If you're interested in using any of these photographs, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Holding on

A young Sierran Treefrog (Pseudacris sierra) holding on to a bur-reed leaf in Bodega Bay on 16 August 2017.

P.S.  You might know this species as a Pacific Treefrog or Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla), but there have been some taxonomic changes during the last few years.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Buteo above

Sometimes when the news is getting you down, it's nice to look up.  

In the face of such sadness, I'm thankful to the natural world for strength, inspiration, and hope. 

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Bodega Head, 12 August 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bands of light

Well, I didn't have a chance to take any pictures today, but here are a couple more spider silk photos from yesterday.  Sometimes it's fun to think about what the color combinations remind you of:


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The thread continues

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I might not be sharing photographs of spider web threads for a while (see "Shifting sun" post from 31 July 2017).  However, I searched a different spot in the backyard this morning and I found a nice orb web with the sun hitting it just right in a few places.

I continue to puzzle over these dramatic colors.  And I've been wonderingas the angle of the sun shifts with the seasons, will the colors in the spider web strands change? 

Perhaps not, but it will be fun to explore.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Deep-sea highlights

It was hard to choose among the many photos from the E/V Nautilus dive at Bodega Canyon yesterday (11 August 2017).  Here are a few of our favorite screenshots.  [Click on the images for larger versions.]

Crinoid, or feather star, probably Florometra serratissima

Deep-sea nudibranch, Tritonia tetraquetra

Although Tritonia seems to have been the most common nudibranch species observed on these dives, a few other species have appeared.  

Finding the nudibranch in the next image is harder.  The ROV was focused on the primnoid coral (see white branches at right side of photo) covered by beige and yellow zoanthids (the dominant animals in the image).  But look for the small white nudibranch in the upper left corner! 

[In case you're wondering, zoanthids are cnidarians with features similar to corals and anemones, but they don't have hard skeletons and their tentacle arrangement is different from most anemones.]

The views of deep-sea bamboo corals were spectacular:

Bamboo corals are in the family Isididae.  I'm just learning about these corals, but I think the individuals pictured here might be in the genus Keratoisis.  Although bamboo corals are named after their beautiful skeletons with a banding pattern similar to bamboos, it was fun to see these living corals, with their dense peach-colored polyps:

The next coral species is Isidella tentacula.  The "tentacula" part of the name comes from their distinctive 'sweeper tentacles.'  Look for them at the base of coral:

Here's a close-up of the sweeper tentacles near the holdfast of the coral (see below).  It's thought that these tentacles are defensive, containing concentrations of stinging nematocysts.

Many thanks again to the E/V Nautilus crew for sharing these wonderful deep-sea communities with us.  It's been a gift to join you in exploring Bodega Canyon!

P.S.  We hope you get in at least one more dive before you head north.  And if you happen to see this post, we'd love a few more close-up views of a stalked crinoid (sea lily).  :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Picasso and friends

Well, we couldn't resist.  Eric and I tuned in a few times and then pooled our favorite screen grabs from today's E/V Nautilus dive.  [It feels a bit like watching the Olympics. The entire event is short (there are only 4 days left); and, you can tune in at any time and you never know what you're going to see!]

A delicate pink soft coral:

This intriguing pink nudibranch was nearby.  The color would be a good match for the coral polyps!

A bright Yellow Picasso Sponge, with a great genus name: Staurocalyptus.

It was fun seeing different types of sea pens.  The one shown below is called Umbellula.  [Sea pens in this genus can be found down to depths of 6000 meters!]  If you're intrigued by sea pens, check out this paper by Gary Williams (who is on the ship):

Beautiful stippled patterns on a Deep-sea Sole (Embassichthys bathybius):

Thanks again to the E/V Nautilus for sharing amazing live deep sea footage from Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  You can tune in here until August 14th.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

30 miles out and over a mile deep

I hope you've been enjoying some of the amazing live deep-sea video footage from the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary this week.  If you haven't watched yet, you can tune in at www.nautiluslive.org.  They'll be in this area until 14 August 2017.

We saved a few images from today's dive to the "Box Canyon" area between Bodega Canyon and Cordell Bank.  Here's a map for reference:

Some of our favorite images were the ledges covered with deep-sea invertebratesa visual wonder!

Here's a close-up:

I am *not* a deep-sea biologist, but if you need a little help, here's what I think you're seeing — most of the white animals above are large sponges; the yellow animal with feather-like arms at the lower left is a crinoid (feather star); the large anemone on the right is a Venus Flytrap Anemone.  They're joined by crabs (upper left), shrimp (upper right), brittle stars and different anemones (center).

I learned something cool about the deep-sea octopus that the ROV has been encountering (see image below).  I think it's Graneledone boreopacifica a species that's known to have the longest embryo-brooding time of any animal at 53 months (almost 4.5 years!). You can read more about it here.

I also learned about a new type of sea star.  I was noticing these orange animals (picture below) that looked a little like crinoids and a little like brittle stars.  They weren't quite right for either one, so I did more research, and now I think they're brisingid sea stars (not sure which species).  Brisingids are unusual sea stars in that they're suspension-feeders, capturing food by creating a net with their arms.  You can learn more about brisingids here.

One more shot, featuring a beautiful bamboo coral (gorgonian octocoral) with extended polyps:

Thanks to the E/V Nautilus crew for sharing these amazing images!  To see more live discoveries yourself, tune in at www.nautiluslive.org.  You'll find it hard to pull yourself away from this incredible glimpse of life in the deep sea not far from Bodega Head.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

First steps

Juvenile Bat Star (Patiria miniata), only a few days after metamorphosis.

I first wrote about beautiful little sea stars like this a few years ago, so you can review photos of Bat Star larvae and newly-metamorphosed juveniles in the post called "A new star(t)" from 2 August 2013.

Eric raised some Bat Star larvae in the lab again for his summer class, but this time he also recorded a short video.  

It's fun to watch these tiny sea stars (~0.5 mm across) exploring and learning to walk with their new tube feet:

Monday, August 7, 2017

Far offshore and deep below

Mystery image #1:

And here's anothermystery image #2:

Ready for the answers?

The first image is a segment of the skeleton of a bamboo coral.  This piece is in the collection at the Bodega Marine Lab.  It was collected decades ago from ~500 fathoms off of Bodega Bay.  

The second is a single arm of a crinoid, also known as a feather star.

I'm sharing these images with the hope that it encourages you to tune in to live footage of ROV exploration at Bodega Canyon this week.  You can watch and listen to scientists documenting corals, crinoids, brittle stars, sea spiders, sponges, octopus, and other unusual deep-sea marine life thousands of feet below the surface.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about a variety of animals that most people never get to see!

In 2008, during a clean-up of abandoned fishing gear near Cordell Bank, a few animals were brought back to the marine lab.

I took a few quick photos of the beautiful crinoids clinging to the old, tangled ropes.  Crinoids are a class of echinoderms (related to sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers).  There are about 600 species of crinoids in the world.  Some crinoid species hold on to the substrate with finger-like cirri (see the cluster of short appendages near the center of the image below).

Most crinoids are known for their long feather-like arms.  The side branches of the arms are called pinnules.  Crinoids are suspension-feeders.  They hold their arms upward (like an upside-down umbrella) and capture food particles drifting down from above.  

A long groove runs along the center of the each arm and is lined with clusters of tube feet and modified ossicles (calcified plates) called lappets.  The tube feet and the lappets are involved in directing food particles to the central groove which then transports the particles down to the mouth at the center of the arms.

Since we took these pictures almost 10 years ago, Eric didn't have a great video camera yet.  But he did capture close-ups of the crinoid tube feet as well as the lappets flipping up and down along the food groove (we think they look like little pinball flippers!).  The footage is grainy, but I think you'll be able to appreciate this fascinating feeding behavior.  Then when you see crinoids in the live video from Bodega Canyon, you'll be able to think about how feather stars feed!

Here's Eric's short video clip:

I'll end with an old illustration of a feather star holding on to a tube worm, and a reminder to check out the live deep-sea footage from Bodega Canyon!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Blueberry jelly

Stephanie sent some gorgeous pictures from Dillon Beach today, and she kindly allowed me to share them with you.

This is a Purple-striped Jelly (Chrysaora purpurata).  It's a more southern species and is rare north of San Francisco.  I'm not sure if they've been documented at Dillon Beach before? 

Here's another view:

Stephanie spotted this jelly in an isolated pool on Sand Point (at the southern end of Dillon Beach).  She captured a beautiful photo of the setting this morning:

You might recall that I posted about this species a few years agosee "Southern drifter?" from 27 July 2014.

For additional information about this handsome jellyfish, visit The Jellies Zone page

P.S.  Many thanks to Stephanie for sharing these wonderful images! 

P.P.S.  If you see a Purple-striped Jelly, take a photo and send me a message.  I'd love to hear about any additional observations.

P.P.P.S.  One name for the August full moon (according to the Ojibwe) is the Blueberry Moon.  Since the moon is full on August 7th, this seemed like good timing to honor both the jelly — with its dark purple stripes — and the full moon.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Monsoonal moisture

At this time of year, rain is rare in Bodega Bay, but the forecast called for a chance of showers.  When I drove into work this morning, there was a nice view of raindrops at the north end of Bodega Harbor:

The surface of the harbor was fairly calm, so it was intriguing to see the detailed patterns of interacting ripples.  [Click on the images for larger versions.]

NWS marine forecast descriptions can be relatively "dry," but today's forecast included some nice phrasing:
"Echoes of precipitation can still be observed over the coastal waters. Expecting chances [of] showers and isolated thunderstorms to last into this evening as monsoonal moisture continues to pass over the region."

I especially liked "echoes of precipitation" and "monsoonal moisture."

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Sometimes subtle is nice.

High clouds at sunrise, 3 August 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Gliding by

Light winds, warm air temperatures = an influx of migrant dragonflies on Bodega Head!

Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea)

Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)

P.S.  For more pictures of Spot-winged Gliders, review the posts called "Spot on" from 27 July 2012 and  "Clinging to the wall" on 11 July 2013.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fog glow

Fog lit up by the rising sun, off of Bodega Head, 1 August 2017