May 21, 2020. That’s the day we started our challenge to make at least one observation per day of living and breathing in nature and upload it to the citizen science platform, iNaturalist. So as of December 27th, our streak is 950 days. So as 2022 comes to a close I went through our observations of this year, and picked out one observation for each week of 2022.
The idea of starting a streak was and is still inspired by iNaturalist users Sam Biology (@sambiology) and James Maughn (@jmaughn) who all have insane streaks of 2,848, and 3,561 days, respectively. Hear us talk about our ongoing streak on this episode of the Nature’s Archive podcast. Even though we recorded it in late 2021, it’s still totally applicable today.
Every day on iNaturalist’s social media accounts, an observation is highlighted. The conglomeration of those observations can be seen on its own project page.
If you’re a user of iNaturalist, you can view your streak, or anyone else’s via the Year in Review. Use this URL but customize the year and username: https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/YEAR /USERNAME. Click here to see ours.
So how did I do this? I used the ‘range’ function in the iNaturalist filters, and looked at a week (Sunday to Saturday) at a time, for all of 2022. I also mainly focused on ‘Research Grade’ observations for 98% of the weeks because I wanted reassurance of the identification, which means at least one other person has confirmed the current identification. But some weeks had some special species that overrode that requirement, and the identifications were often confirmed on BugGuide, a similar citizen science website.
We made many interesting finds this year, which are not included in this blog. I wanted to reminisce and showcase some of the diversity we’ve been lucky enough to photograph through the various habitats we’ve explored, and not just highlight the rarities, or most photogenic.
Last thing! Week 1 is in the top left corner, week 2 top right, week 3 bottom left, and week 4 bottom right.
In January we spent most of our time in Costa Rica, shown by the first three observations. Then, we moved to Fernbrook, an unincorporated community outside of San Diego. The day after we got back from Costa Rica we went tide pooling and found this Baba’s Festive Aeolid, a new nudibranch for us, whose bright bubble-gum pink coloration is so beautiful.
Both the Resplendent Quetzal and Unspotted Saw-whet Owl were highlights amongst all the birds we saw while traveling through CR, and there were A LOT of incredible birds. The Quetzal burst into a perch while we were on a sky bridge. We’ve looked for a male quetzal multiple times throughout our travels, so it was so wonderful to finally see one so close! The Unspotted Saw-whet was seen on a night birding tour. I was battling Covid at the time, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see this rare owl with a local birding legend. Our guide had a special spot, but we were all surprised at how quickly this one was located, and it was only about 20 feet away from us. Incredible!
Besides birding, we went to CR to observe the diversity of plants and orchids, as well as insects, the first of which is represented by the gorgeous Columnea nicaraguensis.
While in San Diego county we did a lot of exploring in our backyard, which was huge, but also explored beyond, often into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where the Grasshopper in the bottom right was photographed. It was spotted at the moth light near a primitive campground in the southern portion of the park.
Whereas the green Stonehenge-like plant was seen on a nearby ridge by the small cabin we were living in. It’s not a plant or moss, it’s a starwort! Genus Asterella is a member of the Phylum Marchantiophyta, also known as Liverworts.
The simple little fly on the top right is the first observation for iNaturalist of the species. Dinky little flies like this one don’t usually spark thoughts of rarity, but thanks to folks who identify species like this on iNat, we can put a name to this one, Trixoscelis punctipennis.
March included a lot of botanizing around southern California, as we were on the hunt for rare and new-to-us plants. With the ongoing drought it was tough at times, but finding some plants as I highlighted in these weeks made it worth it. Some plants were teeny tiny, like the Desert Threadplant, whereas others were very obvious from a distance, like the Desert Fivespot.
San Diego is also where, after test running in BC, we did a lot more pit traps and sifting for leaf litter using a Berlese trap, which is where this jewel bug, Acantholomidea porosa was found. Leaf litter is collected and placed into this ice cream-cone-like sack, then a lightbulb at the top is positioned to provide a steady stream of light, which sends insects crawling downward for darkness. Eventually, they end up in a small vial at the bottom, ready for inspection, photographing, and uploading to iNat.
The plant shenanigans continued in April, but first let’s talk about hunting for sea slugs.
I was lucky enough to go out with a legendary Nudibranch enthusiast and expert Robin Agarwal to the Bird Rock tidepools in La Jolla, CA. When we got down to the tides an eel slithered right in front of me, always a sign of good luck. We were on the hunt for a particular sea slug, the Black-spotted Dorid, Dendrodoris nigromaculata, which was a new-to-us species. Yup-a-doodle-dandy we freakin found one! It was sooo cool to experience that with Robin. So many laughs were had that afternoon. The crew of adults that like to go wade in the ocean to look for sub 1cm sea slugs is small, but we are fun, mighty, and support each other, and I love that.
So the plants.
Palmer’s Indian Mallow was a trek. Probably the hottest day hike I’ve experienced. It was brutal, we both almost drank all the water we had, which was multiple liters each. The Anza-Borrego desert has some incredible plants, but jeepers it gets bloody hot, even in April.
The beautiful Pride-of-California was a quick mission near the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. We had our big cameras with us, and some lovely ladies on horses thought we might be doing the whole trail with the cameras! No way!
Two separate trips to a specific spot were needed to find the Cooper’s Rein Orchid. We went together the first time, with no luck, but on a solo mission I found this beautiful orchid just before giving up and heading out. Even at just over a foot, the plant blends in so well with its surrounding.
Calico Monkeyflower is a botanical poster child. . . plant. Once again, a second trip to the same area was required to finally connect with this plant. SO STUNNING! An endemic to California, it’s listed as an Endangered species on the California Native Plant Society Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants. Aren’t those flower lobes soooo stunning? The purple veins are simply DIVINE!
In May we were living in South Lake Tahoe, with a short trip to the Bay Area. As usual, we looped-in side adventures into the trek, which included a trip to Yosemite, where we hiked our legs off to find the Yosemite Lewisia. What a gorgeous little prostrate plant that has adapted to the loose granitic talus and bare gravel. We were fortunate to observe quite a lovely population of this vulnerable plant with views of Half Dome over our shoulders.
The Granite-cracked Monekyflower lives in a similar rugged habitat, the cracks of granite rocks, also observed in the Yosemite area, but this time in the Hetch-hetchy area.
During a weekend trip to the eastern Sierras from Tahoe, we managed to add two plants to Botanist Tim Messick’s ongoing list of Bodie Hills. This broad-keeled Milkvetch was one of them, the other being this Woolly Bonnets. You can read about the ‘22 May additions to his dedicated surveys and passion for the diverse landscapes and geology of this area on his website.
Who doesn’t love a Desert Horned Lizard? What a grumpy little man. These lizards usually put up a good fight for a photo by diving into the center of the shrubbery, and blending in tooo well. Someone always end up flat on the ground with the camera, while the other one is focusing on the little dinosaur, keeping an eye on it for any potential movement.
June was quite the mixed bag, as nomads, a month can include a whole whack of different places.
The first few days of June we were in South Lake Tahoe, then drove north to Bellingham, WA, in one day, taking a few pit stops to pick up some species. The day after we made it to Pemberton, B.C., the homebase for the rest of the month. Quickly after settling in we took a trip to the Cariboo region and Thompson-Nicola Region, and two trips to the South Chilcotins the weekends after. Jam packed!
So that’s why we have a Great Basin gopher snake, seen while driving on a sideroad at Mono Lake, CA. The next week, a road trip turned sideways due to a closed road and we ended up at Junction Sheep Provincial Park (BC) observing a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the pouring rain super close! For the following week after I chose this beautiful flowering Bogbean from one of my favorite places up the Pemberton Valley. A day trip to the Birkenhead Lake area was full of sweep netting, where this very rare, Gambrinus pictus, click beetle was caught. Lastly this elegant Episcopal Ladybird beetle was swept from a beaver swamp from the Bridge River Delta Provincial Park, which is near the town of GoldBridge. It’s the first iNat record of it in BC, but well within its expected range.
I couldn’t resist showcasing the “soccer-playing” Grizzly bear. No, this cub didn’t really play soccer, but this little guy and his sadly deceased sibling were an ongoing highlight and point of confusion about their whereabouts all summer long. Trevor caught this photo when the two of them, whose mother had recently abandoned them (to mate) sauntered into the yard. Look at those claws! What a gorgeous bear, I hope he/she is enjoying torpor about now (the proper terminology for their hibernation-like winter ritual).
During the second week of July, we found this 7mm long click beetle, seen in the top right photo. July “is the most northerly and easterly record I know of, not a very common beast” said Scott Gilmore, a click beetle non-professional expert on these beetles. It was swept from blooming ocean spray, on a nearby trail. Lots of unique finds out there, even in our extended backyards!
Mr. or Mrs. Moths were photographed by Trevor during a crazy trip with his dad to Silt Lake. They aren’t too common, we’ve only seen four total in the past two years.
During the last week of July, and into August we took a trip to the Itcha Mountains via floatplane for five days and saw some amazing scenery, insects, a few plants, and the least expected, Woodland Caribou! This small herd was the first group we watched, which crossed a patch of snow as we sat up on the hillside. The little squirt running in the middle of the group was so adorable. We later went down to that snowpack and searched for insects, finding quite a few goodies. If you’re interested in this trip I wrote a trip blog about it.
August is usually a very busy, “all over the place” kind of month for us typically. Even with having our wedding celebration in the midst of it we squeezed in two big trips, and drove back down to California.
I love moonworts soooo much, they are so cool. These plants send a leaf above the soil’s surface which contains a sterile part that’s oval-ish in shape, and the fertile part is the small round clusters of sporangia.
Speaking of reproduction, I caught a pair of Seton Lake Dart moths in the act during a six-day trip near Chilko lake (read about it here). It was the same trip where Trevor unearthed multiple Trout-Stream beetles, Amphizoa insolens under a small waterfall. This ain’t any dinky black beetle, these beasts live in areas of moving water, adhering to the stones. What a life!
For the last part of the month, we were back in California, in a small town called Freshwater, just outside Eureka in Northern California. This area of California is pretty cool in that you can be enjoying the coastal redwood forest and observe a stunning plant like this California Harebell, and then visit the coastal dune system and beaches, which is where the Akephorus obesus was found running near the tide line, all in one day.
Freshwater was our home base for September and October, but we still got out on the weekends to explore all the ecosystems the area has to offer. One place we keep returning to when we want to stay local is the Humboldt Bay peninsula, where La-le’l Dunes are located. This is where the intertidal jumping spider was spotted along the tideline. Any opportunity to enlighten folks that cute little jumping spiders live on beaches, I’ll take it!
During the second weekend of September, we took a trip to Siskiyou County and backpacked in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. It was a great three-day trip where we camped at English Lake and submitted English peaks on day two. We were of course on the hunt for certain plants while in the backcountry, and the Klamath Gentian was one of them. Its beautiful purple corolla edges have those fun curly-whirly lobes. Gorgeous!
The lined chiton was not found during a tide-pooling expedition, but on a beach walk at the Samoa dunes. The chiton was hanging out on a California Mussel, which was attached to a bull kelp holdfast that had washed ashore. A creature on a creature on a plant! Lastly, we have a weevil that came to our moth light, Sthereus horridus. Currently, it’s the only California record of this species on iNat. Unlike the species name suggests, I don’t think there is anything horrid about him!
Mushroom season finally started to get going in October, even though locally there were only really two spots that were wet enough to go hunting for fungi (Sue-Meg and off Davidson Rd on the way towards Prairie Creek State/National Park). Both the Blue Knight and the Red-juice Tooth were from the latter. While these are some of the more colorful fruiting bodies of the forest, there is soooo much diversity in mushrooms once you start to look for it.
Some people, especially those not from California are surprised to learn that scorpions live throughout California, including Santa Rosa, where this Western Forest Scorpion was found. We were passing through Santa Rosa because we were on our way to pick up our long-awaited vehicle in Vallejo before spending a few days in the Bay Area. We’ve had a few memorable experiences from Annadel state park, one of which included sitting in poison oak for many hours in order to see a Western Screech-owl. It was a tough introduction to poison oak burns.
Lastly, we have a nudibranch, a White-and-Orange-Tipped nudi, a species we hadn’t seen before. But after tide-pooling a few times in the area, I’ve seen quite a few individuals. They truly are STUN-ING!
November was full of more tide-pooling, insect trapping, and photography, and of course, mushrooming. However, most of the months were spent waiting patiently for more rain.
Harvestman spiders, perhaps better known as “daddy long legs” have quite the insane facial aparatus, and this Ortholasma pictipes seen during the first week of the month is no exception. Really zoom in on that babe if you need a good spook.
The two fungi friends that I selected for weeks two and three are pretty cool. The cluster of Cortinarius anomalovelatus was small but beautiful. I love the lilac purple hues on the gills, stipe, and cap o of this Cortinarius, along with quite the nipple-esc cap! Oh my! What a cutie! Week three, the Drumstick Truffleclub is a real treat, a two-in-one fungal treat, which I wrote all about in this blog post.
During the Thanksgiving low tides, during the last week of November, I spotted this Umbrella Crab! While it totally looks like it has an elephant-esc snoot, that extension of its carapace.
December can be a tough month for naturalists, especially in the cooler and wetter climate of Northern California, but we are pretty blessed with many opportunities to get out. As long as we aren’t getting soaked, or flooded roads restrict us from leaving….both things happened to us in the first half of the month.
Shoutout to Trevor who thought of a new technique for photographing insects. We tote around a lot of bugs in vials that we’ve legally collected. Some of the traps we use to capture the insects result in them being suspended in solution, isopropyl alcohol. To then photograph them later is difficult, drying and posing them is a pain in the butt. So Trevor tried photographing them in the solution, or water. It worked! This photo of the spider has a lot of bubbles, most of his other photos aren’t this way. But I love the look of it.
Week three selection came from an adventure in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. We bushwhacked down to a creek, and back up again, only a 2,000 ft difference. . . .On the way down we looked for fungi but found this log with a great fruiting of Poor Man’s Licorice on the way back up, which I know commonly as Black Bulgar. In its youth, it has a flat cap, as it ages it becomes more cupped. It’s a great fungus to squeeze and poke.
Ever heard of a spider mimicking a mite? WHOOSH! Mind blown! This Mite Harvestman, Siro acaroides was filtered from redwood duff liter collected near Orick, CA. This little red beast comes in at a whopping 1.9mm. December concluded with four nights of tide-pooling the super-low annual King Tides. As usual, our focus was on nudibranchs, and we added a few surprisingly lifer species, including this one, the Modest Clown Dorid, Triopha modesta. I originally thought this was a sickly Triopha maculata (Sea Clown), a very common species along the West Coast. Thankfully we had reviewed this species before tidepooling that day so our brains were primed to be skeptic and on the lookout. So we took photos of this lemony Clown, Trevor doing the same of another individual, and waaaa la, our suspicions were confirmed once uploaded to iNat! The difference between the two species? T. modesta has branching tubercles on their sides, whereas the common sea clown does not, their tubercles are rounded.
Well, well, well it was quite the project to look through many of our observations and pick creatures for each week. I could have done the same process, but just plants, or only with insects, or even just moths, and the blog would look so different! Thank you to anyone that read through the whole thing, or just looked at the photos! If you are reading this, I’m sending you a big high-five or hug, whichever you prefer.
Let me know in the comments if any particular creature stood out to you!