I got up around 5:30 this morning, and was out the door with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger, to head out toward Davis and the town of Yolo. It was about 63° when we left the house, and got up to around 90° by the afternoon. We stopped on the way at Starbuck’s for some coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
In Davis, we stopped off at the area where there had been Burrowing Owls in the past but, once again, we didn’t see any. The last time we saw them there was a year ago. CLICK HERE for video clip from last year.
Today, we saw plenty of burrows, but no owls. It kind of makes me want to dig into the burrows to look for bones and stuff in order to have necropsies done (if there are bodies in there). We wonder if the owls have been killed by pesticide contamination, or if they were driven away by the plowing up of their fields right next to where their burrows are… I miss them.
The trip out there wasn’t a total bust, though. We stepped off onto the edges of the tomato fields and checked out the Velvetleaf and Ram’s Horn plants. The Ram’s Horn are still in blossom, but they also had some of their distinctive curved seeds pods on them.
The leaves can get pretty huge (5 inches across and a foot long),and the whole plant is sticky-sticky. “…The herbage is coated in glandular hairs carrying tiny oil droplets, making the plant feel oily to the touch and giving it a strong scent…” I took some close-up shots of the “hairs” on the outside of the pods, and could see the little droplets of oil exuding from the glands. Inside, the seeds were white.
Green pods can be “pickled and eaten like okra”. When the pods dry, they turn black and split in half, looking like two large hooked claws, which gives rise to its other common name, Devil’s Claw.
Roxanne and I wondered why the Ram’s Horn was being allowed to grow and thrive in the tomato field. According to my research, the plants are impervious to most herbicides, so the only way to effectively get rid of them is to manually yank them from the ground. There weren’t a lot of the plants in the field we were looking at, so maybe it just wasn’t worth the effort to try to eradicate them.
After the stop at the ag lad, we went into town to the North Davis Ponds to look for dragonflies. We saw several different species flying around, but couldn’t get many photos of any sitting still on the plants.
All along the edge of the pond there were tiny chorus frogs in the grass. And we could hear the deep cello calls of the bullfrogs in the water. Whenever I tried to record their calls, of course, they shut up. Hah!
On the Valley oaks around the pond, we found a few galls. Nothing that we hadn’t seen before, but it was still nice to be able to document them for our iNaturalist observations.
We walked around the park for about an hour or so, and then headed up the freeway further north to Metzger’s Zinnia Patch to see the flowers and look for pollinators. The owner, Mark Mezger has planted two acres of Zinnias on his property – and he’s opened up the acres so members of the public can come in. You can look at and photograph the flowers, cut some for yourself and take them home with you – all for free.
The flowers come is a wide variety of colors and sizes, and are really lovely.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Among the pollinators we saw were a few different species of bees, Cabbage White butterflies, skippers and Duskywings, some plant bugs and a few dragonflies. I got lucky going down one row, when a large Green Darner dragonfly popped up out of the foliage and then flew down near my feet to hide in the shade of the plants. I was able to get a few photos of it before it took off again. Their big stiff wings sound like crackling paper when they take off.
I took a cue from Greg Ira (the statewide director of the university’s Certified California Naturalist program) and tried some super slo-mo video taking. I got a few snippets of a Duskywing drinking nectar from the flowers.
We were out for about 5 hours before heading home. Throughout the whole trip I liked the fact that even if we didn’t find a lot of what we were particularly looking for, we still managed to find things that intrigued and interested us. This is why it’s always fun to go out with Rox.
- Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
- Azure Bluet Damselfly, Houstonia caerulea
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
- Blanket Flowers, Gaillardia sp.
- Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white face, males blue, females are diluted yellow-tan]
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
- Bold Jumping Spider, Phidippus audax
- Bright Bead Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster glaucophyllus
- Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
- Broad-leaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
- Bull-headed Sac Spider, Trachelas pacificus [flat, domed egg sac]
- Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
- Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
- California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica [exuvia]
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Common Lamb’s-Quarters, Chenopodium album
- Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
- Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
- Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
- Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
- Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
- Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
- Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Gray Looper Moth, Rachiplusia ou
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
- Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
- Horse Mint, Mentha longifolia
- Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus
- Intermediate Wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium
- Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense
- Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
- Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mock Orange, Japanese Pittosporum, Pittosporum tobira
- Mournful Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis tristis
- Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Orb-Weaver Spider, Metazygia sp. [with egg case]
- Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
- Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla
- Pallid-winged Grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Canis lupus familiaris “Corgi”
- Ram’s Horn, Proboscidea louisianica
- Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
- Redvein Abutilon, Callianthe picta
- Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
- Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
- Roma Tomato, Solanum lycopersicum ‘Roma’
- Safflower Thistle, Carthamus tinctorius
- Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea [caterpillar, dead]
- Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
- Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
- Tule Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma carunculatum
- Umbrella Papyrus, Cyperus involucratus
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
- Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
- Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
- Western Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus sp.
- White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
- Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
- Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [seeds]
- Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
- Zinnia, Elegant Zinnia, Zinnia elegans