Monday, September 2, 2013

A Diversion to the Algodones Dunes, Imperial County, California

About a week ago, some energetic thunderstorm cells dropped rain on the Algodones Dune system in Imperial County. We thought we would explore them to see what life might have been triggered into activity by the rain.

We chose to spend one night about eight miles south of Glamis, in a Palo Verde grove nestled up against the eastern edge of the dunes.

The vegetation was much less than what we observed last year in about the third week in September. There had been massive rainfall weeks before last summer, and the dune region was full of green growth, and insect and spider activity.

This year was still very rich, though, in arthropods, and vertebrates, as well.

Around dusk, a sandstorm was visible to the west. A warning went out for the Glamis area. Several thunderstorms were visible, here and there close by, but not overhead! The wind picked up and the sand started whipping, but in about an hour, everything calmed and the rest of the night was hot, calm and dark - perfect for observing insects and other creatures!

Sunset from the dunes. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

The habitat. This photo was taken in September of 2011, a dry year.

Bolbocerastes imperialis, male. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Edrotes arens, a small tenebrionid species that I have searched for without success in the past. They were pretty abundant on the sand of the dunes after dark. Apparently, they mimic rabbit droppings, a nice adaptation in a food-poor environment! Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Temnoscheila sp. These beetles are real biters when picked up! Quite a few came to our lights throughout the night. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Osmidus guttatus. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

A very small tenebrionid. Probably Triorophus sp. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Cerenopus concolor. I've seen them regularly in the local deserts over the years. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

A very large solifuge. Its body length is about 30 mm. 

These scorpions were VERY abundant on the sand of the dunes after dark. They seemed to be scattered about 3 feet apart...everywhere. 

A Sidewinder. I found this snake by almost stepping on it as I started to stand up from kneeling in the sand. Looking down, I saw the snake only a couple inches from my leg. I staggered left and it moved to the right, and all was well! Then a photo session ensued, of course. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Sidewinder, on the move. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Close-up of the Sidewinder. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Western Banded Gecko. This little lizard was oozing with personality. It would take a couple steps in the sand, lash its tail like a tiny cat, and stare intelligently ahead, in search of gecko-prey. Then it would stalk an inch or two forward and repeat the process. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013. 

Western Banded Gecko, portrait. Eight miles S. of Glamis, August 31, 2013.

Palo Verde seedlings. These were scattered widely, triggered by the rain.
Here are a couple photos from last September, showing the vegetative growth. The vines were still present this year, but were utterly dry and desiccated, although some showed new green growth from last week's rain. The yellow composites in the photo below were not out yet this year.

Vine growth, September 2012. Eight miles S. of Glamis.

Yellow composites, September 2012. About six miles S. of Glamis.


  1. Try Cryptoglossa muricata for the bigger teneb. A straight dorsal?
    The smaller one could be Triorophus sp.
    Your sidewinder shots are beautiful! So you chose to scramble away - I had to sit tight with my last black-tail

    1. I think you're right about the Triorophus. This one isn't Cryptoglossa muricata, as it lacks the little spines. I have the specimen -- I can work on it more later.
      Ha - there wasn't much choosing going on - more of a reflexive scramble away! When I squatted down, I'm certain it wasn't here, so I think it moved up by me when I was kneeling. This is probably the closest I've come to being bitten (although it seemed like a docile individual). The dunes were truly crawling with creatures, large and small, everywhere! And we did see a Western Diamondback, too, but in a nice controlled way.

  2. Hello,

    Your unknown teneb from Glamis is actually Cerenopus concolor.