Summer Flora and Fauna

Last year, the same amount of rain probably fell in the back country as this year, but there were late storms last year that allowed late bloomers a chance to flower for a reasonable amount of time. This year, the rainfall on Figueroa Mountain was 51% of normal with very little rain later in the season. On May 4th, the soil wetness was 10.0, where anything over 9.0 is characterized as dry. Hence late blooming plants probably had a brief or no flowering period. The grasslands on hills and slopes are now covered by pale, dry, non-native grasses, that would provide instant kindling for any wildfires, unfortunately. I hope that we get a good amount of rain next year, otherwise we could be starting a decline into desertification.

Dried Grasses
(Dried Grasses near Tunnel Road, May 21, 2009)

Wild Onion
(Wild Onion, flowered and seeded very fast, May 21, 2009)

Despite the low rain, more plants were added to my list of species, including a yet unreported Calochortus on Figueroa Mountain, Palmer’s Mariposa Lily, although not in good condition. I was also pleased to get a photo of a healthier Forest Clarkia. A Common Dwarf Flax was found, and that lasted less than two weeks on a sunny slope, because when I returned some fourteen days later to photograph the leaves, it was dried and withered. I sometimes forget to photograph the leaves, and later when trying to identify the plant, am annoyed at myself for the missing information.

Forest Clarkia
(Forest Clarkia, May 23, 2009)

Palmer's Calochortus
(Palmer’s Calochortus, the outer edges were somewhat chewed, May 21, 2009)

It was also time to revisit the Dwarf Brodiaea first photographed by Callie Bowdish on her return from our trip along Manzana Creek last year. Calochortus photographer Lara Hartley decided to make a quick trip to Figueroa Mountain last weekend to photograph C. albus and C. clavatus ssp pallidus. She also added another photograph to her impressive collection of C. venustus. While she was there, and because I had to work the weekend, I made maps for a few of the species of note to look out for, including Dwarf Brodiaea. I had originally thought the species was Brodiaea terrestris ssp terrestris, but after becoming aware that B. jolenensis also grew on Figueroa Mountain, was not sure.

Dwarf Brodiaea
(Dwarf Brodiaea, Brodiaea terrestris ssp. kernensis coastal variety, May 21, 2009)

The hesitancy set off an e-mail discussion with two botanists Lara knew and who had done a good amount of research on this plant and its varieties. It was eventually decided that the species is Brodiaea terrestris ssp. kernensis, coastal variety. So Callie, your chance photograph eventually affected many people. The Brodiaea id was also requested when I posted a photo of a bug on the plant, on, and for which I was thanked when I provided the id and links about it. Unfortunately, the area where the Brodiaea grows is partially in a turnout and is run over by cars and trucks. I wonder if the area could be protected. The links below include discussions of its identification clues by the botanists in question, Wayne Armstrong and Tom Chester. Thanks Callie, Lara, Wayne, Tom and others, for making plant hunting fun and for being generous with information.

Tiny Moth
(Tiny Moth, Heliothodes diminutiva, May 21, 2009)

Since many plants are the free kiosks and health-food stores for flying and crawling insects, I like to photograph them as much as possible on their nectar sources of choice. While I have seen many Variable Checkerspots on Golden Yarrow, Checkerspots seem to like all varieties of plants as do Swallowtails. Some of the most popular nectar sources, such as milkweed and sunflower, where one can find a wide variety of insects, have yet to flower. There is a separate slideshow for fauna, that besides butterflies and moths, includes photos of wild turkeys and a large beehive.


Coal Oil Point

Thanks to Liz Muraoka’s post (on SBCO Yahoo Birding) about the oystercatchers and surfbirds at Coal Oil Point, two species that I have not photographed in Santa Barbara, I decided that my Sunday walk would be around Coal Oil Point. Positioning myself at a close, but not-too-near position, I was able to get reasonable shots of the oystercatchers – so much so, that after standing quietly for a while, one of them walked toward me. Unfortunately, the shutter sound of the camera is distracting for the birds. I also photographed a number of other birds in breeding attire on the walk.

(Coal Oil Point – Sands Beach – Black Oystercatcher)

(Coal Oil Point – Sands Beach – Surfbird)