June 19, 2020

What grows first after goats "mow" the hillside?

At first glance, this hillside near the Sunnyvale, CA water treatment plant and the Baylands looked very bare. Goats were brought in to "mow" the hillside in mid-April:

But it was interesting to see what plants are the first to sprout on this seemingly barren hillside: ribwort plantain, shortpod mustard, bristly oxtongue, mallow, yellow starthistle, bird's foot trefoil, and wild oats, all of which attracted bees, butterflies, and wasps.

Not so barren after all.

Posted on June 19, 2020 12:52 by truthseqr truthseqr | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 03, 2020

Salt Marsh Caterpillars

On Sunday, May 31, 2020, I happened upon dozens of salt marsh moth larvae. According to Wikipedia,
"The larva, known as the salt marsh caterpillar, which grows to about 5 cm (2 in) in length, is highly variable in color, ranging from pale yellow to rusty orange brown to dark brownish black. It is hairy, with numerous soft setae, growing in tufts (several tufts on each segment), with a few individual hairs that are longer toward the end of the body. The thoracic and abdominal segments have a few rows of orange or black warts, and it has one tiny white dot per segment, on both sides of its body."

I found them on the following six plants (in order of frequency):

  • Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Broadleaved Pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium)
  • Bindweeds (Genus Convolvulus)
  • Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
  • Stinking Chamomile (Anthemis cotula)
  • Shortpod Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana)

There were so many different sizes, colors, and patterns of these delightful caterpillars, that I went a little hog-wild in photographing them, but I don't know when I'll see them again.


Posted on June 03, 2020 20:22 by truthseqr truthseqr | 18 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 26, 2020

April 09, 2020

Yellow-faced Bumble Bees & Other Pyrobombus Species in the SF Bay Area

@alexis_amphibian (Alexis Babyan) provided this very helpful information about the difficulties in distinguishing bumble bees in the Pyrobombus subgenus from each other.

Bombus vosnesenskii, Yellow-faced Bumblebee, is by far the most common bumblebee in the Pyrobombus subgenus likely to be seen in this region (Santa Clara County, CA). It has a dark body with yellow hairs on the face and what I call the "shoulders"- the front part of the thorax- and has a band of yellow hairs towards the rear of the abdomen.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/19538#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+vosnesenskii

The nearly identical Bombus caliginosus also appears in this range (Santa Clara County, CA), and can rarely be told apart by photographs. Bombus caliginosus, Fog-Belt Bumblebee, is very tricky: it looks basically the same as Bombus vosnesenskii - a dark body with yellow hairs on the face and "shoulders"- and has a band of yellow hairs towards the rear of the abdomen. BugGuide has a whole section of photos of bumblebees that are either B. vosnesenskii or B. caliginosus - the experts can't say for sure:
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+caliginosus

From a Bay Nature article:
"The difference between Bombus vosnesenskii and Bombus caliginosus, according to the insect reference BugGuide: “Females with malar space relatively short and S4 usually black as compared with caliginosus, and males with different antennal proportions. These characters are rarely visible in photos so those taken at coastal sites where both could occur are rarely identifiable.”

I gather that the two can only reliably be distinguished under the microscope. B. caliginosus has some additional yellow hairs on its underside that B. vosnesenskii doesn't have, and there is apparently something different about the proportion of the malar region (cheek area) and the proportion of the antennae of the males. These are subtle enough differences that they won't be visible in regular size photos of live, active, individuals out in the fields. Of all the thousands of photos of bees in the Backyard Pollinators project, there are currently only 7 photos that claim to be Bombus caliginosus, and currently only one of those photos has attained "research grade." That photo is of a dead individual, not on a flower, but I left it in the project because confirmed photos of B. caliginosus are so scarce: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31271389

Bombus melanopygus, Black-tailed Bumblebee, is the second-most common likely to be seen in this region, but it is easy to distinguish from B. vosnesenskii because in addition to having yellow hairs on its face and a yellow stripe towards the rear of its abdomen, it has an additional very wide yellow stripe around its midsection (the rear part of its thorax and the front part of its abdomen.) Bombus melanopygus in some regions also have orange/red hairs on their abdomens, but the ones we get in our region only have black and yellow hairs. (The different color forms of B. melanopygus were previously believed to be different species, but they are currently understood to be a single species.)
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/15019#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+melanopygus

Bombus vandykei is also tricky. It also looks basically the same as B. vosnesenskii and B. caliginosus- at least, the females do- the males are much more yellow overall. A female B. vandykei looks the same as a B. vosnesenskii to my eye, but apparently the yellow stripe towards the rear of the abdomen is positioned at a different body segment.
B. vandykei is rarely seen in the SF Bay area, but there are occasional observations of it in Sonoma County, Santa Clara County and Solano County.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/122324#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+vandykei

Bombus flavifrons, Yellow-fronted Bumblebee (https://bugguide.net/node/view/181080#id) is also in the same subgenus and might be confused with the less common Bombus sitkensis, Sitka Bumblebee (https://bugguide.net/node/view/121804#id)
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+flavifrons

Bombus bifarius, Black-notched Bumblebee, is another less-common member of this subgenus, and could be mistaken for Bombus melanopygus.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/184373

John Kehoe has made several educational videos about native bees:
Bee Video: Mason, Carder and Leafcutter Bees


Posted on April 09, 2020 03:31 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 12, 2020

Should Banana Slug Observations from CA Should be Obscured?

Since Banana Slugs in California can't be identified to the species level without dissection, they must be left at the genus level in iNaturalist.

iNat automatically obscures threatened species, but not genus-level observations. Thus, the locations of most Banana Slug observations are exposed for all to see.

I contacted Cedric Lee (@cedric_lee) for insight into this issue. Here is his reply:

"It's technically possible to obscure all observations at the genus level. However, in regards to adding conservation statuses to genus level and above, the rule is that we shouldn't 'add statuses for taxa that contain species that have no status because that will incorrectly obscure coordinates for observations of those species'. In regards to Ariolimax columbianus, the status is listed on NatureServe as 'secure' which equates to 'no status' on iNaturalist. Perhaps there are exceptions to the rule. The administrators would have better knowledge about that. Others and I have raised concerns about some 'loopholes' in which to find the coordinates of observations with conservation statuses, but fixing those 'loopholes' lie with the responsibility of the user since the administrators can't really do anything about it. "

Therefore, it is highly recommended that observers obscure their own observations of Banana Slugs in CA. I obscured my 104 observations of Banana Slugs on 12/29/2018.

Note: today, March 11, 2020, I've unobscured my 107 banana slug observations. The scientists want to them unobscured to facilitate studying them. See this discussion: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/461110

Banana slug clades and proposed taxonomy. PEARSE, J.S.**; LEONARD, J.L.; BREUGELMANS, K.; BACKELJAU, T. http://www.sicb.org/meetings/2007/schedule/abstractdetails.php3?id=233

The genus Ariolimax is currently broken into 5 taxa in 2 subgenera based on penis morphology:

A. columbianus - ranges from central California to southeast Alaska (spotted?)
There are 2 clades within A. columbianus, for which we propose species rank:
A. columbianus - ranging from northwest California to southeast Alaska
A. buttoni - in north-central California

A. californicus - found mainly in San Mateo county
A. dolichophallus - found mainly in Santa Cruz county
A. brachyphallus has a disjunct distribution on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County, and Cambria in San Luis Obispo County.
See this discussion: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/43841441

A. stramineus - found on the coast of south-central California
A fourth distinct clade is an undescribed species on Mount Palomar, San Diego County, California.


Roth & Sadeghian (2006) and Pearse & Leonard (2010).
https://compbio.soe.ucsc.edu/slugGenome/jointGenomicsClass-23Apr2010.pdf (p. 27 and 51) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260106779_Checklist_of_the_Land_Snails_and_Slugs_of_California_Second_Edition


Posted on March 12, 2020 05:18 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 28, 2019

Coyote Creek Bioblitz - July 27, 2019

Participated in the bioblitz at the Coyote Creek Visitor Center area near Anderson Lake. We also did some blitzing on Serpentine Trail in nearby Anderson Lake County Park.

4 miles; 4 hours (7:30-11:30am)

Here is the project:

All my observations for the day:

Posted on July 28, 2019 15:59 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 16, 2019

Alum Rock Summer Bioblitz - June 16, 2019

Participated in the Alum Rock Park Summer 2019 Bioblitz.

Here is the project:

Rare species are here:

All my observations for the day:

Posted on July 16, 2019 14:12 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 06, 2019

Little Uvas OSP Bioblitz - May 4, 2019

Here are my observations for this bioblitz. I also did some exploring around Little Uvas Reservoir early in the morning.

Here's the project:

Rare species are here:

All my observations for the day (including 28 from the reservoir):

Posted on May 06, 2019 13:28 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 03, 2019

City Nature Challenge - 2019

City Nature Challenge projects:


103 observations
87 taxa:
4 arachnids
16 birds
10 insects
1 mollusk
52 plants
1 fungus
2 mammals
1 reptile

SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2019 (JOSEPH D. GRANT; 8-12:30, 4.5 HRS)

138 observations
111 taxa:
2 arachnids
15 birds
14 insects
72 plants
6 fungi
2 mammals


75 observations
48 taxa:
26 birds
3 insects
16 plants
3 reptiles


90 observations
66 taxa:
24 birds
18 insects
10 plants
2 fungi
2 mammals
1 amphibian

Posted on May 03, 2019 13:24 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 21, 2019

12th Annual Wildflower Survey - Sierra Azul

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Distrist (MROSD)
Hike/Survey #1: Cherry Springs Pond (2.25 miles, 3-4 hours)

Led by Ellen Gartside and Aleksandra Evert, Volunteer Program Leads, this hike is moderate length and grade along an old road bed that passes around Cherry Springs pond through wetland, mixed conifer, chaparral and grassland habitats.

8:45am - 3pm
Overcast day; ~65 degrees

Here are my observations:

Our team identified 123 species of flowering plants! Woo-hoo!

Posted on April 21, 2019 14:17 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment