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    • September 22, 2020

    Douglas contributed a great photo for the upcoming second edition of the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California. We wanted to find out more about his connection to nature photography.

    A field filled with wildflowers.

    Your CalPhotos bio mentions that you are a volunteer and photographer with the Solano Land Trust. Can you tell us a little bit more about the work you do for them?

    Since joining the Solano Land Trust as a volunteer I’ve hiked and photographed roughly 12,000 acres of nature preserves. I’m also certified as a docent and lead tours at Jepson Prairie Preserve.

    Your wildlife and plant photos are incredible! How did you learn this skill, and come into this line of work?

    I purchased my first digital camera after retirement as we planned a trip to Arizona for spring training. While in Scottsdale I began photographing the Sonoran Desert flora. When we returned home I researched and began photographing the Jepson Prairie Preserve, 1566 acres of remnant vernal pool habitat. From the first visit I found the diminutive yet colorful flora a fascinating subject.

    After a spring hiking season, shooting only in the public area and remaining on the trail, I approached the land trust with an interest in accessing the complete preserve. Once they met me and saw prints of my photos, they granted access with two provisos. The first was to attend docent training instruction and the second was a request to photograph all their preserves, to which I immediately agreed.

    Do you have any favorite plants or animals you’ve encountered in your explorations?

    The most common species of vernal pool flora, and my favorite, are the Downingia. There are 19 rare flora and invertebrates at Jepson Prairie. The most significant of these is the Delta green ground beetle (Elaphrus viridis) which was first observed in 1878. After ‘disappearing’ it was presumed extinct but was rediscovered in 1974 by a UC Davis student.

    A small and shiny green beetle on wet soil.

    What is your most indispensable tool or piece of gear when taking photos out in the field?

    My camera backpack weighs about 16 pounds with just about anything I need. If I had to choose, it would actually be two items: a decent-quality, digital SLR camera body; and a good-quality lens. There are a lot of specialty lenses, some quite expensive, but you can take some remarkable pictures with practically any lens. One of the best bird photos I’ll likely ever record was taken with a 60 mm macro lens when the subject was close at hand, but a more appropriate lens was 100 feet away.

    Can you give any words of advice or encouragement to aspiring nature photographers?

    Becoming a photographer requires a camera and the operator. Most every photographer begins with an inexpensive camera and a desire to take great pictures. Don’t expect to be an expert when you begin. My best advice would be to start shooting a lot of photos. If you see something you find interesting take more than a single photo. The beauty of digital photography is that you can see your shot instantly, adjust, and retake until you get your settings right.

    The underside of an egret soaring through the sky with its wings outstretched.

    Want to practice your photo skills? Submit your sightings of rare plants and animals on our Online Field Survey Form. Your photos could be featured as our next Photo of the Month!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • September 14, 2020

    A closeup of the mountain lady's slipper which has long purple petals that surround a white, slipper-shaped pouch that functions to help pollination.

    Cypripedium montanum – mountain lady’s-slipper
    Submitted by Jacob Smith

    This amazing little orchid was found by Jacob Smith in Madera county. This picture shows the characteristic slipper-shaped pouch that temporarily traps pollinators and forces them to crawl under the anther, causing pollen to be deposited on their backs and resulting in pollen being spread from one flower to the next as the pollinator works. Cypripedium montanum was originally listed in 1980 as a California Native Plant Society List 2 (rare or endangered) and is currently considered a California Rare Plant Rank 4.2 (limited distribution and moderately threatened in California). It ranges across northern California as well as several other northern states and into Canada. Cypripedium montanum is found in broadleafed upland forests, cismontane woodlands, lower montane coniferous forests, and North Coast coniferous forests. These little mountain lady's-slippers can be seen blooming from March through August. Thank you Jacob for this striking photo and the amazing work you share with us!

    Top-down view of a California red-legged frog immersed in a pond amongst duckweed.

    Rana draytonii – California red-legged frog
    Submitted by Gary Kittleson of Kittleson Environmental Consulting

    Gary discovered this California red-legged frog taking refuge in some freshwater foliage near Watsonville in Santa Cruz county. These amphibians can be hard to detect because of their immaculate ability to hide and blend in with their surroundings. This frog species can be seen in many colors but will have distinct red coloring on its legs and belly, giving it its name. California red-legged frogs have long back legs which give them the ability to leap far distances and to climb. Both are used to avoid and escape predators. Their diet consists of mainly small invertebrates and they use their long sticky tongue to grab their prey and bring it close to them. California red-legged frogs are endemic to the state, inhabiting the Coast Ranges as well as the Foothills and Sierra Nevada. They are a California Species of Special Concern and are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Currently, CNDDB has over 1500 California red-legged frog occurrences throughout its range. Thank you, Gary, for this great shot!

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • August 3, 2020

    Two tiny white flowers with leaves growing on the sandy ground

    Lewisia kelloggii ssp. kelloggii – Kellogg’s lewisia
    Submitted by Ellen Sampson and Randy Roig

    This inconspicuous flower was found by Ellen Sampson and Randy Roig in Sierra County. Lewisia kelloggii ssp. kelloggii was listed in 2013 as Rank 3.2 (more information needed, but moderately threatened in California) in the California Rare Plant Ranking System. Plants listed as Rank 3 all lack enough information available to consider them rare (Rank 1B or 2B) or of limited distribution (Rank 4), but the information that is available indicates that they are in need of conservation. Once a plant has been determined to be Rank 3, the hope is that new information will be generated from additional surveys, which will allow for a reevaluation of the rank at a later time. Lewisia kelloggii ssp. kelloggii is found in openings and ridgetops of upper montane coniferous forest often in slate or sometimes in rhyolite tuff along the Sierras. It blooms from May through August with the occasional early bloom in April. Keep an eye out for this little gem when taking those summer hikes through the Sierras. Thank you, Ellen and Randy, for finding this amazing flower and adding to what we know about it!

    A stellar sea lion looking off to the distance while resting on a large rock

    Eumetopias jubatus – Steller (northern) sea lion
    Submitted by Ryan Elliott of the California Natural Diversity Database

    CNDDB’s very own Ryan Elliott was able to snap this awesome profile shot of a Steller sea lion at Cape Mendocino. Cape Mendocino is home to one of California’s largest breeding rookeries and has been active for over a century. The Steller sea lion was first described in 1741 by Georg Wilhelm Steller and therefore named after him. Steller sea lions spend most of their time in the water feeding, but haul-out onto rocks and shores to rest, reproduce, and raise their young. Their range spans from Japan to California and are split into two distinct population segments, eastern and western, at Cape Suckling in Alaska. California is home to the Eastern DPS which has seen major population declines due to intentional culling and commercial harvests. Currently, Steller sea lions are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and are considered a California Species of Special Concern. The California Natural Diversity Database has 38 rookery and haul-out occurrences along the coast. Many thanks to Ryan for submitting this stellar observation!

    Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight