Joshua Tree 2009

I went down to Joshua Tree National Park last weekend to catch the desert bloom. I've been going to the desert in the spring for the past two years in search of flowers with little luck, but this time I think I managed to catch the beginning of a pretty good bloom. Saw tons of flowers and other things that I'm still sorting through.

I set off very early Friday morning, and enjoyed watching the ghostly white flowering fruit trees off I-5 brighten into glimmering orchards in the morning sun. Green rolling hills most of the way down to the transverse ranges, then snow-topped mountains. Skirted LA and headed to the dry lands, arriving at the southern end of the park around 3ish. Scouted around for wildflowers off the road there until the evening, and camped at Cottonwood Springs. Did a little night searching for spiders, which turned up some fun stuff, not all of which I could ID but whatever. Spiders are kind of tricky without a microscope.

Spent most of the next day hiking to Lost Palms Oasis. The trail isn't tough or anything (nor was it devoid of people), but there were way too many biological distractions. That part of the park is largely Sonoran, so ocotillo were everywhere (thought not blooming too much). Many cool flowers, ubiquitous side-spotted lizards, lots of Phainopepla, Anna's, etc.

When I got back to the trailhead, I drove north toward the Boy Scout trailhead. Found lots of cool flowers along the roadside until I got a bit higher and entered the Mojave, where Joshua trees rule. Lots and lots of beautiful Joshua trees. Hiked in about a mile along the Boy Scout trail and camped at the base of an outcrop, as advised by a friend. Great site, lots of good, flat camping spots, and nice vantages for sunrise and set. Saw some cool birds in the morning, including Cactus Wrens and shrikes.

Hiked back out Sunday morning, and drove on north, this time along the north side of the transverses with hopes of hitting Antelope Valley. Did so (eventually), but the poppies weren't even close to peaking. Oh well, still a pretty drive.

Thus ended a very cool (if solitary) trip. Kind of a ton of driving, but I did see tons of cool stuff.

Posted by kueda kueda, March 15, 2009 11:37 PM

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Ghost Flower (Mohavea confertiflora)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 05:10 PM PST

Description

Ghost flower (Mohavea confertiflora). I stopped by the visitor center when I rolled into the park and picked up one of those quick foldable flower guides. This flower popped out immediately and I thought, "Oh, gotta see that." Drove done the road a little ways, picked one of many identical rocky hillsides, walked up it, and found a nice patch of these beauties.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Leaf-cutter Ant (Acromyrmex versicolor)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 04:05 PM PST

Description

Unknown ants with goddamn cool spines and weird heads. They were very, very, very slowly excavating. Each was maybe about 8 cmmm long. Nest entrance was shaped like a cinder cone, maybe 30-40 cm across.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 03:57 PM PST

Description

Desert Mallow (Spaeraclea ambigua). A beautiful flower growing as a small bush.

Photos / Sounds

What

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 01:37 PM PST

Description

Chuparosa is the common name, which uBio has on file we don't seem to be fetching it. Need to fix that...

Photos / Sounds

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 04:28 PM PST

Description

That's what I would name this genus if I were in the business of naming things.

Photos / Sounds

What

Giant Crab Spider (Olios giganteus)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 09:15 PM PST

Description

Guess who was in the bathroom! Again, still trying to figure it out, but doubt I'll get anywhere not having collected it.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 07:01 PM PST

Description

Imagine a movie in which our governor visits an alien planet and hunts down a group of alien military types, one by one, in the wilderness, until only one is left. Arnold has heat vision, of course, but one alien figures this out and covers itself with sand to disguise its own heat signature, thereby becoming invisible to this human hunter. Let's call the film Bizarro Predator. I think this is what our protagonist would look like. Except spiders are poikilotherms and don't have heat and are probably invisible to heat-sensing interstellar predators. D'oh.

Photos / Sounds

What

Ground Spiders (Family Gnaphosidae)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 06:49 PM PST

Description

Wish I'd spent more time with this creature because it was quite beautiful. Rosy, silky silver, and yet all it got were shaky hands and a forgotten ISO. I haven't attempted to key it out yet but I don't have high hopes, because, well it's a spider. Spiders are hard when they're not dead in a dish. It had really enormous spinnerets (see below), so possibly a gnaphosid? Carapace was 4-5 mm, total body length something like 10-12 mm. Found under a rock on a very low hill near Cottonwood Springs camping area.

Photos / Sounds

What

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 04:36 PM PST

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Lavender (Condea emoryi)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 03:45 PM PST

Photos / Sounds

What

Branched Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 09:17 AM PST

Description

Pretty sure I have the ID right here.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Bluebells (Phacelia campanularia)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 08:52 AM PST

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 09:24 AM PST

Photos / Sounds

What

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 09:00 AM PST

Description

Not sure, don't speak hummingbird. Also, this is Anna's, right? I spent the whole time convinced they were Costa's, until on the way back I told a woman I'd been seeing costas and she seemed surprised It's got dark throat feathers extending much further down the chest than most Anna's in the Bay Area, but when the light caught them they seemed more red than purple. Also they were almost all big and boisterous.

Photos / Sounds

What

Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 08:55 AM PST

Description

Black-throated Sparrow does his thing.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 06:25 PM PST

Description

According to the good folks at BugGuide, this is not a mutillid as I first thought but a member of the family Bradynobaenidae, a closely related family that is somewhat mysterious. There even some speculation that they may parasitize solpugids!

Photos / Sounds

What

Scarlet Milkvetch (Astragalus coccineus)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 11:06 AM PST

Description

The ranger at the Cottonwood Springs visitor center mentioned that these were blooming near Lost Palms Oasis. I didn't really remember what she had called them, but when I cam across them, it was pretty obvious they were what she was talking about. Truly arresting flowers.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Recluse (Loxosceles deserta)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 10:13 AM PST

Description

I am fairly certain this is Loxosceles. Not too many 6-eyed spiders with eyes arranged like this, I think, plus the silk looks cribellate (though apparently it only looks that way). Loxosceles deserta seems like a possibility based on location. Can anyone confirm that? Found under a fallen yucca along the trail to Lost Palms Oasis.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 04:11 PM PST

Description

On the drive north Saturday evening, I kept pulling over for flowers. There were patches of them everywhere in the southern regions of the park.

Photos / Sounds

What

Spanish Needle (Palafoxia arida)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 04:01 PM PST

Description

Commonly known as Spanish needles, though apparently most taxonomic databases don't have that common name.

Photos / Sounds

What

Fremont's Pincushion (Chaenactis fremontii)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 03:58 PM PST

Description

Beautiful little roadside flower that I very nearly overlooked.

Photos / Sounds

What

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 04:49 PM PST

Description

One of the many, many eponymous trees in the park.

Photos / Sounds

What

Wolf Spiders (Family Lycosidae)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 06:19 PM PST

Description

For some reason the flash treated this little spider kindly.

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 05:44 PM PST

Description

Only non-Uta lizard of the whole trip! Found under a fallen Joshua tree branch.

Photos / Sounds

What

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 11:49 AM PST

Description

You know, when I saw this totally convinced this was a Lesser Goldfinch, but now that I'm looking it up, I am only 80% sure. It's got the dark bill and green back, but ... and incomplete black cap. Frustrating. Any bird nerds want to weigh in? My bird nerditude is insufficient.

Photos / Sounds

What

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 10:56 AM PST

Photos / Sounds

What

Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 6, 2009 03:39 PM PST

Description

I described this bird to someone recently as a "cardinal from hell." Ubiquitous in the Mojave, as far as I can tell.

Photos / Sounds

What

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 8, 2009 07:52 AM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 8, 2009 07:00 AM PDT

Description

I decided not to bring my proper camera and telelphoto on this mini-trip to Boy Scout ... and of course saw cool birds, like this Northern Shrike (a first for me!). Actually, there were a bunch of shrikes out that morning. Though the mask is quite large, I think it's a Northern and not a Loggerhead because of the very clear hook in its bill.

Photos / Sounds

What

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 8, 2009 06:56 AM PDT

Description

This is one of several cactus wrens I saw on the trip. Cagey, but common.

Photos / Sounds

What

Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)

Observer

kueda

Date

March 7, 2009 01:06 PM PST

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