Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

My Portfolio   2 comments

The slideshow below contains some of my favorite images.  All were taken in Yolo County — most inside  Davis city limits, or on the UC Davis campus.  What strikes me is that one does not have to go far to find the completely exotic.  All that is required is truly seeing and a little patience.

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I am pleased to say that some of these pictures have been requested by local galleries, and have been hanging for local showings.  To my pleasure, at the last show, I even sold some .  This has encouraged me to begin marketing my work.  I have listed some of these images in my Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/dragonbreathpress?section_id=8049977

If you are interested in prints of any of these images, please feel free to contact me at sdttds@yahoo.com

Posted June 29, 2012 by dragonbreathpress in Davis, Nature, Photography, Winters, Yolo County

Bike-powered one-man Yolo County Micro-Odonta-Blitz   1 comment

A weekend spent chasing dragons and damsels (of the insect variety)

Day 1: 05.26.12

Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area: (1300-1430)
Low 70s, partly cloudy, becoming mostly cloudy
SW wind 15-20mph
I biked here and hiked in a couple of miles, but dragonfly-wise, it was very quiet, even by edges of still-wet pools
Common whitetail:1 immature male
Black Saddlebags 1
Both in wind-blown flight (no photos)
Also spotted:
dozens of great and snowy egrets
1 green heron
5 red-tailed haws
Wildhorse Ag Buffer (a trail and some grasslands between the golf course and the ag land)
Black saddlebags: 7 or 8
Blue dashers: 2 males
Darner spp. (possible California or blue-eyed — hard to tell as they came zipping by
All in wind-blown, sideways flight (no photos)
Also seen (non-Odes):
2 burrowing owls

Day 2: 05.27.12

Putah Creek, Winters, Private Property
1200-1430
Mid 70s – Low 80s, few clouds
Light SW Breeze: approx 10mph, but the creek is largely sheltered
American rubyspot (my first sighting ever) 1 male; 1 female (verification for female appreciated)
Tule Bluets
Exclamation damsels (also a first for me)
Vivid Dancers
Pacific Clubtail
for photos, see:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/36618387@N06/sets/72157629927356662/
Not photographed, due to the fact that they were not landing:
Western Pondhawk: 1 female for sure; several possible males, but could not get a good enough look, so they could be Blue Dashers
Flame skimmers
Widow Skimmers
Common Whitetails
1 unknown brown and tan dragonfly with a skimmer-like body
Possible variegated immature meadowhawks (far bank, so hard to tell)
One likely darner species (I’ll get you yet, my little pretty…)


North Davis Pond
1430-1445
Low 80s, sunny
Light SW breeze

Numerous Blue Dashers (scores)
Common whitetails (a few)
Pacific forktails (a few)
Widow skimmer (a few)

This is a different mix than previous years.  Blue dashers are by far the most abundant species this year (and most, by far, are male).  No flame skimmer visible. No bluets visible.

Day 3: 05.28.12

Today I decided to bike out to a location on Cache Creek where I used to go rock-hounding with a friend.  It is located behind the Wildwings golf course and housing development, just off state highway 16.  It is kind of an interesting place.  The Creek is a public access area, but you have to go through a private housing development to get to it.  The entrance of the development says “No Trespassing.”  Luckily, I have a standing invitation from a resident.  Oddly, every street in the place is named after a species of duck, but I haven’t seen a single duck any time I’ve been in the Creek.  A private airport, gravel pit and the Cache Creek Conservancy all border the place.
On the ride in, I had a nice push from the wind.  I stopped and inspected the well-flooded irrigation ditches along Co Rd 99 where it looked like that would not piss anyone off.  Only Pacific forktails were seen.
The ride from Davis is mostly good, with nice bike lanes for most of it.  Highway 16, though is kind of scary, with microscopic paved shoulders and psychotic drivers (the most courteous drivers are those in odd-looking farm-vehicles).  My previous theory that those who bike up to Clear Lake have a death wish stands reinforced.  The gopher snake body count on Yolo County Roads is becoming distressing.
Cache Creek
Behind the Wildwings Housing Development, outside Woodland, CA.
upper 70s to lower 80s, very few clouds
SSW winds 15-20mph winds, but the creek was sheltered
Tweleve-spotted skimmers
American rubyspot (M/F)
Western pondhawk (M/F)
Emma’s dancer (thanks Ray Bruun)
California or Aztec dancer (verification appreciated)
Flame skimmer (1M)
All IDs made from Kathy’s http://southwestdragonflies.net site.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/36618387@N06/sets/72157629942807108/
Not photographed, since they would not hold still:
Black saddlebags
Some sort of mostly blue darner (blue-eyed, California?)
Tule bluets
Not photographed because I have plenty of photos:
Pacific forktails
Common white-tail
Other critters seen:
jackrabbits
lots of lizards
red-winged blackbirds
mockingbird
red-tailed and Swainson’s hawks
Common buckeye
Honeybees
Sweat bees
deer


Riding back, I got to understand that 20mph wind is more than it sounds like, especially when you bike directly into it for 16 miles.  

The drainage ditches that had held only Pacific forktails in the morning now also boasted Black saddlebags.

Wright’s Beach, Sonoma Coast   2 comments

This past weekend, Justin and I visited one of our favorite beaches: Wright’s Beach.  For those not totally familiar with the Sonoma Coast, this beach (which in many map searches only comes up as part of the Sonoma Coast SP), is located about midway between Bodega Bay and Jenner.  It is just slightly north of the tiny town of Carmet.

It is, in many ways, a jewel.  That’s saying a bit, given the beauty of the Sonoma Coast, in general.  it has a few things in its favor: camping, rock-hounding, and it is dog-friendly.  A few years ago (2008, when California was on fire), my vacation plans to visit Big Sur went… well, up in smoke.  As I searched for new places, which, time after time, also caught fire, I was left with the Sonoma Coast being one of the few places that were still accessible.   I inquired at several Yahoo! Groups what the rock-hounding possibilities, I was guided toward Wright’s Beach.  Back then, we did not camp there, as there were no sites available, but we did do a couple of day-trips and fell in love with the jewel sands, the lack of crowds, and the aforementioned dog-friendliness.

Three years later, my son and I finally managed a weekend trip.  As I said, it’s not easy to get a place there, as it seems to have a cult following.  I was lucky enough to get in, but we had two different sites for two nights.  Yes, it is that popular, especially among those in the know that October is the “real summer” on the California Coast — much better chances of avoiding wind-and-fog chill.

The split reservation gave me a chance to evaluate the two loops.  Tthere are only 25 campsites.  Numbers 1-18 are the lower loop, the rest on the upper.   All the sites are most suited for RVers (most have paved pads), but tents work as well (Justin and I are tent-campers).  The bathrooms are clean, the hosts are friendly enough, but warning: there are no showers (though you can use the showers at the Bodega Dunes campground, 4.5 miles south).  This was okay for Justin and me for a weekend, but my ex-wife would not have enjoyed this.

Both loops are close enough to the ocean to hear booming surf, and remote enough to see wildlife (we saw a raccoon, a deer and a variety of birds; we heard a barn owl circling and screeching both nights).  The upper loop seems somewhat quiter, where the lower loop is the “party loop.”  That said, the partiers were pretty respectful, and wound things down by about 10:30 Saturday night.

Now for the beach…

The sand varies from coarse sand to small gravel, and is composed mainly of polished pebbles of jasper and chert.  Agates and jade can also be found.  It is a rock-hound’s and a psammophile’s dream.  We saw both hobbyists.  When you see an adult on his or her belly in a gravel bar, face pressed close, and gently moving individual pebbles about with a finger, you know what you’ve found (in most cases, anyway).  We ran into one nice lady from near our neck of the woods who is a member of the Roseville Rock Rollers and we sat and had a wonderful rock conversation.

For ourselves, we found several fine examples of colorful jasper and a few agates.  This time I did not find any jade.  That is okay.  I have learned that rock-hounding is not the same as rock-finding, and a bad day of rock-finding can be a fine day of rock-hounding (especially when it is done at the beach).  I also found a nice assortment of crab carapaces.  Evidently the little critters are molting, which means the gulls are enjoying soft-shell crab.

Dogs are very welcome here, and we saw plenty, mostly friendly.  If your pooch loves to dig or run, (s)he will love it.

Of course, this being a State Beach, the scenery is also an attraction.  Like most of the NorCal coastline, it is rugged and rough (more on that later).  Sea-stacks stud the water offshore, here and also at several adjacent beaches.  In the event that it is clear, like it was for us, they can provide a stunning back-drop for beautiful sunsets.  They also provide roosts for an assortment of gull, cormorants, pelicans and other sea-birds.

Some of the nearer sea-stacks sport an interesting and relatively rare for of kelp: the sea-palm Sea palms (Postelsia palmaeformis). This kelp actually spends most of its life above the surf-line, and takes a serious beating from the surf, and yet manages to stay upright.  That is a testament to the toughness of agar.  They are edible, but are protected completely in BC, Washington and Oregon.  In California only commercial harvesting is allowed — recreational harvesting is prohibited (who says we are business unfriendly?).  Native Americans are allowed to take them now, I believe, but it was a ridiculous legal battle for that to become a reality.

Now, as you can plainly see, the waves here are a bit rough.  An acquaintance calls this beach “Death Beach.”  I don’t know if this is because the cliff at the southern end is called Death Rock, or because of the drownings.  Or perhaps, the two are related.  In any case, a tremendous number of people have drowned here.  I’ve heard anything from 57 to 126.  I haven’t been able to substantiate the number (due to State Budget cutbacks, this beach shares rangers with the larger Bodega Dunes, and I saw one on one occasion, and did not think to ask).  One camper mentioned that 6 people drowned last year.  Again, this is unconfirmed, but the beach is clearly dangerous if not treated with respect and caution.  The beach face is steep, the undertow is vicious and the waves have a short, hard break.  Many are sneaker waves.  Assuming that the high number is the correct one, Justin and I very nearly saw victims 127-129.  Several out-of-shape teenage girls were body surfing and two were suddenly pulled back and tumbled.  Even had they been strong swimmers, they would not have been fight it, but at least they would not have panicked.  The third one to nearly die was the one who went after them.  They were all supremely lucky that they were tumbled back onto the beach.

This provided me two teachable moments for Justin.  First, the “No Swimming…” signs are there for a reason.  Second, don’t become a dead hero.  Lifesaving is treacherous business in calm water, even if you are trained (people panic and pull you under).  With currents you can’t fight, you sometimes (unfortunately) need to let people suffer the consequences of their actions.  I sincerely hope I am never put into that position when the outcome is fatal, particularly with someone I care about, but I have learned the hard way that some people cannot be saved from their own stupidity.

So…, if you are prepared to respect and appreciate the higher power of nature, this is a wonderful beach, and has lots to offer the outdoor enthusiast, the beach aficionado, the rock-hound, the hound-dog.  If your aim is to swim, body surf or play wave-tag, there are better beaches, but to me this is a quintessential NorCal beach. And it is not on the list of State Parks to be closed (which I shan’t rant about today).

For a complete picture set, see:

 A sampling of jasper and agate

Peace,

Stephan

(Portuguese Beach, just a mile or so to the south)

A Trip To Black Butte Lake (Rocks, Dragonflies and Serenity)   4 comments

The morning of Saturday, September 24, 2011 started the way that Justin and I prefer – with a tasty tamale from Montoya’s stand at the Davis Farmers Market. After buying more provisions, Justin and I headed home packed and went to pick up his best friend, Jasper (at least a third generation rock aficionado). Another friend of Justin’s and his dad were supposed to join us, but had to cancel a few days ago.

We headed north on Highway 113, and then I-5 to the Newgrass sounds of Railroad Earth (I always find jam-bands to be excellent driving music). North of Woodland, out of reach of the Delta Breeze, the temperatures climbed steadily, but less so than would have been the case just one day earlier. The obscuring haze, obscuring the Coast Range and Sutter Buttes last month on our trip to Trinidad, was still present. I imagine it will be, until a good rip-roaring wind or a cleansing rain.

After around an hour an a half, at Orland, we turned west on Highway 32 for another short jaunt. During a ten-minute delay, due to road construction, I entertained myself by watching the darting dragonflies (variegated meadowhawks) along the roadway. After the wait, we were guided through the cone-slalom by a pilot car. Along the three miles of “construction zone,” I saw maybe a half-dozen ten- to fifty-yard stretches actually being repaved. Oh well.

When we reached the lake, it was in the upper 80s, which was a pleasant change from the trip a little more than two years ago, when we’d roasted in 105-degree weather. Happy to have missed a repeat by a day, I took a short detour to see the dam and the actual Black Butte.

The dam and the view of the lake’s name-sake were nice, but I was highly distracted by the abudance of dragonflies: dozens of variegated meadowhawks, flitted and landed on bushes, some even posing for pictures. I also saw about a half-dozen black saddlebags and two common green darners, but of course, these species did not land or pose for pictures (one of these days… I got close to photographing a California darner twice this year, but that’s another story).

We had gone up with directions to a couple of new places to look, but none panned out. The outlet of Stony Creek below the dam was running too high to expose any rocks. Other creek-beds, though dry and showing a good deal of rock, were well-posted with “No Parking” and “No Trespassing” signs. I stand firm in my belief that private land-owners are at least as responsible in restricting rock-hound access as the much-maligned “Enviros.” In the interest of full disclosure, I am an environmentalist, though not an extremist. I contend that environmentalist are the only thing that stands between big business and a fully-paved and fenced world – which would make rock-hounding difficult at best. In any case, that is my personal opinion, and I know I won’t change the minds of my conservative friends in the rock-hounding community, so please keep your flame-mail in the draft folder, as it will not change my mind either.

Whew! Anyway. Back to rocks. Due to the inaccessibility of these sites, for which I hadn’t entertained high hopes anyways, we headed to the old stand-by: Burris Creek Recreation Area. We parked (on verifiably harder ground, this time and proceeded to scrour the rocky creek-bed. This time, I wasn’t just looking for lapidary material, but also searched for material with potential for suiseki. I found a fair number of the typical red, yellow and brown Black Butte jasper, some with nearly orbicular patterns, some with hematite lines and a small amount with agatized fracture-lines. One small piece has small round spots that may be tiny orbs. Time will tell.

While some of the pieces I found have a shape that is suitable for mountain profile suiseki, they are rather beat-up. They are not the slicks one sees the pest pieces, but with proper care and oiling, the might just develop a proper patina. Again, time will tell.

Scouring the hot, dusty creek-bed, I felt the tension from the week rapidly melting away. There is nothing more relaxing than going into nature and playing in the dirt. The only draw-back was the amount of litter I found and carted out. There were beer and whiskey bottles; I collected over 50 spent shot-gun shells of at least eight different types. Personally, I find that to be a scary combination. But come on, hunters. Pick up and pack out your own damn casings. Yes, that is littering, and it is not endearing you to the nature lovers. You may have the right to keep and arm bears, er, bear arms, but littering is not part of that. I have friends who hunt and hate this crap as well, so I imagine that this is the equivalent of rock-hounds who go out and strip a site, ruining it for everyone else. But still, let’s all pick up after ourselves before we lose any more sites to public access.

At one point, an Army Corps of Engineers Ranger (wow! I had no idea there was such a job) rolled up and chatted. He reassured us that rock-hounding here was, indeed, fine, and that the next rainy season would provide more rocks. He wished us good luck and seemed pleased at my trash-abatement efforts. I wish more encounters were like this. Before he left, I also got advice about heading to the western shore of the lake’s southern finger, as the bridge to recreation area was damaged and closed. He assured us that the criss-crossing dirt roads remained on ACOE-controlled land, and that the roads were fine for low-clearance, two-wheel drive vehicles.

After a few more minutes we headed that way. It seemed that the roads crossed and re-crossed, but all headed to only about three places, all of them lake-front. At one point, the road was at a minimum ten-degree slope – to the side – and rather soft, but at a patient driving speed, it held. Within ten minutes, or so, we were at the lake, and parked. We changed for a swim.

While the boys went swimming, and I intended to join them, I became quickly side-tracked by the hundreds of variegated meadowhawks that flitted and buzzed around. While shy, they allowed me to approach if I moved slowly. Even when they flew off, they often returned to their previous perches in under a minute. Yellow-jackets abounded as well, so I stepped carefully. After snapping my fill of pictures of dragonflies and a common buckeye butterfly, while still watching the boys, I went for a dip as well, and found a few more pieces of Black Butte jasper.

We ran out of time, as I needed to return Jasper to his home, but for future trips, it looks like continuing down this dirt road might actually provide access to parts of Stony Creek on future trips (it appears that this is the elusive Black Butte Road). A kayak or raft could be useful as well. So at 5:30, we headed back. The temperature was entirely pleasant – in the high 80s. We stopped for dinner at Round Table in Willows, and returned to Davis by 8:00 at an absolutely lovely 66 degrees.

 

To see all the pictures (full-sized) of both Black Butte trips I’ve taken, please go to:

Another view of the lake

 

Happy hunting,

Stephan

Gratitude for the little beautiful surprises   Leave a comment

I like to be outside, taking pictures of things of beauty that catch my interest.  It reminds me, that I must find the joys in life myself.  I have to take the time to do it.  It takes an effort to do this, but now that I am no longer married, it is easier.  Things can, so often, seem bleak.  But I have choices.  Some days the only part of the paper I read is the comics.  Other days I go “odeing,” looking for dragonflies and damselflies (Odonta).  There is a wonderful little pond a little less than a mile from where I live.  Okay, it’s green and murky, but in the Valley’s heat, it always has some dragonflies and some surprises.

Here are some of my new friends from this weekend…

 

The familiar bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile)

The Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica), with Andy Warhol’s hair:

I know spiders aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think this lady is beautiful: the black and yellow garden spider  (Argiope aurantia)

Alas, she is spoken for.  The zig-zag in her web indicates the presence of a male.

And finally, upon returning home, I found this handsome fella enjoying our blooming chives:

It’s name — the Gray Hair-streak — sounds like something people strive to cover, and doesn’t do justice to its coloration.  This was a lone butterfly among a buzzing mass of bees (that should make for some interesting honey), and they seemed quite content to share.

So even though I didn’t get the pictures I wanted, I got pictures with which I am pleased.

Another lesson.  They don’t seem to stop.  For that, and for remembering to take the time, I can be grateful.

Namaste