Friday, April 29, 2011

A slow nature walk

On Tuesday, we drove up into the mountains of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, less than an hour from the desert.  I had never been there before, but back in 2003 a huge fire burned through the forest there.
So we were driving through miles and miles of burned trees.
burned trees and regrowth

There was lots of new growth, in the form of shrubs that had grown up around the trees.  We ate lunch at a picnic area, and went for a nature walk.  I took it slow because I was looking for bugs in the shrubs and on the ground, under the many fallen bits of bark and wood.

woodland trail

Spider in her nest
One of the first things I found was this spider in a little nest of grass. I was careful to replace the piece of bark that was protecting her.

Beetle
Many of the logs and bark pieces had beetles under them. This is a "stink beetle", genus Eleodes. They would point their rear ends up, the better to spray me, I suppose, if worse came to worse, but it never came to that.

Caterpillar host plant
It was after I found the beetles that I noticed the tall shrubs along the trail had clusters of caterpillars on their branches.
a family of caterpillars
Close up of caterpillars. They were each about an inch long.

detail of buds on plant
Close up of caterpillar host plant. I still need to identify both the plant and the caterpillars.

Caterpillar
Another caterpillar on the same plant.

eggs
Some eggs I found on the same plant. They looked too big to be what the caterpillars would have come from. Maybe true bug eggs?

centipede
Meanwhile, I was still looking on the ground, and I found a little centipede.

A little later, we stopped nearby at the ruins of the Stonewall Mine. There, behind a fence, was a bunch of rusted gold-mining equipment from the 1800's. As Jerry peered through the chain link, contemplating the equipment and what a gold-miner's life might be like, I noticed a big rattlesnake curled up next to a long water trough.  As I kept looking, I noticed 2 other snakes around the same trough, and I imagine there could have been more underneath it that I couldn't see.

This made Jerry a little nervous, and he decided he was done looking at those ruins. I wasn't worried because the snakes didn't seem to be bothered or even aware of our presence. But the experience made me think twice about looking under logs and walking on trails so close to rocks and boulders. For the rest of the trip, I would ask, "You think there's a rattlesnake under there?"
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