Saturday, May 11, 2013

(Cylindropuntia prolifera) San Diego's Coastal Cholla Colonies Still Thriving on some Wildlife Islands within the city

And so does all the wildlife who call the colonies home. This is a continuation of the day I spoke about where Native Chaparral plants were retaking their former home territory at the Vons Grocery Store commercial center near Jamacha Rd and Hwy 94 south of El Cajon in Rancho San Diego. Across the street is one of the largest Coast Cholla Colony islands I've seen with a developed Urban environment still untouched. 

Photo Credit: Mine!
Incredibly, the most predominant Chaparral scrub throughout this are was California Sage Brush (Artemisia californica) which I would have guessed to be 75 % of the main chaparral plant followed by California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). The California Sage Brush is the main reason you will generally find the endangered California Gnat Catcher. 

Photo Credit Mine!
Hiking/Walking through such areas is a tricky endeavor, especially when you are looking for fresh Cactus Wren Nests. You always have to have your nose to the ground as well as straight ahead. These areas are loaded with things that will stick you, stab you and bite you. For me it were all the 100s of Coastal Cholla joints which had fallen off the cactus plant's arms. This is the first major way I have ever seen them spread as opposed to seeds from the fruit. But still so Kool!!!

Photo Credit: Mine!
I'm always thinking in terms of taking many of my observations and making practical application into the landscape. One of the more interesting uses I have imagined for Coast Cholla aside from the usual Desert themes, is if someone has a large piece of land, they could utilize Coast Cholla as a formidable barrier security screen which would blend nicely into the landscape and put off any creeps who may have ideas of criminal activity. Seriously, take a long look at this. Is there a more intimidating obstacle to a criminal than a natural setting such as this ?

Photo Credit: Mine!

Of course Coastal Cholla is not the only Cacti out here in the back country. Prickly Pear Cactus is also present, though not as abundant as the Coast Cholla. I have often found nests in these plants as well. Okay, the next couple shots will be of the red flowering blooms which are still present and the greenish fruits (Apples or Tunas) for which I have never seen or heard of any animal, bird or human ever eating. Of course that doesn't mean they don't, but I've never even found wild evidence. Bet if I started a rumor that the taste and effects are like those of Peyote Buttons that might soon change. Let's see who bites!

I have to admit that getting close and taking these shots was a bit tricky, not only from above, but also watching for Cactus arm joints and fallen fruits all over the ground below. Plus it was also a lousy idea to be strolling around these areas in short pants. Because of this, Star Thistle was also an issue on my legs. I was smart this time out. Before hiking, I put on long pant Jeans. Star Thistle has butchered up my legs too many times before. Dried dead vegetative skeletons of the Mediterranean Mustard are bad enough.

photo: Mine
The next above photo shots are of bird nests, though I am not sure if the nests belong to Cactus Wrens. Mourning Doves will also build nests in Cactus. Most of what I found were older abandoned nests used last year or even prior to that. This is reminiscent of the Cactus Wren nests I've found on Rattlesnake Mountain between El Cajon and Santee in and around the Coastal Cholla Colony I established up there in 1980 after the last huge fire. At least it was a complete, but pleasant surprise two decades later when I came back from a visit to find them a permanent resident.

Photo Credits: Mine!
Getting back to things which are hidden and can surprise you while walking, these little young Cholla plants are everywhere, hence the need to be keenly aware of your surroundings and be watch.

Photo Credit: Mine!
Speaking of being watchful for things with sharp pointy thingys, you'll never know about what maybe lurking under cover of chaparral or cacti. 
Photo Credits: Mine!

These Black Harvester ants are also interesting and a necessary wild component to coastal chaparral Sage Scrub habitats. They are also another reason to be vigilant when out hiking. Stop in the wrong location next to their nest to observe some other kool eye catching object of your attention and they'll crawl up your pants leg and sting. Another fascinating thing about these ants that I have not really seen with the Red Harvester or any other ant is their bull dozing ability to cut pathways with their powerful jaws. Even if you stumble upon a trail like this that is not presently being used, you at least know they are nearby.
Photo Credit Mine!
And now finally perhaps many here know what this hole in the ground is. Here's a hint, it doesn't have it's door and it was probably abandoned by the former occupant. That's easy enough to deduct as they would have built another door. Well, even with the door, many will recognize a Trap Door Spider burrow. Man I've really been missing a lot. Again, when out and about in chaparral plant communities, there are multiple reasons to keep your eyes peeled.

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