Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dellinger's Pond Reawakens, Part I

 A very brief rain occurred this morning when I was at the coffee shop.  I didn't know it was happening until I went outside.  I took a quick drive over to Dellinger's Pond thinking I might get some good photos of rain drops and check out the resolution on my new camera.  My plans changed right away when I noticed that the whole pond (above) and surroundings seemed to be freshened by the rain.  The dust was washed off the leaves, the fragrances of flowers and leaves and even the soil were awakened also.  And a better variety of insects than I've seen in weeks suddenly reappeared.  I wonder where they were hiding out?
 There's a small California Black Oak right at the entrance gate, and an acorn I had photographed a couple of months ago had grown considerably and was still healthy-looking with no ant holes or other damage. (above)
 There was a lot of fresh-looking Chicory at the roadside, so I chose one to photograph that had an attractive little wasp on it.  I didn't even see the aphid until I put the photo on my computer screen.  Click on it for a closer view of both bugs and the details of the stamens and pistils.
 A little way down the pathway, which is actually the dam that creates the pond, I found some nearly-dead Tansy on which was resting a very large Grasshopper.  He must have not yet been warmed by the morning sun as he made no effort to hop away when I picked him up. I got several photos from different angles, then placed him back on the Tansy.  For all I know, he might still be there.
Last, I came to a huge patch of thistles, nearly all of which had gone to seed.  The few remaining blooms were getting frequent visits by bees.  It felt like early summer again, although there has been no rain since, and we didn't get nearly enough.  I hope it stays dry through the early evening for FRC's football scrimmage, then rains all day tomorrow.  We need the rain, and I need the incentive to stay indoors and grade all my students' papers.  I love my new camera, but I won't talk about it any more.  I'll just take pictures and share stories about the things I see.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Some Late Summer Color with a New Camera

 The above lichen was growing on the large Ponderosa Pines near the South Park trailhead just north of Quincy.  This caught my eye as I was wandering around, looking for photogenic items in a basically parched landscape.  Click on the image to see more detail.  I'm very happy to have my new Nikon D3300, but I am admittedly just beginning to learn how to use it.  It's similar to my old D40 in many ways, but with 4 times the number of pixels, it's a little intimidating.  Knowing I have that increased resolution, I can feel myself looking at my subject matter differently.
 Here's an example of what age, wind and rain can do to a Mountain Dandelion.  A different sort of beauty than the blooming flower.
 One of the few remaining daisies still blooming.
Peavines mostly gone to seed by now, but a few patches still blooming might indicate some moisture not far below the surface.

How did they know????

Just checking out my new camera, a Nikon D3300.  Jumping from 6MP to 24MP is sort of like switching from a Geo Tracker to a Ferrari, I think.  It arrived yesterday afternoon, and I'm excited about getting back into some close-up nature photography.  But, on this first day, I just shot random items to check on resolution and other factors.  The above statement was on a USFS map at the beginning of the South Park trailhead. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Forensic Etymology, 101

For an introduction to this topic, scroll back to August 9 and my post titled "Word Crimes."  More later this evening.

So much for "later this evening."  First week of classes has been intense and rewarding.  So now it's Friday, and I'm hoping I can remember why I posted these photos.  First, when I saw this poster, and had not heard of the performers, I started reading the "fine print."  The above quote bothered me because it represents the same sort of sloppy thinking, or non-thinking, that I try to cure in my writing classes.  The phrase "sometimes Fate, or God, or the Universe or whatever you want to call it" implies that there is a common understanding of the "it," but that we call it by different names.  This is wrong.  If you say "God = the Universe" you obfuscate any serious meaning of God or Universe.  As astronomers and astrophysicists continue to probe the "depths" of the Universe, both they and the general pubic at least agree on a vague definition that the word stands for "everything that exists."  We just don't know the size of it all, and there remain tough scientific/philosophical questions as to what might its size be, and, if it actually has boundaries, what's on the other side of the boundaries?  Other universes?  And what could that mean?  Only a small percentage of people, I suspect, allow their inquiring minds to go beyond this point and just grab another beer or cup of coffee and tralk about something else.
On the other hand, when we use the words "God" or "god," it opens up a discussion - or battle - in which all sorts of warring claims tend to cut the discussion short.  "Fate" is probably the least useful word in the bunch.  I won't comment about it further here.  However, when I put my scientific training aside and check into the Alvin brothers' music, I found it mostly pleasant, and I realize the above quote was mostly a friendly statement, not meant to enter the science-vs.-religion wars, and refers to a long period during which they did not record anything, and they are now on a resurrection (sorry about that) tour.  We all know you can't really "lose time."
So that I wouldn't forget where I got the quote, I photographed the entire poster.  I think I'd like to go to their Quincy concert.  Any friend of (the late) Bib Bill Broonzy is a friend of mine.  Another reason I posted this is that I love the photo accident that looks like I am a master of Photoshop - that is, the reflection in the window of me taking the photo.
P.S. My new Nikon DSLR arrived last night.  I hope to be ready to photograph nature and post some new, better images soon.

Views from the lesser camera

I don't mean to beat this story to death.  That is the story about my dead Nikon DSLR and my depending on an inadequate little Canon point-and-shoot while I await the arrival of my new DSLR.  The latter is supposed to arrive tomorrow, but I couldn't wait.  These first two photos are long overdue anyway.  They are Blazing Star that is still blooming in spots along Highway 70 between Quincy and Reno.  These were shot at the roadside just before ascending the grade to the bridge by Williams Loop.  They're been blooming for two months and I keep driving by on my way to Reno without time to stop. 
Also during the past week I checked the status of flowers and other interesting items along the FRC nature trail.  First is a nice specimen of Pine Drops, a saprophytic member of the wintergreen family.
Then some evidence of a visit by a young bear.  Good Chokecherry crop is one thing that attracts them.
Then some Dodder climbing on Serviceberry.  This is the first time I've seen Dodder in bloom.
Then, when I checked the Tansy in my backyard I spotted a nice little bug in the Pentatomid family.  Shield Bug, Stink Bug, and many other names, mostly unbecoming.  My new Nikon is supposed to arrive tomorrow and I should be able to get some new, hi-res photos here by Saturday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Giardia anyone?

 While I was taking a course in parasitology many years ago, a scene like this excited me in a different way than it does now.  I remember writing a paper on the flagellates I found living in the gall bladders of tree frogs.  Then one on the trematodes found lining the mouths of Cottonmouth Water Moccassins.  Now this scene just reminds me that when I first came to the Sierra in 1965, there were many places where I could safely drink the surface water, and I never got sick.  Now I know I can't safely drink surface water anywhere.  This little dammed up pond is by the side of Golden Eagle Avenue, and I often stop there to look at the Bullfrogs and dragonflies.
 But now, when I look at the frogs, I imagine the dozens, if not hundreds, of different parasites I might find in each frog.  When I was studying parasitology, that was actually fun.  It was an adventure in discovery.  I still have my 40-page, take-home semester exam from that class, and I get a nostalgic feeling whenever I read it.