May 24, 2022

May 22, 2022 Carrizo Plain National Monument

The Carrizo Plain has always had a magical appeal to me. It's a place that seems timeless and one in which you can immerse yourself in nature with very few if any distractions. It is also a place of ups and downs. Known for superblooms, it is also a place of drought. Subject to a rain shadow effect, it has never been a place where a lot of rain falls. Yet it seemed to be home to lots of wildlife--a place where wildlife can thrive without much human interference.

However, with California's continuing drought, Carrizo is really suffering. Last year was incredibly dry. This year was not much better, though there was enough rain to produce flowers in many places and make some areas green again. But the water deficit shows, based on my one day trip to the plain on May 22nd, which is about 2 months to the day from my last visit. Not only are flowers fewer in number, bloom periods are much shorter as there is not enough groundwater to sustain them. Without plants, wildlife has nothing to sustain or to shelter them.

On my last visit, I was feeling somewhat encouraged. I found several patches of flowers and some areas where things looked very good. However, there was also a sense of desolation...things were much quieter than before. Less wildlife was around. It was somewhat subtle but there was definitely a difference.

May's visit was even more discouraging. Yes, wildlife and flowers could be found; and some areas looked as if they could sustain life; but there were many areas that just looked dead and devoid of any living thing. Vast areas were covered with nothing but dirt and stubble from dried vegetation.

It has been two years now since I saw a kit fox at Carrizo. While these charismatic animals are primarily nocturnal, I've been lucky enough to have had some brief encounters that made my visits special. The pronghorn population has decreased and most of them spend their time in California Valley, an area to the north of Carrizo where there is better grass for grazing. And the number of reptiles seems way down. I saw only one snake this year and that one was roadkill. Even bird numbers seem to have dropped.

The southern half of Carrizo has always been less populated from a wildlife standpoint than the northern half. However, that was never more pronounced than on this trip. As we drove out after dark, I remember past visits when we saw so much wildlife on the road that we were stopping every few feet to avoid hopping kangaroo rats and zigzagging jackrabbits. We saw short eared owls and barn owls, and insects were pelting our windshield.

This time we had one area where we saw many jackrabbits and thankfully some juvenile kangaroo rats, the keystone species of Carrizo. But for the last 12 miles or so of our journey, we only encountered one kangaroo rat and no rabbits. And owls seem to be a thing of the past. It was very sad and yes, scary.

However, I don't actually think all that wildlife has gone. More likely, it is migrating. The main road through Carrizo travels the lowest part of the plain, and probably the driest. If you take one of the roads leading up to the hills, things improve considerably. It looks much more hospitable and you see and hear a lot more wildlife. It does take more effort to go into these areas as the roads are narrower and in some cases, in poor shape. And it makes a visit somewhat different.

So what did I see on this short trip to Carrizo? Lots of red tailed hawks, a decent number of adorable antelope squirrels and at least six coyotes, more than I've ever seen there. I also saw elk and pronghorn so I can't really say that I didn't have a good visit. And I saw a couple of blooming plants that I hadn't seen at Carrizo before. These included some beautiful woollystars (several very nice patches in different areas) and quite a few lovely small buckwheat plants (I'm waiting for confirmation on ID's on these).

It's difficult as a naturalist to go out and visit areas that you once loved and see them suffering whether it be from climate change, wildfire, degradation, trashing or development. On the other hand, we are the eyes and ears of the planet and its wildlife. It is my hope that our observations will help those who have the power to help wildlife continue to thrive in our world.

Posted on May 24, 2022 06:23 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 08, 2022

May 3, 2022 Jackrabbit Flat and Blalock Wildlife Sanctuaries

I haven't been out to the "wildlife sanctuaries" that I visit each year for quite some time and I wanted to get out there before spring is over. It takes a bit of fortitude to visit these places these days due to the stress of drought.

Despite that, I think it is important to document what is happening in these areas and show what life is making it and note what life is absent. Though this year was maybe a bit wetter than last, the Antelope Valley did not benefit as much from our two rainstorms as the LA area did. Lancaster near the poppy fields definitely did better than the Palmdale area but all are still suffering from drought.

As always, the majority of life is by the roadside where water pools, allowing plants to bloom. Other good areas are washes where water routinely flows through. It was obvious at both locations that there were some early blooms, probably from the December rain, that have now faded. There were also some more recent blooms that provided a bit of relief from viewing a super dry crunchy environment.

My visit to Jackrabbit Flat yielded a couple of good finds, only because not a whole lot of people visit the area, or surrounding area to document life. For instance I saw three western whiptails, yet none are documented for much of the surrounding area. I also found a yellow-backed spiny lizard which surprised me the most as I'm finding these to be much rarer than they used to be. Although from looking at the map, there seem to be many still around.

And it was nice to spot a raven nest in one of the Joshua Trees...it looked as if it has served that purpose for some time--or at least it was large enough that it looked as if it has been used a few times. Of course ravens are a double-edged sword...they're pretty cool birds but they do prey on a lot of animals.

Interestingly enough I also saw a hummingbird that was feeding on both the paperbag bushes that had a few blooms as well as the creosote bushes. I only had my macro so I'm not sure if it is an Anna's or a Costa's but it was great to see it there.

Finally, on the road's edge near the sanctuary sign, I found a couple species of gilias, a favorite flower of mine and many bees, taking advantage of the only creosote bushes with blooms.

I moved on to Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary which has the benefit of a bit more elevation and most likely a bit more runoff from rainstorms. They are only 5 miles apart but the difference was quite striking. Once again, there was a lot of life near the roadside, including a few brittlebush plants that were drawing many insects including another of my favorite taxa: acmaeodera. In addition to these insects, I found quite a few more throughout the area by walking in as many wash-like areas as I could. Many yuccas had bloomed or were blooming which was great. In addition I found one cholla in bloom and almost all the creosote bushes were in bloom to some extent. That being said, there weren't a whole lot of other flowers around.

I did find some sandmat plants which are always good for tiny insects and I found them teeming with life. One of the more interesting insects I found on these plants was this wasp that has yet to be ID'd. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/115513579

Some of my other nice finds included this really cool hairy tufted jumping spider which is apparently relatively common but it was new to me as well as some great bees on buckwheat plants which were also one of the plants that seemed to be doing well.

Finally, as with the tortoise reserve, I found some little gold poppies which seem to be having a pretty good year in the desert. I don't think I'd seen them here before so it's always interesting to find things that are waiting to bloom for the right combination of weather and temperature.

Posted on May 08, 2022 08:06 PM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 21, 2022

April 18, 2022 Desert Tortoise Natural Area

What a challenging time for nature and all it's creatures. The drought is apparent throughout the state. That being said, some areas have fared better than others. For instance, the Los Angeles area where I live seems to have done a bit better than expected thanks to two (yes, count them, two rainstorms). When I was a kid I remember storms lasting for 3-4 days. And they would come at least a couple of times a month in the winter. Now, I'm thankful for one day of good rain.

The desert tortoise natural area in the Mojave is definitely one of the more challenged areas and it breaks my heart to see how dry and dead everything looks. I visited this area on April 2nd and then returned on this day, April 18th. In the intervening time, the few flowers that seemed to have been blooming--and those very few, dried out and were no longer providing sustenance to the animals that depend on them.

During my first 15 minutes in the area, I almost gave up on finding anything as it was just so horrible looking. If you check out this distant photo of a western whiptail you can see what a great deal of the protected area looks like. However, once I traveled further I was able to scare up some life. Always a pleasure to see are desert horned lizards and this one was one of my first good finds at the reserve.

As I came closer to a wash, I started finding more flowers. The nature reserve volunteer later told me that at the end of March they had 2 hours of steady rain. So little rain, and yet, some flowers were able to take advantage of it. Most of the flowers I saw I believe are the result of those rains. However, so many of them look deeply stressed. And I'm sure the animals there are consuming them as fast as they can with so little habitat to provide for them.

There were still many pallid winged grasshoppers around who seem to be having a banner year...I'm seeing many everywhere. And they may be one of the culprits in consuming what little vegetation there is. I didn't see many bees this time however I did find a couple of super cool tiny wasps feeding on wild buckwheat flowers.

Some of the other flowers I found were a gilia that I've never seen at the reserve before, a few booth's evening primrose and several very healthy looking wishbone bushes..another plant I don't recall seeing at this area before. There were also some paperbag bushes with a few blooms--the plants were quite remarkable in that they're quite large and looked almost dead except for a few flowers poking out in a few places. The wishbone bushes which actually were robust were attracting their fair share of insects and I found these beautiful moths on one of them (I think they are orange-banded lithariapteryx but that is not yet confirmed.)

I also saw this small rock bristletail which was racing around the sand. Kind of a cool find in the desert.

Sadly, I saw no desert tortoises this time around and I heard the even sadder news that the one juvenile tortoise that was the source of much hope at the reserve did not make it through the year. Perhaps last year's incredible drought which makes this year's habitat look lush was too much for the youngster.

The other thing I've learned from my visits is that not only is vegetation sparser and flowers smaller due to the drought but their blooming period is very abbreviated. The landscape changes very quickly in this parched area. And perhaps those plants that do make it are better adapted to the dry conditions...in other words, evolving to survive on less water.

My hope is that we get lucky and have a great desert monsoonal season and better rains in 2023. The animals need all they help they can get.

Posted on April 21, 2022 01:38 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 10 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

March 01, 2022

February 26, 2022 Cold Creek Canyon

The last time I visited this area, it was very, very dry and lifeless. Today I thought I'd make a return visit to see how it has fared since our one big rain in December. I entered away from the main trail as I have lately in order to avoid as many people as possible. As it turned out, I didn't see a single other person.

The good news is that there is now water in the creek although in the areas exposed to sun, it is very low and suffering from an algae bloom, thanks to our hot weather. In addition, like in many places around Southern California, there were quite a few flowers in bloom, though they were typically smaller than average and many looked heat stressed even though we did have one week of cool weather.

However, the drought has really taken a toll on everything. And, the wide swings in temperature and humidity have certainly confused our wildlife. As yet, I've seen very few bees out though there are sufficient flowers in bloom that might benefit from their activities. Yes, there are always western honey bees; however, it is quite early for other bees to be out and I just hope there are still some flowers around when they do come out as the high heat and lack of any significant rain since December (and none in the forecast for the beginning of March) doesn't bode well for flowers.

I'm also beginning to see that even within a broad area of Southern California, there are definitely microclimates--areas that seem to be doing much better than others. For instance, in the past I thought Rancho Sierra Vista seemed to weather the drought a bit better than some places. However, my visit there a couple of weeks ago was depressing. I notice eBird counts from there seem to be down quite a bit. Worse, I stopped by Leo Carrillo today and the tide pools were nearly empty. Most, if not all of the surfgrass was brown and clearly dying/dead and very little other algae/vegetation was around. It was 90 degrees there and very dry. These high pressure heat events seem to be happening with regularity in "winter" and are deadly for our environment.

Yet, there are other areas, like Franklin Canyon and Briar Summit (the little pocket park I go to) that look quite healthy. Rainfall patterns and vegetation certainly impact how different areas survive in drought conditions. I think the beach communities, especially north of Malibu Lagoon seem to be faring worse as they traditionally have had very cool and foggy weather patterns that have been replaced by hot windy days during winter.

My visit to Cold Creek Canyon was quiet. Very little bird life was around except for a few scrub jays and a singing thrasher. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a snail..my first one in this location. Sadly, I also found the remains of a gray fox, one of my favorite animals. Since they seem not that common in our area, it is always depressing to find one that didn't make it.

I didn't really make any other unique finds but there seemed to be a huge number of flies and gnats around. With lower numbers of flycatchers and warblers, these insects seem to be thriving. Though I feel quite powerless to do much about what is happening to our environment, continuing to document these changes will hopefully provide further insight into where changes are occurring most as well as what organisms are surviving and which ones are struggling.

Posted on March 01, 2022 06:49 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 10, 2022

February 8, 2022 Coldwater Canyon Park

I took a chance on visiting this location as it was close by and I didn't know much about it. I read a few reviews on line and the consensus was that it was "not very busy"...something I always look for. Unfortunately, I'm not sure why several people noted that it wasn't very busy--maybe compared to Disneyland?? It was definitely the kind of place you go if you want to socialize, see and be seen.

I was disappointed, but because I was already there and scored a parking spot--the only one left so that should have told me something...I decided to look around. The trails are well groomed and it does appear that some of the vegetation has been planted; however, once you leave the vicinity of the parking area and associated buildings, the vegetation does appear to be natural.

Fortunately, there were a sizable number of California brittlebush plants which usually are great for insects. I managed to find a couple of warty leaf beetles again as well as a pair of mating streaktails (I don't think I've seen those mating before). Unfortunately, I found my first bagrada bugs of the season...mating of course, so I'm sure we'll see a bumper crop of these invasives soon.

My best finds of the day were a very cute little springtail as well as an unusual gall midge on the brittlebush. So in spite of not really enjoying my visit, I was able to find some new things. I probably will not be back to this place any time soon but I satisfied my curiosity and picked up a couple of interesting finds.

Posted on February 10, 2022 05:24 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 26, 2022

January 26, 2022 Las Virgenes Canyon

It's always great to post something when you have an amazing discovery or see interesting creatures. However, sometimes things don't work out and you find very little. Today was such a day, and it seems worthwhile to post something based on the condition of the habitat.

I went to one of my favorite areas, Las Virgenes Canyon and I saw very little on my 4 mile hike. In fact, it was very disappointing to see the habitat. While the initial trail into the area never has great habitat due to the amount of invasive plants, once you get past that, things usually pick up. You can also count on this location as having a little bit of water in some places most of the time, even during droughts.

I hadn't been to the area since our last big rainstorm and it appears that a combination of that storm along with all the dead and dying trees that were a result of the Woolsey fire in late 2018 as well as our recent strong winds, pretty much destroyed the two riparian habitats where I normally find a fair amount of wildlife.

Instead, the reeds in the creek bed were bent down and clogging the stream. Trees and limbs were down in several places, many of them small, but nevertheless, contributing to the general look of destruction. While there was water in some areas that normally are dry, that didn't seem to make up for the lack of wildlife in general. As you can see from the few photos posted, the trees (for instance the one on which the nuthatch is perched) in the riparian areas pretty much all look like that one--charred. Even some of the willows and valley oaks that seemed to have bounced back after the fire didn't look too good.

I'm hoping that we actually get more rain at some point this year and maybe some of the habitat will recover. That being said, I did see 5 red tailed hawks --a species that seems to be having a very good year as well as one Lewis's woodpecker, a species that is also having a good year.

Posted on January 26, 2022 10:43 PM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 25, 2022

January 21, 2022 Briar Summit Open Space

The start of a new year and new observations.

I'm happy to report that despite the DWP mowing down all the plants along the road in this area last spring/summer, many of the plants are growing back. Thanks to our great rainfall in December, things are looking really good. However, if we don't get anymore rain, I think our spring time may be early and possibly brief. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

I checked this place out a few times in December and many, many brittlebush were growing in with a few flowers on some. A few of the laurel sumacs are also growing in. The black sage is leafing out and looks pretty healthy. And several of the buckwheat have had a few flowers for awhile. And of course, there is plenty of mustard and a few other invasives.

With our warm weather in the last few days and with a bunch more flowers in bloom up on Briar Summit, it appears bugs have begun to come out all over. I'm still truly amazed at the number of insects California brittlebush attracts. Even without flowers there are plenty of insects if you look closely and have patience.

On this day, perhaps the most commonly seen insect was the sunflower seed maggot as well as a few other species of Trupanea. But I would say my most interesting finds are the three species I found in the vicinity of the smallseed sandmat which is also in bloom in a few patches. Just sitting in the dirt next to the plants I found these three interesting insects: a cool looking true hopper, a colorful tiny little plant bug (about the size of a large mite) and an insect I found the week before which I think belongs to the genus of spurge flea beetles. Last but not least I found a warty leaf beetle which seem to like the brittlebush and are such interesting little creatures.

I'm not sure how all these early arrivals will affect our wildlife as I'm sure they get confused with our erratic weather. By visiting the same areas on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule you can observe all the newly emerging plants and animals, even if it's not as exciting as going to a wholly new area.

Posted on January 25, 2022 12:53 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 29, 2021

2021 Year in Review

In 2021, I was fortunate enough to be able to go out nearly every day to explore nature and make observations. I say fortunate, because not everyone has the ability to spend the time I do exploring. Being the first year I didn't work, made it that much easier.

Last year I set a personal goal of eventually achieving 10,000 species. Even if I'm fortunate enough to reach that goal, I'm sure I will set a new one. In 2021 I made really nice progress by finding about a thousand new species, though only about 50% are research grade. Some are yet to be reviewed and there are others that will never reach that mark and that's okay. While personal goals are great, the most important thing is to hopefully provide current and future researchers with information that can be used in some way to fill in the blanks on different species.

The really great thing about contributing to inaturalist is that along the way, I am continually learning about new families and species of life that make my observations all the richer.

Another great aspect of inaturalist is the ability to connect with like-minded people. In addition to the connections I made in 2020 with the California Wild Women group, I connected with 3 other inat people in person (socially distant) this year. That's one of the most rewarding aspects of inaturalist--having the ability to connect with others who share your passion about nature. And I find I always learn something new from each of them.

On a personal note, this year I have had the opportunity to donate some of my nature photos to a couple of entitites. The Anza Borrego Foundation will be using a photo of mine of a desert lily for signage in their nature garden. I was also recently contacted by the City of Los Angeles who is preparing the new Portrero Canyon trail in Pacific Palisades for opening. They will be using some of my photos for signage on this trail as well. Since these were all unsolicited requests, it was very nice to have my work singled out. I should also note that these contacts were not made thru inaturalist but through my photo site on Flickr.

This last year was to say the least, challenging from a psychological aspect. The ongoing severe drought made it very depressing to be out and definitely helped define the areas I went to. Every year I go to the Carrizo Plain, one of my favorite places. It was so very sad to see the state it was in. As I write this, I am hopeful that 2022 will be a better year as they have already had some rain--they never get very much due to the rain shadow effect---but it gives me hope.

Another very distressing part of 2022 was the extreme "vegetation remediation" that was conducted in many wildlife areas. Unfortunately, since I got involved after the damage was done, I wasn't able to get any response from the parties involved. Next year I hope to get involved before this starts and see what if any changes can be made to this practice. It will be an uphill battle.

Now for the highlights of 2021. I was surprised to find that I was able to see 13 new species of birds this year all in Southern California. Most of these birds were migrants that were reported on ebird so I can't take credit for finding most of them. Still it was nice to get out to photograph them. And I was super fortunate to actually flush two species of birds that I'm still hoping to get better photos of: a pair of nighthawks and a pair of common poorwills. Both sightings were unexpected, making them all the more rewarding.

I also discovered that salt marshes are a great place to find life. I hadn't spent much time exploring these ecosystems before other than to look for and photograph birds. This year, I spent a few days exploring two areas and found them to be very rich in life. One of my best finds was a heliotrope fairy bee for which very few sightings have been made. They are very cute tiny bees.

I had a few other insect finds that were also rewarding. One was a yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata). I had been looking for one of these for several years and I finally found one. It was also the first observation of one in the Santa Monica mountains.

Another interesting find was a treehopper I found out in the Antelope Valley. With the drought, very few plants even flowered. And when I visited in September I didn't expect to find much. About the only thing that even looked alive were a few California croton bushes. I decided to sit down in front of one and see what I could find. Blending in almost perfectly were these very strange looking treehoppers that have been tentatively ID'd as Micrutalis flava. I was very excited to find something so interesting in such a barren environment during a drought year.

The last insect I would like to highlight is one I found out in the Santa Clarita area on a trail called East Canyon. I normally ignore mustard plants (to my own detriment) but something drew me to them that day and I found one of the coolest looking insects I've found. Called an Odynerus erythrogaster, this wasp is so colorful and striking.

A couple of last highlights: I finally got to photograph a Spanish shawl nudibranch. I had seen these at a distance a couple of times but was never in a position to get a photo. This year, I finally got a decent photo. And I got a much better photo of a Sonoran coral snake than the one I got a couple of years ago--not only a fairly rare snake to even see but a deadly one as well.

Last but not least, I was able to see and photograph a blunt-nosed leopard lizard. I have seen and gotten very nice photos of them before but they are one of my favorite reptiles so any time I can see one I'm happy. I had lost most hope with the extraordinarily dry conditions at Carrizo. But I was very fortunate that on the last day of my visit as I was driving out, I found one.

What's ahead for 2022? More exploration for sure. I'm hopeful that the dry conditions predicted for 2022 will not prevail. Already, I'm so happy that we are getting so much rain and snow. Water gives life and another year like the last two are devastating for wildlife. I hope to get another 1000 species but also know that the more you find, the more difficult it is to get new ones--at least in your local area. Regardless I treasure the moments I can spend out in nature and thankful for all the life that still is around us.

Posted on December 29, 2021 02:28 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 16, 2021

December 15, 2021 Tujunga Wash

I haven't posted here for awhile so I thought I'd do a "winter" post. I've spent a lot of the last couple of years observing and photographing insects, not only because I like them and they're interesting, but also because I love finding new species and it's pretty difficult to find new birds and/or mammals in your place of residence. I'm still hoping to see and photograph a mountain lion but I think I've photographed most of the birds that reside here and many of the mammals with the exception of bats and some rodents. And there are definitely a few snakes I'm still hoping to see.

However, it's December and it was actually very cool today so finding insects was a lot more challenging. Although we are in a temperate climate and in one that seems to get warmer every year, on cold days, there are usually not too many insects around. My strategy to deal with that is to get more creative. I look under rocks and/or leaf litter and also look for super small insects which for some reason still seem to be around though definitely not as plentiful as they are in spring and summer.

After yesterday's rain...one that finally made things wet, it was a pleasure to get out and see the changes in the landscape. One rainstorm does not end a drought but it sure was nice to see plants looking healthier and birds much more energetic.

Tujunga Wash seems to have some water year round so that is one nice thing about visiting the area; however, today there was actually water in one large section of the creek bed that has been dry for months and months. Unfortunately, with the storm and rain, came loads and loads of trash and debris. It seems to be a feature of life in Los Angeles that with the rain comes lots of trash. It's very sad that our fellow humans can't seem to dispose of trash properly.

But, on to observations. I found a fair amount of interesting things today though I don't know what most of them are! Still with the new rain ponds and puddles that were everywhere throughout the wash, I spent time looking in the water for whatever might be swimming around. I found one really cool looking larva, though I have no idea what it is. In addition to the larva I found a few beetles, some very tiny cricket-like insects and probably got my best photo ever of a prostig (a type of mite) which are very tiny and tend to run around like crazy.

And while it is always exhilarating to find something super unique and cool, just finding anything of interest on a 58 F day is an accomplishment in itself.

Posted on December 16, 2021 03:42 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

October 26, 2021

October 24, 2021 Hudson Ranch Road

Since we hadn't been to the Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge overlook for a while, we took a trip out there in the hopes of spotting a condor. Like last fall, we came up zero on condors, somewhat disappointing, though we have been very fortunate to see quite a few condors in the past.

Traveling Hudson Ranch Road is an interesting experience nevertheless. It doesn't attract too many people as it is fairly remote. There are the usual day trippers and those trying out their cars--we saw a group of corvettes drive by as well as a very few people like us...hoping to see condors and looking for any other wildlife we might find.

The day started very slow and we didn't see much around. The weather was gorgeous though--high 60's, many nice puffy clouds in the sky and one of the clearest views into the San Joaquin valley we've seen from there. Normally, we see a huge dust/smog bank lingering over the valley. Perhaps the recent light rain tamped down the dust and fertilizers.

An hour and a half into our time up there, we saw a helicopter circling and when we drove by, we saw a vehicle had gone over the side. We don't know if there were any injuries, the vehicle was right side up but down quite a ways on a steep embankment. When we left around 5:30 PM the truck was still down there and two towing vehicles were sitting up above.

Though we had a very slow start, things started picking up once we spotted a tarantula in the road. Chris carried him to the side of the road and we watched him make his journey hunting for a female....he seemed quite intent on a certain direction so I hope he was able to find his mate. We took a lot of pictures of this cool spider.

Once we saw the spider, it seemed like we started seeing more things. Basically we travelled back and forth along the road a couple of times in a 5 mile section, finally stopping at the Las Padres National Forest sign. Along the way we spotted very high above us, a beautiful white ferruginous hawk. Then we spied a female mule deer high on a hill in the distance.

Once stopped we watched a red-tailed hawk as it flew around calling. All of a sudden another red tail came in and the two tangled on the hillside hundreds of feet below us. The photos were much too distant to post.

After spotting and photographing several local birds and a couple of insects, we took to the road again. We saw a very cooperative loggerhead shrike, a flock of beautiful mountain bluebirds that were too skittish for photos and then on one hillside, we hit the jackpot--we saw a male northern harrier (gray ghost), a coyote and best of all a handsome golden eagle. It was a great way to end the day. Though we are avid nature photographers and didn't really get exceptional photos on this excursion, just spotting and watching wildlife is a great way to spend the day.

Posted on October 26, 2021 12:47 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment