San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias
Agua Verde–Punta Mechudo Binational Expedition
Log

Binational Expedition to Agua Verde and Punta MechudoDAY FIFTEEN
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

San Evaristo, Baja California Sur (Map location 4)
Transmitted from camp by an Apple computer hooked to a Qualcomm/GlobalstarUSA satellite phone.

Home Sweet Home in San Evaristo

We’re settling into life here at San Evaristo. We’ve been here for three full days now and we’re getting to know the local floral and fauna better and better. Our camp cook, Carolina Espinoza, is also getting to know the ways of San Evaristo. Today, she traded some of our fresh produce for fresh halibut by motoring over to a shrimp boat harbored in the bay. Again, dinner was a delicious menu that everyone looks forward to after a hard days work. After dinner, we gathered to share our findings up until now and discuss the progress of each research team.

Team Herp Update
Team Herp is reassembling, after Dustin Wood (SDNHM Herpetology Collections Manager) and students from UABC returned home after the first phase of the expedition. In their absence, myself, Robert Hill, Tom Myers, and Milan Mitrovich are now actively surveying the herpetofauna. Compared to Los Dolores, there is less abundance, but this is possibly due to the drop in the temperature. There are numerous Red-spotted toadlets (Bufo punctatus) in the washes, indicating that they have taken advantage of the moisture brought on by the hurricanes from two months ago by switching into a reproductive mode. Robert Hill observed a third Striped Racer (Masticophis lateralis) on his hike to Ojo de Venado. The records of the Striped Racer from here and Los Dolores are significant distribution indicators and fill a sampling gap from La Paz to Arroyo Santa Domingo, located north of Ciudad Insurgentes. Also notable is that both Tom Myers and Milan Mitrovich each found the Baja California Rattlesnake (Crotalus enyo), a species that has yet to be sampled within the conservation corridor. Milan has also set up a series of drift-net fences with pit-fall and box traps in the arroyo south of San Evaristo and will be checking them daily. While lower temperatures could play a role in the lower number of species seen here, it could also be a factor of geographic location and available natural resources. A detailed study of distributional patterns will be conducted after we return to see if there is any significance in how the biodiversity is spread throughout the region.

Team Bird Update
Team Bird rolled into idyllic San Evaristo in our 12-passenger van with binoculars in hand and opened our mist-nets well before dawn on our first morning here. The early start paid off beyond our wildest hopes, as two Baja California Sur endemics, a Western Screech-Owl and an Elf Owl, flew into the nets. The latter species is poorly represented in museum collections, and this was the first Elf Owl that any of us had seen on the Baja California peninsula. We filled out our hard-working team with two talented students, Ian McGregor from the Universidad de Guadalajara and Edith Suazo from CICESE in Ensenada, and the four of us have been plying the arid washes south of town for three days now.

Other discoveries of special interest include Baja California endemic subspecies of the Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, and California Gnatcatcher. More surprising than the species we’ve found are the ones that seem to be missing from the San Evaristo area. The Pyrrhuloxia, California Towhee, Brewer’s Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow are typically "givens" in desert arroyos of Baja California Sur, but we have yet to encounter them here, and some other adaptable and widespread species are quite sparse. This could be viewed in a disappointing light, but we find it interesting to ponder the array of ecological factors that combine to limit the variety of species capable of thriving in this unique desert environment.

Yesterday Phil and Ian finished working at midnight only to be up again at five this morning. Thankfully, tonight is more sane, and we have high hopes for the nets we’ve set in a new arroyo near our previous two sites. We’re looking forward to making the most of our last full day of field work in this gorgeous setting!

Team Botany Update
Team Botany has collected approximately 200 different specimens during the expedition from various localities throughout the Agua Verde/Punta Mechudo Conservation corridor. To date, we have compiled a flora for this region that consists of more than 450 different vascular plant taxa, of which at least 35 percent are endemic to Baja California Sur, a relatively rich and unique region of the peninsula. In recent days, the hiking effort to different localities in the area has exceeded the collecting effort, but the documentation of various rare and little-known plants has still yielded important discoveries. The long and steep climb to the lake in Valle del Venado was very productive for botanical exploration. For example, new populations of Eucnide tenella, Euphorbia chersonesa, Chamaesyce trachysperma, Viguiera purissimae and Celosia floribunda have extended the known distributional ranges of these rather uncommon species to completely new areas of the peninsula.

Bradford Hollingsworth
Expedition Coordinator
and
Rob Hamilton from Team Bird
and
Jon Rebman from Team Botany
From San Evaristo base-camp at 11:45pm






DAY SIXTEEN
Thursday, November 20, 2003

San Evaristo, Baja California Sur (Map location 4)
Transmitted from camp by an Apple computer hooked to a Qualcomm/GlobalstarUSA satellite phone.

Cerro El Mechudo
Research team taking a break along Cerro Mechudo trail.
Research team taking a break along Cerro Mechudo trail.

The base of Cerro Mechudo
The base of Cerro Mechudo.

Self-portrait of Brad Hollingsworth in palm grove.
Self-portrait of Brad Hollingsworth in palm grove.

I’m sure you are wondering what happened to the updates! Last night was a busy night and the satellite modem was not allowing me to get a connection, so I was delayed in sending our reports. I tried again this morning, but again had difficulties getting a connection. Anyway, I’m hoping to get all caught up.

This morning a team of six researchers attempted to reach the cliffs of Cerro El Mechudo to explore the biodiversity of the base of the mountain. Myself, Dr. Mike White, Yocupitzia Ramírez Amezcua, Jan Emming, Robert Hill, Milan Mitrovich, and our guide Nicolas set out at 6:00am to climb to the base of the mountain. Unfortunately, the road conditions are so poor that we were unable to position ourselves anywhere near the mountain. After building a road up Arroyo Tinaja del Mechudo, we were able to approach the eastern face of the mountain. Nicolas led us on a four hour bush-whacking hike that put us at 2,000ft ledge where a large palm grove was growing. Team Botany was able to collected a number of the Cerro Mechudo endemics. The upper portions of the slopes were covered in plants, but few other observations were made.

Our last night at the San Evaristo base-camp was spent gathering our supplies together and thinking about how to fit it into the vehicles. In the morning we plan to break camp and be on the road by 10:00am.

Bradford Hollingsworth
Expedition Coordinator
From San Evaristo base-camp at 6:00am (21Nov03)

Day Fourteen photos by Wayne Spencer. Other photos by Bradford Hollingsworth

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