May Day at the River Bend, 05-01-20

Happy May Day.  I got up around 6:30 this morning to wonderfully cool weather: 53°, sunny and breezy. Even though “The Poltergeist” is causing me a lot of pain this morning, I just HAD to get outside for a walk. So, I went over to the American River Bend Park.

When I first drove in, there were several male wild turkeys strutting in the middle of the road, and I could see a female sitting on the ground on the left shoulder. At first, I thought she was down because she was inviting a male to mate with her.  But no.  When one of the males got to close to her, she stood up, and a brood of newly hatched poults ran out from under her into the tall grass.  She followed after them, got them all close her and sat on them again.  It all happened so fast and the grass they poults ran into was so high, I couldn’t get any picture of them. Dang!

Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

There were hardly any people there, but I did keep running to a man who said he was a teacher.  He was trying to use a phone app to trace the trails, so he can send the information to his students. He wants them to do a stress reducing “sit spot” (sit quietly in one place in nature) and wants to use the trail route to show them where some good spots are.

I thought it was so cool that he was as cognizant of his students’ need for stress relief as he was of their need for education. I told him he was a cool teacher and wished him well. [CLICK HERE for a link that explains the benefits of “sit spots.]

I could hear the mother owl hooting, but I couldn’t catch sight of her or her owlets, so I presumed they moved up into the leafier parts of the trees to take advantage of the shade.       

I found a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in various instars.  I got close-up shots of some of the larger ones, including one that was extending his horns. The “horns” (called osmeteria) protrude from the head when the caterpillar is pestered by a would-be predator (or poke-at-it human). The horns are covered in toxic goo that helps to thwart birds and other predators from trying to eat it. 

Among the photos, you’ll see an orange-faced one; it’s a color variant.  I usually only see one of these each year (among hundreds of the black-faced ones).  The bright face, though, lets you see the caterpillar’s tiny black eyes positioned near its mouth.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The trees were filled with the song of House Wrens, Starlings, Western Bluebirds, Scrub Jays, and Nuthatches.  And I was able to find a few nesting cavities. 

When I pulled the car under the shade of some trees in the equestrian parking area, I was near the trough that is perpetually filled with water for the horses.  Of course, when there are no horses around other critters use the trough as their neighborhood watering hole.  While I was there, a Mourning Dove came in for a drink, and was eventually joined by some Spotted Towhees and Western Bluebirds. The male bluebirds are in their breeding plumage, and their blue is practically NEON.

A Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,and a Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus

And then a squirrel climbed up into the tree near the car and stared at me through the window.  Hah!

By the way, does anyone else notice that the pipevine plants have waaaay more seed pods this year than in the previous years? I’m finding plants with literally dozens of pods on them where previously I’d usually only see a few.

California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica

I know oak trees will, en masse, produce an overabundance of acorns in “mast years” which is thought by some to be a “stress response” to an upcoming change in the weather. [The trees try to push out as many babies as they can before the change.]  I wonder if the mass of pipevine seed pods we’re seeing now is something similar to that.

One thing that pissed me off:  There was a spot between two trees in the park where there were stinging nettles and other plants growing. The nettles had been full of Red Admiral butterfly caterpillars last week. The park people not only mowed everything down, they “salted the earth” (used Round-Up I suspect) so nothing will grow there. Guh!

Inexcusable destruction.

They could have allowed the plants to stay there and used caution tape to keep people away from the nettles until after the caterpillars had had a chance to mature. Some humans are so unforgivably ignorant.

As I was leaving, I stopped to take some photos and video of a European Starling as it yanked an earthworm out of the ground and whacked it into submission before carrying it off to its nesting cavity to feed its babies. Life goes on.

Because “The Poltergeist” was acting up, I was in a lot of pain after 3 hours of walking, so I headed back home, and crashed for the afternoon. I’ll be going in for a PET scan of “The Poltergeist” next week.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  3. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw, Galium porrigens
  4. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  5. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  6. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  7. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  14. Grass Sharpshooter, Draeculacephala Minerva
  15. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  16. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  17. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  18. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  19. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  20. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  21. Perennial Sow Thistle, Sonchus arvensis
  22. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  23. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  24. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  25. Sulphur Tubic Moth, Esperia sulphurella [tiny dark moth with yellow lines]
  26. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  27. Vivid Dancer Damselfly, Argia vivida
  28. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  29. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  30. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  31. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  32. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  33. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis