Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interruptus) molt, washed up on Bodega Head, 19 September 2017
Although we had wondered if we'd ever find a Spiny Lobster in Bodega Bay, we were surprised to look down and see this on the beach tonight.
Spiny Lobster are a southern species — they are primarily found south of Point Conception, and they're most abundant off the central coast of Baja California, Mexico. During El Niño years, they may be observed north to Monterey. Since about 2011, molts have been discovered occasionally in San Francisco (Crissy Field) and Bolinas (Agate Beach).
There is a 2001 record for a post-larval stage Spiny Lobster in Bodega Harbor, but to our knowledge, this is the first record of an adult Spiny Lobster molt in Bodega Bay, and therefore the northernmost record for a Spiny Lobster molt on the West Coast!
Spiny Lobsters can reach a carapace length of ~44 mm in 2 years. The molt we found was missing the carapace, but we can still come up with an estimate — see photo with ruler below:
Here's some rough, but interesting guesswork. The carapace on this individual might have been ~50 mm long...which is a potential match for a 3-year old lobster...which is a potential match for a lobster that settled in northern California during the warm-water anomaly ("The Blob") in 2014. We have some research to do on these measurements, but it's interesting to think about when the lobsters might have arrived on our coast.
We'd be very interested in any other sightings of Spiny Lobster molts from Point Reyes north, so let us know if you spot any washed up on the beach (and please take a photo)!
P.S. I was curious about the scientific name. The specific epithet "interruptus" comes from the interrupted groove on each abdominal segment. Below, note the gap (white arrow) separating the grooves that run through the middle of each abdominal segment:
Not much time tonight, but here are a few more pictures of White-tailed Kites just before heading to a roost site for the night on 17 September 2017. (Click on the images for larger versions.)
A beautiful immature bird, with rusty coloration on the breast, white-edged feathers behind the "black shoulder", and gray at the back of the head. (The eyes are also darker than those of an adult.)
Below, the immature kite turns to watch another individual trying to land nearby. This is a good look at the underwing pattern (and the tail feathersbeing molted — note the different lengths of the feathers).
A kite soaring overhead with just a hint of the setting sun:
Just a few quick shots of the White-tailed Kites coming in to roost tonight (16 September 2017):
Since the kites fly in just before sunset, the light is quite dim. I don't have the right camera lens for these conditions, so most of my shots are blurry, but even so, I can't help sharing this one (below). I love that you can still see the coloration of the young bird on the right — the beautiful rust color on the breast and the grayish cap:
There were interesting conditions and behaviors tonight. It was one of those late summer nights that makes you want to linger outside, and the kites seemed to think so, too! They perched high on the trees overlooking the roost site, kept circling around high above, and they stayed out until it was almost too dark to see them.
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to spend time watching kites!
Last night Will mentioned he had seen some gorgeous toads...so how could we resist? After work, Eric and I took a short walk in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Sure enough, just after dusk, we started seeing toads along the path. Below are a few of my favorite pictures. These are Western Toads (Anaxyrus boreas, formerly Bufo boreas). They ranged in size from about ~2-4" (~5-10 cm) long, shown here from largest to smallest:
This was the first time we've seen Western Toads in Sonoma County. It was so nice to see them! Thanks, Will, for letting us know about the wonderful toads.