It's been raining for most of the day, so after dinner I thought I'd take a quick look outside to see if there were any amphibians around. I said to Eric somewhat hesitantly but hopefully, "Maybe I can find a salamander..." Then I opened the back door with my headlamp on, looked down and said, "There's one!" About 1.5 inches of rain has fallen so far today. I'm sure many salamanders, frogs, and toads are taking advantage of the wet conditions!
Three quick images of an Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris) in Cotati on 24 October 2016:
On 18 October 2016, a Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus) was discovered at Point Reyes. I couldn't help it — I went to see it today. I hadn't seen this species before and Point Reyes is so close! There are only about 12 records for Lesser Sand-Plover in California, making it a very rare vagrant to this area.
Their former name — Mongolian Plover — hints at where they're usually found. They breed in northeast Asia (e.g., examples of breeding sites include eastern Siberia, southern Mongolia, western China, the Himalayas) and winter from the Philippines to Australia. Needless to say, this bird has strayed quite far from its normal range.
In the pictures below, look for the overall brownish coloration above, the dark markings around the eye, and the pale buffy coloration on the forehead and face (and faintly on the breast).
These photos were taken this afternoon, 23 October 2016 (about 1-hour walk north of the North Beach parking lot on the outer beach of Point Reyes):
In the image below, look for both the Lesser Sand-Plover and the Snowy Plover. Note the Snowy Plover is smaller and paler gray:
(The Lesser Sand-Plover is on the far right; the Snowy Plover is on the far left.)
I haven't shared a sound file in a while...but I ended up with a few recordings of whale spouts when we were on the boat trip on 9 October 2016. So here you go! [You might need to turn up the volume of your speakers.]
Sadly, I didn't keep track of which species of whales these are, but they're either Blue Whales or Humpback Whales.
Large waves during the past week have washed lots of seaweed onto the beaches. Pictured above is Red Opuntia (Opuntiella californica) — named after prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.). Note the distinctive growth form, with spreading branches of rounded blades.
P.S. I had no idea — Do you know how many different species of prickly pear cactus can be found in California? Any guesses? The answer is: Fifteen! (There's only one species of Opuntiella in the state.)
I'm going to show a few more pictures from the boat trip to Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank on 9 October 2016. We were treated to some amazing views of Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) and Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that day — some of the best I've had on the West Coast. I'm excited to share these pictures with you. Tonight's post features Blue Whales. This is a great opportunity to compare individuals. Look closely at the overall shade of gray, the details in the pattern of splotches along the sides, and the shapes of the dorsal fins.
[Remember that you can click on the images for larger versions.]
Interpreting that last picture can be a little tricky. At first, it might look like a large shark fin slicing through the water. It's one half of the whale's flukes turned sideways as it's swimming.
In a few images above, you can see the way the pale skin of the Blue Whales appears turquoise below the surface.