Journal archives for November 2020

November 10, 2020

November 9, 2020 Santa Ynez Canyon Park

It's the time of year when it takes a bit of looking to really find interesting stuff. Our lack of rain--the five or so minutes of rain we got in my area on Saturday-- was not enough to jump start much of anything. Animals are not breeding or courting, insects and reptiles are dormant or hibernating for the most part and many plants have gone to seed or look dead.

That being said, I was able to add some observations for this place where I have visited many, many times. There are always plants overlooked as well as galls and fungi. I had hoped we would get sufficient rain to bring on the mushrooms but that will have to wait for another day.

At this time of year, the canyon only receives sun for a few hours each day--and that is in the sunny areas. Some areas barely get any sun. Thus it was cool and comfortable and much less windy than the weekend when it was pretty unpleasant outdoors.

My most interesting finds of the day were a California manroot already shooting out a stalk (this has to be very early for this species), some California dodder that was still somewhat in bloom and a ruby crowned kinglet that entertained me hopping on fennel branches right in front of me--looking for insects I imagine. This little guy was very tame and I actually got a full frame photo of him with my macro lens!

Finally, I found a strange little structure on a rock. It looks like a fungus however perhaps it is something created by an insect. So for one of the few times, I've actually labeled an observation as "life". We'll see what happens. I'm continually amazed at the knowledge of the people on this site.

In other news, someone from the Nevada department of fish and wildlife contacted me about using one of my photos for a promotion they are doing for a class on owl pellets. Though I don't have this photo posted on inaturalist, he found it on Flickr. The photo shows a great horned owl expelling a pellet. Yes, not the most palatable photo but definitely one that a lot of people do not have.

Posted on November 10, 2020 02:39 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 6 comments | Leave a comment

November 12, 2020

November 11, 2020 Placerita Canyon and Golden Valley Ranch Open Space

Today I met a friend up at Placerita Canyon in Santa Clarita for a socially distant hike. I hadn't been to the area in awhile but I was surprised at how healthy most of the vegetation looked. It definitely looked like it was doing better than much of the Santa Monica Mountains. The nice thing about this area is that though it is fairly close by and is at not much elevation, you do find different species here than in our local mountains.

For instance Stellar's jays can be found here, even though I normally only see them much higher up. I only saw one today so I'm not sure how well they're doing in the area. The Sand Fire, a really huge fire in 2016, wreaked havoc on the area. Placerita Canyon was closed for quite some time and some trails are still not fully open. I do know that the fire changed a lot and some of the more unique species that used to be in the area, have not been seen since then. For instance mountain quail used to be in the area but I haven't heard any reports of them since the fire, though they may be up at higher elevations.

In addition to the Stellar's jay it was a good day in general for raptors. In one small area of the canyon we saw two red shouldered hawks, a very healthy looking red tailed hawk and the pair of white tailed kites that have been seen in the area for the last year and a half or so.

And I continued on my gopher sighting run. Today I had the third one I've seen in the last two weeks. Perhaps it's the time of year? I also caught a ground squirrel with a mouth full of vegetation--perhaps stocking up on nesting materials for the winter?

After I parted ways with my friend I went over to check out the Golden Valley Ranch Open Space. I didn't spend much time here as I had been out for over 3 hours, but I was happy to find a flock of pine siskins right near the parking area. There is an irruption of pine siskins this year; however these were the first I've seen. In addition to the pine siskins, I was able to get pretty close to a normally skittish kestrel and also saw a northern harrier which is always a treat.

Finally, it was nice to see a few different plants. I've not had confirmations on them yet, but saw a threadleaf groundsel and a matchweed which I think is a California matchweed.

It was a beautiful day today and my visit made me want to return to this area soon.

Posted on November 12, 2020 02:51 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 01, 2020

October 31, 2020 Malibu Bluffs Park and Legacy Park

On this Halloween day I visited Malibu Bluffs Park. There was a fire here on October 9th. I hadn't been back here since then. While I didn't find anything very unusual today, I did document some of the finds in the burn scar. Already there were a few plants sprouting including a morning glory and a narrowleaf milkweed. The burn zone was also being heavily exploited by many, many white crowned sparrows and yellow rumped warblers. They obviously found new seeds and/or bugs in this area. There were also a couple of Marine Blue butterflies flitting around the burn zone. I always am intrigued by what animals continue to use the burned area--for instance, do insects stay in the area because it is their territory or are they finding something in the area to forage on? I couldn't figure out what the marine blues were doing there.

Following my visit to Malibu Bluffs, I stopped at Legacy Park. Again, nothing particularly unique; however I was amazed at the number of green darners..perhaps numbering in the dozens! I saw at least 5-6 mating pairs plus many others flying around. A Cassin's kingbird took advantage of this bounty while I was there, catching one of the dragonfies. I always associate kestrels with dragonflies but for some reason kestrels have been oddly absent from this park the past few years. They used to be regulars here.

Regardless, I'm so glad the city filled the pond as it has attracted a great many ducks that have been absent from the park for some time. I'm hoping it will draw more different species in the coming months.

Posted on November 01, 2020 03:59 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 07, 2020

November 5, 2020 Serrano Valley

One of my goals as an iNaturalist user is to document species in under-reported areas. Or at least do so when it's feasible. Going to a new area is always a bit of an unknown but I usually look forward to seeing something new and exploring a different area.

In that quest, I set off for Serrano Valley up in the Point Mugu area. After a bit of a white-knuckle drive up Deer Valley Road (it made Decker Canyon Road seem pretty tame and after the first 1.5 miles, it becomes very narrow---basically just a bit wider than a one lane road--thankfully I only ran into one car coming in the opposite direction) I eventually found Serrano Road.

It was not easy to find, particularly because this small unmaintained road had a street sign totally not visible from the road going in. Even after I had to turn around after I realized I must have missed it, I almost overlooked it again as the street sign was totally bent at a 90 degree angle at the top, so you couldn't even read the name of the street. I had to stop the car and bend my head so I was looking up towards the sky and I could barely make out part of the letters on the sign.

With a bit of trepidation I proceeded down the road to the locked gate and parked. Knowing that I was probably only inland about 5 miles I expected the weather to be fairly nice. Was I in for a shock. I opened the car door and it was hot--very hot. Though the car temperature said it was 86 outside, the air was very still and "close" and the occasional breeze was hot. Still I had driven a long way to get here so I decided to go for it.

The trail down into the valley was exactly that--all down hill. Normally I wouldn't have minded as it was not all that steep, but the thought of coming back up the hill in the heat was not appealing at all. Anyway, I did go to the bottom of the valley and walked a bit on the trail but to be honest, there was absolutely nothing stirring. I wasn't sure if it was the location or the weather but I'm convinced it had to be the weather as the habitat looked quite good. There was a lot of coastal buckwheat and I didn't see too many invasives.

This area had burned thoroughly in the 2013 Spring fire so I could still see charred remains of trees in a few places. Overall though, the valley was filled with vegetation including a line of sycamores and willows which apparently follow a seasonal stream.

Unfortunately I found nothing new or unique--probably owing to the weather and the fact that I only walked a half mile due to the heat. When I returned to the car it was now 97. (I spent a fair amount of time along the trail both up and down trying to find things so I was out there about an hour).

I may return here when the weather is better or after a substantial rain as it is a very beautiful serene area. I will not look forward though to the drive back down to PCH as it was even more nerve wracking than the drive in. One wrong turn and you're over the side!

Posted on November 07, 2020 01:26 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 1 comment | Leave a comment

November 24, 2020

November 22, 2020 Hidden Meadow Trail

Today I returned to the Hidden Meadow Trail which is up in the Thousand Oaks area. I was there for the first time a few months ago in the spring. I spent about 2 hours here and was the only one on the trail. It was very quiet and though the serenity is nice, it is also disappointing when you don't see or hear much wildlife.

It is always more fun to post observations when there are a lot of interesting species around. However, I also find it more challenging and somewhat instructive to write about a visit to an area that doesn't produce lots of wildlife. Time of year, vegetation, weather and even time of day can play a role in what you see and don't see. One thing that is quite obvious is that places with water have a lot more wildlife about. Even here, where the landscape was very dry had a few areas where water collects during the rainy season and I noticed much more activity in these areas.

I'm also wondering if you can make a judgement about an area based on the number of raptors you see. Today, for instance I only saw one red-tailed hawk and no other hawks. It makes me think that there isn't a whole lot of prey in the area. But perhaps some other factor is at play.

Another thing that is easy to do is to overlook the common species we see every day. I often don't record common species. But in this case, if that is all there is, that too is valuable information. For instance there was abundant chamise growing from the burls of burned plants as well as many chaparral bush mallow plants. These plants are obviously doing well since the fire.

And sometimes you are rewarded with seeing behavior you haven't seen before. For instance, today I saw a woodpecker spending a lot of time pecking the seed capsules of a chaparral yucca in search of I'm not sure what.

And in spite of the low species count, I was treated to a view of a horned lizard who was trying to hide on the side of the trail. The fact that this lizard was here is actually a good sign as it means there are still harvester ants around. The Woolsey fire clearly devastated this area so it's good to see that some of our local reptile species are still around.

Now if we would only get some rain!

Posted on November 24, 2020 03:52 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2020

Dock fouling?

Hi all,
I ran into this blog from an inaturalist user in the Bay Area. I thought it was pretty interesting and something we might want to try if we’re feeling adventurous!

https://chloevanloon.com/2020/10/29/dock-fouling-fun/

Maybe some of you have done this before? They found some great stuff.

Posted on November 25, 2020 05:16 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 14 comments | Leave a comment

November 29, 2020

November 28, 2020 Hudson Ranch Road & Wind Wolves

On this long holiday weekend we decided to head over to Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge to see if we might see some condors. We hung around for almost two hours while observing all that was around us but totally struck out. Traditionally, this has been a good place to see at least a few condors; however, it depends on what is happening in the area and where their food sources are. New condors are sometimes released at the refuge after a period of time in a large "holding pen". When these birds are here, they tend to attract the attention of other condors who fly in to visit them. Since the refuge is actually closed except when tours are given (on hold since COVID) the best chance to see them is watching them soar overhead. We thought it was an unusual day as we didn't even see many ravens...usually a fixture in this area.

I view waiting in one area as an opportunity as well as a challenge to see what I can find when confined to just one spot...or actually one area of roaming up and down the road. My best find was a vesper sparrow, a bird I have only seen a couple of times. We also saw a golden eagle and a prairie falcon at an enormous distance. Otherwise, it was a very quiet day.

From there we headed over to Wind Wolves Preserve. If you haven't been, you should visit as it's a great place. It was much nicer maybe 8-10 years ago before anyone knew about it as now there tend to be crowds there frequently on nice weather days. Still, if you take a hike and visit during the week, you can largely avoid most of the people who tend to gravitate to the closest areas near the parking lots.

It was a beautiful day with lots of fall colors thanks to the numerous cottonwood and sycamore trees. We hoped to see some rarities but largely found animals we've encountered before. That being said, we were fortunate to see a nice mule deer trio with one youngster, a herd of tule elk and a tarantula out on the road probably in search of a mate. Other sightings included an unfortunately dead long nosed snake which is not that common. a coyote, and two northern harriers, including a stunning gray ghost

While we didn't find anything unique, it was great being out in nature viewing wildlife.

Posted on November 29, 2020 23:16 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment