California Odes

Piru Creek rushes down the eastern flank of Pine Mountain in Ventura County, is captured behind the dam that forms Pyramid Lake in extreme northwestern Los Angeles County, and then exits below the dam through Piru Gorge and tumbles south to Lake Piru and, eventually, the Santa Clara River in Ventura County. For odites, a fine accessible locale is Frenchmans Flat campground in Los Angeles County (above), just off Interstate 5 south of the Tejon Pass and Mt. Pinos.

This is in the Los Padres National Forest, and the camp gives easy access to the boulder-strewn creek (left). Unfortunately, the campground (now day-use only after a major fire) is heavily used on summer weekends by day-trippers with splashing toddlers, and can often be a mess of garbage. If you can overcome that drawback, the creek is full of interesting odes in mid-summer. Our visit was on 16 August.

Among the most fascinating species are those that constantly patrol the rapids, including Pale-faced Clubskimmer (below) and Red Rock Skimmer (right).

During our visit there were at least 80 Sooty Dancers, 40 Flame Skimmers, 30 Clubskimmers, 25 Red Rock Skimmers, and 15 American Rubyspots along the stretch of creek right next to the campground. Even more can apparently be located if one works upstream to Piru Gorge, about a mile away. And skulking in adjacent reeds are damsels that include Desert Firetail (male, below).

There are two southwestern California specialties here. Lavender Dancer Argia hinei has occasionally been located, although we missed it here in 2007 (as others have searched without success in prior years). We were found the other specialty: Serpent Ringtail Erpetogomphus lampropeltis(left & below). This had been the target of an increasingly desperate search in late July in Santa Barbara County, which concluded with a distant view, but here at Frenchmans Flat they were rather easy. We found four males on riverine rocks next to the campground. An identification discussion is on a page about White-belted Ringtail.
all photos © 2007 Don Roberson