Flying Creature in Southern California

The following photos are not offered as direct evidence for a live pterosaur in Southern California, but as evidence that this investigation in Lakewood is serious, with continual surprises in the game-camera images. Some of the photos suggests the possibility that a ropen flies through this storm drain channel, at least on occasion a large creature is flying through it.


On June 19, 2012, an eyewitness saw, at close range and in clear daylight, in a residential neighborhood northeast of Long Beach, California, a “dragon-pterodactyl.” Details in the description of the flying creature make it highly unlikely to be anything other than a ropen:

  • No feathers
  • Tail at least four feet long, maybe five
  • Triangle at the end of the tail

The credibility of the eyewitness has been established, with increasing believability over several weeks. This sighting is extremely unlikely to be a hoax. The family has been very supportive in the investigation in their back yard, during the past few weeks. My long conversations with them have increased my conviction that they are being honest with me.

Game Camera

On July 23, I set up my game camera, with the help of the eyewitness’s husband. Some people call this automatic camera a “deer cam,” triggered by movement. This one records both night and day. As of early August 1, 2012, I have not yet seen anything, in the hundreds of photos, that appears to be a pterosaur, but not all images have been examined in detail, and this investigation may continue for many weeks, perhaps months.

This M-80XD “GameSpy” by Moultrie has a weakness in this kind of application. It’s made for hunters who need to photograph game like deer, animals that walk into an area in front of the game camera. But for catching images of fast-flying creatures, the triggering is much too slow, photographing the scene a second or two after the bird (or ropen) has flown through the area; nevertheless, in this backyard in Lakewood, there is a chance that the ropen may stop at a hole in the fence where we believe it sometimes enters and exits a neighboring property.

Critical to the investigation, photographs taken by this deer camera include the date and time of day or night when they were recorded.

I set it up to take four rapid photographs upon triggering.

Leaves That Move Without Wind

I still have many photos to examine in detail, but yesterday I have made an interesting discovery.

On July 30, at 8:51 pm, the game camera was triggered by something (unknown), resulting in four photos taken quickly, 0.2 seconds apart (pics 593-596). Close examination revealed that there was no wind at the time, for the leaves never moved, not even slightly.

About two minutes later, at 8:53 pm, the camera was again triggered by something unknown. Photograph 597 (the first of this set of four shots) revealed a strange object on the left. No other photo shows this object. (We’ll soon return to that.)

From 597 to 600, there is practically no wind, for out of hundreds of leaves on the vines hanging over the west wall of the channel, only about four of them move and that movement is almost imperceptible. There is, however, movement between 596 and 597, and it is distinct and deep, from vines far below the top of the wall to vines above the top of the wall.

In general, when there is no wind to move the leaves of a tree or bush or vine, those leaves stop moving, arriving at a state of equilibrium. Wind normally fluctuates in intensity and even sometimes fluctuates in direction. But a breeze does not usually last for only a second or two, with lack of any leaf movement, in any branch, before and afterwards.

From photos 593 to 596 I saw complete equilibrium; from photos 597 to 600 I saw equilibrium in almost all of the leaves. So there was no wind at 8:51 pm and no wind at 8:53 pm. Could there have been a slight breeze at 8:52 pm? It’s possible, if the breeze is very slight . . . but there’s a problem.

The movement between 596 and 597 involves all the vines and the movement is not slight, it’s more significant, like when there is a moderate breeze. But there was no normal breeze during those few minutes, so what happened?

I believe that something large flew through that part of the channel, something larger than a bat, and it left before the game camera took photo 597 (the camera is very slow in responding). I believe the vines swayed in response to that flying creature, but the vines came almost completely to rest by the time the strange object was photographed. That would explain what triggered the camera.

Strange Object in Photo 597

I calculated that this object probably has a width of between three and four inches. I see nothing like wings, although there is a very thin appendage sticking out to the right, close to horizontal in the photo frame. The object as a whole first struck me as looking like a fish. I soon thought it might be a branch that had fallen from a tree overhead, captured while it was falling into the channel; that would make the thin appendage a twig.

On discovering the strange movement of the vines on the other side of the channel, I considered the possibility that a large flying creature had dropped the object when it flew by. I now suspect it was startled by the flash from the infrared bulbs of the game camera, causing it to drop whatever that thing is.

I know that my dropping-stick hypothesis has flaws. Why did the object not fall all the way to the bottom of the channel by the time the first photograph was triggered? Why is there no sign of vertical blur, expected for a falling object and a relatively slow shutter on this camera? Why would a large bird or a ropen carry a small branch? I am open to suggestions: What is that object?

What Flying Creature?

A few days earlier, the eyewitness and her husband had seen, at night, something large fly over the channel, but the man thought he saw a feathered look. He did not think it was a ropen. The lady (eyewitness) did not suggest that the flying creature they had seen at night was the ropen that she had seen in daylight, and she did not object to her husband’s reference to the possibility of feathers. That alone strongly suggests this couple is not playing a hoax.

At first I thought they had seen a barn owl that night, but the man’s description of size (wingspan maybe as large as five feet) suggested it may have been a red tail hawk, for I have seen one in Lakewood. Regardless, the presence of a large bird does not distract from the lady’s daylight sighting of a ropen, for this backyard used to be infested with rats and possums: They could attract both a large bird and a ropen.

unknown object caught on game camera, near where a ropen had been observed

Unidentified object in photograph 597


Over storm channel where object was photographed at night

Daylight over the storm channel, showing where the unidentified object was in the night photograph (the object was not necessarily close to the wall)


infrared image in Southern California, late July, 2012, with strange object

Game camera photograph number 597

Ropen in Lakewood, California

She looked up to see a strange winged creature that immediately flew off, startled by the human who had suddenly come out from under the nearby gazebo.

Lakewood, California, has a Flying Predator

An apparent ropen was seen by a 38-year-old lady in her backyard, in Lakewood, California, on June 19, 2012, at about noon. She at first estimated the wingspan at about five to six feet, later revising her estimate to at least six feet. The tail was long, perhaps four feet long, and the end of the tail had a triangular appearance that caused the lady to think “dragon.”

4 Replies to “Flying Creature in Southern California”

  1. Just a thought, but had that been a stick falling, would it not have been on the ground the next day?

    1. I’ve looked into this photo more deeply, since writing this post. Thank you for your comment, Johnny.

      Yes, the stick should have been in the channel the next day (or two) after this photo was recorded of the strange long object. I searched but saw nothing like it, and there was very little water in the channel, as I recall. Enhancement in Photoshop reveals features strongly suggesting the object is a bat, with ears correlating perfectly.

      See this post on another blog:

      The problem with the bat interpretation is that the apparent body of the bat is too long. I hope that somebody with much more experience and skill than I have will someday explain this photo to me.

  2. Dear Jonathan,

    I believe the mystery night image is a moth. It is not as far as you indicated in this blog, but in the air between the camera and the location you indicated. Do a Google image search for “insect in night photo,” and “moth bug in game camera.” The image you captured is a “rod” for those UFO guy’s out there. It was thought these rods were another kind of creature unknown to science, and seeing how they flew, they were thought of as a type of UFO entity. We started seeing them in our own game camera images looking for pterosaurs years ago. We finally saw one that was moving slow enough to show it’s true moth shape. Since then we have found many other on the internet who have documented the same. It turns out that shutter speed in conjunction with the flashy speed during night photography can create this unusual effect: flying rod like creatures with spiraling veins. It was another phantom pterosaur to add to our list.

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