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