Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter at Torrey Pines State Preserve

A clear, sunny afternoon at Torrey Pines State Preserve reveals hillsides covered in Sea Dahlias, Correopsis maritima.

A mother and baby (calf) common dolphin as seen from the outlook on the cliffs of Torrey Pines.

The only glimpse of Peter Cottontail all day...
Happy Easter to all. May this Easter find you with good friends and family and in good cheer!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Behr's Metalmark Butterfly

Behr's Metalmark Butterfly, Apodemia mormo virgulti, Sycamore Canyon, Poway.

Heleconius besckei

Heleconius besckei in the butterfly room at the San Diego Safari Park. The reference sheets listed Heliconius melpomene, which, by the white splotches on the wing, this is apparently not. The genus Heliconius is fairly large and widespread through South America. The different species also appear to interbreed, causing some taxonomic confusion. Heliconius species pupate on Passiflora (Passion fruit) vines.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Caterpillar Phacelia

Phacelia cicutaria var hispida, a.k.a. Caterpillar Phacelia, growing on a hot, sunny slope at the Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve. I shot this picture because I really liked the way the bristles glisten like small crystals in the sunlight. A little research on my part revealed that those pretty bristles are a source of contact dermatitis (i.e., a tad toxic). Still pretty but I'm glad I didn't get too close while photographing them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Butterfly Days

It was butterfly days at the San Diego Safari Park, where children, parents and photographers were wowed by butterflies from around the world.

Adelpha fessonia, Band-celled sister. This butterfly ranges from Panama North through Mexico. It occasionally is found as far North as the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

Orange Julia Butterfly, Dryas julia. The Julia is found throughout South America up through the Southern United States where they are found around woodland edges and in the Florida Everglades. They are also known as the Flambeau!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wish Upon a Shooting Star (Dodecatheon)

Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii blooming at Mission Trails Park. These lovely little flowers grow in open, moist grassy areas and are in the family Primulaceae (related to Primulinums).

A white clone of Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii, shooting star, also blooming at Mission Trails Park.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Did the Snake Cross the Road?

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus helleri, heading back towards the side of the road it started from. This snake tried to cross the road and was nearly run over by several cars before it changed its mind and headed back towards the bushes from which it originally started. Cars are the leading cause of death for rattlesnakes and rattlesnakes are the leading cause of human death by snakebite in North America. Ironic, isn't it? This snake had about 13 rattles. They add a new segment to the rattle each time they molt. They molt typically two to three times each year. Thus, assuming the rattle remained unbroken, this snake was somewhere around 4 to 6 years old.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bearded Dragon on Hand

Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, perched on a hand. They apparently make good pets and become quite tame. In fact, if you hold out your arm, they'll hop right on! Note that those sharp, evil-looking spikes are actually somewhat soft. This is one of the colored, line-bred dragons, sporting a nice orange-brown tone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Turtle Conclave

Wise and sun-riddled, Red-Eared Slider Turtles in "conclave" on black rocks on a warm, sunny afternoon. Do suppose it means something?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bramble Hairstreak

Bramble Hairstreak, Callorphrys perplexa, Hellhole Canyon, Escondido, California. These lovely little Southern California natives are a pearlescent green in the sun and really catch your eye. They are sometimes seen perching on the ground or on low shrubs near open pathways or other openings in the chaparral. Both the larvae/caterpillars and the adults are fond of Wild Buckwheat(Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tulip Tree 'Alexandrina'

Tulip Tree 'Alexandrina', Magnolia x soulangiana, in full bloom. I remember sizeable trees in full bloom around the Vietnam Monument in Washington D.C. in the Springtime. It was quite a sight! I love Spring! Don't you?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Kaiser's Spotted Newt

Kaiser's Spotted Newt, Neurergus kaiseri, is a native of the southern Zagros Mountains in Iran. However, habitat loss and collecting for the pet trade have apparently eliminated this newt from the wild. This one was being shown by one of the booths at Microcosm, a show highlighting small animals and plants.

Late Afternoon at Torrey Pines Beach

People strolling along Torrey Pines Beach in the late afternoon as the rays of the setting sun turn the cliffs orange.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ghost Buster Clouds?

Couple enjoying the scenery on top of the mesa at Torrey Pines Reserve State Park as some heavy clouds come rolling in and the sun dips low towards the ocean.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Torrey Pines Sunset

I spent a few moments watching the Sunset over the beach below Torrey Pines State Reserve after spending the afternoon hiking and taking photos of plants at Torrey Pines State Park. I had only intended a quick hike, perhaps two hours. However, I went to Torrey Pines State Reserve to take pictures of one of the endemic orchids. The lady at the admissions booth said she had no idea and suggested I try the people in the visitor's center, who would surely know. The lady at the visitor's center said she had no idea there were orchids but that they had a library of books I could peruse and these cool videos. Now, wild orchids are a pretty specialized topic and Southern California terrestrial orchids are mostly grassy looking affairs with spindly stalks of tiny white or green flowers. Most people would as soon step on them (accidentally as they are headed towards something more memorable such as a big orange poppy...) as take their picture.
I mentioned that I had researched, in my personal plant library, the orchids of San Diego County and, indeed, unless it had gone extinct in the interim, there was an orchid species (at least one) in Torrey Pines Reserve. The very nice lady at the visitor's center noted that there was a guided tour at 2pm and that, lo and behold, the guide was none other than Margaret Fillius, the author of Native Plants, Torrey Pines State Reserve and Nearby San Diego County Locations!! It was my very lucky day indeed. It turns out, Margaret (a very knowledgeable and gracious host) knew of some three or four plants of Piperia cooperi that were just starting to grow for the season and she agreed to show one to me. Sadly, it was not in bloom yet, however, at least I can say I've seen one and I have some motivation to go back again in the hopes of getting there when it really is in bloom. Had it been in bloom, it would have looked like:

In any case, I had a wonderful time hiking through the park with Margaret, learning all about the myriad cool plants and critters in the park. I hope to do it again at some point. I also shared a picture, with Margaret, of this cheeky little ground squirrel that was eating one of the wild flowers, petals first, on the side of the trail, and who was not at all averse to posing for pictures!

Finally, note that the park is named after, and was created to protect the Torrey Pine, are one of the rarest pine trees in the world, its distribution being limited to Torrey Pines Reserve State Park and to Santa Catalina Island. The two populations have been genetically analyzed and have apparently been isolated for a considerable length of time as they are genetically distinct. The Torrey Pines State Park population is all pretty close to genetically identical. That lack of genetic diversity may not bode well for its future survival. Distinguishing features, if you see one, include five needles per cluster, and, as opposed to may other pines which have round needles, the Torrey pines have round needles with one flat side (think of a half cylinder). Shown here, a Torrey Pine branch with a passing Western Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica. The scrub jays will peck into the cones to extract the oily pine nuts.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Anacamptis pyramidalis

Anacamptis pyramidalis in Cabrieres D'Aigues. I saw a whole colony of these cheery, brightly colored wild orchids growing in the grassy limestone cut along the roadside! They made an awesome display.