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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bugs at the Black Light - Finally!

After unseasonably cool weather, the warmth is finally here, and the bugs are coming out in good numbers. The black light on my patio this week brought in a good variety of little critters. Plenty of drama, too, with some creatures being eaten by others! Some of the insects and arachnids that came to the light are shown below. The Polyphylla and Prionus were photographed previously.

Olios (Huntsman spider) enjoying a crane fly meal, and being watched by a hopper. Some of these spiders get quite huge, around an inch long.

Olios spider with prey.

Zarhipis integripennis

Serica fimbriata, a large velvety member of its genus.

Brown Leatherwings (Pacificanthia consors), by far the most numerous visitors.

Polyphylla decemlineata, the Ten-lined June Beetle.

Prionus californicus, the California Prionus.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The False Click Beetle, Perothops witticki

Every year in late May and early June, Perothops witticki appear on my property and often land on the stucco of the house during the daytime. I've seen them at my neighbor's house down the road, as well, but never anywhere else (ever!). This seems to be a little Perothops-heaven here -- kind of interesting as false click beetles are not exactly "every-day" beetles! Below are some photos of a specimen that showed up on the house this morning.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Speckled Rattlesnake - with a big appetite!

My neighbor here in Cuyamaca Woods, Norm Huefner, spotted a very special rattlesnake the other day -- a Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchelli. Having seen many specimens of the other two San Diego County rattlers that are to be found west of the deserts (the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake and the Red Diamond Rattlesnake) over the years, I have STILL never encountered a Speckled Rattler, so this is an exciting event, and gives me hope of seeing one myself.

This was a very ambitious young one, trying to swallow what appears to be a Western Fence Lizard.

Speckled Rattlesnakes are seen much less often than the other members of their genus here, but also have a reputation for being more "touchy" and prone to agitation. They have a very weak pattern on their backs, sometimes resembling granite, which is a typical component of their preferred habitats.

Used with permission of Norman Huefner

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

A large male western Fence Lizard was brought by Jinx today. He was rescued as rapidly as possible, and after a short photo session, transported to a safe, feline-free place.

His blue-ish dorsal scales and brilliant blue belly are classic.

Lots of color on his dorsal surface.

A chunky specimen, to be sure!

Where the name "Blue Belly" comes from!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bold Bobcat in our Yard

Around 1:30 pm today my brother saw a "large cat with a short tail" right up against the glass of the sliding door of his bedroom, looking in! He called me, but I arrived too late to see the creature which headed downhill. For the record, there was a cat bowl with kibbles just inside the room near the glass. The photo below shows where that animal would have been (red star). The box is a cat shelter with the hole facing inwards for the safety of his cat, Jinx.

Photo 1: Red star showing where the "large cat" was peering into the house.

I then equipped him with a small digital camera, because I suspected a Bobcat. About an hour later, he took the following pictures (Photos 2, 3 and 4).

Photo 2: The cat, obviously a Bobcat, heading TOWARDS Jinx on the patio.

Photo 3: Cropped version of Photo 2.

Photo 4: The Bobcat, circled in red, heading towards what Jinx considers HER road (she rolls in the dirt on it regularly).

Photo 3 is just a cropped version of Photo 2. Photo 4 shows Jinx, not the least bit afraid, on her toes (literally) and the Bobcat (circled in red) heading down the Steebers' driveway. Alan scared the big cat away. Apparently Jinx and the Bobcat were in something of a stand-off with Jinx showing no fear of it, and it showing no fear of Jinx. I have seen Jinx's boldness with my cats and would not put this past her! Needless to say, Alan is a bit afraid for Jinx's safety and is keeping her in for awhile.

Now we have the digital camera set on "movie" mode, and are watching for a possible return.

Is this a sick animal, starving, or just incredibly bold??

All photos by Alan Deeley except for Photo 1 by Robyn Waayers

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Snowy Scenes from the Cuyamaca Mountains

Some wintery images from the trip to the mailbox by the lake.

Lake Cuyamaca and Stonewall Peak

Snowy casualties of the Cedar Fire

Last light on Stonewall Peak

Icy oak leaves along Engineers Road

This Red-tailed Hawk had a companion when we first spotted it, but the second bird decided to leave as we crept closer for a photo. There was clearly some impressive snow and wind at this spot last night!

El Capitan in sunset light. There are little bits of snow visible in the foreground.

Finally Some Snow!

And good timing, too - on the weekend!

This is the first real snow of the season, and it only added up to about three inches, but that's plenty, I'd say. And it's melting fast now that the sun is up.
The ground squirrels' boulder field. I'm sure they are cozy in their burrows.

The Toyon still has its berries.

The landscape looking to the west. Just a hint of sun on the slopes on the left. Hard to believe that this a color photo!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Mountain Lion Among Us

Although it is not news that there are plenty of mountain lions in the area, it is still exciting to get confirmation of their presence. Last Sunday evening, as we sat on the patio watching the sunset, we heard a flurry of dog barking from the northwest. Not long after a phone call from the neighbors explained it - one of the dogs had treed a full grown mountain lion! About two weeks ago, as I was driving home on Sandy Creek Road (about half a mile from our house) a domestic cat-sized creature scuttled into the brush in front of my car. What seemed odd about it was its SPOTTED coat (as opposed to tabby striped) and rounded ears set low on the head, combined with a long tail. In retrospect, this creature seemed reminiscent of a mountain lion cub, although my look at it was too brief to be sure.

Perhaps we have a mother with cubs in the area. Deer (and crepuscular or nocturnal human hikers) beware!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Create This Blog?

A little over five years ago, my husband Gary and I moved away from the San Diego suburbs and into the relative wilderness of the Cuyamaca Mountains of southern California. The area had been burned extensively in 2003 by the Cedar fire, but still retained much beauty and a real sense of wildness, something that is difficult to find in this crowded part of the world.

The plant and animal life here has been far more diverse and wonderful than I ever expected, and I have seen many new "life" species, ranging from long-sought amphibians like the California Tree Frog to spectacular insects like Ergates spiculatus. The original habitat consisted of a mix of pines, cedars, live oaks, black oaks and chaparral species like manzanita and Ceonothus. Recovery since the fire has been slow but steady, and today the landscape actually looks more green than burned, a major milestone!

I hope the nature observations here provide insight and pleasure to fellow nature-lovers in "The Woods" and beyond!

California Tree Frog, Pseudacris cadaverina, found in our Porta-potty during house construction!

Ergates spiculatus, one of the largest local beetles. This is a female, and she is about 55 mm or a little over two inches long.