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. 


  1. Robyn, I only now realize that you found some Eucilinus aridus among all those Trigs. You may notice that his 'snout' is much wider and shorter. I'm referring to the 2 photos underneath the mating pair

    1. Perfect - thanks for that correction and identification. Will modify the captions above.

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