Baby Hawks and Bugs Today, 05-15-20

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. 

Gall of the Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]

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.

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum [nymph, lion]

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.)

Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa

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.

Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana

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.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. This is the young buck with a broken nose. It;s nice to see that he’s adapted well to his childhood injury. This is the third year I’ve seen him at the preserve.

And one fawn was obviously in the middle of shedding his winter coat for his summer coat – super floofy. Nature in flux.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, younger fawn shedding his baby winter coat.

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.

California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, Battus philenor hirsuta

We walked for about three hours and headed back to our respective homes.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  3. Ashy Gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum [nymph, lion]
  4. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis
  5. Black Locust Bug, Lopidea robiniae 
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Brown Leafhopper, Family: Cicadellidae
  10. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  11. Bur Parsley, Caucalis platycarpos
  12. Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymph]
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  16. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  20. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [heard]
  21. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii
  22. Clouded Sulphur Butterfly, Colias philodice
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  26. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  27. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  28. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  29. Golden-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium californicum
  30. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  31. Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans
  32. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  36. Little Black Ant, Monomorium minimum [including alates, winged individuals]
  37. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  38. Meadow Plant Bug, Lopidea instabilis
  39. Mirid Bug, Thick Sensor Soft Bug, Heterotoma planicornis
  40. Mock Orange, Sweet Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronaries
  41. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  42. Mugwort Weevil, Scaphomorphus longinasus
  43. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  44. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  45. Red-Margin Lopidea Bug, Lopidea instabilis
  46. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  47. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  48. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  49. Six-spotted Zigzag Lady Beetle, Cheilomenes sexmaculata
  50. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  51. Soft Rush, Juncus effuses
  52. Spice Bush, California Sweetshrub, Calycanthus occidentalis
  53. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  54. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum
  55. Tall Flatsedge,  Cyperus eragrostis
  56. Tobacco Budworm Moth, Chloridea virescens
  57. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  58. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  59. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [flying overhead]
  60. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  61. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  62. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  63. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  64. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
  65. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa