Sunday, September 5, 2010
One morning at the end of August I found a hodgepodge of little wonders going on at Howarth Park. First I spotted a crayfish wandering awkwardly on the trail above the shore of Lake Ralphine. Lately I've seen at least one every time I walk on the lake, if I'm early enough. This one froze into the most threatening position it could muster and stayed that way until I unthinkingly moved my arm outward, which caused him to back up, tip over, right himself and head briskly, if clumsily, to the safety of the water. I was able to get a good look at his remarkable face before that happened. I also discovered that there are two stubby little legs just under his mouth centered between the claws, something I'd never noticed before, since I don't usually get a lot of face time with the crayfish.
Chloe and I wandered away from the lake and up onto the south ridge where the sun was getting very hot. I walked as quietly as possible which allowed me to sneakily get closer to western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) along the trails before they'd skitter off under rocks. There were several very small ones that weren't quite as quick to disappear as the larger lizards.
Finally, we stopped off to check on the Skilton's skinks (Plestiodon sketonianus) that we'd seen in early August. They weren't there and it looks as though something bigger may have taken over their place. Chloe sniffed around under the rock with great interest which ruled out a snake (she's terrified of them) and suggested rodent, a species of great interest to her. We took refuge in the shade of a blue oak (Quercus douglasii), in the process irritating a western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus) a fair distance away from us. She stopped traveling through treetops to stamp her front paw at me, something I've seen several of these squirrels do when aggravated. When the stamping didn't get the desired result she ran down the tree and off away from us.
I sat a while on the edge of an old quarry, gathering my thoughts and deciding which trail to follow next when a large speckled fly flew up and hovered by my hand. It landed on the rock I was perched on and rested for a bit, giving me the opportunity to quickly sketch it so that I could take it home and try to identify it later. It appears to belong to tribe Anthracini.