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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ultra Violet mystery

On 7 and 8 December 2017, I showed two mystery photos:

If you guessed that this is a type of crustacean (i.e., the group that contains crab, lobster, and shrimp, among other animals), you are correct.  So the next question is, what type of crustacean?

Here's another close-up, revealing a bit more. This animal was ~2.5 cm long.

Meet Betaeus harfordi!   This is a shrimp in a group that is sometimes referred to as "hooded shrimps."  In the second close-up (above), and in the photos below, you can see that the carapace extends up and over and slightly in front of the eyes.

Older summaries about this species describe it as dark purple, blue-black, or deep blue.  The first individual we photographed (above) showed strong purple coloration, but we also looked at a second individual that tended towards the blue side:

Here are the two together so you can compare the colors.  [The photographs below were taken outdoors in natural light, rather than indoors in the lab.]

Betaeus harfordi has an interesting life history.  This shrimp has an obligate association with abalone.  It lives in the mantle cavity of abalone along the West Coast (all eight species).

A shrimp leaves the shelter of the abalone to feed at night, but then returns to its host during the day.  (Interestingly, a shrimp can sense the presence and location of its abalone host chemically!) 

Here are two more photos.  Note the "hood" over the eyes and the interesting claws (with the movable portion of the claw at the bottom):

Many thanks to our colleagues who study abalone for sharing these fascinating symbiotic shrimp!

P.S.  The "harfordi" part of the scientific name refers to William G.W. Harford, director of the California Academy of Sciences from 1876-1886.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

At twilight

Today didn't go quite as planned, so I ran out of time again.  I should be able to pull together the "Ultra Violet mystery" story tomorrow.  

Tonight I'll leave you with a beautiful Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) on the outer beach at twilight:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Another clue

Well, I need to apologize.  I ran out of time again, but here's another clue to last night's mystery, and I promise to show the entire animal tomorrow!

More soon!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pantone preview

Here's a mystery close-up for you.  Partly because I'm excited to introduce this animal, but I don't have time to put together an entire post tonight.  And partly because it showcases the new Pantone Color of the Year!

I'll reveal the identity of this animal tomorrow night, so stay tuned.

And the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018?  Ultra Violet!
You can read more about it here. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fly fishing?

On the way to the post office today, I noticed a few Bonaparte's Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) near shore at Spud Point (along the west side of Bodega Harbor).

I stopped briefly to take a look and was intrigued to see that they appeared to be catching flying insects.  While sitting on the water, they would paddle forward and then snatch suddenly at something above the surface of the water.  I couldn't see the insects, but the behavior and situation made me wonder if the gulls were flushing and catching flies?

Here are a few pictures:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Another little one

Juvenile Bat Star (Patiria miniata)only ~2 cm across at its widest.  This individual is regrowing two of its arms (the top two in this photo) that were apparently damaged previously.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


Supermoon photographed in Bodega Bay on 3 December 2017.  Wow!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Little ones

While conducting surveys in the rocky intertidal zone this afternoon, we encountered some very small juvenile Purple Sea Urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus).  This one was only ~3 mm across.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Blade runner

I first wrote about Surfgrass Limpets (Lottia paleacea) several years ago (yikes, almost 5½ years ago now!) see the post called "Chemical camouflage" on 7 June 2012.

Tonight I took a couple of pictures of this limpet that made me curious:

Remember that Surfgrass Limpets only live on surfgrass (Phyllospadix spp.) blades, which are very narrow (depending on the species of surfgrass, only ~0.5-4 mm across).

Generally when I see a Surfgrass Limpet, it's a single individual on a blade.  This is the first time I recall finding two limpets next to each other.  So then I wondered can Surfgrass Limpets turn around on the blade?  Or, do they only move back and forth?  If there are two limpets on one blade, do they compete for food?

Here's the next photo:

I noticed at least one individual that looked different from the others it was smaller and much paler, appearing pale green, at least when looking down on a cluster of surfgrass blades.

Many of the Surfgrass Limpets we see are brown, and they're often ~10 mm long.  This individual was only ~4 mm long (note millimeter marks on the ruler above).  Is this a juvenile Surfgrass Limpet?  If so, how old is it?  What time of year do the adults spawn?  When do the larvae settle out of the plankton?  Is the pale coloration a variation, or is it more typical of juveniles, or is it a signal of new shell growth?

Lots of questions for which I don't have answers, but it's always fun to wonder, especially when you look at a familiar species from a different perspective!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wave energy

About a 12 ft. northwest swell meets the rocky outer coast on the morning of 30 November 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Acorns for dinner

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) eating an acorn in our yard on 23 November 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Along the shoreline

A few more photos from Abbotts Lagoon on 24 November 2017:

Mixed flock of shorebirds (including Sanderling, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitcher)

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) blending in with the Jaumea (Jaumea carnosa) and Spike Grass (Distichlis spicata)

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

One of yesterday's visitors

There have been many visitors to our bird bath recently.  Here's one photo from yesterday (25 November 2017):

A very bright Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Greenish-blue below

When I arrived at the beach at the end of the Abbotts Lagoon trail yesterday, I overheard a family talking about a snake.

Intrigued, I went over to take a look.  It was a beautiful California Red-sided Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis)!

Sometimes this species has a wonderful greenish-blue coloration below:

Here it is pushing off the sand:

And one morea close-up of the markings:

 Many thanks to the family for sharing their colorful discovery!

ADDENDUM (26 November 2017): P.S.  Eric and I were debating about the color of the underside of the snake.  We discussed turquoise and teal green, but neither of them seemed right.  Then Eric sampled the actual color of the snake in Photoshop, and we tried to find the closest match with a Pantone color (see photo below).  We didn't find an exact match, but we found that Pantone 345 was closer to the snake than either turquoise or teal (although it still needs to be a bit grayer).  Pantone 345 doesn't seem to have a name, so I guess it's up to us to make one up.  What would you call it?  :)


Friday, November 24, 2017

At the lagoon

After visiting Tom Killion's open studio this morning, I took a short walk at Abbotts Lagoon.

Four Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) were visible on the west side of the lagoon (close to the beach).  They were distant, but I managed a few pictures for the record:

It was also nice to see a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) along the trail:

 I'll share a few more highlights soon!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I'm so thankful for wild places...

Best wishes to you and your family on this day of thanksgiving.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In the morning sun

Common Ravens (Corvus corvax), 21 November 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Autumn perch

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) in our backyard in Cotati on 20 November 2017.  (It's nice to be back!)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Back in the bay

A couple of birds seen in Upper Newport Bay on 16 November 2017:

American Wigeon (Anas americana)

And one for the record:

I'm not sure how common Lapland Longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) are in Orange County.  This bird was feeding along the edge of a salt marsh below the Upper Newport Bay Interpretive Center.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The violinist of the Pacific

When I heard we would be at a meeting near Newport Bay, I wondered if we'd have a chance at seeing a fiddler crab.  There's only one species of fiddler crab in California, and I vaguely remembered that its northern range limit is near Newport Bay.  (They are now found as far north as Santa Barbara.)

We took a drive along the shore of Upper Newport Bay and stopped to check the upper edges of the marsh.  It didn't take long to spot them!  Meet the Crenulated Fiddler Crab (Leptuca crenulata):

Here's another male with its burrow nearby:

And a female, with two smaller claws (instead of one larger and one smaller claw):

Later, when reviewing photos, I also spotted a few juvenile fiddler crabs.  Can you find the juveniles in the picture below?  (Hint: They're near their small burrows.)


There are two juveniles in the picturesee yellow arrows below:

P.S.  When I was reviewing the common name of this species, I encountered several versions — e.g., Mexican Fiddler Crab, California Fiddler Crab, Crenulated Fiddler Crab.  Because the geographic range spans both (Southern) California and Mexico, it was hard for me to justify using either of those names.  It's always helpful when the common name is linked to something in the scientific name, so I used Crenulated Fiddler Crab in this post.  "Crenulated" means having an irregular, e.g., notched or scalloped, outline.  

I also encountered an alternative Spanish name for this speciesCangrejo violinista del Pacifico.  I think that translates into "Violinist crab of the Pacific."  The "violinist" portion refers to the movement of the male's large claw during courtship.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Waving hello from SoCal

We're at a meeting in Southern California, but before the meeting started we took a quick walk on Newport Beach.  Here are a few quick wave shots taken on 16 November 2017.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Orange ears

Okay, maybe we just haven't lived in Cotati long enough, but this morning was the first time we've seen a squirrel in our yard.  I managed to take a few quick photos to document it before we left for work.

Eric looked out the window early this morning to see an Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) walking along the fence and climbing up a nearby tree. 

At first, the orange coloration below made us think about Douglas' Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), but this squirrel was larger.  And later when reviewing the identification, I noticed the orange ears, bushy tail, and lack of black line between the gray on the back and the orange belowcharacters which led to Eastern Fox Squirrel.

Since I'm relatively new to California, I don't know the entire story of how Eastern Fox Squirrels made it to the West Coast.  I hear they were introduced to the Los Angeles area in the early 1900s, and possibly to San Francisco in the late 1800s.  

P.S.  If you're interested in comparing squirrel species, review the post from 4 December 2012 to see some photos of a Douglas' Squirrel in Sebastopol.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rain on the way

Approaching rain clouds, from Salmon Creek Beach, 13 November 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rocky, Part 2

Lots of chores today, so here are two more images of the Rock Sandpiper on Bodega Head during the winter of 2012-2013.  That year, the Rock Sandpiper stayed around until early March.

A comparison with Surfbirds:

(The Rock Sandpiper is on the right.)