fellow, this would be a good time to invoke some baloney about the folly of attachments. In this dreary era of extinctions, such equanimity is hard. When I think about these situations I just get angry, and the remedies needed are far above my means.

For me consolation springs from the early Spring Whites I might see on these visits, with all the other discoveries in a regenerating forest. Along Pine Flat Road and on Geyser Peak I've seen both California and Boisduval's Marbles fly with Whites, and it makes sense they're here too. That's something I don't want to miss.

Posted on Δεκέμβριος 28, 2022 0205 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 5 παρατηρήσεις | 5σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Νοέμβριος 28, 2022

Delta Pond GPH Update

For the third year running, we've looked for Great Purple Hairstreaks on the solitary Baccharis in the meadow at the toe of Delta Pond. There are other possible GPH targets nearby, like Goldenrod, Devil's Beggartick, and Tall Peppergrass; but all summer these have come and gone without any butterflies that I saw. By the end of September we get the bloom on the Coyote Brush and our best chance of seeing some.

Brian Webb is at this site most days. He watched the slowish blooming of the huge plant, and finally saw the first butterfly feeding on 9/28, a Grey Hairstreak. By the next day, the GPH were back. Looking at the raft of texts he sent me up until Halloween, I see images of possibly 20 individuals; even one with 3 of these scarce beauties in a single frame. I went six times between 10/2 and 10/29, usually 12 to 2 PM, and saw a few of these each time. Last year's sightings were earlier(9/23), and these seemed to peter out by 10/1. This year, we had an unusual opportunity to watch them for an entire month. Cool rain on 11/1 seemed to draw the curtain, with the bush going to seed.

The strong showing of GPH this year was an exception in this drought year, especially in an area where Water Dept. crews have scoured off much of the surviving bloom. Last year there were hundreds of Grey Hairstreaks, Mylitta Crescents, several sorts of Skipper; this year barely a handful. A consolation was the strong showing of Purplish Coppers, nice Rosa-form Buckeyes, and at least three sightings of Pygmy Blue-- I believe this last a first for the Laguna.

It's still unknown where the GPH roost. An obvious home base would be the Mistletoes in the adjacent creek willows; although there's lots of Oak and another type of Mistletoe within a mile. I've tried to see these butterflies head off to these tree tops, but they prove rather difficult to observe in flight.

I'm thinking is that one of their great tricks is to fly as little as possible. This spot teems with insectivorous avians, so that seems the safest way. Certainly many of these GPH show heavy bird damage, often with all of their hindwing 'false head' structures neatly snipped off. The insects we watched spent hours on the bush each visit, systematically clambering up and down branches visiting hundreds of flowers. A good part of this time would be spent 'inside' the plant nectaring in the shade, barely visible as a matte-black rectangle. Occasionally they'd fly in very short hops to a nearby branch sometimes with a tiny flash of blue.
Frequently they are lost even to the careful watcher, even knowing their position to within a few inches. So obvious on Rabbitbrush or Goldenrod, here the Baccharis provides a cloak of invisibility.

They are well-designed for this lifestyle. A typical lycanid is a skinny animal with feeble, threadlike legs; while the GPH is a fireplug of a butterfly, stepping out on sturdy pins worthy of a brushfoot or swallowtail. Once landed on the Baccharis, even the individuals with severe wing damage are fully competent and entirely at home. Larval GPH , dozing in the Mistletoe, probably dream of climbing...

This season I was hoping to find new sites in Sonoma County, with no joy so far. But, after the pleasure of watching these standout butterflies disappear into this Baccharis, only occasionally stepping out for my lens, I've a new perspective. Even down from the treetops, these are too easy to miss. This will take a while.

My strategy will be to focus on spots with more than one sighting. Nearby, Ragel Ranch Park has two sightings, a huge amount of willow mistletoe and nice goldenrod. This looks like a best bet. There have been at least two seen at the Hallberg Butterfly Garden, so we could hope for more. Baccharis seems to
be a key, so everywhere I see it in full bloom I will be attentive, hoping to catch a twinkle of deep blue.

Posted on Νοέμβριος 28, 2022 1259 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 8 παρατηρήσεις | 1 σχόλιο | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Οκτώβριος 08, 2021

Great Purple Hairstreaks in Sonoma County

Sonoma County-- like most of America between the 45th parallel and the Darian Gap--is properly territory for Great Purple Hairstreaks; but they are rarely seen here. As I understand it, that's usual for this insect. They are probably rather common, but remain unseen as they live out their lives in the canopy where their host mistletoes lives. We are invited to look for a flash of their brilliant blue upper wings as they flit among the treetops... I still hope to see this!
Five years ago David Rawlinson asked me about seeing one in Sonoma. I'd not, so I resolved to look.
At that time, the only contemporary record I found was a photo on the Website of the Hallberg Butterfly Garden in Graton. Evidently not a fluke, as Alex Weishaar saw one there since.

Since then, I had no personal success with this project. But we can see a few observations trickling in since:
Fountaingrove 4/16 (A Wight)
Pepperwood 5/17 (W. Herniman)
Rincon Park 7/17 ( 'Christine 21')
Hood Mountain 3/18 (D. Loarie)
Unfortunately, there's no pattern here to guide us: aside from returning to the general location of a serendipitous find.. David had suggested a strategy of checking Coyote Brush in bloom, where he'd seen one in Novato . This is on the short list of flowers that seem to regularly tempt our GPH; an attraction that must be all the more compelling in the floral desert of late September. Since I already made a practice of visiting every flowering Baccaris for a dozen other species, it was easy to follow this advice. Further good council would have been to put aside any expectations that might spoil an otherwise satisfactory visit to a promising site. Not today! Try to be worthy!

Finally, last year Brian Reed found one on a solitary large bush near the water treatment pond where Santa Rosa Creek joins the Laguna de la Santa Rosa. He resolved to monitor the spot this year, and finally saw another 9/23. He generously texted a few other frequent creek visitors, and the game was on!

It wound up requiring a few visits, but not a minute of this was wasted. This large female bush throbbed with the resonanting wingbeats of thousands of bees, wasps, flies butterflies, moths and the occasional small bird. Like most years, we saw nice Purplish Coppers here, scores of Grey Hairstreaks, and 14 other butterfly species on or around the bush. You'd expect October butterflies to be a bit worn like the resident skippers, some hardly identifiable. But others were fresh and immaculate, especially the Mylitta Crescents, Buckeyes and Grey Hairstreaks. Some of the later quite dark, and for a heartbeat much like a Great Purple Hairstreak. One Buckeye was a full 'rosa' form: this alone worth a special trip.

Ultimately one of the dark butterflies proved to be the right kind. This was clearly not Brian's butterfly, which had been damaged, but an immaculate imago. A startling creature , now velvety black, then turning slightly in the glare to assume that dull purplish hue that led to the name. Flitting in and out of the foliage from dark to light, this lovely flat black creature is very challenging to photograph. Over the next few days a succession of visitors did their best as their subject would spend hours hopping around the top of the bush. Despite our best efforts, nobody ever saw which way it flew off after nectaring. Adjacent Willows on the creek are laden with mistletoe, and I'd hoped that might be the location of a colony, but we saw nothing to support that idea.

One nice observation allowed by these prolonged visits was appreciation of the hindwing structures that lend a 'false head' appearance on' top' of these often long- sitting and downward-facing butterflies.

Such are common to all the Hairstreaks, thought to be a subterfuge to draw bird strikes to an expendible scrap of wing. Or just ornamental? In GPH, these are especially well developed, and lend credence to the proposition that they are lures.

Probably best of all was the unexpected pleasure of sharing the joy with a succession of fellow enthusiasts. We get this at the occasional Butterfly Count, but it rarely happens in the bush. On my second day there was a troop of Birders streaming by to see Bald Eagles 1/2 mile up the trail. Seven of us remained by our Hairstreak with only a distant sight of these noble birds. Eagle or Butterfly? On occasion, one must choose; so it was nice to have company.

Posted on Οκτώβριος 08, 2021 0109 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 30 παρατηρήσεις | 3σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Αύγουστος 19, 2021

Antioch Dunes

Fresh from visits to Metalmarks on Mounts Ununhum and Diablo, I was eager to see the colony of Butterflies at Antioch Dunes. This unique preserve is closed, but their Website showed a monthly tour, and in just a few days! My luck was in.

So different from the inspiring vistas of the mountain colonies! The neighborhood of Antioch Dunes is frankly dismal.
The river shore here is littered with abandoned industrial gear of all sorts. Piles of trash. 1950's factories slowly oxidizing under a pitiless delta sun. Very few people--zombies might be expected! The 50 acres devoted to the Butterflies is split into two parted divided a skeletal factory. Not promising!

I waited by the park entrance for the tour. A fellow joined me for a while and we chatted about butterflies.
He drifted off, and it was apparent that no tour would occur. I was miffed, and instead of leaving i resolve to peek into the preserve where the fence was knocked down in the Sardis(east) portion. I did this, walking about 1/4 mile down a dirt road.
Mostly the vegetation is what moved in or sprang back after the sand miners were finished. I saw a small scrimmage of Whites that had both Cabbage and Checkered Whites around Yellow Star Thistle. But there are nice areas of natives planted on the imported sand brought to restore a bit of dune. I was admiring a stand of buckwheat on one when I met the two Fish and Game men.
These two nice men were standing near a late model Dodge in full kit. While not conceding that I had any right to be there, they seemed more amused than censorious. They were happy to chat. I was interested to learn that they were mostly concerned with boaters coming ashore to party. Nobody seems to come in from the adjacent road. As far as they knew, there were no tours at Antioch.

I left them at their post near the shore and walked out, perhaps a bit slowly. Back at the buckwheat I saw a pristine Lange's Metalmark. Such Joy! Just a glimpse has the power to transform this bleached post-apocalyptic hellscape instantly into a garden filled with the promise of spring.

I'd always heard that the butterfly here was on the ropes: and certainly a quick look at this place inspires no confidence. But to see the butterfly is to believe it's still possible.

Posted on Αύγουστος 19, 2021 0128 ΠΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 5 παρατηρήσεις | 4σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Μάρτιος 26, 2017

Paulin Creek Preserve

This may concern many of the folks who make frequent observations near Santa Rosa. Just drawing from the list of people who've done a lot locally, I'd think of @direbecca , @thoth, @dave-barry , @richardwasson , @c_michael_hogan , @nelruzam , @evelynch , @kestrel , @bjoelle , @loarie ,@curiousgeorge61 , @kueda, @cjs041 and many others. If you see this and know anyone else, please pass it on!

What's at stake here is the apparent determination of Sonoma County authorities to renege on a gentleperson's agreement made more than a decade ago to leave an 88 acre parcel along Paulin Creek in it's natural state. Instead, it's now proposed to throw this nice meadow and creek into a deal to sell a nearby, non adjacent and very much larger tract to a developer for apartment development. Those of you who read our local paper may have seen a few articles about this scheme:http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/6817499-181/close-to-home-paulin-creek?artslide=0

I realize that this is rather small potatoes as these things go. Still, it is a brazen move that should be stoutly resisted by right-thinking citizens. Think of the 'broken-window' theory of community policing applied to conservation: even small vandalisms should be suppressed, if we wish to avoid anarchy.

While there are many things one might do to help--and I'd be the last to discourage you-- what I'd like to see first really requires no great sacrifice. Just check out the new Paulin Creek Preserve place page on Inat, take the opportunity to visit, and add your observations. My hope is that documenting the biodiversity will raise the profile of this small urban preserve, hearten the more muscular activists, and generally make it more difficult for the County Supervisors to pull the trigger. Lets see what we can do!

Respectfully; John Hibbard

Posted on Μάρτιος 26, 2017 1110 ΜΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 5 παρατηρήσεις | 2σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Οκτώβριος 01, 2014

Fritillaries of Santa Rosa

This year, the first time since we arrived here in 1983, I've been seeing Gulf Fritillaries in Santa Rosa. Long May it Last!

I know they are regularly sighted around the San Francisco Bay; I've seen them myself during our occasional visits. I've read that they've followed the cultivation of passionvine up from southern california. In recent seasons they've been seen around sacramento frequently; so hopefully they are swinging around the bay and will eventually be established in Sonoma County. We've got passion vine in 'rosa too; but, until this year, never one of these unmistakable brilliant-orange creatures. Growing up butterfly-mad in L.A., we saw them every summer day. I discount any reasonable speculation that I might miss one, or be mislead when glancing at a Monarch or West Coast Lady out of the corner of my eye...

I wondered myself this spring(actually 2/24), when I saw an immaculate individual fly out of a clump of passionvine one sunny morning. I was convinced, yet hesitated to post it for a minute. I thought the implication was that it had emerged that day; so at least one gravid female had not only drifted up here but found her host and laid eggs. This all seemed implausible, but I posted the sighting anyway.

Since then I've been out of town a lot, but on my daily walks in central santa rosa I've seen them repeatedly. In the last week, every day. I'm still unable to get the photos I want of these worthy subjects; but close enough to nail any doubts about ID.

What I really want is to find some caterpillars. While the nurseries don't carry the traditional passionflower vines I remember( just tarted-up hybrids), these are common enough growing in old neighborhoods like mine. While I still tend to think our winters too cold for regular flights of A. vanillae, I'd love to be surprised.

Posted on Οκτώβριος 01, 2014 0219 ΜΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 1 σχόλιο | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούλιος 23, 2014

Our Icelandic Binge

We've just finished a week touring Iceland. We had a few day's in a car out of Reykjavik, and the took a boat tour clockwise around.

I'd been a bit wary of the plan to come here, acceding at first largely in respect for the wishes of some dear friends. Unexpectedly, in the runup to leaving I was impressed by the uniformity of positive experiences/impressions people--friends, correspondents and more than a few casual acquaintances who heard us speak of it-- so I thought it best to be more optimistic. An uphill battle, as I wanted to see insects on our vacation: so this effort was hamstrung from the start. Whatever it's virtues, these northern destinations are not places you'll see many butterflies. But there are many compensations.

As a visitor, it is a very cheerful country to visit. So high a proportion of the friendly Icelanders speak english, and with such a charming accent. It's very easy to poke around anywhere. It is perhaps the world's most perfect guilt- free paradise for white people: clean, egalitarian and progressive in all of their arrangements. A sharp downside is the expense of everything. A lunch of burgers with 'hamburger-sauce' (catsup), fries and a soda in a rural roadside cafe costs 60$ for two; with Aretha Franklin on the box thrown in for atmospherics. For a splurge you can get Puffin or a Minke steak. Best value: excellent fish-n-chips from a roach-coach made with fresh codfish. Vegans have a hard time; the more so because the large bulk of the vegetable are jetted in-- so in this country not the eco-choice.

In most categories, it doesn't take long to complete your survey of plants and animals. We are here in high-summer, so flowering plants are at their peak. I was able to photograph about 50 species in visiting spots around the island; and at that time was staring to find anything new. Not a problem at all in a short visit, especially considering the astonishing beauty of the settings you encounter at every turn. The animals are pitifully few; and not enough for the fingers of one hand if you exclude the introduced varieties: mice, rats, minks,sheep, reindeer and those beautiful horses. We were favored, in Hornstrandir, to see an Arctic Fox.

Birds are a big draw; although there too there are not a host of varieties. this is compensated to a degree by their numbers and accessibility. Many of our companions were birders with huge lenses put to effective use. Even without, you can get close views of tame puffins and kittiwakes. The Arctic terns literally have to be beaten off with a stick (thoughtfully provided if you visit Vigur Island). If you keep your nerve you'll get marvelous close-action shots as they very persistently try to peck your eyes out.

I regretted my ignorances of mosses. The heaving fields of lava rock are of special interest. I understand this place is a paradise of mosses, and I'm sorry I can't say much more than they are so very gorgeous. If we come back I'll do better.

We paid a small fortune to sail around the island, stopping where conditions permitted to raft ashore. We did see lots of whales this way; but not much more than you can access in a day boat off Monterey. And frequently, weather or shore conditions will frustrate your ambitions. My advice would be to take a few weeks to drive around, and across, Iceland. You'll want some kind of jeep-like option, and it would cost you, but you'd be very pleased. Budget a ton of money, and you'll not regret the spending.

Posted on Ιούλιος 23, 2014 0741 ΜΜ by icosahedron icosahedron | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο