Around 7:00 am,my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne and I headed out to Bear Valley Road again, hoping to be able to see the Sticklefruit Jewelflower in bloom by now. We noticed along the way that were was a lot more of the blue lupine in bloom now, along with several kinds of phacelia, and white Seablush (a clover-looking flower).
The big find, though, was when we drove down the road toward the Wilbur Hot Springs. We’d never been down that road before, so it was kind of fun to see something new. The hot springs are closed right now due to COVID-19, but usually you can rent cabins there and bath in their Japanese onsen-style “Fluminarium,” where the water is between 98, 105 and 109°F. The minerals in the water turned that part of stream a bluish milk white.
The find? Along that road, we came across a large stand of Dodder, Cuscuta californica. I’d seen photos of it before but had never seen it “live” before much less touched it.
Dodder is a parasitic vine that looks like thin, spindly, translucent neon-orange threads and feels like rubber. Although it’s a plant, the vines have no leaves. Its color is due to the fact that his has no chlorophyll, and it feeds through structures called “haustoria”. They’re organs that bore into the tissue of host plants and suck out nutrients (like the roots of mistletoe do). Dodder germinate in the ground and then reach out for nearby plants. If they find ones they can live off of, they wrap tendrils around them and their haustoria bore in. Once they’re feeding off the other plants, the Dodders’ tendrils detach from their original root which then dies off.
Although they don’t have leaves, dodder vines do have flowers. The flowers are tiny, of course, but can produce massive amounts of seeds that can live for up to ten years or longer in the ground. Amazing stuff; I was so happy to have found it.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
We then continued down Bear Valley Road to Keegan Ranch. Along the side of the road at one point, we saw a woman taking photos of her daughter. The girl was sitting among the poppies along the fence line of one of the fields and had a blue merle Corgi in her lap. I bet the photos turned out fun and gorgeous.
In the fields there were waves and waves of Tidy Tips and Goldfields and blue Lupine. It was just breathtaking.
We were hoping to find some Larkspur and Giant Death Camas. Although the Camas was a no show, we did manage to find two lonely twigs of purple-blue Larkspur. It was kind of breezy, which made picture-taking tricky; the flowerheads kept waving back and forth, but we managed to get some pretty nice photos.
We also caught sight of a few Tricolored Blackbirds (Agelaius tricolor), a species that’s considered “endangered” in California. They look similar to Red-Winged Blackbirds, but under their red epaulet, they have a white band instead of a gold band.
At the field at Keegan Ranch, the walkway and gate were blocked by a group of “rude old people”. They were eating from the tailgate of their SUV, their folding chairs set up to block the entrance to the field. I walked along the road on the opposite side, and the men started telling each other filthy jokes, loud enough for me to hear. Seriously, people; aren’t you a little old for schoolyard crap like that?
I also noted that none of them were wearing anti-COVID face masks and not complying with social distancing. Considering what seemed to be the low mental acuity of the group, that didn’t really surprise me. [Darwin’s theory in motion.] I understand that they may have all been related, but they put themselves into a position that required OTHER people who wanted to get to the gate to also get very close to them – like, within a foot. Unacceptable.
As I headed toward the gate, one of the guys said, “We’re kind of blocking you, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” I said flatly, “you are.” And I gave them all an unimpressed, irritated look as I went around their chairs to the gate. A few minutes later, they packed up and left. Good riddance.
Roxanne and I walked through the field for a while, taking photos, looking for interesting insects, and then went back to the car to have some lunch: chicken, blackberries, sparkling water, deviled eggs, etc. It was very yummy and relaxing. Picnicking to the sound of the crickets and bees in the field.
While we were eating, a cadre of vehicles drove up on the opposite side of the road full of women of various ages. One of the cars was blaring music, but they turned that off as soon as they parked. Where they were parked, though, made it somewhat difficult for a truck that was coming up road, pulling a trailer to get around them and then get around our car. If the women had parked on the same side of the road we did, the trailer wouldn’t have had that trouble. Some people just don’t think… And none of the women were wearing face masks either. At least we didn’t need to get near to them.
Anyway… On the way in, we hadn’t found the Jewelflower plants along the road and were worried that someone might have pulled them up and taken them because of their rarity. But as we were driving out toward Highways 20 and 16, we found the plants again. Yay! They were just starting to get buds on them, but no flowers yet. I’ll have to go back again if I can in another week or so and try to catch them in bloom.
We headed back home via Highway 16, found the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument sign, and then stopped near the Valley Vista trailhead to take photos of the flowers there. When I worked for Tuleyome, I assisted in getting this national monument dedicated. Woot!
While we were there, Rox found a lot of the tiny Three-striped Longhorn Fairy Moths on Purple Sanicle plants. One of the moths was grabbed by a Crab Spider while she watched them. I missed that drama, but I was able to get photos of several of the moths. Like most of the fairy moths, the males of this species have antenna that are about three times longer than their wings. I think they’re such fascinating little things. I also found what I think is a Checkerspot butterfly caterpillar.
There wasn’t much else to see on the way back. But I think, for the whole trip, Roxanne and I counted 9 hawks along the highway… Not a record-breaking number, but it’s still always nice to see the birds around.
We got back home around 5:00 pm, so that was a very long day for both of us (about 10 hours).
- American Robin, Turdus migratorius
- Baileya Moth, Bailey sp. [caterpillar] Maybe Baileya dormitans, the Sleeping Baileya
- Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw, Galium porrigens
- Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata [ferny]
- Bird’s-eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Blow Wives, Soft Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis
- Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
- Blue Witch Nighshade, Solanum umbelliferum
- Bordered Straw Moth, Heliothis peltigera
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
- Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
- Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum
- California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
- California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
- California Quail, Callipepla californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Canyon Live-Forever, Stonecrop, Dudleya cymosa
- Cardinal Catchfly, Silene laciniata
- Cattle, Bos taurus
- Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla var. heterophylla
- Clasping Pepperweed, Lepidium perfoliatum [yellow flowers, rounded leaves]
- Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
- Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
- Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
- Common Pea, Pisum sativum
- Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata
- Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus
- Dodder, California Dodder, Cuscuta californica
- European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
- Four-spurred Assassin Bug, Zelus tetracanthus
- Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii
- Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
- Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
- Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
- Greenish Blue Butterfly, Icaricia saepiolus
- Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
- Hawksbeard, Smooth Hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
- Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
- Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia
- Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
- Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
- Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
- Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
- Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
- Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha
- Ornate Checkered Beetle, Trichodes ornatus [black and yellow]
- Popcorn Flowers, Plagiobothrys sp.
- Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
- Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
- Rattan’s Milkvetch, Astragalus rattanii
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [along the highway, 9]
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [heard]
- Royal Larkspur, Delphinium variegatum
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa
- Seven-Spot Ladybeetle, Coccinella septempunctata
- Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
- Silverpuff Stem Gall Wasp, Antistrophus microseris
- Silverpuff, Sierra Foothills Microseris, Microseris acuminate
- Slender Cottonweed, Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Star Clover, Trifolium stellatum
- Sticklefruit Jewel Flower, Streptanthus drepanoides
- Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
- Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
- Three-striped Longhorn Fairy Moth, Adela trigrapha
- Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
- Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor
- Tripartite Sweat Bee, Halictus tripartitus [tiny, striped abdomen]
- True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Variable Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas chalcedona [caterpillar]
- Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci
- Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
- Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
- White Crab Spider, Thomisus spectabilis
- White Seablush, Plectritis macrocera
- Whiteflies, Family: Aleyrodidae
- Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
- Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
- Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum