Monday, August 24, 2020

Today's no walk report: 082420

 Over the course of the last few days I spent an inordinate amount of time, much more than I ever spent before, creating text for a post, writing a long dissertation about my trying to take pictures and, in general, work around a month of back pain but I decided to scrap it. I had exercise tips, treatment and medication tips, diet tips, tips on how to work around pain, tips on getting tips, etc., but I put it all aside. However, I will give you one line from all that work which might just sum it up... Getting old is a bitch.

I just noticed it's been a month since I posted anything so, let's give this a go...
August 2 and 3, I was a mess but I got it in my head that I could put a chair in a fenced in area between the house and the garage which I call an atrium because once upon a time it really was an atrium. This picture might have been taken around 1960.

It doesn't look much like that anymore but I'm gonna work on it.

I wanted to see if I could get a photographic inventory of the hummingbirds that use the feeder in there. This is as far as I got. The small window you see is to the guest bathroom. Currently to the right of that window, under the eaves is a hummingbird feeder. I have a thing about not taking pictures of hummingbirds at feeders. I feel like it’s cheating or something. I tried to catch them on the approach. The first one is an immature male Calypte anna and the second is an immature male Selasphorus sasin. I think. If it's the same bird as I'm seeing now, it's a male.

There are about four other hummingbirds that fight over this feeder. I've tried to talk to them about  their behavior and sharing. They won't listen. If that Selasphorus sasin is the male I think it is, he currently rules the roost. He watches the feeder like a hawk. A hawk I tell ya. I'm frequently on the other side of the windows and watching the aerial defense is often amazing.

This mockingbird was hanging out on the other side of the wall in the Eremophila bush surveying the ordeal I was going through trying to take pictures.

This is an edit to the original publishing of this post yesterday. This is the male Selasphorus sasin which is on almost constant guard duty over the feeder. I also believe he is often at a vantage point as pictured here to spy on "intruders" in the backyard. I have seen him swoop into the backyard from this direction. I should have perhaps mentioned the issue earlier but immature male hummingbirds often resemble females before the males develop their iridescent feathers. Anyway, I'm not sure if this is the same Selasphorus sasin as depicted above. The one above might be a female.

One day, when I mistakenly thought my back was well enough, I decided to rip out by hand (that requires bending) a plant peppering the property which I affectionally refer to as the world's ugliest weed. It's actually Lactuca serriola, aka, prickly lettuce. Supposedly Lactuca serriola has a number of medicinal applications. Ancient Pythagoreans called the lettuce "eunuch" because it caused urination and relaxed sexual desire. I snapped a couple of pictures of the plant’s flower before plucking. The flower is about 1 cm wide.

This Stagmomantis californica (California mantis) was huge. I inadvertently knocked her out of a plant when I was watering. She was about 7.5 cm (close to 3") long. I checked back on her, she was fine.

Lucy has been hanging out. She's my pal.

Stan too...

Not much else has been happening. I feel I've been on the mend for the past few days so that's nice. Oh, one other thing. I'm always excited to get cuttings of plants to root and make new plants. It's like free plants. I got curious about gardenias one day after seeing some bonsai gardenia plants for sale. It turns out it's pretty easy to get gardenia cuttings to root in just plain water. I took four cuttings. All are rooting to one degree or another. It took about a month although I didn't write down the date and time seems to have become even more abstract lately than it has been in the past.

So long, stay safe.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Today's no walk report: 072420

A couple of posts back I complained about not seeing a normal frequency of swallowtail butterflies this year. Since then I seem to be getting daily visits but they generally disappear by the time I get outside with my camera. Of course they do. The attraction in the backyard is the Plumbago auriculata plants and unfortunately their flowers are rapidly dying back. Both the Papilio rutulus, aka, the western tiger swallowtail and the Papilio cresphontes or giant swallowtail, have a rather frenzied interest in the plumbago. This often makes picture taking somewhat challenging.

Plumbago flowers are loaded with very sticky trichomes so that may have something to do with the the butterflies agitated behavior. I got curious about the plant’s adaptation for this stickiness thinking, like many plants with sticky trichomes, that it must be a defense against insects and found some suggestions that plumbago may be protocarnivorous. However, most research seems to conclude that the actual purpose of the glandular trichomes is not clearly understood. One other note, larger insects like grasshoppers and katydids seem to love hanging out in plumbago.

This was the only decent shot I got this afternoon of a Papilio rutulus butterfly, thanks to the frenzy.

There’s one more reason for this post. It’s the first blog post I’ve done entirely on a mobile device (iPad). I found the process a bit cumbersome compared to working from a desktop computer but it wasn’t awful. 

I don’t typically do this but wtf. It’s August 2nd and I had afterthoughts about a couple of items. One was to add another shot of the Papilio rutulus butterfly just to show it with wings open. So here’s that...

I also thought I should better illustrate the Plumbago auriculata plant and highlight the glandular trichomes. Note the calyxes in the lower center of the image. These are extremely sticky resin-like exudates, the trichomes, that trap mostly small winged insects. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Today's no walk report: 071020

Just because.

These are robber flies, quite obviously mating. They were going at it on the top of this 6' plant support, about a foot of which is in the ground. I don't believe I've ever seen robber flies here before. Best guess on these two is that they are Mallophora fautrix. They were close to .75" long, each, or about 2.5 cm. This is the only species in this genus in California. I got a little too close with the camera at one point and they flew off while remaining coupled together only to go back on the plant stake just a few inches lower. They remained in that spot for close to a half an hour, until I boinged the metal pole and they flew off, again without breaking their carnal embrace. Why did I do that? Well, I think that for the most part they are considered a beneficial insect but they do kill bees and also paper wasps. I didn't want any of that in my backyard.

This image is rotated. Be sure to click the images for a more majestic view.

That's all. Stay safe.
(psst, happy birthday!)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Today's no walk report: 061120

What have you been up to?

Since mid-March I have yet to venture out on a walk, braving the Covid-19 pandemic but I'm getting close. I'm at least close to going out for either an early morning or early evening bike ride. I can avoid people better on a bike than I can on foot. As of late my bike riding has been limited to stationary and indoors on one of these.

I've been semi-religious about using said device. My reluctance to go out and about isn't entirely based on paranoia, induced by what I can only describe as selfish idiots who refuse to wear a mask and be otherwise courteous about their behavior but I've also been busy trying to catch up with maintaining the property here so it doesn't look like a weed ridden abomination post wild flower season. It's a lot of work and with the proclamation of a shutdown due to the virus yard work was seriously stalled. At least it was in my front and side yards where I felt human activity was a little bit too conspicuous. I did, however, spend a lot of time in the backyard. I also did a lot of housework and became more adept at online shopping. Music playing on the living room stereo or off of YouTube mixes became an all day affair. It has been my solace.

Considerable time has also been dedicated to my inside companion and general confidant, Lucy the cat. Here she is just moments ago. Lucy is 14 years old. We've been through a lot together.

There's another cat too who is an important part of most mornings and in fact he just stopped by for some dinner. This is Stan. Stan was first adopted by dear Docken. He's a sweet boy. He's feral although we both suspect that he once had an owner nearby who abandoned him. He has a wonderful double wide house. provided by Docken, with blankets on a table on the patio and he gets fed beneath that table, again, most mornings. Sometimes he's apparently busy elsewhere. He has barely touched my hand with his nose on just a few occasions. I reach out to him most mornings but we mostly only talk.

Lucy is in love with Stan. Lucy would never, ever tolerate another cat outside HER windows before Stan came along. She looks forward to sitting on the other side of the living room windows and watching him eat. Sometimes she comes and tells me when he has arrived.

Other than this there are adventures in gardening and yes, I look for the occasional photo opportunity.  I went out for three days prior to the day I finally got this male monarch butterfly to hang around for some pictures. On this day he was very obliging. Four days ago, June the 7th.

Bees love to swirl around poppy stamen.

This alligator lizard has perhaps lived under the patio and chimney for several years now. They can live up to 15 years.

Some flowers make their way inside. Less for the sake of arrangement than for the scent. These roses are from a bush older than I am. It dates back to at least 1955 and it stands at the front of the walkway to the front door. These roses smell absolutely amazing as do the gardenias floating in the crystal dish.

Yeah. It was 8:41 AM. Can't you see that?

Last year there was a virtual invasion of Vanessa cardui butterflies. We had a couple of nice flurries this year too, mid-April.

On the patio table there is a Drosera capensis, commonly known as the Cape sundew, a small rosette-forming carnivorous species of perennial sundew native to the Cape in South Africa. (Yes, I copied that from Wikipedia). The third week of May it was flowering. This was a gift from David Ocker and his wife, Leslie. 

The situation with wildflowers out front was mostly dying out and getting taken over by invasive plants as the pandemic was rearing its evil, ugly structural proteins but there were some photo ops there too and I simply tried to go out when neighbors weren't milling about.

Baby Snapdragon (Linaria maroccana), a favorite of mine. 

I also got a second round of mostly ox-eye daisies in the front of the house after much of the first round had died back and were pulled out. This was due to some rather late in the season rain.

That was mid-April. By the end of April the backyard was just getting busy, mostly with clarkia and a variety of poppies.

There was some of this in front too but mostly close to the house. Irises too were blooming in abundance.

Usually we get more visits from swallowtails in the backyard than I've had so far this year, maybe later. Here's one shot of a giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) from May 2nd.

That's it for now. Please stay safe whoever you are and if you go out in public please think about your neighbors and others around you and wear a freakin' mask, it's not a big deal, it's not political, it's about saving lives. Thank you.