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 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze, December 29, 2021 02:28

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 16, 2021 11:56 AM PDT

Description

East Canyon
Another cool one on mustard

Photos / Sounds

What

Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia sila)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 2021

Description

Carrizo Plain
So happy to find this!

Photos / Sounds

What

Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

May 11, 2021 01:22 PM PDT

Description

Blalock Wildlife Sanctuary
One of a pair I accidentally flushed. Unfortunately I had to take this with my macro lens...definitely the best find of the day..curious if they might be nesting in this area.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

May 10, 2021 11:43 AM PDT

Description

Rocky Oaks

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

June 2021

Description

One of a pair that I flushed --second time this year I had the luck to find these and/or nighthawks during the day

Photos / Sounds

What

Heliotrope Fairy Bee (Perdita heliotropii)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

August 28, 2021 01:12 PM PDT

Description

Arnold Road
Still quite a few around but they seem to have more competition at the flowers this time

Photos / Sounds

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

September 19, 2021 12:55 PM PDT

Description

Alpine Butte Wildlife Sanctuary
There were some of these on each California croton plant.

Photos / Sounds

What

Sonoran Coralsnake (Micruroides euryxanthus)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Photos / Sounds

What

Spanish Shawl (Flabellinopsis iodinea)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

November 11, 2021 11:17 PM PST

Description

Leo Carrillo

Comments

I am very happy for you that you got to see new species! Personally, I also found a number of new personal firsts through others' hard work in finding them haha.

Happy New Year!

Posted by dinofelis 7 months ago (Flag)

Thank you so much for your comment! I'm sure there is a lot of life where you live...and yes, it always helps when someone else finds it for you!
Happy New Year!

Posted by naturephotosuze 7 months ago (Flag)

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