Journal archives for October 2020

October 03, 2020

October 3, 2020 Malibu Bluffs

Malibu Bluffs is now my go-to place when it's hot as it's about the only place nearby and near the ocean that isn't overrun with people. Yesterday I tried LaJolla Canyon where I hadn't been for quite some time thinking it was far enough away not to be crowded on a weekday. However when I got there it was packed. The Camarillo fire crew was doing a run on the trail--there must have been 30 of them minimum. Plus there were many other people there. There were a lot of insects and birds but one of the trails is closed and the other one is totally unshaded so not the right weather to hike it. So, today it was back to Malibu Bluffs.

Though I wasn't there long, I managed to find a couple of cool things--or actually three to be precise. Two spiders including a jumping spider (don't you just love these cool little guys?) and a bright green small moth that is yet to be identified. There were lots of birds around but nothing unusual that I could find with my camera and many variegated meadowhawks. Most of the flowers are going to seed so I'm not sure how many insects will still be around in another month. I am amazed though how almost every time I go out I find something new or interesting, even in a small park like this where the habitat is basically all the same.

Posted on October 03, 2020 11:07 PM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 10, 2020

October 8, 2020 Las Virgenes Canyon

It was a day of mostly unremarkable finds yet there was something remarkable about it anyway. I hadn't been to Las Virgenes in months. Las Virgenes Canyon was one of the two places I "studied" for the year following the Woolsey fire. I was a regular there for many months. But between the pandemic and the hot weather, I hadn't had a chance to visit in quite some time. Yesterday, it was a study in contrasts.

Walking in to the place is very depressing. It is about as dry and degraded as you can get. When you enter, it looks like it was recently plowed to make the fire road wider. On either side, with the exception of a very few plants, it is filled with the dried up remains of mustard and thistle.

Yet there are two places further on where it is moist and almost lush. Perhaps we have the fire to thank for this as I remember prior to the fire, water in the late summer or fall was not to be found. However, since the fire, the vegetation has grown in lusher than ever in two areas and perhaps that is the reason there is still a small amount of water in the canyon. Thanks to that water there were even some scarlet monkey flowers blooming!

Further down, once you get past the two marsh-like areas, it's back to the parched landscape with a few oaks mixed in. However, once again, I found signs of life in a small patch of long-stemmed buckwheat that was attracting a nice mix of insects. There were several of these beautifully blue colored wasps as well as a buckeye and some bees. On my way out I passed a newly emerged butterfly.

Finally, I had hoped once again to run into some migrant birds or interesting warblers but alas, I didn't see any. However I did record my first chipping sparrow for the Santa Monica Mountains, a bird I've probably seen before in the area but never photographed because it is so plain. Thanks to inaturalist I now try not to overlook anything.

And the last encouraging thing was that I saw several valley oaks growing in or getting new leaves--hopefully bringing more habitat and shade to the canyon. I've also included links to two observations I made shortly after the Woolsey Fire that show both the devastation and the resilience of life:

Posted on October 10, 2020 12:30 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 13, 2020

October 12, 2020 Santa Ynez Canyon Park

With the hot weather back, I decided to stop by this natural park, hoping there wouldn't be too many people around. I was right and during my 2 hours there I only saw one off leash dog---usually there are many. I can't say I found anything super special, but this place is never short of insects. It was just a bit too hot and windy to really find and photograph many very well.

Surprising for this time of year I found an anise swallowtail caterpillar. I also found two jumping type spiders (one is actually a paradise spider) and many flies. And it was great to once again see a California spreadwing--a species that isn't always easy to find.

On another note, one of my observations from Las Virgenes canyon from the other day is being cited by a researcher, Rick West, who is writing a paper on the wasp species Aporus hirsutus. (This particular species is a spider hawk and specializes in trapdoor spiders.) He and his colleague are not actually using the photo but rather noting the flower the species is feeding on. I've been trading emails with him to learn more about these wasps and it's prompted me to want to go out and see if I can witness any additional behavior. Unfortunately with the hot weather this week I'm not sure I will be able to do so.

It's great to know that our observations are playing a role in furthering scientific knowledge in sometimes small ways and also in bigger ways as both Laura and Kim have done.

Posted on October 13, 2020 03:59 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 16, 2020

October 15, 2020 Las Virgenes Canyon

I made a trip out here again to see if I could gather more information on the A. hirsutus wasp about which Rick West contacted me. Unfortunately, due to the super hot temperatures (will this heat ever end??) I had to go early and leave early. It was actually 96 when I left at 11 AM! I walked through the area looking for anything interesting on my way to the long-stemmed buckwheat where I had seen the original wasps. There were many birds out and about but I didn't detect anything unusual. It was nice to see a Lincoln's sparrow though. I don't see these too often.

I spent about a half hour plus monitoring the buckwheat and was mostly watching western honey bees the whole time. Fortunately, there was some shade where I could stand while watching for the wasps. I saw a few other insects but I never saw a single wasp. On my way out though I did see a coyote and a tarantula hawk hunting tarantulas. Not bad for a hot day!

Interestingly enough (and Laura called my attention to it!) I found a moth on the buckwheat that I initially thought might be a schinia species I had seen last year in October at Las Virgenes. I didn't get a dorsal view of it and it moved before I could get too many decent photos. Amazingly, it turned out to be the non-native moth Laura discovered and is collecting! Who would have thought! Though I had looked at Laura's photos, I really hadn't committed the images to my mind so I really had no inkling that I was looking at the same species.

I guess this just proves that you never know what you might find when you go out. I call it serendipity.

Posted on October 16, 2020 05:43 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 27, 2020

October 24, 25, and 26 2020 Paramount Ranch

What a pleasure it's been to be out in the almost fall like weather! We visited Paramount Ranch three days in a row. On Saturday the 24th, we were fortunate to spot a pair of bobcats, probably the same youngsters Andrea saw and photographed so well a couple of months ago. We weren't so lucky in getting a good photo--saw them running away. So we returned to Paramount Ranch the two subsequent days in the hope of getting better photos. However we didn't see them. We're guessing that their movements may be random so the chances of finding them again are probably not as good as we thought.

That being said, there's something to be said for returning to the same location multiple times. Each time you become more familiar with the area and often notice things you didn't notice before. For inspiration, you might check out the book "The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature" by David Haskell, who explores the same patch of land for a year and reports his findings.

Returning to the same location is also an opportunity to photograph animals you've seen before but maybe in a different setting. For instance I got a pair of acorn woodpeckers perched low over the creek--a photo that is not your typical acorn woodpecker photo. And I finally saw the hairy woodpecker, a species I've seen and photographed elsewhere but not in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Finally, each time you return to a location you may find new species that you weren't expecting to see. For instance on Saturday I found a peg-legged compost fly--something I was not familiar with but interesting nonetheless.

The period between now and spring is often challenging for us nature lovers. It just means you must dig deeper to find inspiration.

Posted on October 27, 2020 10:05 PM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment