An Owl and Some Otters, 02-20-20

Up at about 5:30 this morning after a fairly good night’s sleep.  I was out the door by 6:30 am to head out to Lake Solano Park with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. Roxanne did all the driving for this trip (which she does a lot) and we stopped first at the Putah Creek Café for some breakfast.

When we were done with breakfast, we went on to Lake Solano Park, and before we even got to the gate we had a photo opportunity with a Great Blue Heron standing on the shore of the river. 

Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias

Once we got into the park and parked the car, our next sighting was of an otter swimming in the water (!). I had seen something moving under the surface and then the otter raised his head up to the surface to catch his breath.

We started walking along the campground side of the road and were happy to see that the Cliff Swallows are back now and building their mud nests under the bridge.

Mud nests created by Cliff Swallows, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

We were surprised to see so many California Blackberry vines growing along the river. Usually, we see nothing but the invasive Himalayan Blackberry everywhere, so, seeing the native plants is a big deal. 

There were lots of Pipevine plants coming up all over the place, along with Manroot Vines, Mugwort, Chickweed, mistletoe, and Poison Oak.  All the new leaves and growth were nice to see. 

Little California Buckeye trees were coming up, too, and we even found one that was still attached to its chestnut. In the lawns, we found some Giraffe’s Head Henbit, stork’s bill,  and the tiny blue flowers of Bird’s-eye Speedwell.  The Miner’s Lettuce was also starting to get its flowers on it.

There were a couple of Cottonwood trees near the bank that were scarred by beaver teeth. I looked around for scat, but couldn’t see any. Their dropping are like balls of sawdust. 

At one spot, Roxanne found a web by an orb-weaver spider but couldn’t get the threads in the web to show up enough for a photograph. I handed her my little spritz bottle so she could mist the web, and it became much more visible. (An “old naturalist trick”.)

Roxanne spritzes a spider’s web with mist to bring out the details.

We saw a lot of Great Blue Herons and Bufflehead ducks in the water, some American Wigeons, Pied-Billed Grebes, and Canada Geese.  We also found a hybrid that was part Canada Goose and part Greater White-Fronted Goose. 

As we were walking back toward the bridge again, I noticed a male Phainopepla in a tree, eating bits off the mistletoe plant in a tree.  The bird came out a bit and posed for photos before flying off again. They’re such cool-looking birds.

A male Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens

A little while later, when we were almost back to parking lot to put our jackets in it (because it was warming up so quickly outside), we stopped at a bench so I could rest a little bit.  I was just about to make a remark about the Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank when I saw a “black animal” on a green patch near the river.  At first, I thought it might be a cat, but then it “unwound” its body, and I realized it was another otter (!).  I was able to get video and photos of it as it worked its way down the bank, over some rocks and into the water.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

After we tossed our jackets in the car, I showed Roxanne how we could drive to the other end of the park where the “owl tree” is.  I was stunned to see heavy truck after heavy truck along that road.  They’re ripping up all of the dead oaks and walnut trees along there and mulching them.  I was worried that the road was going to be completely blocked, but were able to make it through to the parking lot closest to the tree. 

The little Western Screech Owl hadn’t been therefor months, so we weren’t sure if it would be there today.  We had to check, though, and were very happy to see him napping in his tree.  We were able to get quite a few photos of him. 

Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii

We then walked on down the bank to where we usually find the Giant Horsetail Ferns.  The new green non-reproductive parts of the ferns were just starting to come up, but we were able to find quite a few of the yellow spore-bearing parts of the plants – which to me are really more intriguing than the green parts.  The green parts do all the photosynthesis for the plant (which lives underground), while the yellow parts house the reproductive system. Sooooo interesting.

“Sexual” spore-producing part of the Giant Horsetail Fern, Equisetum telmateia

When we were heading back to the car again, I once again had to stop to rest, so Roxanne checked out the little fishing pond area. There wasn’t much water in it, so, I didn’t miss much, Roxanne said.

Heading back home, we stopped to get something cold to drink. We pulled our species lists together and got up to over 120 different species seen or heard today! It was such a fun and productive trip. All together, we were out for about 7½ hours.

Species List:

2019 Instructions for Form 8962

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii [large plantain with rounded leaves]
  5. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  6. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  7. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  8. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  9. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [signs only]
  10. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  11. Bird’s-eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
  12. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  13. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
  14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  15. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  16. Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus
  17. Boxelder Tree, Acer negundo
  18. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  19. Broadleaf Cattail, Typha latifolia
  20. Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola
  21. California Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  22. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  23. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  24. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  25. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  26. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  27. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  28. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  29. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  30. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  31. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  32. Capillary Thread-Moss, Rosulabryum capillare
  33. Cherry-Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  34. Chickweed, Stellaria media
  35. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinereal [light gray on rocks, with or without small black dots]
  36. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  37. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  38. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  39. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  40. Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  41. Common Groundsel , Senecio vulgaris
  42. Common Hedge Parsley, Torilis arvensis
  43. Common Orange Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  44. Common Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
  45. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  46. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [gray/dark grey on rocks with dark apothecia]
  47. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  48. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  49. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  50. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  51. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  52. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  53. Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  54. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  55. Frosted Rim Lichen, Lecanora caesiorrubella [light gray with light gray apothecia on wood]
  56. Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  57. Giant Horsetail Fern, Equisetum telmateia
  58. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  59. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  60. Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias
  61. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  62. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia capera
  63. Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca
  64. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  65. Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  66. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  67. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  68. Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  69. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  70. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  71. Ivy-leaved Speedwell, Veronica hederifolia [has tiny white flowers]
  72. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  73. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
  74. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp .
  75. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  76. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  77. Musky Stork’s Bill, Whitestem Filaree, Erodium moschatum
  78. Non-biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  79. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  80. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  81. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  82. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  83. Oak Leaf-Roller Moth, Archips semiferanus
  84. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  85. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  86. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  87. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
  88. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  89. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  90. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  91. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  92. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  93. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  94. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  95. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  96. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  97. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  98. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  99. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  
  100. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  101. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  102. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
  103. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  104. Stereum, Stereum sp.
  105. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  106. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  107. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  108. Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora
  109. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [dead]
  110. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  111. Tall Flatsedge,  Cyperus eragrostis
  112. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  113. Tule, Common Tule, California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus acutus
  114. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  115. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
  116. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  117. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  118. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  119. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  120. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  121. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis  [web]
  122. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  123. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  124. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  125. Yellow-legged Mud-dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium [nest]