Some Bluebird Love and the First Few Shrooms of the Season, 01-31-21

I got up a little after 7:00 this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. My medication hasn’t arrived yet, so I was in a lot of pain. It was 37° when I got to the park – which seems to be the general morning temperature here lately – and got up into the low 60’s by the afternoon.

When I first got there, I was driving down the road, and found my way blocked by a small flock of male Wild Turkeys strutting and showing off to one another. I tried creeping the car forward to get them to move, and I think they thought the car was “strutting”, so they moved in further, collecting around near the bumper. I flashed my headlights and honked the horn at them, and they’d gobble-obble-obble! But wouldn’t move. Hah! I was there for about 10 minutes waiting for them to get interested in something else and move off the road.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

            Lots of birds around today.  There was a small flock of Bufflehead ducks on the water, males and females, but no one was doing any of their courtship stuff… I noticed that the Acorn Woodpeckers were taking full advantage of the windfall acorns after last week’s storm. Rather than pulling acorns off the trees, the birds were collecting them from the ground and poking them into their granary trees… When I was standing in the spot where I was seeing the woodpeckers, I also saw European Starlings, Dark-Eyed Juncos, an Audubon’s Warbler, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and little Oak Titmice all around me. I got photos of most of them, but the Juncos were being shy and kept themselves in the tall grass where I couldn’t focus on them.

There were also several pairs of Western Bluebirds around, and I saw and photographed one pair as they were checking out a nesting cavity together. I’m hoping to see more of that kind of behaviors as we go forward toward spring.

Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana, male

Near to where the bluebirds were doing house hunting, I also saw a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker looking for bugs in the bark of an oak tree. So, like I said, lots of birds!

I was less lucky with fungi. I only found some common brown Brittlestem mushrooms, bright Yellow Fieldcaps, and a few outcroppings of the Magpie Inkcap mushrooms.

The inkcaps are a species of mushroom disburses its spore in a sluice rather than as dry dust. The ‘shroom is so water-dense that as it ages it liquifies. All the “white stuff” on the cap is actually the residue of a veil that covered the mushroom when it was underground. I found some very fresh, newly “popped” specimens that haven’t opened up yet, and some where the cap was already liquifying and oozing toward the ground.           

I also came across a few Barometer Earthstars, and was able to get photos and a little video of how they puff out their spores.

I did get to see a couple of small herds of Columbian Black-Tailed deer, including one that was all bucks and one that was all does. In the bucks’ group there was a young spike buck, and a few larger ones, including 3- and 4-pointers. I haven’t seen the big 5-pointer buck, that has been around in previous years, at all, anywhere, this year. I don’t know what happened to him…  The in the doe-group was a matriarch and a young yearling. They were all sitting down in the grass, and got to their feet when I walked by – the matriarch putting herself between me and the younger does.  Just beautiful.

I walked for 3 hours, but it was slow going because of my pain. This was hike #11 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  5. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  8. Common Pin Mold, Mucor mucedo
  9. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  13. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  14. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  15. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate
  16. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  17. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  18. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  19. Red Edge Brittlestem Mushrooms, Psathyrella corrugis
  20. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  21. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  22. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  23. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  24. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  25. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  26. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  27. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans

The Eww Factor, 01-29-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a much-needed walk around 7:30 am. I was hoping to see some fungi and was going to check out any rain puddles for signs of hairworms. So, I was going for the “eew factor”… and Nature gave me a lot of it.

The storm had downed quite a few trees in the preserve, but most of the destruction had been cleaned up already and moved off the trails. Still, there were a lot of windfall twigs that seemed to cling to my feet and worked their way up my pant legs. Creepy feeling!

Downed tree limb in the Maidu village

The first eew was finding the bodies of young squirrels that had been thrown out of their dray (squirrel nest) by the storm. They were older “pinkies”, still furless, their eyes just developing under their skin. Their little feet and tails were developing, and there were a few wispy whiskers poking out on their faces, but otherwise they were “embryonic” looking.

I found three of them, all frozen by rigor mortis, their bodies colder than the air.  I listened for heartbeats and breathing, but there was nothing. They’d just fallen too far out of their tree and been exposed to the cold for too long.  I felt sad at the sight of them -– and wondered how traumatic it must have been for their mom to have lost them all in the same night. She must have been sitting on them, trying to keep them warm, when the dray fell apart…

Then I saw what looked like a sickly wild turkey by the little observation pond. He was standing, but all curled up like his insides hurt. I took some photos of him to pass onto the park rangers, but then when I got closer, he WAS able to step away from me. He walked slowly, but everything seemed to function all right… So I don’t know if he was actually sick or just cold and alone.

What I thought was a sickly Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,huddled near the pond.

Along the trails, I found several different kinds of gooey jelly fungus –- eew — including yellow Witch’s Butter, Black Jelly Roll, Brown Ear Jelly Fungus and the little Jelly Spots.

Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica

As I was looking over the Witch’s Butter, part of it still attached to the False Turkey Tail fungus which it was parasitizing, I found some pale, white long-bodied springtails and a tiny spider. Those are details I would have missed without the macro attachment to my cellphone camera.

There weren’t a lot of mushrooms out yet. I guess they need a little more time to push up to the surface. I DID find a patch of purple Blewit mushrooms, though. They’re also called “Purple Cores”. When they’re fresh, they’re lavender all over… and then lose a lot of their color. The ones I found were pretty spent already, but the caps still showed off some of their purple hue.  I also found some Yellow Fieldcaps, much smaller than the Belwits, but their color was much much brighter.

I saw a mother with two very small children with her who were looking into a very large mud puddle. They mentioned “worms”, so I stepped over –- not too close because of COVID – to see what they were looking at. In one part of the puddle was a mass of little white worms wriggling slowly.  I told the mom that they looked like pinworms to me, so she should probably keep her little kids out of that water and she said thank you.

Then she pointed out a second much larger worm in the other end of the puddle, and I was excited to see it was a hairworm (!) I know, I get jazzed by weird stuff.

Horsehair Worms are from the phylum of “nematomorphs”, and are also called hairsnakes or Gordian Worms (because they wrap themselves upon convoluted knots when they mate).

The hairworm/ Horsehair Worm was maybe ten inches long, dark, like a hair from a horse’s tail.  It was moving slowly, snake-like toward the edge of the puddle. I actually picked it up to see what it feltlike and was surprised to find that wasn’t gushy like an earthworm; it was cord-like and felt “muscular”. The skin wasn’t slimy; it felt “dry”, like a snake’s scale. I took some photos of it, and then placed it back into the water. 

Then, the Naturalist in me coming out, I explained to the mother that the hairworm wasn’t generally harmful to humans, but it parasitizes other insects. The worms lay eggs along the edges of ponds and puddles – or even swimming pools — that are ingested by insects like crickets. The larvae grow in the cricket’s body, going through several instars (molts) over the period of several weeks (or months) until it matures. Inside the cricket, the worm wraps around and around itself as it grows, filling the cricket’s body, then when it matures, the worm infects the cricket’s brain and forces the cricket toward the nearest water source – where the cricket drowns itself and dies. After the cricket dies, the adult worm emerges and seeks a mate. That got a verbal “Eeeew!” from the mom and the kids. Sometimes nature is gross-cool. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As I was going along, finding all the “eews”, I was lamenting to myself that I hadn’t seen a single deer that morning, which was unusual for that preserve. Then, along the Woodland Trail, I finally found a small herd that includes does and some yearlings, a young spike buck, and a large 4-pointer buck. They were lovey.

I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed back home. This walk was #10 in my #52HikeChallenge; a milestone! Woot!

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  8. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  9. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with green or brown apothecia, on trees]
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [overhead flight]
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  17. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  18. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella [white with white apothecia]
  19. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  20. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  21. Hooded Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza fallax [leafy, yellow-orange, on trees]
  22. Horsehair Worm, Hairworm, Phylum: Nematomorpha
  23. Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  24. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  25. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  26. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [greenish apothecia]
  27. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  28. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  29. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  30. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  31. Pinworm, Family: Oxyuridae
  32. Plump Springtails, Superfamily: Onychiuroidea
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  35. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  36. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  37. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  38. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  39. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  40. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  41. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  42. Wall Spider, Oecobius sp.
  43. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  44. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus         
  45. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  46. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  47. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans

Frosty Morning at the Fish Hatchery, 01-26-21

I got up around 5:00 am in pain and had to take some meds, then after letting the dog out to go potty, we both went back to bed until 7:00 am.

It was only 28° outside then. Wow! Brrrr!  Nevertheless, I got myself ready and headed out for a walk at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.  It was 31° at the river, but warmed up to a balmy 45° a few hours later when I left.

They’re still doing a lot of reconstruction at the site and most of the area by the new (not yet finished) salmon ladder is fenced off and full of heavy equipment. You can get to the trail that runs along the hill beside the American River, and they’ve finished a new viewing platform with benches at then of the “paved” portion of the trail.

In the water were Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Mallards.  I noticed that the Goldeneyes were getting harassed by the gulls. As soon as one of the Goldeneyes was able to catch a fish, a gull would attack it and grab the fish!  I saw this behavior about four times, but was only able to video the aftermath of the attacks. Those gulls were FAST!

Along the bank of the river were Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets. When I was taking photos of one of the Great Blue Herons, I was astonished to see some early-in-the-season lupines and vetch in bloom. The plants are so confused by the weather.

And there were a couple of Green Herons inside the fenced-in raceways that usually house the salmon fry. There were no fish in the raceways today, though, because the cement raceways were being cleaned, so the herons got nuthin’ for their efforts.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens, in the trout raceways

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I took quite a few photos of a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches as they wrested and ate seeds from the Starthistle. Then I saw a male Anna’s Hummingbird sunning himself on a twig, and just as I focused on him and took the photo, a female Goldfinch took his place on the twig. Hah! I guess she REALLY wanted her photo taken!

There were quite a few White-Crowned Sparrows around, eating cast off seeds and berries from the Coffeeberry trees. I also came across a Song Sparrow and got a little bit of video of it singing.

The big surprise of the day was seeing a beaver swimming along the shore on the opposite side of the river. I was able to get a little bit of video of it. I had never seen one there before, so that was a nice treat.

I walked for about 2½ hours.  This was walk #9 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bush Lupine, Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  9. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  12. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  14. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. Glaucous-Winged Gull, Larus glaucescens [gray wings/grey wing-tips; red spot; pink legs]
  17. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  18. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  19. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  20. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  21. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  22. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  23. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  24. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  25. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  26. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  27. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  29. Prickly Pear Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  30. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  31. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  32. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  33. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  34. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  35. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  36. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  37. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]

First Trip to Anderson Marsh, 01-23-21

Birthday Week Day SEVEN: Milking it for everything it’s got! Hah! I got up at 6:00 this morning, and was out the door by 6:30 with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne to head out to the Anderson Marsh State Historical Park in Lake County. We’d never been there before, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We got our morning coffee and breakfast sammich and then hit the road. Luckily, the drive there is pretty much a straight shot down Highway 20 with a little turn onto Highway 53, and the place is well-marked, so it was very easy to get to. From Sacramento, the one-way drive was about 1¾ hours. There was fog in some of the valleys between the hills, but often we were driving above it… and most of it burned off by the end of the trip.

At the park, we parked in lot near the old homestead an dilapidated barns (and there’s something about old barn that is hauntingly beautiful). Because of COVID, we couldn’t get into the house/museum, but we could still walk the grounds (and there were porta-potties available if you needed one.)  We spotted Canada Geese and some Dark Eyed Juncos on the lawns.

Canada Geese, Branta canadensis

According to the brochure: “…The complex today includes the ranch house and five small outbuildings. The outbuildings include two non-usable privies from the late 1800s; a double garage (ca. 1930); a smokehouse of 20th-century construction; and a shed and corral built in the 1920s and moved to their current location when Highway 53 was built…”

The first thing we were attracted to were the lichen on the black walnut trees, on some cast-off sticks and all along an old stretch of fence. Wow! There were so many, some piled upon top of others, and in so many different colors (didn’t know there THAT many shades of green!). I don’t know if I’ll be able to identify them all. 

While we were taking photos of the lichen, I said, “Why are my hands so cold?” and then I looked at the temperature gauge on my phone. It was 30° there!  Yikes. Glad I dressed in layers. As soon as the sun poked its head up over the fog, though, it warmed up a bit and was about 58° by the time we left the park.

Another thing that struck us was how “high” the graft marks were on the English Walnut trees (where they had been grafted onto Black Walnut root stock).  There were a couple of pure Black Walnut trees nearest to the parking area, but the rest of trees were grafted. On some of them, the graft mark was at the 6 or 7 foot level.  We also noticed that where the English Walnut trees had lost all of the walnuts, the Black Walnut trees were still holding onto theirs. Don’t know what any of that means; we just thought it was interesting to note.

English Walnut, Juglans regia (top), grafted onto rootstock of Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra (bottom)

I tried researching grafted trees to see if the graft mark will grow UP as the base grows, but nope. The lower rootstock part of the tree (in this case the Black Walnut) doesn’t grow up, but it can layers/rings and grow OUT as the tree ages. The graft mark stays where it is. So… These English Walnut trees were apparently grafted onto the Black Walnut base at a very tall spot. I think that’s odd…  “…A tree that has been top grafted will have a height noted next to the form that refers to the length of the clear stem (i.e. before the branches start). The clear stem will not grow any taller, only the head of branches will develop…” Hmmm…

Anyway, after a while we decided we had to tear ourselves away from the lichen-covered fence, or we’d never get our walk started. We had to stop for a moment, though, to admire the totally gnarly base of a HUGE oak tree behind one of the out buildings.

Gnarly Valley Oak tree

Then we headed out along the Cache Creek Nature Trail and a little bit of the Anderson Flats Trail.  This time of year, everything is mostly burnished shades of brown, gold and a little red because nothing (except for the mistletoe) is in bloom or fruiting right now. I can see the potential for a lovely spring, though.

The Cache Creek trail, which is wide and flat (and can accommodate wheelchairs) took us through some fields of teasel and other thistles which, again, should be beautiful in the late spring/early summer when all of that comes into bloom; there should also be quite a few pollinators out there by then, too. Totally worth another trip out there. Then we got to the creek itself which was totally dry except for a mud puddle in the deepest part of it. Need more rain.

Along the way, we found a dead Jerusalem Cricket that had been washed out of its burrow by the rain. Some folks find these creature totally freaky, but I think they’re interesting.  Rox took a photo of me holding it while I took photos of it. When I posted the photo on Facebook, I got comments like:

  • Barbara B: Okay, THIS is where I draw the line. These guys creep me out so bad!!!!
  • Monica N: Eeewwww. You touched it
  • Bryan M: Yuck. Those things really freak me out!
  • Gary S: No! Put it down! I am not squeamish but they freak me out
  • Charlotte G: First time I ever saw one was in Davis. Migo had stepped on one and it was still sort of alive bc it has gone inside the grooves of his frog. I think I screamed and dropped his hoof. Poor boy! Had no idea why I was tweaking- I thought he had stepped on a small alien.
  • Tony K: I’ll stick with Monica! EWWWWW you touched it!            
Me and the Jerusalem Cricket. Photo by Roxanne Moger.

I’d actually written an article about the critters back in 2018. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then we stepped out onto a long bridge/boardwalk structure that crossed the creek bed in several places. Below was a tangle of willow trees, teasel and blackberry vines, and I could see some of the teasel moving.  “There’s something in there,” I said to Roxanne who was a little bit ahead of me on the bridge. “It’s a deer!” she said. No way! I looked closer and she was right; there was a deer standing cheek-high in blackberry vines. A doe. Then we noticed another one just behind her which I think was a yearling based on its “young”-looking face. 

We couldn’t see any part of their bodies, and the way they were covered meant we also couldn’t get a good look at their faces and profiles.  But based on their incredibly large ears I’m guessing they might have been pure Mule Deer rather than the Columbian Black-Tail subspecies. Mule Deer have longer faces than the Black-Tails, and they have a white rump patch that the Black-Tails don’t have.  The Black-Tails are also darker and smaller than the Mule Deer.  But I couldn’t see enough of these deer to really tell what they were.

There were songbirds in the trees but we had trouble getting anything to sit still long enough to photograph it. I did get some photos of a Phainopepla and some of a White-Tailed Kite hunting over the field. 

I had a little better luck when the bridge/boardwalk took us along the tail end of Clear Lake for a short distance. In and around the water there we saw Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Grebes, Clark’s Grebes, some Ruddy Ducks, cormorants, and male Goldeneyes.  Later we also caught sight of a muskrat swimming in the water. I got crappy video of it, but Rox got some better still shots. That was a nice surprise.

On the shores we caught glimpses of a Great Egret, Great Blue Heron and some Collared Doves playing tag on a dead snag. We also saw a Northern Flicker use the log to step down close to water’s edge so it could get a drink.

On the other side of the bridge/boardwalk was more flat, wide trail with mounds of blackberry vines and wild roses piled up higher than our heads. We walked through that until we got onto the Anderson Flats Trail. That led through flat (duh) grasslands that held little promise of seeing anything, so we turned around and went back the way we came. All in all, we walked 2.02 miles. So, that counts as walk #8 in my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!

Although the landscape was a bit disappointing today, as I said, I can see the potential for possible wildflowers and more birds in the spring when there might be more water in the creek, and butterflies and gall searches in the summer. Certainly worth a trip or two back this year. I’d like to get out the marshland when its wet, for example.

I was hurting by the time we got back to the car, so I took some meds and chillaxed while Roxanne drove us back home. [I’m so grateful to her for being my chauffer on these long trips.] We took the twisty-turny Highway 16 route back to Woodland, and got to see some of the wildfire impacted areas.  Some of them are still looking pretty bleak.

We got home around 4:00 pm, so that was long day for us.  Nice to get some supper and settle into bed for the rest of the day.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  5. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  6. Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata [hoary green with black back, black spots on thallus]
  7. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Bristly Beard Lichen, Usnea hirta [thin bristly fronds]
  10. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  11. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  12. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Cat, Felis catus
  17. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  18. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  19. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Dark Jerusalem Cricket, Ammopelmatus fuscus
  22. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. English Walnut, Juglans regia
  25. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  26. Firedot Lichen, Athallia holocarpa [bright orange, flat dots]
  27. Flattened Thornbush Lichen, Kaernefeltia merrillii [very dark green, thorny-looking thallus]
  28. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  29. Frosted Lichen,  Physconia sp. [dark green with pruinose on edges]
  30. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella
  31. Giraffe Spots, Peniophora albobadia [flat, brown w/light rim]
  32. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  33. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  34. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  35. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  36. Hooded Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza fallax [leafy, yellow-orange, on trees]
  37. Lecidella Lichen, Lecidella elaeochroma [crustose lichen, whitish with dark spots]
  38. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  39. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  40. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [greenish apothecia]
  41. Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus
  42. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  43. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  44. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  45. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  46. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  48. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  49. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
  50. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  52. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  53. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  54. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  55. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  56. Swamp Rose, Rosa palustris
  57. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  58. Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [black below the eye]
  59. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  60. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  61. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  62. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  63. ?? Oak tree, Quercus sp.

The Necessity for Fishing Line Clean-Up, 01-20-21

Birthday Week Day Four: I got up around 7:00 am and around 7:30 headed over to the Mather Lake Regional Park where I met up with fellow naturalist, Rachael. Rachael had never been there before, so it was fun showing her around and telling her where we usually see what. We actually got to see [and hear] quite a lot.

Rachael had brought her spotting scope out to see if we could see anything a little bit better. We tried to get it to focus on an osprey and a pair of White-Tailed Kites that were sharing a tree on the opposite side of the lake. It took a while to get the scope to cooperate, adjusting this, tilting that, readjusting… but we DID get a view of the birds and were able to see that the osprey was a female (with a necklace of dark spots around her neck).

A female Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, with a White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus, behind her. You can tell the female Ospreys from the males by the necklace of spots hanging down from around their neck.

The scope was too cumbersome to carry along the mostly-narrow trails around the lake, so it was returned to Rachael’s car before we carried on.

There was birdsong all around today, including the sounds of California Quail, Great-Tailed Grackles, and Northern Flickers. There were Great Blue Herons on the shoreline as well as Great Egrets.  Among the Great Blue Herons we saw today, was a bonded pair of the birds that were flying back and forth across the lake. This one landed in the top of the tree… It’s so interesting to watch their dance.

Lots of Double-Crested Cormorants in the trees and the water. We also saw several Nuttall’s Woodpeckers including both a male and a female that stopped longs  enough for me to get some photos of them.

We were surprised to see a solitary male Canvasback Duck swimming on the lake. And also saw a solitary male Bufflehead and Wigeon.  What is it that causes these males to go off on their own? Are they ahead of the flock or behind it?

The family of River Otters was out an about, but they were tucked in along the edges of the island for the most part, too far away to get really good photos of them. We saw one of them exit the water and gallop through the tules – in and out of sight. The kind of roll and waddle when they’re on land, but in the water, they’re all silk.

North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis

We also saw a pair of White-Tailed Kites who were murmuring quietly to one another and flying in “soft circles” with their legs down. Rachael and I wondered if that was courtship behavior, so I looked it up when I got home and – yep! We were right. “Leg hanging” is part of the courtship and territorial behavior, and is usually done over a potential nesting site! Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we could see a kite nest here?!

White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

When we were near the end of the trail on the “golf”-side of the lake we could hear a goose calling but with a rattling, pain-filled honk like nothing we’d ever heard before. We followed the sound out to the edge of the water where there was a flattened out patch of tules. Rachael ventured out as far as she could without getting her feet wet, and took some video of the goose as it struggled to breathe and coughed and gently shook its head.  It was out in the water, floating there, so we couldn’t get close enough to it to “rescue” it.

Rachael getting some video of the goose in distress.

When I got home, I looked up goose diseases to try to figure out what the bird might be suffering from, and was surprised by the number of diseases they can get, including coccidiosis and avian influenza (especially prevalent in Canada Geese). Wow. Many of the diseases are caused by their living and feeding in water that is contaminated by animal feces…

When I posted the find to Facebook, another friend, Allyson Seconds, saw the post and passed it on to her animal rescuer friend, Ben Nuckolls. Ben had been getting several calls about the goose and had been trying to rescue it, but it kept evading him. He asked for more details on the one we saw, and Rachael responded with:

“…I could not see any obvious injury or entanglement. The piercing sound is what attracted our attention. The goose continually put its bill in the water and withdraw and shake its head gently. Then it would follow with what I would describe as a cough since the entire chest and abdomen expanded and contracted as it make the loud piercing sound. It would periodically open its bill briefly too. I have video and will pm it too you…”

Ben wrote: “…I’m still suspecting the ingestion of fishing line or fish hook because this lake is known for its many entanglement hazards. Disease cases would most likely show up in more than one goose at a time and not be an isolated goose. If I can catch it, I will examine all the possibilities…”

Ben went out to look for the bird, and sadly found it – dead in the water. Closer inspection showed it “had an obstruction of fishing line and a hook down its throat”. Ben’s photos showed the obstruction suffered by the goose. It was ghastly.

Photo by Ben. The dead goose with fishing line and hooks inside its mouth and throat.

I knew the geese and ducks could get tangled in fishing line (and have seen ones who log a leg or had a wind sawed off by the stuff, by it didn’t occur to me that the birds might EAT it.  I suppose if it’s wrapped up in the water vegetation they eat, or if there’s still a lure and hook attached to it they might think that’s a meal and gobble it up. This particular goose had a hook lodged in its throat and wad of the line bunched up inside its mouth… so it couldn’t eat and had trouble breathing. Good lord, poor thing. Cast off line and dropped hooks is a major problem at the lake, but the park doesn’t have enough personnel to do the recon and clean-up of the stuff.

We walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to our respective homes. Rachael said she’s been looking for places nearby that are relatively easy to walk but still have a nature component to them, so I suggested she check out my website; there are lots of sites listed there. This was walk #7 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. ?? Snake bones
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  9. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  10. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  11. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  16. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  20. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  27. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  29. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  31. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  32. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  33. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  34. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  35. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  36. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  37. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  38. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  39. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  40. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  41. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  42. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  43. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  45. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  46. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  47. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  48. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

Post Script:

Ben set up an impromptu clean-up for volunteers at the park the next day.  They found one more dead goose and another one that was coughing and wheezing. It was taken to Gold Country Wildlife Rescue to be rehabilitated.            

Too Windy at the Bypass, 01-19-21

Birthday Week, Day Three. I had planned for this to be a “crash” day between excursions, but my friend Roxanne invited me to join her on a trip to Yolo County. Yipee!

We went to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and then went to the Ibis Rookery in Woodland. So we headed out around 7:00 am. It was super-windy today, though, which meant birding was pretty much a no-go. There was so much chop on the water that there were actual cresting waves across the flooded fields and marshes.  And that wind was COLD! As we were driving around, we’d open the car windows to try to shoot some photos through them, only to get blasted by the wind. Some gusts were so strong, they knocked the camera back and forth as I held it up to get a shot.

We saw a few raptors including a couple of White-Tailed Kites, some Red-Tailed Hawks, and a few Northern Harriers. There were also lots of White-Crowned Sparrows hugging the growth closer to the ground and wherever berms shielded them from the wind. There were also “piles” of ducks, different species crammed in against one another for warmth, or feeding with their faces in the water below the chop. Pickings for photos were slim.

The one good thing about this trip is that we figured out the whole circular route through the place this time around, so we know where to go now the next time we head out there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As we were heading out of the wildlife area, we saw some Northern Harriers on the ground. One of them had a clod of dirt in its talons and was “playing” with it, lifting it up, letting it fall, picking it up again, tossing it. Apparently, this is common among juvenile Harriers.

Cornell notes: “…In the fledgling stage, juveniles chase and supplant one another, and occasionally pounce on and play with inanimate objects. In winter, Bildstein observed Northern Harriers playing with inanimate objects, both before going to roost in evening and after roosting. Individuals picked up and manipulated vole-size corncobs and other crop residue; birds were more likely to initiate play when a nearby bird did so, and as many as 3 birds played with corncobs…”

As the one we were watching was playing, I noticed that she’d transfer the clod of dirt from one foot to another… almost like she was practicing the “prey transfer” moves that adult Harriers do between them (when the male brings food to the female). I got a little video of it, but it was so windy, the camera moves all over the place.

We then went over to the Ibis Rookery and were surprised by the number of Ruddy Ducks we saw in the water there, but, again because of the wind we didn’t get to see a lot of birds – or anything else.  We were also surprised by a new sign that read “No Birder Vehicles Beyond This Point”, so we weren’t able to circle the settling ponds like we normally would. That kind of added insult to injury.

Although we didn’t get much in way of interesting sightings or photos, we had a lot of fun chatting all along the way. Sometime, we need to set up one of the cellphones to record our running commentary… we crack ourselves up.  Hah!

We spent about 3½ hours driving around, and because it was all driving and no walking, I couldn’t count it toward my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  10. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  11. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  12. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  13. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  14. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  17. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  18. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  19. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  20. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  21. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  22. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  23. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  24. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  25. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  26. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  27. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  28. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  29. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  30. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  31. Sunflower??
  32. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  33. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  34. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys