1 de enero de 2022

Nudibranching/Tidepooling to start the New Year?

@imlichentoday @amidzooids @u_phantasticus

Howdy y'all! My name is Christian; although I'm a San Diego native, I mostly live in Santa Cruz these days. And although I primarily study mushrooms now, my first love was tidepools.

I'm planning to go out tidepooling today as well as Sunday and Monday afternoons/evenings, and wondering if any of you have an interest in meeting up (or can suggest other local tidepool enthusiasts who might want to go out).

My interest isn't just in nudibranchs, but was just looking through those observations for SD county...

Happy New Year!


Publicado el 1 de enero de 2022 19:29 por leptonia leptonia | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de agosto de 2019

5 Mile Radius Birding (3.1 km)

My 5 MR Circle, mapped: CFS 2019 5MR map

Publicado el 22 de agosto de 2019 20:49 por leptonia leptonia | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de agosto de 2019

Searching for Euphorbia hooveri – Esquon Lake, 11 Aug 2019 (Trip)

I visited Esquon "Lake" (a vernal pool now heavily surrounded by grass under a grazing regime) to look for the late-blooming Euphorbia (=Chaemasyce) hooveri; a rare and threatened plant (CRPR 1B.2).

My understanding was to look for areas of open, cracked mud in what would have been the vernal pool's last spots to dry. I found very little of this presumed appropriate habitat, apparently the surrounding grass and other graminoid vegetation has encroached heavily into the middle of the pool. Although little else was blooming, remnant vegetation of Marsilea, Navarretia, Eryngium etc. indicated that it is still home to a significant wet grassland pool flora.

I found thousands of Euphorbia ocellata subsp. ocellata in the more bare mud areas, but they also extended deeply into the surrounding grassland.

I found 0 Euphorbia hooveri.

Witham, 2013 (in my opinion, optimistically) lists this occurrence as "presumed extant".

From Witham, 2013:
[This site] heavily grazed and trampled, but occurrence is doing fine (1986). Unknown number seen in 1980. 1000‐2000 plants observed in 1986. Under the current grazing regime, this population is large and probably stable." "Surveyed 09‐09‐2010. Habitat present but no plants found." "...no plants seen 2007‐2011."

Publicado el 11 de agosto de 2019 16:55 por leptonia leptonia | 10 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

9 de agosto de 2019

The Green Gill Gap

Full post with images here:

"Green about the gills" – idiom describing the appearance of queasiness; about to vomit; sickly and uneasy.

In the spotlight: the Green Gill Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites). The common name of this species serves double duty, signaling both the potential sickening effects of eating this mushroom while simultaneously describing its most distinctive identifying feature: The greenish-gray color of the mature gills (a correlate of the green-gray spore deposit). In fact, no other mushroom in California shows this character! Although not seriously toxic, it certainly has the potential to be enqueasening. By the available numbers, this appears to be one of the species most frequently involved in mushroom poisonings in the United States.

There some obvious factors contributing to this mushroom's nauseating track record:

  1. The species is widespread and abundant – it’s common for multiple tens of fruitbodies to appear in small areas simultaneously, often in striking fairy rings.
  2. The fruitbodies are enticingly large and attractive.
  3. They look similar to a few edible species.
  4. This species’ preferred habitats are almost always in close proximity to humans (think irrigated lawns). So folks encounter it more frequently than the average mushroom.
  5. It is expanding its range! With every passing year, there are more interfaces for humans to encounter them.

Besides the perspective of public health, this is an interesting species for biogeographers. This post is focused on the latter point in the list above. What factors are driving the expansion of this species? The geographic area occupied by C. molybdites has expanded in the past few decades – generally speaking, it has radiated northward as well as westwards from more tropical climes.

But there are some puzzling gaps in this species’ distribution…

One striking example is the central coast of California (see map below). Note the large gap from Santa Barbara to the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a single dot in San Luis Obispo (documented by the ever-vigilant Michelle Torres-Grant).

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 10.46.47 AM.png
Some of this pattern can be ascribed to lack of coverage. Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties are not (yet) major nuclei for folks posting mushrooms to iNat. But given that this is a big, showy mushroom that grows on people’s lawns, we can be confident that the general pattern here is real: Chlorophyllum molybdites is (apparently) either absent or very scarce west of the central Coast Ranges in places like Monterey, Salinas, Castroville, and Watsonville – places which definitely contain patches of appropriate substrate (watered lawns, soccer fields, urban parks, manicured cemeteries, golf courses).

Look just how close that swarm of documented Green Gill occurrences comes to the Santa Cruz County line!
Look just how close that swarm of documented Green Gill occurrences comes to the Santa Cruz County line!

It’s also clear from looking at the distribution map that the reason C. molybdites is absent from some places on the California coast is not due to a lack of available spores to start new populations.

This species is emphatically not dispersal-limited. Whether their spores are being dispersed by wind, adhering to tires, or otherwise moving with people, C. molybdites appears to be a proficient traveler, having thoroughly colonized not only North America but also Hawaii and apparently even some further-flung outposts such as Fiji and Tahiti!

So if not the lack of lawns or the lack of spores, what factors have so far prevented the Green Gills from invading Watsonville?

As evidenced by the populations of this species in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan we know that it’s not cold winter temperatures limiting the distribution of C. molybdites – this species is apparently able to go dormant and tolerate very cold winters, rebounding to fruit again in the more saunoid months.

Temperature may still be a primary factor shaping this species’ distribution though, albeit in a more nuanced way. Else Vellinga has hypothesized that this species is tightly constrained by nighttime temperatures exceeding some minimum temperature for extended stretches of consecutive dates. Think of the warm, muggy summer nights that are so characteristic of much of eastern USA, where this species is most common.

The Muggy East has lots and lots of Green Gills. Southern California and the Central Valley have plenty as well. Most areas of the Northwestern quadrant of the USA are too dry, too cold, or both.
The Muggy East has lots and lots of Green Gills. Southern California and the Central Valley have plenty as well. Most areas of the Northwestern quadrant of the USA are too dry, too cold, or both.

Support for this model can be found by studying the geographic pattern of occurrence of C. molybdites in California. It seems to be absent from areas with otherwise appropriate habitat, and surrounded by potential source populations, but lacking prolonged periods of warm nighttime temperatures.

By sheer happenstance, a sort of natural experiment can be found at UC Berkeley: A steam vent lets out from one of the buildings at ground level, significantly warming a small patch of lawn. UC Berkeley happens to be the academic home of Else C. Vellinga; global expert on Lepiotaceous fungi. A few years ago, she walked by the vent, and found Green Gill Parasols fruiting in the steamed lawn. She noted that it was a significant record for Alameda County (one of the first), and so history was made! Even micro-local warming is enough to make an appropriate substrate suitable habitat for C. molybdites. The spores are probably available almost everywhere in coastal California, they just need the right conditions to gain a foothold.

So what does the future hold?

The asymmetrical effect of global warming on nighttime vs. daytime temperatures has been investigated in a number of studies, and although the signal is complicated, it seems that in many places, global warming is driving a faster increase in nighttime temperatures than of daytime temperatures. From the perspective of humans, this is uncomfortable and dangerous. But from the perspective of C. molybdites this is just peachy. More warm nights in more places = more places where Green Gills can establish populations.

If a place has appropriate substrate (big grass lawns), is at least somewhat humid, and experiences spells of consecutive warm nights, sooner or later it’ll be colonized by Chlorophyllum molybdites. As climate change continues to warm the summer nights of central Calfiornia, it seems only a matter of time until Green Gills start to live here.

After more than a decade of of cultivating a useless preoccupation with the arbitrary geopolitical boundaries of Santa Cruz County, I like to think I’ve developed a good sense for what critters can be found within them. During last year’s heat waves and warmth lingering well into November, I could practically feel the mycelium growing somewhere within county lines… But by December rains and cooler temperatures finally arrived, and the window for the appearance of our inaugural Green Gills seemed to have closed.

Could the summer of 2019 be the year we finally encounter Green Gills in Santa Cruz?

Let’s get some skin in the game. I hereby offer a $20 bounty for Santa Cruz County for a first record of C. molybdites. I bet an additional $20 that it will come within the next five years, in case anyone wants to bet against. Those seeking to collect on this bounty must provide documentation, preferably supported by a voucher specimen.

Go make it happen… Judging by this phenology chart from iNaturalist data, NOW IS THE TIME.

california green gill season.png
I’ll be doing some investigating by bike, by car, by foot; prowling the hotter, lawn-ier areas of the county looking to prove myself right. I could use the money.


Ge ZW, Jacobs A, Vellinga EC, Sysouphanthong P, van der Walt R, Lavorato C, An YF, Yang ZL. 2018. A multi-gene phylogeny of Chlorophyllum (Agaricaceae, Basidiomycota): new species, new combination and infrageneric classification. MycoKeys 32: 65–90

doi: 10.3897/mycokeys.32.23831

Obradovich N, Migliorini R, Mednick SC, Fowler JH. 2017. Nighttime temperature and human sleep loss in a changing climate. Science Advances
doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1601555

Pierre-Louis K, Popovich N. 2018. Nights Are Warming Faster Than Days. Here’s Why That’s Dangerous. The New York TImes
Accessed on 30 Jul 2019: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/07/11/climate/summer-nights-warming-faster-than-days-dangerous.html

Vellinga, Else C. 2003. Chlorophyllum and Macrolepiota (Agaricaceae) in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 16, 361–370

Publicado el 9 de agosto de 2019 19:37 por leptonia leptonia | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de marzo de 2019

Wrap up on the Southern California Mycoflora Challenge 2018/'19!

It's over! Finally! Great work out there, and a big thanks to everyone who participated. I can't wait to dig in.
As it stands, iNat users made almost 6,000 (!!!) observations of macrofungi from SoCal and Baja California Norte during this period. Incredible!

Nearly 50 iNat users made at least 20 observations and will be receiving a snazzy North American Mycoflora circle sticker. They look great on a laptop, water bottle, bike frame or bumper, and will bring you lots of admiration and attention from the coolest folks around.

If you are one of the following users, send me a private message with your preferred mailing address and I'll get your NAMP sticker in the mail:

The awards for best photography and most interesting specimens are still pending (since I have to do a little more lookin' through all the aforementioned ~6,000 observations, and for folks to finish sending me any voucher specimens that you might have made).

IF YOU HAVE VOUCHER SPECIMENS RELATED TO THIS PROJECT: PM me here or on iNat (@leptonia) to get mailing instructions

I'll be making some follow-up posts here about what we found, what we learned, and any results of further investigation of the specimens received.

Publicado el 17 de marzo de 2019 18:44 por leptonia leptonia | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de enero de 2018

Field Notes – 9 July 2015 – Mount Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo

Staying at Kinabalu Mountain Lodge (bordering N.P.).
Weather cool and windy at night. Rain at 11 PM. Morning very foggy and breezy/gusty. Mist, then light drizzle, then real rain at around 7 AM. Eventually completely socked in with fog.
Moth situation unbelievable. Porch lights, hallway lights, and bathroom lights attract thousands if not tens of thousands of moths and other insects. Frog calls all around at night, but failed to see any while spotlighting.
Maybe too windy?


  1. Buy Phillips' guide to Birds of Borneo. Spend a lot of time with it before you leave. Keep spending time with it every chance you get while you're there. I didn't buy the Myers guide, so I can't compare them. The Phillips guide is mildly outdated, and some of the illustrations are definitely wonky, but the richness of the natural history tidbits and the authors' obvious love of place in this book are delightful. There are notes on mammals, flowers, seasonality, culture... It's really a great book.
  2. Get into the park early, and spend as long as possible birding. I had a number of two-hour stretches where I saw fewer than five individual birds, interrupted by five minute stretches during which I saw 30 individuals representing 10 species. Not sure if this was just due to the unsettled weather and the birds were hunkering down, or what. At no point was the birding easy or fast-paced by my temperate-zone California standards. My understanding is that this is typical of a lot of tropical birding, but the punctuated pattern seemed particularly intense on Kinabalu compared to my time in the neotropics. This is kind of an exhausting way to bird (especially given the elevation changes on some of these trails).

Note - entrance fee to the park is totally affordable, BUT the park kiosk doesn't open as early as you might like (as a birder). Everyone I've talked to seemed to think that it's accepted practice to buy the ticket on the way out, or try asking the attendant to buy your ticket ahead of time for the next day.

  1. Mind the trail ahead. It really pays to scan the visible span of the trail ahead of you before you walk it. This is especially true in the morning if you are out before the first hikers. If you come around a bend or corner, do it super slowly and scan it for 30 seconds before you keep walking. I think Justyn Stahl mentioned this to me as a way to see guans and tinamous in the neotropics. Everett's Thrush was one of the rewards of this method.
  2. Learn the barbet calls. I wrote mnemonics for each of the barbets in the back of my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook as a cheat-sheet. They are kind of omnipresent.
  3. Photography was difficult. The forests of Kinabalu are wet, dark, and the vines and leaves are all tangly and wreak havoc with autofocus. I ended up dramatically under-exposing my photos, then lightening them in Photoshop. I used exposure compensation two or three stops down (or more??). This gets you the benefit of faster shutter speeds when in Aperture priority mode. I didn't take full advantage of this myself - it's something I learned accidentally, months later. You're not going to get art with this method, but it can work wonders in salvaging record shots.
  4. Take a day elsewhere. If you're interested in seeing the maximum diversity of birds (and not, say target-twitching at max-tweak-levels), you would be be very much in error not to make at least a day trip to Poring Hot Springs. I split a taxi with some other folks from the hostel and did it as a day trip. The bird assemblage here was pretty much completely different. Scaly-breasted Bulbul was the outstanding star, but in general I saw a whole slew of foothill birds here and not at the higher elevations of the park.

Taxi fares around Kinabalu can be pretty steep, especially because common destinations (Crocker Range, Poring, etc.) are fairly far apart. I hired a guy who was sitting at the Restoran Panataran - he turned out to be a wise investment, since the next morning, he spotted my only Orange-headed Thrush of the trip in his headlights shortly after he picked us up.

A few last notes: Firstly, If you can afford a guide, a lot of this becomes easier. A few companions at the hostel I stayed at hired a guide who knew where Whitehead's Broadbill and Whitehead's Spiderhunter had been reliable in the past week. I had to go blindly, and dipped on both (pain). It's also just a good thing to spend money on.

Secondly, I apparently arrived in the midst of a drought. My understanding is that droughts in Borneo often have the effect of pushing higher-elevation birds downslope. This allowed me to catch up with birds like Mountain Blackeye and the usually-difficult Everett's Thrush (!) within a kilometer of the botanical garden. Although I couldn't access the trails above the Timpohon Gate due to the earthquake damage, my understanding is that under more normal conditions, it is only Friendly Bush-Warbler and Mountain Blackeye that really stick to the areas above the gate. Pretty much all the other birds of interest can be found on the lower trails (though perhaps not as regularly or easily)

Publicado el 22 de enero de 2018 21:42 por leptonia leptonia | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

5 de enero de 2018

2018 Resolutions for iNaturalist - 100 Fish Species, Journaling, and more

My first fish of 2018. Predictably, a Barred Surfperch (Amphistichus argenteus)

I spent the afternoon on New Year's Day coming up with some qualitative and quantitative goals for iNaturalist this year.

Thanks to the 2017 year-end visualization thingy, I had some approximate numbers to go on with regard to what might be realistic for next year. Taking into account that I spent the first six months of 2017 severely under the thumb of finally finishing college, I figure (perhaps over-optimistically) that I can aim to hit these targets next year:

General goals:

1. Make 5,000 observations for the year.
(average 13.6 per day... Wooooooah that's gonna be tough.)

2. Make 5,000 identifications for others' observations.
Thanks to the Identify tool released last year, I think I can do this with general maintenance and maybe some Marathon days.

3. Use this journal tool more.
Observations by themselves are valuable, but it seems to me that putting them in context (with temporal, interspecies-relational notes, etc.) makes them way more valuable. For example, what will be the fate of the oaks in Santa Cruz that appear to have been subject to an outbreak of an as-yet unidentified partial leaf-dieback pathogen?

I should communicate in a separate journal post that I first started noticing symptoms this summer, and then go on to track the fate of these trees as the years go by.

Specific goals

1. Observe and document 100 species of fish (ray-finned, cartilaginous, or otherwise)

I'm really excited about this goal! (for a number of reasons)

Firstly, I've loved fish since I was maybe 11 or 12, when my dad asked my brother and I to choose projects to work on for the summer. I think my brother chose to learn trigonometry, and I chose to learn fishing. Since I didn't actually have any fishing gear or family members who were anglers, I mostly spent my time reading about fishing. I checked out and read every volume of the Ken Albert series of fishing books from the North Park library, but never accumulated any money for gear. The summer ended with me taping a bunch of split rings to a long bamboo pole, taping a water bottle to the end of it as a kind of spool to wrap the line around, (I used red yarn), and then tying the yarn to a bent paperclip as a hook. I think I baited it with cut carrots. If I recall correctly, I went fishing with this rig off the Imperial Beach pier. Even if I don't recall correctly, I caught nothing. But I stuck with it for a while, and after getting some actual fishing equipment, and a lot of failing to catch anything (really an astonishing amount of not catching anything at all), I started to catch some fish.

Secondly, and even more importantly, I was fascinated with Scott's analysis which showed that fish in general (and especially Ray-finned Fishes) are iNat's most under-observed group of vertebrates!

Clearly a situation begging to be remedied. Sometimes a man achieves fish, and sometimes a man has fish thrust upon him.

I love seeing fish. I like thinking about fish. I love eating (many) fish. I like the planning of and act of fishing. And I don't do anywhere near enough of it. They get me closer to the ocean, and to streams and lakes and rivers. This can never be bad and can only be good.

100 species of fish in a year is going to be really hard to achieve, I suspect. Although I've come a long way since the days of carrots on a paperclip, I'm still not a very good angler. I suspect I might fail to reach my goal by multiple tens of species, but I look forward to the motivation I'll get from tracking my progress.

Snorkeling, seining, trapping, etc. are likely going to be crucial to my success or failure. I predict that sculpins and other tidepool-dwelling fish are going to take an outsized share of the pie.

I posit that one cannot gaze upon this triggerfish without experiencing an strong swell of admiration and desperate love for this group of creatures.

Happy New Year!

Publicado el 5 de enero de 2018 02:59 por leptonia leptonia | 1 observación | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de septiembre de 2017

"Fallout" Conditions - Landbird Migration, Santa Cruz, 29 Sep 2017

Drove down to the Pajaro River mouth this morning, on a hunch that the sudden cool weather might drop a bunch of migrating landbirds.

The offshore fog/dense marine layer appears to have been enough to sufficiently disorient some southbound migrant warblers especially, and the shorebirds pond at the end of Shell Road (limited public access) was amazingly dense with warblers.

I'd never felt so fully surrounded and overwhelmed by birds in Santa Cruz as I did this morning. I encountered Yellow, Orange-crowned, Townsend's, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped, and one Tennessee Warbler, with a total of 77 individual warblers in the small area of the pond, entrance road, and back pond.

The back pond area is especially interesting by virtue of the presence of some native plants I rarely encounter elsewhere in the county. Hoita macrostachya, Bidens laevis among them.

Publicado el 30 de septiembre de 2017 00:42 por leptonia leptonia | 3 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de febrero de 2017

Ecosystem of the Self

I want to explore the (barely) visible critters that dwell on me.
I shall begin my journey here:

Publicado el 17 de febrero de 2017 04:11 por leptonia leptonia | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

25 de noviembre de 2016

Phenology notes on the 2016 autumn season

This post pertains to phenological observations (primarily fungal) from October to mid-November. As I write this, the season seems to be moving quickly from fall to winter. The Lactarius and Russula are moving in and the boletes are on their way out.

Also, more or less right now: The live oaks, (especially noticeable along the Graham Hill Road corridor above Santa Cruz) seem to be having some sort of mass flowering event – this seems weird?

Same with Saucer Magnolias around town in Santa Cruz – I typically see them in spring, but they are almost all in flower around my neighborhood (King Street corridor).

Okay: The Character of the Fall, from a Fungal Perspective:

Boletes had an exceptionally prolific year, with most pickers saying it was their best year ever for the Butter Boletes (Butyriboletus species) as well as the Porcini (Boletus s.s.). It certainly was true for me, especially pronounced for Butryiboletus persolidus and Boletus regineus.

Less-sought after species with pronounced abundant fruiting this year include Amanita calyptroderma (more than I've ever seen), and Rubroboletus eastwoodiae (can't remember this many fruitbodies since the fall of 2011, when there may have been slightly more).

As I write this, it seems that White King Boletes (Boletus barrowsii) are nearing their peak fruiting – perhaps a couple weeks after the peak for Butyriboletus persolidus (locally) and maybe a week after the peak of the other porcini. I had never thought of them as last-in-line of the porcini (w/r/t phenology). It will be interesting to see if future seasons bear out this order of fruiting.

Also perhaps curious - Caloboletus marshii didn't put in much of an appearance. I only saw maybe 5 fruitbodies. Do they do better in fall seasons that are very dry? Did the early rains swamp their normal fruiting period with too-wet soil?

Even veteran pickers with decades of experience have said this is the greatest number of boletes they've seen in the past 30-40 years. I have little doubt this is directly due to Typhoon Songda's early heavy rain and the subsequent warmth (thought to be favored by boletes). This may have been enhanced by the fact that these species either were not triggered to fruit or only weakly triggered for the past 3-4 years of drought, perhaps allowing them/causing them to have a "masting" response (last-ditch? accumulated resources?).

Other notes - Amanita phalloides are also having a prolific fruiting this year (although I think there are comparable years in my recent memory).

Amanita vernicoccora on 15 Nov at Fall Creek was one of few fall records I've seen. I saw it fruiting with Doug-fir and possibly scattered oaks/madrones near the Trailer Park on the UCSC Campus in November a number of years ago... I'll have to dig out the photo.

Russula "Green Madrone" sensu Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast put in a couple appearances (Big Basin, Quail Hollow). I had only seen it twice before, so perhaps it is also in the cohort of species that like these early-heavy-warm rains.

Publicado el 25 de noviembre de 2016 00:24 por leptonia leptonia | 12 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario