I headed out around 6:30 am to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk this morning. I met my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne there. It was 51°F outside when we got there, but got up to 70° quickly.
Lots of people were on the trails this morning, but everyone was respectful of the 6-foot social distancing thing, which I appreciated.
The first thing we did when we got there was to check out the Valley Oak and Coyote Brush bushes around the parking lot, looking for galls and whatever else we could find. We’re seeing a lot of Coyote Brush Bud Gall and fimbriate-like Leaf Galls, but not much else yet (except for the large Oak Apples.) I don’t remember a time when I’ve seen so many of the Leaf Galls on the Valley Oaks.
We DID find something’s pupal case on one of the leaves (and I think it might be that of some kind of moth. [It was pretty tiny.]
I found two new-to-me ladybeetles: the nymph of an Ashy Gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum, and a Six-spotted Zigzag Lady Beetle, Cheilomenes sexmaculata. We found the Zigzag one wrapped in a leaf and thought she was dead at first. When we got her out, though, she rolled onto her back in my hand and then used her wings to upright herself again.
See? Even “everyday” bugs can surprise you when you really look at them. iNaturalist actually has a nice page where you can see the different species in crisp clear photos. (You have to be a little bit careful with your IDs, though, because the site includes the beetles from all over the world, not just California.)
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
The Showy Milkweed around the nature center is starting to blossom. They’re such amazingly lovely plants. They’re notoriously difficult to grow because they take quite a while to get settled, and they get “ugly” when they’re ready to go back to sleep, but I’d love to have some around the yard. At the nature center, I’m keeping an eye out for Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars, but haven’t seen any yet. (It’s really early in the season, though.)
We found lots of Mugwort Weevils along the trail, including some that were mating (and one group stacked three-high, a Ménage à Trois insect style); and we found a male Snakefly which is always a cool sighting for me. You don’t get to see the snakeflies very often.
Near the end of our walk we also came across a large swarm of Little Black Ants scurrying around a dead log. The swarm included some winged “alates” getting ready for their nuptial flight. Seemed like a lot of organized chaos to me…
Before we actually went onto the trails, though, Rox and I also made sure to check out the Red-Shouldered Hawks’ nest near the head of the main trail. The nest is almost completely hidden now as the tree has leafed out, but we were still able to catch glimpses of the mom and two fuzzy-headed babies in the nest. The babies are fledging. They have most of their wing feathers, but are still white-grey fuzz over the rest of their bodies. Both babies were kind of sleepy, stretching and yawning before settling down again. I got a few photos and a video snippet of them.
We could certainly HEAR a lot of other birds around us, but couldn’t catch sight of many of them, which was a little frustrating. There were “birders” along the trails, using binoculars, but I don’t know if they had any better luck than we did with our long-lens cameras.
The most noise was when a group of European Starlings and Acorn Woodpeckers got upset about the Red-Shouldered Hawk when she landed in “their” tree. They squawked, and dive-bombed and harassed the hawk until she moved on. And we could periodically hear rival gangs of male Rio Grande Wild Turkeys gobbling loudly at one another in order to impress nearby females.
We were treated at one point to the sight of a male Western Bluebird who alighted on the top of one the trail signs and then flew down onto the ground in front of us. As I think I mentioned before, during this time of year when the birds are breeding, the males’ blue coloring is almost “neon” it’s so bright. They practically GLOW.
In the pond along the Pond Trail, we found a mama Wood duck with two little ducklings. Usually the Wood Ducks have a LOT more babies than that, but the little guys are also prey for all sorts of other animals like hawks, snakes, otters and raccoons… so she was probably actually lucky to have two tiny survivors with her.
We also saw a handful of deer along the trails, but not very many. Some of the females are starting to look pregnant, and the males – even the yearlings – are just starting to get their summer velvet as their antlers come in. One of them was a young buck I recognized from the previous two years: his nose was smashed in when he was a fawn, and he has a very foreshortened muzzle now with a distinctive underbite.
And one fawn was obviously in the middle of shedding his winter coat for his summer coat – super floofy. Nature in flux.
There are a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars everywhere, and some of them are large enough now to go into the chrysalis stage. We’ll have to keep an eye on them and see if can find some mid-metamorphosis.
We walked for about three hours and headed back to our respective homes.
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
- Ashy Gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum [nymph, lion]
- Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
- Black Locust Bug, Lopidea robiniae
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
- Brown Leafhopper, Family: Cicadellidae
- Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
- Bur Parsley, Caucalis platycarpos
- Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymph]
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
- California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
- California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [heard]
- Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii
- Clouded Sulphur Butterfly, Colias philodice
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
- European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
- Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Golden-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium californicum
- Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
- Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
- Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
- Little Black Ant, Monomorium minimum [including alates, winged individuals]
- Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
- Meadow Plant Bug, Lopidea instabilis
- Mirid Bug, Thick Sensor Soft Bug, Heterotoma planicornis
- Mock Orange, Sweet Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronaries
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Mugwort Weevil, Scaphomorphus longinasus
- Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Red-Margin Lopidea Bug, Lopidea instabilis
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
- Six-spotted Zigzag Lady Beetle, Cheilomenes sexmaculata
- Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
- Soft Rush, Juncus effuses
- Spice Bush, California Sweetshrub, Calycanthus occidentalis
- Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
- Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum
- Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
- Tobacco Budworm Moth, Chloridea virescens
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
- White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
- Wood Duck, Aix sponsa