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Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Diversion to the Mojave National Preserve, Part 2: The Granite Mountains, Southern Kelbaker Road and the Mid Hills

On Saturday we took an extended "day trip" from base camp at the Kelso Dunes, and explored the modest flowering along the southern stretches of Kelbaker Road. Then we explored areas of the Granite Mountains, which lie just to the south of the Kelso Dunes, before heading back to the dunes to spend Saturday night. Sunday we broke camp and headed to the Mid Hills area, specifically dallying and exploring the habitat along Cedar Canyon Road just south of Pinto Mountain (unburned on the north side of the road).

A TINY robber fly, at the Kelso Dunes camp Saturday morning before we left for the day. Possibly Ablautus sp. (or maybe Lasiopogon sp.). Perhaps 10 mm long.

A bee fly (to be determined) at the Kelbaker Road location.

Caterpillar, to be determined. Kelbaker Road.

Cordylospasta opaca, a fast-moving blister beetle. Kelbaker Road.

Small wasp in the family Crabronidae. It was around 12 mm long. I saw several like this along Kelbaker Road, and later in the Granite Mountains.

Robber Fly. Looks like Efferia sp. - a male, with the distinct "terminal bulb" at the end of the abdomen. Kelbaker Road.

Eupompha elegans, a small blister beetle. This is a different morph from the one commonly seen in the Anza Borrego Desert (see image below).

Eupompha elegans, Henderson Canyon Road, Borrego Springs, California.

A decomposed-granite-look-alike grasshopper. To be determined. Kelbaker Road.

Small robber fly (around 10 mm long). Kelbaker Road.

Neacoryphus bicrucis (White-crossed Seed Bug), mating pair. Kelbaker Road.

Part of the Granite Mountains

View somewhat east from the Granite Mountains. Mojave Yucca in foreground.
Eleodes hispilabris, a common teneb in the area.

Greenish spider, to be determined. Granite Mountains.

Mosquito larva and pupae in small pool near a spring. Granite Mountains.

Colorful lichens. Granite Mountains.

Lenticular clouds forming, as seen from the Mid Hills area.

Echinocereus mojavensis, an amazing surprise (to me at least). These stunning beauties were blooming on both sides of Cedar Canyon Road, Mid Hills area.

Echinocereus mojavensis. Mid Hills area.

Echinocereus mojavensis buds. Mid Hills area.

Leptoglossus clypealis, the Western Leaf-footed Bug, on juniper. Mid Hills area.

Mottled Grasshopper, to be determined. Mid Hills area.

Tent caterpillars, Mid Hills area. We saw tents and caterpillars in the Granite Mountains, also.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Diversion to the Mojave National Preserve, Part 1: The Kelso Dunes

From March 25 -27, we travelled to and from and explored the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County. We met with several other nature-oriented people from a variety of backgrounds, and many eyes found many interesting natural treasures.

The area includes the large Kelso Dune Field (or Kelso Dunes), as well as several mountain ranges. We visited the Kelso Dunes, along Kelbaker Road in the southern portion of the preserve, the Granite Mountains and ended the trip in the Mid Hills region.

One of the goals of the trip was to find and photograph various arthropods, including endemics, of the area. The dunes delivered in this regard, with Alice Abela's efforts (with long trails of oatmeal to attract night-active creatures) helping reveal many interesting species.

A view of the dunes, with the "big" dune dominating. The tiny ant-like things climbing up its backbone are...people!

Ammopelmatus kelsoensis, an endemic Jerusalem Cricket. It is quite pale for this group of crickets, as is typical of many of the dunes inhabitants.

Ammopelmatus kelsoensis

A sand treader cricket, probably Ammobaenetes sp.

Sand treader close-up.

Asbolus papillosus, which closely resembles Asbolus laevis, a common inhabitant of the Algodones Dunes. Apparently this is the only "smooth" Asbolus sp. at the Kelso Dunes.

Trogloderus sp., a small teneb species. We saw a handful on the sand each night.

Lariversius tibialis, a small tenebrionid. Not endemic to the dunes, but not a commonly-seen teneb! It liked the oatmeal!

Lariversius tibialis

These weevils were quite commonly seen at night clinging to grass stems. They appear to be a Trigonoscuta sp., but which species is yet to be determined.

Trigonoscuta sp.

Trigonoscuta sp. It was hard not to take a lot of photos of these muscular-looking little creatures.

Many were busily creating the next generation...

At first I thought that this was a different species of Trigonoscuta. Smaller and less abundant in our search area. Actually Eucilinus aridus. Thanks to Margarethe Brummermann for the determination. 

Eucilinus aridus

Another weevil, possibly the commoner type, with more brownish coloration.

A robust weevil, Ophryastes sp.

A small bee sleeping on a grass stem in the dunes after dark.

Mating stiletto flies (Therevidae)

A nocturnal mutillid (velvet ant). The only one seen (by myself, at least).

A small crab spider.

This slender crab spider was clinging to one of the numerous Desert Evening Primroses in the late afternoon of the first day.

Apparently a Botta's Pocket Gopher (the same sort that we have in abundance here in Cuyamaca Woods). This was a hefty, healthy-looking fellow (the telltale bulge of furry flesh at his posterior end suggests a male's testes). He was attracted to the oatmeal trail! We photographed him and moved on...

Just a little farther along the oatmeal trail we stopped...and suddenly a gopher appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and went straight for Alice! He proceeded to "attack" her shoe. We were pretty surprised by this behavior from a normally shy (underground) species. Later, I wondered if he also followed the oatmeal trail (feeding as he went) and saw us as competition. He is clearly a very well-fed and healthy individual and is good at finding food in this food-poor environment, so perhaps an aggressive personality has aided him over his lifespan. Or maybe there was an oatmeal-y or other delectable smell on Alice's shoes? We may never know.