Archivos de diario de abril 2023

02 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 abril 2, 2023 05:19 MAÑANA por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 3 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 abril 14, 2023 05:47 TARDE por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observaciones | 10 comentarios | Deja un comentario