Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oak Tree Down at Bunk House Cottage
This morning about 9:30am, Caitlin in the Hastings Lab and Anna in the Davis Lab heard a crack, and crunch. Looking out, we all saw a large coast live oak adjacent to the Bunk House had fallen. It fell away from the house, and across the creek, narrowly missing the propane tank. This tree is huge; about 4' in diameter at the base. Anyway, we will have to clear it out. It covers much of the office parking lot. It will mean a lot more sun to the Bunk House and an open view now across the headquarters area.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Finch Creek Ripping
Our soil was near saturation last week, and although it had a few days of drying, the rains this weekend pushed us over the limit. This is a good example of how things in the environment can "tip". It takes quite a while and many storms to saturate the soil. But once it is full, any subsequent rain just flows off the surfaces and down the hills. March is typically when we get this saturation with floods, mudslides, etc. Saturation happened this weekend. Finch Creek jumped to over 200 cubic feet per second; twice what it was at any time last year. As always, it is prone to sudden ups and downs ("flash") and it is down again Monday afternoon to only 36 cfs.......

Monday, March 07, 2011

Newts Heading for Hills
For the past two weeks, we have seen hundreds of newts heading away from the creeks to the hills. Along Finch Creek, they are all headed south across the Carmel Valley Road. Along Big Creek, they are all headed east up School Hill. I experimented with releasing the newts in various orientations. If I faced them to the hill, the took off. If I picked them up and faced them to the creek, or up or down the road, they twisted around and almost before I could get the camera focused and ready, they were headed for the hill again. They only like to move in low light; so the close up shows the rear leg as a blur- at a 15th of a second exposure. Anyway, they keep on chugging along- an inch a second? Persistent little guys. I suppose this means winter rains are over.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Anna Brownson Starting Graduate School

Anna Brownson has been working as a research assistant on the social behavior of acorn woodpeckers here with Walt Koenig of Cornell. Anna has been doing field work at Hastings for the past year (and more). Anna will be joining the lab of Dr. Andrew Zink at San Francisco State University. Anna will study mate guarding in acorn woodpeckers for a master's thesis. Anna will collaborate with Walter Koenig, Eric Walters (post-doc here with Walter), and Dr. Joey Haydock (faculty, Gonzaga University). Anna will be gathering data for her thesis this spring here at Hastings. Dr. Zink has a lot of experience studying reproductive skew in cooperatively breeding insects, which is what prompted Anna to contact him since she will be looking at reproductive skew in acorn woodpeckers. Skew means an unequal distribution of something. For instance, if one (dominant) male in a social group consistently was the father of most offspring, reproduction in that social group is "skewed". Dr. Zink also models reproductive skew, and is currently doing research on earwigs.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rain Years: Another Average Year in the Making?

Here is a plot of the recent weather. Either click the image above, or the plot can be seen elsewhere (click here) . For three sequential years before the 2009-2010 rain year, we had relatively dry years. Our 2009-2010 year appeared to be pretty wet, but it was only a return to the average total rainfall July-June. This year is so far right at average, after a very warm and dry January.