Journal archives for April 2021

April 07, 2021

April 1-3 2021 Carrizo Plain

Carrizo is one of my favorite places...a vast grassland with wide open spaces. I hadn’t been there since last year and the drought is definitely taking its toll. I can’t remember it being so dry this early in the year. It looks like the middle or end of summer even though spring has just begun. I think this is the first time I can remember not seeing a single snake at this time of year.

Known for super blooms in good years, flowers this year were sparse and often struggling. That said, there were a few areas that looked better than others as is typical in California. There were patches of goldfields and some hillside daisies, one of the most common flowers in Carrizo. One flower that seemed to be thriving was Stanislaus milkvetch. It was blooming in most areas and was attracting tons of insects. In fact, the number of insects was quite amazing. Carrizo had a pretty good year last year rain-wise so maybe that explains the number of insects. Or maybe they just seemed more prevalent because they were all bunched together on the few flowering plants! One insect was downright ubiquitous...the little bear. They were everywhere. I counted over 50 of them on one plant alone, and they were buzzing around frenetically at times. I even found a couple in my car and one on my shoulder when I was driving!

Though reptiles were scarce and I only saw one pronghorn, I did see a lot of Nelson’s antelope squirrels. They are adorable and it was fun to watch the youngsters interact with each other. As always there were many horned larks, and good numbers of loggerhead shrikes and sage thrashers. It is also amazing to see what looks like a totally degraded arid environment thriving with bird life. Nature is amazing!

What is great about Carrizo as with many natural areas, is that you never know what you will find. There are always the expected species but often you find things you weren’t even looking for. Or things you’ve been wanting to find and finally see. One cool find this visit was fairy shrimp. Though technically right outside the monument boundary, a small culvert of water is often found on one of the access roads to carrizo. This small pond was teeming with fairy shrimp. It was great to see these cute little hardy animals.

A couple of other finds worth noting were a very cool looking jumping spider...one I’ve never seen before and a flower called Kern Mallow that is endangered...and I just thought it was a typical mallow I’ve seen in Carrizo before. Another nice find was this very beautiful looking bee called a Crotch’s digger bee. Finally, though I didn’t get great photos, I saw this mite running around that was almost iridescent..definitely one I haven’t seen before.

While it was a great visit, I felt sad that everything was so dry. I’m hoping the wildlife makes it through okay and let’s hope for lots of rain next year.

Posted on April 07, 2021 07:32 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2021

April 7, 2021 Las Virgenes Canyon

I'm behind on my postings but decided to highlight this visit from last week...not because I found anything unusual or super interesting but because of how degraded the environment was. This place burned thoroughly in the Woolsey Fire. It actually was charred. It recovered quite nicely due to the rains in 2019. However in this drought year, it is looking worse. The sad thing is, is that there is some water here in places so there should be some great habitat. Unfortunately, invasives have really taken over. There was always an abundance of mustard along the trail when you first go in. And as bad as mustard is, it has been here in California so long, some native species have adapted to it.

However, in addition to the mustard, which by the way, was a lot less than usual, there was an abundance of small melilot. It seemed to be growing everywhere. I don't remember seeing so much here in the past so it must be having a banner year. In the about 1.75 miles I covered I only saw two native flowers (excepting two very straggly looking purple nightshade plants). These included the always nice to see seep monkeyflower and a very few fiddleneck. There may have been more in the riparian area you can't reach but needless to say it was very disappointing. It would be a massive job to try and eradicate these non-natives but it sure would have been nice if after the fire something could have been done to enhance the habitat.

On a positive note, there was fresh growth on the red willows in the dry stream bed, hundreds of tadpoles (many who will probably not survive the mountain bikers plowing through the pond that forms in the middle of the trail) and a brand new valley oak growing near the massive valley oak you see when you first enter the trailhead. This place could be a real mecca for wildlife if the habitat was restored. Testament to that is that almost all the wildlife I saw was in the two major riparian areas that remain.

Posted on April 13, 2021 17:38 by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment