Monday, December 8, 2014

More food on the fly

Mike shared these amazing raptor reports on December 8,2014:
Yesterday while walking of the walkway near the Bayside Cafe in Morro Bay, I saw an osprey way off in the distance on the ground in the estuary.  As the osprey flew off, I was able to get this photo. We were pretty far away, but you can see that there is a fish in its talons.

On my way back from Morro Bay this morning, I saw a hawk on the ground in a field near our house in Atascadero.  I had my camera, so I stopped to take a photo.  Unfortunately, I stopped my car too close and startled the bird.  I was only able to get one shot.  I believe this red-tailed hawk has a band-tailed pigeon in its talons.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fast food on the fly!

A while back I happened upon a red-tailed hawk catching a ground squirrel in Cambria. (MK, December 2014)

Catalina Wildlife

Michael and Ruby Klatt shared these photos and notes from a recent (November 2014) trip to Catalina Island.
We saw this acorn woodpecker (above) at the Botanical Garden on Catalina.  The drought wasn’t bothering him at all.  The island fox (below) had one too many cactus pears.  Our tour guide said that they get kind of “drunk” and crash on the road.  These little guys have recently been saved from the brink of extinction. See Catalina Island Fox Information to learn more about this interesting mammal.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ants in the field...what kind?

Wildlife camera team volunteers found these ant mounds when heading out to camera #2 at chalk hill last September (2013). Today (Oct.21,2014), volunteers Mike and Ruby Klatt, Bev Gingg and Cal Poly intern Trisha Huynh, found another active mound along the LATO trail. The bottom photos show a close up of the ants (not too close since I only had my cell phone camera). These are commonly known as field or mound ants. See the full story at Wild About Ants!

Amazing Condor Sightings

From Docents Mike and Ruby Klatt:
Here are a few of the photos that I took of the condors that we saw as we drove up Highway 1 on Monday (Sept. 22,2014).  We started seeing condors south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  We saw a few lone condors and two pairs flying together.  We also saw three condors sitting at the tops of some redwood trees.  We were told by a “nature guide” that the three were parents and their offspring.  One of the photos shows what I believe is the offspring sitting at the top of the tree.  I did see two other condors fly out of the tree but I had put my camera down and did not get a photo of them flying away.
These sightings came the week after we enjoyed Morro Coast Audubon Society's presentations about condor biology, ecology and recovery efforts. Cal Poly intern Elizabeth Saldo joined one of her colleagues in reporting on their experiences as summer interns at the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout.
Lead poisoning continues to be a major problem but conservationists are making progress in educating hunters and encouraging transition to non-lead bullets.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Insect behavior mystery???

Mike Klatt has been watching a gall on a coast live oak at his house north of Santa Margarita.  Mike has noticed a wasp that seems to always be on or near the gall.  What is going on? See below for the answer.

This interesting wasp is an Oak Gall Chalcid (Torymus californicus)  The long black thing is an ovipositor.

Answer found at San Francisco Chronicle's sfgate home guides :

Larval California Gall Wasp

As soon as they hatch, larvae begin feeding. The oak begins producing a different kind of tissue in response to their feeding. The gall begins to form around the larvae, first showing in early winter as a small nodule covered by bark. In early spring the gall emerges through a slit in the bark and usually reaches full growth in July. The gall furnishes the larval gall wasps with good nutrition and a protected place for them to grow.

Associated Animals

Some insects live at the benefit of the California gall wasp and the apple galls they produce. Small chalcid wasps (Torymus californicus and Baryscapus gigas) parasitize the California gall wasp larvae. Female wasps insert their eggs into the grubs living within the gall, and their larvae eat the California gall wasp larvae. A moth larva (Cydia latiferreana) uses the oak apple gall as food, and it in turn has a wasp parasite. The adult gall wasps serve as food for spiders, lizards, and birds such as nuthatches, chickadees, kinglets and vireos.

Now you know the rest of the story. To dig deeper, check out these sites:

Acorns starting to form

These photos show acorns developing on valley oaks in the Klatt Family's oak grove. Photos were taken on June 3,2014.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Discovering a common, often overlooked wildflower

LATO trail docents Mike and Ruby found this wildflower along the trail on May 28 and sent these photos with a request for i.d. help. This plant looked common to me and yet I couldn't immediately put my finger on its name. A little bit of sleuthing (Calflora is a great resource) revealed the identity: Common Vervain, Verbena lasiostachys. Check out this interesting "Plant of the Month" article from the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Another interesting and colorful beetle found on milkweed

On May 16,2014 (during the 3rd grade adaptations hike with Mrs. Goossen's class), we found this colorful and interesting beetle on the woolly milkweed growing in the LATO nature trail area. We think that it is a willow borer. Photos by M. Klatt.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A closer look at wild hyacinth reveals tiny surprises

On April 27, two days after 0.2 in of rain fell on the LATO trail, I took a walk enjoying the many wildflowers on display. The lupine are putting on a spectacular show.  Look closely at this photo of a wild hyacinth and you can see a what seems to be a tick.  These are not ticks! They are plant mites, crawling rather quickly around some of the nearby flowers. Ticks and mites have a similar appearance because they are related. More information about mite taxonomy. Each science discovery leads to more questions!                                                             
--- Shared by LATO docent Mike Klatt, April 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

House sparrows at home in the school forest

The birdbox that is close to Dona’s library box in the demonstration forest (at Santa Margarita School) is active with house sparrows’ nesting activity.  The house sparrow was introduced from Europe in the mid- 1800s. You can find the house sparrow nesting in any sheltered cavity from birdhouses to streetlights.  It eats seeds and insects and often seeks handouts such as bread crumbs.
Photos and notes shared by LATO docent Mike Klatt, April 16,2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

White-breasted nuthatch catches our eye

I was watching up in the tree as they (Cal Poly students and Oak Ambassadors) were filming, and I was treated to this white-breasted nuthatch show.  I would guess that there might be some nest building going on.  The white-breasted nuthatch is a cavity nester.  So, some of the holes that we have been watching should be a home for some new baby birds this spring.  The nuthatch was actually traveling down the tree, but it seemed easier on the eye to rotate the photos.  

Shared by LATO docent Mike Klatt, March 13,2014

Acorn woodpecker brawl?

A group of acorn woodpeckers have been using an old, dead, willow tree in our yard to store acorns and have built some cavities for nesting.  Today, there seemed to be a battle.  Our guess is that a group of outsiders arrived hoping to take over the tree.  There was wrestling on the ground with beaks looking to be used a swords.  The intruders seemed to be bothered by my picture taking, but the locals are used to us.  The willow tree is right next to our house.  There were about six or seven woodpeckers “fighting”.  I even saw one off in the distance watching from a nearby fencepost.There looked to be a little hug when the intruders left.

Shared by LATO docents Mike and Ruby Klatt, April 15,2014