Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Did the Monsoons Yield in the Anza Borrego Desert?

A quick trip to see.

Gary and I headed down to Coyote Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and then set up a couple black lights in Borrego Springs after dark. Four days previously the area had a great deal of rain (and flooding) from some monsoonal moisture that moved into the area.

Coyote Canyon:

We only made it as far as First Crossing, and the road in to that point was pretty rough and showed places where there had been massive mud piles a couple days earlier.

There had been much more water than this at its peak, judging from the mud and flood-signs. The leading edge of the stream receded and then moved forward again while we watched - strange.

Just past where we parked the truck. The flowering shrub appears to be Petalonyx thurberi.
Nemognatha sp. on Petalonyx. These little blister beetles were abundant on one bush that I saw, and absent on all the others I looked at. They were actively feeding on nectar with their long mouthparts, then would clean their mouthparts carefully after sipping (as shown below)!

Tidying up.

I also saw these stink bugs on the Petalonyx. After a bit of searching on after returning home I found that they appear to be Agonoscelis puberula (the African Cluster Bug), a non-native True Bug, first collected in the U.S. in 1990.

Honey Bees were out and about (no surprise there).

A carpenter bee at Desert Willow, which was also flowering.

Asbolus verrucosus, a darkling beetle. We had seen these in Coyote Canyon in the spring of this year also.

Raccoon tracks in the mud.

"Cat" or "dog" track? Since there's some debate, I'll attach a couple photos below that are very typical "cat" tracks. The "M" shaped leading edge of the large pad is at least hard to see here, but there is a lack of good claw marks and the spread and overall gestalt seems cat-like, which would mean Bobcat (and not Coyote as I originally thought).

Bobcat track, just west of Shelter Valley, Anza Borrego Desert, August 2012. Better "M" shape...

Mountain Lion track, NAS Miramar, mid-1990s. Nice "M" plus massive size.

Roadrunner track. Very recognizable with two toes forward and two toes back.

After leaving the peaceful retreat of Coyote Canyon, we headed into Borrego Springs proper and set up black lights at a motel (closed for the hot season) with advance permission from the owners. There had been rumor of large beetles there last September, following monsoonal rainfall, and so I was hoping for Derobrachus sp. to come to the lights.

Here are some of the beetles that DID show (no Derobrachus this time!). They are shown roughly in the order in which they arrived at the sheets.

Hybosorus illigeri, a small shiny black beetle, in the Scavenger Scarab Beetle family. This is another non-native, originally from Europe and elsewhere in the Old World. Many came to the light, when in the past, in other locations, I have only seen a couple at a time at lights.

Cyclocephala sp. (possibly C. longula). 

Osmidus guttatus. This is the first I have seen of this species in San Diego County, although I have seen them regularly in Imperial County in the past. This one is a female (the male's antennae would be much longer).

Omorgus suberosus, a type of Hide Beetle. 

At first I thought this was the "common" Diplotaxis that seem to always appear at lights in our deserts in the summer. Then I noticed the hairiness and wondered what it was, as I did not remember hairiness on Diplotaxis in my limited experience. Thanks to Bob Androw at the Carnegie Museum for helping with its determination - it appears to be Diplotaxis fossipalpa, which is fairly hairy for this genus.

Creosote Bush Katydid (Insara covilleae), a very sharp-looking katydid indeed! These have always been uncooperative for photos in the past, but this one stayed put briefly.


  1. Yes, some dune Diplotaxis are hairy. But your coyote track seems to be a cat paw to me. The nails of canines would definitely be visible in a deep print like this. I hope it's not over yet! (the rain)

    1. You may be right about the track - I always look for the "M" shape on the leading edge of the large pad - typical of the cat family. This one seemed rounded in that spot (typical of the dog family), and there seems to be ONE claw mark in the mud. But the overall shape/feel is cat-like, I agree. Will tack on an earlier photo of an obvious bobcat track for comparison.

  2. Margaretthe is correct, google Bobcat footprints and it's dead on. I'm so glad you all got much needed rains, especially that type of rain, Plant growth response is so much more noticeable. I went down to the upper end of Coyote Canyon around Horse Canyon just before it twists and turns east up the south face of Santa Rosa & El Toro Peak this past June. Went to areas I'd never been to before in all the 24+ years I used to live there. I specifically went to the eastern back side of Table Mountain where I used to live.

    Bobcat footprints compared to Coyote

    Below is my last post. I wonder if you could identify the critter which may be nature to the area that causes the Twig Pruning dieback. I have found photos and articles on the Net identifying Juniper Twig Pruner as the culprit, but I couldn't find any small larval pictures that matched what I found when I peeled back the back to open up the hollow pithy tube where I have always found that little black weevil critter at my old place. I used a reference photo to give folks an idea of what the insect looked like, but I know it's not accurate. Other photos showed a worm or caterpillar, but that was never what I actually found in the tube on my Tecate Cypress. For me they are responsible for the spread of the Cypress seed dispersal when fire is absent as I've shown. I have always found numerous seedlings near mature stands of Tecate & Arizona Cypress in the old growth Chaparral which runs contrary to the Fire Ecology dogma.

    How do ecosystems regenerate when Fire is absent ? Aw, the possibilities!

    Maybe Margarethe knows as well.

    Cheers, Kevin

    1. Well, I'm definitely no expert here, on the life history of the Juniper Twig Pruner, although I did a quick look on-line. The worm-like thing is the beetle grub (not a caterpillar, which is a larval lepidopteran), and Styloxus is a cerambycid (long-horned beetle) - it should not look weevil-like (or like your dark insect on your blog post, which I think was a true bug, not a beetle, but I know you were just giving an approximate appearance). Styloxus is long and slender with long antennae. Perhaps the black weevil-like insect was unrelated to the girdling - came in after the fact?? I know I have Styloxus on my property on North Peak of the Cuyamacas, as they come to my black light. It is likely Styloxus fulleri, whose host is Coast Live Oak (makes sense as there is a lot of that about).

    2. What I'll have to do next year is visit the tree and photograph the beetle if I can find one, but the hollow tube was identical. It was the size of a flax seed, very tiny and of course I don't even recall antennae being on the critter. All I could really do is give a vague description. Yes, the girdler does a complete scoring job around the outside of the twig and that was definitely not it. Nevertheless, I love the fact that whatever the insect, it's yet another possibility besides fire which for more fire ecologist is the only answer. The only fire ecologist who has ever made sense if Jon Keeley, many of the rest write research papers with broad brush and wide sweeping strokes as they generalize a story or myth about something 100s or 100s of years ago and I always take things with a grain of salt and compare it with my own observation if it is relevant to what I have seen and experienced.

      Thanks, Again, Kevin