Sunday Sky

garden and clouds

Sorry for the late post… it’s been a busy weekend! I spent the first part of today in my mother-in-law’s impressively lush garden. We had a bit of rain, then some sun and the most amazing puffy white clouds that filled the sky in a way that couldn’t help but make a person smile. (I found a bevy of interesting things in her yard and hope to be sharing a few of those discoveries soon!)

clouds sky

Did anything make you grin from ear-to-ear this weekend?

Harsi / May 15, 2011 / flowers, skies / 0 Comments

Allograpta obliqua

Have you ever thought of the words “fly” and “beautiful” in the same sentence? No?!

Well, let me introduce you to Allograpta obliqua

allograpta obliqua on pyracanthaNectaring on Pyracantha (Pyracantha angustifolia) flowers.
allograpta obliqua on brassicaNectaring on Mustard (Brassica sp.) flowers.
Allograpta obliqua can be found throughout much of North America and is a member of the family Syrphidae, collectively known as Flower Flies or Hover Flies. These names are very fitting as this fly visits a wide variety of flowers to collect nectar and is also an expert flyer with the ability to hover in one place, move sideways or backwards in flight. In addition to the fact that it is a joy to watch and is completely harmless to humans, this is a great fly to have around one’s garden. By visiting flowers it assists in pollination and it also lays its eggs on plants with aphid colonies, which are decimated by the fly’s predacious developing larvae.


allograpta obliqua maleThis is a male. See how its eyes come together and touch at the top of its head?
The females (as shown in the first and second photo) have eyes which are separated at the top.

allograpta obliqua feeding on mustardHere you can see the long mouthparts that the fly uses to effectively “lap up” the nectar and pollen.

allograpta obliqua on eriogonumNectaring on Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.) flowers.

allograpta obliqua faceA face only a mother could love? *grin*
Well, I find them quite charming and they are a pleasure to photograph.

Check-out your garden or wildflowers along the trail for these endearing flies — they should be flying now!

Harsi / May 13, 2011 / arthropods, flowers / 7 Comments

Be Here Now

I’ve been struggling to finish up the next installment of my retrospective on our trip to Washington last month. (Not struggling because it is unenjoyable, but because I can’t seem to decide which images to share… I’m terrible like that when it comes to making up my mind.) Meanwhile, ever since we returned home, the lure to be outside for large portions of the day grows stronger and stronger. Spring is in full swing and the sight of deer peeking out of tall grasses and the sounds of birds singing their best courtship arias are hard things to resist. (Not to mention the bevy of awesome insects that have arrived and promise a new discovery nearly every day!!) I promised myself that I wouldn’t share any of my recent pics until I’d finished with the tales of our trip — BUT WHO AM I KIDDING??? Some things just need to be shared… especially with friends. I hope you enjoy and be sure to click on the images for embiggened viewing!


Coast Range NewtThe Coast Range Newts (Taricha torosa torosa) are one of my favorite annual phenomena. Though they live in the area year-round, they are only easily observable at the end of Winter and through Spring when they leave their moist terrestrial hide-outs to congregate in the seasonal creek and breed. As they are extremely toxic, the adults have very few known predators, but states: “Southern California populations have suffered population declines due to habitat loss and alteration caused by human activity, and from introduced predatory mosquitofish, crayfish, and bullfrogs, which eat the non-poisonous larvae and eggs. Breeding ponds have been destroyed for development, and stream pools used for breeding have been destroyed by sedimentation caused by wildfires.”
This has been a banner year for them thus far and their numbers seem very healthy… which makes me very happy!

StorksbillStorksbill (Erodium), also known as filaree or heron’s bill, is a non-native that grows rather prolifically here in the canyon.
Its small flowers aren’t very showy, but as with anything in nature, a closer look reveals all kinds of intricate beauty.

Organic cloudsI never tire of looking at (and photographing) clouds. The sky on this day was doing some crazy things and I was fascinated by the organic shapes being created…
Does anyone else see a face on the right?

juvenile curled-up rattlesnakeYup! It’s gotten warm enough for the rattlesnakes to be out basking again. This curled-up juvenile Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) was about the diameter of an English muffin when I spotted it behind my house last week.
A few days earlier, I saw a curled-up full-grown adult — closer to a medium-sized pizza in that case. *grin*

deer silhouetteThe Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) population this year seems to have grown. I have no good way of knowing exactly how many might live in this canyon, but I do keep track of how many I’ve seen together at the same time. Last month, I trumped my high count (by several!) when I saw a group of nineteen foraging together.
I really, really, really, want to know what this deer is saying… any guesses? *big grin*

mating ladybeetlesAs I mentioned, this is definitely a fantastic time of year to be out if you enjoy studying arthropods! The native Convergent Ladybeetles (Hippodamia convergens) were some of the first insects to start gathering in the lush grasses and new vegetation. [Whoops! I initially mistyped that these were a non-native species.]
As you can see, they are well on their way to creating the next generation.

pink skyEarlier this week, I stood watching the sky long after the sun had set. At first it was all dark blues and purples, but then something shifted and I looked up and saw this…
Can the sky really be that color, I thought? Yes, yes it can…

blurry birdOK, yes, I know this is a picture of a blurry bird… but, I have a fondness for such things and I especially like this one.
*** Super extra-credit bonus points to the first person who can tell me which bird species this is! ***

For those of you for whom Spring has arrived, may you have the time to appreciate all the wonders it has to offer. And for those who are still patiently awaiting an end to cold and wet weather, may the anticipation make its arrival all the sweeter.

Harsi / April 2, 2011 / amphibians, arthropods, birds, flowers, mammals, plants, reptiles, skies / 6 Comments

A Love Poem

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)


nature loves you

~ just as you are and how you is ~

nature makes space for you

when the world feels narrow and tight

nature embraces you

with strong and timeless arms

nature inspires the heart

your spirit unfurls like a leaf

nature loves you

~ just as you are and how you is ~


[Valentine’s Day hearts are compliments of the pretty little non-native, Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). This photo is from a few years ago… I’m eagerly watching for them to bloom any day now!]

Harsi / February 14, 2011 / flowers, plants, poetry / 2 Comments

What Will I Become? (Part I)

This is the time of year when green stuff is pushing up out of the ground all over the hillsides in southern California. Up until several years ago, I was really only familiar with the local wildflowers once they had bloomed. Before that show of beauty and color arrived, they mostly seemed to blend in with the grasses and other small plants. But as my interest in the native flora has developed, I can now recognize even the very first young leaves. I like to take note of where the small clusters are growing and then visit them on my daily walks. Occasionally, I talk to them and compliment them on their progress. *grin*


So, I thought it might be fun to share a few images of just leaves… with a BONUS surprise! If you click on the plant image, you will see a photo of the flower it will eventually produce. For those of you who want to try guessing what the plants are, I’ve put all the photo captions at the bottom so I won’t spoil it for you. Enjoy!





Plant 1: Lupine (Lupinus). Identifying this one to genus would be pretty simple for anyone at all familiar with the group — the characteristic and endearing leaf shape is a dead giveaway. But, there are so many kinds (100+ !!!) in California, many of which look very similar, that I wouldn’t even want to venture a guess as to species.

Plant 2: California Poppy (Eschscholzia). Again, there are several species of poppy that are possible in this area, but I believe this is likely Eschscholzia californica. (I adore the subtle pink edges on these frilly leaves!)

Plant 3: Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium). I’m almost 100 percent certain this is Sisyrinchium bellum — someone please correct me if I got that wrong! Unlike the previous two, this plant’s leaves are not very showy, yet the beautiful little flowers it eventually produces are perhaps my favorite.

Harsi / February 9, 2011 / flowers, plants / 3 Comments