Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lazuli Bunting

I've always had a warm place in my heart for birds that are blue. When I saw this lazuli bunting (Passerina amoena) a couple of weeks ago, I spent a lot of time trying to get my unsteady hands to cooperate with my point-and-shoot camera. These pictures don't do justice to the beautiful bird but it's what I was able to manage.

I was a few miles east of Dinuba (California) in the Sierra Nevada foothills in a nice spot for birds in general. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a picture of several phaenopeplas that were diving in and out of the oaks.

The habitat is a mixed oak woodland with elderberry, poison oak and other assorted shrubs (now dry).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Molorchus longicollis

The Merced River below Yosemite National Park runs through a beautiful yet spare landscape. It is dry most of the year and most species of plants bloom in the spring. Two years ago this last March, we camped at McCabe Flat Campground and enjoyed the beautiful show of flowers along the river and the pleasant weather.

I aslo found a few longhorn beetles (Molorchus longicollis) on buckbrush. Some were on the flowers covered in pollen and others were mating on nearby branches. They are interesting beetles with pale abbreviated wing covers and long antennae.

The species is one of the smallest longhorn beetles in the world. It is hardly even a centimeter long (about the size of your freshly clipped baby fingernail). Compared to another longhorn beetle (the largest beetle in the world) that is as long as your hand with fingers extended, you can get the idea of the size difference.  In the habitat shot you can barely see the Merced River through the oaks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bombus vosnesenskii

Our most common bumble bee in California is Bombus vosnesenskii. As you can see, it is quite attractive with its deep black base color and contrasting yellow abdominal band. It is one of 27 species that we have in the state.

This individual was out looking for nectar in January this year along the beach near Watsonville (Santa Cruz, County). This is one of the few bees that you can find at such times of the year. The habitat shot is of the ice plants along the beach where it was foraging.