Journal archives for May 2021

May 07, 2021

April 28-30, 2021 Carrizo Plain

I've finally completed posting my observations for my second trip to Carrizo this year. One month from my March visit, I returned to find the vegetation even drier than before. It is going to be a long hot summer in Carrizo and I fear for the wildlife there.

Yet, in spite of the terribly dry conditions, I managed to find abundant wildlife everywhere. I'm simply amazed at the adaptations plants and animals have made to survive and sometimes even thrive where the environment is so forbidding. For instance, I stopped on my way to Carrizo at an area off Elkhorn Grade Road just to see what might be about. This area still has cattle grazing in some areas which probably hasn't helped the ecosystem. Yet, in spite of the sere, desolate looking area, I saw a singing horned lark, a couple of Nelson's antelope squirrels and a family of Bell's sparrows.

The big story in Carrizo this time around was the grasshoppers. I have never seen so many in my life. There must have been millions of them and I don't think I'm exaggerating. On one trail they were so numerous that every time I took a step at least 15-20 must have jumped. Most of the areas I went had abundant grasshoppers but there were definitely areas with more than others. The most numerous was the Valley grasshopper which are also some of the most colorful.

I also saw evidence of several birds nesting in the area including western meadowlarks and loggerhead shrikes both of whom were definitely taking advantage of the grasshopper abundance. As in March, I continued to see many, many young Nelson's antelope squirrels who are simply adorable and fortunately are omnivores so hopefully they will make it through the long hot summer to come though they are a major prey item for larger carnivores as well as hawks.

And I still managed to find some flowers. There was an area near Padrone Spring (dry as a bone) where there was a hill with many speckled clarkia. I also made my first sighting of some blow-wives flowers

Aside from seeing two female pronghorn, the other highlights of the trip were finding a LeConte's thrasher--definitely a bird that's not seen very often though they are known to nest in Carrizo and a sighting of a blunt-nosed leopard lizard--one of my all time favorite reptiles. Highly endangered, these lizards love the heat. When I found this one it was 96 degrees and I worked hard to find it. While I didn't get a great photo, it was a fitting way to end my trip.

Posted on May 07, 2021 12:51 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 15, 2021

Blalock WIldlife Sanctuary and surroundings 5/14/2021

I made yet another visit to this amorphous place in the Antelope Valley. I feel like, in general, the Antelope Valley remains ripe for exploration. It doesn't have any iconic attractions and to all outside appearances, there doesn't seem to be a lot going on. Much of the land is degraded from ranching, dairy, farming, trash and the assorted things that draw some people to the desert for less than noble reasons.

Last time I was at this location, there were maybe 2-3 flowers blooming and everything looked pretty dry. This time, about a month later, most of the creosote bushes were in bloom and there were a few brittlebush that had a few partial flowers remaining on them. But it was still very dry. And I only saw a couple of side-blotched lizards. I think reptiles might be suffering this year in many places as I definitely am seeing fewer than in the past.

In spite of the conditions, I had some interesting finds and one exciting moment when I accidentally flushed a pair of nighthawks. Bird life is relatively low in this area though there are always ravens patrolling and I did see/hear a few small sparrows and finches. But to actually find a nighthawk is pretty cool. Once again though I did not have my telephoto lens and I managed only a distant shot of one of the birds that flew a few feet away. Normally I would try and sneak up on a bird and try and get a closer shot; however, I was concerned that they might be nesting so I opted to forego a better photo and give them some space.

In addition to the nighthawks, there were probably hundreds of acmaeodera beetles in the area. This seems to be a good year for them in general and I counted more than 50 on one brittlebush plant. They may be concentrated though because there were so few flowers.

I also found some interesting leaf hoppers on a yucca plant as well as a chalcidoid wasp that is a first record for inaturalist. Finally, I saw a new butterfly on a plant by the roadside: a Behr's hairstreak. I had never even heard of this butterfly so I was really happy to find it. I even found a couple more a few miles away when I stopped by the road to examine some other brittlebush plants.

The beauty of exploration is that you never know what you might find. Summer is almost here so I'm not sure how many more trips I'll make but with new seasons comes new life, so I think I might be back.

Posted on May 15, 2021 05:58 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 30, 2021

May 28, 2021 Skyline Trail, Griffith Park

Since I didn't feel like driving far and because lately traffic to the west has gotten so much worse, I thought I'd make a trip to Griffith Park. I normally avoid Griffith Park....too many people, too much traffic, and too confusing to figure out where things are. So this time I thought I'd pick a trail on the valley side near the zoo so I wouldn't have to deal with traffic. But of course, I somehow got confused and finally ended up parking in the first lot I saw where there was a trailhead. This turned out to be the Skyline Trail.

The trail was basically a fire road--not the most aesthetically pleasing trail. The habitat was pretty much restricted to a cliff on one side as well as a few little culverts where there was some vegetation. On the other side was a drop off to the valley below and the 134 freeway--which of course you could hear the whole time you were on the trail....and of course helicopters, planes taking off and landing at Burbank airport and an occasional siren.

There weren't a whole lot of people on the trail and because it was so wide, I could basically avoid most of them. I kind of hugged the sides where there was vegetation looking for anything interesting and alive. As dry as it is, I was surprised to see a fair amount of flowers growing out of the side of the cliff--several botta's clarkia and lanceleaf liveforever plants as well as a few other random flowers. In a couple of places there were a few poppies and buckwheat plants.

And surprisingly I found a few interesting things--a couple of cool golden digger wasps, another small wasp yet to be identified, and even some non-native cape marigold flowers that seem to have spontaneously sprouted on the of the few non-natives I haven't run into before.

Will I be back? Perhaps. I prefer trails where I can immerse myself in nature and the sound of semis and heavy freeway traffic does not lend itself to that type of experience. Still, I find it interesting and challenging to see what wildlife you can find in such urban environments. Somehow many species have adapted...there were many birds flying around including several eye level swallows and a very acclimated-to-humans red-tailed hawk.

Posted on May 30, 2021 06:07 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 6 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment