Journal archives for December 2021

December 16, 2021

December 15, 2021 Tujunga Wash

I haven't posted here for awhile so I thought I'd do a "winter" post. I've spent a lot of the last couple of years observing and photographing insects, not only because I like them and they're interesting, but also because I love finding new species and it's pretty difficult to find new birds and/or mammals in your place of residence. I'm still hoping to see and photograph a mountain lion but I think I've photographed most of the birds that reside here and many of the mammals with the exception of bats and some rodents. And there are definitely a few snakes I'm still hoping to see.

However, it's December and it was actually very cool today so finding insects was a lot more challenging. Although we are in a temperate climate and in one that seems to get warmer every year, on cold days, there are usually not too many insects around. My strategy to deal with that is to get more creative. I look under rocks and/or leaf litter and also look for super small insects which for some reason still seem to be around though definitely not as plentiful as they are in spring and summer.

After yesterday's rain...one that finally made things wet, it was a pleasure to get out and see the changes in the landscape. One rainstorm does not end a drought but it sure was nice to see plants looking healthier and birds much more energetic.

Tujunga Wash seems to have some water year round so that is one nice thing about visiting the area; however, today there was actually water in one large section of the creek bed that has been dry for months and months. Unfortunately, with the storm and rain, came loads and loads of trash and debris. It seems to be a feature of life in Los Angeles that with the rain comes lots of trash. It's very sad that our fellow humans can't seem to dispose of trash properly.

But, on to observations. I found a fair amount of interesting things today though I don't know what most of them are! Still with the new rain ponds and puddles that were everywhere throughout the wash, I spent time looking in the water for whatever might be swimming around. I found one really cool looking larva, though I have no idea what it is. In addition to the larva I found a few beetles, some very tiny cricket-like insects and probably got my best photo ever of a prostig (a type of mite) which are very tiny and tend to run around like crazy.

And while it is always exhilarating to find something super unique and cool, just finding anything of interest on a 58 F day is an accomplishment in itself.

Posted on December 16, 2021 03:42 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 29, 2021

2021 Year in Review

In 2021, I was fortunate enough to be able to go out nearly every day to explore nature and make observations. I say fortunate, because not everyone has the ability to spend the time I do exploring. Being the first year I didn't work, made it that much easier.

Last year I set a personal goal of eventually achieving 10,000 species. Even if I'm fortunate enough to reach that goal, I'm sure I will set a new one. In 2021 I made really nice progress by finding about a thousand new species, though only about 50% are research grade. Some are yet to be reviewed and there are others that will never reach that mark and that's okay. While personal goals are great, the most important thing is to hopefully provide current and future researchers with information that can be used in some way to fill in the blanks on different species.

The really great thing about contributing to inaturalist is that along the way, I am continually learning about new families and species of life that make my observations all the richer.

Another great aspect of inaturalist is the ability to connect with like-minded people. In addition to the connections I made in 2020 with the California Wild Women group, I connected with 3 other inat people in person (socially distant) this year. That's one of the most rewarding aspects of inaturalist--having the ability to connect with others who share your passion about nature. And I find I always learn something new from each of them.

On a personal note, this year I have had the opportunity to donate some of my nature photos to a couple of entitites. The Anza Borrego Foundation will be using a photo of mine of a desert lily for signage in their nature garden. I was also recently contacted by the City of Los Angeles who is preparing the new Portrero Canyon trail in Pacific Palisades for opening. They will be using some of my photos for signage on this trail as well. Since these were all unsolicited requests, it was very nice to have my work singled out. I should also note that these contacts were not made thru inaturalist but through my photo site on Flickr.

This last year was to say the least, challenging from a psychological aspect. The ongoing severe drought made it very depressing to be out and definitely helped define the areas I went to. Every year I go to the Carrizo Plain, one of my favorite places. It was so very sad to see the state it was in. As I write this, I am hopeful that 2022 will be a better year as they have already had some rain--they never get very much due to the rain shadow effect---but it gives me hope.

Another very distressing part of 2022 was the extreme "vegetation remediation" that was conducted in many wildlife areas. Unfortunately, since I got involved after the damage was done, I wasn't able to get any response from the parties involved. Next year I hope to get involved before this starts and see what if any changes can be made to this practice. It will be an uphill battle.

Now for the highlights of 2021. I was surprised to find that I was able to see 13 new species of birds this year all in Southern California. Most of these birds were migrants that were reported on ebird so I can't take credit for finding most of them. Still it was nice to get out to photograph them. And I was super fortunate to actually flush two species of birds that I'm still hoping to get better photos of: a pair of nighthawks and a pair of common poorwills. Both sightings were unexpected, making them all the more rewarding.

I also discovered that salt marshes are a great place to find life. I hadn't spent much time exploring these ecosystems before other than to look for and photograph birds. This year, I spent a few days exploring two areas and found them to be very rich in life. One of my best finds was a heliotrope fairy bee for which very few sightings have been made. They are very cute tiny bees.

I had a few other insect finds that were also rewarding. One was a yucca moth (Tegeticula maculata). I had been looking for one of these for several years and I finally found one. It was also the first observation of one in the Santa Monica mountains.

Another interesting find was a treehopper I found out in the Antelope Valley. With the drought, very few plants even flowered. And when I visited in September I didn't expect to find much. About the only thing that even looked alive were a few California croton bushes. I decided to sit down in front of one and see what I could find. Blending in almost perfectly were these very strange looking treehoppers that have been tentatively ID'd as Micrutalis flava. I was very excited to find something so interesting in such a barren environment during a drought year.

The last insect I would like to highlight is one I found out in the Santa Clarita area on a trail called East Canyon. I normally ignore mustard plants (to my own detriment) but something drew me to them that day and I found one of the coolest looking insects I've found. Called an Odynerus erythrogaster, this wasp is so colorful and striking.

A couple of last highlights: I finally got to photograph a Spanish shawl nudibranch. I had seen these at a distance a couple of times but was never in a position to get a photo. This year, I finally got a decent photo. And I got a much better photo of a Sonoran coral snake than the one I got a couple of years ago--not only a fairly rare snake to even see but a deadly one as well.

Last but not least, I was able to see and photograph a blunt-nosed leopard lizard. I have seen and gotten very nice photos of them before but they are one of my favorite reptiles so any time I can see one I'm happy. I had lost most hope with the extraordinarily dry conditions at Carrizo. But I was very fortunate that on the last day of my visit as I was driving out, I found one.

What's ahead for 2022? More exploration for sure. I'm hopeful that the dry conditions predicted for 2022 will not prevail. Already, I'm so happy that we are getting so much rain and snow. Water gives life and another year like the last two are devastating for wildlife. I hope to get another 1000 species but also know that the more you find, the more difficult it is to get new ones--at least in your local area. Regardless I treasure the moments I can spend out in nature and thankful for all the life that still is around us.

Posted on December 29, 2021 02:28 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment