Outdoors

Friday, April 22, 2016

Droppin' (Recreational) Pots for Dungeness

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 6:53 PM

DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
Dust off your kayak and stock up on butter. While commercial fishing for both rock and Dungeness crab is still on hold in our county due to unsafe levels of toxic domoic acid, which can prove harmful and even deadly to humans, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced recreational Dungeness crab fishing is a go in Humboldt County. 

The department's press release today lists "Recreational Dungeness crab fishery open along mainland coast south of 40° 46.15 N Latitude, at the Humboldt Bay entrance, Humboldt County, including ocean waters of Humboldt Bay" as open and safe according to recent testing. Rock crab is still not clear for recreational fishing, and there is no word on when or if there will be a commercial crab fishing season.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Family of Missing Swimmer Seeks Closure

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 11:32 AM

Paul Michael Martin
  • Paul Michael Martin
Almost two weeks after he was swept away in the Trinity River, 22-year-old Paul Michael Martin’s family continues to search for answers.

Martin and two others jumped into the Trinity River near Tish Tang Campground at about 4:30 p.m. on April 6, and all three were quickly swept downriver in the strong current. One man was able to swim ashore and call for help; another made it to the riverbank near Vista Point and was later rescued by boat; but Martin has not been seen since.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

HumBug: Return of the Zombies (and Everybody Else)

Posted By and on Sun, Apr 17, 2016 at 3:00 PM

The zombie dung flies are back. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The zombie dung flies are back.
It is early April, and the world of insects is finally warming up. I've spotted more of the "zombie" flies, paralyzed by fungus, that were cropping up last year in early March (“Zombie Dung Flies,” March 1, 2015). I've seen a few snakeflies lately. These used to be included in the order Neuroptera with the lacewings but scientists have given them their own order now, Raphidioptera. Their long “necks” are distinctive. They are welcome guests in my garden as they eat many small pest species, such as aphids. The female has a long ovipositor (egg laying structure) on the end of her abdomen for depositing eggs in the furrows in tree bark.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

TL;DR: Five Things You Might Have Missed in This Weeks’ Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Apr 10, 2016 at 2:52 PM

The Alexandre family in front of the K-rails. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • The Alexandre family in front of the K-rails.

If you were too busy enjoying the great outdoors to read about the great outdoors, we understand. Here’s a summary of this week’s cover story, “Shot Up and Shut Down.”

In the final week of February, Joseph Alexandre, a farmer at Alexandre EcoDairy Farms in Ferndale, pushed a set of concrete K-rails into the parking lot next to Fernbridge and welded them together, blocking access to the river bar below the bridge. The lot, which is partially owned by the Alexandres, has been the point of entry for many people who like to hike, picnic, off-road, target shoot, and – sadly – dump their garbage on the river bar. The Alexandre family says there has been little recognition that the public river bar is next to their private property, and stray bullets are endangering the lives of their employees and dairy cows. Here are five things we learned while researching this story.

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HumBug: Beauty

Posted By on Sun, Apr 10, 2016 at 3:00 AM

The comparatively dowdy female California darner. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The comparatively dowdy female California darner.
The other day, while waging my perpetual losing battle against garden weeds, I glimpsed a shadow. It was a dragonfly cruising my yard for an afternoon snack. I kept watch and it changed its flight pattern from actively hunting to slowly browsing the bushes near the ground for a place to rest. When it finally landed, I got my camera and got close enough to take a shot. I recognized it as one of the mosaic darners, named for the intricate patterns on their abdomens. It was only later when I downloaded it onto my computer and compared it to my books that I decided it was a male California darner (Rhionaeschna californica). The next day I got a shot of a female. Males of this species are marked with bright blue and black while females are more subdued with green and brown markings.
The male California darner is all flash. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The male California darner is all flash.
In the dragonfly world, the males are often more beautiful and the females are often drab by comparison. That's because the valuable females need the protection of camouflage. Mathematically it makes sense. In asocial species, the biology of reproduction places a premium on the females' survival. Male cicadas and crickets are the ones who make themselves obvious by singing, male glow worms fly about when they go courting, exposing themselves to predators, while the females stay hidden in the leaf litter under trees, and male dragonflies are often the more brightly colored. Males are more expendable and are  saddled with the burden of attracting the ladies.
A pair of snowy tree crickets.  The male is the one with its wings extended for "singing." - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A pair of snowy tree crickets. The male is the one with its wings extended for "singing."




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Sunday, April 3, 2016

HumBug: Love Songs

Posted By on Sun, Apr 3, 2016 at 3:04 PM

Cicada Okanagana Vanduzeei, a little early for the party. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Cicada Okanagana Vanduzeei, a little early for the party.
Walking through the woods near the Van Duzen River, something caught my eye low in the weeds along side the trail. On close inspection, I was surprised to see a cicada. I usually associate them with warm weather later in the year. It was pretty subdued so I was able to take plenty of photos up close before I finally decided to leave the poor creature alone.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

HumBug: Alien Eyes

Posted By on Sun, Mar 27, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Hey, five-eyes. A Halictid bee shows three tiny oceli between its larger compound eyes. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Hey, five-eyes. A Halictid bee shows three tiny oceli between its larger compound eyes.
If mankind ever encounters space aliens, it's a pretty sure bet they won't be much like us. There will likely be some similarities; 2+2=4 everywhere, after all. Any advanced life form must have some way of perceiving the universe around it and insects might be a good model. They're not necessarily like the aliens, but they are as alien as anything we on Earth are likely to encounter until the Little Green Men park on the Whitehouse lawn and say, “Take me to your leader.”

Insect eyes see the world differently than we do. They do not produce a single image, but a mosaic of images stitched together. Even more dizzying than that, many insects have five eyes: two major compound eyes capable of resolving an image, and three oceli which seem to help them orient themselves when flying. In some cases, like the cardinal meadowhawk dragonfly, their big compound eyes differ from top to bottom, allowing different parts of the eye to be optimized for specific functions.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

HumBug: Dandelions

Posted By on Sun, Mar 13, 2016 at 4:47 PM

A honeybee going to town on dandelion pollen. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A honeybee going to town on dandelion pollen.
In a recent exchange on an entomological Facebook page, someone urged me not to destroy the dandelions in my yard. I was told they are one of the first and most persistent sources of pollen and nectar for early emerging insects. The idea that the scourge of the lawnmower set could be so important amused me. However, always ready to question things, I did a few quick filters on my photo organizer and found 146 pictures of various insects fueling up at the brilliant yellow flowers.
A honeybee moves in to bully a smaller bee off the dandelion. It failed and moved on.
  • A honeybee moves in to bully a smaller bee off the dandelion. It failed and moved on.

There were members of many orders: Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (glies), Hymenoptera (wasps and bees), Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, and Dermaptera (earwig). It appeared that one earwig was actually eating the flower, petals and all.
Even the margined white butterfly can't resist.
  • Even the margined white butterfly can't resist.
So, I did a little reading on Taraxacum officinale, the common imported weed in our lawns. Alien invaders from the Old World they actually aren't all that invasive except in an environment where the competing grass and weeds are regularly mowed or disturbed. You almost never see them in an open meadow.

Among their laudable traits is the fact that they can produce latex similar to the traditional rubber tree. Continental Tire company is currently running trials on tires using “Taraxagum” tread
So, for now at least, I will postpone mowing the back yard. It's good to have a reason if anyone asks.


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Sunday, March 6, 2016

HumBug: Spring in the Air

Posted By on Sun, Mar 6, 2016 at 2:02 PM

A margined white butterfly. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A margined white butterfly.
A walk on a recent sunny day yielded quite a few butterflies. All were busy, few staying in one place long enough to pose for a picture. There were many Pieris marginalis (aka margined whites), which are often mistaken for their close relatives the cabbage butterfly. I saw two Nymphalis antiopa, or mourning cloaks, one of which was perfect and new while the other was bedraggled and worn. The fresh one landed, but flew away before I could get a good picture. There were a great many tiny Celastrina ladon, or azure blues, zipping around damp spots on the river bar. Once they land, they keep their wings closed above their backs, hiding the brilliant blue of their upper surfaces.

The mourning cloak butterfly, named for its dark color. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The mourning cloak butterfly, named for its dark color.
Finally, on my way home a pair of rusty orange streaks flew by me. I paused and watched the two rapidly circle each other, spiraling upward with dizzying speed. Finally, one disappeared into the clutter of a madrone tree's foliage and the other flew up the path and landed, spreading its wings in the sun. The orange butterflies were of the anglewing species, I believe, though that family forms a challenging complex. I spent the next minute or so advancing one stealthy step at a time until I managed to get to the extreme limit of my camera's lens and snap a picture. Step by step, I snapped a photo with each pause, until I was close enough to get an acceptable photo. 

The orange angelwing butterfly. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The orange angelwing butterfly.
With insect photography, close counts, so I developed this process: See the subject, turn on the camera, snap a photo and check the picture, adjusting anything that needs it. Advance toward it, snap another and repeat as often as you can. This assures you your camera is set up the way you want it to get the best picture possible. (You haven't left the lens cap on or have it set up for a moon shot.) Each photo will be closer and likely better than the last, so you always get the best photo possible under the conditions.

First trillium bud of the year. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • First trillium bud of the year.
First hound's tongue of the season, named for the rounded leaves. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • First hound's tongue of the season, named for the rounded leaves.
I also saw my first trillium and hounds' tongue flowers blooming, and when I got home there was another springtime surprise: A tick was crawling on my leg. Yes, it is that time of year again.


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Sunday, February 28, 2016

HumBug: Endangered Species

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 3:01 PM

Hello there. The tiny face of a lacewing. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Hello there. The tiny face of a lacewing.
On a recent sunny day, I was taking the long way home when an insect fluttered daintily in the sunshine ahead of me. Reflexively, I reached out and snatched it from the air in a carefully cupped hand. When I opened my hand a tiny bit, I saw what looked like a gray lacewing. Never having seen that color before, I wanted a picture. But manipulating my camera, keeping my hand closed then opening for just a second for fear the creature would escape proved tricky. I decided to put it in a little container and take it home, but that too was awkward.

The San Francisco lacewing's body is about 1/2 inch long. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The San Francisco lacewing's body is about 1/2 inch long.
There are a few tricks, such as chilling the subject in the fridge. This slows an insect's metabolism and sometimes allows you to get the shot you want. Gauging exactly how cold is tricky. Guess wrong and you kill the subject — not necessarily in a good pose. I didn't want to destroy it unnecessarily, so I took a chance. As gently as I could, I opened my hand and let it crawl onto an Indian Plum bush (Oemleria cerasiformis). It seemed unscathed and content to pose for me. When I jostled a limb, a cloud of tiny whiteflies, a noted crop pest and popular food for lacewings, flew up. I'm only guessing but I suspect that was its original destination. We parted amicably when I ran out of pictures to take.

The even tinier whitefly, at about 1/8 inch long.
  • The even tinier whitefly, at about 1/8 inch long.

After uploading the images I posted some to www.BugGuide.net inquiring about its identity, since it was not in any of my books. I got a reply suggesting that it was a San Francisco lacewing (Nothochrysa californica). The photos were a spot-on match for my little acquaintance. Curious, I investigated online and found on www.iNaturalist.org that it is classified as “critically imperiled” (G1G3). Yep, there are insects on the endangered species list. There have been reports of it northward of Santa Cruz. To the best of my knowledge, however, this is the first from this far.
I'm glad I only took pictures.


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