Thursday, May 6, 2010

habitat ~ 05/06/10 ~ Pinnacles National Monument - west

Pinnacles National Monument - west entrance
May 6, 2010

The picture above was taken on the Juniper Canyon Trail before the sunny switchbacks leading to the High Peaks. It's my favorite trail to see butterflies with a tiny creek trickling alongside. There are some open spots which feel like a "butterfly highway". This would make a great butterfly monitoring transect, like what Art Shapiro does.

During last year's visit on May 8, 2009, the most noticeable butterfly was the variable checkerspot; there were too many to even begin to count. This year I was amazed by how many Sara orangetips (Anthocharis sara) I saw. Unfortunately, I could never catch one resting long enough to take a decent picture. I also spotted at least a dozen CA forester moths, which given my difficulty in identifying the single individual I saw last year was a small thrill for me. It's too bad the day-flying moths are not included in the butterfly checklist at Pinnacles. Moths often get ignored and are only mentioned if they're "pests."

Pinnacles holds an annual butterfly count, which is probably lots of fun if you're into group nature activities.

I took the picture above thinking, oooh, that looks like a smaller version of Yosemite's Half-Dome. It's amazing how inadvertently consistent I am. We happened to hike Pinnacles within two days of last year, yet we don't actually go there very often. I took a picture from the exact spot as above, which is quite a feat considering the trail. The pictures are so similar that I opened up both files and checked the dates. It then became a game of can you spot the difference? The branch hanging in view on the upper right looks like it's grown about a foot, but that's it.

Here's the only place that I could tell any difference from last year at this time. This year the poppies are still going gangbusters and the grass hasn't dried out, yet. Plus there was hardly any Brewer's ragwort anywhere along the trail.

Pinnacles is absolutely incredible! For much better blog posts of Pinnacles spanning the past 2 months, check out Bread on Water and Town Mouse and Country Mouse.

One last pic! This was taken looking back toward Pinnacles at the 9 mile marker. One would never suspect such an incredible place existed behind those dry, yellow hills. It does get very hot there in the summer. Pinnacles National Monument is actually a bit difficult to find. To get to the west entrance, you have to first go through Soledad and carefully follow the tiny directional signs. On our way out, we like to stop at La Fuente for the best Mexican food around and chat with the lovely, friendly proprietor.

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