Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ash Meadows NWR: part 2

During the year I spent at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, I took a remarkably small amount of photos of the scenery. Most of my photos were of flowers and animals, and here is a collection of my favorites. Even though the Mojave Desert is hot and dry and prickly, I couldn't help but love all the flowers and the animals we found there.

This cute flower is called Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica). They like to live near water more than out in the drier areas, and are neat looking when there are tons of them growing together. When they die back for the winter, they look similar to black-eyed susans after their petals fall off and the cone turns brown.

This adorable plant with the tiny purple and yellow flowers is called Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum). 

Toad! Probably a Woodhouse's Toad (Bufo woodhousii). If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me! We found him at Bradford Spring. 


One of the many jobs we had at Ash Meadows was to try to control the crayfish population at Bradford Spring. At least a few times a week we would set crayfish traps to catch them and then dispose of them. It wasn't a terribly effective method, but it helped a little bit. The aim was to help protect the endangered Ash Meadows Speckled Dace that lived there; the crayfish would prey on them. We did lots of research for other potential options of crayfish eradication, as well as come up with ideas on how to help the Dace population increase (such as translocating some of them to other springs to establish new populations). A few times we found baby crayfish mixed in with the leaf letter we would pull up with the traps, and sometimes the crayfish would be blue as well.

Snake tracks we found on the sand dunes at Peterson Reservoir. Cool!

A tarantula our supervisor found at School Spring. He wasn't moving anywhere yet--it was still a chilly morning. School Spring is still currently closed to the public, but one day they hope to build a boardwalk there as well. It is home to the Warm Springs Pupfish (different from the Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish). 

Spring-Loving Centuary

Spring-Loving Centaury (Centaurium namophilium), one of the six threatened plant species on the refuge. These are bountiful at King's Pool and along the stream at the Point of Rocks boardwalk. You can't pick them, but they are beautiful and charming little flowers to photograph!


These are photos of Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish taken at King's Pool on the Point of Rocks boardwalk.

Zebra-tailed Lizard (Callisaurus draconoides). There were a lot of these quick lizards skittering around on the dunes at Peterson Reservoir. 

Southern Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos calidiarum). Our fellow worker found this stubborn-looking lizard hanging out in a dry wash bed that crossed the dirt road. He was so cute and defiant-looking!

We found this praying mantis somehow hanging on to the side of one of our sheds. He seemed to have an injured arm and we were wondering what he was doing out there so far away from vegetation in the first place. I wonder if he had been attacked by his mate??

Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) we found crossing the road. Gopher snakes aren't poisonous, but they still lunge to bite sometimes. They also like to vibrate the tips of their tails to make pebbles on the ground rattle and make the sound similar a rattlesnake. They must've learned something there! This one was feisty and did both of those behaviors. 

This tiny brand-new baby lizard was found just outside of the office. It was amazing how small he was! A perfectly-formed miniature of a Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana nevadensis). It was amazing he was spotted at all!

This was a crazy jumping spider I found outside of the bunkhouse (not in it!). He had awesome coloring and appendages that looked like fangs, though I'm not sure they actually were fangs. He could jump really high!

This Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus uniformis) was also found roaming around behind the office and the bunkhouse. He was really neat to see up close! Very spiny.

I spotted this Tarantula Hawk (either Pepsis thisbe or Pepsis formosa) from the road as I was driving by. It was feasting on the milkweed that was growing in a wash. The sting of the wasp is considered the most painful of any North American insect, but my experience with them has been that they usually mind their own business--just don't harass them! Females will sting a tarantula to paralyze it, drag it into the tarantula's own burrow, lay an egg on top, and then seal the chamber. When the egg hatches the grub feeds on the still-live tarantula until it is grown. Poor tarantula. 

Mariposa Lily (probably the Alkali species, Calochortus striatus). These are not threatened or endangered, but not exactly a flower that you see every day. My sister and I were wandering about the desert walking up washes for puddles (to look for fish) when we came upon a large field filled with these wonderful flowers. 

I hope you enjoyed my photos! All photos by April Kelher.