Journal archives for June 2016

June 21, 2016

The 58-250 Project: A summer update

Number of counties with at least one record: 34
Number of counties with 250 or more species level (SL) observations: 2

Since I last updated this blog, several important milestones have passed in my attempt to document 250 species-level observations in each of California’s 58 counties. Often, my first observations in a given county are rather happenstance; I’m either driving past or camping in the region, but they are untargeted and every sighting is made with equal pleasure. However, once I begin to focus on a particular spot, I strive to get a representative sample of those species that are either widespread or symbolic of the area, such as the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in Humboldt County or the Joshua Tree (Yucca brevicola) in Riverside County, home to Joshua Tree National Park. At the same time, I’m also becoming increasing interested in those species that are widespread across the state, such as the California Ground Squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) (six counties to date), the Pallid-winged Grasshopper (Trimerotropis pallidipennis) (seven counties), and Coyote Brush (seven counties) and documenting introduced species, both the widespread and the highly localized.
Since my last post, I’ve had several outings that have contributed significantly towards this project.

San Benito County (330 SL observations)

On May 21st, @gbentall and I participated in the Pinnacles National Park Bioblitz. From 8:45 am to nearly 9:00 pm we tromped about these ancient volcanic remnants, photographing plants, insects, birds, lichens, and more. It is one of the best preserved patches of chaparral in the area with healthy stands of Grey Pine (Pinus sabiniana) and Blue Oak (Quercus douglassi) along with a small, but productive reservoir. We had a friendly wager regarding who would find more species that day, but despite my best efforts (90 observations for the day!), her tenacity and amazing knowledge of small plants, both native and introduced, meant that my braggadocio naturalizing was handed back to me on a silver platter (with a healthy side of crow). :-)

El Dorado County (54 SL observations), Amador County (15 SL observations)

Between June 7th and June 11th, my wife and I joined friends for a relaxing camping trip in the Sierras at Silver Lake. At 7,500 ft, the snow had only recently melted away and I was captivated by the plethora of tiny flowers growing out of the shallow pans of exposed granite soil. Tiny monkeyflowers (Mimulus spp.) and buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.) were in abundance. Because I’ve only recently begun paying detailed attention to plants, I was also surprised to find and document four different species of conifer around the campsite. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that the Silver Lake West Campground was in El Dorado County, while just across the road, Silver Lake itself was in Amador County. After coming home, I was able to divide up the photographs and added an unexpected county to my list. Highlights of this portion of the trip include waking up to a singing Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) each morning, watching a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) feed its babies, and discovering an whole new realm of “belly flowers” (because I just need to be even more easily distracted! ).
A quick stop on Mormon Emigration Trail Road to look at butterflies on some blooming Deer Brush (Ceanothus integerrimus) also led to the discovery of a Sierra Clarkia (Clarkia virgata) and a first inaturalist record!

Sierra County (14 SL observations)

After five days of camping, going for a soak at Sierra Hot Springs sounded like the perfect way to end this portion of our trip. However, there is a caveat. There are certain protocols one should follow when visiting a hot spring, especially a clothing optional one, and these include not strolling around with a camera with a 300 mm lens! Fortunately, the camping area is about a third of a mile and behind several hills from the pools and there are enough small streams and boggy spots in the area to attract a decent selection of wildlife, including six species of dragonfly and damselfly, five of which were new to me (thank you for the help with these @jimjohnson and @aguilita ! )In addition to the odonates, I also delighted in watching over a dozen Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) come in a dusk and feed over a small, brushy field. Their fast flying and the low light prevented me from capturing any sharp photos, but I did get some clearly recognizable ones and these represent my first photographed record of the species for California. While lying on the deck next to the hot pool, I also watched a large Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer) move through the grass only a few feet away, begging Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) babies calling from their nest hole, and a beautifully illuminated male Cassin’s Finch (Haemorhous cassinii) singing from the top of a nearby pine. But once again, without a camera, these observations will just have to wait until a future day.

Posted on June 21, 2016 19:22 by rjadams55 rjadams55 | 13 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment