Along Bear Valley Road, 04-07-20

Up a little before 7:00 this morning to overcast skies and chilly temperatures. 46°F when I left the house to go wildflower hunting with Roxanne again.  It’s that time of year.  We had planned to go to the Mather Field Vernal Pool area, but figured that after the recent rains over the last few days it might be REALLY muddy out there.  So, we decided instead to go to Bear Valley Road near Highway 20 instead.  That change of mind made for a very long day. We were out from about 8:00 am until 4:30 pm.  The weather was very nice: partly cloudy, around 48°F when we left the house and around 70°F when we got back home.

We stopped first at the corral area at the head of Bear Valley Road to see if there was anything new there.  Among the usual suspected we found more Smooth Blow Wives and large blue and purple lupine. We also caught a glimpse of a Yellow-Headed Blackbird.  I have yet to get a good picture of one of those; it’s on my most-wanted list.

We drove along the road (which is a dirt road in remarkably good shape after the rains) until we found something interesting, then we’d pull over and get out of the car to take pictures. There were lots of Wallflowers and Woolly Paintbrush all along the road.  And the Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose, was just starting to blossom.  Their a kind of stonecrop plant that have a succulent look to them. None of the blossoms were open yet, but there were lots of buds showing.

Canyon Live-Forever, Stonecrop, Dudleya cymosa

We stopped at one spot to take photos of the view and some of the flowers along the edges of the road, and I spotted a female California Darner Dragonfly, Rhionaeschna californica [a kind of “Mosaic Darner”]. She was a kaleidoscope of yellows, browns, and pale-pale blue accented with black. After we got photos of her on the tree, I coaxed her onto my hand so we could get close-up photos.  Because our hands were warm and the air was cool, she was content to sit and pose for us until she warmed up enough to fly away.

A female California Darner Dragonfly, Rhionaeschna californica [a kind of “Mosaic Darner”]

On the same tree, we found several 1st generation galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis.  One of the galls was wrapped in the tendrils of a Manroot vine that was growing among the branches of the tree.  Made for some really pretty picture-taking.

The gall of a Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis

A surprise at that stop was finding a few specimens of Puff Ball fungus.  Their season is well passed, so finding them was unexpected.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At another spot, we stopped to take photos of a flowering tree (that might have been a cherry tree) and I found a large Yellow-faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.  (It might have been a queen based on its size.)  It was sitting in the grass near my feet, so I took some photos of it and then nudged it with my phone a little bit to get it to move up out of the grass so we could see a little more of it.  The bee was very tolerant of us and let us take plenty of picture before she buzzed off.

Yellow-faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii

There were lots of sparrows and Meadowlarks on the fences and telephone poles, and we were shocked to see an eagle in one of the fields.  It was pretty ragged looking, and I assumed it was in the middle of a major molt and couldn’t fly very well.  It was pretty far away from us, so an ID was difficult, but based on the amount of white in its coloring, I assumed it was a juvenile Bald Eagle.

A crummy photo of a juvenile Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, on the ground.

Man, it was “Cow City” out there today, too. Quite a few cattle had escaped their pastures and were loitering around the road. One was a mom whose calf was on the proper side of the fence, and kept trying to get out to the road where its mom was. Made the driving “interesting” for Roxanne. [She did great!]  There were some cattle dogs out in the field, but they seemed more interested in playing than in working. Hah!

We also came across a plant we’d never seen before.  It had heart-shaped dusky-maroon colored leaves and tendril-like things coming out of the top of it.  We took a lot of photos of that one and tried to figure out what it was when we got back home.  iNaturalist and some of the botanists on our Facebook groups said it looked like some kind of milkweed, but I knew that wasn’t right. I know how milkweed grows and flowers, and none of the milkweed research I did came up with anything that was the color of this plant.  Roxanne was diligent and submitted some photos to the California Native Plant Society, and they IDed it as a somewhat rare Sticklefruit Jewel Flower, Streptanthus drepanoides. 

Sticklefruit Jewel Flower, Streptanthus drepanoides

It’s native and endemic to California (which means it grows here and nowhere else on earth) and like serpentine soils.  The flowers on it are small with a yellow urn-shaped sepal (outer covering) and striped purple petals that come out like tongues from the center of the sepal. It’s listed as 4.3 on the California Rare Plant Ranking list. In the ranking, the lower the number (from 1 to 4) the more rare the plant is. A rank of 4.3 means the plants “are of limited distribution or infrequent throughout a broader area in California, and their status should be monitored regularly. Some of the plants constituting California Rare Plant Rank 4 meet the definitions of the California Endangered Species Act of the California Department of Fish and Game Code, and few, if any, are eligible for state listing.”

None of the plants we saw were blooming yet, so we’ll try to go back to that area sometime next week to see if we can find them again.            

When we got to Keegan Ranch, where the big white “Wildflowers” sign is, we stopped and walked through the pasture there.  I was surprised by the amount of Shining Pepperweed in the field; it was THICK in places. The field was in bloom, but was obviously still in its “yellow phase” – not to many flowers of other colors yet. In another week, it should really be popping.  I did get to see some new-to-me plants including Clasping Pepperweed, Lepidium perfoliatum and Flixweed, Descurainia Sophia [a kind of mustard]. Lot and lots of Tidy Tips and Goldfields; like huge carpets of color over the fields.

Among the Tidy Tips flowers, we found one that exhibited fasciation. “…Fasciation is a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in vascular plants in which the apical meristem (growing tip), which normally is concentrated around a single point and produces approximately cylindrical tissue, instead becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested (or “cristate”), or elaborately contorted, tissue.”

Fasciation of a Tidy Tips flower

We took a lot of photos of the flower, and then I pulled it up by its root and took it home, hoping it will continue to bloom, so I can see what it looks like.

It was a fun day!

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  4. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata [ferny]
  5. Bird’s-eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blow Wives, Soft Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis
  8. Blue Witch Nightshade, Bluewitch, Solanum umbelliferum
  9. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  10. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii [nest]
  11. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus [nests]
  13. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  14. California Darner Dragonfly, Rhionaeschna californica [a kind of “Mosaic Darner”]
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  17. California Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys collinus var. californicus
  18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. Canyon Live-Forever, Stonecrop, Dudleya cymosa
  22. Cattle, Bos Taurus
  23. Ceramic Parchment Lichen, Xylobolus frustulatus [brown, looks like dried clay]
  24. Chia, Salvia columbariae
  25. Chile Trefoil, Chile Lotus, Acmispon wrangelianus
  26. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla var. heterophylla
  27. Clasping Pepperweed, Lepidium perfoliatum [yellow flowers, rounded leaves]
  28. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  29. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata
  30. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  31. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  32. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  33. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  34. Common Lomatium, Spring Gold, Lomatium utriculatum
  35. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  36. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  37. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  38. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii [heard]
  39. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus
  40. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus
  41. Domestic Dog, Ranch dog, Canis familiaris
  42. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  43. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  44. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  45. Flixweed, Descurainia Sophia [a kind of mustard; looks like big bittercress]
  46. Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii
  47. Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  48. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  49. Grape Soda Lupine, Lupinus excubitus
  50. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  51. Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias [fly over]
  52. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris
  53. Hawksbeard, Smooth Hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris
  54. Hoverfly, Long-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes fumipennis
  55. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  56. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  57. Jepson’s Milkvetch, Rattan’s Milkvetch, Astragalus rattanii var. jepsonianus
  58. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  59. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia
  60. Lemmon’s Poppy, Field Poppy, Eschscholzia lemmonii
  61. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  62. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  63. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  64. Miner’s Lettuce, Serpentine Springbeauty, Claytonia exigua
  65. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  66. Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricate
  67. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  68. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  69. Paltry Puffball, Puffball Fungus, Bovista californica
  70. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  71. Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
  72. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  73. Red Maids, Fringed Red-Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  74. Reddish Tufted Vetch, Vicia benghalensis
  75. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis [17 on the road]
  76. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  77. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  78. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  79. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  80. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  81. Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  82. Slender Cottonweed, Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  83. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  84. Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata
  85. Sticklefruit Jewel Flower, Streptanthus drepanoides
  86. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  87. Sweet Cherry, Wild Cherry, Prunus avium
  88. Sweet Clover, Small Melilot, Annual Yellow Sweetclover, Melilotus indicus
  89. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  90. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor
  91. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  92. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  93. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  94. Van Dyke’s Bumblebee, Bombus vandykei
  95. Wallflower, Erysimum cheiri
  96. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  97. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  98. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  99. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  100. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  101. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  102. Woolly Paintbrush, Castilleja foliosa
  103. Yellow-faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  104. Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus [caught glimpses of one]
  105. Zebra-Striped Hoverfly, Scaeva pyrastri
  106. ?? purple-leaved plant