3 de agosto de 2023

August 2, 2023 Mount Wilson

With our endless summer heat, it's always nice to find a cooler spot to explore. Here in the Los Angeles area, we have the advantage of being within a 1 hour drive or so of the mountains, the desert or the beach. I decided to go to the closest mountain area with less people/traffic and went up to Mount Wilson where the Mount Wilson Observatory is based. There are a number of strenuous hiking trails in the general area but at my age, it's easier to just stroll/hike the area around the observatory. (I say "stroll" because as an iNaturalist user I'm constantly stopping to look at stuff. Only when I realize I'm out of time or with friends do I get into a hiking mode.)Anyway, Mount Wilson offers great mountain habitat, generous shade and not too many people on a weekday.

Mount Wilson is at 5700 feet or so, so it does not have wildly different species than the general Los Angeles area with the exception of the pine/conifer forest. There are many of the same plants we see in the "basin" as we call the Los Angeles area; however there are a few plants that are found in montane habitats that we don't see in Los Angeles. In addition, while some of the flowering plants are past peak in the LA area, some of the flowering plants are peaking in the mountains.

I also noticed that Mount Wilson, as an area, is not overly explored from an iNaturalist perspective. One of my goals is to always find under-observed areas and fill in the blanks, so to speak. And you don't always have to go far to do so. As an example, Franklin Canyon, right in the heart of Los Angeles was way under-explored from an iNaturalist perspective. Over the course of 18 months I think I added at least 120 species or more. Thus, it was fun to explore the area around Mount Wilson and see what is up there. I didn't have a lot of time so I'm planning to return in the near future when I have more time to devote.

First, I arrived before the gate was open at 10 AM. So I parked at a pullout and looked in the immediate area for things to photograph. There were three California buckwheat plants right near the road that were absolutely teeming with insects. To be honest, maybe 10 years ago, I used to see this much activity on buckwheat flowers here in the Los Angeles area. However, with a few exceptions, most of the buckwheat plants I see now are not heavily populated with insects aside from non-native honeybees. I wonder if the rampant use of pesticides and herbicides is impacting this as I always counted on buckwheat flowers as a good source to find pollinators. The past few years have been very disappointing in this area. The one area where I still see pollinators on buckwheat flowers is the desert.

I'm happy to report that the buckwheat up at Mount Wilson is thriving. And I only spent about 20 minutes in this area so there may have been many more species than I encountered. Among the pollinators were a painted lady, marine blue butterflies, a couple of species of wasps, digger bees, yellow-faced bumblebees and one of my favorites, California Digger-cuckoo bees (more than I've ever seen in one area). Once the gate opened I found many more bees, mostly on the woollypod milkweed plants, most of which had already peaked, but a couple of which were looking good. In addition to those bees mentioned above, I saw a western carpenter, more digger bees, more California cuckoo-digger bees, and the endangered Crotch's bumblebee. Crotch's have been having a great year here and if I think back to when they last had a good year, it was about 3-4 years ago when we had another good rain year. I believe they seem to thrive when we get good rains and then suffer when we're in drought.

In addition to all the great bees I found (and I've only mentioned a few of the species). I also saw a juvenile Stellar's jay, a juvenile western bluebird and my favorite, three juvie Western gray squirrels. The latter have mostly been extirpated from the Santa Monica Mountains (there are a few holdout populations) but thanks to the non-native fox squirrels, they are not seen that often unless you visit the mountainous areas. So it was fun to see the playful activities of a couple of siblings chasing each other through the forest.

In the reptile category, I didn't see any snakes, but I finally saw and photographed a southern sagebrush lizard. These guys seem very difficult (to me) to distinguish from the super common western fence lizard but my strategy worked out. I photographed every lizard I saw that resembled a western fence lizard and I did find a few sagebrush lizards. I think I'm beginning to see the subtle differences.

Finally, it's always nice to see plants in an area that haven't been reported yet, even if some of them are relatively common. I found a diffuse groundsmoke, a splendid woodland gilia and a San Gabriel beardtongue (a plant I wasn't even familiar with), none of which have been reported in the area. It always pays to look carefully for plants as I almost overlooked the gilia. It was in a small area where two paths diverged and in an area that you could easily overlook as it was full of wood chips and heavily shaded.

In summary, I probably added at least ten species to the Mount Wilson list and I can bet there are hundreds more that haven't been reported still waiting for an iNaturalist enthusiast to find.

Publicado el 3 de agosto de 2023 21:05 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

3 de mayo de 2023

April 11-13, 2023 Carrizo Plain

What a dramatic difference a year makes. The rainstorms we got this winter and spring have transformed a dry barren expanse of land, the Carrizo Plain, into one with the brilliant colors of springtime blooms. Looking at Google earth where photos were taken a few months ago, it's hard to believe it's the same place.

I've been wanting to visit now for over a month but our cool rainy weather kept me away. My visit in April was short but jam packed as there was just so much to see. I realize how different the pace of my visits have been when I compare the drought years to this year. In the past three years, I at times, struggled to find anything alive plant-wise. However, it was much easier to find small animals as there was so little vegetation to hide under. Thus, even with really challenged environmental conditions, I was able to capture photos of some animals.

In this year's visit I found myself surrounded by so many stunning landscapes that I spent a lot more time working on trying to take amazing landscape photos to capture the colors and beauty. While this absorbed much of my time, I still tried to look for animals but the vegetation was so dense and tall I only saw two antelope squirrels when I was there and both of them were running across the road. Even birds seemed scarcer with the exception of horned larks. I saw very few red-tailed hawks and wonder if they can even see anything to catch with so much ground cover. I saw no elk or pronghorn although they should be easier to see above the flowers. I also didn't have time to get to the areas where they can sometimes be found since I was so absorbed in taking landscape photos.

I stopped by the visitor center and talked to the biologist, Russ about what was going on at Carrizo. He told me that they have been averaging 400-500 visitors a day during the week and over a thousand each day on the weekends. The flowers are definitely a draw and I can attest to that---so many people taking selfies and posing in flower fields for their instagram accounts. I understand the appeal but it kind of takes away from the back to nature experience I enjoy at Carrizo.

Anyway, Russ told me that they are actually going to bring in some cattle to graze in some areas of Carrizo to get the vegetation less thick as it is hampering the movement of the endangered kangaroo rats. They are normally fast animals but they can't move very well through the labyrinth of plants that are everywhere, which potentially makes them more likely to be preyed upon. In addition, the blunt nosed leopard lizards, also endangered, need to warm up during the day and with all the vegetation they are forced on to the road where they can be run over by vehicles.

At the same time, the cattle need to be kept away from the endangered plants at Carrizo so it is a tough management problem to try and keep everything in balance. These issues also highlight how the loss of grasslands in the state have impacted Carrizo. With this being the only sizable grassland remaining in California, many of the plants and animals are endangered as they have been extirpated from many of their traditional areas...in other words, Carrizo is their last refuge. With our drying climate, it has been even more challenging and while it is great to see the rebirth this year, we know that the drought will return. We just have to be grateful for these intermittent wet years that bring new life to the land.

Another interesting thing about this year, is that the variety of plant life seems to have expanded. Or at least my notice of it has. I saw many new plants I hadn't seen before. And I didn't even make it to many areas I wanted to visit. One of the plants I saw more of than I've ever seen is Byron's larkspur, a "vulnerable" plant and an interesting one at that. I also saw a two-seed milkvetch, a plant completely new to me and it seemed to be in several places.

While the weather was on the cool side while I was there I did have one moment of excitement when I saw a coachwhip slither by at top speed. I was so disappointed that I didn't get a photo of it. And I was really encouraged when I caught a quick glimpse of a San Joaquin kit fox, the first time I've seen one since 2020. Last year I was so concerned that I hadn't seen any for two years that I worried about their survival. They have so many challenges that it was good to see one alive and looking healthy.

Some of my other interesting finds were a Howell's onion, some green fairy or brine shrimp which were very abundant in Soda Lake, and a purplespot gilia. Most surprising was finding a western tiger beetle in Carrizo. Whenever I've seen tiger beetles in the past they have always been near water however this one was not near water so I'm not sure whether that is significant or not. My photo was awful since it was running so fast but since it's the first listing for Carrizo, it is really cool. And finally, I once again found a Cauchus moth. As documented in the notes below this observation, this is a species that is currently being described in a paper. Hopefully it will eventually achieve species status.

There is so much to discover here that I look forward to another visit soon.

Publicado el 3 de mayo de 2023 03:24 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de abril de 2023

April 9, 2023 Phacelia, Valley Butte and Blalock Wildlife Sanctuaries

I took a trip out to the Antelope Valley to visit the “wildlife sanctuaries” designated as such by Los Angeles County. These areas are amorphous plots of land that are protected from development. There are no trails or markers; rather you just meander through the area hoping for some serendipity when looking for plants and animals.

The furthest of these I went to is the remote “Phacelia Wildlife Sanctuary” which is near the border of Edwards Airforce Base in the Mojave desert. What makes this place a bit more special is that you have a chance of seeing some reptiles that have pretty much been wiped out of most places in the Antelope Valley.

My visit started out great with seeing a yellow-backed spiny lizard almost immediately after getting out of the car. I continued my good luck with seeing a creosote moth and a native bumblebee.

Unfortunately, my next “observation” was a human in a vehicle that drove by me on a dirt road that bisects the sanctuary. He parked his truck near my car which made me very suspicious since he did not come from the direction of civilization. I decided to stay within eyesight of my car in case something happened. My gut feeling was correct as I got within 100 yards of the vehicles. It was obvious this guy was up to no good. He tried to talk to me but I yelled out to him to leave me alone. Luckily, he had the sense to do so, got in his truck and sped off. It is always a bit disconcerting to be out in the middle of nowhere which I pretty much was, out of cell service, and have an encounter with some creepy human being.

Anyway, I breathed a sigh of relief when he left and could finally enjoy my exploration of the desert. With warming temperatures, I was expecting to see more insects but I still didn’t see many. I’m particularly concerned as the lack of bees is very noticeable, and even more so since it’s turning out to be an amazing wildflower year. And even though I sometimes feel as if I’ve seen most of the desert wildflowers, there are always more new ones to discover.

In addition to Phacelia Wildlife Sanctuary I stopped at Valley Butte Wildflower Sanctuary and finally Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary. Among my best finds of the day were: at least one cool insect, albeit somewhat common, a green blister beetle and several wildflowers that I hadn't seen before or see rarely. These include the unassuming Pringle's woolly sunflower, a delicate and quite lovey Cooper's wild cabbage, possibly hundreds if not thousands of sandblossoms, a crowned mullia, yellow peppercress and an amazing looking milkvetch I actually found along the side of a road.

I find it interesting how some years, certain flowers seem to dominate and you wonder what exact conditions have to happen between rain, sunlight and temperature that cause this to happen. For instance I haven't seen sandblossoms for several years and now there seem to be thousands. And I don't think I've ever seen yellow peppercress except out at Red Rock Canyon State Park yet this year I've seen it in a few places.

I feel like it is imperative to be out this year exploring for wildflowers as we don't know when and if we'll get another amazing rain year as this one was. Interestingly enough the amount of water pouring out of the San Gabriel Mountains into the Antelope Valley is such that on one street I had to ford a foot deep stream of water that was rushing rapidly down a wash many miles from those mountains. For some reason the "road closed" barrier was only on one direction of the road at least a mile away and there was no barrier on the direction in which I was traveling.

Publicado el 14 de abril de 2023 17:47 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observaciones | 10 comentarios | Deja un comentario

2 de abril de 2023

April 1, 2023 Desert Tortoise Natural Area

I made the trek out to the Mojave today primarily as a scouting trip for the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. With our continuing unseasonably cool weather, I wasn't expecting to find much in the way of reptiles and/or insects and I was correct. However, I wanted to check out the flowers and habitat and hopefully spot a tortoise.

As with every other desert area I've visited this early spring, there seems to be a mismatch between the flora and the fauna. Our abundant rain has produced a bumper crop of wildflowers but with temperatures so low, almost no pollinators are out nor are many other insects.

I arrived at the reserve shortly after 10 AM and it was still only 55 F. The naturalist told me it had been 32 earlier that morning. I don't think it made it too much past 70 for the three and half hours I was there.

It was a beautiful day to be out with almost no wind and pleasant temperatures; however the off road people were out in force and seemed to be congregating right next to the tortoise reserve making a lot of noise as they ripped up the desert. In fact, driving in, a convoy of theirs was blocking so much of the road I had to drive on the sand berm to get around them. It just added to my annoyance with these people who destroy the desert.

Putting that aside, the flowers at the reserve were the best I've ever seen them. I think I've only been visiting this area since about 2016 and this is definitely going to be one of the best years yet in terms of habitat. Though the reserve's rainfall was nowhere near what other parts of California received, it still was more than enough to stimulate tons of flowers.

Unfortunately, there was not much wildlife to be seen; however, thanks to the naturalist, I was able to observe one desert tortoise who seemed content to just sit out and soak up the sun. For once, there will be plenty to eat for these endangered animals. Unfortunately, they are so sparsely populated that even reproducing is difficult as they can't travel that far in search of mates. Even worse, the survival rate for youngsters is only 20%, so between climate change, off roaders and burgeoning solar panel farms, it's tough for these animals to thrive.

In terms of other wildlife, insects were few and far between. I did see a few things flying around, perhaps a painted lady or two and probably a sphinx moth but almost nothing was sitting on the flowers. I saw one native bee and surprisingly no western honeybees which is a first. And I only saw one side blotched lizard sitting out though I noticed a few scurrying reptiles under cover.

The flowers were great though and I think they will probably continue to be good for some time as the naturalist told me it rained all day just a few days ago. I also saw many flowers still in early stages of sprouting.

My favorite finds today were a Layne's milkvetch, a plant totally new to me and a nice group of desert candles which I've seen in the area before but never in the reserve. They're such beautiful flowers I am sometime amazed at the variety of shapes and colors wildflowers take. Another cool flower I saw for the first time at the reserve and which was a new flower for me as well, was the striking Mojave desertparsley.

I see that the temperatures are going to start warming up so I will definitely be making a return visit to the reserve in anticipation of seeing a lot more wildlife.

Publicado el 2 de abril de 2023 05:19 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de marzo de 2023

March 15-16, 2023 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The desert southwest is an alluring place from a nature standpoint. Despite the challenges of heat, wind and drought, life persists and is often unique and untouched due to less human impact. I have only scratched the surface of the southwest, but I have been curious for some time about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southwestern Arizona. This monument, named for its iconic organ pipe cactus is an International Biosphere Reserve and a pristine example of the Sonoran desert habitat.

I recently spent two days exploring the park and it was not nearly enough time. Having been to many areas of Arizona before I would describe the monument as Sabino Canyon on steroids with a splash of the Chiricahua's thrown in. The landscape is dramatic and beautiful, and thanks to an excellent monsoon season and continuing rain since then, the park was very green and full of flowers. Sagauros dot the landscape and the further south you go, the more you see the tall organ pipe cactus. Lupine and brittlebush were blooming everywhere as were more than one species of beautiful globemallow.

While the weather was great for hiking as it was overcast and cool both days I was there, it was not the best weather to find reptiles or insects, which was somewhat of a disappointment. However the plant life definitely helped make up for the lack of fauna. And I was able to see and photograph two of my target species, the Sonoran/Sonoyta mud turtle and the Sonoyta pupfish. Both of these species are in the Quitobaquito Springs area. This area has a rich history both as home to native Americans as well as mining operations. What is truly amazing is that there is a natural water source in the middle of the desert. As such it draws all kinds of life.

The spring area is truly a place begging to be explored more. I didn't spend nearly enough time in the area. Getting there is somewhat interesting as well. A fifteen mile dirt road takes you to the spring but parallels the border wall with Mexico and you are within feet of that wall as well as numerous warning signs about the specter of migrants in the area as well as a warning not to travel alone (which I was). Ironically on my way to the spring, I did see a group of three possible migrants walking on the road. They definitely were not park visitors based on their torn clothing so I'm not sure how they got there.

In addition to the organ pipe cactus, the park is also home to more than 30 cactus species including the endangered Senita cactus. While some of these can be found outside the park, the park is the main location for these plants which look quite similar to the Organ Pipe cactus. I found a brand new one growing in so it looks a bit different than the mature plants but it was cool to actually see it as they are only in one small area of the park.

Other notable finds on my travels were a colorful predacious diving beetle, Laccophilus fasciatus, a black and red miner bee (I think) digging its burrow, a desert red jumping spider (poor photos) and a beautiful butterfly I was not familiar with, an Arizona powdered skipper.

Also interesting to see was the very round Emory's barrel cactus. Though not blooming, I was not familiar with this cactus, having only seen California barrel cacti. In fact many of the plants in this area were new to me and all the more reason to spend additional time exploring. And though the reptile count was super low, I did manage to see one juvenile zebra tailed lizard who was actually somewhat cooperative.

I'm hoping to make a return visit to this park as I was only able to take three short hiking trails and there are many more to explore, most with amazing vistas.

Publicado el 23 de marzo de 2023 05:12 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de febrero de 2023

February 12, 2023 Triunfo Creek Park

It has been nearly a year since I visited this area. Last spring I was enjoying a great day out when I was coming down a steep slope and slipped on some very loose gravel. My momentum made me lose my balance and tumble into a ditch. Though I only sustained a bruised knee and a small scratch on my nose, I still cringe when I remember the sound of my camera lens literally breaking right off my camera. Perhaps that's why I haven't been back for awhile!

Eleven months later all is well and with an almost year old camera and lens purchased new after that mishap, I set out to check out Triunfo. The interesting thing about this area is that at the top of the hill near the reservoir (off limits) is a large field with several ephemeral ponds that form after rains. While it has been awhile since our last storm, I wanted to check out the ponds to see what life I could find. I was in luck as there were at least 3 ponds still intact in addition to a couple of minor partial creek beds with water. It's still early in the year and we've had a fairly cool winter for a change (with the exception of a few days last week) so pond life is not as robust as it might be later in the year.

However, the ponds were literally teeming with ostracods, maybe numbering up to a thousand. They were swimming about but there were also clusters of them in some spots which you can see from the photos.

Ostracods are actually small crustaceans, which inhabit virtually all aquatic environments on earth. This group of animals have bodies completely enclosed between two valves which in many species occur as calcified “shells”. There are actually over 2000 species of ostracods, some living in saltwater and others in fresh water. In addition to the ostracods, there were quite a few mosquito larvae as well as a couple of tadpoles in the ponds. I even saw one frog but it jumped away and I wasn't able to re-find it for a photo.

In addition to the ephemeral ponds, this area can also be a great one for wildflowers if we get the right weather conditions. While the number of flowers is not necessarily out of the ordinary, the variety of species in this location seems to be greater than in many areas of the Santa Monica mountains. Though too early in the year for much to be in bloom, there was a nice scattering of goldfields, several ceanothus plants and some shining pepperweed. A California peony was in bloom though partially hidden under a black sage plant and I found one Padre's shooting star, one of my favorite early spring flowers.

Best of all, I made it back down the hill, this time without any mishaps. I look forward to a return visit later in the spring to see what flowers appear after our generous rainfall this winter.

Publicado el 14 de febrero de 2023 06:38 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observaciones | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

5 de febrero de 2023

February 4, 2023 Lopez Canyon

Wow! It's hard to believe we're already into the second month of the year! And signs of spring are popping up in many places. Thanks to a generous amount of rainfall, lots of plants are growing and everything looks very green (thanks to a lot of non-native grasses gracing our hillsides).

Today I visited Lopez Canyon, a place I just started visiting in the fall of last year. I hadn't been since November and hoped that the trail was in decent shape since the recent rains have really negatively impacted many of the trails in Southern California. However, I found the trail in this area pretty much intact with the exception of seeing one large boulder in the middle of the trail (where fortunately it is more of a fire road than single track).

This trail seems relatively untouched and potentially a great wildlife area as it is a bit less travelled than many of the other trails I visit. Even on a Saturday I only saw two people, one a mountain biker and one jerk on a dirt bike that definitely should not have been on the trail. But bad behavior on the trails is par for the course these days.

That being said, all in all it was great to be out again looking for new and interesting wildlife even if for the most part, pretty much everything I saw, I've seen before. Still, it's always nice to see the first flowers of the year including one blue dicks, one wild caterbury bells plant, several wishbone bushes and a few large patches of clearwater cryptantha. And I finally was able to get a photo (this year), albeit very distant, of a Sara orangetip. I've been seeing orangetips on almost every visit out to the local mountains for the last couple of weeks and even saw one in Orange County on December 25th, but they never paused long enough for a photo. While they are always an early appearing butterfly, I'm afraid they're still a bit early as there aren't a whole lot of their favorite plants in bloom. With our variable weather, I'm sure insects are very confused as to when to emerge, as if I recall, last year, January was a very warm month, while this year it was cooler than average.

In addition to the orangetip I saw at least two dozen side-blotched lizards and quite a few other insects including at least 3 gray dragon lubber grasshoppers, a species I haven't seen that much of in the last couple of years. There were several species of insects on the fragrant yerba santa plants and my best find of the day was this cool moth (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/148060394) that to me looks like it is in the genus schinia, but I can't seem to find any matching species so I'm probably way off as my moth ID skills are pretty weak. And right after I spotted that moth, I found a diamondback moth, which though fairly common isn't always easy to spot due to its small size.

I'm looking forward to a return visit to the area before it gets too hot as even today with temps in the high 60's, low 70's it was pretty hot on the uphill climb. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to handle it once it hits more than 80 as I'm sure there is a lot more cool wildlife to be found in the area.

Publicado el 5 de febrero de 2023 05:31 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 8 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

31 de diciembre de 2022

December 30, 2022 Year in Review

The year has flown by so quickly and looking back at 2022 I find it was a year of ups and downs.

From a nature standpoint, the ongoing drought and climate issues are continuing to have a sizable impact on wildlife. We had very little rain this last year, though we had two decent sized storms that kept everything from completely dying. Wildlife numbers seem to be down overall. However, in spite of this, I think we had a very good butterfly year. It seemed those numbers were up and that some species had very good years. On the other hand, a couple of species that I saw frequently in prior years, like the variable checkerspot seem to have had very reduced numbers in the past couple of years.

Human impacts too continued to play a significant role in the state of wildlife. I believe we lost at least 3-4 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains this year to car strikes, P-22 being the most famous one. The number of wild animals in general that are killed by vehicles is huge and it seems to be getting worse. Whether it is because there are more people or less viable habitat for animals who are moving into more residential areas in search of food, the loss of animal life is very sad.

And just as it seems that since the pandemic, people have become more reckless, this behavior has perhaps been responsible for its increasing toll on wildlife. A wildlife bridge is being built in Los Angeles County and though it boasts of being the largest in the world, I would be happier with a smaller one if we could build many more. Most if not all of the mountain lion strikes were nowhere near where the wildlife bridge is being built. That being said, I can't wait until it is completed as it can't help but have some positive impact on animal survival and genetic diversity.

In terms of iNaturalist, my goal of trying to find 1000 new species a year fell short this year. I reached about 800 with which I am still happy considering I did very little travel beyond 100 miles from home. Even if I stayed exclusively in Los Angeles County I should easily be able to find 1000 new species each year as LA County has about 10000 species posted on iNaturalist with I'm sure many more to be found. This owes to the size of the county and the tremendous range of ecosystems in the county including marine, chaparral, desert and montane habitats.

One of the other goals I set this year was to try and fill in the species gaps in more local areas. I was never a fan of Franklin Canyon, a park in the heart of the city, due to the number of people in the park. However, I noticed that surprisingly, this park is way under-surveyed in terms of nature. The bird list is quite good and plants are fairly well documented as well. However, as I began exploring the park, I found so much that had never been reported and was able to add nearly 150 new species to the park, most of which are not even particularly rare but that just had never been posted to iNaturalist. In working on this project, I discovered that there is a tremendous amount of life living in this urban but "natural" park and I've been really pleased that I can fill in these gaps.

Another area I began to survey close to home is an area next to our concrete lined Los Angeles "river". One section of the river (maybe about a 1/4 mile stretch by 12 feet wide) has been planted with nothing but native vegetation. This area is maintained weekly by a group of volunteers and thanks to their upkeep, there seem to be flowers blooming most of the year. The amount of wildlife found in just this small strip of land is amazing. I documented 20 species of butterflies as well as over 100 other species of wildlife thriving along this stretch of the river this year. And I expect I will continue to find more wildlife as more and more species discover this island of habitat in the urban jungle.

Though overall, I struggle at times to stay positive in nature when I see so much of it being decimated by human encroachment or as the result of overdevelopment and climate issues, there are still moments of discovery and joy.

Highlights of the year: The two "finds" I had this year which were definitely highlights were a native bee and some fairy shrimp. The bee I found was in Joshua Tree National Park and is called Trachusa autumnalis. I discovered when it was identified that "From the revision: "No information is known about the biology of this rare species" [this includes host plant info] and,
"Its scarcity may be attributed to the infrequency of collections in the fall season". Here is a link to that obervation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135483444. It is always gratifying to feel that the work we do as amateurs might in some way help science.

The other find, fairy shrimp, were found surprisingly, in the heart of Los Angeles. Fairy shrimp are quite interesting little creatures. Here is a little bit of info on them for those who are not familiar with them: "Lacking any dispersal mechanism of their own, fairy shrimp are permanent residents of temporary pools. We can only assume they are dispersed inadvertently by other animals, such as waterfowl and amphibians, or by wind and flooding events. Worldwide there are some 300 species found scattered across all seven continents, with 64 known in North America. Generally about ¾-inch long, fairy shrimp are easily recognized by their combination of stalked eyes, “upside-down” swimming behavior, and often orange, reddish, bronze, or bluish coloration. Fossils of fairy shrimp date back to the Cambrian Period (more than 500 million years ago), long before the first fish introduced simple vertebrate anatomy to the world. Originally populating the world’s oceans, fairy shrimp were eventually forced by evolving predators into shallow, temporary freshwater habitats." (From Vermont Center for Ecostudies). Because fairy shrimp are so rare, a biologist from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be coming out to study these shrimp in January 2023. Here is a link to a poor photo of one of the shrimp: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/145302385

I had many more interesting finds but in the interest of not turning this post into a book, here is one more that is a first for iNaturalist, Penstemonia hennei : https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/127022854

Last but not least, one of the highlights of the year, and coming just in the last week, was the appearance of a special bird in Southern California...a snowy owl. Link to a photo of the owl: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/145269370

Drawing huge crowds and much media attention (I worry about the impact on this beautiful bird), this young owl has taken up residence in a suburban neighborhood just south of Los Angeles. Though I worry about the future of this owl since it is so so far from home, seeing it has definitely been one of the most memorable nature experiences I've had and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to see it. It is a reminder of how much joy nature can bring us and why it is so vital that we do everything we can to preserve it.

Publicado el 31 de diciembre de 2022 06:49 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de diciembre de 2022

December 17 2022 P-22 RIP

I write this post with a heavy heart. Today world famous urban mountain lion P-22 was euthanized after being captured about a week ago due to a number of issues. At 12 years old, he was old for a male mountain lion, able to survive that long by staying in a very small area where he had no competitors. At the same time, that small area meant that he was not only landlocked on a small island but that he was able to produce no offspring since no other lion has been able to cross two major highways safely nor could he safely leave.

Though I never saw him, just knowing he was nearby made my world a richer place. I always dreamed of seeing him but now I never will. Fortunately there are more mountain lions out there but their existence in this highly urban environment is in peril. The fragmented habitat, the human barriers, the people who still use rat poison that works its way up the food chain...all of these threaten our mountain lion population as well as so much other wildlife. Inbreeding is occurring as these beautiful animals are unable to safely travel to find new mates.

Thanks in part to P-22, Los Angeles is now building a wildlife bridge which I hope will help our animals. But that is only one bridge in one area. I hope, if nothing else, the legacy of P-22 will be to bring more awareness and appreciation of wildlife to more people. These animals were here long before us. It would be very sad if because of us, they are unable to call this area home.

I'm so glad you were here, P-22! You will be missed.

Publicado el 18 de diciembre de 2022 01:19 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

8 de agosto de 2022

August 7, 2022 Malibu Bluffs Park

It's been a hot summer, but then lately all our summers have been hot. As have our springs and falls for that matter. In an effort to avoid the heat, I headed out to Malibu Bluffs Park along the coast. Though I usually avoid the beach area during the summer, Malibu Bluffs Park tends not to get busy...at least the natural part of the park doesn't. I did see about 6 people but they were all spread out during my visit and I had the place mostly to myself.

I'm sure one of the reasons this area doesn't get many visitors is that it looks quite unremarkable. It's basically a big open area along the coast. Yes, it boasts nice views of the ocean, but there is nothing but chaparral here. No big attractions and probably a less natural feel due to the busy traffic going by on PCH and the helicopters whirring over the coastline.

While I didn't find anything remarkable here, it is a place where I've had good luck finding things that I don't find elsewhere. And while I'm always on the lookout for new species, any time I can find something in an area that I haven't seen in that area before, or that hasn't yet been recorded in that area, I am happy to add it to the inaturalist database.

My favorite find today were two, yes, two great spreadwings. I don't see these often so it was really nice to find them. I'm frequently discouraged when I don't see species that I used to see a few years ago. Yet I'm often encouraged when I find species in a new location where I wasn't expecting to see them.

In addition to the spreadwings, what I found interesting were the number of marine blue butterflies around. I actually was at this park last week and counted over 50. I'm sure there were still at least that many if not more. Interestingly enough, there are really not that many records on inaturalist of these butterflies in the coastal area of Malibu--or at least not anywhere near the observations that reflect the abundance I saw last week and today. It certainly reminds me that the data we add, while very valuable, often does not reflect what is actually happening out in nature.

In addition to seeing a large variety of bee flies, I also was pleased to find an ashy gray lady beetle. I've seen them before, but this was my first sighting in the Santa Monica Mountains area. Another cool find, and one of my favorite genera was a scriptured leaf beetle. I saw a couple of these last week but I always enjoy seeing them again.

Finally, I'm still amazed at how well animals are able to "hide" in plain sight. Today I saw both a moth and a spider, which had I not been looking very closely I would never have seen. I've posted both in conjunction with this journal entry and it makes me wonder how many things we all overlook as we're going about our visits in nature.

The more I observe nature, the more I learn. Not only have I discovered that many things that look the same are not necessarily the same, I've also learned to spend a lot of time looking over everything to make sure I'm not missing something interesting. Some of my best finds have been when I spent time in one spot looking at something, only to find something else crawling/flying by that I never would have noticed had I not stopped in that spot.

Publicado el 8 de agosto de 2022 03:58 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario