Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Juvenile Western Fence Lizard

In early August, I noticed this little fellow darting around the rocks.

I didn't recognize it at first, but the marking and toes looked rather familiar.  It turns out this is a juvenile Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), also known as the Blue-Belly.  We are in the heart of it's range, and the adults are a common summer sight here.  As an adult, this little one will be about 20 cm.

This species generally hatches in August, and this photo was taken in early August, so it is possible this one is only a week or so old.  However, as JK over at Camera Trapping Campus pointed out, many species (plants and animals) were running a bit early this year, so it is possible that it is a bit older.  Still a fairly young one though.

I've seen additional juveniles this week. They are a bit more stretched out now, and a lot faster.   But I'm optimistic at least one was a sighting of this one growing up.

Thank you JK with the help on ID

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playful Pups

My son really wanted to go fishing for his sixth birthday.  I hadn't actually done this myself, so we spent some time on Google, and headed up to our local lake (Alpine Lake for the locals), to enthusiastically pretend I knew how to fish.  When we got there, we were overjoyed to instead be greeted by a family of river otters (Lontra canadensis).
Which is my better side?  This one? 
Or maybe this one?
The entire family didn't greet us at once.  The first glimpse we got was auditory, a happy crunching sound as an adult made short work of crayfish.  We'd see a sleek brown head pop up near some reeds, and then animated noshing.  The otter would then dive back down, it's body curling up out of the water as it went, and a few minutes later it would pop up with another crustacean.


Crunch crunch

We had pulled the hooks off the lines, as we didn't want to catch an otter, and were watching the otter's antics for awhile, while flame skimmer dragonflies cruised by.  After awhile, the otter disappeared, and from a patch of reeds we heard a "unh unh unh" call, and were thrilled when that one otter became four.  I couldn't tell it was four until we looked at the photos later.  In the moment it was just one big wiggling, squiggling tumble of squeaks and splashes.

Looking at the pics, you can see that some of the otters are slightly smaller.  We think these are pups from this year (likely born around February).

We watched from a distance until the family made it's way down a creek.

After a few more practice casts, and jumps in the water after minnows, the kid was happy and ready to head home.  We submitted our Otter Spotter Report, and called it a day.

References and Additional Information
River Otter Species Info: http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=142
River Otter Ecology Project: http://riverotterecology.org
Crayfish Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crayfish
Fun article on Non-Scientific Names of Crayfish - http://www.sil.si.edu/smithsoniancontributions/anthropology/pdf_lo/scta-0038.pdf
David Herlocker on local dragonflies - http://blog.marincountyparks.org/the-dragonflies-are-coming/

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tired Turkey

This is just something cute to share.  Our local mother wild turkey brought her new brood by the backyard today.  The terrain is hilly with lot's of obstacles, like steps and vegetation.  This little one got tired of navigating the grass, and took a 30 second power nap in the sun on the way past. 

We can hear the brood making it's way around, constantly peeping at varies distances behind mom.  They are learning the ropes.  Click here to see some of last years crew, and here for 2011 (where I also learned to respect mamma turkey!).  

Monday, April 8, 2013


I heard on the radio recently that the east coast is about to be blessed with an abundance of Cicada "by the shovelful".  One brood there is about to reach the point in it's 17-year life cycle where it gets to take wing, and apparently get eaten by everything.  Although I regretfully won't get to see that cornucopia, I was please to get to see our own variety coming to the surface last week.  Although not a shovelful, a very fascinating little critter even solo.

Cicada Nymph Skin

"Fresh" Cicada
Wings More Developed

While we didn't get to see it break out of it's nymph phase case, we saw it right after, as the wings took shape.  It was cruising up the moss to higher on the tree where it broke out.  NPR currently has a great timelapse photo series of one breaking out.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the exact species this is?

Additional Information

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