I got up around 6:00 am today, fed and pottied the dog, and then headed over to Effie Yeaw Nature Preservefor 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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
I walked for about 3 hours before heading home.
Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata
Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus
Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
Brown Leafhopper, Family: Cicadellidae
Bush Katydid, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymphs]
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
Cudweed, California Cudweed, Pseudognaphalium californicum
European Earwig, Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia
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 Parkand theWPA 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!
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.
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.
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.
African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [nymph; stripe across the back of the head]
By 7:30 am I was out the door to go to theAmerican River Bend Parkfor 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Black Dancer Caddisfly, Mystacides sepulchralis
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
Brown Leather Wing Beetle, Pacificanthia consors
Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica