אוקטובר 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.

פורסם ב אוקטובר 16, 2020 05:43 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 תצפיות | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 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.

פורסם ב אוקטובר 13, 2020 03:59 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 תצפיות | 1 comment | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 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: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/27419562

פורסם ב אוקטובר 10, 2020 12:30 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 תצפיות | 1 comment | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 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.

פורסם ב אוקטובר 03, 2020 11:07 אחה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 תצפיות | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 29, 2020

September 28, 2020 Malibu Bluffs Park

I started my visit in the best way with my first observation being a rattlesnake! It was sitting on the path I was planning to take so I changed my route and came back later after he warmed up and was gone. I had the place to myself which was nice and though it was quite humid, the temperature was quite bearable.

In addition to the rattlesnake, I got a nice photo of a singing California thrasher and was fortunate enough to find a hiding grasshopper sparrow, a bird I'm not sure I've seen before--or at least photographed before. I was hoping to find some other migrants or less common birds but once again, none were to be found. However there were lots of flowers still blooming and quite a few insects out and about. And I finally photographed my first monarch of the year. Once again, they are becoming all too rare.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 29, 2020 04:08 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 תצפיות | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 25, 2020

September 25, 2020 Legacy Park and Topanga Beach

I didn't have much time today so I thought I'd do a circuit again of Legacy Park and then hit Topanga Beach on the way back. Both visits were a bit underwhelming. I was hoping to see some migrants at Legacy. Afterall, the city has gone to a lot of expense and time to plant all native vegetation there. However, other than a few wading birds I only saw one white crowned sparrow. However it was nice to see three juvenile night crowned herons. It seems like their numbers might be up this year.

From there I stopped at Topanga for the high "low tide". There were already too many people there and I was in a rush to get home so I only took a few photos of shells on the sand and a couple of birds. The good news is, it appears there are more young Heermann's gulls (I think most of the ones there were maybe second year birds, though I'm not good on gull ID's). Since over 90% of Heermann's gulls nest on one island off the coast of Mexico, they are considered vulnerable and a couple of years ago, no juveniles were seen.

In other news, one of the chapters of the Nevada Sierra Club has asked permission to use one of my desert tortoise photos (not posted here) as part of their campaign to protect habitat for endangered species throughout the state. I'm always pleased when I can contribute to a good cause. A few months ago, I was also asked to contribute a photo of my blunt-nosed leopard lizard for a conservation cause, so I'm hoping to continue to make photography a tool for conservation and call attention to our vulnerable and endangered species.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 25, 2020 11:51 אחה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 תצפיות | 1 comment | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 23, 2020

September 22, 2020 Triunfo Creek Park

Since it was supposed to be cooler I thought I'd stop by Triunfo Creek Park. This area is great in the spring for wildflowers..if we have rain. But it has been a dry year and it was reflected in the habitat. I was hoping to see some migrant birds including warblers but I didn't see a one. Granted it was warm and not early in the morning when most birds are active. I did hear one white crowned sparrow singing but this place usually attracts a lot of sparrows and it was pretty dead.

However, I did find a couple of cool things. Probably the best find was a Mexican Amberwing dragonfly. It's a migrant so is sometimes seen in the area but I've yet to have one land for a photo. And I haven't really seen them that often. So that was a treat. In addition, one of the valley oaks had a lot of honeydew galls and those were attracting a lot of insects.

Another cool find was this really interesting looking insect that is a dazzling red. Unfortunately I couldn't get a super sharp shot of it as it was very small and not sitting still. Finally, it was my second day in a row of finding new white checkered skippers who seem to be all coming out around the same time.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 23, 2020 01:15 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 תצפיות | 2 comments | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 19, 2020

September 18, 2020 Deervale Stone Canyon Park

Another hot day in the valley and I didn't feel like driving far so I set out for this small not quite pocket park in Sherman Oaks. Since I wasn't up to going down to the bottom since it would mean coming back up a hill in the oppressive heat, I stopped at some buckwheat and sawtooth goldenbushes and looked for insects.

I focused on finding very small bugs--from 1/4 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch long. It takes a lot of patience to not only spot these guys but also to photograph them. The advantage of looking for very small bugs is that you might find things that are not found very often--not too many people take the time to do this. The downside is that it can be difficult to get ID's on these things.

That being said, my two best finds for the day were a cute little brown and white weevil type insect and a small damselfly (surprised to find it here) that I think is an arroyo bluet but still awaiting confirmation.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 19, 2020 08:46 אחה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 2 תצפיות | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

September 17 2020 and a note

On this day I visited both Zuma Canyon and Nicholas Flat. The heat and dry conditions are very evident on the trails. Zuma Canyon seems to have been hit hard as the habitat is definitely in pretty poor condition. Years ago this had a stream nearly year round. In the last few years, it has been nearly nonexistent except for 2019 when we had the great rains following the Woolsey fire.

However it was not completely bleak. There were probably a hundred broomsage plants blooming. Unfortunately, they were attracting hundreds of western honeybees. I looked in vain for other pollinators. There were a few but it was difficult to find them. I did find one interesting beetle on the buckwheat which I've highlighted here.

From there, I went to Nicholas Flat. I expected the pond to be almost dry but it looked quite good. It also had at least three big stands of water smartweed blooming. Surprisingly there were very few birds on the lake. Perhaps it was the time of day, but in general, I'm finding fewer birds out on the trails lately. I don't know if it has to do with the massive migratory bird deaths or just a general decline.

That being said, I have also noticed that though there are completely dead spots where nothing seems to be thriving, there are also hotspots where there is a lot of life. I didn't see a whole lot on the regular trails at Nicholas Flat but I wandered off on an animal trail and found 6 species of butterflies and a variety of other pollinators in addition to much more bird activity in just fifty feet of trail or so. My most interesting finds of the day is a beautiful collops beetle. And it was nice to see the resident northern harrier again.

On another note, I know we mentioned the decline in marine life and tide pool life as well as people's behavior with regard to marine life. I don't know if any of you saw this but they finally are starting to address the problem at White Point.:


The last time Chris and I were there a few months ago we found the behavior of others atrocious. Unless they start coming down hard on people, I guess this will continue.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 19, 2020 06:58 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 3 תצפיות | 1 comment | הוספת תגובה

ספטמבר 18, 2020

September 15, 2020 Malibu Lagoon and Legacy Park

I'm gradually catching up on my observations after the massive uploads from Arizona. I have been out exploring some since we returned more than a week ago but have been behind.

On this day I made my way to Malibu Lagoon and looked a bit for shorebirds (most were very far away) as well as any sea creatures that had washed up on the sand. The "beach" area is still quite small but I like it that way in some ways as it keeps the crowds down. I was lucky enough to see a harbor seal poking his head out of the water as I made my way to the beach but he went under as I got closer for a better photo. There were several spiny lobsters on the beach including a couple that were rolled up like the one I posted in my observations. Otherwise I found just a few shells and crabs.

Then I made my way to Legacy Park. I used to go to this place a lot, but a few years ago it suddenly stopped attracting many interesting birds. However, this day was better in terms of water birds (I still couldn't find any migrants in the trees). I was surprised to see some sandpipers, a dowitcher and a greater yellowlegs, the latter of which was the only one who conveniently posed (though I have much better photos than what is posted here). I was even more surprised to see two black-necked stilts as they are rarely even in Malibu. And not photographed but seen was a black crowned night heron.

I also looked for pollinators and did find a couple of non honeybees. Since Legacy Park is a "managed" park, it is watered and maintained by volunteers and the flowers tend to bloom much longer than those in the wild.

פורסם ב ספטמבר 18, 2020 02:03 לפנה"צ על־ידי naturephotosuze naturephotosuze | 4 תצפיות | 2 comments | הוספת תגובה