A few years ago I took a trip with a friend of mine to an area I only knew as Goat Mountain Rd. It was a very insect rich area with a high diversity of plant species. The road is unpaved and is a bit on the rough side, but the area itself is very enjoyable to drive through. This past year (2018) I returned to the area and was surprised to see not much had changed. I was excited to see and photograph anything I had or had not previously seen in this area.
Up the Road We Go
After getting onto Goat Mountain Rd, my friend Alex and I found ourselves in an area full of manzanitas, ceanothus, and wildflowers. Among these wildflowers were asters, lots and lots of asters. On occasion we would run into some Penstemon and Heracleum, both of which insects visiting their flowers. The Heracleum had more activity on it but the small breeze blowing through made it hard to get decent photos of the insects among the flowers. As we continued up the road we found more small patches of wildflowers but not as much insect activity as we were expecting.
As we continued up the road we began to notice some scattered patches of blooming mules ear (Wyethia sp.). We attempted to stop at as many of these little patches as we could to see what kinds of insects were around. From past experiences, these flowers tended to yield some great results as far as numbers of insect species goes. Unfortunately, it may have been a bit too early in the season still since we didn’t find much. I managed to find
a stink bug (Pentatomidae), some small bees, and few spiders. The stink bug managed to stay still for me but the bees and spiders were too skittish and I couldn’t keep them in frame long enough to focus for a good quality photo. Eventually we decided to keep moving up the road to see if we could encounter any more surprises.
A Change of Pace
Once we drove up the road a ways, we noticed the vegetation began to change and the temperature became a bit cooler. What we didn’t realize was that we had climbed a fair amount in elevation, which explained the changes in the surrounding environment. There were now ferns, black oaks and pines, and a mix of many different flowering plants. I found another flower which I believe is another Calochortus species, but I am still unsure on the identification. I flipped a few small logs and found some surprises, such as a small centipede, a Pacific tree frog, and some darkling beetles. After puttering around in this new habitat we decided to keep going up the road and see where this eventually led to.
The road continued to climb until it eventually reached a plateau. From here we decided it was finally time to head back down and find our way back to where we started. On our way back however, we took a different road and were excited to find a number of blooming ceanothus bushes. One in particular had an incredible number of insect species buzzing around it. The purple flowers had many species of bees, flies, and even true bugs all over them. I managed to take photos of some of these unique insects, including a dermestid beetle I had never seen before. Cerembycids, Halictids, and Bombyliids were some of the more prevalent insect families on these colorful flowers. Once Alex and I had gathered our fill of insect photos, we followed the road all the way back to the main highway and headed back home.
This trip was a major success fro both of us and we were so glad to have gone into this area to explore. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to return to this area for quite some time. This whole area where we had explored was burned by the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in CA history. In time this area will return to what it once was, but for now all we can do is reflect upon what it was and what it will hopefully be like again in the future. I hope to eventually return to this area and give an update once it all returns to normal. Until then I will explore other locations within the Mendocino NF area.