Showy Rock Montia

This gallery contains 6 photos.

The Carr Fire in Northern California has already consumed over 200,000 acres and is still not contained. Unfortunately Whiskeytown National Recreation Area was almost completely burned. It will be years before this beautiful national treasure is restored. Thankfully Leonard and … Continue reading

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Mule Deer Fawn

Mule Deer Fawn

This week I noticed a mule deer fawn (Odocoileus hemionus) outside my study window. On the other side of the fence was the fawn’s mother. The fawn was agitated because it could not jump over the fence, even though the mother was feigning leaps on the opposite side of the barrier. Leonard and I assumed the mother was attempting to demonstrate what she wanted the fawn to do. Eventually the fawn jumped through the fence. The doe and fawn then wandered off across our pastures onto a nearby butte.

Where we live near Lookout CA (Modoc County) most mule deer drop their fawns by the end of June. They are spotted for about 3 1/2 months. This fawn is probably about 2 months old and will retain its white spots for approximately another month . Fawns remain with their mothers until the fall.

I recently read an interesting 2007 study by Susan Lingle and her associates at the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge, both in Canada. They played recorded fawn distress calls (like those elicited by a fawn when attacked by a coyote). Mule deer females, even those with their own fawns safely standing beside them, responded to distress calls of mule deer fawns and also whitetail deer fawn distress calls. Even if a female mule deer did not have a fawn, it would run to the speaker. (In contrast, whitetail deer females would only respond to the distress calls of their own species.) These mule deer females came to the speakers and stayed as long as the distress call was played, twisting and turning around in an effort to find and confront the predator. Mule deer fight to protect themselves throughout the year and this willingness to defend their fawns results in less mule deer fawn mortality.

California currently has many raging wildfires. The grey cast to the photograph is a result of all the smoke in the air.

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Red Elderberry

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Since flowers and fruits usually do not occur concurrently, red elderberry is another plant to which Leonard and I will need to return in the fall to photograph fruits. Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) is a shrub or tree-like shrub that … Continue reading

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Uncertain Taxonomy

Clouded Sulfur

A year ago lightning ignited the Cove Fire in the Modoc National Forest near Adin CA (Modoc County). About 31,000 acres were burned before the fire was contained. Since then Leonard and periodically return to a site along Forest Road 40N11 to document the forest’s recovery from the fire. Last month we were pleased to see many clouded sulfur butterflies (Colias philodice) amid¬† the lupines. I think they were clouded sulfurs. . . then again. . . .

Also colloquially called a common sulfur, C philodice is found throughout much of North America. There are differences between the eastern and western clouded sulfurs. Some taxonomists believe these are two separate species and have given the eastern form its own species designation (P eriphyle). Where the eastern and western co-occur they hybridize.

To add to the confusion there is another butterfly, the orange sulfur (C eurytheme), that closely resembles the clouded sulfur. These butterflies rarely perch with their wings open in the field. The males of both species are bright clear yellow. The forewing undersides have some dark submarginal spots while the hind wings have a silver cell spot, usually doubled, rimmed with orange pink. The females may be yellow or a greenish white and have an uneven darker edging around the cell spots. The main difference between the clouded and orange sulfurs is an orange tint or blush to the underwings and more orange on the upper side of the wings. But unless one captures the butterfly and examines the upper side of the wings, it is difficult to distinguish between the two species, particularly because they also interbreed.

Clouded sulfurs and orange sulfurs inhabit open areas including fields, lawns, meadows and road edges. Both species particularly favor alfalfa fields. The adults feed on nectar from a variety of plants. The caterpillar host plants are mainly members of the Pea Family (alfalfa and lupine belong to that group).

This bright yellow butterfly, I believe, is a clouded sulfur. Then again, it may be an orange sulfur or a hybrid of the two. Definitive field identification of these two species is difficult. No matter what the species, it was a welcome sight in a forest area so recently devastated.

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Davidson’s Penstemon

This gallery contains 9 photos.

There are over 50 Penstemon species, many of which are very difficult to identify.¬† (If you type “penstemon” into the CalFlora Website, over 100 different plants appear.) Davidson’s penstemon (Penstemon davidsonii) is a penstemon that, because of its form and … Continue reading

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Desert Peach

This gallery contains 9 photos.

In April and May Leonard and I searched unsuccessfully for desert peach (Prunus andersonii) at sites where they were reported to be near our home. In July, while hunting for malachite, azurite and crystocolla mineral specimens in the rock outcrops … Continue reading

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Thorn Skeletonweed

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Thorn skeletonweed (Pleiacanthus spinosus) belongs to a monotypic genus, that is, there is only only species in the genus. It is called a subshrub because, although it resembles a shrub, thorn skeletonweed does not produce woody tissue. A member of … Continue reading

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