A couple times a year I get to leave the sweet, dry, temperature-controlled confines of my office and head out into the field to help other biologists on monitoring projects. This past week I joined a crew of my fellow desk-jockeys to search for Horkelia clevelandii, the host plant for an endangered butterfly, the Laguna Mountain Skipper. When this project was described to me, I was told that it would be “really mellow, walking around in meadows looking for a little plant”. The name Laguna MOUNTAIN skipper should have tipped me off though – every day we drove up to the top of Palomar Mountain and searched for this small plant in yeah, a couple of meadows, but it seemed like also a lot of brambles and steep forested areas, and bouldered slopes. It was nice though – very pretty out there – aside from being all by myself in mountain lion territory (I carried a knife but I don’t know what good it would’ve done), having a member of our team lock the keys in the car at the end of the day with the clouds rolling in and the temperatures dropping, torrential rains and inpenatrable mist all day on Wednesday, and the pain, my god, the pain. But we had fun, too. We all had radios to keep in contact, and I gave myself the handle of “Dorkelia”. The mist and rain on Wednesday were unbelievably pretty, even if I did have about 20 pounds of equipment strapped to me, a clipboard in one hand, a GPS unit in the other, while trying to scale a 5.10 cliff face. I learned that given a radio, a GPS unit, and a sunny day a person (the same person who locked the keys in the car – who was NOT me) can get lost for two hours. Anyway, here are a few pictures of our adventures – enjoy!
I snapped this picture on the way up to the top of the mountain.
Here’s a nice patch of Horkelia that I found. Most of my sample plots did not have any, but the few patches that I did spot were really dense.
Here’s Kurt, trying to break into our vehicle with a wire hanger. We didn’t have cell phone coverage, but eventually walked to the observatory office and called AAA on my membership. We waited for the tow truck for two hours at the end of a very long, cold day!
Our last day of sampling was pretty easy – I had a couple of points inside of a horse pasture, and luckily none inside of this enclosure. We were warned that the ostrich would rip our guts out if we got too close – note the sign that says “DANGER – do not enter”.