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: 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:

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 :

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:

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 diciembre 31, 2022 06:49 MAÑANA por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze


No hay comentarios todavía.

Agregar un comentario

Acceder o Crear una cuenta para agregar comentarios.