Archivos de diario de noviembre 2023

07 de noviembre de 2023

Death Valley October 24-27, 2023

Death Valley has been in the news a lot due to the amount of water that accumulated in the park from tropical storm Hilary in August. The park was closed for almost two months due to extensive damage to roads. It just reopened on October 15 and having heard about the lake in Badwater Basin, I wanted to see for myself.

In addition to being an avid nature photographer who looks for and enjoys seeing wildlife of all kinds, I also do landscape photography so that was one of my primary reasons for the visit. But you can't do landscape photography all fact you pretty much have to do it early morning and late afternoon if you want the best light. That leaves the entire day to explore.

Death Valley is such a vast place, it's really hard to see much of it in a short trip. That being said, the famous places/highlights so-to-speak are pretty much close to one another and can be seen even in a day. But every time I visit I feel like I really did not do near as much as I would like. Since so much of the park was still closed/inaccessible due to road damage, I limited myself to a few areas in the park.

Thanks to that rainstorm, it turned out to be a great time to visit. The weather was nice--not too hot but warm enough for some wildlife to be out and great for hiking though I did very little of that. The story for Death Valley this time around was the water--yes there was still a considerable amount in Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) and there were actually flowers blooming in late October thanks to that rain. In addition, the rain must have triggered a massive hatching of grasshoppers as I saw them everywhere I went and they were plentiful. Almost all of them were the common pallid winged grasshopper. I actually felt sorry for some of them that hatched in areas where there was little vegetation to eat. I stopped in an area called Desolation Canyon and when I returned to my car, there were two grasshoppers on my windshield feeding on the roadkill insects remains there!

Another thing I have sort of neglected in the past has been the birdlife at Death Valley. There are definitely plenty of birds there and if you remember that Death Valley is more than a desert but also a huge area spanning many kinds of terrain including very tall mountains, it definitely supports abundant bird life. However, like most people, I spend a lot of time on the valley floor and thus haven't really focused on birds.

This time, though, I decided to check out bird life in that area and there is surprisingly a fair amount. The Furnace Creek area which is the hub of human life in Death Valley has a golf course with ponds as well as ponds at the high end Death Valley Inn. This was my first time visiting both these areas and I came away with some interesting observations. For instance, a double crested cormorant was swimming in the golf course pond--it took off shortly before I arrived. A white-throated sparrow was visiting the Death Valley Inn and I also saw several vermilion flycatchers, a lot of coots and even some ruddy ducks.

I find it interesting that most of the time, humans are the cause of habitat loss and responsible for the decline of wildlife but in Death Valley, humans are actually benefiting wildlife in one of the most inhospitable places there is. If it weren't for those ponds and non-native trees (of which there are many, many planted) these birds and associated wildlife wouldn't have as many places to stop as they migrate over the vast Mojave. So in spite of my preferring to see wildlife in truly natural areas, it's nice to see that we can help at times.

While it was nice to check out the birds, any trip to the desert isn't complete without seeing some reptiles. Although it was definitely not the right time of year to see snakes, I had a couple of unexpected reptile sightings. One was seeing a number of Mediterranean geckos that were hanging out on the walls of the Furnace Creek Ranch. They are non-native and not sure how they got to be so widespread but one evening I counted at least 10 and I wasn't out that long. They are cute though. The other interesting sighting I had was at the Death Valley Inn. As I walked the grounds, I saw a lizard on a palm tree trunk and thought, that doesn't look like a California took me a while to place it as I was not expecting it. But sure enough it was an ornate tree lizard and when I looked on line I see that they have been recorded at that location for the last couple of years. Did someone bring them in? I would have to guess so, whether on purpose or by accident.

Finally, any trip isn't complete without seeing some cool plants and insects. While I didn't find anything really unusual, I did see my first Pagoda buckwheat, a species that just got on my radar recently. And that plant was actually in the Panamint area on my way out of the park. Also fairly abundant at higher elevations were many apricot mallow plants, which are always beautiful. There were definitely insects around, though nothing like you would see in the spring. And thanks to visiting in October, I was fortunate enough to see a desert tarantula, making its way across the road. They are such cool animals that I'm always happy when I see one.

Now that I've visited in October, I definitely would consider making a return trip there this time of year. Each place you go has different wildlife at different times of year so it is always worth visiting areas multiple times to get a feel for what that environment holds.

Publicado el noviembre 7, 2023 01:40 MAÑANA por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 12 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario