First Trip to Reinhardt, 02-26-21

Up at 6:00 am again and out the door at 6:30 with my friend Roxanne for a long trip to the Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.  “[The] Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is a part of the East Bay Regional Parks District in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is located in the hills east of Oakland. The park contains the largest remaining natural stand of coast redwood found in the East Bay.”  It was the hope of seeing something different in the redwoods that prompted us to make the journey.

Me trying to hug one of the Coast Redwoods. I feel such an affinity with them. [Photo by Roxanne Moger.]

We took the “scenic route” which was about 2-hours one way. Roxanne did all of the driving, for which I was immensely grateful. From Interstate 5 South, we took Highway 160 South to Highway 4 West, then from Highway 24 West to Highway 13 South, and then into the park (which is huge). 

We were following the directions of “The Google Lady”, but when we were on Highway 160 she didn’t tell us to make a left-hand turn over a drawbridge so we went straight ahead. Then The Google Lady took us in a wide circle around old levee roads back to where the bridge was. 

I was peeved that we’d been led in a circle, but if we hadn’t made that unexpected side-trip we would have missed some great sights like a Great Egret rookery, a Great Blue Heron sitting on its nest, and a huge Black-Crowned Night Heron day roost (with maybe 100 birds in it). So, I couldn’t complain too much. Hah!

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, on its nest

When we got to the park we found the Redwood Gate and went in through there. Normally, you have to pay a day-use fee of $5 per vehicle, but today the fees were waived. That was nice to see.

Our first priority was finding a working restroom or porta-potty. (Had to get rid of our breakfast coffee. Hah!) We found one restroom facility, but it was boarded up without-of-order signs on it, and another sign directing us to another restroom at the end of the drive. We thought it was odd, in this time of COVID, for whomever oversees the park to have EVERYONE collect at that one restroom… Wouldn’t that increase the chances of contamination? Well, at least there were flush toilets and a sink to wash your hands.  I was also pleased to see EVERYONE wearing face protection, gators or masks, everywhere we went in the park. Social distancing was also maintained, even on the trails.

We found a shaded place to park right near where a couple of trail meet, so we picked a direction and just started walking, no looking for anything in particular, just taking everything in. (Well, I HAD hoped to see a banana slug, or some newts, or a Giant Salamander… but it just wasn’t wet enough there. The creek wasn’t “creeking” much.  And the air was still a little chilly in the shadier parts. I was comfortable in my long-sleeved shirt for the most part. I was sunny but a little breezy.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of lichen to look at, but only a few fungi. There was Elegant Fringe Lichen, Heterodermia leucomelos, which I had never seen before. It looked like a plain tube lichen… but had fine black hairs sprouting out all over the thallus. Very cool! The bark on some of the trees were “fluffy” with different kinds of beard lichen, and on the ends of the boards of part of a low fence along the trail we saw Powderhorn lichen. Lots to look at.

One of the most curious lichen we found (to me) was a kind of pelt lichen growing on top of moss on a boulder. The underside of each “leaf” of the pelt was covered in “teeth” that grabbed into the moss.  I’d never seen that before.

Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina [thick “skin” with lots of “teeth” on the back of the pelt]

Among the fungi we saw different kinds of Stereum and crust fungus, some Sulphur Tuft mushrooms, and some purple-black Cramp Balls. I was expecting more, but again it wasn’t wet enough there…and we only worked one area. The park is huge, so there might have been more to see elsewhere.

As we first drove in, I saw a Bewick’s Wren and a Robin greeting us.  And then as we walked the trails, we could hear little peeping birds everywhere, but catching sight of one and then being able to photograph it was quite a feat. There were tiny chickadees in the upper branches of the trees, and little spotted Brown Creepers working on the bark. Both kinds of birds are very small and hard to see even in good light. In the shade of the trees, photographing them was even more difficult because the camera’s auto-focus fought me against the dark shadows.

In one area we watched some Spotted Towhees flying amid the underbrush, and then participating in what looked like knock-down drag-out fights with one another. In other areas, we could hear the towhees calling to one another in their raspy voices, but couldn’t see them.

Later, we heard something that sounded sort of like a jay, but not exactly like the Scrub Jays we see regularly in the Valley. Looking around, we realized the sound was coming from Steller’s Jays (large blue jays with a smokey black head and crest). At yet another stop, we had a pair of ravens cawing to each other in a tree over our head.

The plants and trees, though, gave us a LOT to look at and photograph. (I took 1000 photos on this trip.) The bay trees were in blossom everywhere, and there were alders, oaks and willows, acacias, hazelnut trees, madrones and buckeye, and redwoods, of course. The understory was crammed full of a variety of plants, vines, mosses and ferns. [I figure it will take me DAYS to sort through everything and get it identified.] There were quite a few new-to-me things almost everywhere we looked so it made for a very interesting and curiosity provoking hike. 

Dotted throughout the landscape where we were, there were trees with white flowers on them that we assumed were either some kind of almond or some kind of plum. (They all look the same to me.) We also found some Flowering Currant plants that were starting to flower. The pink flowers were all on dangling racemes; some of the flowers were just starting to open.  

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum

I also saw my first trillium plant. I’d seen photos of them, of course, but had never seen one “live” before. It’s bud was sitting in the middle of its large spotted leaves, but it hadn’t opened yet. Still, very interesting.

Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum

Rox pointed out stands of small liverwort plants, and showed me the little pockets in which the “gemmae” were sitting.  The gemmae are tiny cellular bodies that can separate from the mother plant and form new plants. Usually, the mechanism that separates these gemmae from the liverwort plants is simple rainfall. This type of asexual reproduction is referred to as “fragmentation”.

While we were walking along, a young man came up — I think he said he was visiting from Slovenia — and asked if we knew where he could get something to eat nearby. I was so intent on trying get a photo of a Dark-Eyed Junco at the time that I didn’t say anything, and let Rox explain to him that we weren’t from the area ourselves, so we didn’t know where anything was — and there was no cellphone service there — so we weren’t able to be of much help. It wasn’t until after he left us and the Junco was gone that it occurred to me that I could have given him my lunch if he was really hungry. D’oh!

Elsewhere, we saw old willow stem galls, as well as some fresh bud galls on Coyote Brush. A new gall for me was the one on honeysuckle. It’s a kind of “rosette” gall that looks like a little bouquet of green flowers. It’s caused by the Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera.

Gall of the Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera [rosette gall]

A surprise for me for the day was spotting a Mourning Cloak butterfly. They’re a dark butterfly with light trim on their wings. These are interesting butterflies in that they don’t generally feed on nectar or pollen; they prefer to feed on tree sap and rotting fruit.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa

They’re also a butterfly that overwinters as adults and estivate in the summer. So, they fly and mate in the late winter and spring, sleep in the treetops during the hot summer months, and then fly again in the late fall and early winter months looking for food to help them overwinter. Females lay eggs on willows, elms or hackberry trees, wrapping the eggs around twigs in circling groups. When the caterpillars hatch they feed inside a communal web before they pupate and emerge as butterflies in June or July.

One thing that really ticked us off was seeing dog-poo bags left all over the trails. I don’t understand why people pick up their dog’s poop to keep the feces from contaminating the landscape — but then leave it in a bag that will contaminate the landscape. Idiocy. On the second half of our walk, Rox brought a larger bag with her and picked up the bags of crap so she could dispose of them properly.

Another hiker saw what she was doing and thanked Rox for her efforts. The woman said she usually scolds those she sees dumping the bags and reminds them that the people who take care of the park aren’t their maids and don’t get paid to clean up after other people’s dogs. And she’s right. It’s a conundrum: do you clean up after the pigs who leave their dog’s poop bags on the trail (thereby facilitating their misbehavior), or do you leave the bags and let the environment be tainted by them?

Fellow Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, on a pretty part of the trail.

Our walk took us along a piece of the West Ridge Trail. We went out as far as I could before the trail started to incline too much for me, and then we turned around and went back the way we came. That took us back to where the car was parked, so we stopped there for lunch. Then we headed out in direction opposite from the West Ridge Trail, and took the Bridle Trail past the intersections of the Fern Trail and the Mill Trail. By then I wasn’t able to go much further, so we turned around and went back the way we’d come, ending back at the car once more. This counted as #23 of my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!

Full moon rising by the freeway

Traffic going home was horrendous. We’re not used to that around Sacramento since COVID; it took us hours to get home… with a full moon rising. We got back to the house a little before 7:00 pm. So, that was a long day for us, but I really enjoyed it. Thanks to Roxanne for doing all the driving.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Lycopus americanus [like horehound]
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [along a slough by the road]
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bristly Beard Lichen, Usnea hirta [thin bristly fronds]
  11. Brown Creeper, Certhia americana
  12. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  13. California Bay, Umbellularia californica
  14. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  15. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  16. California Oak Moth, Phryganidia californica
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  18. California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Cherry-Plum Tree, Prunus cerasifera
  21. Chestnut-Backed Chickadee, Poecile rufescens
  22. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  23. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  24. Coastal Manroot, Marah oregana
  25. Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta
  26. Common Cowparsnip, Heracleum maximum
  27. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  28. Common Hazel Tree, Corylus avellana [long catkins, no pseudo cones]
  29. Common Pincushion Moss, Dicranoweisia cirrata
  30. Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  31. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  32. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  33. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  34. Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
  35. Crescent-Cup Liverwort, Lunularia cruciate [look for the gemmae in the cups]
  36. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  37. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  38. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  39. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
  40. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina [thick “skin” with lots of “teeth” on the back of the pelt]
  41. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [along a slough by the road]
  42. Elegant Fringe Lichen, Heterodermia leucomelos
  43. European Gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa [thorny]
  44. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  45. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  46. Fishbone Beard Lichen, Usnea filipendula
  47. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  48. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  49. Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora [leaves similar to Crevice Alumroot]
  50. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella 
  51. Giant Vetch, Vicia gigantea
  52. Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  53. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  54. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  55. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  56. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  57. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons [in fields along the road]
  58. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  59. Grey House Spider, Badumna longinqua [sheet web with funnel]
  60. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  61. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  62. Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera [rosette gall]
  63. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  64. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  65. Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
  66. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [greenish apothecia]
  67. Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
  68. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [like a bracket fungus]
  69. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  70. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  71. Ocre Spreading Tooth Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  72. Onion, Allium sp.
  73. Pacific Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus
  74. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  75. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  76. Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
  77. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  78. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  79. Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum
  80. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  81. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  82. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  83. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  84. Rose, Rosa sp.
  85. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis [in fields along the road]
  86. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  87. Shield Lichen, Parmelia sulcata [greyish,veined]
  88. Shiny Copper Mushroom, Nolanea sp.
  89. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  90. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  91. Sitka Willow, Salix sitchensis
  92. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  93. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens [in fields along the road]
  94. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  95. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  96. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  97. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  98. Sulphur Tuft Mushroom, Hypholoma fasciculare
  99. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  100. Toothed Crust Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  101. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  102. Trailing Blackberry, California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  103. Tree-skirt Moss, Pseudanomodon attenuates
  104. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  105. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  106. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  107. Western Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum
  108. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  109. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  110. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  111. Willow Stem Sawfly Gall, Euura exiguae
  112. Wood Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis sylvatica
  113. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
  114. ?? Tube Lichen
  115. ?? White-flowered fruit trees

Owl Day, 02-25-21

I went out at 6:30 with my friend Roxanne to look for Burrowing Owls again.  The last time we went looking for them, we saw nothing.  So, we were happily surprised to find them in two different locations today: both sites where they had historically been, but hadn’t been seen for over a year. It was windy outside, and the wind was cold, but the owls were out, trying to soak up some sun anyway.

At our first stop, we found just one owl, but there may have been more in the burrows. (They make their homes in abandoned ground squirrel burrows.) I assumed the one we saw was a male because usually the males stand guard outside the burrow during the day. 

Standing guard outside his burrow.

His beak looked a little bloodied so I assumed he’d recently had some meaty breakfast. According to Cornell: “…Opportunistic feeders, primarily taking insects (mainly grasshoppers, crickets, moths and beetles) and small mammals (e.g. mice, voles, shrews), but will pursue any potential prey they can physically handle including birds, ground squirrels, frogs, snakes, salamanders, earthworms, bats, scorpions, and caterpillars… During the nesting period, insects (e.g. grasshoppers) are the primary prey during the day and are usually captured by females; vertebrates are captured crepuscularly (low light — dawn and dusk), primarily by males…”

I wondered if the wind interfered with bird’s hearing and hampered its hunting ability.

For the most part, Rox and I were able to use the car as a photo blind, so we didn’t startle or disturb the owl. Some of my photos were taken from the car window, holding the camera lens under the mirror; ya do what ya gotta do. I managed o get some good photos and a video snippet here.

This video and the photos don’t really show you how tiny these owls are. He’s maybe 7 inches from the top of his head to the tip of his tail, so, maybe as tall as your open palm is long.

Head on a swivel
Burrowing Owl, Western Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia hypugaea

At the second site, we walked along the ag buffer trail and finally saw one of the top of one of the owl’s head; it looked like a pale stone in the high grass. Then we spotted a second owl standing behind the first one.

They look like little pale stones in the grass.

When we first saw these two, I thought it was an adult and youngster… but now I think the size difference I was seeing was caused by perspective. I think we were looking at two adults, most likely a male/female pair. The owls are generally monogamous, but studies of them in California seem to indicate that because their populations are declining the owls sometimes take on other partners. “… 5–10% of offspring resulted from extra-pair fertilization…”

Seeing the two there made me hopeful that in a month or so we might be seeing babies. According to the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation:

            “…The eggs are incubated for 28-30 days and then the chicks begin hatching asynchronously.  At hatching, the chicks are helpless and mostly covered in a white down… After about 14 days, the chicks are big enough to emerge and spend some time outside… After emergence, the chicks spend more and more time outside.  They begin learning how to pounce on prey and how to stretch their wings (Figure 5).  Feathers continue to grow and develop and the chicks slowly lose the downy look and develop the light brown spotted pattern of an adult. 

            “Older chicks will also begin to use satellite burrows next door to the main burrow. They will spend time helicoptering their wings as a strength-building exercise, and eventually they begin to fly.  After 44 to 53 days post-hatch, chicks are considered fledged and can leave the nest, though many stay longer.  By the end of the season, the fledglings are strong flyers and have adult feather patterns, making it very hard to distinguish the adults from the young of the year…”

Burrowing Owl, Western Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia hypugaea

Because these owls were further away from us and obscured by grass for most of the time, it was more difficult to get clear photos of them. Rox got a good one of the male and posted it to Facebook with the caption, “Tiny experts at judgy face.” Hah!

Photo by Roxanne Moger.

While we were out, we also saw some White-Tailed Kites, sparrows and Black Phoebes on our walk among other stuff.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

This was a short trip, but we got to see what we wanted to see, and are feeling very hopeful for more owls over the next several months.  This was hike #22 of my #52HikeChallenge.

For more information on the owls see the Burrowing Owl Protection Society website.

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  4. Bladderpod, Peritoma arborea [kind of looks like Jerusalem sage but gets bladder-like seed pods]
  5. Burrowing Owl, Western Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia hypugaea
  6. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor
  10. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  11. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  12. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  13. Pointleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens
  14. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  15. Small Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii
  16. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  17. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  18. Tree Germander, Teucrium fruticans [purple flowers, kind of looks like vinegarweed]
  19. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  20. Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus ?
  21. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  22. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  23. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  24. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys


First Trip to Hinkle Creek, 02-23-21

I got up with the alarm at 6:30 am and was out the door with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, to go over to the Hinkle Creek Nature Area in Folsom. We got there a little before 8:00 am and met up with our new acquaintance, Colleen W.

None of us had ever been there before, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. The nature area is just outside the manicured Lew Howard Park. When we first drove in, we didn’t know which was to go to find the trailhead, and ended up in someone’s driveway. D’oh! The owner was outside working on her garden and walked up to the car to see what we wanted, but she hadn’t put her hearing aids in, so she couldn’t hear or understand a word we said. We apologized for trespassing, and drove back out again.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from today.

We finally found the little gravel parking area right in front of the trailhead and were parked there for just a few minutes before Colleen showed up to join us. She’s an avid birder, so she was able to help us identify some of the bird by their song. In turn, we were able to help her with plant and lichen identification.

Kiosks at the trailhead

I think we figured we saw and/or heard about 20 different bird species including California and Spotted Towhees, finches, Western Bluebirds, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Audubon’s Warblers, and the like. Nothing really “new” to us.

Among the lichen we saw Gold Dust and Green Shield Lichen on the trees, and Emery Rock Tripe, Crater and Cinder Lichen on the rocks among others.

Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia, and Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus

The trail there is about a mile loop, part of it cut out and part of it more like a game trail with markers all along it. It follows the curves of the hills and can be rocky in some spots and muddy in others. There’s also a foot bridge over the creek. It’s all surrounded by a variety of native and non-native trees and plants. Many of the plants are just starting to come into flower like the miner’s lettuce, chickweed, and manroot. It was really quite lovely…and not too far a drive to go back later in the season when, hopefully, wildflowers will be blooming.

Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule

When we were done with our walk there, we bid Colleen goodbye and headed back to Sacramento. We stopped briefly at the Watt Access to the American River before going home. Just as we started home, the winds picked up and blew for the rest of the day.

This was hike #21 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Barn Funnel Weaver Spider, Tegenaria domestica
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  9. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  10. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  11. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  12. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  18. Chinese Privet, Glossy Privet, Ligustrum lucidum
  19. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  22. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  23. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus
  24. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  25. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  26. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia [gray on rocks, brown apotheca
  27. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  28. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [fly over]
  29. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  30. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  31. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  32. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  33. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  34. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  35. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  36. Golden-Haired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma
  37. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  38. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  39. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  40. Hover Fly, Migrant Hover Fly, Eupeodes corollae
  41. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  42. Jack-o-Lantern, Western Jack-o-Lantern, Omphalotus olivascens
  43. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  44. Maidenhair, California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
  45. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  46. Milk-White Toothed Polypore, Irpex lacteus
  47. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  48. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  49. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  50. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius [fly over]
  51. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  52. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  53. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  54. Pore Lichen, Pertusaria sp.
  55. Radish-Scented Mycena, Rosy Bonnet, Mycena rosea
  56. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard, saw flyby]
  57. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  58. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  59. Soil Centipede, Order: Geophilomorpha
  60. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  61. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  62. Tall Psathyrella Mushroom, Psathyrella longipes [tan cap that often splits, dark tan gills]
  63. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  64. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  65. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura [fly over]
  66. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  67. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  68. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  69. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Two Owls in Two Places, 02-20-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and headed over to the American River for a walk. It was partly cloudy when I left the house, but pretty much cleared up by the afternoon. Because it had rained during the night, everything was wet and there were big puddles all around.

I started off by going to the Gristmill Access to the river; I’d never been there before but wanted to check it out. The entry was another one of those drop-down-off-a-cliff int o the gravel parking area which wasn’t very large. There is a single short trail (about a ½ mile out and back), some porta-potties and ready access to the rocky shore of the river.

Right next to the parking area near the top of a tree was a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on its nest, squawking away.  I got the impression that it was a male, based on its coloring and the fact that it didn’t have a brood patch (where the female hawks lose their feathers to expose their skin to their eggs to keep them warm.)

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

The trail is narrow and follows the up and down curves of the hillsides. It’s right behind a residential area, so there are a lot of non-native trees and plants mixed in with the wild native stuff. I could identify Live and Valley Oak trees, Cottonwood trees, lots of elderberry trees and some non-native almond trees. I think I also spotted a Silverleaf Oak among the trees, which I’d never seen before. I wonder if it gets any kind of galls on it.

[Speaking of galls, remember that Russo’s new book is coming out in March of this year.]

On the ground were the usual suspects like vetch, manroot, bedstraw, Mugwort, horehound, and miner’s lettuce in the tall grass.

Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata

There are bird boxes everywhere, from small bluebird boxes, to duck boxes to larger barn owl boxes. Each box was numbered, so I assumed someone it keeping track of them.  I checked that out online after I got home and found that the Sacramento Audubon Society set most of them up and tracks what’s there.

Bird boxes

            “…An amazing number of rarities have been found here: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak… Jeri Langham and his cadre of friends and students scour it, sometimes several times a day, during migration. Gristmill is big enough to attract and hold interesting birds, but small enough and open enough to allow for good coverage…”

Cool!  I don’t know what most of those birds are!  And most warblers are tiny, fast-moving birds, so I’ll need to keep a sharper eye out myself.  CLICK HERE for more information on what to look for along the river.

I saw a large Blewit and lot of Yellow Fieldcap mushrooms in the grass, but not much else in the way of fungi (although I stuck pretty much to trail during this first time out).

Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda

In the surrounding trees, bushes and blackberry vines were White-Crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and Oak Titmice.

The trail looks down on the river, so I got to see quite a few birds in and around the water including a Snowy Egret, Coots, Common Goldeneyes, Wood Ducks and Common Mergansers (which I’m sure will be occupying some of the duck boxes as spring approaches), and Bufflehead ducks.

Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa; American Coots, Fulica americana; a male Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola; and a male Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula

Some of the male Buffleheads were doing their head-bobbing courtship dances which is always so funny to watch, but I also saw some of them dive down under the surface of the water — which was clear enough and shallow enough to see through. As I watched, I could see one male dive and launch himself like a torpedo toward another male, then crash into the other male causing it to panic and leap out of the water. Hah! That’s one way to take out the competition.

Bufflehead Ducks, Bucephala albeola. A male underwater zeroes in on a male on the surface.

Back and forth across the river and through the trees was a pair of Belt Kingfishers flying around, chattering at one another, and face-planting into the water for fish. The female stopped a few times so I could get photos of her, but the male just wouldn’t sit still.

Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, female

I came across some European Starlings fussing near the top of the tree. It looked like one of them had found a nesting cavity, but was doing house cleaning, taking out beakfuls of detritus from inside the cavity and tossing it out onto the trail.

The biggest surprise of the walk was finding a tiny Western Screech Owl napping in one of the duck boxes. It must’ve been dozing during the early morning rain because some of its feathers were still wet. Such a cutie.

Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii

CLICK HERE for the photos from Gristmill.

I spent about an hour out there, just doing the out and back. I want to get back there, though, to spend more time when the plants are more fully fledged and the birds are doing their thing. I then headed over to the American River Bend Park to finish off my walk and look for fungi.

At the park, I found some new outcroppings of False Turkey Tail, jelly fungi, and the first emerging horsehair mushrooms. I was hoping for some coral or bird’s nest fungus but I didn’t find any of those.

Oak-leaf Pinwheel Mushroom, Horsehair Mushroom, Marasmiellus quercophilus

The Wild Turkeys were out strutting. There was a large group of males near a group of females, and among them was a much-smaller turkey who was the “wrong color”. Adult males have iridescent black bodies; this one was predominantly brown. It was also about half the size of the adult males. Additionally, its face was more like a female’s, without all the heavy red caruncles. So, I didn’t know what I was looking at: was it a horny teenager, or a female with too many male hormones?

I posted video and photos to some birding groups on Facebook so see if I could get an answer. One speculated that it might have been an Alpha Female showing off for the group… But I thought Alpha Females only displayed male behavior when there were no males around. There were plenty of males here. My sister Melissa suggested that it was a lesbian female…which kind of makes more sense to me.

I also saw quite a few deer — most of them at a distance — including some does, and some two- and three-pointer males still hanging onto their antlers.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

The big surprise here was seen as I was leaving the park. I stopped by the spot where Great Horned Owls had nested last year… and found mama owl sitting on the nest today. Yay! I’m looking forward to owlets!

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

CLICK HERE for the photos from the RiverBend Park.

I counted the two walks combined as hike #20 in my #52HikeChallenge. It’s only month two, and I’ve got 20 hikes in already. It’ll be interesting to see what my final total is at the end of the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Coot, Fulica americana
  4. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  8. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  11. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  12. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  13. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  14. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  15. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  19. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  21. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  22. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  23. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  24. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  25. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  26. Deer Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
  27. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  28. Dryad’s Saddle, Hawk’s Wing, Polyporus squamosus
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  32. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  33. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  34. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  35. Giraffe Spots, Peniophora albobadia [flat, brown w/light rim]
  36. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  37. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  38. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  39. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  40. Holm Oak, Quercus ilex
  41. Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  42. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  43. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  44. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  45. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  46. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  47. Oak-leaf Pinwheel Mushroom, Horsehair Mushroom, Marasmiellus quercophilus
  48. Peach Tree, Prunus persica
  49. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  50. Red Edge Brittlestem Mushroom, Psathyrella corrugis [young have red-brown caps and white stipe; turn pale tan and brown with age]
  51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  52. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  53. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  54. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  55. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  56. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  57. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  58. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  59. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  60. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  61. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  62. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  63. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans

The Toad was the Stand-Out, 02-16-21

I got up around 6:30 am.  It was a lovely day; a Goldie Locks day; not too h-ot, not too cold… I had originally planned to go out to Beales Point at Folsom Lake with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne, and our new buddy Colleen, but then we discovered that the water in the lake was so low, we’d have to walk as much as a half mile just to get to it. I didn’t think I could manage that — all that walking before getting close enough to see anything — so we re-scheduled with Colleen to go out next week to Hinkle Creek, and Rox and I decided to check out the Watt Avenue access to the American River today.

We’d never been there before and didn’t really know what to expect. We ended up seeing more than we thought we might.

You enter the park from La Riviera Drive. Pay the day-use fee at the kiosk (or use your annual pass) and then drive forward. You can’t see where you’re going for a moment, because there is a very steep drop from the payment kiosk down to the riverside parking area. It looks like you’re driving off a cliff for a minute! Rox drove down the incline and parked in a designated parking spot. [I took a photo of one car that was parked right next to a NO PARKING sign, blocking part of the boat launch ramp.]

There’s a paved trail that runs alongside the oak and cottonwood tree forested riparian strip that can be used by hikers, bikers and equestrians. But there is also a narrow dirt footpath that runs closer to the riverside and even provides access to shallow beaches and the water. This is the path Rox and chose to start with. One of the first things we found were bug galls on the Coyote Brush bushes.

Walking the dirt footpath

Most of the trees are pretty much still naked, but some of the willows were bursting with catkins, and so were what looked like red maples and elderberry bushes. The vervain was growing up and leafing out, as were the Mugwort and bur chervil plants.  In a couple of months, when things green up more, it should be gorgeous there.

Manroot vines were lifting themselves up off the ground like snakes; we also found one vine that was already in flower with the male and females flowers very evident and identifiable. Some of the female flowers were starting their seed pods. On one of the vines was feeding a troupe of Boxelder Bugs.  Because it was still chilly, and a bit damp by the river, the insects were pretty torpid, so it was easy to get photos of them.

Western Boxelder Bugs, Boisea rubrolineata

The one plant we were expecting but didn’t see much of were pipevines. We only found one small plant near the end of our walk there.

In the water were Great Egrets, Mallards, Common Goldeneye ducks, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and even a white Chinese Goose.  There was birdsong all around us and we were able to identify some of it: Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Starlings, hummingbirds, Red-Shouldered Hawks.  We saw one of the hawks land in a nearby tree, but he’d chosen a very spindly soft branch to settle on and it kept bending out from under him. He had to keel adjusting his stance and flapping his wings to keep himself stable. There were also a lot of gulls in the water.

There seemed to be Nuttall’s Woodpeckers all over the place. We were able to get photos of a few of them… and wondered if it was just the same bird that kept moving from tree to tree in front of us. Hah!

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii, male

We could hear California Quail calling to each other, and eventually came across a spot where they were running through the leaflitter into a clump of wild blackberry vines. They move so fast when they’re on the run, getting picture of them was difficult.

There were a few fungi showing themselves here and there along our route, especially the Yellow Fieldcaps which showed up in fairy circles here and there in the long grass. We found some nice specimens of Splitgills, Silky Pinkgills, Goldenhaired Inkcaps, and also some large Oyster Mushrooms among others. 

When I bent down to pull up a piece of a log that had a smudge of what looked like slime mold on it, we discovered a very large Western Toad hiding under it! Although he peed all over me when I picked him up, the toad was pretty amenable and let us take photos of him from every angle until we put him back in the grass. He was a surprise, and one of my favorite finds of the day.

And, yes, there was some slime mold on the log, some Carnival Candy, Arcyria denudata. Woot!

All along the trail, we noticed that there were white spot painted on some of the trees. At first we thought they were marking trees that needed to be cut down, but then we realized that the marks were all at the same height on each of the trees.  I speculated that maybe they were indicators of the water level of the river when it rose.

White spots on the trees, which we think are a way to measure how high the river rises.

That made me worry a little bit about the homeless people who had camps along the edge of the river. If there was a sudden release from Folsom Dam, they’d all be washed away. We were careful to avoid those encampments, or at least give them a wide berth when we saw them. The mental health of homeless folks is always a concern for me… and those people we saw weren’t wearing masks for COVID.

We walked as far as we could along the dirt trail we were on, then climbed up the bank to the paved trail along the top of the levee, and used that to walk back to the car.  The round-trip route was a little over a mile so it counted as hike #18 of my #52HikeChallenge.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the Watt Avenue Access.

We were still feeling strong and nature-curious, so we went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and did a mile turn there, too. That’s a lot of walking for me, and I was dragging at the end of it, but there were a few surprises for us along the way here, too.

While I was waiting for Rox to get her annual park pass, I waited outside on the opening of the main trail and saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a nearby tree. I kept saying to myself, “Stay there until Rox gets here, stay there until Rox gets here…” Hah!  The hawk did stay there, and when Rox joined me on the trail, the hawk’s mate showed up. There was a very brief interaction, and then the two sat side-by-side for a moment before the mate flew off again. Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am.

As we then headed out on our walk there, we found an outcropping of several large Blewit mushrooms. One was around 5 inches wide across the cap!  All of them were old specimens that had started to lose their lavender hue, but still held onto some of that on the stipe.

Along the trail, we also found other mushrooms like Yellow Fieldcaps, some Jack-o-Lanterns, Brittlestems, and a Grey Knight. The best find, though, was one by Rox. She found a nice group of perfect little Bleeding Mycena.

The Bleeding Mycena (also called Bleeding Fairy Caps, eew) don’t bleed blood, of course. They bleed a dark red latex when the cap or stipe is broken, but they have a white spore print. These ‘shrooms, along with the mycelia that support them, are supposed to be bioluminescent. The first cluster that Rox found was right near some Jack-o-Lanterns, which are also bioluminescent… so it was like a whole Halloween theme going on there!

Near the back of the nature center there was a pipevine plant that was in blossom. We knew that fungus gnats often get into the calabash shaped flowers to pollinate them, so I held one of the blossoms up to the sunlight. We could see the gnat shadows inside of it, flittering around. As Rox opened up the belly of the flower, the gnats emerged. I tried getting video, but the camera kept shifting its focus. I DID get some still shots, though.

I showed Rox where I had seen the Red Raspberry Slime Mold the other day, and there were still some remnants of it, but it was mostly dark and gone to spore by this time. Further along the trail, we came across some white slime mold, Stemonitopsis typhina, sometimes called White-Finger Slime Mold (or “Dead Man’s Fingers” because the white fingers eventually turn black and disintegrate as they go to spore. Their spores are lilac-brown.)

Remember, that slime molds start out as single-celled amoeba-like critters that roam free all over the forest floor, feeding on detritus and bacteria. When temperatures are right and food sources start to dwindle, the single-celled guys get together with hundreds of others (finding each other through hormone secretions) and form a plasmodium which continues as a group to move along until they find a place that will be support them while they reproduce. Then the plasmodium changes into the sporangia, the fruiting body stage. In some slime molds, some of the critters sacrifice themselves and form the stalks that support fruiting heads. Those that form the stalks die and never reproduce. Those that fruit, go to spore… and then the whole cycle starts again.

The white slime mold we found was in two sections: one was in the sporangia stage with white fruiting heads on top of black stalks, and the other was in the plasmodium stage, the watery-white plasma just starting to form globules. Very cool.

We saw several deer along the trail, including a doe being harassed by a persistent buck. She must have been in estrus because he wasn’t leaving her alone — but she could hardly walk. It looked like one of her hips wasn’t working right and she limped badly as she tried to walk away and avoid the buck’s advances. At one point, she actually fell to the ground and sat there for a moment before getting back onto her feet.  We felt sooooo bad for her. When I got home, I sent an email to the nature center to alert them to the does distress.

This interaction was taking place near the bee-tree. I’ve been lamenting because I haven’t seen any bee action at the tree for a couple of months. Today, both Rox and I saw some single bees moving around the tree. I’ll keep an eye on it over the spring to see if the hive revives… 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

We walked for over a mile here, too, so it counts as hike #19 of my #52HikeChallenge. Of course, it takes us “forever” to go a mile because we stop to look at everything.  We were out for about 6 hours!

By the time we were done at Effie, we were both hungry, so Rox treated us to a lunch at Bella Bru. We haven’t been able to do that since COVID started… just about a year to the day. It was a kind of “celebration” for us.

Lunch at Bella Bru: club sandwich and fries, with a side of clam chowder and a large Mocha Freezo. YUM!

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Bleeding Mycena, Bleeding Fairy Helmet, Mycena haematopus
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  7. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  10. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  11. Broad-Leaved Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  12. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  13. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  16. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  17. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  22. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  24. Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  25. Cherry-Plum Tree, Prunus cerasifera
  26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  27. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  28. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  29. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  30. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  31. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  32. Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
  33. Crowded Parchment, Stereum complicatum [like Turkey-tail but very flat]
  34. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  35. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  36. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  37. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  38. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  39. Fairy Parachutes, Marasmiellus candidus [like oysterlings, but more fanned out]
  40. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  41. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  42. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  43. Golden- Haired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma
  44. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  45. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  46. Grey Knight Mushroom, Tricholoma terreum [gray-white cap, light gills, flattened stipe]
  47. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  48. Hoverfly, Large-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris
  49. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  50. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum italicum
  51. Lupine, Lupine sp.
  52. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  53. Manyflower Marshpennywort, Hydrocotyle umbellata [white flowers, leaves rounded like nasturtium]
  54. Mouse-Eared Stereum, Stereum ochraceoflavum
  55. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  56. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  57. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  58. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  59. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  60. Pale Oysterling, Crepidotus caspari [tiny, white, well-spaced gills]
  61. Pussy Willow, American Pussy Willow, Salix discolor
  62. Red Edge Brittlestem Mushroom, Psathyrella corrugis
  63. Red Maids, Fringed Red-Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  64. Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  65. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  66. Redstem Filaree, Stork’s Bill, Erodium cicutarium [corkscrew seed pods]
  67. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  68. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  69. Silverleaf Fungus, Chondrostereum purpureum [sort of like Stereum with white/pale edges]
  70. Silvery Bryum Moss, Bryum argenteum
  71. Splitgill Mushroom, Schizophyllum commune
  72. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  73. Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides [can be white, or gray/brown, knob on the bill]
  74. Trailing Blackberry, California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  75. Tube Slimes, Stemonitis sp.
  76. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  77. Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus
  78. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  79. Western Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olivascens
  80. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  81. Western Toad, Anaxyrus boreas
  82. White Finger Slime Mold, Stemonitopsis typhina
  83. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  84. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans

Magpies are Nest-Building, 02-14-21

Valentine’s Day. I was up around 7:00 am and headed over to William B. Pond Park for a walk even though I was in pain.  It was about 46° when I got there, mostly cloudy and threatening rain, so I had to wear my jacket.

The first thing I noticed were the Yellow-Billed Magpies. There was one on the ground picking up bits of wood chips, and wondered what it wanted those for. Then I realized it was part of a pair of birds that were building a nest in a tree next to the parking lot. They had the cup pretty much completed.

Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

 Cornell says: “…Nest is extremely large structure with mud (or dung) and stick base, stick canopy (dome), and mud bowl lined with animal hair, grass, shredded bark, or rootlets…”

The repeating tick-tick-tick sound you hear in the background is someone’s bike alarm.

So, I figured they were lining the base of the nest with the wood chips.  Cool! As I looked around, I could see two other nests being built in other nearby trees.  None of them had their domed tops yet, so I figured all of the birds must’ve started building the nests around the same time. Once the domes are in place, you can’t see into the nests, so — no peeking at the babies.

Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata

The Silver Wattle trees are in bloom right now, all decorated with bright yellow puff-balls; the first sign of spring while the cottonwood and oak trees are still pretty much naked. There were tiny bittercress plants showing off, along with some of the Bur Chervil and White Horehound.

There seemed to be Spotted Towhees everywhere I looked today; down on the ground, up in the trees and bushes. You could hear their tow-weeeh calls from all around. 

Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus

I also saw a solitary Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree, calling out, warming itself up in the morning sun.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The water in this part of the river was exceptionally low. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that shallow before. If I were more sure-footed, I could have walked right across it in several spots.

American River, low water

The geese were taking advantage of all of the exposed riverbed and rocky sholes. In one spot there was a group of Turkey Vultures working on what I think was a salmon carcass. A Great Blue Heron was standing behind them. In a shallow pond next to them, male and female Wood Ducks were swimming around.

I got to see a Song Sparrow singing away in the branches of a tree near the shore. And later found a Mockingbird trying out his repertoire.

I only walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home, but this counted as hike #17 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
  3. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  4. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  14. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  21. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  22. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  23. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  24. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  25. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  32. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  33. Redshank Moss, Ceratodon purpureus [green moss with red shanks on the sprouting heads]
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  36. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  37. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  38. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  39. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  40. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  41. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  44. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  45. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  46. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  48. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  49. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli