Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, April 18, 2008

Murray Canyon

Near the trailhead

Well, if this isn’t embarrassing. On Monday, Leon and I hiked to Murray Canyon, one of the Indian Palm Canyons outside of Palm Springs. It was a gorgeous day, and we saw lots of interesting stuff, including more metallic wood boring beetles in the genus Acmaeodera than I’ve ever seen before. We saw dozens of them, with three species represented. I was able to get no good photos of them. I’m not sure why, but every time that I wanted to take a shot, my autofocus wanted to focus on anything other than the damn beetle.

Not quite in focus longhorn beetle. My best insect shot of the day, unfortunately.

Hello, Lizard

Still, it was a great day. The hike begins in a palm oasis, then veers off into the desert for a while. The desert was in late spring glory this week. Most of the brittlebrush and other flowering plants have gone by in the lowest, hottest spots. But in the canyons and at slightly higher elevation, the spring bloom is still very much on. I was surprised to see such a large diversity of bloom being put forth by various members of the borage family.

Beautiful blue legume

Palms at the entrance to Murray Canyon

Eventually, the trail winds into Murray Canyon. We saw lots of wildlife and blooming plants. I also had a great butterfly sighting. For years now, I have wanted to see the California dogface butterfly. It’s a sulphur that gets its name from markings on the forewing that resemble the profile of a dog’s head. There were scores of them flying in Murray Canyon. They don’t sit still for photos- I did manage to get one blurry shot of a mating pair. That was more or less the story of the day from a photographic standpoint. At least I got two nice pictures of lizards.

Not yellow leaves, but a mating pair of California dogface butterflies.

Lizard under the palms

For me, this picture epitomizes the Colorado Desert of southern California. The palms and lush growth along the watercourse contrast with the stark, arid hills.

The hike ends up canyon at a series of small waterfalls called the Seven Sisters. There was quite a bit of water in the canyon, which made the waterfalls particularly enjoyable. On our hike out, we encountered a horned lizard that had climbed up into a small shrub where it was eating ants. Don’t even ask about a photo. And as for the butterfly that I wanted to collect for a DNA sample? In the entire long weekend, I may have gotten a fleeting glimpse of one individual. Feeling an odd combination of satisfaction and disappointment, we concluded the hike with the obvious: a stop at the trading post for sodas and Carnation ice cream sandwiches. These we enjoyed in the outdoor seating area overlooking Indian Palm Canyon.

The Seven Sisters

Ice cream and a beautiful view of Indian Palm Canyon

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At 11:55, Blogger T.R. said...

You really capture the beauty of the desert with this post. Since moving back to Oklahoma I am ever more painfully aware how beautiful the desert is and how much I miss it. Chigger-less, tick-less, something to celebrate every time you hike there! I'll take a rattler over a chigger anytime!

At 12:46, Anonymous Mark H said...

Lots of this land is very stark... this made me appreciate the absolute beauty of my remote home county-- SE Oregon, Malheur County, near the Steens....the Owyhee Breaks, Lesley Gulch, Succor Creek Canyon...all look pretty rich compared to lots of this country. I enjoyed how you detailed where the "green" is...in those little corridors where the water's up close to the surface. Even here in the rain forest, the only mud left on trails is in the ravines.

Too bad on the beetle photos, you always teach beautifully with those radiant photos.

At 13:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That last photo is amazing. I have to get out of Florida and see this country I live in, love, and call home.

Nah - forget that. Disneyworld is so much closer.

At 16:37, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Great Post.
Terrific Photos.
Interesting Trip.
Nice Day.
Wish I was there.

I alway enjoy your posts.
Thanks for sharing.

A tip:
When I am shooting insects and close-ups, it's just habit: I immediately switch to manual focus.
That way I can focus on the eye or a special point of interest. I find that I can focus faster than the camera now. Just a thought.

Have a great week-end and post more great stories and photos.


At 18:19, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

I share your frustation with the auto focus. I could do it much faster manually when I had my Nikon FG. I know there is manual focus on my D80, but I am still learning how to use the thing! Nice shot of that "River" of palm trees! Looking forward to more adventures and photos!

At 00:58, Blogger Ur-spo said...

lovely post and photos as usual

At 09:43, Blogger robin andrea said...

You did capture the stark beauty of the desert. I, too, shoot in auto-focus mode and sometimes can't get the camera to auto focus on the subject I want. If I turn the camera off and then back on, sometimes it will give me what I'm looking for.

At 17:50, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

This isn't fair...you go to way too many cool places!

At 22:19, Blogger Chris said...

What a wonderful hike! I love those lizards!!!

At 10:50, Blogger valown said...

Great post. The pictures remind me of growing up in Las Vegas, minus the palms.

At 11:04, Blogger Doug Taron said...

t.r.- I hate to burst your bubble, but some of the worst chigger attacks that I've had have been in the desert. Southern Arizona in mid-summer is especially bad. I agree with the relative merits of chigger and rattlesnake encounters.

Mark- I definitely need to get out to southeast Oregon. I've never been east of the Cascades in either Oregon or Washington.

TF23- Right, you've always struck me as a Disneyworkd kind of guy. Seriuosly, if you can get out to the desert some time, it's totally worth the trip.

Troy- Thanks. Unfortunately, my camera is a relatively inexpensive digital that does not have a manual focus option.

Kathie- Thanks. The "river" of palms (live the imagery) extends much further both upstream and downstream from what this photo shows.

UrSpo- Thnak you kindly.

Robin- I'll have to try that trick.

Dave- Some of them are close to where we live. Spring is progressing, I think a visit to Bluff Spring Fen on your part is in order.

Chris- Thanks. They were about the only wildlife that cooperated that day.

valown- I can see the similarity. One of my favorite places near Las Vegas is red Rock Canyon State Park. I'm guessing that you know it very well.

At 13:05, Anonymous pablo said...

I'm still waiting for you to find one of those neon blue tarantulas!

At 22:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did your camera also exaggerate the size of that lizard, you could have been EATEN!!!

At 01:04, Blogger Marvin said...

A hike that ends with ice cream can't be all bad.

I sometimes succeed in coaxing autofocus into working by rotating my camera 90º so that horizontal lines it couldn't focus on become vertical lines that passive autofocus needs for focusing. Works for me -- sometimes.


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