Archivos de Diario para abril 2023

19 de abril de 2023

Creatures of the Canyon

Last January, Rachel (@paperplum), Boaz (@boazsolorio), @velodrome, @evn, and I met up to explore a canyon in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains.
It had been raining intermittently for days, and the canyon was wet. We headed for the trail at the end of the parking lot, but before we had gone far, I stopped to flip a tree stump that was sitting on the asphalt. Under it was a Black-bellied Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps nigriventris), which marked the first time I had found a salamander in a parking lot.
While the others were taking photos, I wandered off a short ways and flipped a small piece of concrete. Under it was a beetle larva that proved to be a Ground Beetle, tribe Pterostichini.
Going on, we stopped by the side of the trail to observe some fungi. This particular spot proved to be fruitful. The rain had blessed the canyon with an abundance of living things- fungi, slime molds, and more. I photographed some pale and velvety Splitgill Mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune) with my new iPhone macro lens. I had gifted Boaz a lens, as well, and we were both eager to try them out on whatever we might find.
Translucent Crystal Brain Fungus (Myxarium nucleatum) grew from a log, along with some bright yellow Slime Molds, mere dots on the wet wood, and a vivid clump of jelly-like fungus. I am not sure whether it was Golden Ear (Naematelia aurantia) or Witch’s Butter (Tremella mesenterica). Certainly order Tremellales, if nothing else.
We went on, very slowly, photographing almost everything we saw, and there was much to see in the moist and living canyon. I stopped for some Black Witch’s Butter (Exidia glandulosa), Giraffe Spots (Peniophora albobadia), Coprinopsis uliginicola, Miller’s Oysterling (Clitopilus hobsonii), a very interesting Slime Mold that looked like a mass of pink bubbles, a large mushroom likely of the family Psathyrellaceae, and a Trask Shoulderband Snail (Helminthoglypta traskii). Not that I knew what any of the fungi were; all were IDed later on iNaturalist.
I moved quickly from specimen to specimen, and before long had left the others behind. Seeing wet leaf litter piled against the trees, I dug into it to uncover the earth beneath. My search was rewarded by a smooth-skinned California Newt (Taricha torosa) concealed in the crevice of a tree trunk.
The next thing I photographed was a mass of branched and wavy yellow stalks, so-called “Coral Fungi” of the genus Phaeoclavulina. Next came more Black Witch’s Butter, and then a log frosted with white, like icing or newfallen snow. Up close, the white substance was made of a great many fingerlike extensions, translucent and crystalline in appearance. It proved to be a growth of Coral Slime, genus Ceratiomyxa.
It was nearly dark by now, and I was again ahead of the others. On a tree, I discovered a black-and-white patterned spider of a species I had not seen before. I was able to get in a few quick shots before it scurried into a crevice in the bark, which allowed me to later identify it as a ground spider of the genus Sergiolus.
The trail began leading uphill. Green liverworts and vivid moss covered the cliff walls, and in the midst of them a young Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris)! Its eyes were gold and its skin was silvery, both patterned like the sky on a starry night.
With no warning, a startling shout brought us all to a standstill. “Bear! To your left!”
Hearts pounding (or at least mine was), we regrouped. Who had called? Which way was "left"? We had to rapidly determine what to do next. Given that there were five of us, I felt fairly confident in returning the way we had come. Staying close together and with great caution, we did this, but no bear appeared. Had there really been one, or was someone pranking us? We never saw who had called.
After a while, despite the surrounding darkness, we began to feel less nervous. That is, until the beam of my headlamp caught two glowing eyes, far off on the other side of the canyon, staring down at us. “Are those eyes I see over there…?” I asked apprehensively. All flashlights and headlamps focused on the unknown creature, and we strained to make it out. The eyes were set wide apart, and glowed yellow-green. The head was round, the body pale… could it be… could it really be… it was! There was no mistaking that lithe, pale outline in the dark. It was a Mountain Lion!
We watched it, fearful yet thrilled, talking excitedly, until it slunk off into the darkness. What an encounter! It was the first time I was absolutely sure I had seen a wild Mountain Lion in person.
That was definitely the find of the night, but the night wasn’t over yet. We walked rapidly back toward the parking lot, staying together, and looking behind us periodically to make sure the big cat wasn’t following us. Before too long, we arrived at an earthen wall that I suspected contained trapdoor spiders. My suspicion proved correct when I spotted a burrow’s lid, slightly open; under it were a set of hairy, reddish-brown legs.
I moved too quickly, however, and the legs immediately retreated. Undaunted, I danced the end of a twig over the burrow’s mouth, attempting to lure its occupant out, but the spider wasn’t having it and stayed deep in its retreat.
On the way back to the cars, we examined the hillside thoroughly, stopping every now and then to look more closely at anything that caught our interest. This resulted in a “Tawny Dwarf Tarantula,” Megahexura fulva. The individual was a wandering male, no doubt searching for a female to woo. He was missing a leg; perhaps the result of an encounter with some predator.
That concluded the trip! We got in our cars and left the canyon, reflecting on our experiences that night.

Publicado el 19 de abril de 2023 a las 02:52 AM por ectothermist ectothermist | 21 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario