A Round About Trip to the Zinnia Patch, 08-11-20

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. 

Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis

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.

Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius

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.

Photo of me taken by Roxanne Moger. This shows you how tall the zinnia plants were!

Species List:

  1. Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
  2. Azure Bluet Damselfly, Houstonia caerulea
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blanket Flowers, Gaillardia sp.
  6. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white face, males blue, females are diluted yellow-tan]
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Bold Jumping Spider, Phidippus audax
  9. Bright Bead Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster glaucophyllus
  10. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  11. Broad-leaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  12. Bull-headed Sac Spider, Trachelas pacificus [flat, domed egg sac]
  13. Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  14. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  15. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica [exuvia]
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Common Lamb’s-Quarters, Chenopodium album
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  21. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  22. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  23. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
  24. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  25. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Gray Looper Moth, Rachiplusia ou
  28. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  29. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  30. Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
  31. Horse Mint, Mentha longifolia
  32. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus
  33. Intermediate Wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium
  34. Johnson Grass, Sorghum halepense
  35. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  36. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  37. Mock Orange, Japanese Pittosporum, Pittosporum tobira
  38. Mournful Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis tristis
  39. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  40. Orb-Weaver Spider, Metazygia sp. [with egg case]
  41. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
  42. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla
  43. Pallid-winged Grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis
  44. Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Canis lupus familiaris “Corgi”
  45. Ram’s Horn, Proboscidea louisianica
  46. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  47. Redvein Abutilon, Callianthe picta
  48. Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  49. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  50. Roma Tomato, Solanum lycopersicum ‘Roma’
  51. Safflower Thistle, Carthamus tinctorius
  52. Salt Marsh Moth, Estigmene acrea [caterpillar, dead]
  53. Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
  54. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  55. Tule Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma carunculatum
  56. Umbrella Papyrus, Cyperus involucratus
  57. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  58. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
  59. Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  60. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  61. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  62. Western Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus sp.
  63. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  64. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
  65. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [seeds]
  66. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  67. Zinnia, Elegant Zinnia, Zinnia elegans