April 1, 2023 Desert Tortoise Natural Area

I made the trek out to the Mojave today primarily as a scouting trip for the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. With our continuing unseasonably cool weather, I wasn't expecting to find much in the way of reptiles and/or insects and I was correct. However, I wanted to check out the flowers and habitat and hopefully spot a tortoise.

As with every other desert area I've visited this early spring, there seems to be a mismatch between the flora and the fauna. Our abundant rain has produced a bumper crop of wildflowers but with temperatures so low, almost no pollinators are out nor are many other insects.

I arrived at the reserve shortly after 10 AM and it was still only 55 F. The naturalist told me it had been 32 earlier that morning. I don't think it made it too much past 70 for the three and half hours I was there.

It was a beautiful day to be out with almost no wind and pleasant temperatures; however the off road people were out in force and seemed to be congregating right next to the tortoise reserve making a lot of noise as they ripped up the desert. In fact, driving in, a convoy of theirs was blocking so much of the road I had to drive on the sand berm to get around them. It just added to my annoyance with these people who destroy the desert.

Putting that aside, the flowers at the reserve were the best I've ever seen them. I think I've only been visiting this area since about 2016 and this is definitely going to be one of the best years yet in terms of habitat. Though the reserve's rainfall was nowhere near what other parts of California received, it still was more than enough to stimulate tons of flowers.

Unfortunately, there was not much wildlife to be seen; however, thanks to the naturalist, I was able to observe one desert tortoise who seemed content to just sit out and soak up the sun. For once, there will be plenty to eat for these endangered animals. Unfortunately, they are so sparsely populated that even reproducing is difficult as they can't travel that far in search of mates. Even worse, the survival rate for youngsters is only 20%, so between climate change, off roaders and burgeoning solar panel farms, it's tough for these animals to thrive.

In terms of other wildlife, insects were few and far between. I did see a few things flying around, perhaps a painted lady or two and probably a sphinx moth but almost nothing was sitting on the flowers. I saw one native bee and surprisingly no western honeybees which is a first. And I only saw one side blotched lizard sitting out though I noticed a few scurrying reptiles under cover.

The flowers were great though and I think they will probably continue to be good for some time as the naturalist told me it rained all day just a few days ago. I also saw many flowers still in early stages of sprouting.

My favorite finds today were a Layne's milkvetch, a plant totally new to me and a nice group of desert candles which I've seen in the area before but never in the reserve. They're such beautiful flowers I am sometime amazed at the variety of shapes and colors wildflowers take. Another cool flower I saw for the first time at the reserve and which was a new flower for me as well, was the striking Mojave desertparsley.

I see that the temperatures are going to start warming up so I will definitely be making a return visit to the reserve in anticipation of seeing a lot more wildlife.

Posted on April 02, 2023 05:19 AM by naturephotosuze naturephotosuze

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Mojave Desertparsley (Lomatium mohavense)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 1, 2023 10:42 AM PDT

Description

Desert Tortoise Natural Area

Photos / Sounds

What

Layne Milkvetch (Astragalus layneae)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 1, 2023 11:20 AM PDT

Description

Desert Tortoise Natural Area
This was a new one for me--pretty cool milkvetch

Photos / Sounds

What

Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 2023

Description

Desert Tortoise Natural Area

Photos / Sounds

What

Desert Candle (Caulanthus inflatus)

Observer

naturephotosuze

Date

April 1, 2023 12:48 PM PDT

Description

Desert Tortoise Natural Area
Nice to see a small patch of these

Comments

I almost went yesterday, but I'd been the weekend before and decided to give it one more week (although it would have been nice to see you again!). Interesting year for sure, and despite all the moisture, things are definitely running behind because of the cool weather.
--Tom

Posted by tastle 11 months ago

Yes, it looks like it will warm up at the end of this week. I hope that means insects will appear. If you go next weekend, I'd love to find out what the status is. I'm hoping to go out again in maybe two weeks or less. Even here, I'm not seeing all that many insects yet. I hope they're just hibernating and waiting to come out!

Posted by naturephotosuze 11 months ago

I went out to the tortoise reserve today,..teeming with insects though I didn’t see many large bees. But plenty of other cool things. I’ll post after I get through my photos. Did not see a tortoise but definitely reptiles out now.

Posted by naturephotosuze 10 months ago

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