Tejon RancH Conservancy eNews October 2017

On the Ranch

Just where did summer go? Did it pass with the sun behind the mountain or slowly slip away with cooling winds and gathering clouds? Either way, it’s fall. The colors we expect to see very soon begin to emerge throughout the west (check out this site for more info http://www.californiafallcolor.com/), usually moving from higher elevations in the eastern Sierra across the slopes of the west and finally to the coast. The colors at Tejon change quickly too.

Fall colors are always there, just masked by the chlorophyll green of the leaves during the growing season. In fall, just about now, these warmer yellow, red and brown colors are revealed, and reveled, on treks, hikes, and excursions across the country, and also here at Tejon. Speaking of color, have you ever seen a “Mohave green”, hopefully at a safe distance? Well, learn more about rattlers in this issue…and their prey, rabbits and hares, here on the Ranch. Perhaps the most colorful of all insects, dragonflies and damselflies are a good indicator species of the health of freshwater systems and are regularly seen here at Tejon. They also have the best eyesight in the animal world, seeing many more colors than we do, including ultraviolet, and with a 360 degree view.

We hope you enjoy this October issue, and the many colors of Tejon. Like the natural world, conservation is never black and white, and here at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, we are constantly coloring our picture of conservation on this 240,000 acre canvas of conserved land, with the tools, advice, helping hands, and dollars YOU provide to preserve this masterpiece of nature.

See you on the Ranch!

Bob Reid

President and CEO

NorPacs and Mohave Greens: Rattlers on Tejon

By Todd Battey

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake with narrower white bands near the rattle.Photo by Todd Battey.

By far the most common rattlesnake at Tejon Ranch is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake subspecies (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) of the Western Rattlesnake species. The Northern Mohave Rattlesnake subspecies of the Mohave (sometimes spelled “Mojave”) Rattlesnake species (Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus) is the other rattlesnake that inhabits the Ranch. The only location where it’s been photo-documented is in the Joshua tree woodland on the floor of the westernmost Antelope Valley below Gato Montes Canyon.

Mohave Green with broader white bands at the rattle. Photo by Todd Battey.

One of the nicknames of the Mohave Rattlesnake is the "Mohave Green" because in the Mojave Desert of California it often has a greenish cast. However, the green color is not diagnostic as many Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes also have a greenish coloration.

The spelling of the Mohave Rattlesnake is consistent with the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR), the leading organization responsible for deciding the spelling of the common names of herpetological species. The society has a useful website.

It went with the "h" spelling that is used in Arizona. It is more commonly spelled with a "j" in California. Thus, the desert in California is the Mojave Desert, but the rattler is the Mohave Rattlesnake.

How to tell a Northern Pacific (NorPac) from a Mohave Rattlesnake: NorPacs have wider dark terminal bands and narrower intervening light bands on the tail by the rattle, giving the tail a darker overall appearance. In contrast, Mohave Rattlesnakes have wider light bands. The other even more definitive way to distinguish them is to look closely at the scales on top of the head: Mohave Rattlesnakes have only a few large scales between the very large supraocular (eyelid) scales, while NorPacs have many tiny scales between the eyelids. You have to get a close look, so don’t try this on a live snake! This difference is best viewed in photos or on a dead snake. Photos and more details are provided in a 99-cent app, California Rattlesnakes, available for Apple and Android devices.

Go to the Google Play store for more information or to download the Android version.

Go to the iTunes Store for more information or to download the Apple version.

Todd Battey has been active in the North American Field Herping Association (NAFHA), which is a nonprofit volunteer organization. Its mission is dedicated to uniting amateur, private and professional herpetologists from Canada, the United State,s and Mexico, toward the common goal of better understanding, conserving, and managing native North American reptiles and amphibians. NAFHA was founded in 2006 by professional herpetologist Jeff Lemm of San Diego, California, with input from professional, private, and amateur herpetologists from all regions of North America. NAFHA is rapidly becoming a primary source of herpetological information and field assistance for researchers, conservationists, legislators, and wildlife management organizations working with North American herp species. More information on NAFHA is available at their website: http://nafha.org.


By Conservancy Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

The Conservancy has led several types of Ranch tours this summer, including hikes, cross-ranch safaris, and sunset tours. Our goal is to build capacity so we can offer something to the public on a monthly basis while maintaining an ongoing calendar of special activities for Conservancy Members. The response from members this summer has been great, with every advance-notice offering sold out within a matter of hours after posting. If you want a really great Tejon experience, please join as a Conservancy member for priority registration, and you’ll also be supporting conservation on Tejon Ranch.

In 2018, the goal for public access is at least one driving tour, one hike, and one educational event per month. Want to see more on the calendar? Birding events? Geology tours? Herps? Rare plants? Come volunteer with the Conservancy and we can train you in one of several capacities: docent, logistics/support, citizen science, or project/special event assistant. Do you have ideas for activities? Do you see a need somewhere out there? We have been hearing from members with suggestions—please keep them coming and feel free to help guide your idea into its own public or member event.

We have several activities planned for this autumn and winter, including fall color tours, a camp cooking workshop, a camera trap educational weekend, and of course hikes into the far reaches of the ranch—weather permitting.

Keep an eye on your inbox for member events and on our Facebook page for public activities later this year. Memberships start at $50 and provide you with an “early bird” registration for almost every public access offering. Join the Conservancy and get behind the gates, at the historic Tejon Ranch.

Joshua Tree Woodlands, photo by Chuck Noble

October Outreach

By Conservancy Stewardship Manager Laura Pavliscak

With an ambitious mission and a small staff, our Conservancy team maintains a busy schedule. Summer is no exception. Hot summer days often mean unfavorable conditions for public visits, so with long daylight hours, staff often work very early mornings and late evenings getting chores done on the Ranch and in the office.

Conservancy Administrative Coordinator Tim Bulone completing a CPR course.

With the first kiss of autumn, cooler temperatures and shorter days signal a transition from our insular checklist of chores into expanded outreach. A dramatic increase in public access on the Ranch accompanies these cooler temperatures (see Chris’ events story), as does professional outreach for our staff.

Conservancy Stewardship Manage Laura Pavliscak at the March for Science.

Fall is a busy time for attending and participating in conferences and workshops. In October alone, staff will be attending the Wildlife Society Conference in Albuquerque, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Conservation Symposium in Santa Barbara, and the California Invasive Plant Council Symposium in Palm Springs. Our very own Ben Teton, staff wildlife biologist, will be presenting his graduate work estimating feral pig populations on Tejon at the Wildlife Society Conference. Workshops in ArcGIS, webinars, certifications in California Naturalist and Wilderness First Aid, and participating in regional working groups are just a few additional examples of our continued staff development throughout the year.

Conservancy Biologist Ben Teton presents at the Wildlife Society Conference.

Expanding our knowledge base and staying informed about current research is an important way for us to design, implement, and interpret conservation work. From broadening our understanding of natural resources on Tejon and how they interact, to enhancing the biodiversity and ecological function of this varied landscape, to sharing the exceptional wealth of natural history stories with visitors, there is much work to do. Organizational support to continue in our professional development is an important tool in realizing these goals in a meaningful way. Next time we cross paths, ask us about what we’re learning!

Photo by Steve Justus

Leporids and Lepus

Text and Photos by Chris Gardner, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent

Both rabbits and hares inhabit portions of the Tejon Ranch. The desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii, also known as the Audubon’s cottontail, is a member of the family Leporidae The black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus, is not a rabbit, but a hare. Rabbits are altricial, i.e., their young are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial). Young hares are therefore able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth.

Desert cottontail

Desert cottontails give birth in burrows vacated by other mammals. They usually forage in the early mornings and early evenings. They are particularly associated with dry, near-desert grasslands and pinyon-juniper deserts. This cottontail mainly eats forbs (flowering herbs) and grass. It also feeds on leaves as well as the juicy parts of the prickly pear. Like most lagomorphs, it is coprophagic, re-ingesting and chewing its own feces to extract the nutrients as effectively as possible. Desert cottontails are preyed upon by everything from snakes to coyotes, to owls and golden eagles.

This hare inhabits deserts, scrublands and other open spaces. It is capable of reaching 40 miles an hour, and its powerful hind legs can propel it on leaps of more than 10 feet. It uses the leaps and zigzag running-style to evade its many predators.

Jackrabbits obtained their name from the early settlers of the Southwest who, noting the extraordinarily long ears, named it “jackass rabbit.” The writer Mark Twain brought this name to fame by using it in his book of western adventure, “Roughing It.” The name was later shortened to jackrabbit. The large ears, with their network of blood vessels, serve to radiate heat to the cooler air when the animal is resting in the shade.

Both rabbits and hares inhabit portions of the Tejon Ranch. The desert cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii, also known as the Audubon’s cottontail, is a member of the family Leporidae. The black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus, is not a rabbit, but a hare. Rabbits are altricial, i.e., their young are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial). Young hares are therefore able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth.


By Conservancy Public Access/Education Manager Chris Fabbro

Staff at the Conservancy have been working long hours to jump-start the long-awaited Conservancy campground not far from Canon del Gato Montes. The location is at about 4,000’ on the southern edge of the oak forest south of Blue Ridge.

Draft Concept Plan by Mia Lehrer and Associates for Pescado Camp.

This summer, youth from two conservation crews helped scout out a primitive camp, which we are calling Pescado Camp (you may also know it by its old reference, the “Gadd parcel,” named after a previous in-holder). Noted landscape architecture firm Mia Lehrer and Associates have completed very professional concept plans with, among other basics, a couple of dozen tent sites, a cooking/dining area, and an outdoor amphitheater. Pescado Camp will be instrumental in offering Conservancy guests, researchers, student groups and volunteers a home at night and a head start into their activities the following day, and a place to gather after a day on the Ranch to share stories, break bread and revel in the night sky.

Cover photo and this photo by Andrea Jones

The California Naturalist Series

By Paula Harvey, California Naturalist and Conservancy Docent, and Natalia Rangel, Conservancy Intern

Odonata – “The Toothed Ones”

Dragonflies and damselflies, of the order Odonata, are some of the most efficient predators in the insect world. In California, the estimated number of species of dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera) ranges from around 99 to 106 species. Many species are migratory.

Odonata can be classified as either perchers or fliers. If they rest horizontally, they’re perchers. Those that hang from a perch are fliers.

Odonates spend most of their lives in water as larvae. Depending on climate, they may live underwater from five months to seven years. They are ambush predators, preying on invertebrates, tadpoles and small fish. They will molt up to 17 times before reaching their final instar to emerge in their adult form.

Damselfly nymph (left) and Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

As adults, odonates don’t chase their prey, rather they determine where the prey is going to be and ambush it in midair. They grab their prey with their feet, and using their powerful jaws, pull off the prey’s wings to immobilize it, then consume it while flying.

Odonates have two sets of wings with powerful muscles. Each wing functions independently, allowing them to fly in all directions, including sideways and backward. They are capable of flying up to 30 miles per hour and can hover in one spot for over a minute. By adjusting both their speed and trajectory, they are able to catch 90 to 95 percent of their prey. By comparison, a shark is successful 50 percent of the time.

These insects have the best eyesight in the animal world. Humans have tri-chromatic vision. We can see colors as a combination of red, blue, and green because of three proteins, called “opsins.” Odonates have from 11 to 33 different visual opsins, allowing extreme color discrimination, including ultraviolet. Furthermore, their compound eyes have over 30,000 facets, each pointing in a slightly different direction. The eyes take up most of the head, allowing them to see incredible detail and giving them an almost 360-degree view.

Cardinal Meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum)

Mating is usually performed in flight. The male clasps the female at the back of the head. She curls her abdomen to pick up sperm from the base of the male’s abdomen. Most species remain together, in tandem, while the female lays her eggs, either on plants in the water, or by dropping them into the water.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerate)
Common Green Darners (Anax junius)
Common Green Darners (Anax junius)
Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile)

Odonata are large and easy to identify, and can help to indicate the health of a freshwater ecosystem. Drought, chemical pollution, siltation, fish stocking, livestock use and eutrophication-- a condition caused by runoff of fertilizers and other chemicals-- can have dramatic effects on Odonata populations. .

Over the summer, Conservancy intern Natalia Rangel of California State University, Bakersfield, identified some of Odonata species on the Ranch.

Male Variegated Meadowhawk, (Sympetrum corruptum)

These perchers can be found from ground level to treetops, but are also seen flying over open areas. They sometimes feed in swarms. Their flight consists of hovering with occasional sudden directional changes. Mating occurs while flying over open water, then the female taps her abdomen on the surface to lay her eggs.

Male Western Pondhawk (Erythemis collocate)

These dragonflies prefer to perch on the ground and on surface vegetation that borders water. Females oviposit (lay eggs) in flight by rapidly tapping the water with the tip of the abdomen a few times, then repeating at other spots in shallow water near shore, preferring mats of algae. The male guards her while she lays her eggs.

Male Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata)

These perchers make frequent but short flights to hunt and defend territory. Mating occurs briefly in flight (as few as 10 seconds), after which the females oviposit by using the tip of the abdomen to flip drops of water that carry her eggs near the water line. A female will do this throughout the day while a male briefly guards her.

Male Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea)

Primarily “perch-and-sally” feeders, roseate skimmers perch on exposed branches at the tops of bushes and trees. At ponds they perch on low branches, making brief patrols (thus, sallying forth), looking for females and aggressively defending their territory. Copulation is brief, 10 seconds, and in flight. The females then oviposit while hovering. They slap water mixed with eggs onto the shore while the male hovers nearby.

Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) - Male (left) and Female

They commonly perch on or near the ground and fly close to the ground, flying smoothly. Males and females look quite different. Males stay in open, sunny spots and defend their territories with an abdomen lifting display. Copulation is very brief, only about three seconds, after which the female immediately lays her eggs. She will flick water drops containing 25 to 50 eggs in each drop. She can lay up to 1,000 eggs.

Male Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerate)

These fliers patrol over breeding ponds with constant, swift, low flight. They defend a large territory of up to 100 feet. Tending to forage away from water, they can be found high in trees or perched on tall weeds in the open country. Highly migratory.

Male Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile)

Breeding males congregate over water and shoreline vegetation, and are extremely abundant. Copulation lasts about 20 minutes. Oviposition is in tandem. Females and immature males forage in fields, meadows and gardens, often far from water.

Male Desert Firetail (Telebasis salva) (left)

Tandem pairs gather in early afternoon and leave the water later in the day. They roost in woody vegetation and mate away from water, but oviposit in tandem in mats of algae and grasses.

If you’re interested in Odonata, an excellent site to visit is Tandem pairs gather in early afternoon and leave the water later in the day. They roost in woody vegetation and mate away from water, but oviposit in tandem in mats of algae and grasses.

If you’re interested in Odonata, an excellent site to visit is http://www.odonatacentral.org

coming up for members

Table setting from a special event in June.

Conservancy supporters – stay tuned for more information regarding an upcoming overnighting opportunity (dinner, camping, and breakfast) on Tejon Ranch, co-hosted by Tejon Ranch Conservancy and Dirty Gourmet. The number of participants will be limited – so act fast once details of the event are released in an upcoming email.

Wildlife Camera Trapping Workshop on Tejon Ranch

By Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Ben Teton

Over the past several years, motion-sensing camera traps have taken on a central role in our wildlife research and population monitoring efforts, and have emerged as one of our most effective methods of communicating the beauty and ecological value of Tejon to the public. In addition to their invaluable role as a survey tool, the ability to connect with our community through the images and videos recorded by these cameras has been a tremendous and welcome surprise, particularly for a small organization like the Tejon Ranch Conservancy that relies so heavily on public support.

The Tejon Ranch Conservancy currently manages one of the largest camera trap arrays in the state, with over 60 cameras currently operating across the Ranch. These cameras, combined with the experience gleaned from years of perfecting management and installation strategies, gives us a unique position to provide insight and instruction for those interested in camera trapping, for research, recreation, or the creative arts.

Up until now we have brought our cameras to you in the form of photo and video posts on our various social media platforms We now hope to take this engagement a step further by bringing you to the cameras, in the form on an overnight camera trapping workshop out on the Ranch. This will be a unique opportunity to learn all about the art and science of camera trapping while exploring the remote interior of Tejon Ranch. In addition to checking and installing a variety of camera models across the Ranch, I am thrilled to be hosting this event with renowned wildlife tracker Jim Lowery, who will be teaching sessions on reading and tracking wildlife sign, a key component to camera trap site selection.

Participants will have an opportunity to spend the night on the Ranch under the stars and we’ll provide dinner on Saturday night! This workshop is free to Conservancy members at the Supporting Member level ($250 and above) but space is extremely limited and on a first come, first served basis.

For more information about wildlife cameras or the workshop, contact Ben Teton at (805) 448-5170 or by email at bteton@tejonconservancy.org.

Below, a cougar caught by a wildlife camera on Tejon Ranch.

Click here to learn more.

Thank you!

Tejon Ranch Conservancy E-News is written and produced by Conservancy staff and volunteers with the help of co-editors Tim Bulone, Paula Harvey and Susan Chaney. If you'd like to contribute to E-News please let us know.

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