Journal archives for August 2021

August 09, 2021

August 8, 2021 Woodlawn Cemetery

In search of nature, I visited an "urban" area today--Woodlawn Cemetery in the city of Santa Monica. Some people may feel a bit put off by visiting a cemetery to photograph nature but it's a peaceful place and usually has lots of trees. And, the cemetery is surprisingly full of nature in spite of the large swaths of grass and many non-native trees. However, in these times of drought, a place that is watered regularly provides animals, primarily birds, with a great place to feed and even breed.

And for once, humans are actually helping things along! A few years ago a man who makes bird nest boxes began hanging them here and since then, several western bluebirds have made this their home. Lots of water also means many insects in spite of the monculture of grass. And yes, there are some invasive plants like white clover, dandelions and daisies; however even these seem to attract insects, although most are western honey bees.

Things have improved even more with the installation of a "green" burial site. This is an area where people can be interred with minimal impact to the environment and without chemicals. (Interesting bit of trivia--the first person buried in the green site was Tom Hayden, a member of the Chicago 7 and ex-husband of Jane Fonda). While the green burial site is just that, they have chosen to plant California natives for the most part in this area. Initially, I didn't see many insects in the area. But one year later, the area is thriving with many native bees, butterflies and other insects. In turn, because this area is watered even more regularly than the lawn, the small daisies and other non native flowers in the vicinity are now attracting native insects.

Woodlawn for many years was a resting spot for monarch butterflies. Though not on the scale of other areas further up the coast, there was always a colony of maybe 30-40 butterflies that rested here. However, with the massive decline in monarchs, the last few years have seen maybe 2-3 monarchs in the area. Hopefully that will change as milkweed plants are now part of the native garden and I saw a monarch butterfly today making the rounds.

My observations today included a bird I've been wanting to photograph--a Swinhoe's white eye--yes, a non-native bird. Thanks to running into some friends today, they helped me find these very small difficult-to-see birds. I still didn't get the photo I'd like but I'm pleased to have seen these cute little birds. They seem to be expanding their range as a few years ago, none were reported in Los Angeles county. Also a great pleasure to see was a beautiful, brightly colored western tanager. Again, not a great photo but one of most striking tanagers I've seen.

And finally, I even found some cool predators: a couple of interesting spiders and an assassin bug. I definitely will be back to see what new birds and insects have arrived.

Posted on August 09, 2021 01:06 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 15, 2021

2021 International Bioblitz Recap

Last year, we formed a team called California Wild Women and competed in the International Bioblitz sponsored by the Ecological Society of America. This year, when the event was announced, we decided to participate once again, having spent the last year making many observations and getting to know one another better. This was also an opportunity to look at our strategy used last year and see if we could enhance our searches.

Working as a team is one of the most rewarding aspects of these events. In addition, by having a team, we can each focus on our strengths and cover different geographic areas. Like last year we primarily spent our time in Los Angeles County though several of us ventured out to different ecosystems including the mountains and desert as well as coastal tide pool areas (though the tides were not low during the bioblitz). Our efforts paid off, as we actually “won” the competition by finding the most species between the dates of August 2, 2021 and August 5, 2021 with more than 800 species found.

I learned from last year’s competition that what takes the most time is uploading results to inaturalist. So this year, rather than driving long distances to find species I opted to stay closer to home. In addition, the drought and heat conditions this time around, made it more of a challenge to find things. One thing that has become abundantly clear during this drought year is that you will naturally find the most life where there is water. So each day that I went out, I went to locations with water. Even with doing this, I didn’t find some of the species I would have loved to see…not one snake (nor did any of us find any snakes), no newts and I found only a few tadpoles and no frogs.

The locations I covered were Santa Ynez Canyon, Malibu Lagoon, Legacy Park, Solstice Canyon, Tujunga wash and the Sepulveda wildlife lake area. Another important aspect of bioblitzes is that it helps to know ahead of time where things are so going to familiar places or places you have recently scouted is very beneficial. Though not going to new places leaves some of the fun out of it, it still is a challenge as things change quickly in nature and what might have been around the week before may not be there anymore…with the exception of plants. And if you’re lucky you will find something that you’ve never found before at a place you’ve been to many times.

My focus overall has been insects for the last couple of years though I love all wildlife and always hope to see and document cool animals. The downside of looking for insects is that it takes a bit more time and IDs are often not easy to get. But I also know that insects are an area I can really help to contribute to as a team member. My goal was to try and find unique species to help add to our overall count. So at times I overlooked things I could have “observed” in favor of finding species not yet on our list.

What were my best finds of the bioblitz? I can’t say that I found anything spectacular this year. Having to rush around to find things is not really something I enjoy doing. However I was happy to have added a eufala skipper to our list as they are not a species I’ve seen often. In addition, I was also pleased to have added snowy plovers and white Pelicans to the list as these species are often very localized. Finally, I found a fly genus that evidently has only one other observation for the US. ( Normally seen in Africa and some parts of Asia, the sternobrithes genus is a genus of soldier flies that I found in the Sepulveda basin, just proving you can find unique things almost anywhere!

I’d also like to thank all my fellow team members for their contributions, not only of observations but also for their help in identifying some of my observations. Each one of them brought unique contributions to the team: Andrea for her fine eye and excellence at making good observations and identifications, Kim for always contributing many bird and dragonfly species, Laura, for her excellent work at the tide pools and suburban areas, and Tracy, for braving 110 heat to add some wonderful desert species to our list! It’s been great to be part of this team!

Posted on August 15, 2021 12:31 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 comments | Leave a comment