• |
  • July 1, 2020

Tiny Castle Crags harebell flowers growing in rock crevices.

Campanula shetleri – Castle Crags harebell
Submitted by Steve Matson

This California endemic was found by Steve Matson in Siskiyou County. Campanula shetleri was originally listed in 1974 and was considered to occur in small numbers or in restricted populations. It is currently ranked as 1B.3 (rare or endangered in California and everywhere else, but not very endangered in California) in the California Rare Plant Ranking system. It is found in rock crevices in Lower montane coniferous forests within the Klamath Ranges. It blooms from June through September bringing some color into the late summer. The flower can range in color from a pale blue to completely white, with the one pictured here falling on the blue end of the scale. Thank you, Steve, for sharing this amazing find, and everything you do to protect our California rare plants!

Yosemite toad resting in a grassy meadow.

Anaxyrus canorus – Yosemite toad
Submitted by Noah Morales

Noah came upon a large group of Yosemite toads and was able to catch this one relaxing in a grassy area near Sardine Meadow in Mono county. Yosemite toads are one of four true toad species the CNDDB tracks. They are endemic to California and reside in high elevations throughout the Sierra Nevada in forest borders and moist mountain meadows. The Yosemite toad takes on the classic toad appearance with its stocky body and warty skin. They are slow moving with motions limited to crawls and short hops. Because of this less than ideal movement efficiency, Yosemite toads secrete poison from their parotoid glands and warts to defend themselves! These toads have faced many factors contributing to their decline such as habitat degradation, invasive fishes, drought, and disease. Studies show Yosemite toads are no longer present in about half of their native range and populations are declining. In 2016, the USFWS designated almost 1.8 million acres of protected critical habitat for the Yosemite toad and other high elevation amphibians in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Currently, the CNDDB has 223 mapped occurrences for Yosemite toad spanning through the Sierra Nevada. A big thank you to Noah for snapping a photo of this tiny, but mighty species!

Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

  • |
  • June 19, 2020

Bald eagle flying over the water with a fish in its talons.

June 20 marks the day in American history when the bald eagle was designated as the nation’s symbol. In 1782, the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was selected as the country’s emblem because of its regal appearance and vigor.

The bald eagle has link opens in new windowpersisted through many hardships, much like the United States. The success of the bald eagle’s recovery is one of the most famous cases of conservation management. In 1940, the bald eagle was granted federal protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. For several decades later, it would be protected under more federal acts bringing its importance to the forefront of natural resource preservation. DDT, a synthetic pesticide known to thin eggshells and in turn kill bird embryos, was banned from use in the United States. The following year, the Endangered Species Act was passed and included the bald eagle as an endangered species. Around this time, the bald eagle population in the lower 48 states consisted of a shockingly low 417 breeding pairs. From then to the turn of the century, recovery plans for the bald eagle were put into place. In 2007, only 13 years ago, the bald eagle was removed from the Threatened and Endangered Species List due to the increase and stability of populations. At the time of delisting, survey data showed that the population had grown significantly to 9,789 breeding pairs.

The success and persistence of the bald eagle’s recovery parallels closely to the trials and tribulations of the United States. Even though the fight is far from over, we can take a step back and appreciate the hope these birds symbolize. During these trying times, we can all be inspired by the strength, perseverance, and success of the bald eagle.

To celebrate American Eagle Day, take a moment to learn more about the bald eagle. Have you seen one of these majestic birds in public? If you have been fortunate enough, make sure to report your observation through the Online Field Survey Form!

A bald eagle perched on a tree branch low to the ground.

  • |
  • June 11, 2020

Map of PLSS sections with barred owl observations in the Sierra Nevadas.

Now available: the public Barred Owl Observations by PLSS Section (ds2873) data layer! It is available to view and to download in the BIOS Viewer.

This layer summarizes the information contained in the Barred Owl Observations Database and allows users to see PLSS sections containing barred owl detections as well as the first and last years owls were reported in those sections.

Due to the varied nature of barred owl surveys, detections, and reporting in the state, this dataset may not fully represent the historical and current distribution of barred owls in California.

For more information on barred owls in California, check out CDFW’s Barred Owl Threat web page.

  • |
  • June 8, 2020

Collage of invasive species in California. Top left: red-eared slider. Top right: iceplant. Bottom left: water hyacinth. Bottom right: bullfrog.

This week, June 6-14, marks CDFW’s 7th Annual California Invasive Species Action Week (CISAW). The Department’s Invasive Species Program dedicates its first full week of June each year to increasing public awareness of invasive species issues and promoting public participation in the fight against California's invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources.

Invasive species are a huge threat to native and rare plants and animals, so CNDDB staff would like to invite you to visit the CISAW web page to find out how you can participate. There are prize drawings, fun quizzes, and links to fascinating facts!

  • |
  • June 1, 2020

Two juvenile loggerhead shrikes perched on branches.

Lanius ludovicianus – loggerhead shrike

Submitted by Ross Wilming

These juvenile loggerheads were observed looking quite regal atop this bare tree branch in Contra Costa County near Doolan Canyon. Young loggerhead shrikes have more brown coloring than adults with more prominent brown on the chest. When these birds are fully mature, they will have developed a thick hooked bill as well as whiter coloring. The loggerhead shrike is a California Bird Species of Special Concern and is present mostly year-round here. Its range spans throughout most of California, excluding the Sierra Nevada and the northwest portion of the state. Even though population numbers are large for this species, they are still declining. Large clutch sizes as well as natural habitat preservation will hopefully allow this species to rebound in California. Loggerhead shrikes snack on insects and smaller vertebrates such as reptiles, rodents, and birds. Though small and cute, loggerhead shrikes have a nickname of "butcherbird" and impale their prey on sharp thorns or barbed wires. Currently, the database has 110 loggerhead shrike occurrences mapped throughout its California range. Many thanks to Ross for capturing such a great photo!

Closeup of the small white and pink flower clusters of the robust spineflower

Chorizanthe robusta var. robusta – robust spineflower

Submitted by Ryan Carle

This eye-catching California endemic was found by Ryan Carle in Santa Cruz County. Chorizanthe robusta var. robusta was originally listed in 1980 and was considered rare, but found in sufficient numbers and distributed widely. It is currently ranked as 1B.1 (rare or endangered in California and elsewhere; seriously endangered in California) in the California Rare Plant Ranking system. It is found in sandy or gravelly areas of maritime chaparral, openings of cismontane woodlands, coastal dunes, and coastal scrub. Chorizanthe robusta var. robusta ranges along the Central Coast into the San Francisco Bay Area. It blooms from April to September, perfect timing for those summer trips to the beach. Thank you, Ryan, for this great photo and all of the great work you do helping to conserve our rare plants!

Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

  • |
  • May 26, 2020

CNDDB recently caught up with Dr. Gage Dayton, UC Santa Cruz faculty and Administrative Director of the UCSC Natural Reserves. Dr. Dayton was a tremendous help when our staff updated CNDDB records for Santa Cruz kangaroo rat.

Could you describe your role at UCSC?
I oversee the link opens in new windowUCSC Natural Reserves. My role is to support education and research on our natural reserves. This includes teaching, supporting and conducting research and monitoring, and stewarding the reserves to ensure flora and fauna are protected on our reserves.

What brought you to pursue a career in field biology?
I was exposed to the natural world at a young age through camping and exploring outside. I developed a curiosity about lizards when I was 5 and haven't stopped being intrigued about the natural world since!

Is there a project or study you’ve been a part of that you’re particularly proud of?
That is a hard question. I am most proud about helping provide students with an opportunity to learn about Natural History and how to become a scientist and conservationist. This involves exposing people to nature and teaching them to be critical thinkers.

Do you use CNDDB, if so, how?
Yes, we add data to it and use it to better understand the distribution of rare species in our region.

Any advice for aspiring biologists?
Get out there and observe! The world is an incredible place and understanding and appreciating the natural history of organisms is the first step in asking relevant questions, becoming a conservation biologist, and developing studies that can help us better understand and protect our natural resources. Plus, it is fun! Try to get involved in internships, studies, etc. so that you can gain skills and, importantly, figure out what you are passionate about.

Do you have a favorite plant/animal/natural community you’ve worked with?
Frogs and toads, especially ones that live in drier habitats.

Why should we care about biogeographic data?
Biogeographic data, along with collections, provide a glance at current and historic distributions. This information is important for understanding where species currently exist, where they occurred historically, and where we might be able to reintroduce them in the future.

Many thanks to Dr. Dayton for the interview! We concur, “get out there and observe,” and submit your observations of rare species on our Online Field Survey Form!

Gage Dayton posing along the coast.

  • |
  • May 22, 2020

View of snowy mountain and alpine meadow near Carson Pass, California
Photo credit: Rachel Powell 

May 22nd is the link opens in new windowInternational Day for Biological Diversity, and the theme this year is “Our Solutions are in Nature.”

The California Floristic Province is one of link opens in new window36 biodiversity hotspots in the world, due to its unique climate and geologic history, high numbers of native and endemic species, and severe loss of natural vegetation. There are link opens in new windowover 5500 plant species native to California, and 40% of these are endemic—they are found nowhere else in the world. California is also home to almost 40 million people, and some of the most densely populated regions of the state are also centers of high biodiversity.

Biological diversity contributes to many important ecosystem services, such as pollination, water filtration, carbon sequestration, and recreation. Diverse ecosystems are also more resilient and will likely play important roles in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

Here at the California Natural Diversity Database, we strive to provide the best available data on rare and sensitive species in order to help preserve California’s rich biodiversity. To learn more about the California Biodiversity Initiative and other ways that the department is working to promote biodiversity, visit the CDFW Biodiversity web page.

  • |
  • May 15, 2020

California condor in flight. The California condor is a federally and state listed endangered species.

May 15th marks the 15th annual Endangered Species Day. Today is all about learning the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions that can be taken to help protect them. With nearly 300 federally listed endangered and threatened plants and animals in the state, California is a hot spot for rare species, second only to Hawaii in the number of federally listed species.

While many species still hover on the brink of extinction, it is important to celebrate the victories that have occurred, and that would not have been possible without the Endangered Species Act. Perhaps the most iconic endangered species in California is the California condor. In the late 1980s, fewer than 30 birds were left in the world and a captive breeding was implemented. Today there are over 450 condors thanks in large part to the research and resources that were devoted to helping this species recover once it was placed on the Endangered Species List. Keeping species from becoming extinct is what the Endangered Species List is all about. The California condor is just one example of what can be achieved once a species becomes classified as an endangered species. Endangered Species Day is a great way to acknowledge the successes in preventing extinctions that have occurred due to the Endangered Species Act and to remember that there are hundreds of species in California that need our help to survive.

For additional information on Endangered Species Day and actions you can take to help protect endangered and threatened species, please see the link opens in new windowEndangered Species Coalition website.

  • |
  • May 8, 2020

Sir David Attenborough sitting by the Great Barrier Reef, circa 2015
Sir David Attenborough sitting by the Great Barrier Reef. 
Courtesy of link opens in new windowDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade website
(link opens in new windowCC BY 3.0 AU) link opens in new windowvia Wikimedia Commons

94 years ago today, one of the most inspiring natural history figures was born. Sir David Attenborough was born in Middlesex, England on May 8th, 1926. During his childhood, he collected fossils and natural specimens that were admired by his young peers. The passion and curiosity David discovered for the natural world would propel an impressive and inspiring broadcasting career. After earning a degree in natural sciences from Clare College in Cambridge in 1945, David went on to serve in the Royal Navy where he was stationed in North Wales for two years. An extensive filmography and list of published books ranging from the early 1950s to 2019 has earned David many accolades, including 32 honorary degrees, the 2005 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, the 2015 Individual Peabody Award, and several Primetime Emmy awards. In addition to these, he has had over 20 plant and animal species names after him including Attenborough’s Pintail (Acisoma attenboroughi), alpine hawkweed (Hieracium attenboroughianum), and a species of echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi). He may be most known for his narration and presenting for 1979’s Life on Earth, Planet Earth, and The Blue Planet natural documentary series. David’s soothing voice has been capturing the curiosity of people around the world for decades and has given us an amazing look inside the natural world we would otherwise not know without him. These documentaries have inspired many of us to make a living of preserving these amazing species as well as the lands they call home. It is no wonder that Sir David Attenborough is known as a UK national treasure as well as a world treasure. So, Happy Birthday to this incredibly influential, respected, and endearing natural historian! We leave you inspired as Sir David often does with this powerful quote from the man himself, “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much life that makes life worth living.”

  • |
  • May 7, 2020

The quarterly update of the Barred Owl Observations Database is available in the BIOS Viewer for CNDDB subscribers. The barred owl database includes barred owl (Strix varia), Strix hybrid, and unknown Strix detections.

Many of the records represent incidental detections made during spotted owl surveys; therefore, this dataset may not accurately represent the current distribution of barred owls in California. Furthermore, this dataset is only available to CNDDB subscribers because it contains references to sensitive spotted owl locations. A public version will be available in the future.

For a copy of the geodatabase or for site-specific inquiries, contact the database manager at

Screenshot of BIOS mapping application displaying the barred owl dataset

CNDDB logo

Sign up to receive CNDDB News updates by email.