Journal archives for June 2021

June 13, 2021

June 9-10, 2021 Mojave Desert Region

I love the desert and it's partly because so many unique species dwell there. It is also a great place for nature lovers as there are fewer people and more chances to encounter wildlife. That being said, it is also a very harsh environment and as things get drier, it will be a challenge for wildlife to survive, much less thrive.

Since we are entering into the hottest part of the year, I thought I'd make one more quick trip out to the desert to see what I could find. The weather was actually quite cool for this time of year--only in the 80's and actually still cool at night so that it wasn't until at least 10 AM when the temperature reached the low 70's.

The trip started off with a really great surprise. I stopped at a random place in the Antelope Valley, just off Highway 14. I actually found a couple of very tiny flowers blooming. (I'm not sure what the plants are so if any of you reading this know, let me know.) Anyway, as I was observing a small insect on one of the flowers, I turned around and there sat a long nosed leopard lizard! It was fantastic as they are one of my favorite lizards and I never expected to see one here. Finding this encourages me to make more random stops on my travels through the Antelope Valley.

And this sighting confirms my thinking that the Antelope Valley is way under-observed for wildlife. I can see why. It is not the most aesthetically pleasing area. It is also a dumping ground for human trash. I have decided I need to bring trash bags, gloves and a grabber when out there; the challenge will be, how much trash can I fit in my car? Because the volume is tremendous. I actually felt sorry for the lizard as there was so much trash spread about. And much of it is large--parts of furniture, toys, tires, etc. But that's a whole different post...so on to the trip...

My next stop was the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. I was out in this reserve about 6 or more weeks ago and it is really, really dry. It almost looks like a barren wasteland. It really makes me sad. If you crave solitude, try coming here during the week in the summer months when the surrounding miles of OHV riders are few and far between.

What did I see? I walked probably 3/4 of a mile through sand before I saw any sign of animal life--a harvester ant carrying a dead beetle. I tried another trail after I'd been there for 40 minutes and I was happy to finally encounter some wildlife -- 3 zebra tailed lizards in the span of a quarter mile. Strangely, as dry and dead as everything looks out there, there were actually 3 or more new creosote bushes growing in so there is still life in spite of the drought conditions. And I ended my visit with a look at a very cool desert horned lizard.

On the road back towards California City (the town that is the gateway to the tortoise reserve), there is a kiosk and picnic table at an intersection. I noticed some heliotrope growing there and found a virtual feeding frenzy of insects. So few flowers are about that it's a real competition to get pollen. I found a really cool wasp there.

My next stop was Red Rock Canyon State Park. I've visited this place several times but have never really spent the amount of time I'd like to--usually because I'm on my way to or from somewhere. While I had planned to really take my time here this time, the winds picked up and were blowing so fiercely that I really didn't get to do much exploring. I walked up one trail about a quarter mile and found some Thurber's sandpaper plants blooming and like the heliotrope in California City, there were many insects competing for pollen. I actually found my coolest insect here....a fly with a red and white striped abdomen.

The next day I drove all the way up Highway 395 to Fossil Falls. Again, this is a place I've stopped a few times but usually on my way to or from somewhere so I have not devoted the amount of time I would like to. The weather was relatively cool and the winds were calm. But nothing was out. I found a couple of blooming plants though I really had to "search" to find those. As I was walking back on the trail I ran into a man coming from another direction. We started chatting and during the course of our conversation, he asked if I was on inaturalist. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he is a curator on the site, an entomologist and he had just ID'd a fly larva of mine a week or so ago. Definitely the most interesting "observation" I made at Fossil Falls!

Having no luck with wildlife there, I left to start my drive back. I decided to check out Jawbone Canyon Road. I've been on this road a couple of times. The whole area is once again, dedicated to OHV riders. However it is also the gateway to a really interesting place called Butterbredt Spring. I didn't have time to drive there on this trip but if you haven't been, its a great place for birds. You will need a 4 wheel drive to get there.

Jawbone Canyon was pretty busy. Lots of people driving in and out. It is also the site of a big DWP station and you can get great views of the California aqueduct pipeline here as it makes its way over several mountains. I did find more sandpaper plants blooming as well as some spiny senna. Both were attracting insects including a bunch of tarantula hawks and a nice assortment of bees and bee flies. However, the conditions weren't really great for exploring as you would have to head off toward the spring to get away from the off roaders. So it was time to head home.

Posted on June 13, 2021 06:26 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

June 23, 2021

June 21, 2021 Corbin Canyon

I discovered this area last year and since then have been making regular visits. A nice thing about it is it doesn't get crowded. I also like it because I feel like I am helping to fill in gaps in data that hasn't been recorded in inaturalist, as this area really hasn't been explored much by our colleagues.

This year, like everywhere else in Southern California and indeed in the whole southwest, things have been very dry and really depressing to witness. In anticipation of the ever present and growing threat of wildfires, it appears that various entities have been engaging in weed whacking dry brush. MRCA manages this area and in some ways they've done a great job. They have planted several native trees and come and water them regularly to ensure their success.

However in mid May they began to week whack all the dry brush. I understand the need to keep this area under control since it is near human habitation, but I was really upset to see this begin still in breeding season. I know fire season is year round now, but to take away habitat, even if it is dry habitat and potentially impact birds, rodents and rabbits just doesn't seem right. I think they easily could have waited a month or so.

In addition, they mowed down at least one milkweed plant as well as several other native plants or areas where native plants might have begun to sprout. Yesterday when I got there, it still looked as barren as the previous visit; however, it seems to have recovered just slightly as it seemed like I saw and heard more wildlife than my prior visit when it was totally dead. I am positive the weed whacking has had a deleterious effect on the wildlife in the area. And on a side note, in another area I visit occasionally, whoever was in charge of brush remediation had used a bulldozer (it was parked there) and there was a huge branch of a native walnut tree that was broken and hanging by a few strands of wood.

As to the positive things I saw....it's always great to see a coyote and I did see the resident coyote who has probably benefited from the dry grass removal. In addition a few wasps and dragonflies are beginning to appear....though I saw these beyond the area that was mowed. And in keeping with my goal of finding tiny things, I found what I think are thrips, but not sure, on a laurel sumac leaf. These were so small, they were difficult to see with the naked eye and I'm surprised I got any photos at all. You must look closely at the heavily cropped photos to see them. And it was nice to see that some kingbirds that apparently bred in the area as I saw a family group of three (a really poor distant photo).

Posted on June 23, 2021 01:40 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment