A Perfect Day for Termite Flights, 12-05-19

Start Time: 8:00 am
Start Temperature: 49ºF
End Temperature: 61º F
Weather: Bright, sunny, clear
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4.5
Miles Walked: 3

I got up around 7:30 this morning, and after giving Esteban his breakfast and letting him outside for potty, I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  It was about 49º when I got there, and the skies were mostly sunny. We’re in between rainstorms, so I was hoping to be able to get some decent photos before the heavy rains came in tomorrow.

I stopped first at the first turnout after the main gate because I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting out in one of the trees there.  I got a few photos of him before he flew off and kept walking for a short distance to see if I could find any indications of beavers along the riverbank.  (The beavers come up to get to the cottonwood trees when the river swells.)  I didn’t see any beaver sign, but I dd get to see lots of spider webs decorated with clinging rain drops and a fat fawn sitting in the grass with his mom.  I also heard a Great Horned Owl but couldn’t catch sight of it.

Orb-weaver spider’s web

The Coyote Brush was in bloom (mostly the female plants), and I even found some wild grapes still hanging from the vines there. I stopped exploring, though, when I came across the tent of a homeless person. I didn’t want to intrude on “his” space, so I went back to the car and then drove further into the park. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As I was going along the main road (which wasn’t as full of puddles as I expected it to be considering all the rain we’ve had lately) I caught sight of some deer and a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. The rabbit took off before I could get photos of him, but the deer were somewhat obliging.  It was a small herd of mostly females, one or two fawns, a spike buck and the big 5-pointer buck I normally see over at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I hadn’t seen him at Effie Yeaw the last time I was there and wondered if he’d crossed the river to get into the River Bend Park, and apparently he had! I was glad to see him.  He’s such a handsome thing.  Later, I saw him and his harem a few more times as I was walking.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, 5-point buck

 I also caught sight of what looked like a big stand of Honey Fungus under one of the trees. I couldn’t park where I was on the road, so I continued up to the area where the restroom facility and camping area is, and then slowly made my way back on foot to where I’d seen the mushrooms. 

In several places steam was rising off the trunks of the trees as the morning sun hit them. It was like seeing the forest breathe. So neat.

Trees steaming in the morning sun.

Not a great many species of mushrooms are awake yet, but the mosses and lichen were all “fluffed out” from the rains and there was lots of crust fungi and Turkey Tail fungus out showing off.  I saw some great specimens of Black Jelly Roll fungus, Brown Jelly Fungus and Lace Lichen as well. And I also found some Barometer Earthstars.

When I got back to the Honey Fungus, I found large stands of them on both sides of the road, one species, Armillaria mellea, on one side of the road and another, Armarilla tabescens, on the other side of the road. I thought that was interesting.  [A. mellea has an annulus Armillaria mellea around the neck of the stipe (a felty ring around the stem), and A. tabescens doesn’t.]

The individual mushrooms themselves were large, 4- and 5-inches across the cap, and the groups covered 2 or 3 feet of ground, so they were impressive.  On one of the patches of the Armillaria mellea, I also saw tiny white larvae crawling around them, so I got out the macro attachment for my cellphone and took some close-up photos and video of them.  When I got home, I was able to identify them as the larvae of Flat-footed Flies, Melanderomyia sp. I don’t remember ever seeing those before, so I was excited to have gotten the images.

Across the road, some of the ringless Armarilla tabescens mushrooms had Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp., larvae on them – and that’s what I normally see infesting old mushrooms.  They’re easily differentiated from the all-white fly larvae by their shiny black heads.

I knew that today’s weather was perfect for termite migrations, so I kept an eye out for them, and was eventually rewarded by finding three separate colonies sending their winged agents off to form new colonies.  The winged termites aren’t very strong fliers, so it’s relatively easy to see them and to follow their flight paths back to the colonies. 

Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor

All of the colonies were emerging from the wooden fence posts along the road. Because they usually emerge en masse from their mounds and don’t fly very well, they’re easy pickings for the birds.  I saw one Oak Titmouse just sitting on top of one of the fence posts gobbling up the termites as they came up into the sunlight. The bird flew off when I approached, so the insects got a little bit of a reprieve from predation while I was there.  [[When I posted photos of the termites on my Facebook page, some of my fellow naturalists said they’d also spotted them today, so… it WAS a perfect day for termites, I guess.]]

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  8. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta [chrysalis]
  9. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  10. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Chinese Tallow tree, Triadica sebifera
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  15. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  16. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  17. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  18. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. [larvae]
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  21. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  22. Flat-footed Fly, Melanderomyia sp. [larvae]
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus [heard]
  25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  26. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  27. Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea
  28. Honey Fungus, Ringless Honey Fungus, Armarilla tabescens
  29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  32. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  33. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  34. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  36. Pipevine, California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  37. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  40. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum sp.
  41. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  42. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  43. Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor
  44. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis [webs]
  45. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  46. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  48. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  49. Yellow Curtain Crust Fungus, Stereum subtomentosum