Journal archives for January 2018

January 07, 2018

58/250 - Finishing up the year and a new begining

Just over two years ago I began working on the 58 / 250 project, an attempt to photo-document 250 species, common, rare, endemic, and invasive, in each of California’s 58 counties. As of the end of 2017 I’ve made nearly 3,600 photo-supported California observations representing 1,358 species in 43 counties!

2017 ended with trips to two counties representing two extremely different habitats. We spent Thanksgiving week exploring Death Valley in Inyo County along with trips to the Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. While the Nevada records don’t count for this project, it is home to several species of unusual fish that I wanted to see, including the Devils Hole Pupfish, one of the rarest fish in the world. Living in a single aquifer-filled crevasse in the desert rocks, this fish is not hard to find. One only has to drive to the outskirts of the refuge and then walk up to a completely barbed wire, fenced off area at the base of the mountains. Knowing that you are being recorded the entire time, you them walk down a long, completely enclosed metal-mesh corridor. From inside this cage, suspended around sixty feet above the pool, one could see the fish chasing each other and swimming over the small limestone ledge that provides their only breeding and feeding grounds.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9149329

Back in Death Valley, California, I tried from the diminutive Badwater Snail without success but spent a wonderful afternoon in the heights of Wildrose Peak in the Panamint Mountains. Hiking along the trails above the Beehive Kilns, I nibbled on freshly fallen pine nuts and added several mountain species to what is almost an entirely desert county. We also visited Darwin Falls outside of Panamint Springs where thick sheets of maidenhair fern, cattails, and willows grow in the wet, narrow canyon below sun blasted hills. Unfortunately, November is not the best time to visit the desert in terms of visible biodiversity. The annual plants have long-since died away, the weather is too cold for most reptiles, and migration has wound down for the birds. I did however see two species that while not native to North America, are to many people near emblematic of the southwestern United States; wild horses and herds of feral burros. Visiting the area, the intense emotions these animals provoke was very clear. Lacking natural predators, their numbers have, in many places, exceeded the carrying capacity and they use up resources depended on by bighorn sheep and other native grazers. They also inspire fervent devotion among many people who passionately want them protected and see them as symbols of the American West.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9141506

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9220471

Back on the coast, I spent Christmas week staying in a hostel in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco. Several days were spent exploring the coastal bluffs and poking around in the abandoned WWII bunkers and casements around the old Fort Cronkhite military base. One of the highlights was finding a colony of apparently healthy and reproducing Pacific Newts (Taricha sp.) in a pond created by the removal of a massive gun base.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9220471
I also found only my second Harris’s Sparrow in nearly 30 years of birding mixed in with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos on Mount Tamalpais.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9364542

So, for 2018……

I look forward to continuing this project in 2018 with several goals in mind. I need to explore the Central Valley counties in more detail. From Tehama County in the north to Kern County in the south there is a huge expanse that I have scarcely explored. In truth this will require breaking some preconceptions developed from years of driving along Interstate 5. Mainly, that this is a massively degraded monoculture with little to offer in terms of interesting diversity. Intellectually, I know this isn’t entirely true and look forward to visiting many of the refuges, parks, and cities I’ve given scant attention to in previous years.

Snorkeling! I am going to buy a small underwater camera and get some snorkeling in. If I can’t add a Garibaldi in San Diego….strike that….this project will continue until I get a San Diego Garibaldi. It is a fish I remember seeing all the time when snorkeling as a youth and it is one of the species I most want to re-find. Also, living along the central California coast there is no reason that with a good wetsuit I shouldn’t be able to add some deeper water coastal species.

In addition to endemic, range-limited species, such as the Panamint Alligator Lizard, the Torrey Pine, serpentine specialized wildflowers of the Siskiyou Mountains, and quite a few species of slender salamanders, I will be looking to document some of the less-widespread but apparently established introduced species. These include Pin-tailed Whydahs and Orange Bishops in Los Angeles, Ring-necked Parakeets in Bakersfield, and Texas Spiny Softshell Turtles in the Imperial Valley.

I plan on providing more frequent updates to this project over the coming year and reaching out to more people for advice and possibly some companionable days out while exploring this massive and diverse state.

Posted on January 07, 2018 20:40 by rjadams55 rjadams55 | 6 comments | Leave a comment