BioVac*

I just returned from a 5,800-mile road trip to the West Coast. I haven’t quite known how to describe this trip. I've made many long road trips previously to various parts of the country. Their overt purpose was typically to visit family and friends in far-flung locations. In all such travels (dating back to my enlistment on iNaturalist and earlier), I observed a lot of nature and took many pictures along the way--sometimes very casually, occasionally with an intense focus here or there. Those results are detectable on a map of my iNat uploads over the past several years.

But this most recent trip has been qualitatively and quantitatively different.

Once again, the nominal impetus was to visit our daughter (and a few other expat Texans) in Portland, Oregon. But during the planning stages for this trip ranging from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, it was evident that the recent wet monsoon conditions in southern Arizona elicited in me a desire for more than a casual drive through that particular region. More planning ("bio-planning"?) for the trip suggested that I ought to take the opportunity to visit not only southern Arizona, but also several habitats en route which either had been long-resident on my bucket list or which harkened back to childhood family vacations.

Putting that all into motion--literally--and maintaining a high energy level directed at garnering useful iNaturalist data lead to this...experience. After hundreds of miles of thinking about it, I finally settled on the following term: This has been a BioVac*. The word is a purposeful play on two concepts: (1) biological vacation, and (2) biological vacuuming (of observations, etc.).

The biodiversity of the western U.S. is overwhelming on any scale. I certainly can't call what I've done a "bioblitz". Although there were locations and moments when I tried to document just about any biota that presented itself, in no way were any of my efforts thorough enough to rise to the level of a "blitz" as we now apply the term. Rather, I made a point of targetting selected ecological regions and major habitat types and attempting to document a full suite of dominent or characteristic plants, along with any animals that presented themselves. I brought along a boxful of field guides and floras, but as the travels progressed the primary companion guide for much of the trip was the classic Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees (Petrides & Petrides 1992, 1st ed.). With that tome in hand, I allowed myself to focus on two "guidepost" species groups: conifers and oaks. I had previously encountered most of the common species in these groups in many of the western states. So I poured over the Peterson Field Guide to help focus my attention and chart some special travel stopovers to look for regional endemics (within reasonable travel reach of my general path to/from Oregon) such as Brewer's (Weeping) Spruce, Bishop Pine, Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and the many oaks of the Southwest. An additional reference that became indispensible during the course of my journey was @michaelkauffmann's Conifer Country. I knew I couldn't possibly encounter and document all of the potential species, but a reasonable effort along my selected route eventually compiled a very respectable list.

And beyond my guidepost species and habitats, I just "vacuumed up" whatever other biodiversity I could find!

So from seaweeds to saguaros, slime molds to spruce, Syssphynx to Sasquatch, everything was fair game. Of course, I focused (for the most part) on identifiable stuff (plants with flowers or fruits) but that didn't stop me from documenting an interesting plant here or there if the foliage seemed distinctive to me.

Oh, did I mention mothing? I tried to do some mothing at every camping stop. The travel routine to/from Oregon was typically two days camping to one night at a motel to recharge batteries and clean up. I put up lights and a moth sheet on ten camping nights from Arizona to Oregon and back. That is a lesson in biodiversity worthy of a separate journal entry.

So below I list some handy links to gain an entry into the biodiversity I encountered and documented. I have over 6,000 images to sift through. Making a SWAG: I might guess that about 10% of those were scenery shots, another 15% will be culls (out of focus, etc.), so I might have garnered something like 4,500 images of plants and animals to edit and select from. Erring on the generous side, if I averaged 4 or 5 images per subject (especially for plants), I can make an initial guess that I made something like 900 to 1,100 observations. I certainly documented some species of plants and animals more than once, so if I averaged maybe 2 or 3 observations per species (probably less than that), I am looking at going through, identifying, editing, and uploading something like 300 to 400 species of plants and animals. Time will tell if that calculation is anywhere in the ballpark.

UPDATE (10/12/22): Well, the task of identifying and uploading all the photos from this trip has been an interesting journey in and of itself. I just uploaded the last of the images from the last day on the road, August 26. With those, the tentative tally (from iNat) from the 27-day trip (July 31 - August 26) shows a total of 1,871 observations uploaded which document a minumum of 1,077 species of plants, animals, fungi, etc. Clearly my earlier calculation (above) was waaaay off! There are still many observations which must be examined and perhaps IDed to species, so the species total is likely to increase a bit in the future, but when I sit back and look at it all, I am just floored by the diversity I was able to encounter on the trip.

All of my West Coast August 2022 observations
Conifers
Oaks
Insects
Moths
Flowering Plants
My "Biota of the Klamath Mountain Geomorphic Province"
A Sampler of Plants in Del Norte County, California
My Seaweeds (Green, Red, and Brown Algae)

Texas observations
New Mexico observations
Arizona observations
California observations
Oregon observations


* I'm clearly not the first writer to coin the term "BioVac". A quick search of the internet reveals diverse corporations, products, and government programs around the world going under this moniker. So I will only claim this novel use of the term for my particular corner of the citizen science world.


Posted by gcwarbler gcwarbler, August 29, 2022 03:46 PM

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2, 2022 10:12 PM MST

Description

The MPG range map for this species in the U.S. says it all:
http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=6238
I found just one individual of this species in tall pine woodland at about 8700 ft near Rustler Park in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Photos / Sounds

What

Ten-lined June Beetle (Polyphylla decemlineata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 3, 2022 02:55 PM MST

Description

During a gas stop in Camp Verde, AZ, I noticed that a very young budding naturalist (maybe 4 years old) was playing with this big June Beetle in and around the cars. I congratulated him on his neat find and offered to take pictures of it. He didn't respond, but his mother was thrilled to see both his interest in nature and my encouragement of his interest.
After documenting the at-risk beetle, I carefully relocated it off to the side of the venue. The mother carefully relocated the young naturalist into his car seat.

Photos / Sounds

What

Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 6, 2022 08:07 AM PDT

Description

I took a pleasant early morning hike to Watson Falls. Very nice old-growth Doug Fir forest in a shaded canyon with several interesting plants.

Photos / Sounds

What

Northern Black-tailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus ssp. molossus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2, 2022 12:49 PM MST

Description

I rescued (?) this beautiful Black-tailed Rattlesnake out of the middle of the road near Rustler Park. It really wasn't in much danger; the road might have had one car come by every 10 or 20 minutes. Just my luck.

Photos / Sounds

What

Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2, 2022 01:19 PM MST

Description

I managed to get one or two in-focus image of this Yellow-eyed Junco which was singing all around me during a short hike in the (thoroughly nuked) Rustler Park Campground.

Photos / Sounds

What

Dog Vomit Slime Mould (Fuligo septica)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 14, 2022 11:13 AM PDT

Description

I seem to have had a knack the past few months for finding this slime. This patch of slime mold was bright yellow when I first encountered it at abouit 10:30 AM. By the time I'd retrieved my camera and returned to the spot, it had been partially run over once with a wheelbarrow and was already fading the golden-brown. It was growing in some deep pine mulch which had been layed down in a garden area.

Photos / Sounds

What

Northern Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2022

Place

Oregon, US (Google, OSM)

Photos / Sounds

What

Rockweed (Fucus distichus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 15, 2022 05:24 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 05:36 PM PDT

Description

On a freshwater pond in the back dune area at Siltcoos Beach.

Photos / Sounds

What

Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 06:11 PM PDT

Description

Courting pair.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 05:58 PM PDT

Description

bivalves. I could not find a completely intact shell.

Photos / Sounds

What

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 22, 2022 02:25 AM PDT

Description

No, this is not Big Foot or Sasquatch. If you look carefully (as if it was 2:25 a.m. in the morning), you'll see the beady eyes of this resting 200-lb Black Bear. Long story short: I was the only camper in Leavis Flat Campground on this particular night. I noticed that the many trash cans--full from weekend visitors--were regular old cans, not bear-proof. A red flag should have gone off at that point. At 12:30 a.m., I was awakened by the crashing sounds of a set of trash cans about 20 yards from my car where I was ~ sleeping. This bear had just overturned that last of the cans in the campground. The groceries in my car might have been its next target. I scared it off with some loud yelling and horn honking but it apparently didn't move far. Being the only camper in the small campground, I decided to take charge and reclaim the campground. So from 12:30 a.m. to about 3:30 a.m., I would turn on my car and cruise slowly through the campground with my Q-beam, occasionally honking my horn...just in case. I was unnerved to find the bear returning at least three more times. Then I caught this glimpse of the bear just resting in some plants across a small creek, about 40 yards from me. It was just waiting for me to go back to sleep, I suppose. I was it's noisy neighbor.
Well, after more yelling, light shining, and horn honking, the bear finally ambled off into the darkness. Needless to say, I did not sleep much the rest of the night. So I'm a little sleep-deprived as I upload these images now (from a safe distance, in a hotel in Kingman, AZ).

Photos / Sounds

What

California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia californica)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 15, 2022 06:05 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 15, 2022 06:08 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Giant Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 09:53 AM PDT

Description

I had a fun time at the tidepools for a few hours during a super low tide at Cape Perpetua.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 11:46 AM PDT

Description

This happened regularly on this trip: I'd photograph conifer foliage of a tree in front of me, then pick up a cone to document, only to realize (at the time or later) that the cone belonged to something else! This (apparent) Sitka Spruce cone was picked up under a nice Western Hemlock, in an extensive grove of old second-growth Doug Fir!

Photos / Sounds

What

Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 11:46 AM PDT

Description

This happened regularly on this trip: I'd photograph conifer foliage of a tree in front of me, then pick up a cone to document, only to realize (at the time or later) that the cone belonged to something else!
I had picked up a spruce cone under this tree:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135254149

@eralverson I hope I got these correct!

Photos / Sounds

What

Shore Pine (Pinus contorta var. contorta)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 05:33 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Rockweed (Fucus distichus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 10:16 AM PDT

Description

Based on images in Druehl & Clarkston (2016 ed.), this appears to be young growth of Fucus distichus.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Sea Palm (Postelsia palmiformis)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 10:01 AM PDT

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Studded Sea Balloon (Soranthera ulvoidea)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 16, 2022 10:14 AM PDT

Description

The host for these "sea balloons" looks like a complex mix of other seaweeds, none of which to me look like Neorhodomela or Odonthalia as described in Druehl & Clarkston (Pacific Seaweeds, 2016) and Lamb & Handby (Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, 2005).

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Acmon Blue (Icaricia acmon)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 17, 2022 10:58 AM PDT

Description

There is such discord in the naming of these type of blues in the West that I hesitate to put any name on this one. But it fits everything for what has been traditionally (and by Glassberg's accounts) is called Acmon Blue.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 17, 2022 01:17 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 17, 2022 12:56 PM PDT

Photos / Sounds

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 19, 2022 12:18 AM PDT

Description

One of the more distinctive Noctuids for the evening.
http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=9583

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Del Norte Manzanita (Arctostaphylos nortensis)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2022

Description

This was in mixed hardwood-evergreen forest at the "Botanical Trail" off of US 199 at about 600 ft elevation. The eFloras.org account of the local endemic A. nortensis suggests that it would be found at a higher elevation.

Photos / Sounds

What

California Incense-Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 07:02 AM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Red Mountain Catchfly (Silene campanulata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 08:15 AM PDT

Description

A distinctive regional endemic. I don't know to which subspecies this belongs.
https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=SICA5
Definitely on serpentine substrates (last image).

Photos / Sounds

What

Siskiyou Mat (Ceanothus pumilus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 04:29 PM PDT

Description

This set of plants was documented around my camp site on a ridge top along FR 17N05, in mixed coniferous forest but at the edge of a big burn scar, at about 3,600 ft elevation. The substrate was dominated by serpentine rock and gravel.

Photos / Sounds

What

Yolla Bolly Bedstraw (Galium ambiguum)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 08:41 AM PDT

Description

I wasn't sure what this might be until I examined my images closely and realized it is probably a dense mat of bedstraw.
On a ridgeline along FR 17N05 at about 3,600 ft surrounded by mixed coniferous forest and a large burn scar. Substrate was dominated by serpentine outcrops and gravel.

Photos / Sounds

What

Serpentine Monardella (Monardella purpurea)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 08:27 AM PDT

Description

On a ridgeline along FR 17N05 at about 3,600 ft surrounded by mixed coniferous forest and a large burn scar. Substrate was dominated by serpentine outcrops and gravel.

Photos / Sounds

What

Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 05:32 PM PDT

Description

On a ridgeline along FR 17N05 at about 3,600 ft surrounded by mixed coniferous forest and a large burn scar. Substrate was dominated by serpentine outcrops and gravel.

Photos / Sounds

What

Bach's Calicoflower (Downingia bacigalupii)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 09:00 AM PDT

Description

The vernal pool along the roadside at this spot was completely dry, but it was populated with a carpet of this species of Calicoflower (last image); elev. about 3,615 ft., surrounded by mixed evergreen forest.

Photos / Sounds

What

Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 09:23 AM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

California Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 09:23 AM PDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Torrey Maple (Acer glabrum var. torreyi)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 11:15 AM PDT

Description

I took a 5-hour, 5-mile hike on the Doe Flat Trail. I'm dividing my observations on those in the Del Norte County versus Siskiyou County portions of the hike. Much of the terrain on the Del Norte County part of the hike was on serpentine outcrops.
The small leaves and elevation point to this species. Munz & Keck (1959) assign this population to variety torreyi.

Photos / Sounds

What

Sitka Alder (Alnus alnobetula ssp. sinuata)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 11:58 AM PDT

Description

I'm basing the ID of a couple of these small alders on the double-toothed leaves, in combination with the elongate peduncles of the cones.
Moist slope in mixed coniferous forest at about 4,200 ft. elevation.

Photos / Sounds

What

Western Snakeroot (Ageratina occidentalis)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 11:55 AM PDT

Description

I took a 5-hour, 5-mile hike on the Doe Flat Trail. I'm dividing my observations on those in the Del Norte County versus Siskiyou County portions of the hike. Much of the terrain on the Del Norte County part of the hike was on serpentine outcrops.

Photos / Sounds

What

California Harebell (Campanula prenanthoides)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 10:48 AM PDT

Description

Del Norte County portion of the Doe Flat Trail, mostly on serpentine substrates at about 4,200 to 4,500 ft elevation, mixed coniferous forest.

Photos / Sounds

What

Purpleflower Honeysuckle (Lonicera conjugialis)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 11:37 AM PDT

Description

Del Norte County portion of Doe Flat Trail, at about 4,200 to 4,500 ft elevation; moist slope (mostly N-facing) on serpentine substrates.

Photos / Sounds

What

Woodland Beardtongue (Nothochelone nemorosa)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 10:46 AM PDT

Description

I'm uploading three different plants of this species, each with a slightly different flower arrangement and overall color. Del Norte County portion of Doe Flat Trail, at about 4,200 to 4,500 ft elevation; moist slope (mostly N-facing) on serpentine substrates.

Photos / Sounds

What

Brewer's Spruce (Picea breweriana)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 10:40 AM PDT

Description

The tree on the left is the Brewer's Spruce; note the long cones near the crown. The tree on the right is the drooping form of Douglas-Fir; notice the small cones near the top of that tree.
Brewer's or Weeping Spruce was one of my primary target conifers on this hike. I took a lot of photos of the trees. This is one of the most scenic conifers in North America. It was a thrill hiking through extensive native stands of the species.
Del Norte County portion of the Doe Flat Trail, at about 4,200 to 4,500 ft elevation, mostly on serpentine substrates.

Photos / Sounds

What

Deer Oak (Quercus sadleriana)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 2022

Description

Del Norte County portion of the Doe Flat Trail, at about 4,200 to 4,500 ft elevation, mostly on serpentine substrates.

Photos / Sounds

What

Mariposa Copper (Tharsalea mariposa)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 02:28 PM PDT

Description

Lifer butterfly.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Siskiyou Beardtongue (Penstemon anguineus)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 12:58 PM PDT

Description

I worked hard to review all the Penstemon's of Siskiyou and Del Norte counties and settled on this localized species. The small blue flowers and glabrous, sessile, oblong-lanceolate leaves help with the ID.

Photos / Sounds

What

Brewer's Spruce (Picea breweriana)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 01:08 PM PDT

Description

Tree in the center of the first image.

Photos / Sounds

What

Broad-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 02:40 PM PDT

Description

There was an extensive stand of the species in a mixed herbaceous groundcover on a serpentive outcrop along the side of the trail (last two images). It was mixed with a lot of Montia parvifolia and other forbs and mosses.

Photos / Sounds

What

Siskiyou Mountain Huckleberry (Vaccinium coccineum)

Observer

gcwarbler

Date

August 18, 2022 01:30 PM PDT

Comments

Sounds like you had a blast! Looking forward to seeing your observations!

Posted by bosqueaaron 5 months ago (Flag)

What a trip; what a BioVac! I look forward to seeing your observations, Chuck; thank you for sharing them!

Posted by kathrynwells333 5 months ago (Flag)

Neat and challenging idea to structure your approach on conifers and oaks!

Posted by mikaelb 5 months ago (Flag)

Great journal entry here! Did you bivouac on your BioVac?

There are so many things to see. I like how you targeted certain tree species and then soaked in all sorts of other flora and fauna in those pursuits.

I'm jealous of your Cinnabar larva observation, even if you did see it in a Boring place.

I look forward to checking back as you upload more photos.

Posted by zdufran 5 months ago (Flag)

BioVac sounds too much like lab tool. Maybe Biocation? :)

Posted by rymcdaniel 5 months ago (Flag)

Wowsa! That's fantastic. Will be watching your observations.

Posted by lovebirder 5 months ago (Flag)

Great post, thanks for the observations and shout out. Respectable list indeed! We have another epic tome for the region just released: https://backcountrypress.com/book/the-klamath-mountains-a-natural-history/

Posted by michaelkauffmann 4 months ago (Flag)

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