CNDDB News Blog

  • May 13, 2021

A blunt-nosed leopard lizard perched at the top of a small dirt mound

Gambelia sila – blunt-nosed leopard lizard
Submitted by Kai Medak

This lovely lizard was observed basking in the sun by Kai Medak in Kern County. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is a relatively large lizard that can be distinguished from other species by its truncated snout, narrow head, and differing color and scale patterns. Habitats with patchy shrubs or grasslands are ideal for these animals as they allow shade without providing too much cover that would reduce the lizard’s ability to detect predators. Burrows are also incredibly important in the lifecycle of this species as they are utilized for brumation, nesting, and shelter from predators and extreme temperature. Individuals have been known to create their own burrows, but the old burrows of small mammals are primarily used.

Blunt-nosed leopard lizards are endemic to California and can be found in the San Joaquin Valley as well as in the foothills of the Coast Range. Unfortunately, this species’ current range has been restricted to 15% of its historical range due to habitat fragmentation and urban development. The blunt-nosed leopard lizard is listed as Federally Endangered under the Endangered Species Act, State Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act, and Fully Protected under the Fish and Game Code. Thank you, Kai, for sharing such a great photo!

A healthy plant with dark green leaves and pink flowers on a desert dune

Penstemon albomarginatus – white-margined beardtongue
Submitted by Alice L. Miller

Alice L. Miller found this rare desert plant while doing surveys in San Bernardino County. Penstemon albomarginatus is a perennial herb that is often found in desert dunes and Mojavean desert scrub habitats where it blooms from March to May. When in bloom, this plant displays purple to pink tubular flowers that are surrounded at the base by pointed, white-edged sepals and attract several species of bees, butterflies, and beetles. P. albomarginatus is known to inhabit the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in eastern California, southern Nevada, and western Arizona, but it is very rare in California with a California Rare Plant Rank of 1B.1 (rare or endangered in California and elsewhere; seriously threatened in California). This species is primarily threatened by the development of solar energy farms on desert lands, as well as other urbanization projects. A huge thank you to Alice for submitting data on this rare 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!

Categories: Contributor Spotlight
  • April 19, 2021

A scrub jay and long eared owl face off on a tree

Asio otus – long-eared owl
Submitted by Zachary Cava

This amazing photo was taken by Zachary Cava when a long-eared owl was spotted being mobbed by several scrub jays in Butte County. This mobbing behavior often occurs when smaller birds try to protect themselves, their nests, or their territory from larger predatory birds. The targeted bird may sit and tolerate the attack for a little while, but if it continues on it will fly away from the area.

Long-eared owls have an extensive range across many states and are a Bird Species of Special Concern in California. They utilize densely wooded areas for nesting and roosting and are known to nest in the old nests of crows and hawks. Long-eared owls primarily hunt at night by flying low over fields, meadows, and other open areas. These animals have remarkable hearing due to their asymmetrical ear openings and large facial disks that help catch sound, making them extremely precise hunters even in pitch black. Due to its nocturnal nature and camouflaged coloration, this species is tough to find for many birders and researchers. With that being said, a huge thank you to Zachary for capturing such a beautiful picture of this interesting species interaction!

A closeup of the redwood lily which features six white petals with red freckled spotting

Lilium rubescens – redwood lily
Submitted by Miles Hartnett

This great find was photographed by Miles Hartnett in Mendocino County. The redwood lily is an uncommon species found in northwestern California and is currently a California Rare Plant Rank 4.2 species (plants of limited distribution; fairly threatened in California). Historically, this species was also known to be found in southern Oregon but has since been thought to be extirpated from that state. It is most threatened by development, logging, and competition from invasive species.

The redwood lily is a perennial that showcases six white to pale-purple petals with red freckled spotting. It originates from a bulb and has a waxy stem that can grow up to two meters in height with oval shaped leaves arranged in whorls. It generally grows in forest understories or chaparral habitats, making it both shade and low-water tolerant. This lily’s beautiful blooms can be found from April through August. Much thanks to Miles for sharing this photo of such a beautiful and rare 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!

Categories: Contributor Spotlight
  • February 16, 2021

Dr. Brent Helm is a wildlife biologist, botanist, and ecologist who specializes in wetland ecology.  He is a leading expert in the ecology of California’s seasonally inundated wetlands, with over 30 years of vernal pool research experience.

Brent’s professional career in biological consulting began straight out of university, conducting rare plant surveys for EIP Associates on the Lincoln-Highway 65 Bypass Project in the spring and summer of 1989. His journey progressed with ground-breaking vernal pool branchiopod research at Jones and Stokes Associates, completion of his master’s and doctorate degrees in ecology at UC Davis, growing a startup consulting firm (May & Associates, Inc.), and teaching at San Joaquin Delta College and Sacramento State University.

In 2001, Dr. Helm founded his own firm, Helm Biological Consulting (HBC). He started a second company, Wetland Development Team (WET), in 2009 to meet the growing need for wetland restoration, enhancement and construction work. He incorporated the two companies under the name link opens in new windowTansley Team, Inc. in honor of Sir Arthur George Tansley, an English botanist and pioneer in the science of ecology who introduced the concept of the ecosystem.

“Though the organisms may claim our prime interest, when we are trying to think fundamentally, we cannot separate them from their special environments, with which they form one physical system.”

­Arthur George Tansley (1871-1955)

Inspired by the legacy of Sir Tansley, Dr. Helm regards ecosystems as the basic units of nature in which communities of living organisms and the nonliving components of their environment interact as a system. His ecosystem-centered approach has produced many successful restoration projects. These include flagship vernal pool restoration projects on SMUD’s Rancho Seco property in Sacramento County, and Stillwater Plains in Shasta County.

CNDDB is grateful for the plethora of branchiopod data Dr. Helm has submitted over the years: over 600 reports and field survey forms! If you feel you’ve got some catching up to do, report your rare species detections on CNDDB’s website today!

An adult and a child walking across a wetland wearing boots and holding dipnets on their shoulders.

Categories: Contributor Spotlight