Archive for the ‘Carpinteria Bluffs’ Category


Wednesday, March 24th, 2010


Back in January William and I took a walk at the Carpinteria bluffs, and saw that one of the big eucalyptus trees (Bluegum Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globolus) along the Artists’ Passage had blown down in the wind. It was the easternmost tree, right where the path from the Bailard Avenue parking reaches the trees. The fallen tree was still there when I visited the bluffs today, and it actually seems to be doing okay for now; it’s at a steep angle, but the root ball seems to be more or less intact. I’m not sure if the city plans to do anything about it; I’ll have to ask Matt Roberts about that the next time I see him.

Toward the other end of the Artists’ Passage I noticed these interesting patterns in a fallen limb that had lost its bark:



I posted my photos to, and Charley Eiseman (who else?) chimed in with some helpful pointers. The current consensus at Bugguide is that these galleries were made by the larvae of a species of cerambycid bark beetle, specifically, Phoracantha semipunctata, the Eucalyptus Longhorned Borer. That area in the upper picture where a bunch of small galleries diverge is where the beetle’s eggs were laid. As the larvae eat their way through the tree’s cambium layer they, and the galleries they make, grow larger, until you get the really wide galleries like the one in the lower photo. Eventually each larva eats a hole into the wood and pupates in it, before emerging as an adult beetle to repeat the cycle. I think that’s probably a pupation hole in the lower photo.

Like the trees they evolved to feed on, the Longhorned Borer is Australian. The Bluegum Eucalyptus trees were first brought to California from southern Queensland and Tasmania in the mid-1800s, and planted along the Southern Pacific Railroad lines as a source of lumber for railroad ties. According to Wikipedia, the railroad line that runs along the Artists’ Passage was completed in 1904, which I’m guessing is probably about the same time this row of trees was planted.

The beetles arrived in California in the 1980s, and have apparently become something of a pest. The galleries they leave behind are certainly interesting to look at, though.

Like the trees and the beetles, I’m not a native Carpinterian. I didn’t arrive here until 1995.


Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I was walking at the Carpinteria Bluffs with William the other day, and noticed this on a coyote brush:


I think it’s an old, dried-out bud gall from the same midge I mentioned previously, Rhopalomyia californica. I like that you can see what I assume are the holes made by the adult midges when they emerged from the gall. I’m curious what the adult insect looks like. I’ve tried googling for images of it, but so far I haven’t found any. At least I have an idea of how big they are: just big enough to squeeze out of those holes.

Here’s an image I did find: Blogger user Raphael posted it in an item about wetland restoration at Shoreline Park in Long Beach:


This gall, which is still on a living plant, shows the same emergence holes as my dried version. I wonder what it looks like when the midges emerge. Do they all come out at the same time?

I’d really like to see that some day.

Update: They do emerge together. Check out this amazing series of photos taken by Charles Baughman on March 28, 2010, of a bunch of adult Rhopalomyia californica emerging in Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County: Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge – Rhopalomyia californica.

Later update: I take back part of what I wrote above: I don’t think those photos by Charles Baughman show adult midges emerging. I think they show the spent exuviae left behind after the emergence. Still beautiful and amazing images, of a phenomenon I’d still love to see firsthand. As I write this, at the tail end of 2010, we’re coming up on R. californica emergence season. I’ll make a point of checking those galls over the next several months, and see what I can find.

Green Leaf Beetles

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Those beetle larvae I previously noticed all over the coyote brush at the marsh are now turning into adult beetles. Specifically, Trirhabda flavolimbata, a type of skeletonizing leaf beetle. Here’s a shot I got of one at the marsh last Saturday:


I’ve also seen them at the Carpinteria bluffs. (Thanks to William in both cases for pointing them out. Even though I was specifically looking for them, it took my perceptive 11-year-old to actually find them.)

The number of adult beetles on the coyote brush is still pretty small; I saw a few bushes that had 4 or 5 beetles climbing around in one area, but if the vast number of larvae I was seeing in the marsh a month or so ago is any indication, we’re due for a lot more beetles to appear in the weeks ahead.

Rain at the Bluffs

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

It rained a lot on Friday, and on Saturday morning, but by Saturday afternoon the sun was out, so I took a walk at the bluffs.

This tree, which is one of the eucalyptus trees that grow along the Artist’s Passage at the bluffs, always makes me think of the anthropomorphized trees that try to grab Snow White when she’s lost in the forest:


The management plan for the bluffs has some interesting elements. One of them is that the (non-native) eucalyptus trees along the Artist’s Passage won’t be removed. They can be replaced over time with native trees (presumably sycamores), but the intention is that there will always be a row of mature trees along that part of the bluffs.

Another interesting provision of the management plan concerns the open meadow areas. The city is required to preserve those meadows as part of preserving the visual character of the bluffs. But the city is specifically prohibited from using motorized equipment (like a tractor) to do so.

My understanding is that before the public acquisition of the bluffs those meadows were plowed every few years using a tractor; that’s what kept them meadows. Now that process has stopped. What does that mean? Will the meadows gradually be replaced by coastal sage scrub?

I’ve asked Andrea Adams-Morden about it, and she says nobody really knows. Most of the grasses in the meadows are non-native African species. In a contest between them and the native scrub, which will win? My guess is that eventually the scrub will win. That would seem to conflict with the “maintain the meadows” language in the management plan, but with the process of succession being so slow (at least by human standards), and with the more-obvious means of meadow maintenance (either plowing or fire) either explicitly prohibited or politically infeasible, I think the likeliest outcome is that the meadows will gradually turn into scrub.

Here’s a view from the Rhodes Fleming Coastal Trail, looking north toward the Bailard Avenue parking. There’s meadow, but there’s also a fair amount of coyote bush (which has been dispersing into the area via its wind-blown seeds). I wonder what this will look like in 10 or 20 years.


Down at the seal overlook, the seal watch volunteer that I chatted with was annoyed: a few minutes before my arrival a jogger passed by, jogging from right to left. You can see the jogger’s tracks near the bottom of the sandy area in the shot I took:


A baby harbor seal, born that morning, was among the seals that stampeded into the water when the jogger passed by. That’s really dangerous for the baby seals; they can be trampled, and in general, the more the seals are disturbed the greater the chances that the pups will become separated from their mothers. As I stood there talking with the volunteer, though, a young seal that she identified as the pup in question emerged from the water, so hopefully things worked out okay in this case.

On my way back I stopped by a spot on the north side of the Artist’s Passage, where someone has erected a teepee of sticks to mark where oil has been oozing from the ground. The management plan refers to this location specifically; it describes it as being either an abandoned well or a natural seep, and calls for the city to figure out which one it is and, if it’s an abandoned well, to cap it and clean it up.

I don’t know if the question has been definitively answered. I know Susan Allen is convinced it’s an abandoned well, and it does seem like an odd place for a natural seep. I’d like to investigate the issue more, maybe in the photo archives at the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History. I’d be really interested to know if there are any historical photos that show oil drilling there.

It’s a relatively minor issue, as such concerns go. But I think it has some relevance as Carpinterians think about Venoco’s latest action. Last week Venoco said it was withdrawing the Paredon proposal that has been working its way through the city’s planning process. Now the company is pushing for a direct ballot initiative to approve the project.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that in the future. For now, I think about this patch of oil at the bluffs, and what it symbolizes. Presumably someone dug a well there once. Maybe they made some money. Maybe they didn’t. Eventually, though, they moved on. When they did, they left behind a bit of a mess that Carpinterians are dealing with to this day.


One of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I noticed something a little odd about one of the harbor seals at the overlook last Sunday, but it wasn’t until I got home and took a closer look at the photos that I realized what I’d seen.

Check out this image:


Can you spot the harbor seal that isn’t actually a harbor seal? I think this might be a California sea lion. Here’s a close-up:


I scanned across that group with binoculars, looked right at that animal, noted that there was something different about it, but didn’t think anything more. I was looking for baby harbor seals, and it clearly wasn’t one of those, so I just kept going.

My brain cracks me up sometimes.