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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
May 20, 2015
Salish Sea, PNW

Yesterday we paddled around our nearby bay. It's been really really quiet lately now the ducks have migrated to summer breeding grounds and even the gulls are mostly on offshore islands nesting. It was too foggy to go far out but it was a low tide and quite calm, a pleasant day. We were heading back to shore, Mr O had beached his kayak and gotten out and I was about to ground when a seal swept under my kayak, popping up to look straight at me. Only one seal I know has ever done that, and I snapped a quick photo before it dived, hoping I'd be able to identify this individual by its fur pattern markings. It was! -- the same one I first came to know a year and a half ago. :)

FS 1

Sightings of what I came to call the Friendly Seal have been few since last year, after frequent and utterly delightful encounters. I've bucketed about Friendly Seal several times, October 13, 2013, February 16, 2014 and June 20, 2014. You can catch up on the story there, and find out why I know this is the same individual.

A few moments from the story, including episodes in between the previous buckets.

First encounter, sliding under the kayak, bumping it, playing tag, and following Mr O back to the beach. October 2013.

FS  2

FS  3

(All photos by me. In Lightbox...click to enlarge)

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Thu May 21, 2015 at 07:00 AM PDT

The Daily Bucket - Fiddling Around

by Milly Watt

At the beginning of May, Mr. Watt and I went up to the Sol Duc valley in the Olympic National Park.  Among other things, the ferns along the trail to Sol Duc Falls were just coming up.  So, I fiddled around taking photos of fiddleheads (say that 5 times fast).

Fiddleheads that first caught my eye
Sword fern fiddleheads
Sword fern fiddleheads
The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Follow me below the unfurling orange fiddleheads for more.
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What is a weed? According to my friend, Merriam Webster, it is "a (1) :  a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants."

The above photo is a small section of what was, up until this past spring, the vegetable garden. I've retired this well-used piece of ground, and it is now covered in weeds and old veggies gone to seed. The patch looks a little like a wildflower meadow and is busy with bees and other insects and a hummingbird or two.

Don't get tangled in the twisting, orange vine as you follow me down the garden path for more.

The Backyard Science group regularly publishes The Daily Bucket, which features observations of the world around us. Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds, flowers, anything natural or unusual, and PHOTOS are worthy additions to the Bucket and its comments. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
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A few days ago, I happened upon a Green Heron hunting for his lunch. Green Herons are much more shy than other herons and egrets, so when he saw me watching him he froze completely still for a good ten minutes, until finally deciding I wasn't a threat and going about his birdie business:

The Daily Bucket is a regular series from the Backyard Science group. Here we talk about Mother Nature in all her glory, especially the parts that live nearby. So let us know (as close as you are comfortable) where you are and what's going on around you. What's the weather like? Seen any interesting plants, bugs or critters? Are there birds at your feeders? Deer, foxes or peahens in your yard? Seen any cool rocks or geological features? Post your observations and notes here. And photos. We like lots of photos.  :)  
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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
April/May 2015
Pacific Northwest

Whatever you want to call them, the spring mating rituals of animals are varied, and pretty serious, whether the commitment is long-term or short. Here are some pairs I've seen in nature this spring.

Gulls are very noisy and expressive. You'll know if a pair is refreshing their bond (gulls have long-term monogamous relationships). Lots of eye contact, conversation and mirroring activity. They also present small bits of seaweed debris to each other. Here's one pair of Glaucous-winged gulls on the dock. If all goes well this pair will prepare a nest, incubate eggs and raise their chicks to fledging.

gull 1

gull 2

gull 3

In comparison, the mating of the Rough-skinned Newts is a quiet affair (at this stage anyway). In a shallow fresh-water pond what at first I thought was one individual was actually two when I looked at my photos. A male is clutching a female in amplexus, a still way of getting-to-know-each-other. They were doing this for at least an hour. Eventually if the female is agreeable, she will signal him, and he will dismount, presenting her with a clump of sperm. She maneuvers it to her genital opening and stores the sperm inside her body. In a few days she will start laying eggs, fertilizing them first, attaching the eggs to an underwater branch, or wrapping them in a leaf. All this is underwater.

newt 1

newt 2

(All photos by me. In Lightbox...click to enlarge)

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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you. Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.

US & Canada

Continued below the orange worm tracks

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Sat May 16, 2015 at 10:11 AM PDT

Eugenie Clark - 1922-2015

by Desert Scientist

Reposted from Desert Scientist by Desert Scientist

I am taking the liberty of writing a diary on a female scientist whom I never met and who died in the 21st Century (in fact this very year.)  This is in large part because of her 1951 book "Lady With a Spear." which I read several times over when I was a teenager and which, if I had not lived in the Sonoran Desert, would probably have turned me into a marine biologist.  In fact I had never even seen the sea and did not until a friend drove me to San Felipe, Baja California, which (after being lost on the Colorado River delta for hours) we reached just at sundown, giving me only a few minutes to turn rocks and marvel over the porcelain crabs and other sea life that I found.

Clark was born in New York City of a Japanese mother and an American father, the latter dying before she was two.  Involved deeply in the Japanese community of New York City, Clark and her family avoided the internment of Japanese-Americans on the West coast during World War II. Instead, she became interested in fish, in large part encouraged by her mother, and eventually got her B.A. in zoology at Hunter in 1942, followed by a M.A. and Ph.D. at New York University. Her dissertation work was finished after the war, under the direction of Carl Hubbs of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, graduating in 1950.  

She published not only "Lady with a Spear," but another book titled "The Lady and the Sharks" (1968) and was founding director of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, now known as the Mote Marine Laboratory, in Sarasota, Florida. She was given many awards during her lifetime, including 3 honorary D.Sc. degrees.  For much of her professional life she was a professor, research scientist or emerita at the University of Maryland at College Park. She had several species of fish named after her and finally died in Sarasota at the age of 92!  She was only "bitten" once by a shark- the jaws of a very dead tiger shark nailed her at an abrupt traffic stop!

Clark lived a long and productive life, studying all aspects of fish behavior and physiology, especially of sharks.  She was one of the marine biologists, along with William Beebe, Rachel Carson, Sylvia Alice Earle, Archie Carr, Carl Safina, and others, who have described the remarkable and mind-bogglingly huge ecosystems in the sea and have made us aware of their complexity and fragility.

Clark told her story in a manner that infected me with a love of something that as of my reading I had never seen. My one rather tenuous connection, other than reading her books and once visiting the Scripps Institute during a meeting at San Diego, was the fact that my wife met Carl Hubbs when she was a little kid, and may have met Clark as well. Of course she had no interest in the meeting of the "Ichts and Herps" society with which her mother and father were involved.

Though I never met Clark, her story of growing up fascinated with fish touched me and I thought for a little while I might change my major interest in insects and spiders and study fish.  I kept a small aquarium and poured over books on tropical freshwater and saltwater fish.  However my family was poor and I, at the time, had no chance of even going to college, something that altered in a manner that I have described in another diary.

The main point I want to make is that Eugenie Clark was an anomaly at the time. Only a few women went to the meetings of the Ichthyologists and Herpetologists society - Doris Cochran being one exception perhaps (I've written about her in another diary), as well as my mother-in-law - and Eugenie thus stuck out in a nearly all male crowd. That she successfully navigated those waters speaks highly of her abilities, both as a scientist and as an person of strength.

Reference:

Eugenie Clark, Ph.D. (1922-2015) http://msa.maryland.gov/...

Eugenie Clark, The Shark Lady. http://www.sharksider.com/...

"Shark Lady" Eugenie Clark, famed marine biologist, has died. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/...

Eugenie Clark http://en.wikipedia.org/...

 

Discuss

The larger of the two butterflyweed clusters in my yard is now in full bloom. As I have lamented before, the showy plant rarely attracts butterflies here. Bees love it, though.

According to the USDA, butterflyweed can be found across a vast range including most of the lower 48 states, as well as eastern Canada. Only Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota are listed as being outside the native range.

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you. Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
Butterflyweed, or butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), is a favorite of many gardeners, although it can be difficult to establish. I have been able to "cheat" by digging up plants on private land that were likely to be wiped out by activities such as road-building prior to logging. Some plants appeared to thrive a couple years, only to vanish. The plant featured in this Bucket has faithfully sprouted for about 8 years now.

A week ago, the buds were ready to burst. All images are lightbox; click for a better view.

butterflyweed about to bloom

Now the striking orange blooms are on display.

butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
May 11, 2015
San Juan county
maritime Pacific Northwest

This is a follow-up to Milly Watt's beautiful Olympic peninsula prairie wildflower bucket from yesterday. I hope folks are ok with yet more wildflowers! The reason I'm interested in the comparison between these two prairies directly across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from each other is the diversity of their vegetation, and what that says about the subtleties of biogeography.

What do we mean by "prairie", especially in the forested Pacific Northwest? With our wet cool climate, trees would invariably fill in any open grassy expanse like the one in the photo below (this is Iceberg Point, a protected 80-acre portion of the San Juan Islands National Monument established by President Obama in 2013). The reason it is an open meadow rather than forest is due to millennia of land management by local resident Coast Salish Indians. They kept gardens here - particular areas maintained by families - cultivating perennial food plants like Chocolate Lilies, known to some as Rice-root, and many other plants.

iceberg 5/11/15

"Land management" may understandably evoke images of logging, dams and monoculture. Local tribes - with practices such as controlled burning, plant cultivation, and clam gardens - were not as destructive, lacking modern technology and energy, but they were highly motivated to increase food supply to support populations considerably larger than conventional wisdom assumed until recently. For example, before European explorers made contact, the three permanent villages on Lopez Island numbered about as many people as the current resident population today. The village nearest Iceberg Point was just a couple of miles away by canoe, easily farmed through the year. Maritime Pacific Northwest Indians managed prairies in many locations besides the Salish Sea area, including the Olympic Peninsula and lower Puget Sound.

In the larger historical context, prairies are what people knew for the first several thousand years after coming to the Northwest. Archeological evidence shows both that the area was settled by people some 11,000 years ago and that the climate was warmer and dryer then. Forests only began to take over about 5000 years ago when the climate became cooler and wetter. Inhabitants chose to maintain prairies, knowing the wealth of food they provided.

Today, most of the ancient prairies are either urban, forested or developed for modern agriculture. A few remnants remain, and while invasive plants have moved in, the range of native vegetation is an indication of the special nature of each prairie. Milly Watt and I are comparing our nearby prairies, and I hope you are as intrigued as we are about them!

By luck, I caught the end of the peak Chocolate Lily season this year :) What with one thing and the other, I've never been out on the rocky ocean-facing meadow where this rare delicate wildflower grows happily at exactly the right time of year, or if I did, I didn't notice them. What a treat to see them in their modest beautiful glory.

We were an hour into our walk before noticing the Chocolate Lilies. See them?

field of buttercups and choc lily

The mottled bells of Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria affinis) are camouflaged amongst the grasses and easily overlooked amidst the California Buttercups. Their bright yellow is hidden inside their velvety brown speckled tepals.

chocolate lily choc lily Fritillaria affinis
inside choc lily
Before and after their short blooming season they are invisible underground, and even now it would easy to accidentally crush the short plants. Be careful where you walk, and preferably stay on the path. Come along with me to see the Chocolate Lilies and some other blooming wildflowers at this site.

(All photos by me. In Lightbox...click to enlarge)

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At the end of March, I reported on my discovery of a local preserved patch of PNW prairie.  I returned a month later on April 29th and there were some big changes. What I was hoping to see was a field of Camas such as the native peoples would nurture and harvest instead of the isolated specimens I found last time.  I was not disappointed!

Camas at Kah Tai Prairie

Field of Common camas (Camassia quamash) with interspersed Desert Parsley

 
The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Let's see what else was blooming in the prairie.
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Gooseville, WI

IMG_2568

Male Tree Swallows Tachycineta bicolor in a territorial dispute over a prime nestbox.


The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place for the community to note any observations they have made of the natural world around them. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of the outdoors that are quietly unfolding around us.
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Photos from a recent walk at Sawgrass Lake Park in St Pete FL:

The Daily Bucket is a regular series from the Backyard Science group. Here we talk about Mother Nature in all her glory, especially the parts that live nearby. So let us know (as close as you are comfortable) where you are and what's going on around you. What's the weather like? Seen any interesting plants, bugs or critters? Are there birds at your feeders? Deer, foxes or peahens in your yard? Seen any cool rocks or geological features? Post your observations and notes here. And photos. We like lots of photos.  :)  
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