A Disappointing Day at Gray Lodge, 05-13-22

I got up at 5:30 this morning, fed the dogs, let them out for potty, then got myself and Esteban ready to go to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area with my friend Roxanne.

Overall, it was a kind of disappointing day. There was very little water on the ground so the amount of waterfowl we saw was next to nil. I was also hoping to see Great Horned Owls there because photos of them had been showing up a lot on the Friends of Gray Lodge group on Facebook. We saw one, but it was very far away and obscured by twigs and leaves.  The place was full of Red-Winged Blackbirds, though. They were all over the place.

We also saw quite a few Kingbirds, and got to see Bullock’s Orioles (a male and female pair; the female was carrying insects in her bill) and a Western Tanager.

One nice surprise was seeing a mama Hooded Merganser with her ducklings.

We did get to see some different pollinators in the wild multi-flora rose bushes along the walking trails including some different species of bee, Cabbage White and Sulphur butterflies, and a few Rose Weevils.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We found just a few galls including some bead galls and midrib galls on the sandbar willow trees. The fun find was a couple of large clusters of the Cottonwood Catkin galls. I’d seen them at a distance on trees at Gristmill, but had never been able to see them close up until today. The mites infest the catkins on the cottonwood trees, before they can produce “cotton” and seeds, and turns them into long panicles of rosette-looking clusters (similar to clusters of grapes).  They’re actually kind of pretty to look at when they’re this new and have a little bit of a rose tiny to parts of them. According to several sites, the damage is aesthetic, and doesn’t effect the overall health of the tree.

We were out from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM. It was a long day in the car for what we felt was a disappointing list of species for the day.

This was hike #27 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

As an aside, I’m up to 1,970 species on my iNaturalist account. You can see the list and all of my observations HERE.

Today’s Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Black Knot, Apiosporina morbosa [fungal growth]
  3. Black Mulberry, Morus nigra
  4. Blackberry Rust, Gymnoconia nitens
  5. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus 
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  9. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  11. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  12. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  13. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  14. Cottonwood Catkin Gall Mite, Eriophyes neoessigi
  15. Darkling Beetle, Coniontis tristis
  16. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [on telephone pole]
  17. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  18. Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli [speckled; flat galls all over the leaf surface]
  19. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  20. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Grass Sharpshooter, Draeculacephala minerva [like a leafhopper]
  23. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  24. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  27. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  28. Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus
  29. Parrot’s Feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum [water plant]
  30. Peacock, Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  31. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  32. Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
  33. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  34. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei [on eucalyptus]
  35. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  36. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  37. Rice, Annual Wild Rice, Zizania aquatica
  38. Rose Weevil, Western Rose Curculio, Merhynchites wickhami
  39. Rose, Dog Rose, Rosa canina [white]
  40. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  41. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  42. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  43. Tripartite Sweat Bee, Halictus tripartitus
  44. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  45. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  46. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  47. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
  48. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  49. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  50. Willow Midrib Gall Sawfly, Suborder: Symphyta, Unknown [Russo, page 219]
  51. Willow, Coyote Willow, Salix exigua
  52. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  53. ?? tiny scat, maybe vole

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks! You could also send me a Starbucks gift card if you’re so inclined.


The Garden Was Showing Off, 05-10-22

I got up around 6:30 AM with the dogs to very chilly temperatures (in the low 40’s) and some cloud cover. The weather was very weird throughout the day. There was a short period of rain in the late afternoon… and it snowed in Napa.

Around 7:30 AM, my dog Esteban and I went to the WPA Rock Garden and William Land Park for a walk. Esteban was a very good dog throughout, and didn’t pay the ducks or geese around the ponds any mind, even when they honked and hissed at him.

The WPA Rock Garden was showing off with spring blooms everywhere, and the Smoke Trees were rally “smoking”. The irises around the garden were pretty much spent for the season, but there were various colors of columbine all over the place: yellow, orange, purple and white. I think those are such interesting flowers. They look like alien rocket ships to me. I was also happy to see a lot of native Elegant Clarkia in bloom throughout the garden. That species is new there; I’d never seen it there before. I couldn’t find any milkweed, however, which was kind of disappointing.

There was fennel growing in several parts of the garden, some of the plants in bloom with flowerheads reaching up 10 or 15 feet over my head. But I didn’t see any Anis Swallowtail caterpillars on the plants.  In fact, I didn’t see many insects at all and I attributed that to the fact that it was chilly outside and they weren’t awake enough yet to be buzzing around.

In the park, I was hoping to see some warblers (before they migrate out of the area), but actually didn’t see many birds beyond the usual suspects.

I watched a male Mourning Dove collect twigs and bits of grass for a nest for his mate, and saw him carry them inside the convolutions of a huge cactus plant at the edge of the garden. I thought that was an ingenious place to settle on as a nesting spot. The nest is shielded by the large flat fronds of the cactus – and the cactus thorns.

I heard a Mockingbird in a tree making a one-note call and tried to see what that was about. I think it might have been a juvenile, based on its darker eye and lack of repertoire.

Cornell says: “…Eye color darkish [in juveniles]; iris of adults is brighter yellow… Males give a low amplitude, high-pitched nest relief call from a shrub or tree near the nest before flying to the nest site. This occurs during the first half of the nestling period when the female is likely to be brooding…” 

I couldn’t find anything specific to juveniles’ calls except that their song repertoire isn’t developed until they’re older. Some of the repertoire of all mockingbirds is learned from other mockingbirds rather than through hearing and mimicking the songs of other species – as well as car alarm sounds, the beeps of microwave ovens, and other human-made noises. 

Cornell says: “…Mockingbirds have extraordinarily diverse song repertoires consisting of acoustically distinct song types (= song patterns = syllable patterns). Temporal and frequency characteristics are summarized by Wildenthal. These songs are acquired through imitating the calls, songs, and parts of songs of other avian species, vocalizations of non-avian species, mechanical sounds, and sounds of other mockingbirds. The proportion of songs imitated is not known and would be extremely difficult to estimate because the entire auditory experience of an individual would need to be known to determine whether a vocalization was acquired through imitation. Geographic variation, although not studied, is likely, given that mockingbirds are relatively sedentary, acquire songs from neighbors, and imitate other species characteristic of the local avifauna…Seasonal singing behavior in males appears to be influenced by testosterone levels in the blood… During the breeding season, males typically begin to sing 0.5 to 1 hour before sunrise. Unmated males start earlier than mated males. Song is prevalent during the morning, with its incidence declining gradually until dusk. Cessation of evening song is associated with sunset (light intensity), not temperature. Throughout the day, unmated males sing more often than mated males… The vocal repertoires of individual males have been estimated to be as low as 45 and as high as 203 song types. Wildenthal reported a male in Kansas with an estimated 194 song types and one in Florida with 134… Mockingbird song has received much attention from a sexual selection perspective. While both intrasexual (i.e., male-male) and intersexual (male-female) functions have shaped mockingbird singing behavior, it appears that song serves mainly to attract and stimulate females…”

The middle pond was overrun with lotus again, leaving very little space for the geese and ducks to swim in.

I saw groups of goslings, but the parent birds, including a large Graylag Goose, were being very protective of them, herding them away from my camera, hissing at me, threatening to chase me.  I didn’t know if the Graylag Goose had goslings of her own in the creche, or if she had taken on the role of “helper” for the Canada Geese, but she was blatantly aggressive and didn’t want me anywhere near her charges. I don’t tangle with goose-mamas, they will kick your ass.

Among the geese, there was one who had the markings of a Canada Goose but also had an extra band of white around the base of its bill like the Swan Geese often have. Maybe it was a hybrid.

Hybrid between a Canada Goose and a Swan Goose, I think

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were more Indian Runner Ducks at the ponds than I’d seen before. I don’t know if more adults were brought in or if the existing ducks had babies last year.

In the water, I saw a group of three tiny ducklings. They were swimming around by themselves, crying loudly for a parent that wasn’t answering them. So sad. I don’t know if their mom was killed or had simply abandoned them, but none of the other ducks in the pond were paying any attention to them. The little ones can survive if they can find enough to eat – and can avoid predators – but I felt really bad for them and their  predicament. They were “dark” little things, so I thought maybe they were Wood Duck babies rather than Mallard.

There were a few Black Phoebes flying around the lotus plants in the lake, landing on the bent-over stems that poked out here and there. I saw two sitting next to one another, and one bird gave the other bird an insect to eat. I thought at first they might have been a mated pair, but then it occurred to me that it was probably a parent feeding one of its fledglings. That notion was supported by the fact that there were four or five phoebes flying around the same area. Kids were probably testing their wings, and parents were bribing them with treats to keep their wings moving.

I know where a phoebe’s nest in the park, so I went to look for it, and found a single fledgling sitting on top of it. When it saw me, it flew up onto a nearby ledge. So it was mobile. Maybe it thought if it stuck with the nest, its parents would come there to feed it.

I saw quite a few turtles along the edges of the ponds, and most of them were Red-Eared Sliders. I did see one or two Pacific Pond Turtles, though. They’re the natives; the Sliders are invasive.  I saw nine Sliders all basking in the same spot, big turtles and little ones.

As I was heading back to the car, I could see movement on the trunk of a tree across the street, so I aimed my camera at it. It was a female Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The dog and I ended up walking for about 3 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #26 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year. I’m halfway through and it’s only May. Right on track.

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Annual Honesty, Money Plant, Lunaria annua
  3. Argentine Pear, Iochroma austral [purple bell/horn shaped flowers]
  4. Artichoke Thistle, Cardoon, Cynara cardunculus
  5. Asphodel Plant, Asphodelus sp. [long heavy bracts of round seed pods]
  6. Basswood Tree, Tilia americana
  7. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  8. Beavertail Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  9. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  10. Bindweed, Ground Morning Glory, Convolvulus sabatius mauritanicus [purple-blue flowers]
  11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  12. Bloody Crane’s-Bill, Geranium sanguineum
  13. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
  14. Buckwheat, Sulfur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum
  15. Bunya-Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwillii [looks like Monkey-Puzzle]
  16. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  20. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  21. Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus major
  22. Catalpa, Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa
  23. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  24. Clockweed, Oenothera lindheimeri
  25. Columbine, Aquilegia sp.
  26. Common Daisy, Lawn Daisy, Bellis perennis
  27. Common Pill Woodlouse, Pillbug, Rolly-Poly, Armadillidium vulgare
  28. Coneflower, Topeka Purple Coneflower, Echinacea atrorubens
  29. Cranefly, Spotted Cranefly, Nephrotoma wulpiana
  30. Creeping Myoporum, Myoporum parvifolium [groundcover, small whiteflowers]
  31. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  32. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  34. Douglas’ Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii [small brown squirrel, white belly]
  35. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis [white belly]
  36. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  37. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  38. Fennel, Bronze Fennel, Florence Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
  39. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  40. Fleabane, Coulter’s Fleabane, Erigeron coulteri [pale purple petals, yellow center]
  41. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  42. Grasses, Family: Poaceae
  43. Grasses, Fountain Grass, Cenchrus setaceus
  44. Graylag Goose, Domestic Graylag Goose, Anser anser domesticus
  45. Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  46. Indian Runner Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Indian Runner
  47. Iris, Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima [bright orange seeds]
  48. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  49. Isis, Iris sp.
  50. Italian Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine, Pinus pinea [small cones, 2 per fascicle]
  51. Lavender, Common Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  52. Love-in-a-Mist. Nigella damascena
  53. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  55. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  56. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  57. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  58. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  59. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  60. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  61. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  62. Pine Tree, Pinus sp.
  63. Pineapple Guava, Feijoa, Feijoa sellowiana
  64. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosa
  65. Poppy, Coulter’s Matilija Poppy, Romneya coulteri
  66. Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria
  67. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  68. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  69. Rose, Dog-Rose, Rosa canina
  70. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [multiple white flowers]
  71. Rose, Rosa sp.
  72. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  73. Sage, Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis [purple and pale purple-pink]
  74. Sage, Meadow Sage, Salvia pratensis
  75. Sage, Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticosa
  76. Sawfly, Pristiphora sp.
  77. Scarlet Kammetjie, Freesia laxa [pink,6-petals,redblush on bottom 3]
  78. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  79. Scrambling Pohuehue, Muehlenbeckia complexa [sort of looks like a fern with round leaves]
  80. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
  81. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  82. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  83. Thrip, Subfamily: Thripinae
  84. Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  85. Tower-of-Jewels, Giant Viper’s-Bugloss, Echium pininana
  86. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica
  87. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  88. Western Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis
  89. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  90. Woolly Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantina
  91. Yellow Bird-of-Paradise Shrub, Erythrostemon gilliesii

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks! You could also send me a Starbucks gift card if you’re so inclined.


Nesting Birds at Mather, 05-07-22

Around 7:00 AM I headed over to Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk with my friend Roxanne. I was hoping to see some Mute Swan cygnets at the lake. We didn’t see those, but we did see the swans a lot of other stuff.  

It was one of those days when there were almost too many things to see at once. For example, we were taking photos of some Canada Goose goslings and in that same area there was a Great Egret.  Then a Great Blue Heron that we hadn’t seen flew out from the tules and a pair of Green Herons flew overhead “gronk-ing!” at each other. And at the same time we could see a Belted Kingfisher sitting on the high tension wire above the trail. So much to see!

Among the birds, the goslings seemed to dominate on the ground, There were small groups of little yellow ones, and larger groups of older ones. One creche had 16 goslings; another one had 30 goslings!

A creche of Canada Geese, Branta canadensis, including 31 goslings.

In the trees, there were wrens singing and Western Kingbirds arguing with and chasing one another. We also found the nesting cavities of Tree Swallows and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers.

The most fun bird find, though, was spotting some Barn Swallows flying around. We followed one with our eyes and realized that it gone into the alcove of a building.  We walked over to the building and peeked inside, and found that on the backside of one of the light fixtures there was a nest with (we think) five nearly fledged babies in it. Their parents flew back and forth bringing them food from the outside. They also scolded us for being in the building taking photos of their kids.

We noticed that there were other adult birds flitting around the area, and wondered if they were assisting feeding the chicks. According to Cornell: “…Nests often attract the attention of extra adults that associate with a pair for up to an entire breeding season; these extra birds are sometimes tolerated and occasionally lead to polygyny… Extra adults contribute relatively little to feeding young, but they are known to mob predators and assist in nest-building, incubation, and brooding young. Extra adults may be using nest attendance as a breeding strategy either to replace one pair member should something happen to it or to commit sexually selected infanticide, providing an opportunity for males to take over the breeding female. Nests that are attended by helpers often are ones occupied by older females, consistent with the interpretation that male attendants are trying to secure high-quality females as mates…”

Interesting! Old ladies rule!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.  

Weird insects were found on the oak trees, but we didn’t find any galls. Among the insects were a treehopper and a mirid bug with long, thick antennae. We also found quite a few different spiders.

There were bug galls on the Coyote Brush bushes, but no stem galls that we could see. And we were able to find lots of petiole galls just starting to appear on the leaves of the cottonwood trees. I’d never seen those galls that “young” before.

We were surprised to see a kind of woolly marbles plant on the ground along one of the trails. We usually see those in the damp vernal pool areas, but these plants were on a dry trail. We also found some Crimson Clover that we hadn’t seen there before.

On our way out, we passed by a young man with a largemouth bass in his hands. He had caught it all by himself and was taking it to show his grandfather who was sitting on a different part of the bank. Sweet.      

This was hike #25 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year. We were out for almost 5 hours

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Aphid Predator Mirid Bug, Heterotoma planicornis
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  6. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus 
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buffalo Treehopper, Tribe: Ceresini
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Clover, Crimson Clover, Trifolium incarnatum
  15. Common Hawkweed, Hieracium lachenalii
  16. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Damselfly, Black-Fronted Forktail, Ischnura denticollis
  19. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  20. Desert Broom Gallfly, Aciurina thoracica (small, decorated wings)
  21. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  22. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  23. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  24. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  25. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  26. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  27. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  28. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  29. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  30. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps [saw, heard coo-ing]
  31. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  32. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. Hyssop Loosestrife, Lythrum hyssopifolia [tiny pink flowers]
  35. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  36. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  37. Largemouth Bass, Micropterus salmoides
  38. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  39. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  40. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  41. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  42. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  43. Oak, Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  44. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  45. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  46. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus [flyover]
  47. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  48. Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  49. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  50. Redear Sunfish, Lepomis microlophus
  51. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  52. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  55. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [multiple white flowers]
  56. Slender Woolly-Marbles, Psilocarphus tenellus
  57. Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha extensa [pale tan abdomen]
  58. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  59. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  60. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  61. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  62. Turkey Tangle Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  63. Unidentified Spider, Order: Araneae [with egg sac]
  64. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  65. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  66. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  67. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  68. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  69. Wild Radish, Raphanus sativus
  70. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  71. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  72. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli [on the road]

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks! You could also send me a Starbucks gift card if you’re so inclined.


Rose Galls at Stone Lake, 05-05-22

I got up around 6:00 AM, got the dogs fed and pottied, and then headed over to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. This is a 18,000 acre site of protected land in the southern portion of the county near Elk Grove, one of the few urban refuges in the nation. Grasslands, vernal pools and diverse wildlife and plant life can be found here, but most of it can only be seen through guided tours that go past the paved Blue Heron loop trails.

Pond which is circled by the paved Blue Heron Loop trail

I seldom see any wildlife there to speak of when I’m there, and more recently I found the place to be a horrible mess: very neglected and unkempt. Today, I was happy to see that they cleaned the place up a lot since the last time I was out there. I went there because I knew they had a great collection of the native California Wild Rose plants there, and this is rose gall season. I saw two species: the galls of the Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita, and galls of the Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica. So cool!

The only birds I saw there were the usual suspects: a few Red-Winged Blackbirds, House Finches, some tree Swallows and Mourning Doves, and a Song Sparrow. I could hear Killdeer, but didn’t see them.

The only other creature I saw there was a very pregnant Western Fence Lizard. Her coloration was so bold and bright, you couldn’t miss her. I’ve never seen one colored like that.

I found a few different kinds of lichen on the wood and metal spurs of one of the bridges on the property, including one I’d never seen before.

I walked there for about 2 hours. This was hike #24 in my #52hikeChallenge for the year.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because it was so close, I drove over toward the Cosumnes River Preserve. I didn’t go into the preserve itself, but drove around Franklin, Desmond and Bruceville Roads to see if I came across anything interesting.

There were cattle in some of the ag fields. And across from them were quite a few Purple Salsify. Chicory, and Bristly Oxtongue plants. Along Franklin Road, across from the entrance to the preserve there was a row of fennel plants.

I always check out fennel plants when I find them during this time of the year because they are a host plant for the caterpillars of the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio zelicaon. They go through 5 instars (molts) changing in color and size as they mature. They start out looking like bird poop, and end up banded in glorious colors. I found specimens in the first, third, fourth and fifth instars. So cool.

A little bit further on the road was a pond filled with Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets. I assumed they were eating crayfish, which a common inhabitants of the pond.            

I was out for about 4 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio zelicaon
  2. Baccharis Stem Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia baccharis [creates twisting stems on coyote brush]
  3. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  8. Bristle Fly, Family: Tachinidae
  9. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  10. California Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  11. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  12. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]  
  14. Cattle, Black Angus, Bos Taurus var, Black Angus
  15. Cattle, Charolais Cattle, Bos taurus var. Charolais
  16. Cattle, Guernsey Cattle, Bos taurus var. Guernsey
  17. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  18. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Crustose Pin Lichen, Pseudothelomma occidentale [on fence post, looks like a nipple lichen]
  21. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
  22. Earwig, European Earwig, Forficula auricularia
  23. European Blowfly, Calliphora vicina
  24. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  25. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  26. Grasse, Lesser Canary Grass, Phalaris minor
  27. Grass Fly, Thaumatomyia sp. [small, yellow-orange]
  28. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  29. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  30. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  33. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  34. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  35. Leaf Curl Fungus, Taphrina sp. [on sycamore]
  36. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica [hard rosette gall on rose bush]
  37. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  38. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  39. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  40. Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius
  41. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  42. Rim Lichen, Lecanora sp. [on metal fence post]
  43. Rose Rust Fungus, Phragmidium tuberculatum
  44. Rose Stem Miner Moth, Marmara spp.
  45. Round Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [on valley oak]
  46. Sheetweb Spider, Microlinyphia mandibulata [tiny, black with white mottling on abdomen]
  47. Six-Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Araniella displicata [nest]
  48. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  49. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  50. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita [on rose leaves]
  51. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  52. Torrent Sedge, Carex nudata
  53. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  56. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  57. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks! You could also send me a Starbucks gift card if you’re so inclined.


Travels of a Certified California Naturalist