California Odes
upper San Benito River at Sawmill Creek, San Benito County

Okay, okay, perhaps the heading The Mighty San Benito is a bit tongue in cheek.

The upper San Benito River was but a trickle on 25 Aug 2007 (above). It is a major adventure to reach this spot. The mighty San Benito springs from the slopes of San Benito Mt. in southeastern San Benito County, within BLM's Clear Creek Management Area. That's Clear Creek (right) running past outcroppings of serpentine which help to give this region its distinct texture.

Home to many endemic plants, it is also full of naturally occurring asbestos. It looks like a moonscape of barrens and scattered pines (below left), crisscrossed with rutted 4-wheel-drive roads and ORV tracks, and abundant warning signs about asbestos, rattlesnakes, and private property (below right). WARNING: Trespassers May be Shot. Like I said, an adventure.

I had persuaded Paul Johnson to take me there in search of the ever-elusive Lavender Dancer. Paul had discovered an isolated population here and at even more remote Laguna Creek [see the page on the Lavender Hill Man] in 2005, and more in remote western Fresno County in 2006. These discoveries expanded the known range of Lavender Dancer northward substantially. It was over an hour on the dirt roads but, once the Mighty San Benito was reached, within five minutes Paul had found the elusive Lavender Dancer itself (below).

I know that you think one walks right up and shoots photos of the Lavender Dancer.

This is not the way it is at all. First, they are extremely small and skittish, and seem never to stay at the same spot for very long. When you do find one on a decent perch with decent sunlight, you then have to lie down in the mud to get a decent angle (see Paul Johnson, right).

Sometimes the results, though, are worth it. Paul found a tandem of Lavender Dancers. It was a very new couple. It was probably their first time. She didn't seem to understand how it worked, and she left him hanging out there. Out on the proverbial limb, if you will, but with the limb cut off. If you have an ounce of anthropomorphism in you, his expression (below) says it all.

Beyond the Lavender Dancers (perhaps 8 in all) there were other interesting creatures in the Mighty San Benito. The place was (literally) hopping with Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs (left). This threatened species is seriously in decline in California, and it is great to visit a locale where they are still common.

The common lizard at this elevation is Sagebrush Lizard (above left). And there were some other odes about, include Arroyo Bluet (male; above right). Others present were Vivid Dancer, Common Green Darner, Red Rock Skimmer, and both gliders. Perhaps the commonest ode was Sooty Dancer.

I thought that this female Sooty Dancer (below) was posed on a particularly lovely serpentine rock.

all photos © 2007 Don Roberson