You Can [Almost] Never Go Home

I just completed a very interesting run to the West Coast. The nominal purposes of the brief (two-week) road trip were (a) to attend a 50th college class reunion at U.C. Irvine, (b) visit SoCal family, and (c) enjoy the early Spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I don't get back to Southern California very frequently--twice in the past two years is exceptional. But every time I do, it brings back floods of memories of my childhood upbringing and all the events that occurred in the first 25 or so years of my life.

Relevant to iNaturalist, I got to visit such boyhood haunts in Orange County as Upper Newport Bay (now a Regional Park and Ecological Preserve), Doheny Beach State Park (where I learned to surf), and Crystal Cove State Park (which was once part of the locked-away Irvine Ranch).

At Upper Newport Bay, I had a nice encounter with a pair of the endangered California Gnatcatchers very near the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. Ironically, I got a Lifer bird species not far away along the hike-and-bike trail--a Swinhoe's White-Eye--although I didn't get a picture of the species. This is apparently a fairly recent colonizer in Orange County; it wasn't on anyone's radar when I published the first compilation of Orange County Birds nearly 50 years ago. Along that hike-and-bike trail, I also documented Coast Cholla on the very bluff where I had once slid downhill as a teenager, impaling my flimsy tennis shoe into a patch of the same cactus. At Doheny Beach, only slightly distracted by a handful of surfers on some nice late winter swells, I came across a large Wavy Turban at the high tide line, one of my all-time favorite seashells. On a backcountry hike in the San Joaquin Hills of Crystal Cove State Park, the abundance of Black Mustard, Poison Hemlock, and Malta Star-thistle along the trail's edge offered a stark reminder that no corner of SoCal remains unscathed by the long-term influences of human activity.


A Prickly Goal

On many such road trips, I'll pick a group of organisms (usually some woody plant genus or family) on which to focus as a target set of species. This allows me to narrow my study preparation and yet in doing so, I can "vacuum up" all the other biotic diversity I encounter in my focal searches. On the recent trip to SoCal, almost by accident I began to realize the high diversity of cholla cacti (genus Cylindropuntia) that I was encountering. I did my best to try to sort them out--only partially successfully--and in the end documented at least eight species in the genus across southern Calfornia and Arizona. (This doesn't include our familiar Christmas Cactus and Tree Cactus which I recall passing by during my first day-and-a-half on the road in West Texas, but didn't bother to document.) For the record, this set included the following species...and I still can't claim to be able to separate all them with any confidence:

Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)
Mason Valley Cholla (Cylindropuntia fosbergii)
Chain-fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
Gander's Cholla (Cylindropuntia ganderi)
Coast Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera)
Branched Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)
Thurber's Cholla (Cylindropuntia thurberi)

Don't quiz me on all of these. Remarkably, this swath of the southwestern U.S. through which I traveled is home to as many as 25 species of cholla plus some hybrids. A prickly identification challenge, indeed!


For the record, here's a link to the full array of my observations on the two-week sojourn to SoCal and back.

הועלה ב-מרץ 11, 2024 02:35 לפנה"צ על ידי gcwarbler gcwarbler

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תמונות/קולות

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 1, 2024 12:50 אחה"צ PST

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מה

רוש עקוד (Conium maculatum)

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 1, 2024 12:08 אחה"צ PST

תיאור

After the abundant mustards, this was the 2nd-most dominate forb along the Moro Canyon Trail.

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gcwarbler

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מרץ 3, 2024 09:36 לפנה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 3, 2024 09:03 לפנה"צ PST

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A pair of California Gnatcatchers were foraging along the side of a trail between the parking lot and interpretive center at UNB.

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מה

ברוש פורבס (Hesperocyparis forbesii)

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 4, 2024 08:30 לפנה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

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מרץ 4, 2024 04:43 אחה"צ PST

תיאור

Unlike the Yuma area, I have not yet found any of these blooming just yet—but probably will soon.

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 4, 2024 10:30 לפנה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 4, 2024 10:16 לפנה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 4, 2024 10:13 לפנה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 2024

מקום

California, US (Google, OSM)

תיאור

What a spectacular tree!! One of a kind out in the middle of “nowhere”. Presently surrounded by blooming Phacelia’s and Desert Lavender.

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 5, 2024 02:42 אחה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 5, 2024 01:29 אחה"צ PST

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gcwarbler

תאריך

מרץ 5, 2024 01:57 אחה"צ PST

תיאור

As best as I can tell, thie metalmark has no orange on the HW and no orange beyond the postmedian white spot band on the FW. Does that make this a Mormon Metalmark?

תגובות

I remember birding with you at Upper Newport Bay and in the Santa Ana Mountains, but I didn't remember you had published an annotated checklist of Orange County birds! Very cool! Have you looked back at those birds to see how species have changed over the past 50 years?

פורסם על-ידי rambrose לפני 3 חודשים

That would be an interesting comparison, Rich! I finished my little volume with George Hunt just after graduation (manuscript submitted from Austin). It was published in 1979. On one of my return trips to California in the 1990s--for Condor watching--I met Rob Hamilton who was about to publish the next guide to OC Birds.
Hamilton, R., and D. R. Willick (1996), The Birds of Orange County, California, Status and Distribution. Sea and Sage Press, Irvine.
I haven't done a detailed species-by-species comparison of our two small volumes, but I notice that Swinhoe's White-eye is not mentioned by those authors.
I also just noticed that there was a breeding bird atlas published by Sylvia Gallagher in 1997. I haven't seen that one.

פורסם על-ידי gcwarbler לפני 3 חודשים

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