Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mystery plants, berries, mosquitoes, and more

Today I was out again doing a rare plant survey. Almost immediately out of the truck we were assaulted by swarms of mosquitoes. They didn't care how much bug spray or how strong it was. I did bring my fashionable head net, which helped a bit. I'm sad to say my arms and neck took the brunt of the assault. Thankfully later in the heat of the afternoon, they tapered off for a bit and I could take off my head net. But I will remember this site not for the mosquitoes, but rather for the extremely large and juicy blueberries. There were also black huckleberries (also yum), blackberries, dewberries (which I think I ate but I'm not sure what happens during a berry feeding frenzy), and black blueberries. Yup. There's something called a black highbush blueberry. I didn't totally key out the shrub, but I know it exists so I'm pretty sure I ate some of them. Here's a pic of some of those large and juicy blueberries...not the black blueberries though.
Above is a mystery non-plant. It was growing all over the boulders and I'm not sure if it's a lichen or fungus. It sure was cool looking though.
We stumbled upon this lady box turtle chowing down on some fungus. It was a bit awkward and I felt like we were intruding on her private gorging so we quickly moved on.
Last there were a ton of cool fungus out. These are one of the few pics that came out mostly focused.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A brief escape

I just got back from my summer Vermont trip. Aside from the usual activities, we headed up to Mt. Mansfield, which is the tallest peak in Vermont. There's a toll road that takes you most of the way. We had a full load and my car wasn't particularly happy with the all uphill and windy climb. But we made it and it was worth it. The weather wasn't great with clouds pouring over the ridge. This made a great howl by the tv towers and the visitor shack on top. We didn't make it all the way to top, but that's fine. The experience was well worth it.
Here's the view from one-third of the way up the toll road.
Here's the view at the highest spot we hiked to. At some points the rolling clouds got so intense the only thing would could see if the spot we were standing on.

Most nights I headed out around dusk to check out the wildlife. I headed down the driveway and spotted something along the edge. At first I thought it was a tree stump. Then I shockingly thought it was a coyote. Then this object jumped up and ran full speed at me. Luckily it didn't bite and was just a shepard mix. We walked to the end of the driveway where I was expecting to find her owner. Nope. Not a soul in sight. I checked the tags and it gave her name "Kayla" and some phone numbers. Unfortunately I had no phone on me. I directed Kayla to go home and followed her. We went up the dead end. The first house had no lights on and no cars in the driveway so we kept going. We finally made it the very large house at the end. Lights were on and I could see a dog bowl on the steps. These were good signs that she had made it home. I rang the doorbell and a woman answered. I asked if that was her dog. Nope Kayla was not home. I asked the woman if I could use her phone to call the numbers. Thankfully someone answered and the dog was from another nearby dead end. The owners said they would come by. Many minutes passed and no sign. So we called again and eventually they showed up. Kayla was overjoyed. Turns out she had been given a bath and was upset about that and took off. They said she would've eventually make it back home but there was no way I'd let her be outside alone considering darkness was imminent and there's coyotes and bears out. The owners had this awesome old fashioned jeep or something like that and we all hopped in. But the headlights were tempermental so I lit the way with my sad flashlight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

This week I finally got some real field work. It was a plant survey which means identifying and keying out every plant you see along a route. We started out writing down everything, which was way too much work. After all we were searching for endangered plants so we just wrote down the unusual stuff. By the end of the day we still have some mystery plants, which were not in my field guide. Along the way, I spotted this dramatic Canada lily where the flowers open towards the ground. I am crouching below it to get this shot.
About mid-morning I spotted this giant bug on the back of birdman's vest. It was several inches long and I had never seen such a thing. I snapped this photo and showed it to him. We spent some time taking photos and attempting to extricate it off his vest. It mostly played dead and each touch I was expecting it to leap up and attack. I messaged one of my bosses who knows bugs and he identified it as a eyed elater.

Later we spotted the tiniest froglets I had every seen. I caught one and tried to take a photo but alas everyone came out super blurry. The froglet was about the size of a honeybee to give some perspective. When I grabbed it I held it's back legs in place and thankfully I didn't cause any damage to the little fellow.

Below is one of the mystery plants. It certainly seems easy enough to key out. It just wasn't in the field guide.

The big downer of the day was the constant mosquitos swarms. Nothing was going to stop them and I have the bites on my arms and face to show for. I also found two ground bees and hornets nests. Thankfully I spotted them in time and the occupants were relatively relaxed. I'm sure come next month they won't be so relaxed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A year in the making

This short video is a year in the making. In retrospect, I really should have taken a photo every single month. Maybe this time next year, I'll repost a better product. Seasonal change is an ongoing process rather than giant leaps.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tahoe clips

90 percent of my videos are accidental. They are usually narrated by me saying "Damn. I'm shooting a video." The above very short Tahoe clip is the's 2 seconds long. I actually wish I shot a normal length video. The below video is my mostly failed attempt at capturing the sound of the wind blowing through the pines. That's not static you hear in the background.