Journal archives for June 2022

June 08, 2022

June 5, 2022 Corbin Canyon

I haven't visited Corbin Canyon much this year, partially because I've been trying to focus more on desert habitats, but also because I was so disappointed in how the area was decimated last year for "fire prevention" reasons by MRCA. It has taken a long time to recover from that extreme mowing down of every living plant within 100 yards of the trail. Between that action and the drought, the place has taken a beating.

However, I always like to check in to places I've visited in the past to see how they're faring. I'm pleased to report that the area looked very good. It's obvious that some vegetation "trimming" took place already this year. But, amazingly enough, it appears as though the people who manage the area actually listened to my concerns about how it was handled last year. I definitely don't want to take all the credit so I'm hoping that I was not the only one that complained.

While they did mow down a fair amount of the non native grasses and mustard this year, they actually trimmed around the native plants. For instance, the milkweed plant that was mowed down last year, was actually left intact this year--and it had a monarch caterpillar on it! New tarweed plants and elegant clarkia are all there. California aster plants are sprouting now that last year never even appeared except in areas not mowed. And the area that was trimmed was reduced substantially. Is it perfect? Probably not, but there were many, many birds around unlike last year when after the trimming I didn't hear a single bird for more than a month.

So what else can I report? I don't know if anyone else in the Los Angeles area has noticed but it sure seems like a good butterfly year. Though we only had two rainstorms of any significance, the wildflowers and butterflies seem pretty abundant this year. Maybe the spacing out of those storms contributed to this but I'm thankful for this. After all, we have no idea what will happen this coming rain year.

In addition, the purple sage plants that are very abundant in Corbin Canyon and looked totally dead after our dry, dry year seem to have revived and are thriving again and attracting many pollinators. Though some are definitely well past peak, there are still many that are in full bloom. The toyons have many flowers and the blue elders have many many berries. I saw band tail pigeons in the canyon for the first time since I started coming here. They were feasting on the berries.

And like everywhere else, the sapphire woollystar flowers are really prolific. It's a great year for Eriastrum flowers in general, though they've definitely already peaked.

In addition to the numerous native bees I saw (and yes, there were still an abundance of western honeybees) I found some interesting arthropods including this super orange bee fly (genus villa), a boldly patterned tiny bee fly (genus neacreotrichus), an ant mimic spider and a wasp that captured some sort of prey and took it into it's burrow.

And I'm always amazed at what I don't capture. As many insects as I was able to photograph, there were probably three times as many that I wasn't able to capture. Life is all around us just waiting for us to take notice. It brings me much joy to immerse myself in nature. I just wish more people would take the time to pay attention to the natural world around us. Perhaps if more people did, our planet would not be in such bad shape.

Posted on June 08, 2022 06:41 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 8 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

June 30, 2022

June 28, 2022 Zuma Canyon

It has been six months since I visited Zuma Canyon. I used to visit this area quite regularly as it has some nice trails and habitat. Since the 2018 fire, though, things have changed. I was quite disappointed at my last visit in December 2021, as it looked very dry and inhospitable. The ongoing drought has not been kind to this area that used to regularly have a bit of water in the creek at least further back in the canyon.

While no water was present, and hasn't been for some time, I am pleased to report that the habitat looks much improved. For some reason our weird rain storms...a big one last December and another decent one in April, with almost nothing in between seems to have been just what our flowers needed.

I've certainly seen a lot more flowers this year than last year. What struck me most at Zuma Canyon was the sheer number of flowers in bloom. There must be over 100,000 flowers in bloom. Are there flowers everywhere? No. As usual, when you first start on the trail, the vegetation looks fairly dry with a few flowers here and there. However as you head back on the main trail, more and more flowers appear and though the variety is somewhat low, this being the end of June, the quantity is great. Thousands of cliff asters line some portions of the trail and hillsides and chaparral bush mallow plants are looking great and spread throughout. The coastal buckwheat is almost at peak and as everywhere in the Santa Monica Mountains, the laurel sumac bushes are filled with flowers. And, there are still some flowers to come, at least in this location.

That being said, things are far from perfect. This area used to be one of the few locations with western gray squirrels. I haven't seen one since the fire. I checked inaturalist and it doesn't appear that any have been reported since then either. Sadly, I notice that none have been sighted in Solstice Canyon this year at all--and this was the other reliable place to see them. I hope there is a population somewhere still hanging on but I'm a bit concerned. I know I saw a roadkill gray squirrel last year near the turnoff to Solstice and that worried me. With such low numbers, it's difficult for animals to maintain a viable population.

I haven't seen a rattlesnake at Zuma Canyon either since the fire and another check of inaturalist shows no reports of rattlesnakes since the fire. While that doesn't mean there aren't any, as not all people are using inaturalist, it does seem as though the fire has had a very tough impact on many animals.

The good news though is that the lush vegetation is definitely attracting lots of insects and pollinators. As someone who photographs a lot of insects, it is a bit overwhelming to see so many flying around and try to find cooperative ones. I saw many, many bees, several of which I'm still waiting for ID's on. Many were visiting ground nests in several locations, and I'm sure they will have plenty of pollen for their offspring.

As for butterflies, there were many. It's been a great year for checkered whites and Zuma Canyon was filled with them. There were also many marine blues. One interesting thing I noticed was that though this area used to be a haven for variable checkerspot butterflies I didn't see a single one (although it is getting late in the year for them). I used to see dozens of these along with a few gabb's checkerspot butterflies. On this day I saw one gabb's checkerspot and I notice that there have been no variable checkerspot sightings in this location since before the fire.

At least the insects and flowers seem to be having a good effect on bird life and though many cool birds have been reported on ebird, I wasn't able to spot or take photographs of as many species as I'd like. However, it's always nice to see the resident nanday parakeets and there were several black headed grosbeaks. Being able to photograph a juvenile quail (probably at the "teenage" stage) was also a highlight of the day.

Interestingly enough, many of the charred sycamore trees have sprouted a tremendous amount of leaves that are predominately growing at the base of the trees while the charred trunks are still on top. I don't know if the trees will grow taller and the leaves eventually rise but it's an interesting phenomenon...so instead of a canopy, there is more of a "skirt". Still it is nice to see life return and the amount of leaves on some of the trees is amazing.

If I've learned anything from visiting and revisiting areas over time, it is that the impacts of fire are long lasting. While the initial shock was difficult to take, the great rain year of 2019 seemed to mitigate that feeling by bringing lots of life back to those charred areas. Since then, we have experienced three dry years and are anticipating more of those along with higher and higher temperatures. From this review of just one small area, it is obvious that things are far from "back to normal". I do so wish more people would feel a sense of urgency to do what they can to protect our planet. So many animal lives depend on it.

Posted on June 30, 2022 05:55 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment