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.
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.
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.
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
- California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
- California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
- Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
- Common St. John’s-Wort, Hypericum perforatum
- Cottonwood Twig Borer Beetle, Oberea quadricallosa
- Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
- Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
- Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
- Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
- Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
- Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
- House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
- Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
- Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp .
- Major Willow Gall Midge, Iteomyia major
- Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
- Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria
- Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus [on thistle]
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
- Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
- Rattlesnake Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Briza maxima
- Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Robust Bracket Fungus, Fomitiporia robusta
- Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
- Saint John’s Wort Beetle, Chrysolina hypericin [metallic gold, blue or copper]
- Shortpod Mustard, Hirschfeldia incana
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
- Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
- Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
- Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
- Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
- Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
- Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii
- Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum