Wildflowers on Highways 16 and 20, 03-30-20

I got up around 7:00 am to get myself ready to head out with my friend Roxanne in search of wildflowers.  It was mostly cloudy today and cool, but we didn’t get any rain.

Around 8:00 am Roxanne and I went out toward Woodland to catch Highway 16 and take that to Highway 20, looking for wildflowers.  With the weird weather, we didn’t know if we’d see anything, but we were pleasantly surprised. 

Here’s the route for this self-guided auto tour

On the way, we saw a lot of birds including thirteen hawks (most of them Red-Tails), crows, Red-Wing and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Turkey Vultures (including two on the top of a power pole and one in field sitting next to a carcass of something), wild turkeys, Mourning Doves and several flocks of chickens and roosters.  When we stopped to get photos of the flowers, however, we barely heard or saw any birds at all which we thought was kind of odd. As we were heading home, though, near the end of the trip, we did get to see our “spirit bird”, a Black Phoebe.

We took Highway 16 up into the foothills and stopped along the way at various turnouts, wherever we saw something that caught our eye… blue and yellow lupine, red and orange Indian Paintbrush, clematis vines that climbed up and over large trees in a cascade of white flowers…  I was so happy to see the flower out and showing off that I actually laughed and squealed along the way.  It takes so little to make me happy sometimes. Hah!


It was also nice to see water flowing at a healthy pace in Cache Creek and Bear Creek.  After so many years of drought, seeing the water made me very hopeful.

At each turn out, we’d stop the car and walk along the edges of the road to see what else might be hiding in the grasses and around the boulders. We found several different kinds of insects including Checkerspot caterpillars and a large yellow Crab Spider.  There were also lots of little moths that looked like bird poop on the leaves of Sticky Monkeyflower plants.  The turned out to be Mountain-Mahogany Moths; very cool.  That was a first for me.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We tend to dilly-dally a bit when we’re out exploring, taking photos of everything from flowers to insects to lichen… and we lose track of time.  When we were walking along the river side at Cache Creek, I suddenly felt very hungry and couldn’t understand why.  Then I realized it was already after 12:30 pm.  We’d been driving and walking for over four hours already! I could hardly believe it. So, we stopped and had a little lunch while we went through our photos and tried to identify things.

We still wanted to go up Bear Valley Road, but there wasn’t really time. That full trip alone would take another 4 hours or more.  We did drive up to the corral at the entrance to the road, and found there weren’t many flowers there (or in the big field across the freeway) that usually indicate what the flowering will be like along Bear Valley Road. So, we decided to do that next week, figuring it will be gorgeous out there by then.

We took Highway 20 back to Interstate 5 and went home from there. 

I got back to the house after 3:30 pm, so that was long day in the field, but we saw so many pretty things that I felt energized as well as tired;  y’know that kind of happy exhaustion? It was a great day.

Species List:

  1. ?? Northern Variable Dart Moth, Xestia badicollis [green with white stripes] NOT SURE OF THIS ID
  2. Alder-leaved Mountain-Mahogany, Cercocarpus montanus
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  11. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  12. Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum [yellow, kind of looks like fennel blossoms]
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  16. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  17. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  18. California Pore Lichen, Pertusaria californica [white/pale gray nubbly surface]
  19. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  20. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  21. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray to light gray/white on rocks with  or without small black dots]
  22. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  23. Cocklebur, Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  24. Coffee Fern, Pellaea andromedifolia
  25. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata [yellow, dandelion-like flower]
  26. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  27. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  28. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  29. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  30. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  31. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  32. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  33. Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata
  34. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  35. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  36. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  37. Coyote, Canis latrans
  38. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [gray/dark grey on rocks with dark apothecia]
  39. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  40. Cutworms and Dart Moths, Subfamily: Noctuinae
  41. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  42. Dimpled Camouflage Lichen, Montanelia tominii [ink black on wood]
  43. Domesticated Chicken, Gallus domesticus
  44. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  45. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  46. False Blister Beetle, Oedemera podagrariae [brown and tan, kind of looks like a Soldier Beetle]
  47. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  48. Foothill Deervetch, Acmispon brachycarpus [small yellow “lotus”]
  49. Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica
  50. Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii
  51. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  52. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  53. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  54. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  55. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  56. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  57. Hawksbeard, Smooth Hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris
  58. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  59. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  60. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  61. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  62. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  63. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  64. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus [dark purple-blue]
  65. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  66. Lupine, Large-Leaved Lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus
  67. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  68. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius [spit]
  69. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  70. Mountain-mahogany Moth, Ethmia discostrigella [looks like bird poop]
  71. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  72. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
  73. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  74. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  75. Pacific Pea Lathyrus vestitus
  76. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  77. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  78. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  79. Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
  80. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  81. Pyralid and Crambid Snout Moths, Superfamily: Pyraloidea
  82. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  83. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  84. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  85. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
  86. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  87. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  88. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  89. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  90. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  91. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  92. Slender Cottonweed, Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  93. Small-Flowered Blue-Eyed Mary, Collinsia parviflora [tiny, pale purple and white]
  94. Smooth Shadow Lichen, Phaeophyscia ciliate [hoary gray with brown apothecia on trees]
  95. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  96. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  97. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  98. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  99. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  100. Sweet Clover, Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus [small, yellow]
  101. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  102. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
  103. Tile Lichen, Lecidea sp.
  104. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  105. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor
  106. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  107. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  108. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  109. Variable Checkerspot, Euphydryas chalcedona caterpillar [black, spiky with orange spots]
  110. Virgin’s Bower, Old Men’s Beards, Pipestem Clematis, Clematis lasiantha
  111. Wavyleaf Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja martini var. martini [red-orange]
  112. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  113. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  114. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  115. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  116. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  117. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa [red]
  118. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  119. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Two Mathers in One Day, 03-26-20

I got up around 7:00 am and got the dog fed and pottied before heading out to the Mather Field Vernal Pools with my friend Roxanne.  We’d heard that the wildflowers are starting to show themselves out there, so we had to check it out. 

When we were near the vernal pool area, I spotted a very large and healthy-looking coyote walking between a couple of fields, so Roxanne pulled the car over so I could get some photos and video of it.  Such a handsome animal.  It stretched, yawned and laid down in the grass, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Coyote in the field

The field across the road from the pools was filled with bright yellow Frying Pan poppies.  They weren’t open yet (because it was still kind of cloudy and chilly outside), but there were so many of them that they still made quite a statement. So, we went into that field first.  There was a scattering of things in bloom, but I think it will take another two weeks for their fields to really start showing off.  Along with Miniature Lupine, we found some Blue Dicks, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Pineappleweed, Little Rattlesnake Grass, and Jointed Charlock (wild radish).  Roxanne also found one Red Maids plant.

We then walked over into the vernal pool area.  There’s no water in the pools but there were flowers growing up out and around where the pools would have been.  We found several different kinds of Popcorn Flowers and Goldfields (some of the most difficult flowers to ID correctly because there are so many variations), a couple of different kinds of Stork’s Bill, Shining Pepperweed and some really beautiful Fringepod. 

Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes

In one corner there were some Tidy Tips flowers just starting to emerge and open up. There were also some things we’d seen for the first time, so we weren’t really sure what they were.  Research time!

Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I enjoyed seeing all the stuff, but to get close-up photos of the flowers, I was constantly having to bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again… After about an hour, the vertigo was kicking in enough that I was feeling nauseous. Roxanne is so great, though, that she was willing to cut her own outing short to accommodate me.

As we were heading back to the car, a police officer drove by and asked, “Are you ladies okay?”  We told him yes, and thank you, and remarked that we thought it was nice of him to check on us in this Time of Plague, considering how many other things the police have to deal with, and understanding that while they’re out there encountering so many people they’re putting themselves as risk.

When we got back into the car, I told Roxanne I had to sit still for a little while to let my “inner gyroscope” balance itself out again.  So, we went through the photos we’d taken thus far and started putting together our species list.  I also had to stop at one point and vomit outside the car door. *Sigh*  Again, Roxanne was great about it and just let me take my time.

Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida

As we were heading away from the vernal pools area, I spotted some Purple Sanicle plants on the side of the road.  It was a plant we didn’t expect to see in an area like that, so we pulled over to get some photos. The flowers kind of look like Corona Virus cells, round with spikey things all around the surface.  For some reason, I don’t know why, my brain associates with them voodoo. Weird.  I needed my cane to get up and down the embankment, so Roxanne helped me with that.

Then, back in the car again, we passed the golf course and park off of Douglas, Mather Regional Park, and decided to go in there to walk for a bit more… and I’m glad we did. We saw quite a bit without my having to move too quickly or bend over a lot for photos. So, no more bad vertigo.

I didn’t know the park was over there, but it’s one I’ll definitely add to my go-to list.  It’s 1600 acres and brags a large pond (which they refer to as a “lake”).  According to the park’s website, “Mather Lake is stocked with bass or trout, depending on the time of year.”  There were a handful of people out there fishing, but I don’t know if anyone caught anything.

The “lake” in the park

Roxanne and I did our social distancing thing while we were there, but she’s more gregarious than I am, so when a mom with her two kids came by, she stopped to talk with them – while I moved away to the other side of a large coyote bush.  In my mind, kids are vectors for Every Disease Known to Man and I have enough to deal with right now with my cancer and vertigo.  I also felt it was very careless of the mom to let her kids gets in such close contact with someone they didn’t know (in this Time of Plague).  On the good side: the kids were VERY well-behaved and respectful of the space. Their mom said they’d been quietly fishing for two hours and didn’t complain when they didn’t catch anything. 

My Mom and I used to do the same thing; stay out for hours fishing, not caring if we got a fish…

When Roxanne and I first got into the park we were immediately met by ducks and a few geese looking for handouts. I had an old bag of peanuts in my bag, so I let them have those.  Some blackbirds also go into the mix and ran off with whatever peanuts they could grab from under the ducks. There were also Mute Swans on the water, which I didn’t particularly like to see.  They’re considered an invasive species in California and no one is supposed to have them without a permit.  I’m guessing they were part of the park when it was part of the Air Force Base there before permitting was required.  They’re super-aggressive birds that tear up their habitat; not good.  I saw one driving two Canada Geese from their resting spot.

Mute Swans, Cygnus olor,are beautiful, but they’re also considered an invasive species in California

In the water, we got to see a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes do a little of their courtship “mirroring” dance.  I got a super-short video snippet of the end of it. One Grebe called out to second one hidden in the tules, then the first one dove under the water. A few seconds later, both Grebes popped to the surface and started the “mirroring” ritual before the first one swam away again. I guess he wasn’t that into her. Hah!

A tiny pat of the Grebes’ courting ritual

There were a couple of Gallinules in the water, too.  They kind of look like Coots but are more streamlines and have a red shield on the front of their face.  These were the first ones Roxanne had ever seen, so that was a nice treat for her.

There were a lot of songbirds around, mostly sparrows, and we saw several Robins searching for breakfast in the grass.  Roxanne noted that they each seemed to cock their head to one side of the other as they hunted, and she wondered if they could hear the worms they were searching for.  She was right: “…The bird has very sharp eyesight and hearing; the familiar back and forth cocking of its head as the bird hops along the ground is the Robin’s effort to see and hear the movement of worms or beetles beneath the ground…” Cool!

American Robin, Turdus migratorius

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels around, too, some of them chasing and rolling over one another. We noticed that they seem to have “redder” coats than the ones along the American River.  I wonder if it has something to do with the type of soil they live in… As we were leaving, we stopped at a picnic table to rest for a minute, and one of the Ground Squirrels came up from its burrow, climbed up onto a tree stump across the walkway from us, and stretched itself out to warm its belly on the wood of the stump.  Then it scooted down over the edge of the stump just far enough to reach some grass so it could chew on it.  Hah!  So funny to watch.

We also found a California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica.  “Firefly” isn’t really an appropriate name for it because it doesn’t actually “fire” in beetle form. According to resources, “…[It’s] a modest sized beetle with two red marks on its pronatum (the shield shaped structure covering the thorax behind the head and in front of the wings). Although it cannot glow, it is believed that the larva, like those of Pterotus, can…”  Still, it was cool find.

California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica

Not too many galls out get, but we did see some old Oak Apple Galls and some Willow Pinecone Galls, and some new bug and stem galls on the Coyote Brush bushes.  The bug galls are made by midges, and the stem galls are made by moths.

We walked around the park for several hours and got back to the house around 12:30 pm, so that was a 4½ hour excursion for the day.  As we headed back home, we looked at the big clouds in the sky and tried to name them… That cloud looks like Godzilla… That cloud looks like an elephant… That one looks like a snail with barnacles on its shell… That one looks like a seahorse…  Simple pleasures.

Even with the vomiting, it was a fun day. When I got back into the house, I crashed for the rest of the afternoon… and Esteban sat on top of me so I couldn’t go anywhere else today. Hah!

Me and my dog Esteban.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  10. California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  13. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  14. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Cattle, Bos Taurus [heard]
  17. Cherry-Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  18. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  19. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Common Field Daisy, Common Daisy, Bellis perennis
  21. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  22. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  23. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  24. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  25. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  26. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  27. Coyote, Canis latrans
  28. Del Norte Willow, Salix delnortensis [red on catkins]
  29. Dwarf Checkermallow, Sidalcea malviflora
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Field Mustard, Brassica rapaCoyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  32. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  33. Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii
  34. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  35. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  36. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  37. Goldfields, Alkali Goldfields, Lasthenia platycarpha  [6-8 petals, “daffodil” center]
  38. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica [6-8 petals, rounded mound-like center]
  39. Goldfields, Vernal Pool Goldfields, Lasthenia fremontii [8 petals, circle-in-circle center]
  40. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  41. Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus
  42. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  43. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  44. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  45. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  46. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  47. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  48. Jacaranda, Blue Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia
  49. Johnnytuck, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
  50. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  52. Little Rattlesnake Grass, Briza minor
  53. Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  54. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  55. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  56. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  57. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  58. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  59. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  60. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard several]
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercusc
  62. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [nest]
  63. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  64. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  65. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  66. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  67. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus
  68. Purple Milk-Vetch, Astragalus danicus  [based on leaves]
  69. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  70. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  71. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  72. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  73. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus [heard]
  74. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  75. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  76. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae [web]
  77. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  78. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  79. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  80. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  81. Stork’s Bill, Musky Stork’s Bill, Whitestem Filaree, Erodium moschatum
  82. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  83. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  84. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
  85. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s tidytips, Layia fremontii
  86. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  87. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  88. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  89. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  90. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  91. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  92. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  93. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  94. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  95. Whitehead Navarretia, Navarretia leucocephala
  96. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

A Butterfly on the Lens, 03-24-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning, and have no vertigo today.  I wish I knew what triggers the flares ups… I headed over to the American River Bend Park again to check in on the owls and get some exercise in before the forecast rains come in.

It was kind of chilly when I got there, about 39°F, but it warmed up relatively quickly as the sun got up further in the sky.  Clouds were coming in, but were mostly pretty “sofa clouds” until they started to get coordinated in the late afternoon for a little rain.

Clouds over the “lawn” at the River Bend Park.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Mama Great Horned Owl was in her nest and sitting up in the early morning sunlight so it was easier to get some photos of her. I also got a little video snippet of her in the nest and could see an owlet moving around next to her. It’s still too small to look out over the rim of the nest – and there might be more than one in there – so I haven’t gotten any good picture of it yet.

The Blue Elderberry trees are starting to get their blossoms.  They’re also starting to attract the caterpillars of the Elder Moths, who wrap themselves up in the leaves as they grow and pupate.  I was able to find a few of them.  They’re still small but they’ll fatten up over the next few weeks.

Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae, caterpillar in the leaf of a Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea,plant

There were also quite a number of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies out.  Some of them were sitting in the grass waiting to warm up, and others were flitting around the tops of the trees where the sun was already hitting them.  At one point, one of the butterflies I was photographing climbed onto the lens of my cellphone camera, so I got a super close-up of her.

California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta

I watched a House Sparrow and a White-Breasted Nuthatch arguing over a nesting cavity.  Neither bird can build their own, so they rely on old woodpecker nests and natural openings in the tree to nest in.  I think the wren won this particular battle.

Someone had hung a little wooden angel from a branch along the trail. I usually don’t like this kind of “litter”, but today it seemed kind of sweet and affirming.

As I was heading out of the park, I saw some Western Bluebirds and stopped to get photos.  The male was cooperative for a while; the female, not so much.  They’re such cheery, pretty little birds.

I was out for about 3 hours and only saw two people all the while I was out there.  So nice.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  7. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  15. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  16. Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae
  17. Elegant Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea elegantula [leafy like hoary lichen but much darker gray/black]
  18. Elfin Saddle, Compressed Saddle, Helvella compressa
  19. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  20. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  22. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  23. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  24. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  27. Mosquito, Common House Mosquito, Culex pipiens
  28. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  29. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  32. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  35. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  38. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  40. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  41. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  42. White Ash Tree, Fraxinus americana
  43. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

A Blond Fawn, 03-20-20

 I got up around 7:00 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  I was surprised by how many people were there; no social distancing.  At one point, I had to raise my cane and nudge a woman back who came up on me and asked me what I was taking photos of.  Six feet, please.  At the River Bend Park I came across maybe 5 people on the trails; at Effie there were at least 50. I don’t think I’ll go back there any time soon. 

Saw a lot of usual suspects today but among them were some neat spottings. One was a California Ground Squirrel that had just come up out of its burrow and was snacking on the plants outside its door.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi

Another was a Black Phoebe building a new nest under the eaves of the nature center.  The female does all the nest building while the male watches and protects the site. This female went to the little pond in the front of the nature center, dug up some mud and flew it back to the building under the eaves to the nest site over and over again. She didn’t like it when I got too close to the pond, so I didn’t get any clear shots of her collecting the mud in her beak. [[If you want to attract Phoebes to nest around your home, remember, they need a water/mud source nearby.]]

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, building her nest
Working on the new nest
Collecting mud for the nest

There are two other old nests near this same area at the preserve, and it’s not unusual for Phoebes to use the same nest over and over again, so I’m assuming the previous nests are either unstable or are filled with mites or something… so the female is starting a new one. It may take this mom about 2 weeks to finish the mud cup and fill it with grasses.

Phoebes can have three broods in one year, so here’s hoping this nest will get a lot of use.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then I also came across a Columbian Black-Tailed Deer doe who had two older fawns with her.  One of the fawns was the normal tan/brown color with a typical black tail, but the other one was very blond, a very light straw color, and had a brown tail.  I don’t know if it was leucistic or what, but it will be interesting to see if it retains its light coat as it ages.            

The blond Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,fawn
A male Rio Grande Wild Turkey in full strut beside a Columbian Black-Tailed deer fawn.

I tried to get a picture of a tiny cynipid wasp (the kind associated with galls on oak trees).  They’re very small, black and shiny, and don’t live very long, so they’re hard to spot.  I got my camera on it, but it was so small and moved so fast that the only clear shot I got of it was of its butt on the edge of a Live Oak leaf.  Hah!

Live Oak Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis

It was nice outside, and my vertigo was under control so I was able to walk for about 4 hours. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  9. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  10. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  12. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  13. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  17. California Pore Lichen, Pertusaria californic
  18. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii [scat]
  22. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  24. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  25. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  31. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp .
  32. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  33. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  37. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae [webs]
  38. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  39. Slime Mold, Insect Egg Slime Mold, Badhamia sp.
  40. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  42. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
  43. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinu
  45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis