13 de abril de 2021

April 7, 2021 Las Virgenes Canyon

I'm behind on my postings but decided to highlight this visit from last week...not because I found anything unusual or super interesting but because of how degraded the environment was. This place burned thoroughly in the Woolsey Fire. It actually was charred. It recovered quite nicely due to the rains in 2019. However in this drought year, it is looking worse. The sad thing is, is that there is some water here in places so there should be some great habitat. Unfortunately, invasives have really taken over. There was always an abundance of mustard along the trail when you first go in. And as bad as mustard is, it has been here in California so long, some native species have adapted to it.

However, in addition to the mustard, which by the way, was a lot less than usual, there was an abundance of small melilot. It seemed to be growing everywhere. I don't remember seeing so much here in the past so it must be having a banner year. In the about 1.75 miles I covered I only saw two native flowers (excepting two very straggly looking purple nightshade plants). These included the always nice to see seep monkeyflower and a very few fiddleneck. There may have been more in the riparian area you can't reach but needless to say it was very disappointing. It would be a massive job to try and eradicate these non-natives but it sure would have been nice if after the fire something could have been done to enhance the habitat.

On a positive note, there was fresh growth on the red willows in the dry stream bed, hundreds of tadpoles (many who will probably not survive the mountain bikers plowing through the pond that forms in the middle of the trail) and a brand new valley oak growing near the massive valley oak you see when you first enter the trailhead. This place could be a real mecca for wildlife if the habitat was restored. Testament to that is that almost all the wildlife I saw was in the two major riparian areas that remain.

Ingresado el 13 de abril de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de abril de 2021

April 1-3 2021 Carrizo Plain

Carrizo is one of my favorite places...a vast grassland with wide open spaces. I hadn’t been there since last year and the drought is definitely taking its toll. I can’t remember it being so dry this early in the year. It looks like the middle or end of summer even though spring has just begun. I think this is the first time I can remember not seeing a single snake at this time of year.

Known for super blooms in good years, flowers this year were sparse and often struggling. That said, there were a few areas that looked better than others as is typical in California. There were patches of goldfields and some hillside daisies, one of the most common flowers in Carrizo. One flower that seemed to be thriving was Stanislaus milkvetch. It was blooming in most areas and was attracting tons of insects. In fact, the number of insects was quite amazing. Carrizo had a pretty good year last year rain-wise so maybe that explains the number of insects. Or maybe they just seemed more prevalent because they were all bunched together on the few flowering plants! One insect was downright ubiquitous...the little bear. They were everywhere. I counted over 50 of them on one plant alone, and they were buzzing around frenetically at times. I even found a couple in my car and one on my shoulder when I was driving!

Though reptiles were scarce and I only saw one pronghorn, I did see a lot of Nelson’s antelope squirrels. They are adorable and it was fun to watch the youngsters interact with each other. As always there were many horned larks, and good numbers of loggerhead shrikes and sage thrashers. It is also amazing to see what looks like a totally degraded arid environment thriving with bird life. Nature is amazing!

What is great about Carrizo as with many natural areas, is that you never know what you will find. There are always the expected species but often you find things you weren’t even looking for. Or things you’ve been wanting to find and finally see. One cool find this visit was fairy shrimp. Though technically right outside the monument boundary, a small culvert of water is often found on one of the access roads to carrizo. This small pond was teeming with fairy shrimp. It was great to see these cute little hardy animals.

A couple of other finds worth noting were a very cool looking jumping spider...one I’ve never seen before and a flower called Kern Mallow that is endangered...and I just thought it was a typical mallow I’ve seen in Carrizo before. Another nice find was this very beautiful looking bee called a Crotch’s digger bee. Finally, though I didn’t get great photos, I saw this mite running around that was almost iridescent..definitely one I haven’t seen before.

While it was a great visit, I felt sad that everything was so dry. I’m hoping the wildlife makes it through okay and let’s hope for lots of rain next year.

Ingresado el 07 de abril de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observaciones | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de marzo de 2021

March 19, 2021 Paramount Ranch

Today I re-visited the trail where in 2019 I did my informal survey of the Woolsey fire recovery. The trail I chose turned out to be great, as thanks to a lot of rain that winter, I counted at least 50 different species of flowers in probably less than a a mile trail--not all at once of course but throughout the spring season.

What a difference two years makes and unfortunately things looked very dry. I don't think I've ever seen so few flowers along a trail during spring. Everything looked heat stressed with the exception of a few plants including the ubiquitous (this year) purple nightshade. I saw at least two Sara orange tips fly by but I'm not sure if they ever found what they were looking for. I also saw a couple of blue butterflies, probably acmon blues--but again, they didn't stop for me or much else.

Yet, spring is in the air and so a lot of insects were out, the gopher was digging, the hawks were active and lots of lizards were sunning themselves. Check out the handsome side-blotched lizard...one of several I saw.

Two years ago, the meadow around the church was teeming with small flowers including hundreds of goldfields. Today I saw a couple dozen maybe. The only flower I saw much of was common stork's bill (most quite stunted) and I saw several honeybees working on those.

The blister beetles were eating the few morning glory petals around and even hanging on the purple nightshade plants. The blue elder was nicely leafed out but not a flower was on it.

I did find a couple of cool things today though. It's always fun to see a jumping spider--in fact I saw a couple but I only got a photo of one. I also found this really interesting insect--perhaps a wasp of some sort?--that I failed to get a great photo of but check out the eyes and thick antennae! This is one bug I've absolutely never seen before. I'm very curious as to what it is.

Spring is going to be a challenge for every living thing here due to the dry conditions. Fortunately, there are still pockets of habitat in our local mountains that do have water so I'm hoping that will see us through. And we can hope for more rain.

Ingresado el 19 de marzo de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de marzo de 2021

March 10, 2021 Briar Summit Open Space

On a cool, intermittently rainy day (at last!) I took a short trip to the Briar Summit Open Space Preserve. I found this on a map, read a couple reviews and thought it would be worth checking out on a day when I didn't want to travel too far due to the weather.

I find these "open space preserves" in the Los Angeles area somewhat interesting. At times, they are large and have miles of hiking trails. At others, they're like this--a paved road at the end of a residential area. The road leads up to a DWP site (locked gate near the top). Evidently Jeopardy host Alex Trebek donated this land. Parcels such as this end up as open space only because they are unsuitable for development. Needless to say, my expectations were quite low.

And, yes, not really a "get out in nature" experience. That being said, though, the habitat was in remarkably good shape with several ceanothus plants in full bloom with many more flowers than any others I've seen this year in the local mountains. The roadside (not really a trail per se) was dotted with many California brittle bush plants--some already blooming but many still to bloom. Overall, the soil seemed moist and there were a fair amount of birds flitting around.

Considering the weather, I found a surprising number of insects including one of those super tiny mites (poor photo due to size and it running around and me contending with a wind), a very pretty leafhopper and a couple of trupanea flies. And I also found several healthy looking whitemargin sandmat plants which I don't see too often. While I don't think I'll be spending a lot of time here, I certainly will visit again once more flowers are in bloom as I'm sure they will be attracting many more insects than I saw on this cool day.

Ingresado el 12 de marzo de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de febrero de 2021

February 23, 2021 Alpine Butte and Blalock Wildlife Sanctuaries

Since the weather forecast looked good for the desert (low 70's and only 10 mph winds), I headed out there again to see if anything was happening yet in terms of new spring growth. First, I visited the Alpine Butte Wildlife Sanctuary. Sadly, it was very, very dry. In wet years, there is a lot of Mojave lupine growing as well as other flowers. While it is much too early in the season to predict flower bloom, the fact that I only saw a few green shoots--mostly canaigre plants, was discouraging. I did however, find another one of my favorite little bugs, the edrotes ventricosus. These beetles had not been reported in either of these sanctuaries until I found them this year--probably because they are out early in the year and most people don't visit these areas except in spring. Anyway, they are such cute little beetles. I also saw at least 10 side-blotched lizards, most of whom were smaller juveniles but at least 2 full grown adults.

Next I stopped at Blalock which is higher in elevation and much moister in terms of the soil. I didn't really find a whole lot, perhaps because it was later in the day and a bit cooler than Alpine Butte. But I did find a couple of really cool bugs...some sort of stink/shield bug as well as a nice weevil, Apleurus angularis. My most unique find was what looks like a wasps' nest on a juniper berry. I went over to the juniper tree thinking that there had to be at least one insect over there with all the ripe to past ripe juniper berries and I saw something on a berry that I thought was a gall. However when I looked at it in close up after taking the photo, it appears to be a wasp nest of some sort. I haven't been able to narrow anything down yet but there do appear to be many insects that inhabit juniper trees. Once again, it pays to look at things very closely.

My count of helium balloons for the day---six. I brought those with me to dispose of them.

Ingresado el 24 de febrero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de febrero de 2021

Tujunga Wash February 17, 2021

I checked out this area a few days ago and noticed there was a lot of brittle bush in bloom so I decided to head over again to do an insect survey. I basically spent a couple of hours combing the plants and flowers for insects. The habitat in this area can generally be described as disturbed. A fire went thru the area a few years ago and there is still much evidence of it...burned logs, stunted trees and lots of debris. There are also remnants of a concrete slab or possible road there thru which plants are gradually breaking through, The area is probably one of the least appealing areas I have visited. However it has a couple of things going for it. One, there is a creek running through there and it still has water. Two, there are very few people there. The most common visitors are people on horseback as there are a few stables nearby.

My efforts were fairly well rewarded. I found about 18 species of insects and I definitely did not capture everything I saw as there were a few species that eluded me. I also did not take photos of the numerous honeybees as I had observed and noted them in my previous visit. While I didn’t find anything super spectacular, I did find a couple of new species including the chrysanthemum lace bug that I’ve seen photos of many times but have never run into. Unfortunately I didn’t get the best photo so I will have to head back for a better one. I also found this very attractive trupanea fly that I’ve included here.

Considering how dry it has been and how early in the year it is, I think these were pretty good results.

Ingresado el 19 de febrero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de febrero de 2021

February 11,2021 Point Fermin

Chris and I stopped at Point Fermin to explore the tide pools. He is on a quest to find different species of nudibranchs. I obviously would like to find some too. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything new but did see a couple of McDonald’s dorids which seem to be the most common nudibranch here. We had the tide pools mostly to ourselves which was good. It has become really difficult to find tide pools with out many people and the problem is not exclusive to our area. If you haven’t read her post in the Forim, you might want to see this along with links to a couple of articles about problems in the Bay Area with rampant collecting: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/46363-obscuring-my-tidepool-observations-in-sf-bay-area-counties#activity_comment_7b93f9fa-26e8-4e35-825d-415f8b534f9b. It is sad that those of us trying to document and save nature are inadvertently making it easier for bad actors to decimate the environment,

On a happier note, I wanted to share what I think was my best find of the day and a family of creatures totally new to me...sea pills. I found this really cute little guy on some surfgrass and thought I’d share it as I haven’t seen any others like it in the area. I also thought these colorful worms were very cool. Finding and learning about new wildlife is such a rewarding part of inaturalist as well as Inspirational. I am so in awe of all that is around us and am sad that I couldn’t have started doing this 30 years ago as there just isn’t enough time to see and discover everything I want.

Ingresado el 12 de febrero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de febrero de 2021

February 6, 2021 Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary

I thought I’d check out this area early in the year to see what kind of plant and animal life might be around in our so called winter. Last year I went to this place for the first time and over a couple of visits I found a lot of cool insects. Like the other “wildlife sanctuaries” in the Antelope Valley, it is basically an open desert landscape with no physical boundaries apparent. Nothing has been done to preserve wildlife but the fact that it’s closed to development is always good. I’ve also never seen another person here though there is definitely evidence of human activity including a minimal amount of trash and cans that have been shot up. However, overall the habitat is quite good.

What surprised me today was how healthy it seemed. The ground was quite moist and the plants looked in good shape...better than our local Santa Monica mountains. My feet even sunk into the ground in a couple of places...so unlike the crunch I hear when I’m in our local mountains. Perhaps that’s because this area is at a bit higher elevation. The habitat includes some anemic looking Joshua trees...really only a couple but also quite a few juniper trees. So it is definitely closer to a desert montane environment.

A testament to how moist everything felt is that there is a fair amount of lichen present on the rocks as well as some moss growing in a couple of places...quite surprising as I don’t picture moss in the desert. It was very quiet in terms of animal life...but I was able to find a few insects. The most interesting one was this cool round hairy beetle which it turns out is relatively common in the desert and tends to be out early in the year. It’s scientific name is edrotes ventricosus. I was also quite surprised to see a dragonfly out and about. I’ve also included a photo of one of the most interesting lichens I saw.

Overall it was a rewarding visit. The value in visiting a place over a period of time is great as it shows how the habitat and animal and plant communities change with the seasons.

Ingresado el 07 de febrero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de febrero de 2021

February 4, 2021 Nicholas Flat

Our dry winter is discouraging but the small amount of rain we got a week or so ago helped out some. Today I visited Nicholas Flat for the first time in quite some time. As always it was pleasant, although when I arrived around 9:45 there were four other cars there. It turned out two belonged to some people working on the vegetation and they left shortly after I arrived. Another woman went running by me with her dog soon after I arrived.

About 25 minutes into my visit, a park ranger showed up. First time I've seen one here and always a welcome sight. He saw the woman with the dog approaching--she was on her way back and he stopped her and told dogs are not allowed in the park. He said they are getting ready to put up some new signs. I was glad that they are enforcing this though I don't think this area is the worst by any means.

It was a mixed bag in terms of observations. It was very, very quiet. I didn't see or hear a lot of wildlife so that was sad; however there were definitely more insects around and many of the plants look like they are getting fresh leaves. Canyon sunflower, hummingbird sage and chaparral bush mallow look like those that should be getting some flowers in the next month or so. If we don't get much more rain I'm not anticipating much in the way of flowers though there were many chaparral currant plants with flowers.

The best finds of the day were a greater yellowlegs, a green lynx spider (one of my faves) and a possible cherry plum mining bee that I observed working on digging its chamber.

One of the things I've really been noticing as I travel around is the almost total lack of fungi. Normally this time of year is the best for finding cool mushrooms; however the lack of rain has really made this a challenge and I have noticed that the few observations of fungi posted for Los Angeles County tend to be in the local mountains.

Ingresado el 05 de febrero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de enero de 2021

January 20, 2021 Malibu Bluffs Park & Legacy Park

The winter doldrums are upon us and the never ending hot dry weather is making explorations more challenging. If you don't go to an area with a water source, finding wildlife other than a few expected species is difficult. At this time of year finding anything other than birds and dried up vegetation is a lot of work. I find myself spending a lot of time looking for interesting new species and coming up empty frequently.

Yesterday I went out to Malibu Bluffs Park and Legacy Park. I hadn't been to Malibu Bluffs in two months. I was interested to see how the burned area was recovering since my last visit. The natural area certainly looked better than expected with some new plant growth and spots of green--mostly non-native grasses that were popping up all over, probably as a result of our one inch of rain in December.

The burned area definitely is seeing new growth. Several laurel sumac bushes that burned have re-sprouted nicely. I was also able to find a cool new bug, a Nyctoporis carinata, underneath some wood. It kind of reminds me a tiny bit of an ironclad beetle. A couple of milkweed plants also had new growth but overall, the burn area did not look as good as I had hoped. I'm sure our lack of rain has impacted that.

I went on to Legacy Park and the pond was full; however I didn't see a whole lot of birds like I did late last year. What was nice to see was that a volunteer was there planting several new natives and it appears that there are many new plants in the park that were planted recently. Hopefully that will help to draw new birds in during spring migration. And I did find some very robust willow apple sawfly galls on one of the trees in addition to a few other insects. Having native plants and water is definitely the key to supporting wildlife.

Ingresado el 21 de enero de 2021 por naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario