I have set up an account with Eventbrite through which I’ll post the upcoming events I’m going to and/or will be hosting. The majority of the events will be for adults only, focused on seniors, and free of charge.
Up at 6:00 am to get my dog Esteban fed and pottied and myself ready to go to Lake Solano Parkwith mt friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. It was clear and 36°F outside when Roxanne and I left the house around 7:00 am. Before going to the park, we stopped at the Putah Creek Caféin Winters for breakfast.
Start Time: 8:30 am Start Temperature: 40ºF End Temperature: 49º F Weather: Clear, sunny and cool with a slight breeze Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 6.5 hours Kilometers Walked: 3 Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 54
We got to Lake Solano Park around 8:30 am, and it was about 40°F when we arrived; clear, crisp and a little breezy. I was worried the gates wouldn’t be open yet. (They used to open them at 9:00. I always thought it was stupid to restrict access to the park at 9:00, because right across the street is a campground, and it was ridiculous, in my mind, to make the people who had paid for camping to wait until 9 o’clock to access the park.) But the gates were open when Roxanne and I got there, and the apparently new signage said they open at 8:00 am now.
I was hoping to see waterfowl and fungi at the park, and although we saw quite a few bird species, we didn’t see much in the way of fungi…or lichen for that matter. I’d never noticed before that the park was nearly devoid of lichen on the trees, but it was very obvious today, and I wondered about it. The park sits right alongside Putah Creek and includes a mix of oaks, pine trees, black walnut trees, alders, Box elders and sycamores. I’d supposed because of the variety of trees and the proximity to a water source, different kinds of lichen and fungi would be in abundance, but I was wrong. We saw very little lichen, and less than a handful of fungi… And most of what we did find was on fallen sticks and limbs on the ground.
I wonder what is inhibiting the lichen and fungal growth there. Is it TOO close to the water source? Is there contamination from the surrounding farms? Does the park rangers’ use of herbicides in the park kill the lichen and the mycelium?
We were also hoping to see the resident Screech Owl. Folks who had been to the park last week had posted photos of him, but he wasn’t visible today. Maybe he was down inside his tree; it WAS kind of cold out there in the early hours and there was that little breeze that made the air feel colder than it was.
We DID get to see a lot of Bufflehead ducks and Common Goldeneyes, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets and some Great Blue Herons, lots of funny Acorn Woodpeckers, and several pairs of Phainopeplas. That’s the only bird whose general call I can do fairly well (it’s one note), so I was able to call out some of the males and got a few good photos of them. They’re always fun to see; kind of “punk” looking. And we heard and saw some California Quail.
We also came across some of the resident peafowl. One young male, who hadn’t gotten his long trailing tail feathers in yet, was displaying in front of a female, oblivious to the fact that he had nuthin’ to show her. She was not impressed and just walked away. And the Acorn Woodpeckers were all over the park, moving acorns back and forth between their granary trees.
As far as the fungi went, we found some oyster mushrooms on a couple of trees, some of the everyday Mower’s Mushrooms, and some Black Jelly Roll fungus… Along with the Black Jelly Roll, we saw something that I think was another kind of slime mold, maybe Comatricha nigra. We found it on the end of a couple of different dead-fall branches, and on one of them it was adjacent to Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa.
There was also a tiny-tiny snail shell next to one outcropping that we could only see when I attached the macro lens to my cellphone. That attachment is a boon when I’m researching slime molds and other minutia in the field, but I’d really like to get a powerful microscope (with a camera attachment) to see more of the details on these teeny things.
Oh, and speaking of slime molds I found a good resource for ID-ing them at the Eumycetozoan Project database. Sometimes just being able to see photos of them in advance help me to more easily see them and identify them when I’m out in the field.
Roxanne and I walked for about 4½ hours and then headed back to Sacramento.
I got up at 7:00 this morning and after giving Esteban his breakfast, I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my regular volunteer trail walking gig. It was literally freezing outside, 32°F, when I got to the preserve, clear and crisp, with frost on the ground and a little bit of lingering fog in the shadier places. By the afternoon clouds rolled in; it’s suppose to rain tonight and into tomorrow.
Start Time: 7:30 am Start Temperature: 32º F End Temperature: 49º F Weather: Freezing, foggy,clear skies Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4.5 hours Kilometers Walked: 3 Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 36
The frost was the first thing I encountered when I got onto the trails. It was glistening from plants everywhere, and on the leaf litter on the ground. Although I was able to capture some of the hoariness of the frost with the camera, it just didn’t capture the glistening as I hoped it might. Still, I enjoyed being able to see it. It doesn’t get this cold that often around here, so I appreciate the “specialness” of very cold, frosty days.
Because of the cold, I wasn’t really expecting to see a lot while I was out and was content to just enjoy the crisp air and exercise, but there were actually LOTS of deer out today…and I find a new (to me) slime mold, so I was very pleased with that.
After “discovering” the frost, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting up in a tree over the trail. It was all hunkered in on itself trying to warm up as the sun inched up a little more every few minutes. Then I started seeing deer, after deer, after deer, including two of the big bucks and a couple of younger bucks among the does and yearling fawns. The big boys were sitting on the ground with their small harems of does around them.
One doe actually stepped out away from her fawn to come nearer the trail and check me out. I was in a heavy green jacket and had my scarf wrapped around my neck and face to keep out the cold, and I don’t think she could really tell WHAT I was. She walked up to within about 8 or 10 feet of me, sniffed at the air, stepped forward a little bit more, sniffed at the air from a different direction, and then, I presume, figured I wasn’t that interesting and walked away. Her fawn followed after her into the tall grass.
I came across several different species of mushrooms and some nice specimens of Black Jelly Roll fungus, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. I noticed at one point on the trail a Dad had left the trail itself and walked off into the brush to check something out while his wife and toddler stood nearby. I was just about to go over to them and ask them to get back onto the trail when the Dad came out from the brush smiling. “That’s a new Galerina for me. I think it might be Galerina marginata, but I’m not sure.” Hah! A fellow fungus hunter!
I also found an old owl pellet near the trail with some leg bones still intact in it, and also came across a field that was fill of frosty-dew-covered spiders’ webs. Got quite a few photos of those.
But the big find of the day for me was of the slime mold I had never seen before. I think it’s Spotted Trichia, Trichia botrytis. It was in its fruiting stage and looked like groupings of tiny deep red (almost black) globes on stalks. Some of the globes were darker than others, and some had matured and swollen enough so that the surface looked spotted (dark red with yellowish tan underneath).
The next step will be for the globes to go to spore. When they get to that stage, the surface dries out and peels back like petals of a flower to release the slime mold’s yellow spores. Coolness!
I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.
I got up around 7:00 am. I gave my dog Esteban his breakfast and then got us both ready to go out to Staten Island Road to see if we could find some Tundra Swans. It was 44° F, overcast and foggy. There was also a breeze that made the air feel a lot cooler than it was.
Start Time: 7:30 am Start Temperature: 44º F End Temperature: 49º F Weather: Overcast, foggy, slight wind Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4 hours Kilometers Walked: 0 (drove) Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 29
I took I-5 to the Cosumnes River Preserve, drove down Desmond Road and into the boardwalk parking lot. Esteban was with me, but he can’t get out of the car at the preserve, so whenever I got out to look around, he stayed inside where it was warm. Saw lots of cattle in their fields along with a variety of geese and ducks along the road, but just about nothing at the boardwalk area.
Then we got back onto I5 and headed to Staten Island Road. You take the Thornton Road exit and turn right onto Walnut Grove Road. Then you drive on to Staten Island, which is kind of easy to find because there’s a huge barn with silos near the turnoff. It’s a straight line down through a lot of agricultural fields; and eventually the paved road gives way to a wide dirt road.
I saw a handful of swans, but they were at a distance so I couldn’t get very good photos of them. I noticed, too, that there were quite a few Canvasback Ducks hanging out with the swans, but again, they were so far away I couldn’t get any good shots of them either. It was nice to see both species, though. I don’t get to see them very often.
The standout on the road were all the Sandhill Cranes. There were small flocks of them in several of the fields; some very close to the road. They were eating, dancing, flying and talking to one another in their gurgle-gravel voices.
I was able to get both photos and some video snippets of them, including one with bands on its legs. The right leg had a large red band on it with what looked like P33 printed on it, and three bands on the left leg: white, red and yellow. When I got home, I posted my sighting with the International Crane Foundation (ICF) at THIS SITEalong with some photos. I’m not sure, but I think this one might have come from Southcentral Ontario. I’m hoping that ICF will let me know for sure where it was originally banded.
I also saw flocks of House Finches, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds eating alongside the road.
Esteban and I were out in the field for about 3 hours and then headed back home.
iNaturalist did up graphs of my observations for this year: 715 observations, 248 species. That’s pretty good, but I can do better. CLICK HERE to seethe stats.
As Wikipedia describes it: iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. iNaturalist may be accessed via its website or from its mobile applications.
A citizen scientist is an individual who voluntarily contributes his or her time, effort, and resources toward scientific research in collaboration with professional scientists or alone. You don’t need any special expertise or degrees to participate, and iNaturalist is free! JOIN TODAY.
Around 8:00 am I headed over to the American River Bend Parkfor a fungus walk. It was overcast and foggy when I got there, but the clouds broke up a bit by the late afternoon. It was 47° when I got to the park, and around 53° when I left.
Start Time: 8:30 am Start Temperature: 47º F End Temperature: 53º F Weather: Overcast, light fog, no rain Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4 hours Kilometers Walked: 3 Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 40
Some of the spots that had been my go-to places for fungi at the park went through forest fires this year, so they aren’t producing a lot this year. But I was still able to find some fungi throughout the park (even though it’s also still relatively “early” in the season) including two kinds of jelly fungus, several different species of mushrooms, some polypores and bracket fungus, puff balls, and several species of crust fungus. As before, there were also huge stands of Honey Fungus all over the place. I also came across what I think was a kind of slime mold, but I haven’t identified it fully yet. I think it’s Physarum leucopus,the Many-Headed Slime Mold, also called White-Gray Button, but I’m not certain. It was tinier than other specimens of the mold I’ve seen before.
I was hoping to find some coral fungus and maybe a specimen of cauliflower fungus, but no such luck. I’ll keep looking though.
Many of the mushrooms had visible hyphae at the end of the stipe (or attachment to the substrate.) “…Hypha, each of the branching filaments that make up the mycelium of a fungus. Mycelia are simply collections of hyphae that are abundant enough to form a visible mass. Fungi can appear to be marvelously complex things, producing mushrooms, intricate coral-like structures and large brackets on trees. However, all of these manifestations are formed of the same basic fungal unit, the hypha (plural: hyphae). Hyphae are long tubular structures resembling garden hoses. They have rigid cell walls that may be reinforced by perforated cross-walls called septa (singular: septum). Hyphae perform a variety of functions in fungi. They contain the cytoplasm or cell sap, including the nuclei containing genetic material. Hyphae absorb nutrients from the environment and transport them to other parts of the thallus (fungus body). Finally, they may become bound together or modified to form more complex structures. The vast majority of fungi produce hyphae and only a much smaller number, the yeasts live without…”
When I’m looking for fungi, I’m looking “down” for tiny thingies most of the time, so I often miss the big stuff going on around me like a large five-point buck who stepped out from behind a fallen tree into view, and a mama deer with her floofy-looking fawn (all of his fur had been licked-up by his mom, so he was extra fuzzy all over). Glad I looked UP between mushrooms. Hah!
I also came across one spot where there were about 15 Turkey Vultures flying overhead. I don’t know if they were zeroing in on something dead, or if they were just “kettling” on the updraft there.
I walked for three hours and then headed back home.
Speaking of fungi, my fungi article was featured in the latest edition of “The Acorn”, the quarterly magazine published by the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.You can see it here.