Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Waiting for Rain


Back up in the Mountains.... I am still counting bugs caught in 2005 just after the storms and then, months after them. I thought it would be a good idea to shoot some shots of the area before the rains come. So far it has been a very hot and dry summer and fall. Yesterday, on November 20, it was in the high nineties! That is crazy! We are supposed to get some cooling soon... I hope. The air is dry and so is the forest.


I was just able to get just a small section of the reservoir and the mountains surrounding them. Ran out of time and my battery died!

If you look at the side of the reservoir, you can see what appears to be sticks thrown up on the banks. Those 'sticks' are tall 15 foot+ trees that were ripped out from the 100 year storm in 2004/2005. Whole areas of the forest was pulled out from their roots and thrown into this body of rushing water that left scars on standing trees in some places 6 feet at the lowest, or acres of trees left standing like sticks with no limbs to call their own.....


What strikes me is that there is something that is invading these mountains.


Many areas next to roads and public access are patches... I would say, growing patches of dry dirt and weeds. Something is creeping up into the forest under the brush. Weeds. Look how they die and fall over. Like little pyres. Almost as if goats have walked to and fro but they haven't. It's just the way these weeds die. I wonder if they are doing other things to this forest besides exposing it to conflagrations? Could they be interfering with the forest's ability to take up important nutrients? Or just out competing the California natives for space?


Taking out the public access to the forest roads would be a loss for many people. I would miss my jaunts into the wild. I just wish that people didn't need to do some things in our National Heritage.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I have tried to raise these Midwestern tigers, Cicindela sexguttata, before. My friend went back to Cleveland, Ohio to visit family and brought back a few of these wonderful tigers that skittle near the lake's edge. I got so far with my first batch that I was sure that I would have adults by the spring of 2006. However, I was having some trouble catching insects for them and the pet store had trouble getting shipments of fruit flies, that I decided to put the larvae just outside in the warming sun with a banana ... to entice unsuspecting small critters.... Instead, I came back to find the larvae rookery scratched up and a happy Ms. Chicken. She ate my little charges!

So, back to the drawing board... My friend returned with more adults and they laid eggs and now.....

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

But, I still am having trouble getting fruit flies from the pet store. I noticed my bananas had a nice halo of flies.... One way to rid an area, a room perhaps, of flies is to pour out a bit of dark red wine into a glass. The flies go in, get happy, and don't get out... So, with a small plastic spoon in the midst of the larvae, I pour the smallest amount of Merlot. I put just enough wine so that it attracts the fruit and vinegar flies but does not kill them. They drink. They mate. They lay eggs. They get drunk and and and ..... get to close to the larvae.... Happy larvae.

Life is so cruel.

I took these pictures in the afternoon sun as it peeked through the window. I have to sneak up on these guys to see them otherwise they disappear down their burrow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Phidippus adumbratus

Phidippus adumbratus
Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Phidippus was sitting on the right rear fender of my car. He looked up and saw me. I love these spiders. He was busy at something, or concentrating on someone - or, perhaps trying to blend in the black of my car.... I reached down to touch his back leg and he gave me another look and turned a bit. I touched his back leg and he stood up higher to look at me, maybe to even look bigger then he was (about 2+ cm). His long mustache was very fetching. I have looked on the net for other color variations of this species of Salticidae, or jumping spider. I think this one was particularly beautiful and furry.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Tiger beetles and people have much to worry about with this American Administration. Tiger beetles because of the total disregard of life and people - especially in the US - the disrespect of human rights and the Great American Experiment. I did this image at this moment of great sorrow.

I wonder, when I vier towards the political, whether I should or not... It is my blog. In one of the striking comments in John Barry's Book, the Great Influenza, he talks about how people took such great loss for granted- accepted it or ignored it... and rarely wrote about their personal experiences. So, I feel that just for the few, I should reveal the depth of our loss as I see it.

At this time, many people are discussing their feelings and thoughts and political ideas on this great conveyance, the Internet. I hope that what is happening will not be relegated to plots and numbers and headlines. I hope that the voices of the world will he available to read and study. I can't imagine people being much different then we are at this moment in time... so, I suspect that the same ills will rise up to hurt and disfigure. But maybe, somewhere there will be minds willing to do better...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cloudless-sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Wonderful news! This Cloudless sulphur dropped in this evening at early dark, to sleep the night in my Night-blooming Jasmine
(Cestrum nocturnum).

These animals migrate from Mexico north up to Palos Verdes Peninsula. I have found them as far north as in Mugu Marsh in Ventura. Cloudless Sulphurs are desert butterflies and their larvae eat Cassia alata... They used to be more plentiful in Southern California perhaps, when people planted Crotalaria agatiflora in their back yards. . Certainly people have planted the good the bad and the ugly with their particular needs for ornamentals for their houses (that become invasive species) , or if they or they plant monocultures, or people just accidently walk them in

This shot was taken with a leaf filtering the bright flash from my camera....

Monday, August 21, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
How much do we value life?

Our lives? the lives of our children? the lives of our parents? the lives of our spouses? the lives of our friends? our neighbors? our countrymen? other life?

How do we rate life?

Which lives are more important? Which are less? Why do we think humans are more important then other animals and plants? Do we value those animals with fur over those with six legs? How do those with scales rate to those with feathers? Why do we have such a system of worth?

What would life really be like without other life forms?

Other life is important to me. I would never want to be in a position to choose which lives and which dies especially if it came to deciding whether my child or parent or friend .... or even a stranger.... were more important....

But somehow, we do. We do it everyday. Knowingly and unknowingly. We use chemicals to have large strawberries and kill birds and insects and reptiles and mammals and increase our own body burden of toxins...... And just for some big strawberries.... and maybe not even very delicious ones at that!

We do when we go to war. We decide which people have more worth then others. It's not magic. It's not some edict from heaven. It is one then another then another person declaring that 'those people over there must die.' And it is as simple as that.

It is hard to live with differences. People that think differently, People that look different. People that do things and eat things and say things that are different. It is hard to reconcile that we have the same body and behavioral plan yet we have these small differences that irk us.

How do we live with animals that don't have the same body plan? that cannot speak as we do? that cannot understand our shape and smell and movements and our life styles? But what makes us love and love other animals? and care for each other when not caring is so easy? not loving is so easy?

I felt somewhat silly when the Cicindela that I studied for ten months died, I cried. I cried over the death of an insect. But then, why not. Maybe it's just a simple decision to care.

My mother is loosing her cat. She found him 17 years ago wrapped in bamboo leaves with his sisters. My mother said his mother gave birth to her babies in the bamboo stand and left the kittens in the nest like a collection of easter eggs. The kittens were of various colors mixed with white. The mother was eaten by a coyote but my mother collected the kittens and she and her mother loved them.


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Two of the calico sisters were eaten as young adults by other coyotes, one sister lived to 14, but the boy, Torchy is almost 18 years old. His life represents moments in time. My mother's mother and father were alive. My children were little. I lived in Ohio. I was married. But this cat's life is more then place holders for our lives, more then our memories. What is it? What is this life worth?

My mother strokes and pets and gives her cat his medicine for his diabetes. She takes him out into the garden, his little body of sticks with a fluffy tail. He tries to walk but is tired and upset with himself and so lies on his side and cries and huffs and then lays silent in the grass.


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
My mother loves this animal. She carries him and talks to him. She sits brushing the flies away.

When I was about five years old - ready to run up into the hills to hunt for lizards and bugs, I heard someone crying. I didn't recognize who it was so I followed the sound. I peeked around the corner and watch my grandfather carefully placing our cat, Shadow, into his grave. I had never heard him cry before.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Asilidae are robber flies. Some species catch their prey in flight. Some catch prey on the ground. Just like spiders and some other arthropods, they use a neurotoxin, which they inject into the squirming catch to subdue it, and an enzyme to help digest the internal organs and some muscles (apparently, many muscles in the legs and other distant areas from the injection site are left behind).

This particular robber fly likes the top of a foldable cage that I have for my small tortoises. I have seen this one... or perhaps a few of its friends sitting one at a time in the same place (?), sitting waiting for something delicious to come by. The large red dragonflies (Anisoptera) that buzz the Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), have special tall reeds to alight on to either survey territory or to look out for food.

Here is another naturalist fro last year, with another robber of a different Genus.


Friday, July 07, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
I grew up listening to Mocking birds all night long in the summer.... sometimes winters, too. These birds are part of Southern California. When I lived in Ohio there weren't any. It was lonesome! There where Cardinals and Chickadees, and such, which I loved, but they didn't sing to me at night when I worked into the wee morning hours.

While working at Duke University, people said South Carolina had them. I hunted for them, but the one bird I did hear just did not have the same vocalizations as California birds.

Usually, in summer when it was hot, the crickets would whir in the evening and then slow to a chirp in the cooler morning hours. That was when the lonely male Mocking birds would call for a mate.

When I was a child I used to listen to them to fall asleep. I use to try to listen for the different birds they would imitate. Some Mocking birds would take their time going through their repertoire. Others would speed from one song to the next. I hear them now, mimicking pet parakeets and once .... I heard one calling like the Rails I hear in the summer mornings in the Salicornia of Mugu Lagoon.

When I was young and the world was about to blow up from this bad country or that bad leader, I used to think that if things DID go wrong and bombs blew much of our world away the Mocking bird would have fewer birds from which to learn songs. Maybe, the Mocking birds would have to try to remember songs from each other - I thought that they would very quickly forget and their songs would deteriorate into squeaks and bangs and whirrs that came from people.... or maybe they would just go silent.

Silent Spring had been printed and was quite famous when I thought of these things. I was too young to have read the book - well, reading wasn't on my plate until after HIgh School - but, the fear of loosing of birds and bugs and furry animals and plants were. Actually, after working with thousands of children, I find that that is something that little kids DO worry about besides the loss of their parents. WHo wants to grow up in a barren world of nothing but people.... UGH!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Grief! It has been too long! I have focused my energy to helping a friend get her work done for her thesis. It is now time for my stuff. I have a paper to finish, but it is getting there...

Fred, my old pal, loves to keep me company but I don't offer him any excitement up here in my small library nook.... but then again, he only has just so much energy for excitement. Do we, as mammals, have the energy when we get older but just can't get to it? Is it that our cells don't have the stuff to make the mitochondria to get us moving?

Sleep is good. My grandfather loved his dreams. He would wake from a dream laughing and then tried to explain the joke to my grandmother - who he had awakened from a sound sleep herself.... Somehow, the joke was not as funny in wake time. My grandmother would pat my grandfather and tell him to go get the punch-line again and re-tell it in the morning.... and then fall back to sleep.

Sleep. Cats are so good at it. Somehow even in Fred's advanced age, he can get into positions I wish I could. They drool when they sleep just like people.... Why, I am not surprised...

It has been exceptionally hot here. So, hot that Fred has had a hard time finding a good spot to sleep. He will find a spot, flop down, close his eyes - and you can tell by his ears that he is not happy... He will move to a new spot. There is a lot of agitation going on. Sometimes you can see it in the twitching back of a cat... they seem to be bothered by itchy things, too....

Mouse, his buddy, was so upset by the heat he thought perhaps the bathroom sink would be nice. He curled up there for a while - even tolerated the drip, and that was funny to watch - but he got the sink warm and so had to jump down and find yet another spot.... The endless search for a cool spot to lie down and sleep.

Sleep, Ernestine, my leopard tortoise, has a young male friend (also a leopard tortoise) courtesy of the Vet. His name is Jack. Jack has long legs and is shaped more like a football and is a very friendly guy. He loves Mouse the cat, but Mouse the cat does not trust a long-legged-variegated-mobile-rock heading like a beeline to him across the lawn..... EEEK!

Jack loves anything that is black and white or grey and white.... just like him. Ernestine stumps about eating grass and dropped fruit from the trees. then she takes naps.... under bushes where the soil is cool. And, jack goes to find her. He is young and doesn't know what to do with Ernestine. He understands she is something he should explore but he is confused. He tends to climb up the rocks and bushes around her. I will find him hung up dangling from branches just above her. I put him down next to her and in the afternoon I find them face to face or shoulder to shoulder tucked inside and asleep.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.

I have been wanting to write about my thoughts and findings on the connections between the simple molecules that form when organisms die to the molecules organisms make (while alive) to attract, distract, and manipulate each other... but today is Memorial Day. And I feel the need to add my voice to the roar that is building to this farce....

Memorial Day and Bush's War

How can anyone say that in defending the WAR we are defending our troops?

Our troops are living breathing human beings.

War is an act and it is not a living breathing life.

War is an action that we choose.

War does not breath air.

War does not feel.

War does not bleed and die.

War, however, is fed and supplied and it spreads.

War does not build houses or plant crops or cure diseases.

War does not change diapers or feed the poor.

War is what is in essence what is the worst that human beings do.

War is what is draped by those who promote and propagate it in ill fitting descriptions of necessity and patriotism and for our common good.

War not only kills those who fight but those who don't.

War is what scours the earth of human beings and of other life as well.

War does not stop when it ends.

War only stops when it never begins.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Chemosensory is essential for survival for life. Pheromones are chemicals that an organism releases externally to send information to another organism.... Some of these chemicals have been identified from animals such as moths and humans. Two interesting components to this story are about how animals find food plants and mates, and how plants hijack this trait for their own needs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
...So we find that the siphoned water from the pot that has mostly cattails causes lots of algae to grow and the pot with bulrushes mixed with the pot with no plants has little alga growth in comparison...

The mozzies loves the pot with the algal growth! Though the two pots have many mosquito larvae, the one with lots of algae has more that are ready to emerge! There are lots of places to hide or lots of food to eat?

But just look at the pattern of algae that floated to the bottom....

We know now that the water from the pots had lots of colloidal molecules or NOM or natural organic matter which, through electrostatic conditions, attracted to the metals that we spiked in the pots.... It kept the toxic metals suspended in the water column caused the change in the flagellate populations and may have killed the fish and dragonflies... . But look at the pattern of the algae on the bottom of the pot.... you are now looking at what the colloids looked like.... Last week they were floating in the water but now they are like curtains that have been cut from their curtain rods.... The colloids are like humic molecules with multiple spots which things (not so nice things) attach .... metals - PAHs - plasticizers, hormones.... This is the stuff that makes our water systems go bad. This is the stuff made of carbon molecules (dead things make these floating ghosts of carbon) which pick up the bad stuff we let flow down our roads into our rivers... and stream and oceans...

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Tigers tigers tigers

When did this tiger from Pit 91 of La Brea Tar Pits run? When the L.A. River ran through the Wilshire Miracle Mile passing by the Art Museum. This little ferocious beast fed upon flies, ants and such next to some other extrodinary animals which roamed the Los Angeles Basin.

It may have died before people came to the Americas. But, it ran in the muds of the L. A. River when mammoths and saber toothed tigers plunged into sticky tar and died. Camels and horses and condors and sloths... lions bigger then their African counter parts, died in the asphalt leaving their bones for us to marvel.

Chris Nagano determined this tiger thorax (amazing!!!) and one other tiger part in 1980.... Roy Snelling (hymenopterist) did the other two.... only four Cicindela parts at the museum for now .... just one C. oregona and two C. hemorrhagica and one unknown tiger.


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Well, all of my mosquitoes have died... in both containers. It was just a small look into the pesticide issue.

But, was it only the pesticide?

We put herbicide and Tylenol and anti-psychotic drugs and mercury and zinc and PAHs ... Then a scum and a slick formed and cyano-bacteria bloomed and fungus formed on the dead mats...

Because all of the fish and insects died in all of the pots, then, two weeks later, mosquitoes laid their eggs and larvae hatched. We really needed to take a look at tolerances and toxicity.... But, we did not have all the time and, oh, that awful stuff... money, to conduct yet another study.... We are still processing all of the other samples.... leaves and stems and roots and water and soil and algae and fish and dragonflies .....

So, ...to just to watch the development of the mosquitoes from the pots... I scooped out enough for two batches (one collected two days after the first).... I realized I did not have enough egg cases, but I would note development and time and conditions and the final result - no matter what happened.

I did not mix the water between the two containers and when evaporation lowed the levels, I re-filled to the original mark with drinking water. Each plastic covered (screened) container had one good egg mass. The first container had very little water about one and a half centimeters deep (cottage cheese container).... The second one had three centimeters of water (same type of container and lid).

Within the first day I had mozzies in the first container. Two days later, the mosquitoes in the second container emerged. Four days after that the second container with the most water, all larvae died.

Looking closer at the differences between the two containers, I noticed that there was a lot of fungal growth on the dragonfly tests (skin left over from emerging larvae) in the second container. The leaves left in the first did not have this fungal growth (both samples came from the same pot). The strands of fungus were long, dark, and almost black, and needle like.

The first container with the first group of mozzies, had clumps of green on the bottom - see the picture. The second container was murky but had either ciliates or flagellates swimming. The first container also had the same types of protozoa but the water was clear. .....Mozzies, for all of their bad rap, filter water of protozoa and algae, so this made sense... but what happened to the second container?

One would think the container with the most water (the second one) would be more successful! Both containers were exposed to some light so that algae could grow. The first container's second batch of mozzies (four times bigger then the first group before they died) fed on the bodies of their brothers and sisters and algae.... The larvae in the second patch only developed to the size of the first batch and then died....

My friend found a paper that described a similar study of a wetland habitat where after adding metals to the water, a bloom of flagellates occurred..... As I recall in marine systems,.... some ocean dinoflagellates can become toxic when stressed. Also, in the marine environment, diatom blooms occur near the outflows from city sewage and urban runoff. Diatoms when stressed (pH changes, exposure to lead and other toxic metals) and deprived of normal river runoff - iron (this is a limiting factor for life in the ocean phytoplankton) - release domoic acid which is neurotoxic to vertebrates. I don't know what kind of flagellates are in our experimental freshwater system, but one wonders....

It's really all about balance isn't it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

poisonous scum

Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Down splashes the water! streaking down the street! swiveling around tires and slipping around oily stains! Leaves collect in pitching masses. Flotillas of cigarette butts gurgle and boil with human spit-um and dog, bird, and unknown animal shit and vomit. Parts of decaying animals lurking in the dark street drains, swallow the incoming waters and mix it all up with the pesticides and herbicides skimmed from silly urban "gardens."

Sunlight kills many of the floating micro-organisms hacked up from diseased lungs and sickly bowels. But enough of the organisms attach to the coffee cups and plastic bags that cram the storm drains that rush to the sea.

This is just a picture of some water in a plastic pot that used to be clear.
It used to be free of horrors.
There used to be mosquito fish (which ate the mosquitoes) and damsel and dragon flies (which ate the fish and mosquito larva and adults).

Then we poured pesticides and other PAHs and plasticizers and mercury and lead and zinc and Tylenol and estrogen and drugs that prevent psychotic episodes in people - all the stuff that run down our streets into the sea and lakes and rivers and streams.

First the fish died. Then the dragon flies died. Then the algae and cyano-bacteria pulled up from the soil which covered floor of the pots. There were greasy globules of oily substances that kept things floating in suspension, There grew a skin of a sort that slowly rotated in the changing temperatures of the day. The water never settled out. Then the fungus grew. Bubbling thick masses of black and pink burped musty puffs of spores. You can smell the fungus for many meters from the pots.

Then one day, floating on the top were many mosquito eggs. The larvae hatched. They wiggled to the surface to sucked in their first gulp of fresh air.

They ate the algae and shed their skins of chitin and toxins.
Then another batch emerged.

The first batch died then the second ate the dead of the first. Little round heads of mosquito larvae bob at the bottom of the pots. With each new batch of mosquito larvae, the water cleared. With each new batch of mosquito larvae, they became more and more tolerant of the pesticides and other toxins that might kill them. Finally, the adults emerge from their pupas, ready to mate ... hauling out their shoulders from the slick surface. Masses of flies dancing in the pools of dwindling sunlight. ... and then the females, ready to take their first blood meal so they can lay the next generation of mosquito - able to tolerate the insecticides that killed its predecessors....

Friday, April 14, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Early in the morning, when only the mocking bird sings, is an odd time. In winter, crickets don't sing. It is too cold. I find this time unpleasant because it is so alone.... Just the mocking bird and I. One can ponder ephemeral life .... my own and others. How silly it is to think we live forever. How frightening to think that we could be stuck in a 'heaven' of our own design.... strumming a harp or using up virgins.... floating toward some light... both of which sound like hell ... long sleep isn't so bad.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Playa Vista

Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
So, while I was taking the photos of these panoramas of Ballona wetlands - in the man-made freshwater section (they use sprinklers to water the 'natural' wetland areas) - I was thinking of Global Warming.... I can almost see people purposefully crushing the life of the entire planet .... every time I watch a television show or listen to a radio program they are selling car after car after car .... I can watch images of melting mountains of ice at poles with each new line of vehicle ... the deep ocean currents changing directions as the trucks roll by tearing out trees and planting lawns ...

bluffs at Ballona

Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
The cold water sinks, and salt water is heavier and has a lower freezing point. Deep ocean water, is at or below freezing but is liquid from the its salinity and great pressure. The ocean waters are never still, they move and change latitudes and longitudes and pour around the contours of the sea floor and continental shelves. The surface temperatures are warmed at the equator. The winds and the currents pump the air and water like a heart from the pull of the moon, the temperature changes of the seasons, and by the changes of night and day. The deep earth vents, and the cold, melted freshwater from land further churn the oceans. Our over use of fossil fuels, the burning and destruction of forests, mountains of trash and manure, loss of green forested land for cement are all contributing to the change of CO2/N over O2....

There were a few other times when our planet went through such changes in a short period of time. The first great death happened when the first organisms to photosynthesize created so much oxygen it killed the methane breathers... Then there was another great death when atmospheric oxygen plummeted from 21% to less then 12 % in only 20 million years. Land vertebrates at sea level had the same amount of oxygen as if they were at present day 9,200 foot mountain ... The Late Permian Early Triassic saw 90 % of the ocean organisms die and 75 % of the land plants and animals die. What a horrible death it must have been for not only did the oxygen vanish, but CO2 increased and with it temperatures. The earth became a steamy hot box with not much to breath...



Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
In the end, after hours. days, years of work, you must publish. Then after that, you hope that what you have done will be of use to those who come after you to do similar or related work. The tedium of much of the everyday stuff is like any other job, but perhaps more like the tedium of art.

The initial idea of a painting is exciting. Then the sketches begin. So many of the sketches that you produce are not up to the ideas that you think you have done in the past... doubts creep in... but that is all part of the fight. With a blank canvas, hope is renewed but then so are the new worries. For most of the painting, you hate it. Love returns only near the end where you just can't get enough of the brush strokes, the colors, the shapes. Damn!


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
I have been submerged in two very engrossing projects ... one that is testing the efficiency of wetlands in taking up pollutants (pesticides, PAHs, metals, drugs) by isolating the two major wetland plants and the soils from a source in the man made wetlands of Sweetwater Reservoir... and the other is sampling the runoff water from the parts of the Los Angeles Basin which feeds the Ballona Wetlands. Both studies can finish with many useful concepts and discoveries. They are both very labor intensive, and even with the simplest tools for collection, filtration, oxygen, sampling, and other thoughtful considerations of protecting and stabilizing pollution constituents after capture, there is just not enough people, time or money.

Liters and liters of water must be collected in hopes to capture the tiniest amount of some chemicals. The water must be prepared for storage, and then carefully kept from light. Many times the tiniest amounts, perhaps in parts per million (even trillion), can have dire effects on those (people and other animals) who drink or swim in the water. Then to isolate and find those compounds which have been shown to produce adverse affects, the equipment for finding them must be calibrated (and sensitive) to those amounts. Then the number of times the water must be collected (or for any other scientific study... the number samples ) must be high enough to demonstrate a trend - in other words - to have significance.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
I can't explain how I feel about the weather. I should be very relieved about the rain. It is cold here in Pasadena - around 37 degrees F... and in Oklahoma it is 80 degrees F. But I worry about the possibility of too much water in a short time when the mountains' trees and shrubs have not had enough time to re-grow from past fires. The plants hold back the mud. The trees absorb the water. The native plants can handle the heat from the fire which the introduced weeds from urban development cannot .... so ..... what to do.

We had a hail storm this afternoon. Not as robust as a month ago where the stones were the size of marbles.

I have gone up to the mountain to take pictures of the hillsides to document the present conditions. If we continue to have lots of rain we may have mud slides. This could be very bad.

The mountains' geology and composition of sediments from ancient rivers (which created the San Gabriel Mountains) make a very porous and rocky (some rocks are quite huge) sludge when mixed with a great deal of water from rain and snow. Months after last years storms, waterfalls ran until late summer. The cold weather, this year, has brought the snow level to around 1300 feet above sea level in some parts. Last year's storms had in some parts of the mountains, 20 inches of rain! If something like that happens this season, even with all of the dredging of the bottom of the San Gabriel Dam by the County, we could have floods.

With so many housing developments at and near the mouth of the river the City of Azusa and others take chances with peoples' lives. Why do Cities allow development so close to the moth's of Rivers? .... so close to open oceans? .... so close to? ...... City Governments need to take more of an active role in the protection of their citizens.....

I learned just recently that the same area during World War II was a site of a nerve gas manufacturing site developed to deter the Nazis( "if you drop anything on us we will give you double" ).... A person who lived in the area during that time described the situation. His father was a policeman at that time and when an incident within the plant occurred, releasing nerve gas into the area, his father went back in to save his buddies.... the three of them survived.... The person who recounted the story said his father was a large man who carried one man over his shoulder and dragged the other by the scuff of his neck - shirt - to safety

What other things have happened at the mouth of the San Gabriel River?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
... so, two days ago I was writing about my spider study at Mugu when I thought I heard a parrot 'gacking' outside my window. In Pasadena parrots fly in flocks east and west a couple of times a day. Some times I find a few flocks in trees near Old town Pasadena. And, I have heard that some flocks find the fruit of kaypoc trees


I have had some sort of animal eat large holes in my oranges last year, and my pomegranates this year.... I thought it might be rats or birds like the blue jays.... but perhaps not. A flock of parrots flew by on Monday and then I heard a lone parrot next door.

The mocking birds were not too happy. You see, they "own" the tea tree"

and will follow me about as close as five feet away. When the parrot decided that the tea tree was a nice place to sit they chased it up into the liquidamber.

Well, it squaked and carried on until I hung my head outside (it was 92 degrees one Monday!!!!). "Yack!"I yelled, and then it listened. Back and forth I would make some horrible noise and the bird would return a scream. My neighbors already think I am nuts so I have no qualms about hanging out my window and acting like a fool.

Well, it is much cooler today and tonight, so, tomorrow I will put some seeds on the roof and see if it will come to the window.

It looks like a canary parrot, Brotogeris versicolurus chiriri

I had one that I bought from Sears long ago. I felt particularly alone one day and decided to visit the local pet store. Out in the back, with the potted plants, people were yelling and screaming, "It's over here!" "NO! NO! OUCH!!!" and then "DAM BIRD!" and"Can we kill it?!" Three adults with nets and ladders could not catch this feisty bird. For some reason I liked it. "I called up to them, "I'll take it!"

Well, that rallied the troops and they finally caught it after another half an hour. They were very happy to sell the monster to me at a greatly reduced price. He came home with me and was called, ''L'oiseau"

I found my new friend to like grapes. L'oiseau was not very big for a parrot, he was about 8 inches. I have seen large parrots consume grapes and I found that birds have a special capacity for eating them. The large parrots can eat up to 12 grapes before one of them is dejected out the other end. I found L'oiseau was a four grape parrot; one, two, three, four, five/poop, six/poop, seven/poop.... etc.

L'oiseau lived with me for 8 years. It was an adult when I bought him so I really don't know how old he was when I got him. I had a friend take care of him when I went on trips. He would try to be nice to him and L'oiseau would lure my friend to put his fingers in the cage just a bit too close and, "OUCH! IT'S PARROT POT PIE IF YOU ARE NOT CAREFUL!"

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
In the dead of winter, it was 82 degrees F... the sky was a beautiful blue without a cloud in sight. There was a soft off shore breeze perhaps 2-3 knots... if that... just to get the few tigers (who were out today) to fly more then five feet.

Up in the upper marsh of Mugu the pans were fairly slicked down from the rains from a month ago... was it a month? No! Strange weather!... The Halictidae burrows were mostly covered over by a thin crust of salt. This allowed the few tigers that were adults to come out to play. A few ladybird beetles flew here and there.

The Lycosidae snuck out from the safety of the Salicornia sp. and Frankenia sp. on the pannes and tried to blend with the back ground - they stood over cracks in the soil - to hide from the Pompilidae who were out hunting for fat spiders for their rookeries. My large (body 2 cm, legs 1.5 cm each) female, caught in September, lets me pet her legs - softly with a toothpick (their bite can become necrotic) and has not taken much food lately. She may be ready to mate.... in which case her wolf spider brothers and sisters in Mugu are in the same condition. A scary time for these creatures - ready do mating displays but, also a special time for the spider wasps, too.

The sun is very important to animals that cannot create the warmth they need for high energy tasks like foraging for food, hunting, mating, running from danger. Tigers bask in the sun so that they can become the fierce hunters we know and love. It is also a way to be able to escape their predators... like me or birds or spiders. Warming in the sun may also play a part in how well they out maneuver the fast flies that they eat, and may determine their rank the inter and intra species hierarchy, too.

The salt pannes are warm in the sun and the tigers find this very enjoyable. I found this Cicindela senilis frosti basking, turning this side and then the other side to the sun... then again turning its backside to the sun... a full rotation.

Most C. s. frosti caught and pinned in the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum are grey with off white markings. The C. s. frosti that I have caught at Mugu come in grey, green, blue, and reddish colors. this one has it all. green, red here and there, and grey. Beautiful.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Here is the C.s.frosti that I caught at Mugu in August of last year. He was never a great hunter and with his flight wings mangled, he would never have survived. I feed him tiny crickets, flies, and occasional meal worm and cat food. He digs in the sand when it is cold and runs about when warm. He has a few hypopyl mites, one on his left eye.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
California seems to be the land of Paradise to so many. Enough to make the streets and the highways hard to transverse even to go to a market .... and many things must be purchased in shopping malls which very quickly become like a backed-up sewer pipe. This is only one problem of 'Paradise' the other problem is getting things like water to so many people in a naturally dry environment.

Los Angeles was really several towns that grew together via the rails. There was a town at the beach, Santa Monica (still there), which was connected to a light rail which ran down San Vincenty and Santa Monica Boulevard from Downtown Los Angeles. Downtown was THE metropolis and was connected by rail to the Harbor, south, and then, east, out to the city of San Bernardino (my grandfather and his mother moved our here when his father died in Arizona - the town used to be called by the LA locals, "San Berdoo."). The cost of living got out of hand for the everyday citizens, and the City Fathers of LA needed more tax money (at that time the corruption issue in LA was blatant and outrageous) and so people began the ubiquitous suburbs that now choke the entire area.

The movie industry came here because we were so lawless (and immoral .... think about that as you watch the television today). And, just as WWII wound down, and not to ignore some other issues (see the movie Chinatown or watch my documentary - click on it to the right, it's free) folks from various backgrounds (many were either poor farmers or inmates from other state prisons) build the San Fernando Valley.

One has to understand that the San Fernando Valley, historically, was a swamp in some areas, and so today when it rains, the freeway fills with water. Before the homes were build (and all the good workers were taken back from hence they came - I met someone whose father was on one of the teams from jail in Utah) the area was farmland. My grandmother came to LA as a small child by railroad, to be with her grandmother who lived in the Adams District. My grandmother said she could smell the orange blossoms miles before she could see them by train. Fact is, Los Angeles and the surrounding counties have been giving up farming land to houses and such... even as I write this. But, one problem remains - water.

During the early fifties, the AAA and GM got together to get Los Angeles to give up their light rails for freeways and cars (their campaign was to get rid of the ugly electric wires for the clean electric cars that transversed the city so we could see the blue sky - but by 1960 smog eliminated that!!!). GM also invested in land in the Santa Monica Mountains and other areas to create more developments that needed more cars and freeways to get anywhere. And the three sources of water for all of Southern California; Owen's Valley, Sacramento River and the Colorado River, are all coming to their own 'tipping point' with the increases of the human population, climate change, and the need to pour concrete over everything.

There are many little details that go into this story, but I had to give a taste of things because as I drove through yet another area (Agora Hills in Ventura County, one of the fastest growing counties in the basin) that is being torn up for mini-mansions and such. I find stuff like this and I just can't believe it.

These people have just invested in a multi-million dollar home with automatic this and that... and yet no one is home ....in ALL of the possible definitions. It was chilly the last few nights, and the area can go below freezing, but these people have to have a perfect lawn. Icicles a foot long formed on the trees and the grass and the street and the sidewalk - !!!! everything where the sprinklers poured water, there was ice....!!!! sign.... And what didn't soak the lawn, or froze on the plants and cement, melted in the morning sun and ran down the drain out to the ocean.... only to be seen again in a few years, perhaps.... if we get enough rain.... or snow in the Sierra Nevada's a few hundred miles from here... or the Grand Canyon a thousand miles from here...

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Testing the water in streams, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies has become quite an effort. Runoff, trash, illegal dumping point source pollution from industry damage our drinking water.

What these UCLA students are setting up is a prototype mechanized water tester.... It tests pH, DO, Nitrogen and Phosphorous. It also is a spectrophotometer that can identify the absorbence of the major components in the water.... identifying the algae populations by their chlorophyl.

Can you imagine automated water testers throughout California making sure the water is up to standard and the information broadcast to a main station somewhere....? sort of like wiretapping water before you tap the tapable tap.


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
It is amazing how many water ways in California are filled with trash and peoples' clothes. This particular stream in Ventura County is no exception. Last spring after the water receded from one of our most recent big storms, the up-rooted trees were filled with the branches of downed trees and festooned with trash, underwear, and t-shirts. Why?

Even after months past the big storm, this stream had been found to have a very high intestinal bacteria count. The main source of water of the stream was actually from a water treatment plant which must meet Federal Standards of water quality including low bacterial counts. So, why is this stream in such a bad way?

Well, If the underwear is any indication we may have an answer. Many water courses in Southern California have homeless people living along the banks. The intestinal bacteria... even though the upstream plant is releasing properly treated effluent, may come from the people who find shelter along the water courses.


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Phantom midges, as adults, have only one thing in mind when they emerge from their sleep as a pupae. They don't eat.

They are, many times, the tiny guys that fly around in small swarms above the ground above bushes, or a pond, or a pool, or someone's head. Why or why do they find the hood of my car to be the place for their love nests?

The fly on the left is the male. He has the fluffy antennae.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Sweet innocent Ms. Chicken... recently has been hiding under a bush in the backyard. She holds perfectly still and makes a strange soft whirring sound. This usually signals to me that there is somehing scary in the vacinity....

A Sharp Shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus ) has been to the feeders in the past, taking a few doves and I saw it yesterday in a tree above Ms. Chicken's favorite bush. Ms. Chicken is very smart about these things. She barely blinks an eye and I wonder if the hawk notices her being so still, or perhaps hopes that Ms. Chicken will move out of hiding. The hawk's visual system is so keen I can't imagine her not seeing Ms. Chicken.

This afternoon, one of my neighbors had feathers strewn all over the front yard. I had just left the house and did not say good-bye to Ms. Chicken. I was struck by the obvious evidence of a kill and I had to make sure it wasn't anybody I knew.... Towering above the neighbor's house is a huge four story Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) and just about 5 meters up there were white feathers on a branch. Apparently, the hawk captured a white dove and feasted on it earlier in the day. I was relieved.

Sharp Shinned hawks, after killing their prey (birds), carefully pluck out the feathers. Cats, on the other hand, dive right in, bite the head, and tear open the body cavity... so do dogs. Cats and dogs (coyotes) eat the birds from the inside out leaving an over coat (and smaller chunks) with feathers.... Sharp Shinned hawks like to tear off beak sized pieces of a fully plucked prey.The hawks also like to take their prey to some place where no one will disturb them... like cats... dogs eat on the run (like us) so, the branch full of feathers was typical. Now, did the hawk leave anything behind like the beak or claws ...?

Monday, January 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.

It is cold and rainy. I am not sure how folks can sit out in the rain to watch the Rose Parade every year - but they do. This is the first year in 51 years that it has rained on the parade. It didn't just sprinkle, it poured. And after the parade - every year - the City people from the Water and Power folks to the Trash collectors to the Sewer Maintenance all have to pick up, tear down, re-wire, fix, you name it because of the influx of a few more million people in this small town. The trash is particularly disgusting.

At 3:30 p.m. we had a small electrical outage in my neighborhood. Damn! I was working on something on the computer and while fixing a cup of green tea (and to do some thinking) BLIP! So, I rebooted my Mac....
Then again, at 4 p.m. the power went out on the entire street again. The sky was so dark it could have been night. The rain was getting monotonous. I could see there were flashing lights up the street near the main pole. I decided I could go to some store or another (but wasn't interested), sit in the dark, try to read by candle and flashlight, or go out and watch the guys fix the power. I chose mixing with the power folks.

Fred, the cat, seems to have a penchant for tripping me while I walk to the back door... and in the dark he's got his technique for maximum effect. When I was a kid I used to walk around in my dark room to see if I could remember where things were and could get around as if I were blind. My mother never understood why I like to bumble about in a dark room.... I suspect it must have seemed peculiar. I never ran into things - much. However, the practice in my ill spent youth allowed me to find, in a dark closet with lights, my tripod and my camera and I was able to attach the two together. Fred stayed inside while I went to schmooz with Pasadena Water and Power Maintenance Crew.

There were five trucks two of which had 'buckets' one of which was headed for the top of the electrical post. The heavy winds and rains caused the tall palm trees to drop their heavy palm fronds, The fronds have huge serrated stems and one was straddling all four wires. There was a pile of them just at the bottom of the pole.

Several of the guys were actively watching the workers in the bucket and so I thought I would ask a few questions about the procedure for fixing the downed line. They were happy to talk about what they were doing. One of the guys n the bucket took a pole and shoved the frond off the wire and the wires arched.

Then I asked if Pasadena's power plant at the end of the Pasadena Freeway produced enough power for the whole city. One of the guys seemed very interested in describing how our City gets power. Apparently, our fair City helped another or more... fair cities build their large power plants in Oregon, Utah, Nevada,... gosh, I wonder where else?... so we can buy power from them. The Old Pasadena Power Plant was just too small to produce power for the numbers of new households in the city. As I listened I wondered if and when those other Cities would get too big for their britches... and where would we ALL get our power from?

Like a pyramid game, there comes a time when we can't get any bigger. In fact bigger is not better. Growth becomes a reallllllly bad thing. Sustainability, or worse, stasis will be the word of the day.... Now, that many of us are starting to contemplate a time when oil will not flow like water, and cities will have to be self supporting. Suburbia and all that goes with it will be the monstrosity it really is. Individuals owning cars filling up every open space on the surface of ground will be ridiculous.... and all of this could come rather suddenly... Roger Rabbit will fold his arms and say "THee, I told you so!"