Flip Over a Rock Day: Life Above the Ground

Sep 12 2010 Published by under Biology & Environment

International Rock-Flipping Day, White OutToday is International Flip Over a Rock Day, so I decided it was a perfect opportunity to explore a  local flood basin.  It's presumably been left as open space to help protect the surrounding housing development from the occasional torrential rains that can hit the area in fall and early spring.

Here's what the area looks like:

satellite view

view from the ground

I went out about 1:30 PM, figuring that most critters would be hunkered down somewhere cool - like under a rock -  to escape the 90° heat. Since the area has plenty of snakes, scorpions, and poisonous spiders, I took due caution while flipping over the stones.

And what did I find? Unfortunately, no interesting critters under the rocks I overturned. Maybe I didn't pick large enough stones, or perhaps the local fauna has a better way of staying cool.  Since part of IRFD participation is sharing what we did find, here are a couple of photos (click to enlarge):

Under a shaded rock

The rock I flipped under the shade of a live oak appeared to have only compressed leaves underneath.

Under a rock in the sun

I flipped over a number of rocks sitting in the sun, and there was nothing visible underneath except soil and more rocks.  Here's another example:

Under another rock

There may have been something under the rocks more interesting than gravelly soil and the occasional plant detritus, but I couldn't spot it. I did put the rocks back in their original positions, just in case it was a hideaway.

But that doesn't mean I didn't see anything interesting on my little hike. There were lots of lizards darting from the shade of one shrub to another, a squirrel that apparently had made a home in one of the trees, bees gathering pollen, and a number of other buggy creatures.  There were holes in the ground which likely provide cool homes for some kind of critter - likely snakes. And of course there were lots of plants - trees and shrubs and cacti.

A few more photos:

Century Plant

Century Plant,  likely either Agave parrryi or Agave americana

California Sycamore

California sycamore is Platanus racemosa

Bee on a "Desert Tea"

What I've identified as "desert tea" is likely Ephedra californica (California ephedra) or Ephedra aspera. Note that the North American varieties of Ephedra lack the ephedrine alkaloids that make the "Old World" species so drugalicious.


The "cholla" cactus is likely Cylindropuntia californica (snake cholla). More photos at CalPhotos.

Live Oak

"California live oak" or "Coast live oak" is Quercus agrifolia

So while I didn't find anything interesting under the rocks, I did get to take a closer look at what's living in my neighborhood.  It was well worth it.

I've tried to properly identify the plants, but they are mostly educated guesses.  Corrections are welcome.

(Thanks to Greg Laden for pointing out Flip Over a Rock Day)

Images: All photos by me ©2010.

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