Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Re-Visit to Scissors Crossing and Vicinity, Post-Monsoonal Rains

I made a short trip to the area around Scissors Crossing in the Anza Borrego Desert today, to see what the heavy rains have yielded, about a month after they fell (the last trip was on August 30th). The most dramatic change since the last visit was a massive explosion of White-lined Sphinx Moth larvae, and many yellow composites blooming on the desert floor. There were not many beetles to be found, with the exception of quite a few Lytta vulnerata, a large, colorful blister beetle, and a new species for me.

The old corral area, a little west of Shelter Valley. The reddish plants on the ground were heavily nibbled by the caterpillars. Ravens and crows were busily eating the caterpillars.

The find-of-the-day: Lytta vulnerata. A "life-beetle" for me!

"Rabbit Brush," upon which the Lytta were found (other Lytta vulnerata were found on a different yellow composite that I have not yet identified).

A small pile of White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars. It was difficult not to step on them, they were so numerous. No caterpillar hunters (Calosoma or Callisthenes) seen, though.


  1. On my "Earth's Internet" blog, I wrote about using Google Earth for viewing nature and documenting historical changes to the landscape. What a pity it wasn't around decades ago. Or even the ability to view back in time like some Sci-Fi feature.

    I showed an example of the Scissors Crossing bridge and went back several years and your could see the deteriorating changes that have taken place. Back in the 1970s thru the middle 1980s, that entire valley from RD's Log Cabin at San Felipe Store down to Shelter Valley itself was always lush green in the summertime. Not just the valley floor itself, but also the mountainsides on both sides of the valley.

    The riparian habitat always had giant old growth Cottonwoods and some Sycamore which are mostly gone now. The Stream was year round and there were fish in it when I was a kid. The region south of the Scissors Crossing bridge on Hwy 78 was lush Sedges and mostly solid Rushes. None of that is there now and Tamarisks have moved in. It's so sad, I wished I never had the memory and experience of what it once was. If I were younger generation, then the scenery would be like water off a duck's back. How can you miss what you never knew existed before ?

    That's just about where everything is headed now and all the government political leaders grand standing isn't going to change it either.

    Your pics are wonderful. It always did amaze me how life comes back through an explosion of growth after a good monsoon season.

  2. That's fascinating (and, yes, a real shame) Kevin. I had no idea that the corridor through San Felipe Creek had changed so much, as my regular explorations of that area only began around 6 - 7 years ago. I think of it is unusually rich NOW, but as you say, with no comparison, how do we know what we're missing (kind of like what has happened at the Colorado River delta -- but that was documented in rich detail by Aldo Leopold and others). There have been multiple fires on both sides of San Felipe Road in the past couple summers, and also along San Felipe Creek as it follows the 78. Luckily they didn't wipe everything out, but the area is degrading, and quite rapidly. Well, with climate change, this is going to be the "new normal" (an expression I hate, when the changes are choices made by US). I'm just trying to see and document as much as possible while I still can, and it's still there...

    1. When I was there this past Spring with Rick Halsey and Dylan from the Chaparral Institute, we were surveying the damage done by Cal-Fire on the totally unnecessary control burn that got out of control off San Felipe Road. As I looked around the Valley, I was remembering often times stopping and taking it all in. Here was clearly a desert plants habitat, but it was so lush green everywhere. Most of the greenery on the eastern side of San Felipe Road (S-2) was Catclaw Acacia and Mesquite growing up from the valley floor to the tops of the ridges. Most of that is gone now and if you know the plants, in summer they have some of the most vibrant green around.

      Here's what I posted previously about Google Earth: Anyone Really into Using Google Earth ?

      I find historical photos fascinating if not sad at the same time. As far as that expression "The New Normal" and "Adapting to Climate Change", I hate both. To me the cave in and excuse irresponsible behavior. Much of the solutions they (so-called Experts on the subject) are coming out with for dealing with climate change consequences are nothing more than sticking fingers in the Dike solutions which only delay the inevitable. They seriously need to stop what is being done and otherwise no amount of fix-it-pills will solve anything. It's like a doctor giving an alcoholic of a heavy cigarette smoker medication to numb the side effects of their irresponsible behavior, but not requiring them to stop what they are doing which brought on the dire health circumstance in the first place.

    2. I also noticed yesterday that many of the junipers along San Felipe Road burned, and there was a little population of Paracotalpa puncticollis, a spectacular scarab beetle living there (juniper seems to be their host). They may be underground, so perhaps will survive, but their juniper habitat is almost gone.

      So true -- I've been talking about climate change in various classes I have taught since 1998, and at least the students are finally beginning to accept its reality and causes, but the last ones to come around will be the ones that are causing it (the fossil fuel industries) and their political enablers, I think. And it's already too late -- we should have tackled it seriously a couple decades ago...