Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Irruption of Tortoise Shell Butterflies
Hastings, and much of Carmel Valley seems awash today in butterflies. Here is an album of photos taken near the Hastings offices. We don't think they are flying in, but are emerging locally from larvae. The caterpillars feed on native shrubs (Ceanothus) and the adults nectar on a wide variety of flowers. The golden orange of the Tortoise shell butterfly (Nymphalis californica) is flashing all over Hastings today. At every bit of moisture (droppings on road, watered lawn areas, etc.) you can find them. Here is a link to a great source on butterflies and moths in North America. Dr. Jerry Powell, author of the Insects of California, reports that the tortoise shell butterfly outbreaks are going on now in Marin Co., with massive defoliation of Ceanothus locally, with most in pupal stage now. Typically they all disperse following such mass emergences. So, this is another one of those ephemeral events in nature. On June 10, 9:00 am at our gate on Carmel Valley Road, Dr. Powell will be leading the 10th annual Hastings Butterfly count and the public are welcome. Call the Hastings office, or see the archived posts on this site for more details.
Adams Middle School Visits Hastings
As a part of the UC Berkeley GK-12 program, the Adams Middle School spent a 3 day weekend at Hastings (April 20-22). Although I read about how old-timers recall with great fondness how as children they played in the Carmel River, you still can. They stopped by the Carmel River to wade and learn about aquatic insects. Then two days in the drier landscape here. For a photo gallery, provided by Lobsang Wangdu of the UC NRS, click here. For more information on the GK-12 program, click here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Announcement: 4th annual CHCF Picnic Saturday June 23rd at Toro County Park.
Folks at Fort Ord and CSUMB and others interested in natural history have organized into a group:
The mission of the Chuck Haugen Conservation Fund is to appreciate and inspire volunteers and professionals who participate in the conservation of th Monterey Bay area's ecosystems. Check out their website for more details on the picnic.
Sometimes you just see things that have no obvious explanation. Yesterday, along Finch Creek at the Hallisey House, I walked up on an alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) and a gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) on the gravel. They were facing opposite directions, and as I walked up, neither moved. The only movement was a constant twitching of the lizard's tail at the tip. Although it is hard to tell, I think they were looking at each other. I walked around them taking photos and they ignored my activity. They remained in this position for 20 minutes. I had to leave the scene for a minute, and when I got back, both were gone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

10th Annual Butterfly Count Sunday June 10- All Day
It is that time of year again. Time to see what butterflies are still out in those dry forests and grasslands. Dr. Powell has been counting butterflies at the Big Creek Reserve for 19 years, and this is our 10th year. We are pleased to invite anyone interested in accompanying the group to meet at mile marker 26, Carmel Valley Road at about 9:00am. Bring a butterfly book, binoculars that focus in close, a day pack, water, lunch, hat, wear sturdy walking shoes and expect to walk a couple of miles along the trails and roads of Hastings. This is a great opportunity to be in the field with some of California's best butterfly experts. You can learn about the local butterflies the best way possible; seeing them in the hands of experts and on the wing in their natural habitat.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oregon State- Grassland Crew Here
From the left, we have Travis Lewis, a recent Oregon State graduate, then Angela Brandt, a doctoral student at Oregon State and Emily Orling. Emily and Travis are field botanists who are sampling the grasslands plots that were established about 3 years ago in a long-term study by Eric Seabloom and Elizabeth Borer (OSU faculty). At least part of the study is designed to look at how the annual grasses and native grass community interact. Angela has taken on a repeat study of Keith White's 1960's comparison of grazed (outside Hastings fences on adjacent ranches) and ungrazed (inside Hastings) grasslands. Repeating it 40 years later, we are finding some interesting changes; the grasslands are still in flux with new (exotic, or non-native) arrivals and various abundances of established (mostly exotic) grasses and herbs. Angela is in the 3rd year of what will be a 6-year study of these fenceline grasslands; maybe more important than grazing is whether it is a dry winter, or wet spring, etc. California's climate is so variable we need to compare at the 5 sequential years of grassland study in the 1960s to the 6 most recent years. They will be kneeling in the grasslands, looking at the species, until late May. Angela and the crew are in the Hastings Cabin.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Heat Returns: Call it a Rain Year?
We saw the air temperature reach the 90s on many thermometers out here today. So, it is time to think about summing up the rain year. Here are the data (chart, above). We had a dry year. So far, we have only had about 10.8"; but who knows- it may rain in May. This is about half of the long-term average. More rain seems unlikely. The grasses on the hillside have turned brown everywhere but at Hastings (Arroyo Seco long ago; lower Carmel Valley a week ago). We have almost finished mowing around all the buildings and it sure looks like the grasses are done and brown. So, we will call it a rain year. Madrone Creek never flowed this year, and Finch Creek only flowed out of the culverts at the Hallisey House crossing for a few hours all winter. We settle into the hot, hazy days of summer with the west breezes in the afternoons and the sun hot on our heads at breakfast.