Lots of Golden-Crowned Sparrows, 10-16-20

Up at 7:00 and out the door by 7:30 to go for a walk at William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden.  I was really hurting today -– the Poltergeist is angry — so I didn’t stay out as much as I normally might.

At the park, the middle pond is almost completely covered with Sacred Lotus, but the lotus has gone to seed and is dying off, so it’s really just a mostly-ugly mess in the water. I think the ducks and geese will be grateful when it’s gone so they can have the water to themselves again. [Give me some waders; I’ll go out there and pull up those plants.] The seed pods made for good landing spots for the Black Phoebes, though.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

The leaves also hosted swarms of what I think were a kind of Semaphore Fly. There were dozens of them. I think they’d all just hatched or something and were warming themselves up in the early morning sunlight.

Among the Mallards and domesticated ducks there were a few wild Wood Ducks. I also saw a Muscovy Duck hanging out with a plump black-and-white Rock Pigeon. I don’t get to see this kind of pigeon very often, and have the feeling this one had been someone’s pet.

Rock Pigeon, Columba livia

The Fox Squirrels were out in force, running around, trying to find hiding places for their nuts and acorns. They carry the nuts in their mouth, and then place it into the ground, patting dirt and grass over the nut to try to hide it. 

If they see you watching them, they sometimes try to fake you out by doing the patting on the ground, then secreting the nut to a different location. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the WPA Rock Garden, I saw a hummingbird taking a “bath” in the sprinkler water that had collected on the leaves of a bush.  And where there were several stands of Red Amaranth in the garden, the plants were inundated with lots of Golden-Crowned Sparrows who were chowing down on the seeds and florets.

The Strawberry trees are getting their fruit this time of year. The Carob Trees were covered in fluffy catkins, the Firethorns were covered in berries, and the Japanese aralia (also called “Paperplants”) were flowering. 

Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo

Even as the seasons start to shift, nature is working to continue the reproductive and feeding processes necessary for a lasting ecosystem.

I ended up walking for about 2 ½ hours before heading back home.

Species List:

  1. Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia arborea
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Buff Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var Orpington
  6. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  10. Carob Tree, Ceratonia siliqua
  11. Chinese Juniper, Juniperus chinensis
  12. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  13. Crested Duck,  Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  14. Crimson Fountain Grass, Cenchrus setaceus
  15. Domestic Swan Goose, Chinese Goose, Anser cygnoides domesticus [white or gray, knob on forehead]
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  17. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  18. Graylag Goose, Anser anser
  19. Great Desert Spoon, Century Plant, Dasylirion acrotrichum
  20. Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  21. Japanese Aralia, Paperplant, Fatsia japonica [kind of looks like a cross between a coffee plant and a fig tree]
  22. Juniper Leaved Grevillea, Grevillea juniperina ssp. sulphurea
  23. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  24. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  26. Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha
  27. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata domestica
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  30. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  31. Pokeweed, American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
  32. Pyracantha, Narrowleaf Firethorn, Pyracantha angustifolia
  33. Red Amaranth, Cock’s Comb, Amaranthus cruentus
  34. Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  35. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  36. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  37. Semaphore Fly, Subfamily: Dolichopodinae
  38. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  39. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  40. Sugarbush, Protea sp.
  41. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  42. Trailing Abutilon, Callianthe megapotamica
  43. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  44. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

The Spike Buck Was the Stand Out Today, 10-14-20

I got up around 7:00 again this morning, and was out the door by 7:30 am to take a walk at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was in a little Poltergeist pain, so that was kind of distracting, and it was already warming up for the day, so I was only out for about 2 hours.

All of the bright lovely Sulphur Shelf fungi I’d seen last time I was there, were pretty much done in already. Humans have broken off most of the shelves and pulled the fungi off the trees, which is really sad to see. So, now most of the brackets are now brittle and going chalky already.

One of the few specimens of Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii, that wasn’t yet spoiled by human predation.

I saw quite a few deer today, including a small herd of does, yearling fawns and a young spike buck. The spike buck was really feeling his oats, and was bouncing around, chasing females and trying to mount them… until two larger bucks showed up. Then the young guy took off and kept his distance.  At one point, though, they were very close to me, maybe within ten feet, and another photographer stopped to take photos of my encounter with them. That was cool.

I also got pretty close to a Red-Shouldered Hawk on two occasions.  I saw him first right over my head on a branch in an oak tree.  I heard him “trilling” from his perch before I saw him.  By the time I lifted my camera to get a photo of him, each time he flew off further away and higher into the trees.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of Acorn Woodpeckers were out and about, moving acorns from one of their granary trees to another. In one of the trees, the Acorn Woodpeckers were stashing acorns in behind the bark and some Starlings figure out what they doing. One of the Starlings got in behind the bark and poked its head out through a hole in it like it was a nesting cavity. Hah!

European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

On the way out of the preserve, I saw a little Bewick’s Wren in among the snowberry bushes and got a few shots of it, and I also found a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet near the little pond by the nature center.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Bull Frog, Lithobates catesbeianus
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  14. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  15. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  16. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  17. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  18. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  19. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  20. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  21. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  22. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  23. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata

Our First Bitterns of the Season, 10-12-20

Happy Indigenous People’s Day! I got up around 6:00 this morning and was out the door by 6:30 to head out for an all-day birding drive with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We stopped off to get some breakfast at a drive-through and then got on the freeway, heading north.

We stopped first at the cemetery in the little town of Maxwell, looking for the Vermillion Flycatcher that has been spotted and photographed there over the past few weeks. We saw doves, finches, blackbirds and starlings… but didn’t see the flycatcher.

Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto in a cypress tree at the cemetery.

He’s a bright red bird with black highlights, so it’s not like we could’ve missed him if we ever caught sight of him. But I guess he wasn’t up yet. Dang it! (What was a double dang-it was the fact that someone else went there later in the afternoon and got photos of him. Arrrgh!)

Vermilion Flycatcher, male. Photo by Janell Darroch at the Maxwell Cemetery

We then went to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see what the water situation was there, and to look for bitterns. Other people have posting photos of them from there recently, and Rox had never seen one before, so we were hoping to get lucky.

The first thing we saw when we drove into the turnout was a family of four river otters in the slough that runs parallel to the railroad tracks. They were pretty far away, and moving quickly in the water, so getting photos and videos of them was a bit difficult – but we felt it was an auspicious start to the morning there.  We could see that some of them were crunching up crayfish.

We stopped off at the nature center to use the restroom, and were greeted by a sign telling visitors to keep a look out for bees that had moved into part of the pergola outside the building. We could see where people had tried to fill gaps between the wooden parts of the pergola with expanding foam…but the bees still managed to find a way in.

As soon as we got on the auto tour route, we saw a juvenile Kite in one of the trees along the entrance path.  And it was a pretty good day for viewing raptors.  Along with the Kite, we also saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk, some Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, a Peregrine Falcon, and a couple of Kestrels. We were hoping to see eagles, too, but none were out when we were there.

Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

One of the kestrels we saw was a female who was up in a bare-branched tree eating what looked like a large green praying mantis. She was harassed by blackbirds, and at one point lost her meal, but she wouldn’t let them chase her out of the tree.

There were large flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese in the areas that had water in them.  Most of the refuge is still dry, dry, dry, but water was present in a few ponds and in the sloughs. We also got to see a couple of the bitterns.  Others had photographed them around the slough near the turn-off for the (now closed) extension loop. One was in the shade in the water, and the other was hunting along the side of the road. As I mentioned, Rox had never seen them “live” before, so she was excited to be able see and photograph them.

We also found a large flock of mostly Tree Swallows (with some Barn Swallows thrown in the mix) that were sitting on the road. I’d never seen that behavior before so, of course, I had to look it up when I got home. According to Cornell, Tree Swallows are attracted to warm surfaces, especially roads, and “often bask with belly or back to sun, wings slightly spread, apparently in effort to warm themselves”. That’s kind of what we were seeing. I’d worry, though, if they were on a road surface where there were a lot of cars that wouldn’t necessarily slow down or stop for them.

As an aside, a flock of swallows is called a “flight”, a “gulp”, a “richness” or a “swoop”. Hah!

Speaking of gulps: in one area we saw not fully developed Bull Frogs popping to the surface of the water in a slough to get a breath of air as they metamorphosed from their aquatic water-breathing bodies to their adult air-breathing bodies.

As we were heading out of the refuge, we came across a shallow pond there some ducks and geese were resting, and in among them was a pair of deer. The birds didn’t seem to mind the big animals so close to them; it was really neat to see.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, among the Greater White-Fronted Geese and ducks.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then we headed over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to see what might be out there. The majority of the auto tour route was a complete disappointment because things are bone dry out there. Even the pond by the viewing platform was nearly empty. I’d never been out there when it was THAT devoid of water.

The only places where we really saw anything were along the sloughs, and then we saw a lot of Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons. We also saw a couple of Pacific Pond Turtles basking on the top of a log poking out of the water, and a couple of Black-Crowned Night Herons. The big draw at that refuge is the huge flock of the Night Herons that usually gather at the end of the auto tour route. Today, there were only about four birds – when normally we’d see 40. So, we felt kind of cheated by that trip. 

The only surprise was seeing a couple of Sandhill Cranes hiding in the tall grasses and smartweeds.

Oh, and I found a banded Mallard, but I could only read part of its band, so I took a photo and reported it through email.

Banded Mallard, male; either a juvenile, hybrid or adult in eclipse plumage.

There are picnic tables near the restroom facility, but they’re all out in the hot sun, with no shade around them at all. So, when we were done driving the route, we pulled over in the shade in the bus turn-around area and parked, then had our lunch and took a potty break. 

There’s a kind of kiosk in front of the restrooms with flyers and signs on it. Under the roof of it I saw what I assumed was a Phoebe’s nest along with some mud-dauber wasp nests and paper wasp nests. On the side of the building, there was also a single little mud cup that I noticed because a wasp had flown up to it. I thought maybe she was building the cup – but then noticed there was already a wasp inside of it! One of her babies?  I got a few photos and determines she was probably a European Tube Wasp, Ancistrocerus gazella. Cool.

European Tube Wasp, Ancistrocerus gazella

When we finished our lunch, we headed back home.  All in all, we were out for about 8 hours.

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Bull Frog, Lithobates catesbeianus
  3. American Coot, Fulica americana
  4. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Barn Swallow,  Hirundo rustica
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  9. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  10. Blue-Eyed Darner Dragonfly, Aeshna multicolor
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  18. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  19. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  20. Cracked Cap Polypore, Phellinus robiniae
  21. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  22. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  24. European Tube Wasp, Ancistrocerus gazella
  25. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Gadwall duck, Mareca strepera
  28. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  29. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  32. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  33. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  34. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  35. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  36. Jimsonweed, Sacred Thorn-Apple, Datura wrightii
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  38. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  39. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  40. Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  41. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  42. Mud-Dauber Wasps and Allies, Subfamily: Sceliphrinae
  43. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  44. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  45. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  46. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  47. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  48. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  49. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  50. Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
  51. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  52. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  53. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  54. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  55. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  56. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  57. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  58. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  59. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  60. Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
  61. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  62. Speckled Dun Mayfly, Callibaetis californicus
  63. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  64. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  65. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  66. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  67. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  68. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  69. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Some Galls and Flux along the Cosumnes River Trail, 10-09-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning and was off to the Cosumnes River Preserve by about 7:15. It was partly cloudy, and I was actually hoping there would be some fog nearer to the preserve – but, no.

I went around Bruceville and Desmond Roads before going into the preserve itself. Again, there were cattle in the fields – including a lot of cute calves.  I got to watch one as he was nursing, and drooling out stands of spit and milk. Hah!

Charolais calf, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were different kinds of sparrows in among the weeds and overgrowth, and small flocks of Western Meadowlarks, blackbirds, and Brown-Headed Cowbirds. Along Desmond Road, in the distant fields, I could see mixed flocks of blackbirds, Canada Geese, Great and Snowy Egrets and Sandhill Cranes. I noticed that one of the cranes was sporting some leg bands. I couldn’t see if there were numbers on any of them, but I reported the sighting to Saving the Cranes anyway .

Sandhill cranes among Canada Geese, egrets and blackbirds.

I had just been to the preserve on Sunday of this week, but today, I wanted to take the River Walk Trail behind the nature center, heading toward the river. I wasn’t able to do the whole round-trip three miles, but still, I thought I did pretty well. There isn’t any water, really, in the fields along the trail, so not a lot of waterfowl to see there.

Listen to the sound of the Red-Winged Blackbirds along the river!

I was astonished to find some of the branches on the smaller Valley oaks just covered with Flat-Top Honeydew galls. I usually see those galls singly or in small clusters, but on these trees, there were dozens and dozens of the gall all crammed in against one another.  I wondered if there was some kind of correlation between those smaller trees and the floods that the preserve is subjected to every year. The small trees would be under water for a month or more… Maybe that makes them “softer” or more easy for the wasps to lay their eggs into the bark?  I don’t know; just wondering.

Galls of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis

I also found several of the oaks “weeping” with either some kind of flux or Sudden Oak Death pathogen. One of the trees had the classic flux symptoms: breaks in the bark near the base of the tree, blackish ooze leaking out, and insects clustered around the wounds.  Flux is also called “wet wood” or “slime flux”, and is caused by bacteria that gets into the tree. It gets in through breaks in the bark or bore-holes from beetles, and kills the cambium near the openings. The ooze it produces turns black when it hits the oxygen in the air, and the whole thing takes on an “alcohol” smell as it ferments.

Evidence of Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux, Phytophthora sp., with a Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

According to The Plant Doctor: “…Sap may continue to ooze for several weeks or months, but usually it eventually stops with no treatment and no apparent damage to the tree. This slime flux may be triggered by heat, drought, and other stress…”

I was hoping to see lots of spiders’ webs in the growth along the trail, but beyond sheet-webs, I didn’t see much of anything… except for a beautiful Labyrinth Orb-Weaver spider.  These spiders make webs that are a combination of an incomplete orb web and other irregular strands. The spider makes a “tent” for itself somewhere along the web out of leaves and debris to hide itself from its prey. The one I saw was wrapped inside a leaf that was hung suspended between several very strong vertical web-strands. The spider was hunched inside the leaf with its legs pulled up around its face.  I was able to coax it out so I could get some photos of it.

“…The labyrinth spider is active, with its webs visible, from March through October. During the rainy season, the female mates and lays eggs. The female usually produces 5 or 6 egg sacs with an average of 55 eggs each. She puts her eggs into several silken discs strung together in a bead-like row, and then builds an egg case around the eggs and hangs it in the web near her retreat, where it is camouflaged by other debris in her web. Once the young emerge they are self-sufficient; they leave the mother’s nest by ballooning…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also found an interesting-looking burl on the branch of a cottonwood tree and wondered what caused it.

“…A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner.. It is caused by some kind of stress, such as injury, virus, fungus, insect infestation or mold growth…  The inside of a burl is unique, not like the straight grained wood in the rest of the tree. Cutting open a burl reveals a wood grain that is twisted, contorted and deformed… Burls begin life as a gall…”

I thought the one I saw might have been a large gall caused by a now vacant outcropping of mistletoe, but I’m not sure.

Even though I felt like I wasn’t seeing a lot, I was surprised when I got back to the car that I had been walking for about 4 hours(!).

Species List:

  1. Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux, Phytophthora sp.
  2. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  4. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  9. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  14. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  15. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  16. Crampball Fungus, Daldinia concentrica
  17. Denseflower Willowherb, Epilobium densiflorum
  18. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  21. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Grape Erineum Mite, Colomerus vitis
  26. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  27. Green Alga (freshwater), Chlorophyta ssp.
  28. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  29. Labyrinth Orb-Weaver Spider, Metepeira labyrinthea
  30. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  31. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  34. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  35. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  36. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  37. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  38. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  39. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  40. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  41. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  42. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  43. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  44. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  45. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  46. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  48. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  49. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  50. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  51. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  52. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  53. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  54. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  55. Willow Stem Sawfly Gall, Euura exiguae
  56. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  57. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  58. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

Lots of Birds at the Lake, 10-07-20

I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:15 am to Mather Lake Regional Park.  It was 59° and partly cloudy when I got there, and got up to 72° by the time I left. Across from the main gate on Zinfandel, on the fence line, I saw a female Northern Harrier.  She was very accommodating, and stayed there while I stopped the car near her and took her photo.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, female

Inside the park, there were hardly any people today. I only saw two fishermen – and the male photographer I’d seen past week who had tried to race me to get photos of the river otters.   Today, he was on the hunt for a Green Heron that had landed on the shore near me. As soon as he approached it, it – and a second heron we hadn’t noticed – took off in a flurry. They landed further down the shore, so he took off after them.

I saw him stalking them, and once again, as soon as he approached, they took off. One of them flew all the way across the lake and landed on the rail boat launch looking very perturbed. I found a few more of the herons on my walk, and as I was leaving, I found one hunting right along the bank by the small bridge.  A Canada Goose was napping right behind it.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

There were more birds out and about than I’d seen in previous months, and I got treated to views of Bushtits, Belted Kingfishers, a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Golden- and White-Crowned Sparrows, and even a pair of White-Tailed Kites among others. The kites were tag-teaming back and forth across the park; I saw them several times in different trees.  Finally, one of them sat still for a while on top of a “naked” tree and I was able to get some good shots of him.

White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the Mute Swans was floating in the water with one foot hitched up behind its back.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor

“…It is normal for swans to swim with one leg tucked onto their back. People are often concerned that the leg is broken or deformed but the swan is perfectly fine…It has been suggested that this behavior may play a role in helping to regulate the body temperature of the bird. The legs and feet are the only part of the swan not covered in feathers so the blood vessels are in closer contact with the air. The large surface area of the webbed foot makes it easier for heat to be transferred from the body to the air, cooling the swan. This heat exchange could also work the other way, with the feet absorbing heat from the air to warm the bird…”    

I tried catching sight of the muskrat, but no luck. While I was navigating through the weeds along the edge of the lake, though, I found a large brown praying mantis on a stand of bull thistle.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, female

The coyote brush throughout the park is starting to bloom now (mostly male plants) and was full of bees, their corbicula heavy with yellow-orange pollen. Good eating right before winter sets in.

On my way out, I saw a couple of ground squirrels scrambling around. They should be getting ready for winter, too. It doesn’t get cold enough here for them to really hibernate, but they do collect nesting material for warmth and are “seasonally lethargic” (I love that phrase) through the winter months.

I walked for about three hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgari
  18. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  23. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  24. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  25. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria
  27. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  28. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  31. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  32. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  33. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  34. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  35. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  37. Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
  38. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  39. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  40. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  41. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  42. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  43. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  44. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  45. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

In Search of Sandhill Cranes, 10-04-20

I got up around 6:00 am today and was out the door by 6:30 to head out for some nature walking with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  After stopping at a drive-through for some breakfast, we went first to the Cosumnes River Preserve, taking Franklin Blvd. instead of the freeway. Once we got near the preserve, we drove down Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if there was anything interesting in the agricultural fields yet. We were going on the hunt for Sandhill Cranes which had been reported in the area.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

All along the route, we saw large flocks of Wild Turkeys in the empty lots and fields. They’re getting ready for the males to do their fall/winter strut.

We saw lots of sparrows and finches in the brambles and tules on the roadside, including Song Sparrows, Savanah Sparrows, House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches. Among them was a bird I’d never seen before: a little bright yellow fellow with a black mask. He was in among some tules and I kept saying, “what IS that?!”, as I tried to get his picture. The shots I got weren’t all that good, but they were good enough to make an ID. He was a Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas. They’re migrating through the area now, so several people have seen them. 

Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas

Another nice sighting further along the road was a Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya.  We see Black Phoebes all the time, but the Say’s not so much. There were also Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding and flying in small flocks; some singing from the tree tops.

It was so great to see all bird-life activity again after the dearth of it for the past several weeks. Migrations are starting. We should be seeing tons more birds over the next several months.  The only thing that really seemed to be obviously missing were the hawks. We only saw a couple of them during the whole trip.

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were lots of cattle in the fields, some of them bellowing loudly.  In one field, close to the fence line, there were whitish Charolais Cattle: moms with calves. Some of the calves were playing with one another, bouncing around, jostling and head-butting each other.  So cute!

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

At the preserve itself, there still isn’t very much water; most of it is still bone dry which doesn’t bode well for the migratory birds. We did see a lot of Least Sandpipers in one little marshy area along with some Killdeer and one or two Greater Yellowlegs.

A Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, and a Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Along the boat ramp, we found several trashline spiders and their webs, and some larger orb-weaver webs (some with spiders, some without). There were some dragonflies flitting about, but none of them would sit still for any length of time. I think I got a single photo of a Variable Meadowhawk. Down by the water, I could see the Water Hyacinth was still clogging part of the waterway, but they must’ve cleared it out around the dock because it wasn’t around there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

River with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, in it

We when got back to the car, we headed over to Staten Island Road. On the way there, we had to stop for a bit while a farmer used his tractor to clear a fallen tree limb off the road. We gave him a thank-you wave when he was done.

Along Staten Island Road, nothing much is flooded there yet, so there weren’t a lot of different waterfowl that we could see.  We did see lots of Sandhill Cranes, though, which is what we were hoping to see.  Adults and juveniles were in the fields, doing their crackling-calls to one another, feeding, flying overhead. It was great to see them.  We also saw a flock of Cackling Geese, the shorter cousins of the Canada Geese.

We drove up and down the road once, and then headed over to the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve

On the way there, we saw a Northern Mockingbird posing nicely on top of a road sign, but just as I raised my camera to take its picture, the battery died. I told the bird to wait while I changed out the spent battery for a new one, and Roxanne quipped, “Watch. It will wait until you’re ready again, and then fly away.” And sure enough. The bird sat there, looking handsome, while I changed out the battery and as soon as I lifted my camera to take its photo, it flew away.  Hah!

There were more cranes at the preserve, but they were in the fields across from the fenced-in preserve. In one field there was over 200 of them! Amazing.            

There was water on the ground in the preserve itself, on the other side of the fence, and there were birds in the water, but everything was too far and backlit, so we couldn’t get any decent photos of any of them.  We did see a flock of White-Faced Ibis flying overhead, and could also hear lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the elderberry bushes along the road. In the culverts on one side of the road, water was running and there was more water hyacinth growing in there, and Great Egrets fishing.

Great Egret, Ardea alba,in the roadside culvert with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes

We saw signage for The Black Hole wetland preserve, a privately owned preserve overseen by the Wetland Preservation Foundation.  I sent them an email to see if I can get Roxanne and I onto the property to do some photography and species identification.

We were out and about for about 6 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Alfalfa, Medicago sativa
  2. Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  4. Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  11. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  15. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  16. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  18. Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Dead Man’s Foot Fungus, Pisolithus arhizus
  22. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  23. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  28. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  29. Goldenrod, California Goldenrod, Solidago velutina californica
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  32. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  35. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus [very tiny]
  36. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  38. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  39. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  40. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [nest]
  41. Mistletoe Gall, caused by Mistletoe  haustorium growing on a tree
  42. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  43. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  44. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  45. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  48. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  49. Pin Mold, Order: Mucorales
  50. Potato, Russet Potato, Solanum tuberosum
  51. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  52. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  55. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  56. Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti
  57. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  58. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  59. Small Honey Ant, Prenolepis imparis
  60. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  61. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  62. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  63. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  64. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  65. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  68. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  69. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  70. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  71. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  72. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  73. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  74. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  75. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  76. ?? spider egg sac