September 25, 2020

September 25, 2020 Legacy Park and Topanga Beach

I didn't have much time today so I thought I'd do a circuit again of Legacy Park and then hit Topanga Beach on the way back. Both visits were a bit underwhelming. I was hoping to see some migrants at Legacy. Afterall, the city has gone to a lot of expense and time to plant all native vegetation there. However, other than a few wading birds I only saw one white crowned sparrow. However it was nice to see three juvenile night crowned herons. It seems like their numbers might be up this year.

From there I stopped at Topanga for the high "low tide". There were already too many people there and I was in a rush to get home so I only took a few photos of shells on the sand and a couple of birds. The good news is, it appears there are more young Heermann's gulls (I think most of the ones there were maybe second year birds, though I'm not good on gull ID's). Since over 90% of Heermann's gulls nest on one island off the coast of Mexico, they are considered vulnerable and a couple of years ago, no juveniles were seen.

In other news, one of the chapters of the Nevada Sierra Club has asked permission to use one of my desert tortoise photos (not posted here) as part of their campaign to protect habitat for endangered species throughout the state. I'm always pleased when I can contribute to a good cause. A few months ago, I was also asked to contribute a photo of my blunt-nosed leopard lizard for a conservation cause, so I'm hoping to continue to make photography a tool for conservation and call attention to our vulnerable and endangered species.

Posted on September 25, 2020 23:51 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 23, 2020

September 22, 2020 Triunfo Creek Park

Since it was supposed to be cooler I thought I'd stop by Triunfo Creek Park. This area is great in the spring for wildflowers..if we have rain. But it has been a dry year and it was reflected in the habitat. I was hoping to see some migrant birds including warblers but I didn't see a one. Granted it was warm and not early in the morning when most birds are active. I did hear one white crowned sparrow singing but this place usually attracts a lot of sparrows and it was pretty dead.

However, I did find a couple of cool things. Probably the best find was a Mexican Amberwing dragonfly. It's a migrant so is sometimes seen in the area but I've yet to have one land for a photo. And I haven't really seen them that often. So that was a treat. In addition, one of the valley oaks had a lot of honeydew galls and those were attracting a lot of insects.

Another cool find was this really interesting looking insect that is a dazzling red. Unfortunately I couldn't get a super sharp shot of it as it was very small and not sitting still. Finally, it was my second day in a row of finding new white checkered skippers who seem to be all coming out around the same time.

Posted on September 23, 2020 01:15 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 19, 2020

September 18, 2020 Deervale Stone Canyon Park

Another hot day in the valley and I didn't feel like driving far so I set out for this small not quite pocket park in Sherman Oaks. Since I wasn't up to going down to the bottom since it would mean coming back up a hill in the oppressive heat, I stopped at some buckwheat and sawtooth goldenbushes and looked for insects.

I focused on finding very small bugs--from 1/4 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch long. It takes a lot of patience to not only spot these guys but also to photograph them. The advantage of looking for very small bugs is that you might find things that are not found very often--not too many people take the time to do this. The downside is that it can be difficult to get ID's on these things.

That being said, my two best finds for the day were a cute little brown and white weevil type insect and a small damselfly (surprised to find it here) that I think is an arroyo bluet but still awaiting confirmation.

Posted on September 19, 2020 20:46 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 17 2020 and a note

On this day I visited both Zuma Canyon and Nicholas Flat. The heat and dry conditions are very evident on the trails. Zuma Canyon seems to have been hit hard as the habitat is definitely in pretty poor condition. Years ago this had a stream nearly year round. In the last few years, it has been nearly nonexistent except for 2019 when we had the great rains following the Woolsey fire.

However it was not completely bleak. There were probably a hundred broomsage plants blooming. Unfortunately, they were attracting hundreds of western honeybees. I looked in vain for other pollinators. There were a few but it was difficult to find them. I did find one interesting beetle on the buckwheat which I've highlighted here.

From there, I went to Nicholas Flat. I expected the pond to be almost dry but it looked quite good. It also had at least three big stands of water smartweed blooming. Surprisingly there were very few birds on the lake. Perhaps it was the time of day, but in general, I'm finding fewer birds out on the trails lately. I don't know if it has to do with the massive migratory bird deaths or just a general decline.

That being said, I have also noticed that though there are completely dead spots where nothing seems to be thriving, there are also hotspots where there is a lot of life. I didn't see a whole lot on the regular trails at Nicholas Flat but I wandered off on an animal trail and found 6 species of butterflies and a variety of other pollinators in addition to much more bird activity in just fifty feet of trail or so. My most interesting finds of the day is a beautiful collops beetle. And it was nice to see the resident northern harrier again.

On another note, I know we mentioned the decline in marine life and tide pool life as well as people's behavior with regard to marine life. I don't know if any of you saw this but they finally are starting to address the problem at White Point.:

The last time Chris and I were there a few months ago we found the behavior of others atrocious. Unless they start coming down hard on people, I guess this will continue.

Posted on September 19, 2020 06:58 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 18, 2020

September 15, 2020 Malibu Lagoon and Legacy Park

I'm gradually catching up on my observations after the massive uploads from Arizona. I have been out exploring some since we returned more than a week ago but have been behind.

On this day I made my way to Malibu Lagoon and looked a bit for shorebirds (most were very far away) as well as any sea creatures that had washed up on the sand. The "beach" area is still quite small but I like it that way in some ways as it keeps the crowds down. I was lucky enough to see a harbor seal poking his head out of the water as I made my way to the beach but he went under as I got closer for a better photo. There were several spiny lobsters on the beach including a couple that were rolled up like the one I posted in my observations. Otherwise I found just a few shells and crabs.

Then I made my way to Legacy Park. I used to go to this place a lot, but a few years ago it suddenly stopped attracting many interesting birds. However, this day was better in terms of water birds (I still couldn't find any migrants in the trees). I was surprised to see some sandpipers, a dowitcher and a greater yellowlegs, the latter of which was the only one who conveniently posed (though I have much better photos than what is posted here). I was even more surprised to see two black-necked stilts as they are rarely even in Malibu. And not photographed but seen was a black crowned night heron.

I also looked for pollinators and did find a couple of non honeybees. Since Legacy Park is a "managed" park, it is watered and maintained by volunteers and the flowers tend to bloom much longer than those in the wild.

Posted on September 18, 2020 02:03 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 15, 2020

September 7th and 8th, 2020 Arizona and Joshua Tree

I've decided to combine the entry for these two days as neither one was particularly noteworthy. Our last full day in Arizona was frustrating as we had several things on the agenda and places were closed and/or the heat was too intense (especially for me). We had a tip on some black-bellied whistling duck chicks but went to the area (a golf course resort). No one was in the clubhouse to tell us where they might be and we couldn't see any ponds from the road. We certainly didn't want to hike out on the golf course in 100 degree heat with no shade!

We also returned to the Paton Center, hoping to get better photos of the Plain-capped starthroat hummingbird but couldn't locate it. The whole area was teeming with birds but photography was next to impossible.

We also checked out the Tubac DeAnza trail for a reported green kingfisher but again, no luck. It's one of those places where a bird can fly up and down the river but we just have a couple of entry points and many places you can't even bushwhack your way to the river's edge.

Since we needed to start making our way north, we then decided to try Sabino Canyon in Tucson. We were still hoping to find some reptiles. We had heard it was closed but there were mixed reports on when it would re-open. Their website said it was open and there was no phone contact number. We got there and it was being patrolled by security to make sure no one entered!

We lost quite a bit of time on all these mis-adventures so finally settled on the closest "nature" area we could find in the Tucson area--Sweetwater Wetlands. Right next to the freeway, it was not the most scenic place but it turned out to have some interesting animals. We actually saw our first desert kingsnake there--but no photos. However, we did find two geckos right after dark.

The next day on our way home we stopped in Joshua Tree. A pall of smoke from the Yucaipa fire blanketed everything. Though the smell of smoke wasn't bad, it was hazy and the sun was shrouded in the haze. We did find a few birds at the Cottonwood Spring Oasis trailhead. We walked about a third of a mile and then headed over to the Desert Queen Mine trail. This trail is really cool and I'm sure there is a lot of wildlife roaming about at night based on the amount of scat I saw; however about all we encountered were a swarm of honeybees following us for the whole trail. It was super annoying. They weren't trying to sting us but probably after our sweat.

Finally that evening, we tried one more time to find some reptiles and only managed to find a tarantula and what I think is a mouse but it was very cute!

All in all it was a rather anti-climatic ending to an otherwise great trip.

Posted on September 15, 2020 23:27 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 6, 2020 Miller Canyon, Brown Canyon and Coronado National Memorial

We spent this day visiting some of the more interesting canyons in southeastern Arizona. Our first stop was Miller Canyon. One of our goals here was to see and photograph a white-eared hummingbird. Once again, we visited a "feeder station" set up by people who own property in Miller Canyon. The white eared hummingbird has been staying in this area for more than a month. While you might think it easy to get a photo of a hummingbird when they are attracted to feeders, typically there are at least 20-40 hummers racing around and battling it out for the nectar. And, if you don't want a "feeder" shot as we don't, you must have a lot of patience. Another challenge is typically the lighting is either too bright or too shady and you need a high shutter speed to keep up with these little guys. So it is never easy. That being said, we did get photos of the white-eared hummingbird. I also have seen and photographed rufous and Rivoli's hummingbirds in Arizona before but haven't posted them so I also spent time trying to get photos of them as well.

Once finished with the hummers, we went up the trail. As per usual, Chris went up ahead on the trail and I lagged behind. But it worked out great for me this time. I was standing in a rocky area looking around to see what interesting species I might find. Then I heard a nuthatch in the distance making a lot of noise. My first thought was "an owl" and sure enough I located a northern pygmy owl way, way up high and got a really bad photo of it. But it's the first time I didn't have another human point out a pygmy owl to me. Though we have these owls in California, I've never been able to find any here.

Next we went to Brown Canyon Ranch. This place is great for insects, reptiles and amphibians...and probably mammals too but that would probably be after dark, although we did find the skeletal remains of a large mammal. One of our best finds was a cool looking jumping spider which I've included here.

Finally we went to the Coronado National Memorial. I had never even heard of this place. While it honors Coronado, it is basically a wilderness area skirting the border of Mexico. Once again, the plant and animal life in this area is fairly unique. Unfortunately, it was quite late when we arrived and we were only able to spend a short time on one of the trails, checking out the local habitat.

One of the most surprising things we saw was right next to the parking area. There were these large showy flowers and we immediately thought they must be invasive. Right? Right. Well, amazingly enough I found that they are native to this area and are called pink-throated morning glories. One additional cool find was a rather large bright red beetle called a "reddish potato beetle". Unfortunately the light was so poor when I took the photo that the quality is not great.

We ended the day in the dark cruising the street for reptiles. Once again, we struck seems to be a poor year for reptiles in the area.

Posted on September 15, 2020 04:13 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 14, 2020

September 5, 2020

Since neither one of us was satisfied with our visit in search of the eared quetzal pair earlier in the week and we had read reports that they were once again more accessible, we set out on this day to try and see and photograph them again.

When we arrived we ran in to some friends about a half mile up the trail who had just seen the quetzals. They thought the birds had come down canyon. However as we waited and looked around we noticed that no people were coming back down the trail and there were many cars parked at the trailhead.

So we continued hiking and at about 1.3-1.5 miles or so we found a group that was watching the quetzals. We spent the next hour or so trying to get into position to get the best photographs while not disturbing the birds. The birds were mostly quiet but would call when they started moving around. They were eating some sort of grapes that grow wild in the canyon. The grapes are actually about the size of blueberries. Anyway, it was a great few moments we shared with these lovely birds and while the photographic conditions were not great--lots of bright light and shadows, tons of brush, etc. we felt we got about the best photos that we could.

We spent the rest of the day in the canyon and I got some mediocre photos of a couple of species I had not photographed before.

Posted on September 14, 2020 21:19 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 13, 2020

September 4, 2020 Cave Creek Canyon Area

On this day we headed back to Cave Creek Canyon to look for the elegant trogon family. We spent the morning looking to no avail. We left a couple of times to go to other areas and came back and never could find them. As a result, I spent most of the day making tons of observations everywhere we went looking for new and/or interesting species.

The great thing about this area of Arizona is you never know what you will find. The first find of the day was a rattlesnake right near the parking area where we were loading up the car for the day.

While I didn't get any great photos of new species, I did find several new ones. These included a Virginia's warbler, a Mexican Chickadee, scarlet hedgenettle flowers and a blue fungus beetle.

The reason I find inaturalist so great and the reason we should always be taking photos of things we see is that my horrible OOF photos of the tiny warbler I saw turned out to be a Virginia's warbler which I had never seen before. I did get a better photo of the Mexican chickadee than is posted here but used this one to show the identifying marks better.

In addition, the knowledge of the inaturalist community is great because what I thought was a thread waisted wasp turned out to be an endemic bee fly to the AZ area--a Systropus arizonicus.

Finally, if you haven't been to SE Arizona, you might be interested to know that the white-tailed deer there are a subspecies called Coues deer--they are very small and a large male typically is no more than 5 feet tall, if that. I'm sharing a photo of a cute fawn we saw.

Posted on September 13, 2020 21:39 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 3, 2020 Cave Creek Canyon

We spent the day in the Portal/Cave Creek Canyon area, one of my favorite areas in all of Arizona. The highlight of the morning was spending time watching and photographing a male elegant trogon feeding one of his youngsters, a recent fledgling. The dad was molting but I still find them such charismatic and beautiful birds.

Later in the day we went up past the Southwestern Research Station (still closed due to Covid) and checked out the returning berylline hummingbird (we saw it last year too). We met a guy who had a hummingbird flash set-up and in addition to the berylline, there were violet crowned, blue-throated mountain gems and rufous hummingbirds.

The absolute best find of the day came in the evening when we spotted a Sonoran Coralsnake in the road. Not often found, and definitely the first one I've seen. Once again, I failed to get a good photo--partially because we were in a hurry--trying to photograph it, get it off the road (carefully, as they are venomous) and get out of the way of oncoming traffic. I'm so glad we saw this one as overall we did not see that many reptiles on this trip. The lack of monsoonal rains seems to have either made reptiles scarce or kept them hidden from sight.

Last but not least was our encounter with two hooded skunks that were searching the Portal town grounds for food scraps. I managed to get a photo of one of them. Interestingly enough, this area of Arizona has four species of skunks. I now have photos of two of the four species.

Posted on September 13, 2020 04:53 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment