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IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD (as we know it)
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine
        R.E.M. (1987)

The summer of our dragonflies is over. It started accidentally in June, and was nudged forward in our own area (Monterey County) on 1 July when Rita and I visited Hastings NHR to look at a roost of bats. There we learned, by happenstance, about Walt Koenig's research on Common Whitetail. He took us to see some our first Monterey County odes. We didn't undertake our first dedicated walk to look for odes until 7 July. We were then amazed to find 21 species on two visits to the Arroyo Seco Recreation area the two small lakes and along the river in late July and early August. From then on we were hooked.

On 14 October I visited the Arroyo Seco Recreation Area again. The day was bright and sunny but the air was crisp with autumn. The turning leaves were brilliant (right). The river still ran through the Arroyo Seco Gorge (below) but a walk along the river at mid-day yielded exactly zero dragonflies. It is the end of the world as we know it.

.
I then wandered over to the two small lakes. They still had plenty of water and loads of habitat. There were still Canyon Wrens calling from the granite walls above then, and Wrentits in the bushes. But odes? Very thin on the ground. My entire list for 14 Oct 2006:

Spotted Spreadwing 2 males
Common Green Darner 3
Blue-eyed Darner 3
 

The Spotted Spreadwing was a surprise. I had found a female here on 24 July, which at the time was thought to be a first county record. [We later learned that specimens had been taken at Hastings NHR in 1938 but lay unpublished until an August visit to the Oakland Museum.] Throughout Sep-Oct, I'd been searching high and low for California Spreadwing, without success. These two male Spotteds were my only spreadwings of the fall but they did permit better photos than previously obtained (i.e., below).
So its the end of dragonfly season. Actually, there are plenty of odes around they just happen to be eggs and larva living in streams, lakes, and riverine muck. We are limited in our interests to the adult phase only and those are now almost entirely gone.

But there will be a next spring, a next summer. And the world is full of natural curiosities. There are, of course, birds to be found and photographed. There are plenty of mammals that I've not yet encountered. Speaking of which, how about bats? It was a roost of bats that drew us to Hastings NHR on 1 July, after all, and accidentally started the summer of the dragonflies. Perhaps a search for bats would be a fitting close?

Paul Johnson, the naturalist at Pinnacles National Monument (aka the Lavender Hill Man), is the researcher who counts the maternal roost of Townsend's Big-eared Bats in the Pinnacles each year. Townsend's Big-eared Bat Corynorhinus townsendii  is on the Endangered Species list. It is a cave bat that is very sensitive to disturbance, and its known roosts in the Monument are gated and closed to the public. But Paul had told me that occasionally a lone male would roost in a public accessible cave in the fall, before the first big rains of winter. So late in the day on 14 October, I decided to give it a try. The west side of the Pinnacles is spectacular in fall just the beauty of the spot is worth the visit (below).

The ranger who took my fee told me it was a 2.5 mile loop trail to Balconies Cave. Flashlights are required to go through this tunnel under a talus slide, but it is open to the public. Dozens wended their wave through the dark cave while I was there; hundreds visit each day. And yet I looked into a small side cave, easily viewable (with a light) from the main pathway, and there was my quarry!
It seemed almost inconceivable lucky, but I was looking at the rare and endangered Townsen's Big-eared Bat. He (this is presumably a lone male) was unconcerned with my presence after all, hundreds of folks are tramping through just yards away all day long nor did he flince during a couple of 'on-the-fly' snap photos. I certainly did not wish to disturb him, so limited my time severely. But what a cool experience!

This closes the journal for the year. It's the end of the world as we know it.

And I feel fine.
 


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PHOTOS: All photos are © 2006 Don Roberson; all rights reserved.

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Page created 20 Oct 2006