I'm so sorry for everyone affected by the fires in the North Bay today. The damage to people's homes and hearts has been devastating.
Recently I've been reading a book about volcanoes. The book describes how the smoke and soot from large volcanic eruptions affects the atmosphere and light levels and air temperatures. I haven't been around an intense volcanic eruption, so it's hard for me to imagine what it feels like. But the fires and smoke and ash in Sonoma County on 9 October 2017 made me wonder if some of the conditions we experienced today were similar. Everything felt strange and unfamiliar and scary — the dim light throughout the day...the ash and leaves falling from the sky...the color of the sun, both in the sky and its reflection in the water.
Here are three quick photos for the record.
An example of a burnt and blistered oak leaf that had fallen into our front yard in Cotati (taken ~8 a.m.):
The fiery mid-morning sun (taken ~10 a.m.):
Unusual golden reflections of the sun in an ocean wave (taken ~3 p.m.):
I hope the winds will be favorable for the firefighters tonight.
We just returned from a trip to New England to visit with family...so I'm wondering, what did I miss while I was away? Looking at the ocean temperatures that recently dipped to ~11°C (~52°F), I'm guessing there were some strong winds during the past week?
Earlier I had done a rough count (by 10s) and estimated that there were somewhere between 300-400 swallows in the photo above. Tonight I carefully counted every individual I could see and came up with...398. This was just a small portion of the entire flock.
And back in California, here are a couple of photos from Cotati that I hadn't had a chance to share yet:
This bee was visiting a sunflower in our yard on 2 September 2017. As you might remember, I'm slowly learning about our local bee species. I knew that I hadn't photographed this species before. The yellow "underbelly" really stood out. Because I wasn't sure which species it was, I did a quick Internet search for something like "bee with yellow under the abdomen" and was quickly pointed to leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.).
Unlike many other bees that carry pollen on their legs, leafcutter bees are known for carrying pollen on the underside of the abdomen:
P.S. Fun fact: The genus, Megachile, means "large lipped." It refers to the large mandibles in this group of bees that are used for cutting pieces of leaves or petals to bring back to their nests.