Dexter Park, February 7, 2024

It seems the new year is moving so rapidly I can't believe we're almost mid-way through February. Last week we had epic rains here in Southern California (and much of the state as well). While this much rain may not be cause for concern in many other parts of the country, here we suffer from floods and mudslides when we get a lot of rain all at once. So it really does impact the terrain as well as people.

Once the rain subsided, I decided to head over to a place called Dexter Park. This is a small park in an area called Kagel Canyon. It's a public park which I usually avoid, but they have left a lot of native habitat there, including a fairly extensive oak grove so it's not the manicured area one associates with public parks. I ran into this park by accident about 5-6 months ago when I had planned to go to another area and the trail was blocked off for some reason or another. Scrambling to figure out what else was in the area, I found this place on the map and thought I'd check it out.

The oak grove really made it appealing (though as with all public parks, there is a maintenance person who seems to also use a leaf blower (ugh!), and that, in turn, is a big negative on the natural environment. Nonetheless, there are areas of the park that remain untouched by maintenance.

One of the reasons I went to this place after the heavy rains was that I was hoping to find some snails and slugs--animals that here in our dry environment (and getting drier all the time) are all struggling to find suitable habitat in which to thrive. Unfortunately, I didn't find a single one, not even non-native gastropods, of which there are many in the area.

However, I ended up finding a lot of fungi and insects. Insects at this time of year are definitely more difficult to find and many are not out yet. But as we know, there are many just hiding out trying to stay warm and dry during inclement weather. Surprisingly, I hit pay dirt when I started looking closer at things.

The park had many sandbags up along a 3 foot block wall that borders a hillside above which has a large oak grove. The sandbags were white and seemed to be made of some sort of straw like material. As I was walking along the block wall I noticed a couple of ants on the sandbags. Then I started seeing more stuff and I ended up finding a lot of interesting insects that were a bit easier to photograph against the white background, although most were very small and running.

What was great about finding these insects was that many of them were totally new to me. At this point, I'm out so much that it's getting more difficult to find new animals. So a trip that started off disappointingly with a lack of snails and slugs turned into a trip where I found some really cool insects.

I think my favorite find was a mite that was running around carrying prey! I've definitely never seen that before:

In addition, I found several of these beetles: and two gall wasps that are quite interesting: and Yet another cool find was this fly. While I didn't get enough angles on it for definitive ID, it looks pretty cool:

Finally, I found this cool spider on a metal hand railing:

Bottom line, I'm finding that in spite of cooler, wetter weather (and I am fortunate to be living in a very temperate climate) really interesting things can be found in places you might not normally consider--sandbags, walls, railings, and of course, leaf litter--always good but maybe better at this time of year. I hope this is inspiration to all of you who are interested in smaller creatures and wondering where to find them.

Posted on February 10, 2024 06:02 PM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze


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