Mostly Ground Squirrels Today, 05-29-20

I got up around 6:00 am today, fed and pottied the dog, and then headed over to Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was about 61° when I got there and went up to about 77° by the time I left.

I wanted to check on the milkweed plants, keeping an eye out for Monarch eggs and caterpillars, but I didn’t see any. A lot of Monarchs have been seen in the area, so everyone is checking their milkweed these days.  Hah!

I found several Bordered Plant Bugs on the Showy Milkweed plants, and tons of brown Leafhoppers (they were everywhere, even jumping out of the grass like sand-fleas or something.) I also found several different species of ladybeetles, a tiny red Ichneumon wasp, several Bush Katydid nymphs, an assassin bug, and some tiny moths.  Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of Oleander Aphids on the plants (which we normally see).

I’d recently read an article on how the milkweed plants can sometimes inadvertently capture bees and hold onto them until the bees die.  ( Yikes!  And I saw lots of examples of that phenomenon today.  All of them were honeybees that had gotten stuck and couldn’t escape.

European Honeybee with its feet stuck in the stigmatic slit of a milkweed flower. You can see one of the flower’s pollinia attached to the bee’s extricated foot.

The Soap Root plants on the property are starting to bloom, but they only fully bloom in the later afternoon and into the evening. By this time f the morning, the blooms are already starting to wilt and fall off the plant.

Wilting Soaproot flowers

I also found some House Wren fledglings who were begging for food from their parents. One was having a bad hair day; tufts of baby fluff poking out of its head.  So cute!

I’m seeing more coyote scat again, and on of the latrine spots, it looked like the coyote had dug into the ground and then pooped near the digging spot.  Claiming it as its own special toilet?

Coyote scat

The Red-Shouldered Hawk mom was up and about. I saw her moving around in the nest and standing in a nearby tree. I also saw one of the fledglings in the nest. It’s lost its white baby fluff and its head is now reddish-brown. I don’t know where the second fledgling was, but the one in the nest seemed pretty focused on something. I think it was eating, but I couldn’t see over the edge of the nest to figure out what had its attention.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

The most photos I got today, though, were of California Ground Squirrels.  They seem to be coming up and getting more active. Two of them were very cooperative and let me take lots of photos of them. One even let me get within about 5 feet of her while she fed and gave herself a dust bath.  I just love those little things.

California Ground Squirrel

I walked for about 3 hours before heading home.

Species List:

  1. Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata
  2. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  5. Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus
  6. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  7. Brown Leafhopper, Family: Cicadellidae
  8. Bush Katydid, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymphs]
  9. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  14. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  16. Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
  17. European Earwig, Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia
  18. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  19. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  20. Ichneumon wasp, Ichneumon sp. [reddish parasitoid wasp]
  21. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  22. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  23. Jalisco Petrophila Moth, Crambid Snout Moth, Petrophila jaliscalis
  24. Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  25. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  26. Mirid Bug, Thick Sensor Soft Bug, Heterotoma planicornis [small black bug with weird antennae and green legs]
  27. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  28. Perennial Sow Thistle, Sonchus arvensis
  29. Potato Mirid, Closterotomus norwegicus [green]
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  31. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  32. Scaphoideus Leafhopper, Scaphoideus sp.
  33. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  34. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  35. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  36. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  37. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  38. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

A Luscious Caterpillar, 05-23-20

got up at 5:00 am to get the dog pottied and fed before I headed out the door to meet my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne over at the William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden at 6:30 for a walk.

We walked first through the garden, looking for insects… and we were both kind of surprised by how few we saw. There didn’t even seem to be many bees.  We were super-excited, though, when we came across the caterpillar of an Anise Swallowtail Butterfly on one of the Giant Fennel plants.  I’ve seen the eggs and some early instars of this caterpillar before (when they still look like bird poop), but I have never seen the adult caterpillar before.  (I’ve seen photos of them, of course, but never a live one.) Their colors are luscious: pale blue and green, with black and yellow spots, and white lines… I think I took about 30 photos of that one caterpillar. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We also found some red Leaf-Footed Bug nymphs on another plant, and the eggs of what I think was a Green Stink Bug.  Hard to tell without seeing any adults or nymphs around them. They were brown and barrel-shaped with a rim of tiny hairs around the top of them.

A new-to-me insect today was a small Pug Moth, also called a Common Eupithecia Moth.  It was a kind of nondescript little moth, mottled brown. What made it stand out was the fact that its wings had kind of an elliptical shape, and the moth held them straight out at either side. It was on the leaves of a Basswood tree (also known as the American Linden Tree).

I’d never seen that tree in bloom before and didn’t know what it was. But today it was blooming, and the florets grew out of a separate leaf-like bract that looked different from all the other leaves. I don’t usually get excited about trees, but this one was so interesting, I had to do some research.

The trees are a favorite of bumblebees and a wide variety of moths. “…Basswood flowers produce an abundance of nectar from which choice honey is made. In fact, in some parts of its range basswood is known as the bee-tree…” The leaf buds require at least 14 hours of sunlight in a day before they’ll open.  “…American basswood is dominant in the sugar maple–basswood forest association…” The flowers and stems have a lot of sugary sap in them. They’re usually found on the east coast and Midwest -–They’re Chicago natives. — but came to the west coast as ornamental trees in housing developments because they grow so quickly and provide a lot of shade. They can live for up to 200 years. Cool!

We also found a shrub that had tiny white flowers on it, and its lancet-shaped leaves smelled like lemon and spices! I haven’t been able to find an ID for it anywhere, though.  And the garden doesn’t have identification stakes or guides anywhere.  Bummer.  I’ll keep looking.

At the middle pond there were lots of Wood Ducks and Mallards, including some mamas with babies.  The ducklings are so light, they can walk right across the lily pads.  We even saw a pair napping on one of them while their mom ran off anyone who came near them. About ¾ of that pond is now covered by Sacred Lotus plants.  There were buds here and there, but none of them were opened yet.

Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera,taking over the middle pond.

We could see some Flame Skimmer dragonflies flitting back and forth among the lotus’s giant leaves, but were only able to get a distant photo of one of them when it landed down close to the water.  Roxanne noticed, too, that there was a hummingbird that seemed to be “guarding” that same area of the pool. I wonder if it had a nest nearby, and/or if it saw the dragonflies as competition for the territory.

What really surprised us, as we walked around that pond, was a pair of fledgling Great Horned Owls.  They were sitting on a low bare branch that hung out over the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first and had to have Roxanne confirm for me that, yes, that was a pair of owls. 

They were in the shade, so it was a little difficult to get photos of them, and they fled as soon as we started to walk toward them.  They flew off into a nearby tree, but were then harassed by crows and flew off further toward the trees near the street.

We then walked to the large pond and walked around that. Not a lot to see there, but we did spot several Red-Eared Slider Turtles and a Pacific Pond Turtle. And we came across a female Mallard who was sunning herself on the edge of the pond. She had several babies with her, and at first we feared she wasn’t keeping a very good eye on them.

Mallard ducklings, Anas platyrhynchos

One of them wandered off into the water and was being pursued by another female Mallard who seemed like she might hurt the baby.  Mama Mallard woke up, though, and went into the water when several of her other ducklings decided they wanted to get their feet wet, too.  Seemed like a “reluctant parent”. I wonder if this was her first brood…

So many questions.

When we left the big pond, we walked back past the middle pond and through the garden back to our cars. I tried to find the owls again before we left, but couldn’t catch sight of them.

All together, we walked for about 4½ hours before heading home.

Species List:

  1. African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia arborea
  4. Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio zelicaon
  5. Argentine Pear, Iochroma austral [purple bell/horn shaped flowers]
  6. Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii [deep red]
  7. Basswood Tree, Tilia americana [a kind of linden tree]
  8. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  9. Bigfruit Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa
  10. Bottlebrush, Crimson Bottlebrush, Melaleuca citrina
  11. Branching Phacelia, Phacelia ramosissima
  12. Bronze Fennel, Florence Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
  13. Buckwheat, Arrowleaf Buckwheat, Eriogonum compositum var. compositum
  14. Buckwheat, Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum
  15. Buff Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var Orpington
  16. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus majo [weird sac seeds]
  21. Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile
  22. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  23. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  25. Common Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  26. Common Poppy, Red Poppy of Flanders, Papaver rhoeas
  27. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  28. Cowpea Aphid, Aphis craccivora [adults dark, babies pink]
  29. Coyote Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  30. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  31. Day Lily, Orange Day-Lily, Hemerocallis fulva
  32. Douglas Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii
  33. Dutch Iris, Flag Iris, Iris × hollandica
  34. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  35. Field Penny-Cress, Thlaspi arvense
  36. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturate
  37. Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis
  38. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  39. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis
  40. Giant Mullein, Broussa Mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum
  41. Golden Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha
  42. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  43. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris [eggs]
  44. Hairy Matilija Poppy, Romneya trichocalyx
  45. Hedgenettle, Blephilia sp.
  46. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema sp.
  47. Jerusalem Sage, Genus Phlomis
  48. Larkspur, Rocket Larkspur, Consolida ajacis [white or blue]
  49. Lavender-Cotton, Santolina chamaecyparissus [yellow, whorls]
  50. Leaf-footed Bug, Leptoglossus sp. [red nymphs]
  51. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  52. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena
  53. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Mexican Sage, Salvia mexicana [deep purple]
  55. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  56. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  57. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium
  58. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris
  59. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  60. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  61. Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria aurea
  62. Pincushion Flower,  Mourningbride, Scabiosa atropurpurea
  63. Pineapple Guava, Feijoa, Acca sellowiana 
  64. Pug Moth, Common Eupithecia Moth, Eupithecia miserulata [lays with its wings open]
  65. Quince, Cydonia oblonga
  66. Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria
  67. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  68. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  69. Rose Campion, Silene coronaria
  70. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  71. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
  72. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  73. Tower-of-Jewels, Giant Viper’s-Bugloss, Echium pininana
  74. Trailing Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana [pale purple-blue, groundcover]
  75. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum [yellow flowers]
  76. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica [white flowers, kind of look like rock-rose]
  77. Violet Tubeflower, Iochroma cyaneum [bunches of tube-shaped flowers]
  78. Wandering Fleabane, Erigeron glacialis
  79. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  80. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  81. Woolly Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantina
  82. Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria
  83. Yucca, Common Yucca, Yucca filamentosa
  84. ?? shrub with tiny white flowers and fragrant leaves

Lerps and Other Stuff, 05-21-19

I had taken yesterday off to try to recover from Tuesday’s tumble, and I felt like I could do a long walk this morning. Uh…apparently not.  I went to the William B. Pond Park on the American River, mostly hoping to see some insects and water plants.  I was able to walk, but not very quickly. My back and left ankle were hurting.  It was mostly dull muscle pain, but enough to slow me down and wear me out.

It was about 61° when I got to the river, and headed up past 77° by the time I left.  It’s gonna be hot today.

American River

The water in the river was quite low, exposing a lot of the rocks. It was so shallow in some places that I saw people crossing the full width of the river with the water never reach their knees.

Although I didn’t see as many insects as I expected to find with the weather warming up, I did find some interesting ones, including a group of Red-Humped Caterpillars, a Privet Leafhopper and some Red Gum Lerp Psyllids.  I also saw a few butterflies and damselflies, nut not too many.  No dragonflies yet… and no obvious exuvia anywhere which was a little disappointing.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

When looking for Anise Swallowtail butterfly eggs on the fennel plants, I came across a spider’s web-den with a small jumping spider inside of it. The den was doubtless her egg sac.  She’ll stay with eggs until they hatch.  I also found a small White Crab Spider and saw several Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver spiders on other parts of the trail. No big orb weavers yet; they usually show up more in the mid- to late summer months.

I also found a female Snakefly, a couple of different kinds of aphids, and a tiny baby Praying Mantis.

Among the Himalayan blackberry vines along the trail, I found some patches where the plants were covered with rust fungus.  There was also a kind of rust on one of the willow trees I saw.

Blackberry Rust, Rubus Rust Fungus, Phragmidium violaceum

 According to Cornell: “… Willow-infecting Melampsora species have complex life histories during which they alternate between willow and an unrelated host to complete their life cycles…  Yellow to orange pustules (uredinia) appear on the underside of willow leaves beginning in late spring and continue throughout the summer. These pustules eventually rupture the epidermis to release large numbers of golden-yellow spores (urediniospores)… In mid-autumn, uredinia change to orange-brown or dark brown telia that overwinter on fallen willow leaves and release fragile basidiospores the following spring. Basidiospores are wind-disseminated and infect the foliage of the alternate host (e.g., balsam fir). Spermagonia appear shortly after infection in the late spring and are followed by aecia containing yellow to orange aeciospores, which are dispersed by wind and infect the current growth of willow. Within two-weeks, uredinia and urediniospores are produced on the lower surface of willow leaves; thereby, renewing the fungus life cycle. There is good evidence to suggest that special forms of Melampsora spp. can overwinter as mycelium or uredinia within dormant willow buds and stems. If so, this eliminates the need of an alternate host and shortens the annual disease cycle…” 

 So  much complexity in such a tiny thing!  

I came across some plants I wasn’t really expecting to see along the particular trail I took, including Rough Horsetail, Sneezeweed and White Sweetclover, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the live oak trees along that side of the river are Coast Live Oaks and not Interior Live Oaks.  I’m hoping they’ll show me some different kinds of galls in the summer.

I also found some specimens of plants that were new-to-me finds, like Manyflower Marshpennywort and flowering Lanceleaf Arrowhead. They were around an area where there was an ephemeral pool.  Truthfully, I’d probably seen the plants elsewhere, but never really noticed them because they weren’t in bloom.

I didn’t see a whole lot of birds, but I did see a mother Mallard with her ducklings in the water.  I also caught glimpses of male California Quails, and got photos of a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker gather ants and other insects off a dead tree. 

A male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii

When I passed a Tree Swallow’s nesting cavity, I saw the parent fly out with a fecal sac. It carried it over the river and dropped it into the water. Litterer!

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  3. Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [nymph; stripe across the back of the head]
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  7. Black Willow, Salix nigra
  8. Blackberry Rust, Rubus Rust Fungus, Phragmidium violaceum
  9. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  10. Broad-leaved Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  11. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  12. California Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa californica
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  15. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  16. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  19. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  20. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  21. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  22. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  23. Cudweed, Jersey Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum
  24. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  26. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  27. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  28. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  29. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  30. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  31. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  32. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  33. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  34. Hairy Jumping Spider, Habronattus hirsutus
  35. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  36. Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  37. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  38. Lanceleaf Arrowhead, Sagittaria lancifolia
  39. Large Sowthisle Aphid, Uroleucon sonchi [reddish brown]
  40. Leaf-Cutter Bee, Megachile sp. 
  41. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei
  42. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  43. Manyflower Marshpennywort, Hydrocotyle umbellata [round leaves like nasturtium]
  44. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus
  45. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria
  46. Nectarine, Prunus persica var. nucipersica
  47. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  48. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  49. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  50. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  51. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  52. Privet Leafhopper, Fieberiella florii
  53. Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  54. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  55. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  56. Red Sesbania, Scarlet Sesban, Sesbania punicea
  57. Red-humped Caterpillar Moth, Schizura concinna
  58. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  59. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  60. Rough Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale
  61. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  62. Sneezeweed, Rosilla, Helenium puberulum
  63. Tall Flatsedge,  Cyperus eragrostis
  64. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  65. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  66. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  67. Vivid Dancer Damselfly, Argia vivida  [bands and arrowheads]
  68. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  69. Western Tailed-Blue Butterfly, Cupido amyntula
  70. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  71. White Crab Spider, Thomisus spectabilis
  72. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  73. Willow Rust, Melampsora epitea
  74. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
  75. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

Interesting Insects, 05-19-20

By 7:30 am I was out the door to go to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  I wanted mostly to check on the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars: to see how many there were out there and how far along in their processes they are. I was not disappointed.

There were so many caterpillars on the ground that I had to watch just about every step I took.  I haven’t seen this many out there since around 2015.  There were literally hundreds of them. Looking at them, I figured about a third of them were at or near their final instar: long and nicely plump.

Caterpillars of the California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta

I found a few that had climbed up into the trees as far as they could, anchored their back feet and spun their suspension silk in anticipation of forming their chrysalises. Let see if I can remember were those are next week when I go back to check again.

I also saw several of the butterflies. They get fed better than the ones that emerge earlier in the spring because there are more wildflowers out now for them to feed on.  The Bush Monkeyflowers and Elegant Clarkia were everywhere along the trails, and the Goldwire is blossoming along with the native Deerweed.

Deerweed, Acmispon glaber

I walked down by the bank for a short distance – I don’t do well on the uneven rocky surface so I had to go slow and couldn’t travel very far. There isn’t a lot of stuff blooming down there just yet but the trees are leafing out.  I did find several stands of Moth Mullein, both yellow and white, along there though. The vervain is waking up, and the Water Irises are starting to go to seed.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The Sweet Fennel isn’t really out as much as it normally is. I only found one plant along the trail (but there may be been more further down.) I checked it for butterfly eggs but didn’t find any.  The Anise Swallowtails like that stuff.

I also looked closely at the Italian Thistle growing all over the place to see if I could spot any Painted Lady caterpillars on them.  The caterpillars spin thin webs around themselves and the leaves and use the thistle’s thorn to protect themselves while they feed and pupate. I only found ONE, but it’s still early in the season for them… and I wasn’t checking for the butterfly’s eggs, so I may have missed a lot. The eggs are pale blue-green and kind of barrel-shaped with little ridges running down their sides.

Caterpillar of the Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui

I checked out the different species of willow along the bank, looking for galls, but didn’t see a whole lot yet. I did see some Willow Bead Gall Mite galls and a nice array of Willow Apple Sawfly galls, though. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to use my cellphone’s macro lens on them, and I was able to get some interesting photos of their structures.  I didn’t open any of them, though, because there were so few of them.

Gall of the Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica

I was surprised by the lack of damselflies and dragonflies. I thought they should be emerging around now, but I guess it’s been a little chilly for them over the last several days.

I found a pair of beetles that, at first blush, looked identical to me; they both had leathery wing cases, reddish bodies and legs, and dark antennae.  But then I realized that one had a dark head and one had a red head, one had spots along the thorax and the other didn’t, and their feet were different.  Insect identification is sooooo difficult for me in part because some of the differences aren’t evident at a casual glance, and sometimes you have to look at EVERYTHING, including how many segments are in the antennae and what color the thing that attaches the antennae to the head is. Anyway, I eventually figured out that I was seeing Cottonwood Twig Borers and Brown Leather Wing Beetles.  Cool.

I also found a lot of the tiny metallic Saint John’s Wort Beetles on the Goldwire and other plants along the trail. They look kind of like ladybugs in hammered metal armor; shiny metallic gold, blue or coppery red. Close up, they’re really quite beautiful.

Saint John’s Wort Beetle, Chrysolina hypericin

They do this “dead drop” thing, though, when you try to photograph them – tucking their legs up against their bodies and dropping suddenly, straight to the ground – before you can get really close to them.  And a lot more of them “dropped” than I was able to get pictures of, but I did get a few.

Among the other insects, I found a “new to me” weevil called a Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil who was living in the young leaves of a Yellow Starthistle plant.  It name was about 10 time bigger than the weevil itself.  And I also found several cocoons of the Oak Ribbed Casemaker moth on the leaves of some of the oak trees.

The recent rains woke up some of the lichen, and I was surprised to find a small stand of Mealy Pixie Cups along the base of a dead stump. That’s the only place I’ve ever found them at the park.

I didn’t see any deer anywhere along my walk, but I did catch glimpses of Black-tailed Jackrabbits here and there.  And I saw and heard quite a few different species in the trees including Bushtits, Lesser Goldfinches, House Wrens, hummingbirds, Tree Swallows, Oak Titmice, Western Bluebirds, and Acorn Woodpeckers among others.

I didn’t see too many birds in the water, though, mostly just the Canada Geese and some Common Mergansers, but at one spot I noticed a Turkey Vulture and a crow on the opposite bank.  The vulture had found a discarded fish carcass and the crow came over to “share”. 

Great Egret, Ardea alba, Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, and a Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos

As they were eating, a Great Egret also showed up.  The vulture turned its back to the egret and walked off with the fish’s tail, and the crow backed off a bit.  The egret, though, didn’t seem too impressed with the dead-fall and eventually just flew off.  It was cool to see the three species together. I got some photos and video snippets of that interaction.

Somewhere along the trail, I took a tumble.  I was back-stepping off an embankment onto the trail where the trail was at a slight incline, and lost my footing.  D’oh! Fell onto my right side, but I was holding my camera up away from my body as I fell, so it never touched the ground, thank goodness!  [I always worry more about my camera than I do my own body. Hah!]

It took a minute for me to get my legs under me, because of my arthritic knees and psoas muscle issues, but I did manage to get upright again without any help. (Not that there was anyone around to help anyway.)  I could feel the fall in my back, psoas, hip and left calf.  Nothing was broken or seriously strained/ pulled/ damaged, though, so I ventured on. I’ll feel it more tomorrow, though, I’m sure!  I had brought my cane with me but had left it in the car. This is a lesson to me to take it EVERYWHERE, even if I think I know the trails really well.

All in all, I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Dancer Caddisfly, Mystacides sepulchralis
  3. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  4. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  5. Brown Leather Wing Beetle, Pacificanthia consors
  6. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  7. Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  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. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  15. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  18. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  19. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  20. Common St. John’s-Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  21. Cottonwood Twig Borer Beetle, Oberea quadricallosa
  22. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  24. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  25. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  26. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  27. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  28. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  29. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  30. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  31. Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  32. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  33. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  34. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  35. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  36. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp .
  37. Major Willow Gall Midge, Iteomyia major
  38. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  39. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  40. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria
  41. Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus [on thistle]
  42. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  43. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  44. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  45. Rattlesnake Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Briza maxima
  46. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  47. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  48. Robust Bracket Fungus, Fomitiporia robusta
  49. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  50. Saint John’s Wort Beetle, Chrysolina hypericin [metallic gold, blue or copper]
  51. Shortpod Mustard, Hirschfeldia incana
  52. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  53. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  56. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  57. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  58. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  59. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  60. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
  61. Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  62. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum