Laura's notes...

@scubabruin wrote:

California Wild Women in the International Biodiversity Bioblitz 2020

Given the current crisis and close proximity to home for so long, this challenge was a welcome diversion. It also coincided with one of our regular trips to Mammoth. Even though I needed to balance family vacation time along with being part of a competitive bioblitz team, I felt good about my ability to contribute to our species count since I’d be in a different part of the state during part of the event.

It’s terrific having such a dedicated and enthusiastic team, because without them I might have let Sunday evening slide on into Monday morning and start then. Having said that, we did walk around for about 30 minutes on Sunday evening searching for moths in the lights and hoping our resident black bear would make an appearance. Sadly, no luck.

Monday morning dawned and after some coffee and light nourishment, we headed out to
Benton Crossing near the Owens River and Crowley Lake, to what is a popular fishing area. We also stumbled upon a hot-springs nearby. This outing proved worthwhile in finding a number of species new to me, including two birds, the Sage Thrasher and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Most of the plants were new to me as well. I didn’t include the cows all around as they belong to a local rancher, but I do wish I could have caught a photo of the weasel dashing across the road and had taken better photos of the flame skimmer/pond hawk which I didn’t include due to poor quality.

Later in the morning, while family did some work, I took a short trip to the Sherwin Lakes trailhead. Alas, most of the wildflowers there had long since dried up, but I was able to make observations of several firs and pines as well as local scrub.

Our Monday afternoon outing involved a drive into Devil’s Postpile National Monument. After a late lunch at the café, we took a lovely walk around Sotcher Lake where I found a few more new species and quite a lot of flowers, birds, and insects, such as: a crackling forest grasshopper, woodland pinedrops, and a Western Forktail. The trail around the back side of the lake was quite overgrown and we weren’t sure where it went a few times, but we were rewarded with great views and I managed a good variety of observations.

Our next stop included a short hike to Devil’s Postpile itself and the loop trail over the top, where I’ve never been before. Lots of chipmunks and ground squirrels, including a close up with one cutie who posed and communed with us for a few minutes.

Our last stop of the afternoon was the wildflower walk near Agnew Meadows, where we found plenty of wildflowers. None were new species to me, but many were new for this event. I only wish I had stopped to record the massive mound of bear scat we noticed…sigh.

That was it for the day, exhausted after 6.2 miles of walking and it was time to go back home to make dinner. Uploading at the slow Mammoth internet speeds took hours, and that was just the observations made on my cell phone. Camera photos have yet to be downloaded, sorted and added.

Tuesday, August 4th, I was on my own for the morning, so I headed out to Mammoth Creek and the Hayden Cabin area then up old Mammoth Road where I walked out toward Mammoth Rock as well as a quick stop near the old mining site. After exhausting those areas, where I found quite a lot to record, I took a short drive out the scenic loop looking for more wildflowers and pollinators. Many of the spring flowers have died off, but the Sulphur buckwheat is a stalwart plant giving its all to last longer than most. Some of my favorite photos from the morning were these that I shot of pollinators on Ranger’s Buttons:

In the early afternoon, we began the long 2-hour drive to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Somewhere I’ve never been and have long wanted to see. Despite being a little apprehensive about the drive being steep and narrow, after all, the road rises 6,000 feet in elevation in just 24 miles, I was super excited to see these majestic pines in person and add new species for myself as well as the team. To my pleasant surprise, the area was not as barren as I expected. We encountered not only the gnarly, beautiful pines themselves, but plenty of other hardy plants, including wildflowers and pollinators, chipmunks, squirrels, and a Yellow-bellied Marmot. Although four hours of driving time cut into other opportunities for more observations, I believe showcasing the wealth of diversity in California was more important and along the lines of our team’s focus. Not to mention, my family and I are on vacation and truly enjoyed exploring the White Mountains/Bristlecone Pine Forest trails and interpretive signs which were very well-done. I recommend the side trip to all. Fun fact: there are actually two species of pine surviving the harsh conditions over 10,000 feet in the White Mountains – the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine and the Limber Pine.

That was it in terms of observations for the day as we arrived back home at sunset and went straight into making dinner. Of course, observations from my phone were added right away, but camera photos will have to wait.

Third day of the challenge, and another day to be spent driving, meant I was up early and out at Minaret Vista to see what I can find. Thankfully, we were rewarded with stunning views as well as few new species. At this point, I realized it was also a good idea to start snapping a lot of photos even if they are duplicative of species I had already documented.

Later in the morning, I returned to Mammoth Creek as I had some extra time before heading back to Los Angeles. Despite all of my trips to Mammoth, I had never realized there were public trails through a federal reserve along the creek and what a joy it was to discover that area. Hardly anyone was nearby and I was able to comingle with many varieties of wild flowers, plants, and insects. Of course, the elusive sulphurs are always frustrating to photograph, so I came up empty-handed on that one. However, I was pleased to collect plenty of observations and a few more species.

Afternoon arrived and time to drive south, meaning 5 hours in the car with no real opportunities to document along the way. Partly because the more stops, the longer the drive, and my family wasn’t keen on that. Additionally, as my teammates have noted, a lot of the plants are past their prime this late in the summer. Besides, it was just darn hot on the drive south…about 100 degrees the entire way. At one stop, I managed to snap some photos which included a weedy-type species which was new to me: Annual Bur-Sage.

Once home, it was time to turn to family/household business of unloading and reconnecting with my other sons and dogs, who stayed home. Hence, I did not record much by way of observations later on Wednesday. I spent the entire evening downloading and sorting through the camera to add those observation to iNat and the competition. By 11pm, it was time to go to sleep and continue uploading in the morning.

Thursday, August 6th, the last day of the competition dawned cloudy, cool, and dreary. This meant the insects would not be especially active, nor would the birds, so I worked on finishing uploading of camera observations until the weather improved. Once it warmed up, I headed over to the neighborhood community garden where I can always find lots of lizards, birds, and insects. I did not photograph any plants, however, as they are all cultivated. Since I wasn’t likely to add any new species to the list, I just felt as though I could help ramp up the number of observations for the team before the competition ended at 1pm. Amazingly, I did find a new species, both for me and the team: a Mexican Cactus Fly.

I was sure to get home with enough time to transfer photos from camera to iNat. With just a few minutes left, I scoured my yard yet again. To my surprise, I found an alligator skin shed, a species not yet added to our team.

My takeaways after the competition are much the same of those already discussed. It was tiring, but I definitely did not put in as much time as others. If we do it again, I won’t commit to so much driving time where I lost valuable observation opportunities. On a personal note, I have recorded over 50 species new to me during this challenge and learned more about the Eastern Sierra flora. I cherish our new team relationship and hope we can continue doing community science and iNat-related activities in the future. Thanks so much for going on this journey with me.

By Laura Schare, @scubabruin

Posted on August 12, 2020 08:13 PM by andreacala andreacala



Posted by kimssight over 3 years ago

I just wrote to @scubabruin what a great idea it was to add links to the observations. It really opens up another dimension. I'll try something similar over the weekend or so.

Posted by andreacala over 3 years ago

@andreacala , it was your brilliant suggestion to change the pictures to links, so thank you so much :)

Posted by scubabruin over 3 years ago

Was it? No, you came up with the embedded pics, I just provided the tech workaround given the simple text format.

Posted by andreacala over 3 years ago

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