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Nature in LA

Showing posts with label : lizard

October 31, 2012

Psycho Spider Killer: What is It?

I've been waiting an entire month to write this post, and maybe my entire life to entomologically riff off a Talking Heads song title! On Monday, October 1, I found a large tarantula hawk wasp (a.k.a Pepsis wasp) on some flowering Baccharis in the North Campus. This blue wasp with orange wings was the first of its kind spotted in our new gardens, and is indeed a spider killer.
 
Tarantula Hawk on Baccharis
 
This is what Insects of the Los Angeles Basin has to say about tarantula hawks preying on spiders:
 
"When a female wasp finds a tarantula, she alights and engages it in battle. The wasp then stings the spider on the underside between the legs and usually succeeds in paralyzing but not killing it....

October 26, 2012

What's Up Goatsucker?

Yes, the first Goatsucker has been found in our new wildlife gardens! No, I'm not talking about a weird new species of goat parasite, I'm actually talking about a type of owl-like bird. Goatsuckers, a.k.a. nightjars, are members of the family Caprimulgidae, which comes from the Latin word Caprimulgus, literally meaning goatsucker. The Latin name came about because of the mistaken belief that these birds would swoop under milking goats to steal milk from the teat!
 
Common Poorwill, Phalaenoptilus nuttalli,
found on North Campus
  
Here's what Kimball Garrett, our awesome Ornithologist, has to say about the Common Poorwill (the specific type of Goatsucker) we found:
 
"...

October 18, 2012

The L.A. River is Alive: From Mudbugs to Mallards

On Sunday, I joined two amazing people, Jenny Price and Lynn Garrett, on the Hidden L.A. River Tour. Yes people, L.A. does indeed have a river, one with real flowing water, real wildlife, and people like Jenny and Lynn, who are really passionate about it. It was an awesome adventure to explore our river with such knowledeable and enthusiastic people!

The morning started bright and early at 9 am at the L.A. River Center and Gardens, where many river-based non-profits have their offices. We quickly figured out the carpool situation, since it was a driving/walking tour of the river, and got a brief introduction that outlined the six rivery stops that were ahead of us. Without much further ado, we piled in our cars and headed to our first stop on the river.

We didn't have far to travel. The first stop was only five miles north of our starting point, and as we drove we followed the river's course (though we were travelling against...

October 6, 2012

First Canada Warbler Spotted in Exposition Park

This week I got another e-mail from one of our scientists. This time it was from Kimball Garrett, our amazing Ornithology Collections Manager. He found another bird for our Exposition Park bird list, and my isn't it cute? Here's Kimball's communique from October 3rd at 1:24pm:

"All,


Canada Warbler, Cardellina canadensis [= Wilsonia canadensis] along the south edge of the Rose Garden just now.  First for the park, and brings the wood-warbler (Parulidae) list for the park up to 22 species and the park list to 171 species.  Sorry, no photos obtained."

But wait, Kimball, never to be outdone by a bird, sent me this e-mail at 4:38pm that same day:

"Lila,

I went back out late this afternoon and had much better studies of the Canada Warbler and managed to get a...

September 26, 2012

Kinky Bug Found in Museum's Gardens

 

I just got this e-mail from our Curator of Entomology, Brian Brown.
 
"I asked Entomology Volunteer Franesca Zern to concentrate on identifying true bugs from the North Campus Malaise trap. She just identified (through her own research) a new record for Los Angeles County, a mirid plant bug called Coridromius chenopoderis. This tiny, 2 mm long Australian bug feeds on plants, including beets and spinach, but is considered unlikely to be a pest. According to our colleagues at L.A. County Agriculture, this is the first report from here, although it is also known from farther south in California."

Photos of the bug taken by Inna Strazhnik:

 

 

But that's not...


September 22, 2012

Q: What are Those Miniature Spiky Puffballs? A: Brown Widow Egg Sacs

Earlier this week, staff found some small circular egg cases on a gate in the North Campus. Upon closer inspection we realized they were brown widow, Latrodectus geometricus, egg sacs. But how did we know this?
Earlier this week, staff found some small circular egg cases on a gate in the North Campus. Upon closer inspection we realized they were brown widow, Latrodectus geometricus, egg sacs. But how did we know this?
 
Two egg sacs, each containing about 100 eggs,
notice the geometric design.
 
...

September 12, 2012

Oh My, What Lovely Saddlebags You Have!

Quick Dragonfly Update!

I've documented another dragonfly visiting our pond. It was a Black Saddlebags, Tramea lacerata. My phone's camera couldn't capture a picture of this fast-flying critter, but I was able to send myself an e-mail documenting the find. Here's the e-mail:

"Saw a saddlebags by pond
August 22, 2012
3:00pm"

This brings our total number of dragonflies and damselflies to six species! Check out this recent post to see the the other five.
 

Black Saddlebags perching
Photo courtesy of JerryFriedman

August 31, 2012

What's that Bird of Prey Eating?

We've had another visitor at the pond. Since it's a bird, Kimball was kind enough to write this week's post!


"Cooper’s Hawks, Accipiter cooperii, such as this adult, have frequently been recorded by Sam Easterson’s “camera traps” as they drink and bathe at the Natural History Museum’s North Campus pond.  These hawks are among the most conspicuous vertebrate predators in urban Los Angeles – a significant turn of events given that this species was on the National Audubon Society’s “Blue List” as recently as the 1970s.  The “Blue List” – a sort of early warning list of potential endangerment – included species “suffering population declines or range diminution in all or parts of their range.”  Cooper’s Hawk populations have rebounded spectacularly in part because of reductions in the use of...

August 24, 2012

More L.A. Mushrooms

As I proclaimed in last week's blog, it's been hot! Not the sort of weather you would expect to be finding mushrooms in the arid Southwest. However, Carol Bornstein, Director of North Campus and  gardens found mushrooms on her way into work on Monday morning. As she parked her car, she noticed some yellow patches under a citrus tree. Upon closer investigation, Carol discovered they were clumps of emerging yellow mushrooms!

Needless to say, I was out there quick as a flash to snap some photos. This is what I found:
 
 
When I parked the next morning the mushrooms had completely changed!
 
 Picture taken by Patrick Tanaka, Museum outreach instructor
 ...

August 17, 2012

We've Got Flying Neon Toothpicks in Our Pond

I admit it! I totally stole the title of this week's blog from my Facebook friend John Acorn, aka The Nature Nut. To be specific, I gleaned this gem of a title from one of his books, Damselflies of Alberta: Flying Neon Toothpicks in the Grass.

Today, instead of taking lunch like a normal person, I went out to the pond with Kimball Garrett to survey for adult Odonates. Odo-what? I mean dragonflies and damselflies (the flying neon toothpicks), the jeweled predators of the sky.

Among other things, Kimball and I found damselflies for the first time. Yay! Here are some pictures of what we found:

The first ever damselfly to be found in the pond!
Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula

...