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Life Cycles

Becky Jaffe is a biophiliac. E.O. Wilson made the term up to describe “the connection human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” Except that for Becky, that connection is sought consciously with great care and effort. She is a photographer, an artist, and amateur naturalist with a keen eye for what the rest of life has to offer. A favorite subject of hers is insects, watching them peer back up at her, but this past lecture (9/20 Bay Area Life Cycles), Becky gave us a tour, not so much of place, but of time — and the creatures that can be found. One of the most delightful things about nature is about how regular she can be in her habits:

Photo by Becky Jaffe "Nest Builder"

September finds tarantula’s migrating. A good spot to find these is on Mt Diablo, as the males come out to look for the decorated burrows of females.

In October, preying mantis like it hot and can be found mating in places like Walnut Creek. You might see a female eat the head or entirety of her consort. or not, as it doesn’t ALWAYS happen.

Sandhill cranes come to Lodi in November – flocks half a million strong. There’s a dictionary by which you can decode their elaborate dances – performed in courtship, or for their mate of 25-30 years.

In Monterey in December you might find Bald Eagles starting to build their massive nests.

January, newts come out from underneath the leaf detritus into the creeks. The male and female clasp together for hours, while other males mights form tussling balls to and combat and lay eggs. There was some discussion on their toxicity and the evolutionary “war” waged between them and garter snakes (make sure to wash your hands if you ever pick one up).

February, in claremont canyon, you a pair of nesting great horned owl who caused a stir this past year swooping down on dogs. The owl will come back to the same tree, the same branch. Everyone was talking about this pair, and a five year old was overhead saying, “better than TV!”

In March, male elephant seals battle at Ano Nuevo state park. Or you might find a tranny wild turkey — 20% of females have the same beard out of the chest as the males. Or lady bugs in Redwook Park clustered together in the thousands.

April has Egrets nesting together in Alameda, possibly to protect themselves from marauding corvids – even though they squabble amongst themselves constantly. Becky has some amazing photos of one male proudly displaying twigs he tore from trees. His mate if he had one would go on to actually build the nest — but he was apparently still looking.

She also told the story of one particular Egret parasite who has a life cycle that includes a snail, a tadpole, and frogs who end up growing extra legs – making them easy targets for Egrets where the cycle begins anew. There are apparently 4 parasites for every non-parasite!

In May, dragon flies and damsel flies mate as strange contortionists. The different cycles of insects we often ignore beyond caterpillars, but many other species have their own interesting cycles of growth.

Go to Lake Merritt in June, and you might find “Hank” the white pelican joined by other migrating pelicans. Hank was injured and can not fly, but over the years he seems to have accumulated friends who come to visit him while on their way to other destinations. You’ll also might find the nests of cormorants.

July has swallowtails emerging from cocoons, beavers building dams in Martinez, and hummingbirds building their gorgeous little expandable nests (Becky passed around a sample).

Hawk Hill in August to see the migration of these fabulous creatures.

All this and much much more for those who have a mind to pay attention.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
– Mary Oliver

 

 

 

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