Monte Bello, Scouting The Invisible Eclipse

Friday 5/17/13 was cold up on the mountain. The KSALOSAL22 weather station says it was about 53F when we started, and got down to about 43F. That (nor the first quarter moon) didn’t seem to stop some of the critters though.

PB, KG and I headed off around 6:15.

Since we don’t usually get up there at night this early in the year (except for frog hikes), I’m not used to seeing that many wildflowers: Yellow mariposa lilies (Calochortus luteus) were the first, Ithuriel’s spear, owl’s clover, checker mallow, madia, seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), blue dicks, sneezeweed, bicolored lupine, popcornflower, brodeia, at least two clarkias, and blow-wives (or something that looks like them), plus others I probably forgot to write down. We also saw cyperus, meadow-rue, and one fennel plant.

I lost count of the darkling beetles. We checked the known spider holes; one was closed with dirt-covered silk, another was open with a piece of leaf over it. We found a couple of newly-cleaned out/excavated holes. The small piles of dirt next to the holes had silk and bits of exoskeleton mixed into them.

Lazuli Bunting, Lesser Goldfinch, Warbling Vireo, Band-tailed Pigeon, Wild Turkey, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, and Purple Finch made themselves known, among others. We heard no owls during the night.

We turned onto Bella Vista at around 6:45.  We encountered a couple of people on our way up.

In less than half a mile, we came upon the lone fennel plant. I looked for insect eggs and didn’t notice any, but there was one tiny caterpillar, not more than 1cm in length. I guessed it would be a larva of anise swallowtail, based on the host plant, and it was a good guess. That was the only caterpillar that we could see, so hopefully it will make it.

~1cm Anise Swallowtail caterpillar on fennel

~1cm Anise Swallowtail caterpillar on fennel

Besides a couple of smashed darkling beetles, there was a fence lizard carcass.

In about the last .1 mile to the Old Ranch intersection, we noticed badger sign and a small insect tube, apparently made with mouthfuls of mud. It was horizontal to the trail, at the bottom of the bank. This may have been made by a bee, Diadasia.

<1cm mud nest on Bella Vista

<1cm mud nest on Bella Vista

We turned onto Old Ranch at 7:30. On the flat section, we found a Scolopendra centipede being harassed by a few ants. A wood cockroach nymph wandered down the trail. Last year, we’d seen these roaches seemingly in some association with ant nests.

At 7:55 we got to the backpack camp. Since it was somewhat breezy and on the cold side, we decided to have dinner there instead of going to the top. We encountered one more person who arrived a bit late to camp. After we worked out some logistics for PB’s demo, we started down around 9:00.

On the Old Ranch downhill, KG spotted a surprise–a Solifugid (windscorpion)! Seven minutes later, we came across another. I wouldn’t have expected to see one, let alone two, especially since it was so cold. But, if you’re hungry, you’re hungry (the first one that I ever saw was in June, 2007). These aren’t really scorpions, they are classified in their own arachnid order, Solifugae. They’re very fast predators.

Solifugid #3 (Eremobatidae)

Solifugid #3 (Eremobatidae)

But that wasn’t all…in one of the tree-covered areas of Bella Vista, we found a scorpion in a trailbank hole, and near the bottom was a large female Solifugid, 3cm.

We reached the intersection at 10:10, and quickly checked a couple of the open spider holes with their occupants, in the next stretch. Lots of shorter-legged harvestmen wandered around. The closed spider hole was undisturbed.

On our way up, there was yet another, smaller Solifugid.

We could also hear treefrogs in the distance; it must have been warmer there. The moon bathed the landscape in silvery light as we approached the lot.

Here are more photos, and below is a video of the centipede.


One Response to “Monte Bello, Scouting The Invisible Eclipse”

  1. rwmyers47 Says:

    Thanks, Debbi, for this report. Even after more than a dozen years, I can still picture every turn of the trail and the three of you investigating everything with a keen eye and ear. Wish I could have been there. -Roger

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