Archivos de Diario para julio 2021

02 de julio de 2021

Anza-Borrego Adventure- Part 1: Arrival and the Inland Sea

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is one of my favorite California desert locales. I had never been there in the spring before, so on the evening of April 27th of this year, Rachel Romine (@paperplum), Boaz Benaiah Solorio (@arthropod_crossing), and I began the drive to the park. Despite some delays, and a fruitless side trip to the Salton Sea area to look for Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes, we eventually arrived safely at the Borrego Springs Motel around 2 AM. Before we had even begun hauling our gear into our room, Boaz and I were examining the walls under the lights for possible lifeforms, which produced a Running Crab Spider (Philodromidae). While we were settling down for bed, Rachel discovered a roach that Boaz identified as a Surinam Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)- an invasive species that turned out to be a first on iNaturalist for Anza-Borrego and Borrego Springs.
The next morning, we were up as early as our late night allowed. The first find of the day was a Kukulcania, a large female spider lurking under a board next to the motel. Alongside it was a Western Black Widow, also female.
Our first outing was outside of the park- to the Salton Sea. We drove through Salton City, sparse and desolate, and stopped the car in an abandoned parking lot by the sea. Its pungent odor enveloped us as we stepped outside.
I flipped over a large concrete slab and was excited to find a scorpion underneath- by the looks of it, a member of the family Vaejovidae. I called the others over, but before any of us could get a picture, it had burrowed out of sight.
We walked down near the shore and proceeded to flip many of the numerous slabs of concrete and aggregated rock that lay there. Two of them each produced a Prowling Spider of the genus Syspira, one quite large and attractively patterned.
After taking some time to eat, we drove back to the park.

To be continued…

Publicado el 02 de julio de 2021 a las 11:46 PM por ectothermist ectothermist | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de julio de 2021

Anza-Borrego Adventure- Part 2: Borrego Palm Canyon

Continued from Part 1...
Our next venture was to Borrego Palm Canyon. At 2:00 in the afternoon, the temperature was intense, but we had plenty of water and dared the hike. My first interesting find was a beautiful snail that had attached itself firmly to a log. This proved to be a Borrego Desertsnail (Sonorelix borregoensis), a “lifer” for me. I know nothing about the biology of this species, but I assume that the specimen I found was in estivation (or whatever the proper term is for snails), and that it would become active when prompted by rain or moisture.
My next observation was of a small, prettily patterned Cobweb Spider in the genus Asagena, found by Boaz. Another lifer for me! In the meantime, Boaz had observed several plants, such as Desert Lavender, Brittlebush, and Mesquite, as well as a Straight-faced Windscorpion (family Eremobatidae) and some Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex). The Windscorpion proved too fast for me to photograph. Rachel then pointed out a black-and-yellow checkered Spiny Lizard clinging to the trunk of a shrubby tree, which I discovered was a Desert Spiny (Sceloporus magister). Next up was a “Dusty Desert” spider, a female, species Homalonychus theologus. I find members of this genus intriguing. Females and juveniles are coated in sand that sticks to their “hair” (setae). This makes them rather hard to spot, and also makes them pretty well unmistakable when you do spot them. Shortly after this I found the empty shell of another snail, probably also a Sonorelix.
By now we were approaching the stream, and the surrounding vegetation was getting increasingly lush and green. Here we found one of the animals dependent on this water in the desert- a Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus). It hopped away madly whenever approached, making picture-taking very difficult. I finally gave up without a single shot, but Boaz persevered and was rewarded with several good ones.
At last we arrived at the oasis, a grove of verdant palms shading the stream. This oasis, an anomaly in the barren desert that surrounded it, owed its existence to the precious water that flowed here. The palms were California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera), unique in being the only palm native to Anza-Borrego and to California. Under their fronds was another world, cooler, greener, and shaded from the desert sun. We wandered here, climbing from boulder to boulder in pursuit of life.
The stream was teeming with tadpoles, presumably of Red-spotted Toads, and the occasional Giant Water Bug (Belostomatidae), perhaps Abedus indentatus. There were plenty of flies and other insects, too. Boaz discovered several gaudily colored harvestman, their bodies rotund and orange but their legs spindly and striped black and white. These were likely in the genus Eurybunus. Before leaving the oasis, we found another Red-spotted Toad, which Rachel and Boaz both photographed; I, however, was feeling a little run-down and opted to sit and watch them instead.
Eventually we began the trek back to the car. The last find of the trip was a small brown scorpion under a rock which turned out to be Stahnkeus subtilimanus, another lifer for me.

To be continued…

Publicado el 04 de julio de 2021 a las 10:36 PM por ectothermist ectothermist | 7 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de julio de 2021

Anza-Borrego Adventure- Part 3: Nausea Ad Nauseam

Continued from Part 2...
By now we were staying in one of the tiny cabins in Tamarisk Grove Campground, and we returned there to rest and cook dinner before our next adventure, which was road cruising for snakes at night. We set out on Yaqui Pass Road, Rachel in the driver’s seat. This arrangement was designed to make the most advantage of her exceptionally keen eyes.
Our first find was a Western Leaf-nosed Snake, Phyllorhynchus decurtatus, a lifer species I had especially hoped to find on this trip. The little snake, a juvenile, sported the comically large nose scale and bug eyes common to the species. Like all the other individuals we found over that night and the next, it would hardly stay still for an instant while being photographed.
It was around this time that I began to feel somewhat queasy. The feeling only increased before we pulled over for a large stick insect, probably Parabacillus. I crouched down to photograph it, and despite feeling rather sick to my stomach, was able to get a few decent shots. Before we found the next (and last) Leaf-nosed Snake of the night, I had begun throwing up. Despite that, I insisted on pulling over to photograph the snake, but the retching only worsened in frequency and intensity. It was at this point that Rachel took charge. Despite my feeble protestations, she herded Boaz and I into the car and began speeding us back to the campsite. Somewhere along the way I finally decided that was where I really wanted to be, and I kept my mouth shut even as I heard Boaz exclaim “Scorpion!” and “Snake!” and “Tarantula!” as we flew past the bemused creatures on the side of the road.
I gave one final heave right as we pulled up next to our cabin, before stumbling out of the car and collapsing onto the front porch, where I lay, not wanting to get up, for the next hour or so. In the interval, I heard Boaz exclaiming over a tarantula he had found by the campsite, but even this could not get me off the porch. Boaz evidently found several more creatures while I was lying there, dazed: namely a winged velvet ant, a few species of darkling beetles, and a Mexican Tiger Moth (Apantesis proxima). Eventually, Rachel and Boaz were able to coax me into a sleeping bag they had laid out on the lower bunk.

To be continued…

Publicado el 06 de julio de 2021 a las 07:38 PM por ectothermist ectothermist | 3 observaciones | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de julio de 2021

Anza-Borrego Adventure- Part 4: Cuyamaca Interlude

Continued from Part 3...
When I woke up I was feeling distinctly better; there would be no throwing up that day. Naturally, we wondered what had gone wrong with my stomach. Suspicion immediately centered around the fact that I had received my first COVID vaccination only the day prior to our trip. I had never heard of a reaction so severe, but the timing, combined with its only lasting through the one evening, leads me to believe that was indeed the cause.
That day we decided to drive out in pursuit of wildflowers. We headed up to two spots north of Borrego Springs, but as we cruised along the dusty roads, it was immediately apparant that our timing was a little off. The surroundings were as desolate as any in the desert. Having the whole remaining day to search, we decided to head south and west to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park instead.
The land rapidly changed from desert to greener hills, with a wide valley in between that the 78 highway traversed. We were in the middle of it when Rachel pulled over for a suspicious object on the side of the road. It proved to be an adult Red Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum piceus), a lifer for me. This one, sadly, was dead, leaving me still in pursuit of a living individual.
We drove on and eventually found ourselves in the vicinity of Lake Cuyamaca. Yellow flowers bloomed in the nearby fields, and we pulled over by one of them. Rachel and Boaz got out to look at the flowers. I, however, was still under the weather and hungry (due to being unable to eat anything but crackers), and elected to stay in the car while they roamed the fields.
They returned after a while, having seen many butterflies and a tarantula hawk wasp that Boaz ran after but was unable to catch, and we drove on. Our surroundings were picturesque: green and hilly, with groves of pine trees silhoutted against the sky. I was reminded, in fact, of territory familiar to me in the high country of New Mexico, despite this area’s lower elevation and proximity to the desert.
We pulled off the 79 at what turned out to be Los Vaqueros Trailhead and went hiking. Various butterflies, other insects, Spiny Lizards (probably Western Fence Lizards), and some deer greeted us upon the trail. After a short distance, I began feeling tired and decided to turn back, while the other two went on. Back at the car, I waited and waited, and was just beginning to feel worried when they returned. Boaz was holding something behind his back and grinning widely. With a flourish, he held up a plastic container and whipped off the lid to reveal… a mole. The woolly little sausage-shaped creature was probably a Broad-footed Mole (Scapanus latimanus). When placed upon the grass, it ran in an exaggerated undulating manner, which looked especially comical when filmed in slow-motion. Having seen the mole safely back into the ground, we drove back to Anza-Borrego and were greeted with a spectacular sunset.

To be continued…

Publicado el 08 de julio de 2021 a las 08:10 PM por ectothermist ectothermist | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de julio de 2021

Anza-Borrego Adventure- Part 5: Drive By Night

Continued from Part 4...
When darkness set in, we began road cruising. Boaz, walking along the road during a stop, discovered the first finds of the night: a couple of Desert Ironclad Beetles (Asbolus verrucosus). These impressively chunky, waxen-blue beetles are known to feign death when approached, but the ones we saw merely spread their legs and arched their backs in a combative pose.
Then the beam of the headlights caught a massive white spider skittering across the road. Boaz and I jumped from the car and ran towards it; catching up, we found it to be a Prowling Spider (genus Syspira). After taking pictures, we resumed our hunt.
Heading south, we found ourselves on Yaqui Pass Road once more, where we found a juvenile Leaf-nosed Snake. I crouched down to get an eye-level photo, but was soon scuttling in circles on my knees as the snake darted in every direction. I finally got a reasonably good shot, and then was immediately off again to photograph a Straight-faced Windscorpion that Boaz found while I was preoccupied. It was a little more cooperative than the snake.
That was the last observation of the trip for me before we began the drive home, despite us finding another Leaf-nosed Snake. I decided I had enough photos of that species for the time being; for another thing, I was rapidly getting tired. I vaguely remember us pulling over one last time. What I didn’t remember, until Rachel reminded me later, was Boaz holding up a dead Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans) and asking if I wanted to photograph it. I evidently declined.
Then we drove on; then (very late) I was home in my own bed. It had been a successful and gratifying trip. I was fortunate to take it with two amazing people I am glad to know. Thanks Rachel and Boaz!

Publicado el 10 de julio de 2021 a las 09:56 PM por ectothermist ectothermist | 4 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario