Journal archives for February 2016

February 05, 2016

Week in Review: Jan 31 - Feb 6, 2016

Not sure why these break tags are being inserted between these divs:
37,410
Observations
4,495
Species
511
Identifiers
1,306
Observers

Here's some ideas for visualizations that could accompany a 'Week in Review' post.

1) Basic leaderboard of stats for the week (based on posted on) 2) Map showing observations posted during the week: 3) Some sort of chart that show the top observers. This one toggles between the top 100 and the top 5 for the week (could do the same for identifiers). 4) A chart that shows number of obs by country (circle size) but also, 'trending' countries with higher than normal activity. Note Bolivia, for example where Nicolas went on vacation this week. Also shows top 5 countries (maybe show top observer below each one?) 5) Same thing but with taxon categories. Note unusual amounts of ducks, bivalves, and cacti 6) Some sort of graph that puts the week in historical context. Maybe ranks the weeks by number of obs and shows this week's rank alongside the top 10 ever. Maybe shows top observer for each week:
Posted on February 05, 2016 21:58 by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 07, 2016

Early Spring at Mt. Burdell

Went on a late morning hike to Mt. Burdell mainly because I was reminded by Doreen Smith's upcoming Marin CNPS trip that this was a good spot to hit in Early Spring.

My plan was to head straight to the wildflowery spot where I'd been a few times before but I somehow ended up at a different trailhead and got a bit turned around. I ended up first heading up the hill towards Mt. Burdell proper and snooped around in a tiny creek that was full of newts. I also saw some cool fruiting slime molds and a few interesting crickets. Was cool to see Margined Whites flying among the Milkmaids

Next I headed over to the wildflowery area. The Blennosperma were blooming in full force and the Fremont's star lillies were just starting but still a good display. I only saw one blue dick blooming. I didn't make it over to the place where I know Fragrant Fritillary blooms about now. Lots of Cows and horses and lots of Yellow dung flies on the cow paddy's they leave behind. I still think these are beautiful flies considering their name and habit...

Posted on February 07, 2016 05:38 by loarie loarie | 24 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Minus tide at Duxbury Reef

Some of my friends wanted to go tidepooling, so we had this nice minus tide on the calendar. Lots of kids in tow so hard to cover too much ground or do too much extreme tidepooling, but saw some cool stuff.

This was only my second trip to Duxbury, and the last time I went I didn't go over 'the ridge' to the south so I was determined to get there this time. It was definitely worth it. While there were tons of people near the entrance, almost no one was over the ridge. I was greeted by a nice Great Blue Heron for Heron Week foraging among the tides.
IMG_1464
It was weird because there was so much freshwater runoff from all the rain we're getting that the pools were a bit fuller than usual despite the low tide, and annoyingly cloudy. My main mission was to find an octopus for the kids. I succeeded in catching the second one we saw. There was a crazy abundance of Hopkin's Roses and we found a few Hilton's Aeolid. Other than that nothing to out of the ordinary, but it was such a beautiful clear day and was so much fun to splash around in the pools with my one year old, that this was definitely one of my favorite tidepool outings ever.

Posted on February 07, 2016 05:52 by loarie loarie | 18 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

Its Cactus Week on iNaturalist! Feb 7 - 13, 2016

That’s right, it’s not only critters on the Critter Calendar - this week we welcome our first plant group, the family Cactaceae, or cacti!

While there are exceptions (we’ll get to those later), the vast majority of cacti are succulent plants who have evolved to live in arid or semi-arid conditions. They’ve traded true leaves for spines and use their fleshy, water-storing stems to carry out photosynthesis, which dramatically reduces moisture loss. It’s these famous spines and how they grow that separate true cacti from similar-looking plants such as Aloes and Agaves (but some unrelated spiny Euphorbias mentioned below can look an awful lot like true cacti!). Look closely at the spines of a true cactus and you will see they grow from a structure (often wooly or hairy) on the stem called an areole. Areoles are believed to be condensed shoots or branches, and spines and flowers emerge from them (Euphorbia spines don’t grow from areole and also have milky sap). While cactus stems and leaves are some of the most modified and specialized in the plant kingdom, their flowers are almost unchanged from some of the very first ancestral flower. They are radial in shape and have many petals and stamens. Cactus flowers all rely on birds, insects, and bats as pollinators.



A familiar cactus is the Prickly Pear (Genus Opuntia), which has flat paddle-like stems and brightly-colored flowers and fruit. Both the young paddles and the fruit are commonly eaten by humans (if you've every had nopales!) and many animals such as tortoises and birds. Like all true cacti, Prickly Pears are native to the the new world but have been introduced to many other continents by humans.




The huge, iconic Saguaro Cactus is found naturally only in Sonoran Desert of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. While they have been known to reach heights of over 70 feet, this is an exceptionally slow growing plant - an inch-tall cactus might be ten years old! Saguaros become homes for many animals, including many birds who nest in holes made by Gila woodpeckers. The Saguaro is a famous example of a bat pollinated cactus.




The only Cactaceae member found growing naturally outside of the new world is the Mistletoe Cactus, which is found in Africa, Sri Lanka and some islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as South America. It is an epiphyte with long dangling stems and white berries, somewhat resembling mistletoe.




Plants of the genus Pereskia are the only cacti who have persistent non-succulent leaves. However, look for the tell-tale areoles from which their spines emerge. These plants live in tropical regions of the new world and may resemble shrubs, vines, or trees. It is thought that the cactus ancestor resembled Pereskia.


If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Cactaceae hunting!

Posted on February 07, 2016 09:26 by loarie loarie | 8 comments | Leave a comment

February 11, 2016

First Brackenridgia heroldi record on iNaturalist!

congrats to @cedric_lee for finding the first
Brackenridgia heroldi on iNat!

This native, eyeless woodlouse is typically found under rocks in California during wet weather. It is uncommon everywhere but widely distributed across California. It was first described from specimens form the San Francisco Bay area. But on iNat, so far no one has reported it from there. Way to go Cedric!

Posted on February 11, 2016 04:50 by loarie loarie | 1 comments | Leave a comment

February 14, 2016

Its Salamander Week on iNaturalist! Feb 14 - 20, 2016

The Critter Calendar journeys from the arid deserts of the cacti to cool, damp forests and streams where there be salamanders!

Most salamanders (order Caudata) are shaped like lizards with long tails and short legs. But unlike lizards, salamanders are not reptiles. Reptiles evolved protective scaley skin, leathery egg shells, and other adaptations that allowed them to colonize the driest parts of the globe. But salamanders, frogs and other amphibians, with their moist and slimy skin and jelly-like eggs are tethered to moist climates.

Typically, salamanders are aquatic as juveniles and terrestrial as adults. Juvenile salamanders resemble tadpoles but usually have limbs and have feathery gills branching out behinds their heads. Some salamanders, like the vicious Amphiumas, are aquatic even as adults and have eel-like bodies with vestigial limbs. Some, like cave-dwelling Olm, are blind.

Salamanders range mostly through the northern hemisphere, going no further south than the Amazon basin and no further north than the Arctic tree line. They are absent from Australia, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. The greatest diversity of salamander species occurs in the Appalachian mountains of southeastern North America, where there has been a tremendous radiation of a group known as lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae). Lungless salamanders breathe only through their porous skin and membranes in their mouths, and have a distinctive nasolabial groove between the nostril and upper lip, which aids in chemoreception. Most do not have a larval phase; young emerge from eggs as miniature adults. The Appalachian mountains is also home to the huge aquatic Hellbender, one of three surviving ancient giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae). The other two species are slightly larger and live in Japan and China.



Whereas the lungless salamanders are mostly confined to North America, the family Salamandridae, often known as newts, are common both in North America and Europe. Newts lack the costal grooves seen in most other salamanders and normally have pebbly rather than smooth skin. Many newts are toxic and have evolved bright aposematic coloration to warn predators. The skin of the Fire Salamander from Europe, for example, has bright yellow markings against a black ground color.




Winter and spring are of the best time to see many salamanders because they must migrate to breeding pools and streams, which have filled with rainwater. Salamanders of the genus Ambystoma, such as the Marbled Salamander, spend most of the year in underground burrows, eating invertebrates, but they too must migrate and can often be found on rainy nights. The famed Axolotl of Mexico belongs to the same genus but never goes through metamorphosis - it retains its feathery gills and lives aquatically its entire life.


If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. And remember that salamanders, while cute, are fragile creatures and many are protected under law - something to keep in mind if you feel like handling one. Happy Salamander hunting!

Posted on February 14, 2016 08:48 by loarie loarie | 9 comments | Leave a comment

February 21, 2016

Its Fish Week on iNaturalist! Feb 21 - 27, 2016


This week for the Critter Calendar we’re challenging you to find some of the most plentiful vertebrates in the world...yet less than 2% of all observations on iNaturalist are members of this class - they’re the Actinopterygii, or Ray-finned fishes!


OK, close your eyes and picture a fish. Odds are you were thinking of a ray-finned fish. They make up more than 99% of all 30,000 described fish species and are found in oceans, streams, lakes, rivers and pretty much any other freshwater or marine environment you can think of. While they come in many shapes and sizes, ray-finned fishes all possess fins which are made of membranes of skin supported by bony or horny spines. Fish that do not belong to the Actinopterygii include the lobe-finned fishes, like the coelacanth, or the cartilaginous fishes, which includes the sharks and rays.

Fins themselves lack muscles, but are attached to muscles in the fish’s body and are used mainly for locomotion. Each fin has its own use. Caudal, or tail fins, are used for propulsion, while dorsal fins, which are found on the “back” of the fish help maintain stability.



The large dorsal fin of the Sailfish is raised when the fish is excited or threatened, making it seem larger than it really is. Sailfish will also use it to “herd” prey.




Pectoral fins, which are located on the side of the body, aid in steering, balancing and braking. The greatly enlarged pectoral fins of Flying Fish are even used for gliding in the air, a maneuver that helps them evade predators.




Most fish use their pelvic fins (found on the ventral side) for going up and down in the water, as well as for making quick stops. Gobies have evolved fused pelvic fins that form a suction cup, which they use to attach to rocks and other objects. The “Inching Climber” goby (Sicyopterus stimpsoni) of Hawaii even uses this suction cup to help it climb up waterfalls!




Some fish use their fin-rays not just for locomotion but for defense. Lionfish and stonefish deliver painful and sometimes deadly venomous stings through their fin-rays. Originally found in the Indo-Pacific regions, Lionfish have been introduced to the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, where they are considered invasive organisms.


So head to the watery parts of the world (apologies to H. Melville) and find some fIsh! Check out a pond or stream, explore some tidepools, perhaps even do a little fishing - we want your ray-finned fish observations! We’ll be keeping track of them here.

Posted on February 21, 2016 07:35 by loarie loarie | 6 comments | Leave a comment

February 24, 2016

Steelhead watching

High risk high reward chance of seeing a spawning steelhead in the Russian River paid off today!
GOPR1767
My basic approach is to put on a wetsuit and mask and snorkel, run 1/2 mile up the road paralleling Maacama Creek and float back down to where it meets the Russian River looking for Steelhead. I've done this many times over the years, but timing is critical, its always around this time of year (late Feb/early March) but difficult to tell exactly when there will be fish in the Creek/River. This is the first time I've done this with a camera (gopro). And I'm so stoked I was able to take a picture of one of these mysterious visitors of the ocean in time for Fish Week!

Posted on February 24, 2016 22:45 by loarie loarie | 1 observations | 11 comments | Leave a comment

February 28, 2016

Its Hummingbird Week on iNaturalist! Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2016


The Critter Calendar returns to the skies for some of the most acrobatic and vibrant birds in the world, the order Apodiformes - swifts, treeswifts, and hummingbirds!

The Apodiformes are similar in that they have strong, short humerus bones in their relatively long wings, and their legs are small and not useful for much more than perching. Apodiforme wings allow them to fly faster than almost all other birds, and in the case of hummingbirds, hover and even fly backwards!

Here are the three extant families which comprise the Apodiformes:



Swifts (Apodidae)

Small acrobatic birds who catch insects on the wing, swifts are often confused with swallows, who hunt the same prey. Taxonomically they are separate, however, and are superficially similar due to convergent evolution. Best identified by silhouette, swifts have wings which are thin, sickle-shaped, and longer than their bodies, in comparison to the shorter, broader wings of swallows. Swifts also flap their wings less than swallows do and can reach speeds of over 70 mph. In fact, swifts are so at home in the air that they spend all their time there unless they’re nesting. Common Swifts have been known to sleep and even copulate in mid-air! Swifts use their tiny feet and legs to cling vertically to sites such as trees and chimneys, and the famous Cave Swifts of Asia and Oceania use their saliva to make nests on the walls of caves, which humans use to make bird’s nest soup. Swifts can be found nearly worldwide.

Treeswifts (Hemiprocnidae)



A small family consisting of one genus and four species, the treeswifts range through India, Southeast Asia and into New Guinea. While similar to the true swifts, treeswifts have softer plumage, facial ornaments such as crests, and longer forked tails. They also have feet with non-reversible hind toes, allowing them to perch on branches, something which true swifts are not able to do.



Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Recognizable due to their diminutive size (usually 3-5 inches in length), ultra-fast wing flapping (around 50 beats per second) and darting, hovering flight pattern, hummingbirds make up the bulk of Apodiformes species, with over 300 described species. Ranging throughout the Americas and the islands of the Caribbean, hummingbirds use their flying skills to sip nectar from flowers, supplementing that diet with small insects. Male hummingbirds, like the White-necked Jacobin, have gaudy iridescent plumage around their heads, gorget (throat), back and wings, and will orient themselves to flash the colors at females. Hummingbirds can often be found flitting about from flower to flower or perched on a bush or tree, establishing their territory by singing and calling.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Apodiforme hunting!

Posted on February 28, 2016 08:17 by loarie loarie | 1 comments | Leave a comment

February 29, 2016

Search for the Snow Queen

I just became aware of a plant I'd never heard of before called the Snow Queen from one of @dgreenberger's observations. I thought I'd at least heard of most plants in Marin County if not seen them so I decided to try to track these down today. I followed Doreen Smith's advice on the Marin Native Plants FB page to head to Cataract Falls. Super beautiful, also super crowded with hikers which was kind of surprising given how far it is. Turns out Snow Queen is ridiculously common there. I saw it growing along the road just as I was parking before I even hit the trail and its definitely frequent along the Cataract Falls trail. Along with the Milkmaids, Redwood Sorrel, Anemone's (are we calling these Gray's or Oregons now?), and Pacific Trilliums, plenty of white wildflowers all along the trail.

I turned off the Cataract Trail onto the Helen Markt Trail to get away from all the waterfall traffic and was glad I did because I found the first California Pill Millipede on iNat (actually kind of disappointed though because at first I thought it was the woodlouse Venezillo microphthalmus but its actually a millipede that rolls up in a ball - how crazy is that?). On my way back to the car along the road I found a nice big Chanterelle that I was surprise hadn't been eaten.

Then on the way home I stopped by Azalea Hill to see if anything interesting was blooming on the serpentine. There was a beautiful bloom of Serpentine Spring Beauty and the worlds smallest rattlesnake. I was kind of hoping to see Brownies, which I've seen before but realized I've never iNatted. So I cheated and stopped one more time on the way back at the MMWD Ranger Station to tick them from a population Terry G. had posted before.

Posted on February 29, 2016 05:32 by loarie loarie | 61 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment